The time is mid-March. Been away for a while, and somewhat manic with pesky stuff like getting married and such, so high time for another road trip!
This time, the destination is the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales, which should be just over 300 miles round trip. I’ve managed to get a home charger installed since the last (November) road trip I posted, so now able to follow my first rule of electric road tripping – starting off with a full charge 🙂 The install itself was a bit of a debacle – sparing the queasy reader the gory details, the exercise included dealing with existing cabling too thin to carry a fast-charge load, an incorrect charging unit installed the first time, a few blown fuses, and repeated tripping of the circuit. It took a few weeks but we got there in the end…
We’d bought a paper calendar early in the year to try to do some tactile travel planning – we chose a British National Parks calendar, and decided it would be a good idea to visit as many of them as possible this year. One Friday night in mid-March (there might have been wine involved) we decided to hit the first of them, Brecon Beacons in Wales that weekend.
Day 1 – getting there
The start on Saturday was slightly late (blame the wine) – we quickly booked the closest hotel to the park that had a charging point (and an all-important spa) – the Best Western Parkway Hotel in Cwmbran, and then we were off!
First charge was 60-something miles and an hour and a quarter away, at the Ecotricity point at the M4 motoway services in Leigh Delamere – a 43kW 63Amp rapid charge. If memory serves (and it usually does) there were also some 7kW 32A Mennekes Type 2 points as backup – but I stuck to the rapid chargers. The 45-ish minutes to charge to full was just about right for us to grab a quick late lunch and a pee-stop, before heading on.
No need for another stop, straight on to the hotel then, with a beautiful crossing of the Severn Bridge and a gorgeous sunset to follow.
Arrived at the hotel in the last light of dusk, and easily found the ZeroNet charging point (from Zero Carbon World) out the front of the hotel. As with all chargers on this network, no RFID card is needed, simply plug in to charge. Worked a dandy! The charger was almost ICEd but my cable could reach from the next parking bay down – ace!
The rest of the very pleasant stay involved no activities relevant to the electric vehicle aficionado…
Day 2 – the park and journey back
Some quick pre-breakfast research the next morning revealed that the charging point options in and around Brecon Beacon park consisted of either ZeroNet sites within the park itself (an impressive 10 or 11 of them too!) or Chargemaster points installed at a number of Asdas south of the park (didn’t really look north, as we weren’t heading there).
Leaving the hotel fully charged the next morning meant our first stop at The Hall Farm in Llangenny was more exploratory than necessary. A beautiful rural location, one would hardly expect to find a charging station here!
The charger worked just fine, but as there was no need for a charge and there was a lot more of the park to see, we trekked on further west.
After a good 40-ish miles of meandering through the park, much of which was narrow, windy single-track roads, steep climbs and drops (all range-chewing), we started tending towards our next charge stop, another ZeroNet location, a National Trust workbase deep in the park. The plan was to leave the car charging while we did a bit of a hike through the beautiful surrounds.
It seemed this wasn’t exactly a tourist or oft-visited location (as “workbase” might imply) but we did eventually find it – and that’s where we hit upon a few snags…
Firstly, the workbase is at the end of a road denoted as “no vehicles” – ok, let’s respect that for a bit, and do an on-foot reccie (reconnaissance mission for the civilians out there) to check out the situ. We find the charge point easily enough – located prominently on the wall outside the building – but it’s behind a locked gate – so even if we did drive down the “no vehicles” road, there was no way of getting the car close enough for a charge. Doh! Guess it wasn’t a great idea visiting a workbase on a Sunday!
With limited range (but enough to reach some cunningly planned backup charge locations) we limped slowly out the park to gingerly make the 16 miles to Asda in Merthyr Tydfil, home to a Chargemaster/Polar charge point. This would put us firmly outside the park, and as I was now contending with an ever-hungrier wife, it was time to find some grub.
The Asda superstore was located in a predictably industrial area, with not much nearby. Most of the EV charging bays were ICEd, but thankfully a single glorious bay remained empty for us.
Charge started, it was off to feed the co-pilot.
I had never heard Asda’s in-house food acclaimed in the culinary circles, but as our only option in the industrial estate while we charged, now was as good a time as any to give it a try. It was 30 minutes before closing time, so pickings were slim, but adequate enough to sate the now-ravenous beast.
The Polar charger was a Chargemaster standard 7kW 32Amp, so a full charge was going to take over 3 hours – not a pleasant option. My general strategy on longer trips is to only charge enough to get to the next level-up charger – given that a rapid (43kW) charge is over 3 times faster than a fast (7kW) charge (no, don’t just divide kW), it is a huge time saving to just hop far enough to the next rapid charger.
For us, this was another Ecotricity spot at the Welcome Break near Cardiff, where a Starbucks coffee and cake was enough to get a full charge of the rapid charger there, and back on our way.
Another dusky crossing of the Severn Bridge, a last rapid charge at the Ecotricity point in Leigh Delamere, and we were home without further incident!
300-odd miles, 7 charging points, only one of which wasn’t usable – an 85% success ratio, and a big improvement over last time all things considered!