North Wales to Fontainebleau Paris via Electric Car in winter

We recently took a trip to Fontainebleau, a magical forest just south of Paris that contains lots of awesome sandstone boulders which a great for climbing on.

Unfortunately it was a bit damp (100% humidity!) therefore we didn't do much bouldering. We did however do some tricky boulder trainer ascents and fantastic fell running and forest exploring, the highlight being the awesome 25 Bosses Trail (17km, 830m ascent).

We drove to Fontainebleau from North Wales in our Nissan LEAF electric car (EV), a return trip of 1300 miles (including driving around at our destination) in winter. It wasn't very difficult (even in our 'old' 2nd hand 24kWh EV), however a bit of prior planning goes a long way.

Electric cars emit significantly less carbon than petrol/diesel vehicles and can be close to zero carbon if charged from renewable sources e.g solar PV  / wind. I charged the EV from a 100% renewable tariff at home, the UK ElectricHighway rapid charge network is also 100% matched renewable and the French Sodetral network is very low carbon because of France's extensive nuclear power. See my blog post Zero Carbon Future (low carbon present) for an in-depth comparison of EV Vs. ICE (petrol / diesel). 

Earlier in the summer we drove our Nissan LEAF EV to Ceuse in the French alps using the auto-train to transport the car from Paris to Marseilles (see my original Céüse 2017: N.Wales to French alps in an Electric Car blog post for full details of French charging networks, European charging cables and connectors etc). This trip took pretty much the same route to Paris as before but this time we took the opportunity to film and document the journey. Here is a video edit of trip; apologies in advance if it's a bit long, however I was keen to try and incorporate useful details e.g. how to activate French rapid chargers.

Winter EV driving 

Driving any car in winter and adverse weather rain, snow wind etc requires more energy. The effects are felt more so in an EV since:

1. Lithium batteries are less efficient at lower temperatures

2. Heat needs to be generated to heat the cabin. Since electric motors are over 90% efficient (compared to 20% efficiency for petrol/diesel) very little waste heat is generated, therefore in cold cold weather heat must be generated using alternate means. The Nissan LEAF uses an efficient heat-pump to generate heat, however it still uses some energy from the battery to heat the cabin with results in a few miles less range. 

However the good news is on long EV journeys the effects of the old can be somewhat mitigated:

1. On a long trip the battery is discharged then re-charged rapidly in 20min using fast DC rapid chargers (50kWh), pumping a large quantity of energy back into the battery causes the battery to warm up therefore after the first couple of rapid chargers the battery is now up to optimum working temperature (approx 25 degC).

2. The extra requirement for cabin heat requirement can be mitigated by pre-heating. With the Nissan LEAF a smartphone app can be used to turn on the heater while the car is still plugged in. The energy for heating is drawn from the house supply. When the cabin is pre-heated to 22 deg C then very little energy is required to maintain a comfortable cabin temperature during the drive. Each time we stopped to rapid charger we did the same, pre-heat the cabin to a high temperature. After the first 10min of raid charging the charging current starts to drop as the battery filled up and in unable to accept energy as quickly, at this point turning on the heater does not slow down the charging process.

Rapid Charging 

We rapid charged mainly using the excellent Ecotricity Electric Highway rapid charge network in the UK and the Corri-door Sodetrel network in France. DC Rapid chargers charged the car to 80% in 20min. We mainly used used PlugShare to locate charging points and plan the journey. Plug share has most of the rapid chargers in France although the best charging point map for France is I highly recomend ordering a ChargeMap RFID card and Kiwhipass before leaving, these two cards will let you activate most chargers in France.  See my original Céüse 2017: N.Wales to French alps in an Electric Car blog post for full details of French charging networks.

Destination Charging 

I used an OpenEVSE charging unit to allow me connect different plugs e.g. UK  / EU / Caravan and to manually set the charging rate based on the plug and location.

Full disclosure: I'm involved in the development of OpenEVSE open-source charging stations and we are the UK/EU reseller for OpenEVSE via OpenEnergyMonitor online store.  

See my original Céüse 2017: N.Wales to French alps in an Electric Car blog post for full details of charging cables and connectors.

Fuel Cost (electricity) 

Calculating actual electricity cost while on a EV trip is tricky since we charged in many different locations and many chargers were totally free. This is approximate how the charging costs for our trip stacked up:
  • 100 % charge overnight at home before we left: £1.87
  • 1 x Podpoint 7kW charge at Rhug Estate: £1.41
  • 7 x UK motorway Electric Highway rapid chargers (3x on the way down, 4x on the way home): FREE*
  • 8 x French motorway Sodetrel rapid chargers (4x each way)(0.7 EUR/5min): 36 EUR = £31.73
Total EV fuel cost for return trip (1300 miles) = £35! 

The same journey in my old van would have cost £195

EV's are also have free motor TAX and minimal servicing therefore running costs are very low. See my Zero Carbon Future (low carbon present) blog post for a detailed EV Vs petrol/diesel comparison cost breakdown. We bought our Nissan LEAF second hand for £9k, it's saving me over £3k/yr in fuel costs therefore it will have fully paid for itself in another two years! See my slides from the Llanberis EV event which cover 2nd hand EV purchasing options

* All Ecotricity Electric Highway (UK motorway) rapid chargers are currently free for us since we sill have our 52/yr free chargers for being Ecotrcity electricity customers. Next year we will need to pay a very reasonable £0.15/kWh therefore each rapid charge 10%-80% for our 24kWh leaf (20kWh usable) is 14kWh, this would therefore would cost £2.10 par charge. Therefore the 8x charges we used on this trip would have cost us about £16.80 although probable a bit less since we didn't change all the way to 80% on the last charge of each leg since we just required a little top-up to reach our destination. 


We stayed in a lovely little airbnb studio flat Milly la Foret which was very reasonably priced and nice and close to all the bouldering. It even has a dedicated outside electric car charging socket, the owner drives a Renault Zoe EV and speaks excellent english.  If you are new to airbnb and sign up using my referral link you will get £25 of free credits!

UK LEAF meets French Zoe EV :-)


Fontainebleau from above

Stunning Fontainebleau Forrest

Euro Tunnel is the best way to travel to France with pets
Bob having a good holiday :-)