European EV Road Trip Part 1: RFID, Apps and Planning

I've been getting a number of questions from people who have seen our EV campervan European trip videos asking what apps and RFID cards we used to activate charge points. I will attempt to answer these questions in this post. I will also do a 'part 2' post on cables and accessories we used to charge an EV safely from campsite hookups and European sockets.

Activating Charge Points (RFID and APPs)


TL;DR

In general mainland Europe has much better interconnectivity (roaming agreements) between charging providers than the UK, for many countries a single ChargeMap Pass RFID will activate almost all charging points.

Rapid charging on Fastned network in Germany, one of the best charging networks in Europe 



This table is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all the EV networks, cards, apps etc. But rather based on our experience over several long trips around Europe in our EV camper van. We have personally used every app and RFID on the list below.

Our e-NV200 EV van is an old 24kWh model which has a range of about 70 miles, so on a 3500 mile road trip we've done our fair share of public charging!




To download a copy of this table in .pdf format, follow this link to view the Google Sheet spreadsheet then choose file > save as pdf.

For an exhaustive list of charge cards / apps and costs see AllChargeCards website and Chargeprice.app.

Important note regarding France:
In March 2020 due to a technical issue Izivia (Corri-door network) shut down 90% of its rapid charge stations. This is a significant issue since Corri-door is the leading motorway rapid charge provider in France, we have in the past made extensive use of this network on our trips. Hopefully this issue will be fixed soon, but as of July 2020 the units are still down. This is mainly an issue for low range EV's with Chademo connectors (like our e-NV200!), longer range EV's with CCS won't have an issue since Ionity high speed rapid charge network now has good coverage in France. 

Rapid charging at EasyCharger hub in Burgos, Spain

Planning 


While a bit of planning goes a long way, I've found that it's easy to over plan beforehand which results in a rigid schedule. Part of the joy of road trips is spontaneity, even in a 24kWh van we've found that there are plenty of charging options to not require too much planning (apart from Spain outside Catalonia!). I prefer to do a little overview planning at home before leaving, to scope out the general route we hope to take and the general charging options, but usually don't make any firm plans. 

Each morning while on the trip I would spend about 30min planning the route we plan to drive on that particular day. Doing the planning last minute has the advantage of the user comments on the charge maps and live charger status being up-to-date and relevant and I can take the current weather conditions into account.  My planning usually goes as follows: 

1a.  Use A Better Route Planner (ABRP) to automatically plan the charging stops. ABRP is a very useful tool since it automatically takes into account elevation which is very important in mountainous regions. It's also quite good at automatically estimating range and charge time for a particular vehicle. I've found with careful driving it's usually possible to improve on the ABRP estimates. 


 

1.b If I'm not happy with the charge points ABRP automatically choose (see point 2) or the trip is in a location with sub-optimal rapid charger availability e.g Spain outside Catalonia, I fall back to manually planning the charging stops using PlugShare.

PlugShare route planner


2. Use the charging map most used in a particular country to check charge point live status and user comments. This is a very important step; on all our European road trips we've hardly ever turned up at a charge point to find it's not working, this is because we've always checked live status and user comments  before arriving at the charge point.

It's important to use the charging map that most other EV drivers use in a particular country e.g ChargeMap in France and Electromaps in Spain (see table above). The map should also provide info regarding what app / card is required to activate the charge point and what the cost is. I think it's also important to 'check-in' on the charge map app when successfully charging and leave a comment which may help others, especially in remote locations.

Live availability status and cost on Chargemap in France

Chargemap user comments, Google Translate can be useful for this! 

User comments on ElectroMaps in Spain

I also use PlugShare a lot since it works worldwide and I like the interface, however not all charge points in all countries are listed. If I have the time I usually add missing points and fix incorrect info myself on PlugShare.

In part two of this series I will share my experience charging our EV campervan from domestic sockets and campsite hookups around Europe and what cables and adaptors we use. 

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