Reflections on the Great British EV Rally

The start line of the Great British EV Rally at Castle Mey in Scotland. Team AA. Team Lex. Team Paua

13/7/2022

Paua are proud to have been a Champion Partner for the inaugural Great British EV Rally 2022, which took place during the first week of July. A mixed fleet of commercial electric vehicles (cars and vans) travelled from John O’Groats to Land’s End covering between 1,200 and 1,400 miles each over five days.

The mixed fleet of vehicles such as all new Maxus vans, a Nissan env200 and two Ford e-Transits, to passenger cars from numerous OEMs. Representation from a wide range of businesses included The AA, National Grid, DPD, Mitie, Ovo Energy, Webfleet Solutions, DriveTech, Karcher, BP Pulse, Char.gy and of course Team Paua Rangers.

All teams were issued with a Paua card and access to the Paua app to enable them to find, charge, and pay on the 15,000 chargepoint connectors.

The Great British EV Rally proved what is possible with electric vehicles when accompanied by the Paua charging solution.

Drivers officially covered between 1,200 and 1,400 miles on the route. However, a lot of vehicles had to get themselves to the start line and then home again from the finish line. Team Paua clocked up 2,600 miles from London to the start, and back home again. All on the Paua card working with the Paua app.

Team Paua charging on the Gridserve charger with the Paua EV charge card at JOhn O'Groats.

Lesson 1: Moving 50 vehicles from one end of the country to the other is feasible on one card. This fact was proven by the superb positive feedback we received from participants throughout.

When we set off from John O’Groats to Land’s End, every driver in the rally had been issued with a Paua card and access to the Paua app. With over 15,000 live charge point connectors available from one end of the country to the other we felt confident that Infrastructure coverage would not be an issue.

A pioneering partnership with both ChargePlace Scotland (enabled through working with Swarco and Transport Scotland) and GRIDSERVE meant that drivers were given access to both en route charging and the Scottish networks. All on the Paua card working with the Paua app.

Paua Jaguar iPace on the north coast of Scotland during the Great British EV Rally

Lesson 2: Substantial planning isn’t required but you do need an awareness and consideration of charging facilities en route

At the start line we were asked who had planned the route and who had not. Around about 60% of drivers had not considered planning at all. They were ’winging it’ and through conversations on the rally many of them relished the challenge element in order to demonstrate that trip planning was not crucial to EV ownership.

However, in the Highlands and Cornwall, it was clear that the infrastructure was sparser and inconsistent. Being aware of the charge points in the next town was crucial in order to plan a charge there when you arrived. Plus the scenery along the way provided some essential sight seeing and a chance to consume local delicacies from the various high street outlets!

The Scottish Government have done an incredible job ensuring that infrastructure is provided across the country. However, much of this is now old and as noted below, there is often conflict between old hardware and modern cars. This suddenly leaves the driver facing a slower 7kW charge or a need to travel on and find a compatible charger.

Fastned charging site at Hamilton on the Great British EV Rally

Lesson 3: Motorway miles are well served by MSA but these can get busy – alternatives are available

Once you hit the main motorways then the use of motorway service areas becomes the main habit. By the end of day 2 our back office was showing significant use of the Gridserve Electric Highway. But interestingly some of these sites are well known now and can become busy. This became particularly apparent at Exeter services North on the M5 where a number of drivers faced queues in the middle of the day.

Alternatives exist. It was interesting to observe the strategies of teams who found these alternative sites such as the Ionity chargers at Milton Keynes, the Fastned site at Hamilton, or the Osprey chargers near Exeter services.

Having a range of opportunities to recharge is important but you could see drivers gravitating towards locations that they trust, and often those with more than two charging units; or amenities to utilise whilst waiting for the charging to complete.

Paua EV charge card in use on the Gridserve charger at Lands End at the end of the Great British EV Rally

Lesson 4: It’s not always clear what goes wrong – hardware, payment device, software, car – but Paua is on the frontline

It was not all plain sailing! Some things didn’t go quite right.

During the Rally a range of issues were encountered by drivers and Paua observed how being the first point of contact for the driver positions us as the party to support the EV charge session at that moment.

Some of the issues we encountered were

  • RFID card clash with credit card readers. Some charging devices have two separate readers on them; one for RFID and one for credit cards. When the credit card reader is more sensitive it rejects the RFID card. To the uninitiated driver this looks like your card has been rejected. Drivers quickly learnt to ’massage’ the machine a little longer to allow the cards to be picked up
  • Old charging devices were being rejected by more modern cars. Some of the older chargepoint units, particularly on the north coast of Scotland, were rejected by the Jaguar iPace and the Ford Mustang Mach-E. It wasn’t clear why and sometimes when a charge started it then failed 5-10 minutes later. Drivers on the route also indicated that the same problem was faced with the Kia e-Niro.
  • Not all networks work on the Paua card (sorry!). At times drivers arrived at charging networks which were not compatible with the Paua card (hence the importance of checking on the Paua app). We are working to add more charging networks and will seek to address this!
  • At certain locations there is no (or poor) mobile phone signal and the use of the Paua EV charge card ensures that a charging session can start even when this signal is poor.