Back in 2019, we booked a 2020 trip on the famous Jacobite train, which starred as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter film series. COVID-19 closed the railway, which meant we had to postpone the trip until this year.
The original plan was to drive up to Fort William, in Scotland. At the time of booking, I was driving a VW Tiguan and living in London. The journey didn’t pose any real challenges.
Fast forward to 2022 and I’m now driving a Tesla Model Y and living in Solihull. This was going to take a little bit of planning. There would be four of us travelling, two adults, two kids under ten and a boot full of enough clothes and supplies to last us at least nine days. Fully laden is the term I’d use!
We did 1275 miles at cost of about £100, which is 8p per mile. In comparison, our friends did 1475 miles in a diesel, which ran them about £300 or 20p per mile. Had I used cheaper, slower chargers, the total bill would have been less, maybe only 6p or 7p per mile.
To the Isle of Skye!
The Jacobite train departs from Fort William, which is north of Glasgow. We booked an AirBnB for two days. As we were heading that far, we figured we might as well go a little further and added another AirBnB in Portree, on the Isle of Skye.
From Solihull to Portree was 520 miles and the route goes via Fort William, so it was pretty direct. The Tesla Model Y has a quoted range of 330 miles, but that is probably more like 280 or 300 in real life. This meant I’d need to have a vague idea of where we would be stopping to charge up.
Prior to leaving home, I charged the car to 100% using my Zappi home charger. This took two overnight sessions. I then set the car to precondition the battery before leaving. This can be done using the Tesla app and I left the car plugged into the wall to avoid using any of the battery’s charge.
Preconditioning will warm or cool the battery so you set off with the best possible range available.
#1 Solihull to Gretna Green – 220m (100% – 21%)
Leaving around 5pm on a Friday, we headed straight up the M6 to Gretna Green and stopped at the motorway services. I booked a nights’ stay in the Days Inn in an effort to break up the journey, as much for the kids as anything.
I plugged the car into a Tesla Supercharger and it took about an hour to get the car back to 100%. Thankfully it was very quiet. The 62kWh cost me £29.76. I was honestly surprised it was so expensive, but given the cost of electricity it shouldn’t have come as a shock.
#2 Gretna Green to Balloch – 110m (98% -> 59%)
The kids started acting up after we passed Glasgow and as it was approaching lunch time, we decided to stop at Balloch, on the southern tip of Loch Lomond. We parked up and I spotted there was an EV charger. A *free* EV charger. Once plugged in, we had a wander on the shores of Loch Lomond to stretch our legs.
I got 18kWh from the charger in the hour and a half we were there, taking the car back up to 80%. Not too shabby for £0!
#3 Balloch to Fort William – 85m (80% -> 50%)
This stretch of the journey was absolutely amazing. The scenery was breath taking.
For any James Bond fans, this road was featured in the Skyfall movie. We took a small detour down what is called “The Skyfall Road” in the hopes of recreating the iconic scene. Alas, this proved to be a bust since I didn’t prepare well enough! More on this later.
We continued on through Glencoe and on up to Fort William, where, with the help of some friendly locals, we located out AirBnB.
#4 Fort William
As luck would have it, there was a 22kW charge across the road from the flat. At 18p a kWh, this was pretty cheap, so I took the opportunity to plug in the car and charge it to 80%. This took 25kWh and cost me £4.61.
We did our trip on the Jacobite Train, which was pretty great. As we were travelling to Skye the next day, I took one last opportunity to put a few more kW into the car at the same charger. Another 11kWh and £2.14 took the car up to 85%. More than enough to get us to Skye.
#5 Fort William to Portree – 110m (82% to 36%)
This leg made very obvious the difference in motorway vs A roads. The weather was also wet and miserable, so the heating in the car was on. That said, 42% to do 110 miles wasn’t too shabby!
We did quite a lot of driving in and around Portree, with day trips to dinosaur footprints and castles. For the most part, the roads were A roads, but there was also a lot of driving on single track roads.
After the first day trip, the car was down below 20% so I decided to go to the charger in the town centre. Thankfully it was unoccupied. Unfortunately, I couldn’t start the charge session using the ChargePlace app. I’ll admit that I got a little worried at this point. If I didn’t have access to a rapid charger, it would mean leaving the car plugged into a wall socket back at the AirBnB for 2 days!!
I called the number and the agent was able to set the charge up for me without any issues. They explained that their app has trouble talking with older charging stations and that manual intention was required. There was a 45min limit (with 15min grace period) on the charging sessions(!) so I opted for the 50kW charger instead of the slower 22kW. An hour there and the car was charged to 66%.
The following day I used the charger again and filled the car to 100%. The day before leaving, I use the 3pin charger to replace the miles lost from the days’ road trip and we were ready for our trip back to Glasgow.
#7 Portree to Fort Augustus – 90m (95% to 65%)
No visit to Scotland would be complete without a visit to Loch Ness 🙂
We drove down along the shore to Fort Augustus, where we parked up at a free charge point. As we had plenty of range, I went for a 22kW charge. 2 hours added 22kWh for £0.
#8 Fort Augustus to Glasgow – 141m (91% to 50%)
This leg of the journey took up back through Glencoe and we had another stab at the Skyfall picture. The small, single track road was much, much quieter. Whilst I didn’t manage the perfect picture due to a Skoda being parked in the shot, we got close enough!
#9 Glasgow to Abingdon- 40m (40% to 22%)
The drive back from Glasgow to Solihull was going to be over 300 miles, so I know that starting with less than 100% would mean two stops on the way home. The first stop was at Abingdon services. When we pulled up at the supercharger, it was 1/3 full (2 cars out of 6 bays).
The Tesla route planner said that a 25 minute stop was necessary, but as the other bays filled up, this increased to 45 minutes. Instead of 120kW, we got 50kW.
Whilst the kids played games on the Tesla’s screen, I reviewed the rest of the route. I knew the car recommended at the services just south of Preston, which was perfect, since we’d planned a short stop in Preston to visit some family. On closer inspection, I could see the route required us to double back to the services, which was odd. On checking, I discovered that the Preston chargers were only available on the northbound side!!!
We cleared the route and tried again. This time the Tesla recommended a stop at the Trafford Centre outside Manchester! This would add lots of time and miles to our journey, but we didn’t see to have any choice. We decided to just head for Preston and once there, check ZapMap to pick another route.
We ended up staying for an hour, added 54kWh and taking the charge up to 90%. This cost £26.
#10 Abingdon to Preston – 145m (90% to 41%)
It was during this part of the journey that we started to hit the holiday traffic. Lots of it. It was stop start and 30mph for a long part of the journey. Our kids fell asleep and with the cruise control and autopilot steering, it wasn’t as stressful as traffic usually is.
It also had a real silver lining! As we crawled along, the miles used less battery power and as we approached Preston, we recalculated our route. We no longer needed to head towards Manchester. Instead, we had enough range to make it Stoke-on-Trent!
#11 Preston to Trentham – 70m (41% to 17%)
With 41% and about 70m to cover, we were feeling more relaxed now. We had checked the two superchargers stations around Stoke-on-Trent and spotted that the one at Trentham was a 250kW one. This would mean a shorter charge, so we decided to shoot for that one, even thought it was further than Keele services.
It was totally worth it. The Trentham services has twelve chargers and only one car was there when we arrived. The car told us it needed 8 minutes before we could continue our journey, but in reality, 3 or 4 would have been enough.
As it happens, there was a nice restaurant opposite, so we popped in and bagged a table. I returned to the car having left it about 10 minutes. 29kWh added @ £13 bring the car up to over 50%.
#12 Trentham to Home – 59m (51% to 31%)
Uneventful final leg!
The journey was a total of 1275 miles with 313kWh used. I haven’t received the bill from the two charges on the Isle of Skye, but the other charges totalled about £80. Add about £6 to cover a full charge at home. I reckon it will be about £110 in total.
For all the hours and miles driven, the Tesla’s autosteering behaved flawlessly. I had the autopilot steering engaged for almost all motorway driving and it only put its foot wrong once, with a little wobble as we drove only the M8, south of Glasgow. When we did the first leg, it was 220 miles straight, without a stop. I got out of the car feeling great. That would never have happened in my Tiguan. The 100 miles between London and Birmingham would have had me yawning and needing to stop.
I don’t really understand it. I mean, I was paying attention, checking mirrors, overtaking etc. but having the car do most of the steering and accelerating must be less taxing on your brain? All I know is that I did almost four hours in one go and felt fresh and relaxed when I got out of the car.
I even tried the autosteering on some of the A roads as they were very well market. For the most part it had no problems, but on a few occasions, it reduced speed to deal with “poorer conditions”. This didn’t make sense to me on some occasions as the road looked well marked and the sun was shining. That said, I’d glad it’s cautious!
Comfort and boot space.
1200 miles in comfort. No moving around in my seat or getting a numb arse. Surprisingly comfortable on the bumpy single track roads. Wife had no complaints either. Kids did complain about being too hot in the back, but we realised that we’d blocked the vents with a bag 🙂
In terms of the boot space, we packed in seven bags of clothes, two large bags of food, a laptop bag, boxes of walking shoes, toys, coats, one bed guard and a yoyo zen buggy. And we didn’t use the front trunk at all!
In hindsight, I should have fully charged the car in Glasgow. We were there for two nights on the way home, giving me ample opportunity to find somewhere to plug it in for a few hours. We would have only needed one stop on the way home. Some charging capability in the hotel carpark would have been very useful. If you’re parked up for 36 hours, even the 3 pin charger would be sufficient!
We also got lucky with our charging stops I think. At Abingdon, we might have been stuck there for two hours had we arrived when the chargers were all occupied. There is no system for queuing or being alerted to a charger freeing up, so we would have had to sit in the car waiting. Not ideal at the best of times, but even less so with two small children.
We did stop for a toilet break along the way and whilst there was one GridServe rapid charger there, it was full (two cars!). Somebody was leaving as we drove past, but the driver frantically gestured to indicate another car was waiting. If I’d been less than gracious I probably could have snuck in and hooked up for 15 minutes.
This is balanced with the 250kW charger experience. As it was a few miles off the motorway and after hours, it was basically deserted.
I can see why they say we need another 300,000 chargers over the next few years.
Driving through Scotland was amazing. The ChargePlace charging network is pretty extensive up there and their free charging points are great. Their support with the Portree charger was great. I wish it worked with the app, but I’m sure there is a ticket on their development backlog to sort it out.
As an EV driver, this has boosted my confidence even further that long trips just take a little longer and require a little planning. A small sacrifice I guess.