Tour d'Irlande: 1 Day, 1 EV, 4 Corners of Ireland

Tour d'Irlande: 1 Day, 1 EV, 4 Corners of Ireland

2020: Coast to Coast to Coast to Coast(ish)

The first time I drove to four coastal(ish) corners of Ireland (Wexford to Killarney to Letterkenny to Belfast), & back home again in a day was September 9, 2020. Back then I’d a quite fresh, 6 month old, Tesla Model 3 Long Range with 18,574km on the odometer.

The island’s charging infrastructure was different then too. It was less than a year since ESB ecars had introduced fees for charging (& would still be another three years before that happened in Northern Ireland). 50kW standalone units being the norm for fast charging, with multi-unit high power charging amounting to 12 or so locations - Ionity (up to 350kW) & Tesla (up to 150kW), with the most northerly of these being Castlebellingham (over 90km south of Belfast).

With its largely coastal route this would effectively limit me to a choice of five high power charging sites, four of which were located on the east coast, & however many standalone 50kW units were located along the route.

In all that day I travelled 1,214km, driving for 13 hours 58 minutes, charging for 1 hour 45 minutes - at two Tesla Superchargers (Castlebellingham & Birdhill) & an ESB ecars 50kW unit in Laghy, & used 178kWh.

2020 - 2024: What’s Changed

Charging infrastructure has improved a lot in the intervening years. There are now around 400 public fast & high power charging locations on the island. Upgraded existing or new locations typically include multiple units, or at least individual units capable of charging two vehicles simultaneously. Those 12 or so high power charging locations in 2020 have grown to around 120 locations, & they’re not just either Tesla & Ionity, they’ve also been installed by Applegreen, bp pulse, Brite, Circle K, EasyGo, ePower, ESB ecars, & Weev (quite a number in the border regions being attributable to the efforts of the Faster Project). That East coast (Wexford - Belfast) route, for example, has grown from 4 high power charging locations to over 24.

So how would the same car do now that it’s nearly 4.5 years old, with 152,866km on the odometer? Only one way to find out.

2024: Route & Charging Planning

Whichever way I went the majority of the roads would be national primary roads & motorways, so I figured I’d a 400km achievable range without any particular effort, & up to 500km if congested or I put effort into it, as we said in our New EV Owner’s Guide & Going The Distance webinar, “become accustomed to what your actual typical achievable range is”.

It’s worth noting at this point that TeslaFi’s Battery Report puts my battery degradation at 7.4%, & had it at 4.7% the last time I did this, i.e. 3.5 years & 134,292km later there was a difference of a dozen km.

I’d already done it one way, so I decided I’d do it the other way around this time (Wexford to Belfast to Letterkenny to Killarney, & back home again).

As mentioned, fast & high power charging locations have grown a lot since 2020, as clearly illustrated by using PlugShare to display what fast & high power locations were along the route (within 5km). Around a third of these are high power.

Fast & High Power charging locations within 5km

2024: & We're Off Again

I set off early on Thursday morning; someone’d taken my yogurt cranberries… not a great start. With the largely empty roads at this time, & Autopilot active, there wasn’t a whole lot to do in the initial hours beyond figure out what to play on Spotify. Checking in on the car’s Energy app indicated that winds from the north west were increasing consumption beyond anticipated use. I’d travelled over 300km as I entered Belfast, with rain starting near Banbridge, though as I was still not down into low battery I figured I’d just head on for Ionity, so I stayed on the M1, driving underneath RISE, & joined up with the M2.

The car didn’t appear to be preconditioning the battery for fastest charging at Ionity Toome, so I just told Siri to navigate there, & the Model 3 to navigate to the Belfast Supercharger. That sorted that, & I arrived at Ionity Toome at 6% having now travelled 362km.

Ionity, Toome

Having commenced charging, I headed inside for breakfast & to figure out where to next. Charging to 80% would realistically get me 320km (or up to 400km if conditions suited), which put me near Tuam. With three other high power charging locations between Tubbercurry & Claremorris this seemed fine to me. So after charging for 25 minutes I was back up to 75% & away.

Ionity Toome Charge Session

There’s some nice sights along the A6, but it wasn’t too long before I was in Donegal. Traffic had picked up by this point, with the combination of slow moving vehicles & roadworks apparently making the no overtaking lines advisory; whatever about legality / safety concerns, these were range improving too - take your time. Speaking of which, I'd been driving quite a while again at his point so took a short, no charging, break in Bundoran.

240km had passed by the time I was at Tubbercurry, & with no low battery indicator, Tuam, a mere 70km or so away, seemed achievable. Battery preconditioning worked as intended this time, & I arrived at N17 Plaza at 3% having travelled 316km.

With Cork much the same distance again away I figured I’d just charge in Killarney instead (only 230km away) as it’s just off the route. Back from the store with my Eye Opener from the coffee machine (I selected that one for no other reason than it's called Eye Opener), I’d a quick chat with the driver of the Higer STEED Local Link covering the Tuam to Galway City route who was also now charging (no charger at the depot currently) - believes it may have been the first for rural Ireland.

Higer STEED at ESB ecars at N17 Plaza, Tuam

After 28 minutes on the ESB ecars high power unit, I was back up to 63%, having stubbornly remained at 100kW throughout the session.

ESB ecars Tuam Charge Session

232km later & I arrived at another ESB ecars high power charging location in Garvey's Supervalu Killarney at 13%. While battery preconditioning again worked as intended, I had to wait a few minutes to get into a charging space as a construction vehicle was blocking access, & the other three spaces were in use. Given the number of spaces otherwise readily available in the car park, I reversed in sideways rather than deal with the limited cable length.

ESB ecars at Garvey's SuperValu, Killarney

Home was only 265km away now, so after 21 minutes & up to 64% I was off again. Similar to Tuam, the charge session remained at 100kW almost throughout.

ESB ecars Garvey's SuperValu Charge Session

Aside from redirecting for an all too common road traffic accident on the N25, & a quick break at Applegreen Lemybrien (again, no charging), I arrived back home after 265km with 10% battery remaining.

2024: Summary

In all, this time I travelled 1,173km, driving for 13 hours 59 minutes, charging for a total of 1 hour 14 minutes, & used 183kWh.

Both Google Maps & Apple Maps put the drive time for this trip at 13hrs 50mins, so no particular difference with respect to driving time. Little difference was seen in average speed - 84km/h v. 87km/h. Nothing unexpected there though - roadworks, traffic, congestion, accidents are inevitable encounters at some point to slow you down. Overall energy consumption was similar, 183kWh v. 178kWh, however as I travelled further the last time (1,214km) that translated into 156Wh/km v. 146Wh/km. While not massively different, this would maybe point to wider environmental issues, & indeed the temperature was lower, & the winds were stronger this time.

More interesting than that though, I’d also charged for 1 hour 45 minutes the last time I did this, which would indicate I spent 31 minutes less charging - a 30% reduction, & I also charged more in that time - 129kWh v. 120kWh. This illustrates the benefits of the greater availability of high power charging, there’s the obvious quicker charging, but there’s also the ability to use them more effectively - in this case, no 40km detour to / from Birdhill necessary, & in all instances I’d a number of other high power charging locations available to me along the way. This can be seen in the average speed during charging too - 99kW, 104.9kW, & 123.1kW v. 42kW, 80.5kW, & 113.3kW.

2024: Costs

I calculated charging costs with based on what I actually used that day.

Home Charging kWh Time of Use Cost        
Energia Smart Drive 9.58 Day (20%) €3.25 (€0.3386/kWh)        
Energia Smart Drive 38.34 Night (80%) €2.89 (€0.0754/kWh)        
Subtotal 47.92   €6.14        
Public Charging kWh   PAYG Cost        
Ionity (Toome)* 52.61   €39.46 (€0.75/kWh)        
ESB ecars (Tuam) 44.85   €30.59 (€0.682/kWh)        
ESB ecars (Killarney) 37.62   €25.66 (€0.682/kWh)        
Subtotal 135.08   €95.71        
Total 183.00   €101.85        

* via MAINGAU Energie as Ionity Northern Ireland £0.74/kWh (€0.87/kWh)

So how does that compare to ICE vehicles? I selected two ICE vehicles comparable to a Model 3 Long Range - an Audi A4 Saloon, & a BMW 3 Series Saloon to see.

Comparable ICE Fuel WLTP Consumption (l/100km) Cost*
Audi A4 Saloon Diesel 56.30 - 70.38l (4.8 - 6.0l) €98.87 - €123.59
BMW 3 Series Saloon Petrol  76.25 - 77.42l (6.5 - 6.6l) €139.54 - €141.69
BMW 3 Series Saloon  Diesel 57.48 - 58.65l (4.9 - 5.0l) €100.93 - €102.99

* AA Ireland Fuel Prices, May 2024 (Petrol €1.8302/l, Diesel €1.7560/l)

This indicates that, worst case, electric's €2.98 more expensive, best case electric's €39.84 less expensive. It's worth repeating that this is based on a 1,173km day trip with a high proportion of charging being public charging (nearly three quarters). Subscriptions, & / or use of other charge point operators (as I did with Ionity Toome), have the potential to reduce charging costs even further, e.g. use of Tesla Superchargers would yield a saving of around 33% v. PAYG ESB ecars.

2024: Conclusion

This latest day trip of mine highlights to me the developments in charging infrastructure in recent years - there's a lot more fast & high power charging locations out there now, & they aren't standalone single vehicle use units (as in, only CCS or Chademo may be used simultaneously) either, & with both National Road, & Regional & Local, EV Charging Network Plans launched this past week even more are on the way.

This too extends to charging speeds achievable, with 20 - 25 minutes of charging proving sufficient for a further 250 - 300km of driving. Considering recommendations on rest stops, there's not a whole lot of a difference in overall trip time when you overlap that with charging.

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