The first NeMo cross-country test drive took place at the beginning of October, as part of the task on integration and validation. Two Renault Zoé electric cars, with two drivers each, took different routes from Turin to Barcelona, a distance of over 950km. The objective was to test the interoperability of charging stations in different countries and the cars’ autonomy under different driving conditions. It identified key barriers from the viewpoint of real users over a long distance, crossing different countries.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) were defined to measure the NeMo impacts and benefits, such as easiness of trip planning, easiness and length of time for charging, and consequences of looking for another station in case charging at the first one is not possible. This test drive was to measure these KPIs in a “before” situation, with a final test drive (on a longer route taking in more countries) to be conducted later in the project once the Hyper-Network is operational.
As higher speeds deplete the car battery more rapidly, each car followed a different itinerary, swapping each day between an “eco-route” using national and regional roads and a “fast route” using motorways.
Each car needed to charge between 10 and 15 times on the route from Turin to Grenoble (Day 1), to Narbonne (on Day 2) and to Barcelona (on Day 3). Vehicles were only charged at public charging stations and not during overnight stops.
The four drivers (from NeMo partners, one of whom was experienced in driving electric vehicles and three were not) were provided with a route plan and roaming charging cards such as the Renault ZE Pass and ChargeMap. Some of the charging stations were linked to these networks, others were not. Three smartphone apps were used for authentication and payment as well as an additional card for authentication only (as charging was free).
Data analysis is currently underway but the drive highlighted several issues:
- Users with previous experience of driving electric vehicles experience fewer barriers (or rather, can work out how to access and use different types of charging station more quickly);
- Long distance trips need to be carefully planned to ensure the locations of charging stations are known, including availability of charging at overnight stops;
- Several charging stations not connected to a roaming network required an app to be downloaded to use them. So drivers need a smartphone with data or wifi and access to their online banking in order to use these;
- Plenty of time is needed for a long distance journey: charging for one hour is often needed after just over 2 hours of high-speed motorway driving;
- Significant differences in authentication: apps, card, ID, etc, as well as the Human Machine Interface (HMI) and design of charging stations, as well as choice of plug types.
- Differences in pricing (some were free, some indicated the price immediately and for others where a roaming card was used, the price was only communicated afterwards).
- Only on two occasions was a charging station occupied and unavailable, so in most cases access was not a problem due to low level of use of the charging stations. But with increased electric vehicle use this is likely to change, with long waits or diversions to alternative stations being increasingly necessary unless infrastructure keeps up with demand.