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Germany Road Trip

Discussion in 'Europe -' started by dpeilow, Aug 12, 2015.

  1. dpeilow

    dpeilow Moderator

    May 23, 2008
    Winchester, UK
    On Thursday last week I decided it would be an interesting trip to drive the Roadster to Stuttgart for the weekend, calling in at Darmstadt to visit friends working there on Friday night. Knowing that Talkradius has an HPC just across the border from the Netherlands and that I could get a slow charge in Darmstadt, it would have been possible to leave after work on Friday afternoon and then get to Stuttgart on Saturday lunchtime.

    I sent off a couple of messages to check that was possible only to then find my friends were going to Düsseldorf on Friday evening instead. They invited me to join them and I set about trying to see if there was open-access charging available there. As luck would have it, there was a parking garage with several types of EV charging just down the road but even better, a Tesla HPC at the Meliá hotel around the corner from theirs. Perfect. I booked a room at the hotel for less than the cost of theirs + parking at the other location.

    Next came the issue of getting to Stuttgart the next day. Knowing that I had an extra 150 miles and extra charge stop to cover, it meant leaving quite early and therefore drinking sensibly the night before! Such is the price you pay for EV ownership. I contacted Juwi AG through their website to ensure that charging with their HPC is possible on the weekend. Juwi is located half way between Düsseldorf and Stuttgart at the small town of Wörrstadt so was ideal and saved a trip into Frankfurt. They let me know that it was and that security guards would be on site 24/7 so I should make myself known to them.
    My plan for charging at Stuttgart (actually Hochdorf, which is just outside on the eastern side of town) was to charge in the underground garage of my friends’ flat. This would mean using a normal domestic Schuko plug and loading up as much as possible. Knowing that this might not be enough in the time I had available, I also saw there was a 32A point in the nearby town of Kirchheim and also 3 Roadster HPCs listed in the area. As I would be driving past one on the way home (at Neuss GmbH) and nearby another (at Hummel Systemhaus) on the Saturday evening, I contacted both so that I had a plan B. Neuss said yes straight away and Hummel also said yes, but they didn’t see the email until Monday (no matter, I now have a contact for next time).

    With permission to use the chargers I would need, I was all set.

    Friday afternoon came and I’d done a range mode charge on the Roadster. The distance to Düsseldorf from work was at around the normal distance I expect for range mode when on the motorway. Just in case, I’d spotted that there was a Fastned station on my route near Utrecht that I could top up for a short stop if necessary. However, because many of the roads on that route were limited to 100 km/h and it was a hot day, I got to Utrecht with plenty of margin and decided to push on.
    Reaching the German border, I’d hoped to snap a cheeky photo of the Deutschland sign but in fact they put it 1km before and I wasn’t ready. Nevermind – I was now on the autobahn so it was time to be alert and watch out for the inevitable Bavarian saloons going past at Warp 9. I was initially keeping it to a sedate 120 km/h (75 mph) but I drew the line at an Opel Corsa passing me, so I decided to speed up. Having plenty of margin in hand and knowing that there was an HPC at my destination, I maxed out the Roadster as much as possible on the two lane autobahn, reaching 200+ km/h and motor temperature above 120C on the few occasions when white Mercedes Sprinters were not trying to do an impression of Sebastian Vettel.


    I arrived at the hotel with plenty of time to spare, only to then find this…


    On informing reception, it was apparent that they had no record of cars in the car park and no means to contact the drivers. To be fair to the drivers, there was no signage at all and they were unlikely to spot that grey box on the wall was an EV charger. The hotel was aware that I was bringing a Tesla as I asked them to check the HPC was still present when I called to book and it would have been courteous to block off that space. In future I will be more specific. On this occasion the best they could do was put a note on the windscreen.

    I went to my room and waited for the others to arrive. Upon checking after an hour, the car 3 spaces from the HPC had gone and it was just possible to stretch the cable around the other two. I put a not on my dash with instructions to disconnect the car and call me or reception if needed, then joined the others for beers - half expecting an angry phone call which thankfully didn’t come. I headed back to the hotel later and disconnected the car before going to bed, just in case they decided to leave before me. Unfortunately this meant leaving the car range charged overnight, but I decided that would be better than waking up to a disconnected cable or worse, a broken charge port.



    Leaving the hotel at 8:15, the streets of Düsseldorf were all but deserted. The first car I saw, which followed me for a bit, was a Renault Zoe. Then a police car, which thankfully didn’t take any interest in the English guy trying to get his satnav to work while driving through a strange city. Eventually I was back on the autobahn and heading south via the A57 and A61. It was a foggy morning heading through the mountains, but after an hour it began to clear. There was a lot of interesting hardware heading my way – probably to an event at the Nürburgring that weekend – but the strangest thing I saw was a Canadian registered Mazda. He must have had a long trip!

    After some time I crossed the magnificent tall bridge over the misty Moselle valley and began the drop down towards the wind turbines of the Hunsrück and the rolling vineyards around the Nahe. As I turned off the autobahn to cut across to Wörrstadt, I was struck by how much the area looked like northern Italy, a real difference from the green mountainous terrain that surrounds it.

    As I pulled into Juwi’s entrance, everything was quiet. I got out and walked around, eventually spotting a chap who was expecting me. I explained in my limited German why I was there and he lead me to the Tesla HPCs (yes they have two) and fetched an English speaking colleague. The staff there were very welcoming and we struck up a conversation about the area and driving Teslas long distance. He suggested I could take a walk around their site and look at the wind turbines at the back. As he wasn’t from there, he didn’t know what facilities were nearby, but suggested I walk down to town.



    Juwi AG seems to be an interesting company. They have interest in renewables worldwide, but also on site they have demonstrations of passivhaus buildings and units for other companies, all built in as sustainable way as possible. After getting up close with the turbines and checking out the phenomenal solar canopies over the car parks, I decided to head off to find something to eat. I found a footpath leading through a small industrial estate to get to town avoiding the main road. Eventually I found a small square with a couple of Italian restaurants, one specialising in pizza and pasta and the other in ice cream. Charging in EV for a couple of hours isn’t so bad when you have that available. If that is not your thing, then there are German, Chinese and Kebab places there too. Wörrstadt is a pretty little place and I am glad I found it.


    Charging done, I headed off towards my end destination. My route took me past Hockenheim and through Stuttgart. Not long after leaving Juwi, it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen any other Tesla’s on the trip so far. Just as I thought that, a red Model S passed me going the other way in a contraflow near Eppelsheim. Cutting across to Stuttgart on the B35 and B10, I passed the HPC that I expected to use the next day. The route was more pleasant to drive than the autobahn, but a word of warning about speed cameras – Stuttgart is full of them. My route also took me right past Porsche and Mercedes’ works - the land of dinosaurs.


    Arriving at my friends’ place, it seemed there was a little misunderstanding. I had thought there was a plug in the garage but the only one was operating the door opener. Luckily I had packed a 25 metre extension cable, which we ran up the stairs and into the laundry room. There was a spare socket, but on inspecting the wiring leading to it I wasn’t confident it would support more than 10 Amps and so that is what I set the car to. Later that evening we also drove 7km to Kirchheim and used the free, no RFID and ICE free 32A charge point there provided by the Stadtwerk while having a spaghetti ice. Well done Kirchheim, this is exactly how it should be done. The spaces are even monitored by the parking office by the garage entrance.


    The next morning it was time to head back and so I set off at 9 AM with an 87% standard charge. Arriving at Neuss GmbH, I thought an hour on their HPC would fill the car up. The owner had sent me instructions on how to get access on a Sunday, but when I arrived the gate was open enough to get the Roadster in. I parked and took a look around the area, hoping to get into the Bonbon museum or Gummi Bear Land – but alas both were shut.


    Instead I plotted a route that would take me to Darmstadt and lunch with my friends there. It was an opportunity to snap the car outside the European Space Operations Centre – the 3rd ESA site it had been to that week.


    There is charging inside ESOC, but gaining access on a Sunday was not possible and hence I headed to the only charge point shown in the town centre, at a place called Darmstadtium. It took me a while to find this, as it is in an underground car park accessed from the opposite side of the building to where the point is located on the map. When I got down there, I found the space easily enough, but then it turns out that one has to visit the reception desk upstairs to start charging – which is only open between 8 and 8 on weekdays. Worse still, the door to the stairs which brought me out into the square beside the building closed shut behind me. Oh well, time to get some lunch. I met my friends at KFC.


    On coming back it was clear that all the pedestrian entrances were locked, despite this car park being advertised as 24/7. Not cool Q-park. I walked down the car access ramp and paid my 1.80 Euro, unplugged and got out of there. This was the only failure to charge on the whole trip. Why organisations think it is acceptable to have a manual charging process that can only be initiated during opening hours in what is otherwise a 24/7 car park is beyond me. My friends said that they remember this being a big thing in the local press with the usual pictures of politicians declaring how their 16A charge point made them a town of the future. It figures. Darmstadt – look to Kirchheim for how to do this properly.

    I headed off for the 30 minute drive back to Juwi – thankful that with an HPC I wasn’t going to get any of that kind of trouble. Pulling straight into the space, I decided to test the other HPC but found that it was set to 60A and not 64A like the first one. I swapped them and headed to town to get an ice cream, buy some red bull and explore Wörrstadt a bit more.

    It was my intention to get to the Nürburgring on the way back but I was conscious that I was going to be setting myself up for a late arrival back at home – and not to mention at Talkradius’s place. He had very kindly provided me some directions for a picturesque drive up the Rhine via Koblenz, but conscious of the time, I decided it was more sensible to take Google Maps’ suggested “avoid motorways” route via Cochem (the Rhine trip I will almost certainly try to do in the future). This saved around an hour, not to mention extra charging when I got there. I took the roof off and retraced my steps to the west.

    I wasn’t disappointed. The rolling hills around Wörrstadt soon gave way to the higher forested terrain of the Hunsrück, from where upon cresting one summit I was greeted with a most amazing sight: Wind turbines as far as the eye could see. I have never seen so many in one view, there were literally hundreds and not small ones either. It’s clear how Germany gets so much of its power from this source on windy days. Personally I do not think they detract from what is a very beautiful part of the world – and it is nice to think that they were contributing a little to your motive power – but I can understand how some locals had reached the limits of their tolerance for any more in the area. I was weaving between them for at least an hour and for the likes of Simon Jenkins, such a sight would undoubtedly be a green hell.


    Between there and the Nürburgring, the landscape – particularly around the steep sided Moselle valley – makes for some excellent driving roads. There are pretty villages and many castles which I wish I’d had time to stop and explore. Furthermore, there is hardly any traffic. Considering that this region is about as far from London as is Cornwall, I know that I will make the effort to return.

    Arriving at the Nürburgring, I first headed to the location of a charging point marked on opposite the main entrance. Nothing. There was a taxi parked where it should have been but there was no sign of the point. I parked in the nearby car park and looked around on foot. I asked the taxi driver if he knew of any “stromtankstellen für Elektroautos” but he said he only knew of one 5km away (which was also right). Not good. However I knew there was another at the Ring somewhere because I’d seen pictures. There was a second marked on 300 metres away so I chanced getting into that. Fortunately, not only did it exist but it was accessible from the road. I hooked up, but the next problem was that it had stopped appearing on Plugsurfing’s app (I would swear it was on there when I looked on Friday). After a quick call with the point ID number I was in business.


    I only needed about 30 minutes on the 32A point to give me a more comfortable margin to Talkradius’ HPC. I took the opportunity to look around and managed to get up trackside. However, everything was closed up so no bumper sticker for me. As befitting the track’s status as a Mecca for petrolheads, the place had more “all mouth, no trousers” small hatchbacks with loud tailpipes driving around than Southend-on-Sea on a Saturday night. A bunch of British lads pulled up in front of the large Nürburgring sign in their noisy Astras and spent the next 15 minutes taking photos of their cars. Good idea, I thought, and once they had gone unplugged the Roadster to do the same – only for a bunch of Spanish Astras to pull up and do the same. I waited 5 minutes and then gave up. As I was driving off I saw them leave and quickly circled back to get my turn.


    It was now dark and so I headed down from the Eifel mountains and back onto the autobahn. I debated taking a shorter route but being tired and in unfamiliar territory, I decided this was safer. Arriving at the exit for Hückelhoven, I found it blocked due to works and quickly regretted that decision. Fortunately the next was only a few km further and my policy of always keeping a 20 mile margin paid off.

    I pulled up at what I thought must be Talkradius’ place (due to the post with sockets by the street), but at first couldn’t figure out where the HPC that I had seen pictures of was located. It was dark, so I hopped out and looked around using my phone to see, finding the lit garage after walking up the driveway. I pulled the car up and plugged in, and was quickly met by a familiar face. Despite it being late and me expecting to be snoozing in the car for a few hours, I was asked in for a drink and we caught up on all the stories from the German and British Tesla scene. I was very grateful for somewhere warm to sit and for the hospitality I received while there. Three hours passed very quickly and before long, I was downing a strong coffee and hitting the road again.


    The last leg of my journey consisted of 2.5 hours of mostly motorway driving across the Netherlands to get back to Leiden, with the radio tuned to whatever station I could pick up and the air conditioning set to cold. Most of the distance was on unlit stretches with the odd truck for company, punctuated by the occasional very impressive intersection. I made one wrong turn that funnily enough almost took me into Tilburg thanks to a delayed instruction from the satnav (Google – please sort out Lollipop on the Galaxy S5 by the way, it’s embarrassing) but eventually rolled into my temporary Dutch home at 5 AM. It had been a heck of a trip and perhaps not one that I would try to cram as much into again, but on reflection the Darmstadt excursion had cost me around 4 hours in extra charge time, driving time, searching for the charge point and lunch eaten while not charging – but not being sure if I would get back there with the Roadster again, I deemed it worth the effort.
    Would I recommend attempting this trip on such a tight two day schedule to other Roadster owners? Probably not. It would have been more comfortable to take three days for sure. Of course, in a Model S it would be child’s play, but without supercharging it is extended very much by the necessary stops. However, if you want to see some beautiful countryside on fantastic back roads with the roof off on a sunny day, while discovering a side to Germany that you don’t always see, I can’t recommend it highly enough. I will definitely be going back.

    Thanks to all I met and didn’t meet who allowed me to charge and who showed fantastic hospitality, and to supercharge-me - Bewertungsportal zum Tesla Ladenetzwerk for taking the initiative to map the essential HPCs for this kind of trip that inspired me to take it at such short notice. I would love to see a stream of Roadsters making such trips around Europe now that site is documenting HPC locations.

    ESTEC - Hochdorf.png
  2. mrElbe

    mrElbe Member

    Aug 17, 2014
    Stouffville, ON Canada
    Thanks for the interesting trip story.

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