Charging station chaos with the e-car: 7 hours from the baltic sea to berlin

"i was on the verge of crying": a mother reports on a chaotic drive with her e-car to the baltic sea through a snowstorm

Professional photo Elias Holdenried

Theresa hummer drove her BMW i3 from berlin to zingst on the Baltic Sea. On the highway, the range of the e-car melted away, which was also due to the low outside temperatures.

In the vicinity of the destination, all charging stations were either occupied or not publicly accessible. That’s why the Bundestag employee decided to drive back to Berlin with only the reserve tank of the range extender.

She is also bothered by the condition of the charging points, as they often don’t even have a roof over their heads. She would have had to wait out the return trip in a snowstorm.

The mass mobility of the future is electric – hardly anyone in the automotive industry and in politics doubts this anymore. But while registration numbers are soaring due to government subsidies, the expansion of the charging infrastructure can only keep up with the rapid growth of the e-car population to a limited extent.

Charging options are still scarce in many places, especially in rural areas. Admittedly, the proportion of battery-powered electric cars is in some cases significantly lower than in metropolitan areas. But if more and more drivers are to be persuaded to switch to an electric vehicle, it is also necessary to ensure that they can tap into electricity anywhere in the Federal Republic of Germany. At the beginning of January, theresa hummer experienced firsthand that this is not always guaranteed.

The BMW i3 is a talented city car

The research assistant in the Bundestag bought a used BMW i3 about three years ago and has been driving it mainly in Berlin ever since. "we only really drive it in the city, and of course it’s great there because the battery lasts forever," she says in an interview with business insider. Thanks to recuperation, bmw’s first electric car can apparently be driven very efficiently in city traffic: "in the city, it doesn’t feel like it consumes anything, but in berlin you don’t drive that many kilometers anyway," hummer continues. Charging in the capital is also no problem at all. But it’s a completely different story when you’re away from home.

Officially, her i3, which rolled off the production line in 2016, had a range of 240 kilometers according to the NEDC standard at the time. However, during her short trip to the Baltic Sea, theresa hummer had the unpleasant experience that this laboratory value is reduced within a very short time on the highway. Especially when the outside temperatures are around freezing point.

Charging station chaos with the e-car: 7 hours from the Baltic Sea to berlin

Even the journey there was nerve-wracking

Hummer had a bit of a queasy feeling from the start, since it’s usually about 200 kilometers to her destination of zingst: "normally, the car has a range of about 250 kilometers. After I left, it was then suddenly only 150. With the temperatures I had doubts anyway, whether that will be something on the highway."

In the end, however, she and her son reached their destination – with a completely drained battery and after two stops for gas. Her i3 still has an ace up its sleeve. It comes from the factory with a range extender – a small two-cylinder engine that runs on gasoline and acts as a generator, charging the battery while the car is in motion. This concept has been criticized in part because the gasoline engine is sometimes considered to be hard to drink, which has significantly worsened the environmental and climate balance of the small e-car.

Even in winter the charging stations in zingst were occupied

Originally, hummer had planned to charge the car only a few days after arrival, since the next charging point was quite a distance away. However, these plans were thwarted when her son tested positive for the corona virus and they had to return home much earlier than originally planned.

Although it wasn’t the vacation season, there was no free charging station in the area. "I drove along the coast using the range extender and at the same time looked for charging stations on google maps. In zingst there were two, but both were occupied. There were many in Rostock and on the Baltic Sea, but they were either occupied or located on private property and not open to the public," recalls Hummer, who has also worked in the automotive industry during her career.

Charging station chaos with the e-car: 7 hours from the Baltic Sea to berlin

Back to berlin with the emergency tank

The "plugsurfing" app, which they said worked pretty well, wasn’t much help in this situation either, since it couldn’t seem to show all the charging points, at least in Rostock. In the city on the Baltic Sea, however, a free charging station was found, to which she connected her car for about thirty minutes. To their dismay, the power that flowed into the battery in half an hour was only enough for about ten kilometers.

She then decided to drive back to berlin with the 10-liter emergency tank, which resulted in a nerve-wracking experience: "I only drove about 120 km/h on the autobahn because the battery was already as good as empty. Then I was shown that the next gas station is 20 kilometers away. My range extender also showed me a remaining range of 20 kilometers, and there was still enough power for 15 kilometers. Since we were also in a snowstorm, I really started to sweat. I was on the verge of crying," the mother recalls.

You can rely on the reserve

About a hundred kilometers from berlin, she found salvation in the form of a fast-charging station at a rest area. However, this was blocked by an elderly couple who tried in vain for twenty minutes to start the loading process. a call to the customer service department then brought the solution: they simply had to lock their car. After that she gave her i3 some fresh power and drove the last part of the way home. Seven hours after her departure from zingst, she arrived exhausted in the capital city.

Even though most manufacturers, including BMW itself, have now abandoned the concept, hummer is glad that her e-car still has an additional gasoline engine: "We Germans always want a little bit of safety. so i think the range extender is great because you can really rely on the 10 liter reserve in case of emergency."

Charging station chaos with the e-car: 7 hours from the Baltic Sea to berlin

There is a need for action on charging stations

Moreover, the nature of the charging points bothers them. At most of the stations there is no food or drink, let alone a roof over one’s head. "there was a total snowstorm. Even if we had found a charging station where we would have had to charge for around three hours, we would still have been able to charge the car. What do you do in the meantime? Just sit in the car and wait? I also had a small child with me, who was still in quarantine at the time," notes the industrial engineer in the interview.

"when it comes to expanding the charging infrastructure, it’s probably time for the counties to take on more of an obligation. It doesn’t matter if they are locals or travelers, there are always people on the road. And if the electric car is really to be the future, then the necessary infrastructure must also be made available."hummer points out. In the Bundestag, by the way, she is in charge of broadband expansion and cell towers. So she knows about infrastructure.

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