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Road-tripping to the UK’s most EV-friendly tourist attraction

As families enjoy the Great British staycation, Rebecca Chaplin discovers just how easy a UK road trip is in an electric vehicle. 


Time 6:32 am, August 20, 2023

With the summer holidays now in full swing, many families will be driving across the country – and this year more of them than ever will be doing it under battery power.

A survey of 1,000 Brits found that around 57 per cent are planning a staycation and will be journeying 100 to 200 miles.

To help those EV drivers plan their staycations, the electric charging network Gridserve, which commissioned the data, compiled an EV Holiday Hotspot Index.

This shows EV owners just how easy it will be to charge near many popular tourist attractions.

The index was created by analysing top tourist attractions and creating a score out of 100 based on their proximity to a Gridserve charging station, local AC and DC charging points per visitor nearby and the availability of charging at hotels, B&Bs and other accommodation in the area.

Top of the list was Beamish, The Living Museum of the North.

To put it to the test, I embarked on a near-700-mile round trip in a Genesis GV60 from my home on the south coast to County Durham – slightly further than most families are planning.

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Loading up for the off!

I wanted to try to just use Gridserve’s chargers – and to make things just that bit more interesting, I’d also be travelling with my partner and young son.

One thing was for sure – nappy changes would mean we’d need to stop more frequently than the Genesis GV60 would.

It has a WLTP range of 321 miles, but even my estimate that it would do at least 250 miles between charges would be more than enough.

The journey was to be spread over three days, with us breaking the back of the driving on day one as we set our sat nav for Ripon in Yorkshire.

My plan had been to stop twice so we were always comfortably charged, and that started with a top-up at Cherwell Valley services, 100 miles into the journey.

Here we drew up at one of the new Gridserve Super Hubs, where you can find six, 12 or more chargers.

In this case, six connectors were rated up to 350kW – a massive change since the last time I’d driven an EV long distance.

Would the Genesis get that, though? In this case, no. We were lined up with five other cars all trying to draw from the same source, and the balance meant we were only getting about 40kW.

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We stayed the first night at the Swinton Park Hotel – old castle, new tech!

Did it matter in this case? Not really. By the time we’d stopped for some lunch, we were back up to 80 per cent and ready to get back on the road.

It would be another 200 miles to our hotel for the night but we decided to risk only a five-minute charge at Trowell North services.

This left us with 30 miles when we arrived at the hotel in Yorkshire.

The next day, we made it comfortably to Bedale Services despite the diminished range, although to add some drama to our journey, we tried several chargers but none wanted to connect to the car.

We eventually realised it was actually the charger cable that wasn’t quite lining up, and once we’d figured this out we were charging at close to 150kW.

Soon we were up to nearly 90 per cent and on our way to Beamish!

The museum, near Stanley, was surprisingly busy with other visitors for early midweek, and it was interesting to take a step back in time after our journey trying out what could be the future for many.

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Setting off for another day – with just 30 miles in reserve

We’d also be stopping at the nearby Gridserve charging station in Washington, with Super Hubs on both sides of the A1 just 10 minutes from Beamish, which made it such a good location for EV drivers.

When we stopped, it was busy, but we were still able to pull straight into a bay and again were pulling 150kW.

By the time we’d finished lunch we were at full charge – something I would rarely do.

Probably sounds a little strange but at over 80 per cent charge the rate drops considerably, so in the past I had always thought it was a waste of time.

As chargers are so much faster now though it took no time at all to fully charge.

In fact, on our return journey south we also made a stop at Woolley Edge services and once again charged to 100 per cent in no time.

That meant that when we stopped in the Peak District around an hour later, we were still considerably charged up and ready for our final drive the next day.

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Storming further north to Beamish on the A1

With 216 miles of charge remaining and a 195-mile drive, things were looking pretty tight on the way home, but with nearly around 500 miles under our belt with the GV60 we were feeling far more confident in its accuracy.

In fact, we stopped at Warwick services on the M40 – following a slightly longer journey to avoid Silverstone and its F1 traffic – and found it was the first time we couldn’t drive straight into a space and charge.

We considered trying to charge again but, feeling confident, we pushed on with the remainder of the journey without having to plug in again.

That was a total of five hours of driving from Woolley Edge services to our home, which I have to say is really impressive.

All in all, I was generally surprised with how easy charging was, as there’s a lot of negative press about the state of the UK network.

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Arriving at Beamish

Yes, it definitely wasn’t perfect, but we weren’t stranded anywhere. We also exclusively charged at Gridserve stations, meaning there were plenty of other networks to choose from.

We could even have charged overnight at our first hotel for free and then we likely wouldn’t have needed to charge before Beamish.

As these networks grow, the outlook for electric car road trips and the EV Holiday Hotspot Index could look very different in only a few years.

Pictures: Regijus Simkevicius

Gridserve test drives help to fly the EV flag

We know that charging is one of the biggest block for people considering an EV as their next car, but while Gridserve is working on improving its network’s reputation, it’s also helping to convince people to make the switch in other ways.

At two of its largest forecourts, it’s added the option for people to book a test drive in a whole range of models.

With so many new brands and models on the market too, this makes trying different brands back to back in a non-sales environment easier (although Gridserve does have its own leasing arm, which will no doubt be part of its reasoning for offering these test drives).

Those with good memories will remember the EV Experience Centre in the Centre:MK.

This was opened by Chargemaster – now BP Pulse – in 2017, and here consumers could see a wide range of the latest EVs and speak to experts about owning one.

It closed in 2021, in part due to restrictions but also because it says it met its goal of increasing EV ownership in Milton Keynes by 23 per cent by 2023 – two years early in fact.

Now, Gridserve’s test drives offer a new way for people to try out one of 10 models currently offered from BMW to Vauxhall and Ora to Genesis.

Hour-long blocks can currently be booked online for its Braintree or Norwich sites, but this will be rolled out further, it says.

The UK’s top 10 EV-friendly tourist attractions

    1. Beamish, The Living Museum of the North
    2. Midlands Arts Centre
    3. Durham Cathedral
    4. Hampton Court Palace
    5. Eden Project
    6. National Railway Museum
    7. Pugneys Country Park
    8. Millennium Gallery
    9. The Bodleian Library
    10. Stonehenge

Source: Gridserve

This feature appears in the latest edition of Car Dealer – issue 186 – along with news, views, reviews, interviews and much more! Read and download it for FREE here!

Rebecca Chaplin's avatar

Rebecca has been a motoring and business journalist since 2014, previously writing and presenting for titles such as the Press Association, Auto Express and Car Buyer. She has worked in many roles for Car Dealer Magazine’s publisher Blackball Media including head of editorial.

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