Ilkley to Cornwall — 420 miles in an Electric Car

Ian Smith
14 min readOct 7, 2018

July 24, 2015 / Ian Smith

The Challenge

This is the story of a 420 mile road trip between our home in Ilkley, West Yorkshire and our family holiday in St Ives, Cornwall. It’s unexceptional, except that I did it in an electric car — our BMW i3 battery electric vehicle (BEV) which has a working range of about 80–90 miles in the summer. The i3 is a fantastic car, and we love it, but its limited range means that it is generally viewed as a car about town, rather than a long distance workhorse. That being said, I often use it for medium distance drives such as the 170 mile round trip to Liverpool and back that I do most weeks.

However a drive of 400 miles or more is quite a different prospect. I spent quite a lot of time considering alternatives to doing the journey this way. I knew that it would be hard. Considering cost, amount of luggage, time required, and other factors, the best compromise solution turned out to be for me to drive in the i3 and for the family to go by train, plane, and taxi.

The Plan

I needed to make a plan.

There are two types of electric vehicle chargers in this world. Rapid chargers, and all of the others. Rapid chargers can charge my car from zero to 80% in half an hour. The other kinds all take several hours to complete a significant charge. I need to plot a course from here to Cornwall that includes a sequence of rapid chargers that are no more than about 70 miles apart. That’s where Ecotricity come in.

Since 2011, Ecotricity have been developing and deploying their Electric Highway, a network of electric vehicle chargers in motorway service stations (and IKEA stores) up and down the country. Their chargers support AC charging, as well as the two mainstream DC rapid charging standards. The DC CCS rapid charging outlet required by my BMW i3 is present at most but not all of the Ecotricity sites.

Using Ecotricity’s map in conjunction with Google Maps, I plotted out a route. You can see an annotated version below.

Google Maps route from Ilkley to St Ives

However, Google’s time estimates did not include charging time, and it turns out that trying to maintain a route plan as a Google Maps route isn’t that easy.

Ian Smith

An opinionated technologist, podcaster and design thinker. FRSA.