My 7 days with an ID.3 from a charging perspective

I’ve just finished a 7 day hire of a Volkswagen ID.3 which I did because I’m used to Volkswagens and to see if I could live with an ID.3 as my car. Quick answer is yes, but part of the long answer is in this post which is about my experience with charging.

Firstly, as mentioned in my introduction post, the ID.3 was provided with a Type 2 charging cable which allowed the car to charge at it’s full rate of 11kW (according to the app for the car) and this was very useful.

Secondly I spent a lot of time on Zap Map and other charging apps to consider my options for charging and the week before the hire I installed the following charging apps on my phone:

  • A Better Route Planner – this was to give me a rough idea “on the road” as to how much I needed to charge to for a particular journey leg.
  • Instavolt – their chargers have a good reputation and they have particularly good coverage around Durham where I picked up the car.
  • BP Pulse – have a large hub at Harthill Services which are near to my home, and also at Stephen’s Bakers which was going to be a stop in one of my day trips.
  • IONITY – as a high profile organisation in the European VW EV picture I wanted to try one of their chargers, so included it on our trip home from Durham.
  • Fastned – have a growing presence in the North East of England and were a plan B for our trip home.
  • Mer Connect – the hotel we stayed in in Durham was next door to a public car park which had two of their chargers.
  • GeniePointMobile – the hotel we stayed in in Durham had one of their chargers in it’s car park.

I already had the following apps installed on my phone:

  • ChargePlace Scotland – the new app created by the new operator of ChargePlace Scotland is a big improvement over what was available previously. I already had an RFID card from them from hiring the Tesla Model S two years ago and have used it since. I check in from time to time to look at the utilisation of the two 50kW chargers that are within a 2 mile radius of where I live.
  • Osprey Charging – there are a few locations with 50kW chargers across the central belt of Scotland and I already had this installed.
  • ChargePoint – I had this installed to see if it would be more convenient as an aggregator of Charge Point operators but it wasn’t!
  • Shell Recharge – I have this installed as I use Shell a lot for filling up my ICE Golf and got a special offer for discounted charging just before the hire. Unfortunately coverage isn’t great and I haven’t used it.
  • PodPoint – I had this installed from our previous road trip.

Research

Charge Point research consists of a mix of the following sources:

  • Zap Map has the best general coverage of charge points with some conspicuous gaps (ChargePlace Scotland for instance) and a curious reliance on user reviews. I have a mild distrust of online reviews so regard them as an opinion to be noted but subject to verification.
  • Google Maps have ev chargers included but their location accuracy can be patchy, but I can only see this improving as manufacturers such as Polestar and Volvo use their data in their cars.
  • ChargePlace Scotland is much better than it was and the charger status is really useful.

Day 1 – Mer Connect

We normally stay at the Hotel Bannatyne in Durham as use of the Health Club facilities is included and they happen to have an Instavolt Charger. Unfortunately I had a problem booking through their website and didn’t get a reply to my email querying the issue which raised alarm bells.

So I chose the Radisson Blu for the first time; more expensive than Bannatyne’s and you have to pay for parking but within walking distance of Durham Centre.

My research indicated that the hotel car park had a GeniePoint charger but fairly high parking charges, but also that the local public car park had 4 charge points on two chargers and lower parking rates with free overnight parking.

That I had parking options that both had charging was a good start, in the end I steered clear of the hotel parking as I didn’t like that the only content on the parking company’s website for drivers was to appeal parking tickets – no maps or information on rates.

I used Sidegate car park during our stay and simply paid slightly over what I needed to allow us to take our time. The ticket machines accommodated contactless payment and the display and ticket included the departure time. This worked with the overnight timing so I could prepay the night before to 12:30 for instance (Hotel Check out time being 12:00). There was plenty of space when we needed it and the four charging bays are clearly marked at the front of the car park. Although there were roadworks on the access to the car park which made pedestrian access interesting it wasn’t a problem for us.

I used the Mer chargers twice, once in the morning to try the process of charging the ID.3 for the first time and again in the evening once we returned from York to top the car up to 50% to get us to the Ionity at Alwnick on the way home (calculated using a better route planner – technically 40% but the minimum set charge level on the ID.3 is 50%).

Practice Charge in Sidegate Car Park

We had a day trip to York on the Saturday and I planned a stop at Wolviston Services as there is an Instavolt charger at Dominos there. As it turned out the car didn’t need a charge and I just used the stop for a McDonald’s breakfast. What was exciting was the large number of chargers being commissioned by MFG – their distinctive light blue branding was visible from a distance and there was what appeared to be a good number of chargers being added to the service station.

Although we used the Rawcliffe Bar park and ride, it appeared that the single charger onsite was having issues (based on a check of zap-map) and the big plans that York council had had been slightly derailed by the pandemic. I hope things manage to catch up as the plans looked good. My earlier research indicated a nearby Instavolt but we didn’t need it.

As mentioned above we drove from Durham to York and back and I plugged back in with the Type 2 cable at the Sidegate car park with the ID.3 set to 50%. The charging history from Mer indicates that the charge to 50% took an hour and a quarter, cost £4.71 and added 14.280 kWh. The app told me that it was charging at 11kW and I went back to the car to repark it and free up the charger.

Sidegate Car Park (Durham) from the Radisson Blu

Day 2 Instavolt and Wallyford Park and Ride (ChargePlace Scotland)

After a couple of nights in Durham with a day trip to York on the Saturday, we checked out and started our journey home to Livingston. I used the We Charge app in the ID.3 user interface to find the Ionity charger at Alwnick and set the navigation to take us there.

Although Ionity is one of the most expensive options without a plan, I wanted to try one to see what it was like.

The ID.3 started giving charge warnings at 40 miles range when we were about 5 miles from Alwnick – we were the only EV when we got there. We arrived with 17% state of charge (we had everything switched on from A/C to heated seats at times!) and the combination of Ionity and relatively low state of charge with UK Spring temperatures saw a peak of 72kW which was the highest I saw all week.

Charging session at Ionity on CCS

When we were there a family parked up in their van and left it charging while they went to McDonalds – we stayed in the car for the charging session of 23min. This delivered 24.35kWh at a cost of £16.80

ID.3 charging at Ionity Alwnick

I then set the navigation to take us to our first ChargePlace Scotland Charger of the week at Wallyford Park & Ride. I think Wallyford is the only location with chargers over 100kW “Ultra Rapid” on the ChargePlace network and wanted to have a shot on the way home.

There was a volvo C40 Recharge on one of the chargers when we got there and we used the other charger (number 52462). This was the only charger all week that I had a real problem with – to begin with my RFID card didn’t work and then when using the app I had an issue starting the charging session. Having watched a couple of YouTube videos I held on to the CCS connector during handshake (flashing white light on the ID.3) and was able to get the charge session started. I later emailed the support team about my RFID card and they said that something on my account was wrong and that they had fixed it.

My session at Wallyford took 33 minutes and cost me £8.83 for 29.45kWh.

Wallyford Park & Ride Ultra Rapid Charger

Once home near Livingston I decided to try one of our local chargers at Calderwood Primary school (Chargeplace Charger 54003); this has recently had new chargers installed and once I got the hang of the charge limit setting in the ID.3 and reset this to 80% (inadvertently finishing the charging session early). Charging to 80% on the CCS connector took 15.42 minutes and delivered 9.12 kWh and cost me nothing (one current bonus of living in West Lothian).

First CCS Charging session in West Lothian at Calderwood Primary School
Rapid Charger at Calderwood Primary School

Day 3 ChargePlace Scotland for Child Sitting in West Lothian

On Day 3 we had a rest and picked up our Granddaughter from School in the afternoon. We popped to the charger for a top up and to show my Granddaughter about EV Charging then went to the park. Another 15 minute stop to get back up to 80%

Day 4 Chargeplace Scotland and BP Pulse for Loch Lomond

On Day 4 (Tuesday) we had a day trip to Loch Lomond. I planned a visit to Loch Lomond Shores with a little trepidation as Zap Map said the destination chargers were 50/50. When we got there two cars were charging (A Renault Zoe and a Tesla Model X) and I slotted in between the two and plugged the ID.3 in with no problems. As it turned out the nice day meant we spent quite a time there and I increased the charging percentage above 80% so the car would continue charging. The car charged for 2:17:25 hours and received 26.07 kWh and again was free.

Loch Lomond Shores, Balloch

We popped over to see the Hill House in Helensburgh after visiting Loch Lomond Shores and headed back to Livingston. Again I wanted to try the “Ultra Rapid” BP pulse chargers at Harthill Services on the M8 and this coincided well with a toilet and provisions stop. Most of the chargers in Scotland are 50kW and I wanted to try out a faster charger. I used the app and was a little confused with a negative balance at the end of the charge session but just added another £5 to my balance. Charging to 80% took 21:18 minutes, delivering 12.552 kWh at a cost of £5.53.

BP Pulse Charging Session
BP Pulse at Harthill Services (North) on M8 Motorway
BP Pulse Charging Session at Harthill Services

Day 5 BP Pulse and Chargeplace Scotland in Fife, Podpoint in Broxburn

For day 5 (Wednesday) we had a day trip to Fife to explore along the coastline starting in Kirkcaldy. There just happens to be a BP Pulse charger at Stephen’s Bakery at the top of Kirkcaldy and it was clear when we arrived.

Charging at BP Pulse, Stephens Bakery, Roslyn Street Kirkcaldy

This was another perfect stop – I put the ID.3 on charge, then went in to buy a few things including two coffees with a bacon roll for me and a macaroni pie for MrsL. This charge stop took 25:44 minutes to put in 14.7kW and cost £5.59.

We then made the first of several visits along the coastline of Fife; there are occasional charging locations but the rapid chargers only go as far as Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes. That said I was delighted to find two chargers in coastal car parks that were obviously new but not yet connected, which was nice to see.

We visited Dysart Harbour and spotted a new charger that had been installed and not connected. The weather was really windy and we didn’t venture farther than the public toilets at The Harbourmasters House. We then went farther along the coast and stopped at West Wemyss, Buckhaven, Leven, Lundin Links and Lower Largo (another toilet stop!). Again I was delighted to see a new charger had been installed at the back of Lower Largo (Temple) but not yet switched on.

We travelled farther along to Elie where we bought lunch at the bakers and headed to our next charging stop at St Monans Car Park where we plugged in (Chargeplace 54233) and eat our lunch and used the toilets. Again combining activities made the time pass better and we were charging for 40:45 minutes to get 7.74 kW and it cost us £2.76.

Chargeplace Scotland charger at The Common Car Park, St Monans

We then headed along the coast to Anstruther. I didn’t plug in to the charger as there was a Renault Zoe already charging and parked in the right hand space, making the parking manoeuvre a little more advanced than I wanted to try and our state of charge was quite high. So we managed to get as far as Anstruther Fish Bar and had a second lunch!

We then made our last visit on the coast in Crail and I plugged in to the Chargeplace Scotland charger in Marketgate. Crail was fairly quiet and it was easier to spot and park beside as a result as Google streetview did not show the charger (research!) – it’s at the end nearest the mini roundabout. All of the parking spaces are slightly tricky as they are at an angle but I was able to get back up to 80% while I walked the length of Crail trying to find a public toilet (I failed) so went for plan B and bought a coffee to use the toilet at lovely The Beehive Crail. The charging session (Chargeplace Charger 53017) was 22:48 minutes to deliver 2.48 kWh and cost £1.97.

Marketgate Crail

With the drive back from Crail to Livingston being 50 odd miles I headed out to try and get topped up but the local Chargeplace Scotland chargers were in use. I checked my apps and decided to go to the PodPoint charger at Lidl in Broxburn which was the cheapest paid for charger in the area. I set things in motion and did some extra shopping. The session took 31 minutes to receive 21.44kWh and cost £5.57.

44 kW at Podpoint Lidl Broxburn
Waiting at Lidl Broxburn after shopping for the ID.3 to reach 80% on the Podpoint

Day 6 Child Sitting in West Lothian with Osprey and Chargeplace Scotland

Day 6 (Thursday) was a day I helped my wife pick up our Granddaughter so after a slow start we picked her up and we went to the local Starbucks Drive Thru in Livingston as this is next door to a Marston’s that has an Osprey 50kW charger. Having driven through I connected up and we all had our coffee / cookies / refreshments etc. Again no picture but the session took 14:07 minutes to receive 5.72kWh and cost £2.29.

As we were due to return the car to Pulman in Durham the next day I popped out to top up the ID.3 to 90% to get us all the way from Livingston to Durham if we needed it. Adding 7.42kWh took 21:29 minutes at Calderwood Primary School.

While charging a local resident came up to ask me about charging – his brother was due to visit from the Netherlands on the way to Harris and had just got an electric car after his previous car was flattened by a falling tree. I talked (too much as usual) about Chargeplace Scotland.

Day 7 Chargeplace Scotland heading back to Durham

Day 7 (Friday) and we had an earlyish start to give us plenty of time to drive to Durham and return the car and get to the station for our train back to Edinburgh.

Starting with 90% meant we could get to Pulman Volkswagen without charging if we went cross country down the A68 instead of the quicker but longer coastal route down the A1. I tweaked this slightly and we first went to Galashiels so I could get breakfast, then we travelled on to Jedburgh for a comfort break but also for a charging stop (we had stopped here with the Tesla Model S two years previously so I wanted to repeat with our next road trip).

When we arrived at the Cannongate car park a Nissan Leaf was charging and when I checked there was a sign on the charger confirming that it was only possible to use one of the three connectors at a time to charge. So we left it and used the toilets at the Tourist Centre. When we returned the Nissan Leaf driver was leaving so I took the opportunity to park badly (a theme with me) and put the ID.3 on charge, I quite liked the idea that we were on our second road trip 2 years after the Tesla Model S and using the same charger again that had been the first Chargeplace Scotland charger (Cannongate Car Park number 51508) I had used my RFID card on. It took me a couple of goes to charge as the first time we cancelled the charge by mistake by sliding the percentage bar in the wrong direction on the ID.3 touch screen. This session cost nothing to add 13 kWh in 25 minutes.

And we travelled onwards to return the ID.3 to Pulman Volkswagen in Durham and then return home via public transport (Two buses and First class LNER!).

I’m just back from hiring a Volkswagen ID.3 for 7 days

I just returned our hire ID.3 to Pulman Volkswagen in Durham after 7 days of a mixed road trip and week off. I’m a long time Volkswagen driver having started with a diesel Passat and then a few VW Golfs when our kids grew up and we didn’t need as large a car.

I currently drive a VW Golf Mk7.5 and although I’ve sat in the ID.3 and ID.4 in our local VW Dealer showroom, really wanted to have a drive. When I saw the awesome hire rates from VW Financial Services Rent-A-Car I got in touch with the nearest VW Finance Car Hire centre with the ID.3 and booked it for 7 days. This was still cheaper than the weekend rate on the Tesla Model S of a few years ago; apparently the rates are set centrally by VW Finance Rental in an attempt to encourage purchase.

We hired the ID.3 Family but unfortunately this had a technical fault on the day we were due to pick up the car so fortunately I was still able to get a 204PS ID.3 for the week but in a lower trim (Life).

The Volkswagen ID.3 Life Edition we collected from Pulman Volkswagen in Durham.

I’m going to write some more detailed posts as I gather my thoughts but in summary it was a seamless hire experience:

  • Big thanks to Shahkiel Akbar (Group rental manager) for a smooth and efficient hire process, and for his first hand experience of running an ID.3 as his daily drive.
  • Thanks for handing the car over with 100% charge (you can see the bank of chargers Pulman have in their forecourt) and for explaining that the car didn’t need to be charged before return.
  • Thanks again for including a Type 2 cable with the car (Enterprise omitted this with the Tesla Model S) and I consistently saw 11kW when using AC chargers.
  • I was able to use the VW ID app on my Android Phone which allowed me to monitor the charge status of the car when AC charging.
  • The car was Manganese Grey Metallic which is the colour I always pick when playing with the car configurator on the Volkswagen Website.

In summary the car was very good and felt like our car after a few days, I found a good driving position immediately and it just worked as a car.

Fourth, Fifth and Sixth EV Drive through car clubs

I have a rather strange “tradition” of hiring cars and doing a road trip or similar. Years and years ago I hired a Peugeot for a couple of days and did most of what the youngsters call the “NC500” in a day.

Then a few years ago I hired a big Volvo Automatic and took the family to Oban.

As my personal cars have got better and I’ve had the motorbike I’ve hired less cars. This may also be due to a more or less 3 year stint working in Reading and Berkshire where I had a hire car for work every day and this was an excellent opportunity to drive a few different cars. During that time I started driving automatic cars as this was a lot easier in my VW Golf with my dodgy left knee.

Latterly I’ve been interested in driving Electric Vehicles, but as an early adoption item these are rather few and far between in hire fleets. Enterprise had a good number of Tesla Model S for a few years but it would appear that the pandemic has seen these reduce.

In the last few months I’ve discovered a couple of Car Clubs which are there to discourage personal car ownership and provide a convenient way of hiring a vehicle for a short time. It so happens that Enterprise Car Club operate locally, and off the back of a planned visit to Dundee I also discovered Co Wheels. Now I’ll admit that I’m probably farther down the route of considering an EV as my main mode of transport rather than giving up personal transportation (yes – I’m really bad with two personal vehicles) so I’m a little embarassed that I didn’t give up my VW Golf and BMW GS Adventure before hiring those cars but hopefully get a few points for starting the journey (if you forgive the pun).

So in order, here’s some more EVs that I’ve had the experience of driving.

Fourth EV Drive – Nissan Leaf – Enterprise Car Club

After the Tesla Model S hire with Enterprise, I discovered that Enterprise Car Club in Edinburgh have a number of Nissan Leafs at locations, and ultimately decided to take a short hire of a car in Fife to see how I got on with the car.

There was a gap of a couple of months between sign up (which involved license stuff etc) and hire. The actual hire process was very slick through the app on Android. I rocked up to the car, booked the car through the app and the car opened up for me.

With EVs both car clubs operate in the same way, they are given allocated parking spaces with EV Charging (much to the consternation of other EV users if comments on Zap-map are representative) and one has to leave the car on charge when finishing the hire. When starting one has to remember to take the charging cable with the car.

My wife came along for the experience and she liked the leaf, unfortunately for me the foot parking brake caught me out and the driving position didn’t fit me – I’m quite tall and have an aforementioned dodgy left knee. We drove around Fife a little and I tried a couple of charging points. The Leaf had Android Auto which was excellent for quick navigation.

I didn’t quite gel with the Leaf which annoyed me slightly as it’s very popular but it eliminated it as a future option and having driven it I wouldn’t wish to do so again. Although performance was good when not in eco mode, the handling was a bit bouncy and the front wheel drive loaded up the steering quite a bit.

Nissan Leaf charging at a charger in Glenrothes
Nissan Leaf charging in Glenrothes

Fifth EV Drive – BMW i3 – Co Wheels Car Club

After a couple of months it came to city break time and a random internet search popped up a number of BMW i3 and MG ZS EV in Dundee. Rather than having a relaxing time in our accommodation I dragged my wife around Dundee in pursuit of trying different electric vehicles.

Co Wheels are slightly different than Enterprise in that they rely on a smart card only for managing the hire process but this worked fine for the two cars we tried.

Unfortunately the i3 was in short supply over the bank holiday weekend we were in Dundee so in the end I only managed to sneak in a short hire of 1.5 hours. This meant I didn’t get opportunity to go far or to try charging it up, but it was really handy being 5 minutes away from where we were staying at Staybridge Suites in Dundee. Finally note that the car club cars are on the top (13th) floor of the Olympia multi-storey. Top tip is that there are lifts at each end which is a lot faster if you have a time slot to make.

The i3 was the reverse of our experience with the Leaf – my wife didn’t get on with the seating position and the seat belt in particular was angled really uncomfortably for her. My wife is quite a bit shorter than me and the rear door arrangement means that the seatbelt is part of the reverse door. My driving position was fine with seat in it’s lowest position and right back.

Driving position was fine even if the seat was a bit flat, and driving dynamics were excellent – really good regen and a good punch out of roundabouts and at junctions. The challenge was the dashboard and view forwards – there is a large space between the front seats and the base of the windscreen. The short nose means it’s quite tricky to place the corners, where on an ICE car you have the sides of the bonnet (hood for non British readers). The age of the i3 also means that it doesn’t have Android Auto so one would have to use the built in kit (albeit being BMW based this was rather good).

The i3 was a bit out there and too small for us to have as a car, but as a drive was excellent.

Sixth EV Drive – MG ZS EV – Co Wheels Car Club

After the compact “city runabout” of the BMW i3 we hired an MG ZS EV in Dundee. This is a small SUV styled EV and although I have a slight aversion to SUVs I was in the mood to try everything.

I walked the mile or so to collect the MG and drove back to the hotel to pick up MrsL. Yet another way of engaging forward and reverse (this time a dial in the centre console) but the bonus of Android Auto made the navigation a doddle.

We took a drive to Perth and all was fine – a little bouncy but plenty of room, very easy to drive and pretty much eventless. I understand the MG is a good priced vehicle and it seemed a decent car – for an SUV! My wife liked the interior which had a little bit of a budget Mercedes theme going on and I even stopped off for a charge at the Garden Centre between Perth and Dundee. All in all a good car but I like sportier handling (like the i3!).

MG ZS EV Charging in Perth
Charging at Glendoick Garden Centre

Unfortunately things got complicated when I came to return the car. The Car Club Model means that you return the vehicle to it’s parking space and plug it in to charge. Unfortunately the charging session would not start and I ended up bouncing between Co Wheels and ChargePlace Scotland on the phone. I don’t know what the problem was but it was the only dampener on an otherwise eventless hire.

YouTube Pandemic Comfort

This is a bit of a random frivolous post but as I’ve heard from one or two others, “random” YouTube channels have been a bit of a comfort or relief during the more intense moments during the rolling lockdowns that have been necessary during the last few months.

I’m amazed at how some have managed to continue to create content during these tricky times and others have understandably been a bit quiet while (I hope and assume) the content creators focus on more important things in life than indulging strangers.

Channels where I watch Everything

Audiology Associates UK – This is one of the few channels that I watch every video posted. It’s a channel from a practice in South Wales; an area I am quite fond of between work and Motorcycling – Off Road Skills have been based there for years and are a group of thoroughly good people. And yes, it’s a bit of an indulgence being that it is almost entirely videos of ear wax removal (which raises an ewww yuck from Mrs L).

Matt’s Off Road Recovery – This is a video channel of a family Off Road Recovery business based in Southern Utah. Like Audiology Associates I watch every video they post from the engineering work on their new recovery truck (an old corvair) to a lot of tourists and Razer drivers stuck in various types of sand or sometimes snow. Although we get a decent amount of snow in the UK and Scotland we don’t have snow apart from on a few beaches – certainly no desert conditions. As with most of the other channels I like, Matt and the rest of the team are informal and down to earth but are continually problem solving in their specialist area. It’s got quite a charm and in a way reminded me of the ensemble cast in an American Sit Com – it doesn’t play for laughs but holds together really well around Matt.

Regular Watches

These are channels where I watch regularly but perhaps not everything. For instance the depth of material or length may need more attention or focus, meaning that I can’t multitask or my attention span needs to be longer.

Bjørn Nyland – Bjørn is a “YouTuber” from Norway who has a channel that focusses on Electric Vehicles but isn’t afraid of straying on to sustainable transportation and basically following his curiosity. He is very productive so I dip in from time to time to see what he has reviewed (he and Norway seem to get every new EV going) and to see how Volkswagen are doing against the other manufacturers and whether it is time for me to commit to an EV. He is very methodical which means his content can be quite detailed which is a good thing.

Misha Charoudin – Misha used to work at Rimac Automobili and followed his passion to work at apex nürburg doing a bunch of “stuff”. With the owner at apex he delivers a spectrum of content around the Nordschleife and I particularly like the mix of material which is delivered in an open and informal way. I particularly like the way that they share the basics of running a rental and experience business and how they balance operations with giving a good experience for customers.

The Hoof GP – A chap based in Dumfries and Galloway that trims cow hooves and does his bit to share cattle husbandry. A compelling watch like the ear wax removal videos – and another cheerful but serious presentation style.

Corridor Crew – A production crew based out of California, I particularly like their Stuntmen React videos. This is quite unusual for me as I generally don’t like the reaction format but they manage to balance the dynamic and more importantly get practitioners that are eloquent and passionate about their profession. The amount of effort and work involved in “entertainment” is amazing. Their content has a great amount of depth and I dip in to this when I have the mental bandwidth.

Occasional Watches

These are channels I subscribe to and check regularly but don’t necessarily watch everything.

Robert Mitchell – Robert is the owner at “Apex” and although I don’t watch his material as much as Misha above, for completeness include it here.

James Hoffman – If you like or are interested in Coffee then subscribe to James Hoffman. In a way my viewing habits are a victim of James’ success. The coffee brewer, grinder and anti-static grinding “hack” I use almost every day are straight from his videos. Unfortunately now that I have a process that works for me and with coffee from a local, Scottish roaster I find myself watching less as it is all working!

I don’t subscribe but…

Artisan Electrics – I stumbled across this because it featured a number of installs of electric charging. As well as the EV Charging posts I really enjoy the problem solving videos which show the benefit of having a sound methodology.

Bigclivedotcom – what’s there not to like about a channel featuring a Scottish Chap with a goatie beard ? This is a highly detailed and educational channel about electronics, which generally involves pulling cheap electronics apart and uncovering the odd horror or pleasant surprise. Oh and trimming tips with funnels.

post 10 – not a lot to say about this channel but it includes a number of fascinating videos of drains being cleared of leaves and other debris with a rake. Strangely compelling at times.

Speed up your DNS in the UK – really ?

Being male I’m probably obsessed with fiddling when I could probably spend my time doing something productive. One obsession is tuning (I spent more than the value of my first car on “performance parts”) which I’ve slowly cured over the years and now refuse to modify my cars.

Funnily enough one thing that has made a real difference to my internet performance now that I have broadband is to ignore the popular opinion on websites and actually benchmark my home dns performance and then stick to it.

In my case I’m fortunate to have a decent router that has a caching dns service (rather than simple pass through) and I’ve set this to query the fastest dns server I can get to on my connection. All connections on my LAN point to the dns server on my router by getting the settings through DHCP.

Rather than blindly pointing to Google or Cloudflare, please benchmark your performance by using a DNS performance tool. As I’m very old I like to use GRC’s DNS Benchmark. Yes I’m a Windows user so I probably excluded a bunch of readers but for the rest of us it is a simple .exe and creates an INI file (remember those?) when you create a custom resolvers list.

If you are like me and don’t live in the US then run the program (this is what apps used to be called) and create a custom resolver list, then run a benchmark and adjust your network.

Read and weep – in my case Cloudflare takes ten times as long to resolve an cached dns lookup as my router and Google thirty times as long. Unfortunately the cliche is that the fastest dns is that provided by the vendor of my connection. Your mileage may vary, which is why you should test.

Now to deal with the challenge of dns settings when you have failover between two ISPs!

My Third EV Drive (Polestar 2)

If you’ve seen an earlier post on the blog you will have seen that I hired a Tesla Model S for a long weekend in March 2020 and had a great time in what seems to be a different era as it happened just before responses to Covid-19 kicked in and holidays got cancelled.

I recently drove my third EV ever (the first had two wheels and was a BMW) when Polestar unexpectedly brought their test drive programme to Scotland and to a location only about an hour’s drive away from where I live.

More details to come but we drove the Performance Pack version and it was awesome. Different feel to the Tesla S due to the way the interior is organised. An excellent vehicle and I’d definitely consider it for a longer evaluation.

Polestar 2 Performance Pack

I got my leaky BMW Motorrad System 7 Helmet Fixed

I like BMW Motorrad safety helmets; having a big head I struggled to get helmets big enough to fit and getting a size 64 BMW System 5 years ago got me started. Since then I’ve had a System 6 and currently have a BMW Motorrad System 7.

One issue I had with the current helmet was a leak in heavy rain. This would typically happen on my commute home which has a short stretch of motorway in a Westerly direction. It’s also fairly open so would conspire to add a headwind to the rain that frequents Scotland all year round. At roughly the same stage in my short ride home it would start dripping inside the visor from roughly at the center. It would drop straight down without impeding vision and not splashing – I think it would just soak in to the fabric at the front closure of the flip front.

When it came to the end of the riding season I mentioned it to the local dealer and they told me there was now a kit to fix the issue, which was a combination of a new visor plus new surround. Unfortunately I was a few days out of warranty but the cost wasn’t that bad compared to the amount I had spent combined on the original helmet and getting the communications unit fitted. When I got the helmet back it had a brand new shiny visor which is much the same with a pinlock but it now has a little latch at front center which engages with a matching hook in the surround – to make closure more positive I guess.

With lockdown I am just back on the road and being a lovely sunny day to get out on the bike I haven’t ridden since the helmet got it’s change so I’m not in a position to comment whether the fixes have dealt with the problem. What I did do however is make the same mistake that I did when I invested in the BMW pinlock visor for my System 5. The new visor comes with a protective film on the pinlock (blue coloured) and I didn’t realise this properly until I was several miles up the road. Top tip, remove the protective film!

I hired a Tesla Model S for a weekend

Last year (2019) I got the idea of hiring an electric car in to my head and started looking around for options. I spotted that EVision Electric Vehicle Hire had a collection point in Durham and started planning a weekend away involving a weekend hire and travelling by train to Durham.

When I got to the latter stages of my plans I reached out to EVision and they explained that the iPace that I had set my heart on was only available from their head office but that they had a Tesla Model S or BMW i3 available. I started considering the former.

Then a circular email drops from Enterprise Rent a Car saying that they hire Teslas and I was able to confirm that the local Livingston Branch (to which I can either walk or get a bus from my door) could hire one for the weekend. Unfortunately for EVision (who are really really helpful, respond quickly and have great communications) the prospect of picking the car up locally meant I could build a drive in to the road trip (a slight benefit for my wife) and I could save on the rail fare.

I’m just back from returning the Tesla to Enterprise Rent A Car in Livingston (March 9th, 2020) and here are my experiences (ok it was awesome but I want to ramble).

Presales and Sales Support

As I mentioned above EVision were excellent and the main reason I didn’t go ahead with them was down to location. Their head office (where the full range of vehicles is available) is in Strood, Kent which is almost but not quite the other end of the country to Scotland.

I booked the Tesla through the enterprise website and being an IT person allowed me to verify that the location, dates and type all matched. Of note was that the booking was for “Luxury Elite Electric” which was teasingly “Model S or similar”. As with most hire companies they don’t generally guarantee a specific model.

As this was my first drive of an EV (and I like planning) I started wondering about the Tesla and pinged an email asking about charging and cabling. The reply explained that the Tesla would be coming out from Edinburgh Airport and that cables would be included.

On the morning of the hire I popped up to “check a couple of details” and was delighted to see a grey model s charging outside (model confirmed!) with the mobile connector through the window. The quick glance confirmed that the standard cables were included for what was a March 2018 Model S 75D. This is basically the so-called mobile connector with it’s two plug options, a picture of which you can see on the Tesla Owner’s club knowledgebase.

The helpful chap at the hire centre confirmed that Supercharging was included and the car also had a card for ChargePlace Scotland.

As it was, in my preparation I’d signed up for a ChargePlace Scotland RFID car as it was only £20 and I was a bit excited at the prospect. As it was this was useful for later.

The car

Having searched about and read some poor reviews about Enterprise “loaners” for Tesla Service in the US I was relieved to see the spec of the car when I picked it up. Forgive me if I get the details wrong but the salient bits where:

  • Tesla Model S 75D Dual Motor Registered in March 2018 – the two times I checked the firmware it was up to date.
  • Autopilot working – I had to sign an “Addendum” to do with GDPR and telematics. The team were at pains to point out that it was the car, not Enterprise that would be watching me. I didn’t turn all things on but there were a couple of moments when the car was “unhappy” and indicated this through the steering.
  • LTE Maps – I think this is known as premium. Basically the routing took traffic in to account and showed busy roads in Amber or Red.
  • Leather Seats – the interior was slightly quirky compared to German cars but had leather seats and bits of brown “wood”.
  • Reversing Camera and Parking Sensors – these are a saviour when driving an unfamiliar, larger car.
  • Mercedes Automatic Controls – when I was travelling via Heathrow Terminal 5 on a weekly basis I got to drive a lot of Avis Mercedes hire cars and the controls on the Model S were very familiar. Interestingly the wiper and cruise controls were also the same. The steering wheel adjuster is also down there on the left of the steering wheel!
  • Supercharging included – now I understand one reason why Telsa have been successful. Supercharging was included in the rental and you just turn up and plug in.

What I Learned

This was my first hire of an Electric Vehicle and my first drive of an Electric Vehicle ever, so this is a mix of both sets of learnings:

  • Hire cost varies by location – I’m not sure if Edinburgh Airport has a premium or Livingston has a discount but the price differential between the same hire at either location is significant. For instance, while I look at the base hire cost for a weekend in April it is coming through online at £690 vs £360.
  • Telsa Navigation knows superchargers – The navigation (which appears to be based on Google Maps) will give you the option of selecting a supercharger en route if it works out that you will not reach your destination with your current rate of charge. What it doesn’t appear to do is be able to factor in that your destination will not have charging. What I ended up doing is anticipating my needs and diverting to a supercharger to prepare in advance.
  • It would be great to have a Type 2 charging cable – I had a couple of fairly long conversations about this with the people at Enterprise Rent a Car Livingston (who have all been really engaged and helpful). I found a number of non-tesla destination chargers in Durham that were un-tethered i.e. a type 2 7kw charger that could have been used to add charge while shopping or out for a meal. Unfortunately Tesla only recently started providing these with their cars.
  • Charging rates vary – you will see a lot of mentions of the speed of charging in modern EVs and how long it takes. For reasons I’ll admit I probably don’t understand completely, the charging rate of Rapid chargers like the Superchargers is not constant and reduces as the battery fills. At the superchargers I saw a maximum of 106 kW and a minimum of 11 kW. Things tail off as you reach full capacity so the best use of time is to only charge to “Daily” as the level said on the car I hired. Unfortunately on the 75D this meant about 180 miles range which ran a bit close for the travelling I was doing.

Tesla Superchargers

When I confirmed that my EV was likely to be a Tesla I took a look at the supercharger map on the tesla website. When I made the booking there were a couple of new sites scheduled in Scotland at Eurocentral and Berwick but the latter is still shown as being planned almost 6 months later.

Photograph of Tesla Model S supercharging at Richmond.
Supercharging at Holiday Inn Scotch Corner (Richmond)

What was reassuring was that our hotel in Durham was inbetween two Superchargers with Washington to the North and Richmond (Scotch Corner) to the South. I also discovered that Edinburgh Airport has a two space supercharger in one of the car parks near the terminal – in my previous job I travelled weekly from Edinburgh Airport and knew the car park well as the Taxis would pass it as a short cut to the drop off area.

In the end I used three Superchargers:

  • Edinburgh Airport – The car when collected had about 50% charge and wouldn’t make it to Durham. Navigation on the Tesla knows this and offers Superchargers to include on the route. The nearest to my home in Livingston is Edinburgh Airport. There was a model 3 charging in one position and unusually the chargers are not at the back of the spaces i.e. you park nose in. Access via a rather narrow entrance is to buzz through and the helpful security folks will raise the barrier.
  • Washington – there were 5 cars already charging when we got to Washington and the car set the charge limit to 85% saying that it was a busy station. I didn’t contradict this and popped in to the Campanile with my wife for a comfort break and a cup of tea. The service was friendly and really cheap (£2.40 for two mugs of PG Tips tea) and I have no complaints. As my first experience of a “normal” reverse in supercharger I was too far away in my first attempt (and there was a Tesla dealership guy doing something on his laptop and I didn’t want to run him over) but had no problems once I figured out how close to run the reversing camera. We ended up going back to charge up the night before we headed home and the Toby Carvery along the road was awesome. What was interesting for this was how much longer it takes to charge a battery to 100% – the charge estimator was way out.
  • Scotch Corner – we visited this twice, once each on the way to York and on the way back. It was quieter each time and I carefully observed the etiquette of parking on a different unit (they are in pairs). These Superchargers are in the car park of the Holiday Inn which we stayed in a couple of years ago and is a handy location for the A1 down to York from Durham. From a tourism perspective, Richmond is well worth a visit as a lovely market town.
Model S Supercharging at Washington, Tyne and Wear Supercharger.
Supercharging at Washington, Tyne and Wear

Public Charging

My wife and I have been to Durham several times to go to the local police event bikewise so when I discovered that EVision had a collection point in Durham I started planning combining this with a stay at our “usual” hotel Bannatyne – my wife really likes the Sauna that you can use as a resident.

I seemed it was meant to be when I discovered that the Bannatyne Health Club has an Instavolt charging station which with CCS would have been perfect for keeping the iPace charged.

When it turned out that I would be getting a Tesla instead I did lots of reading and discovered that CCS is an adapter and dc fast charging retrofit for the Model S. But I also discovered that Jedburgh and Consett (on our normal route to Durham from Livingston) had charging.

My plans had to ratchet down when I confirmed on the morning of the hire that the only cable the car had was the mobile connector and as a 2018 car was unlikely to have CCS support. The only other connector in the bag was for the round type of socket that I associate with building sites.

Apart from a few visits to superchargers, the only public charging point I used was in the Cannongate car park in Jedburgh. For information this is the car park beside the tourist information office and the little bus station. The charge point is on the immediate left as you turn in and has two parking spaces with a 45 minute restriction. The unit looked really new and had three connectors; CCS, Chademo and Type 2 and all tethered so I was able to use the latter and my wife and I popped up to the main street for a snack.

Image of Public Rapid Charger in Cannongate Car Park in Jedburgh, Scotland which I used on my drive home from Durham to Livingston.
ChargePlace Scotland Rapid Charger at Cannongate Car Park, Jedburgh

The unit was free with ChargePlace Scotland and I tried the card included with the hire which didn’t work. My own card (brand new and still stuck to the card!) worked immediately. It was interesting to see the different statistics to Supercharging that AC charging presents on the screen. I was a relief to see the route planner had gone from a predicted 9% battery on arrival to 22%.

Picture of the touchscreen display in the Tesla Model S while charging on AC at the Cannongate Charging facility.
AC Charging at Cannongate Car Park, Jedburgh.

Having done a bunch of research beforehand my wife indulged me a little in checking a couple of the local public charge points. We parked in the Prince Bishops multi-storey car park to go for a meal at the Fat Hippo and they have just installed several pod point chargers on Level 1. I had been hoping to try that one out had I had a Type 2 cable. I had a look to see if the Tesco Extra at Dragon Lane had charging under their charging scheme and it didn’t but was able to find a couple of pod point chargers in the car park of Lidl across the road in Damson Lane. For our trip to York we used the Poppleton Bar park and ride and there was a single charger in the actual car park. This park and ride is interesting in that there are “public” chargers in the bus lane to charge the electric buses that take you in to the city centre. Although you could probably use them for your own EV, they were in busy use when we were there with an attendant running up and down plugging the buses in.

Image of number 59 route electric bus at Poppleton Bar Park and Ride outside York.
Bus charging at Poppleton Bar Park and Ride, York

In Summary

My personal car ownership journey has been fairly conventional (and European), starting with Ford, then Vauxhall, then Audi, then a couple of Fiats (which both blew up) and back to German cars with Volkswagen were I’ve been since. As such I have a bit of an attitude towards American cars (too big, can’t go round corners) and therefore Tesla (too big, can’t go round corners). And from a gadget and environment perspective really want Volkswagen to build a golf-like car that handles and is electric and deals with my range anxiety.

The Tesla Model S was a revelation – yes it was big, but the handling was fine and reminded me a little of the Audi R8 I drove last year without the noise. I now see why the fans like them despite the eye watering cost. As with most cars, the interior fades away once you get on with things.

I’ll admit the range on the 75D had me concerned and it took a bit of management to deal with the gap between Edinburgh and Washington. The Edinburgh Supercharger is at the Airport and has only two bays so a bit tricky. The distance is 140 miles so not far off what an 80% charge gives on the 75D. I found myself spending 3 times as long and charging to 95% instead. On the way back we took a shorter but more rural (and narrower) route and charged at Jedburgh for comfort.

The hire wasn’t “cheap” at just over £400 with all the bells and whistles but for a weekend for a car of that cost was comparable with an E Class Mercedes for something with a lot more performance and technology.

Would I do it again ? Maybe – I’d really like to try the Model 3 but the Model S appears to be the only general option at Enterprise though I believe they may have some Model Y on their prestige range. The weekend price was as about as high as I would go for a discretionary spend but worked really well for my wife and I to get a full feel for Tesla. I really hope Volkswagen manage to make the ID.3 as interesting to drive as my Golf GT.

Year 1 with my R1250 GS Adventure

With overnight temperatures dropping in Scotland and salt being laid to mitigate icing, my motorbike is now tucked up for the winter and I’ve had a little time to reflect on the few months I’ve had of ownership.

With the finance concluding on my R1200GS Adventure earlier in the year I did the deal and went for the subdued choice of the Exclusive in Kalamata Olive. The Rallye was a little too bright for me and in the absence of a triple black was my natural choice.

In summary the styling has really come on with the latest generation of the adventure and the tank and bars are more integrated with the visual centre of mass having shifted down and forward to make the bike look smaller.

The engine and suspension are simply amazing – I didn’t have the adaptive suspension on my 1200 so it is impressive, the engine is better again (and I didn’t really explore the best of the 1200) and the various gadgets are a bit of fun.

My only criticism is the same as ever – the ergonomics are more mainstream meaning I miss the colossal seat to peg height of the older adventure, and I still miss the funny indicators of the old bmws.

A brilliant machine and I’m really looking forward to getting back out on it.

MoPOP Museum of Pop Culture Seattle

I changed jobs just over a year ago and an awesome part of my new Employer’s approach to staff development is that they send members of the team to conferences and training.

I had the privilege of attending a boot camp for cloud architects in Bellevue, run by Microsoft for their Partners and also had a day in between travelling from Scotland to Seattle to have a look at the city with my colleagues.

We basically got lost after visiting Pike Place Market, we thought we were heading towards lake Union but hadn’t read the map quite correctly. So we looked around and spotted the Space Needle fairly nearby (it’s a bit of a spottable land mark) and headed towards that.

The majority view was that we didn’t want to spend the money on going up the Space Needle so we went next door in to MoPOP Museum of Pop Culture. As I discovered this has a fairly significant connection to Microsoft as I saw one exhibit after another from the Paul G. Allen collection and it slowly dawned that a founder of the museum was also co-founder of Microsoft.

This place is amazing; it starts with the swoopy architecture which has a monorail bursting through it. Then the inside is all modern clean lines with doors and stairs leading to themed exhibits.

There are closed off exhibitions behind doors that cover elements like films or people or open areas that open out to the full height of the museum.

Well worth a visit.