The seasonal pilgrimage from the UK to any number of French ski resorts is a journey that many of us know well – and one that most of us have done (at least once) by car. While those long, grey stretches of rain-splattered motorway aren’t the most exhilarating part of the Great British ski holiday, it’s true that driving out is both convenient and relatively cost-effective for families and friends desperate to hit the slopes.
Here at POW UK, we’re often challenged by our quest to power climate-change awareness via the UK’s snow-loving community. “Surely”, some people say, “if you want to make a difference to the planet’s environmental problems, you should just stop going on ski holidays!”. It’s a fair comment, considering common methods of travel by road, air or even train tread a carbon footprint that wouldn’t exist if we simply stayed put. But we understand that a shared passion for nature is the most vital way to fuel our efforts in protecting it and that passion can’t shine without being present in the snow-covered mountains to really feel that icy rush for real. With this in mind, we’re always keen to learn more about alternatives to the more typical modes of winter holiday transit.
As Chief Executive of the Lake District National Park, that same passion and respect for nature is paramount within Richard Leafe’s daily approach to his work as well as his free time. Walking, climbing, fell running, cycling, and skiing all feature within Richard’s list of hobbies, but of course, this life-long passion for high places often takes him outside the confines of England’s largest National Park and across the channel to the French Alps. Although not everyone is lucky enough to afford the choice between a conventional or an electric-powered car, we asked Richard to document the experience of driving his Tesla out to France. Electric cars promise a brighter future for CO2 emissions, but are they practical now? Here’s what Richard had to say:
“As the international boom in the public use of electric cars continues to build, what does it mean for those that like to drive to the Alps for the annual ski break? As an early adopter of all-electric motion, I’ve decided to try it out by driving my Tesla Model S from Kendal to Chamonix.
The basics of how it all works are simple. The car has a range of up to around 280 miles and makes use of the excellent network of Tesla Superchargers throughout Europe. A Supercharger gives a thumping amount of power to charge around 80% of battery in a little over half an hour. They are located conveniently at motorway service stations and are exactly the same to use in France as they are in the UK. The first leg, Kendal to Folkestone, was the usual UK motorway experience for a Friday evening, plenty of traffic and a closed section of motorway. Two stops for charging and six hours in total saw us overnighting in Folkestone, a welcome break to the journey. Conveniently, supercharges are located at the Eurotunnel departure services and on arrival in Calais, meaning you’re fully charged and ready to go straight out of the tunnel.
The French motorway network, whilst a tad pricey with tolls (around £80 each way for this trip) are un-congested and efficient in moving you through the vast expanse of the French countryside. Travelling in winter means plenty of driving in the dark and on this occasion, mainly torrential rain. Charging stops, 5 in total between the tunnel and Cham came as a welcome break from the rain. The last stop to charge up was in Geneva before the final leg up to Cham, where the rain was replaced with heavy snow. Great for the skiing to come but would we make it up there? Winters tyres and chains paid off as we pulled into a snow filled car park in Argentiere and rammed the Tesla to a halt in a big bank of snow. Twelve hours driving, including charging stops, quite a marathon considering the conditions.
So yes, it is possible and convenient to travel by electric car to the alps. It does take a little longer, but the forced breaks to recharge are surely a healthy interruption to length spells at the wheel. By the way, the Tesla auto-steer and cruise control also help to de-stress the drive. The top reason for driving has to be the environmental benefit. The carbon saving compared to a flight is enormous and provided you have the time to drive and recover from the trip, I’d highly recommend it.”
For more information on the carbon cost of your holiday and how to offset it, check out this carbon calculator.
You can follow Richard on twitter here.