Spotlight on... The EV Rally

In July, we were proud to sponsor and participate in Greenfleet’s 2023 EV Rally: The Capital City Challenge. The event aimed to showcase the potential of electric vehicles (EVs), while stress testing the charging infrastructure and technological capabilities of current electric models on the market.

The week-long challenge saw around 150 drivers in 51 EVs cover over 1,200 miles across the UK and Ireland’s capital cities – Cardiff, London, Edinburgh, Belfast, and Dublin. Working in teams, the drivers completed the Rally in a variety of commercial and passenger vehicles, from cars, trucks, vans and a Maeving motorbike. 

The route took them through a host of checkpoints and iconic sites, such as Cardiff Bay Barrage, the Titanic Quay, Ballitoy Harbour, Poulaphouca Reservoir, and even across the Irish Sea via ferry, all while relying on the public charging network.

 We spoke to some of the drivers from across Lloyds Banking Group that took part in this epic journey to find out more about their highs, lows, challenges, and learnings. They reflect on the importance of events such as the EV Rally in raising the profile of electric, to show that it’s no longer the future – it’s the here and now.

Charging challenges

In a journey designed to really put the charging infrastructure and range capabilities of the vehicles to the test, one of the key takeaways of the drivers was around their charging experience.

Victoria McHugh, a Learning Partner for the Data and Tech Academy, commented that charging was “easier than expected” and that she was “surprised about how quick and simple it was to charge”. 

Her sentiment was echoed by Gill Newman, Deputy Regional Director, Mid Corporate Banking, North England, and Scotland . She told us: “Personally, I was pleasantly surprised by the charging options available and how quickly I built confidence in the planning of a route and keeping momentum. No range anxiety at all!”

Like Gill, Andrea Jerome, Manager, Risk Business Applications, also found planning key for EV driving. “It’s a bit like a game of chess,” she explained. “There’s strategy involved and not everyone likes that – myself included!”

However, Andrea also found excitement in the challenge. “It was fun listening in to the strategising in Dublin about where to get the two VW Buzzes in our team recharged overnight,” she commented. “A dealership had offered to charge them for us, but they needed to make sure the vans wouldn’t be locked in for the early start in the morning. With so many vehicles needing charging, it was all done in hushed tones!”

Different vehicles with different charging capabilities also added another layer of complexity. 

Chris Chandler, Principal  Consultant, explained: “Van drivers tended to have lower ranges, so had to be a little more mindful of charging stops.”

One of the key reflections from several drivers was how much the charging infrastructure had improved. Chris said: “Compared to last year, the network is growing at a fantastic rate, especially the high-speed charging hubs. These are especially important, as with between eight to 20+ charge points available, range anxiety really begins to diminish.”

His colleague Andy Hill, Commercial Vehicle Manager, who also participated in last year’s EV Rally, made a similar observation. “It was interesting to see how the network has expanded and improved in 12 short months.” 

With much of day one and two being a reversal of last year’s route, Andy highlighted: “It’s clear that huge investment has been ploughed into bolstering the charging opportunities along those key routes.”

However, all drivers recognised that there is still room for improvement in the charging infrastructure. 
Andrea said: “Charging points aren’t always convenient and sometimes don’t work. Coverage needs to be better and more reliable before EVs are suitable for everyone to use.”

Andy also found the infrastructure was mainly geared towards cars. “There’s still a way to go with things such as charging bays for larger vehicles and towing vehicles, as well as proper queuing systems for when the chargers are full. But we are heading in the right direction.”

Going overseas

Unlike last year, the EV Rally route for 2023 ventured beyond the UK into the Republic of Ireland, which presented its own challenges.
“The charging opportunities in Ireland were a lot less than in the UK, and the majority of chargers were lower power ones,” explained Andy.

“Chris also found that Ireland, Scotland, and Wales were “not quite as well served as England”. He said: “Chargers were much thinner on the ground and, in Ireland the vast majority were only 22kW, so more of a challenge, especially for the trucks!”

Claire Bird, Senior Manager in Propositions, Sustainability & Responsible Business concurred: “The chargers in Northern Ireland were fewer and in more remote locations with nothing to do whilst charging. There were fewer rapid chargers, but really if you’re on the move all chargers need to be rapid, and there needs to be more of them.” 

To add to the challenge, Claire also found her satnav  stopped working when she entered Ireland.
Claire was anxious about the ferry crossing to Belfast. “Being time-bound by the ferry crossing times, I had to fit charging my car around this,” she worried.

However, all teams found the currency difference relatively straightforward, with the charging cards they had been provided with functioning well.

Ross Gardner, Public Affairs Manager, commented that chargers in Europe either took contactless cards, or a charge card. However, he did have an issue with smaller, slower chargers finding: “I did often need to download a separate app and set up an account online, with no option for contactless payment. These chargers also weren’t noticeably cheaper than the ultrafast chargers either.”

Challenging perceptions

Following the EV Rally, our drivers reflected on the important role it played in raising awareness of and confidence in electric vehicles, as well as delivering valuable learnings about the models and the infrastructure. 

“It simply and visually demonstrates the capability of EVs and the UK and Irish charging networks,” explains Chris. 
Andy also felt the event “goes a long way to prove that EVs really are a viable transport solution, showcasing and even improving the public charging network and the range of vehicles available.” 

“The EV Rally shows that charging is easier than one can be led to believe. There are plenty of chargers, and most have some form of facilities nearby,” Ross echoes. “It’s 100% possible to do a road trip in an EV. A 20-25 minute stop every couple of hours really isn’t a chore.”

Victoria agrees: “The event allowed us to test out the current infrastructure and see if it can cope with the demand”.

Chris explains that all following a similar route is a “stress test of the network, and it was a real demonstration of both the vehicles and the infrastructure’s capabilities.”  

Key to the EV Rally was the drivers sharing the experience on social media and creating as much buzz as possible. 
Chris continues: “The large social media coverage and diversity of participants means the media reach is significant, helping to combat some of the negative press around electric vehicles.” Andy also commended the reach of social media around the event and hopes it has prompted sceptics to rethink their stance on going electric.

Claire had someone approach her in the airport on her way home who had seen the cars. “It’s our day-to-day work, but for others there’s still a lot of education to be done. The EV Rally provokes curiosity and highlights the capabilities of EV, increasing awareness and acting as a platform for change.”

“It’s all about awareness,” concludes Gill. “Showing what can be done, and bringing the message to a wider audience, with humour, confidence and fun!”

The EV Rally was also an excellent opportunity to spotlight the variety of different vehicles and models available as electric, believes Ross. “It demonstrates that they’re as practical and accessible as ICE vehicles.”

Andy adds: “It shows that even vehicles with a smaller battery and shorter range can cover the daily distances that were required, as long as you plan ahead.”

“I find it incredible that we had everything from a small five door hatchback, all the way up to a 27-tonne truck. The variety of vehicles is incredible, and we all made it the 1,200 miles without any real incidents,” remarked Chris. 

Building confidence

As well as influencing others, the EV Rally helped to build confidence among the drivers involved and taught everyone something new, whether they were an EV novice or an experienced veteran. 

“My confidence has increased, and I really enjoyed the experience,” said Victoria.

Likewise, Gill says she has “total confidence now and is a big advocate for EVs – just ask all my friends!”

Claire adds “I had never driven an EV before and was concerned about the charging, but it was straightforward and easy. As a newbie to EVs, I learnt so much and would 100% recommend them to my friends and family. If they work for your circumstances, it seems a no brainer.”

Andrea emphasised the value of learning from others. “It gives people who know very little about EVs the chance to try driving and charging alongside those with buckets of experience, making it easy to get instant answers to all the questions that pop up, such as what happens if you run out of charge.” 

She says it was an excellent learning experience, and now she too can answer all her friends and colleagues’ questions on EVs.
It wasn’t just those with less EV experience who had their confidence buoyed by the event. Chris, a seasoned EV driver, said: “The EV Rally just reaffirmed that the vehicles are excellent, and their capabilities are improving every year, as is the charging network. With more and more ultra rapid charging hubs, living with an EV is becoming easy – even if you can’t necessarily charge at home all the time.”

Others even said they preferred the driving experience over petrol. Ross said: “The journey was far more comfortable in the EV than an ICE car – quieter and calmer.”

“I really enjoyed the downtime between charges,” Claire agreed. “EVs are also pretty modern cars, so have all the mod cons you need. I had ‘the reasonably priced car’, and I would definitely drive one locally as it was a great car and perfect for local use and journeys.”
And the event wasn’t just an opportunity to learn and show off the EVs.

“We had a ball,” said Gill. “I really enjoyed every minute of the two Irish legs of the trip!”

“It was a great atmosphere and mood,” Victoria said, while Andy came away feeling “like you were part of something very special”.

Chris and Claire highlighted how the EV Rally brought people together. “It was a great demonstration of collaboration and camaraderie,” said Chris. “A real team effort, with drivers from all across the business supporting each other,” Claire agreed.

Sharing the journey

When asked what advice they would give to other EV drivers considering a long-distance road trip, our drivers had gathered plenty of insights from across their trip.

The biggest thing all the drivers took from their experiences was that planning was absolutely crucial.

“Make sure you have a plan for where to recharge, and a backup plan in case the charging points are full or not working,” advises Andrea.
The drivers relied heavily on digital technology throughout the challenge, ensuring they were making the best use of the route planning and charging apps available to help plot out their journey.

“Don’t panic,” says Chris. “Have a good app to show you where the charge points are or use the car’s satnav system with charge points marked. And consider an EV charge card, as some chargers don’t take debit cards.”

“There’s no escaping that EV journeys need to be planned more rigorously than a similar trip in an ICE car. Make sure you’ve downloaded the ‘biggest’ of the apps, and if possible, order cards for each one too,” says Ross.

He even takes his planning one step further, looking several days in advance. “Make use of desktop map applications to plot out the journey and understand roughly where you’ll need to stop – then search around the area for the charger that suits you in terms of speed and provider.”

However, Ross does caution: “There’s seemingly no single source of the truth as to what chargers at what speeds are where. It’s necessary to use at least a couple of charging apps and Google to get a true picture.”

While drivers agreed on the need to plan, they had different strategies for charging their vehicles. 

Andy believes: “Always start the day with a full charge where possible, then plan your route to take every opportunity to do a short 10-15 minute charge, rather than running the battery right down and doing a big charge. I generally started looking for a charger when the battery got to around 25-30% and then would charge to 80%.” He found this helps reduce range anxiety.

However, Ross argued: “The car will charge quicker with a lower battery. Try and set a rhythm of driving for 150-180 miles and then charging from 5% to 75-80%, as that's a more efficient way to travel than trying to maintain a higher state of charge for comfort.”

Andrea advises an intermediary tactic. “Small and often is a good approach – it takes longer to fill as the charge gets closer to 100%.”

However, she did find that there was a ‘fixed’ element to the cost of charging (the price of plugging the car in initially) and a ‘variable’ one (how much charge you put into the car). This meant a ‘little and often’ approach could inflate the total cost.

She also found Tesla chargers levy a penalty if you remain plugged in after reaching 100% charge. This, she argues “is a great model to encourage people not to hog the fast charge points for longer than needed”.

Based on her EV Rally experience, Claire now advises prospective drivers to think carefully about their vehicle choice. “Driving the ‘reasonably priced car’, with a range of around 165 miles, was difficult and meant lots of stops and a level of anxiety, whereas some other vehicles could complete the whole day without a charge. 

“If I was going on a long-distance journey, I would prioritise a car that could go greater distances and charge quickly.”
Ross cautions that advertised range isn’t always reliable, however. “Your car will consume electricity at variable rates throughout a long journey. Higher speeds, elevation, windy points, and outside temperature all make a difference – sometimes in your favour, other times not.” 

He advises doing a test route before setting off, to provide insight into the real consumption you can expect.
But the message that many drivers came away with is best captured by Gill’s positivity. “There is always a way and a solution, and people are generous with their support.”

“And remember ABC!” says Andy. “Always Be Charging!”

To find out more about the EV Rally and the drivers’ experiences, head to: ​​​​​​​