Parkopedia CEO: Travelling 1000km across Portugal in an EV - The Good, The Bad and The Charging Chaos

6 minute read

The rollout of new EVs on our roads is accelerating rapidly, but sometimes, the present can feel like a series of charging mishaps and unexpected detours. Spontaneous long-distance electric trips can still be challenging, as Parkopedia’s Founder and CEO, Eugene Tsyrklevich found out on a recent trip across Portugal, experiencing chargers shown in the wrong locations, broken chargers, issues plugging in, expensive public charging and an overall disjointed experience. Below is Eugene’s first-hand account of his latest EV experience.

Starting off on an unexpected note

With the summer holidays ongoing and international travel at its highest for July and August, I wanted to share my story and experience of a 1000km trip across Portugal in an EV with my ‘adventure’ beginning at Lisbon airport. Due to a mix-up with the rental agency, I found myself behind the wheel of an all-electric Ford Mustang Mach-E that I picked up at near-full charge, with the car showing around 400km of range. Initially unfazed and slightly excited for the journey ahead, I drove just over 200km on the first day and arrived at my destination with just under 50% charge which was a pleasant surprise from the previous reports of ‘ambitious’ range predictions on EVs. I wanted to charge the car overnight to make sure I had enough charge for my next leg of the trip the next day so I used a few apps:

  • miio: A Portuguese EMSP app that the rental car agency helpfully advised me to download. The app showed me that the nearest charger was a few minutes away, though I couldn't pay for this via the app.
  • PlugShare: This app showed me the same nearby charger.
  • Parkopedia: This location did not feature on the app.

Phantom Chargers - locating public chargers remains a significant problem

I drove to the location in ‘Figueira da Foz’ and found out that it was in fact a hotel. I checked with reception but was told that they actually have no EV charger at this location. I reported this issue to PlugShare and then abandoned the idea of charging for the night, though, on the positive side, PlugShare did remove that location in the following days.

The next day, I decided to head to a charger that was further away and drove to the local BP station where I could activate the charger through the miio app. Thankfully, the charger was actually there. However, there was another electric car nonchalantly parked, which was not charging but prevented me from plugging in successfully, as the cable was too short to reach my car. This meant that I had to park across multiple parking spaces to work around this (image below). Once I addressed the cable issue, I successfully activated the charger through the miio app and sat down to do some work in a local restaurant. Puzzlingly, I was only getting 11kW from the Type 2 43kW charger, so after two hours of charging, I only gained 20% of additional range. In addition, at that stage, I received a notification saying that my 20 euro preloaded credit had now run out - even though the app was still showing only the €1.53 charge.

Broken chargers continue to cause charging issues

In the same evening, I drove to a nearby town 60km away and, as I had a long drive the next day, I decided to attempt a top-up charge again. So, I picked another fast charger on the miio app, which was at a fuel station. The charger was shown as being available, however, when I arrived there I found that the Type 2 plug that I needed was actually broken (below image), though both miio and PlugShare showed it as available. I reported the issue on the PlugShare app but I can see that it's now showing CHAdeMO as being out of order instead of Type 2, so perhaps I picked the wrong plug when reporting the issue but it is more likely a system issue, highlighting a potential lack of verification. So, I found another charger at another fuel station on the other side of the river, proceeded to drive over and upon arrival found a Nissan Leaf charging there. The driver informed me that we couldn't simultaneously charge at the stated 50kW, which turned out to be incorrect, as I was able to charge the Ford with the Type 2 plug simultaneously without any issues, but showed even existing EV drivers are quick to believe what they read or have heard without verifying themselves. This time I charged for three hours and added only around 30% to the battery, so after 120km of driving I ended the day close to where I started, with the same 50% charge.

Extended charging sessions often needed - even with ‘fast’ chargers

The next day, I had 150km of driving to complete, and barely enough charge for this (certainly not enough with the essential air-conditioning on during the current heatwave in Portugal), so I charged halfway through my trip for two hours at a fast food restaurant car park which had a fast charger.

Finally, having arrived at my end destination Porto, I parked in a local Saba car park that had a standard charger, which I was able to activate through miio and get the car to 100% after eight hours of charging.

Today’s EV reality

So, my takeaways after driving 1000km in an EV in Portugal are that there are still many challenges when it comes to covering long distances via electric power only:

  1. Charging Discrepancies: The majority of stories and media reports that we read about EV infrastructure and range/charging anxiety etc. are true. In the first 48 hours of my driving, I experienced the following: 
    1. Non-existent chargers being displayed in apps 
    2. Broken plugs/chargers
    3. Being prevented from charging as intended with short cables and blocked bays
  2. Time vs Distance: I spent more time charging than actually driving and the miio app was in my top five used apps last week with a staggering 90 minutes of usage
  3. Unclear Costs: As an EV driver, I had no visibility into EV pricing. For example, my Porto charging session cost over 46 euros and breaks down as 21.84 euros miio energy, 16.04 euros for charging point activation and 8.80 euro in fees (approximately 20% of the total)
  4. Seeking Seamless: The entire process of finding and paying for parking and charging is massively disjointed. I was not able to use Ford's in-car find charger functionality, as it wasn't enabled through Ford Pass, which is a significant limitation for those borrowing or renting a vehicle who do not personally own it

Final Thoughts

While my recent experience highlights that public charging can be a stressful experience for drivers, I know that many companies - including Parkopedia - are working hard to change this. We have a huge opportunity to address the very real issues facing EV drivers all over the world in realising our ambition to become the leading neutral aggregator of parking, charging and seamless payments globally.

On a personal note, I was very pleased to see that all of the chargers that I ended up using, were all listed correctly in the Parkopedia app, so that gives me great confidence that we’re very much on the right track to deliver the charging experience desired by drivers. As the world pivots towards a greener future with EVs, addressing these teething issues is essential. My 1000km journey was an eye-opener, reinforcing the need for a seamless, integrated, and user-friendly EV infrastructure. Here's hoping for smoother roads (and charging experiences) ahead!

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