The GREAT drive – not problem free

The GREAT team ceased the opportunity to test EV infrastructure from a cross-border perspective. We drove a Nissan Leaf from Malmö to Hamburg to join the Fehmarnbelt Days and gained some valuable experience in the process. It’s not always easy when you cross a border in an EV. Read our short report from the road to see what happened.

Slowly but surely

The 30 kW Nissan Leaf we drove has an actual range of about 200 km and with a distance of about 400 km we were aiming to manage with only fast charging two times. For safety we had planned four preferred charging locations on the route to Hamburg and once there we knew of the high availability of charge spots and were certain we would figure it out once we got there. The chargers we had planned to stop at during the way were operated by E.ON and Clever so we prepared for the trip by ordering RFID tags from them.

Our journey down to Hamburg was smooth. To conserve the power we had to stay at around 100 km/h and we ended up charging 3 times at 1h 15 min in total and landed at total travelling time of about 7 h 30 min. All chargers were unoccupied when we got there and there were no problems in using our RFID tags to pay. The Clever chargers in Northern Germany were actually free.

So far so good, we got to Hamburg really hassle free. But this is when our problems started.

The Hamburg debacle

The charger network in Hamburg is mostly operated by Stromnetz Hamburg and it is very impressive. Actually most people we asked could direct us to a nearby charger. Unfortunately there were no info in English available either on the web or on the chargers themselves. Even googling didn’t produce any productive result. Once at a charger trying to charge the problems started. There were three methods of paying:

  • RFID tags – We didn’t have a subscription
  • SMS payment – Only works with German phones
  • Iphone app – Only available in the German app store

We found ourselves starting to get stranded but as we were in the city for three days we had to start looking at a solution. This finally presented itself in the form of a Stromnetz Hamburg infobox where a helpful employee finally managed to persuade the second line support that we could call the help hotline number listed on the chargers and as they knew our name they would open/start it for us. This is when the final problem revealed itself:

  • 0800 number – The service line was on a German toll free number that is impossible to call from a foreign phone.

At this point it was 19:00 at night and all other Stromnetz Hamburg points of contact were closed for the day. Solution? We found a hidden 220V outlet in a nearby parking garage and stole the power from there…

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Lessons learned

Our trip really was an eye opener to the fact that we are not there yet when it comes to cross-border e-mobility. We gained some valuable lessons that we will bring to both Hamburg and the service providers in GREAT.

  • Thinking trough the foreign customer purchasing flow
  • Testing to avoid problems like the toll free phone number
  • Easy access info in English on both the charger and on the website
  • English versions of apps and worldwide app store availability