850 Electric Miles, One Weekend: Tesla Test Of UK Charging Network

2011 Tesla Roadster Sport. Photo by Joe Nuxoll.

2011 Tesla Roadster Sport. Photo by Joe Nuxoll.

Why climb a mountain when there are perfectly good helicopters? Why drive to the North Pole when there are scheduled flights?

Why drive from the upper tip of the United Kingdom mainland to the very bottom in an electric car, when there are perfectly good trains?

Why do we do all these things? Because it's a challenge, that's why.

What is it about humans and challenges? If your cat sensed that its food were hot, it would quite sensibly walk away, yet we joyfully devour spoonfuls of the hottest, spiciest curries with little regard.

Tell your 2-year old, 'Don't touch that!' Then turn your back, and look over your shoulder, and you know what happens. We can't help it!

Last Saturday, David Peilow rode shotgun in Kevin Sharpe's Tesla Roadster as they tested out the charging network the pair built across the entire U.K. They intended to drive from John O'Groats at the island's most northeastern point to Land's End, the most southwestern land in the British Isles.


It's a distance of 847 miles, and a traditional long-distance 'challenge' route for everything from walkers and cyclists to skateboarding stars! 

The charging-network project started last year, when David persuaded his brother that a Tesla High-Speed charger would be a great addition to his hotel, The Castle in Taunton. Sure, most of his guests might see it as an odd addition.

But some new guests would be drawn to his establishment to refresh their electric cars whilst they relaxed and enjoyed the amenities of the hotel--or even made it an overnight stop on the way to the south coast.

And it wasn't a new concept for the hotel; The Castle was once a Coach House Inn and was one of the first locations in the UK to have a 'Petrol pump'.

Home-made J-1772 adaptor for Tesla Roadster charging cord, built and used by Michael Thwaite

Home-made J-1772 adaptor for Tesla Roadster charging cord, built and used by Michael Thwaite

Hotel owner John Peilow looked beyond the questions of range anxiety and the perceived practicality of electric cars on a road trip, and instead took a tiny financial gamble that's paying off. He's even putting together weekend-break packages that center on the notion of staying over, with free charging, to explore the Exmoor area and its great roads.

After that initial success, David looked for other locations that might be of interest. In came Kevin Sharpe of ZeroCarbonWorld.org, a charitable organisation also keen to see the adoption of electric transportation and, coincidentally, already responsible for a couple of other charge points.

Once the two compared notes, it became apparent that the whole of the U.K. could be made assessable to electric cars with relatively few strategic additions.

Then came the work: the calls, and the followups, to hotels and companies in the chosen areas, the challenge of convincing them that this would make sense. The surprise came when so many said "yes". Finally it came down to simple planning and installation, and the finished network became real.

Here's the punchline: The entire network was completed for less than $20,000. Imagine what you might achieve with the resources of a whole government.

Home-made J-1772 adaptor for Tesla Roadster charging cord, built and used by Michael Thwaite

Home-made J-1772 adaptor for Tesla Roadster charging cord, built and used by Michael Thwaite

Now, I don't plan on traveling from end to end of the U.K. every year. In fact, that kind of a journey might only happen once in say, 10 years.

But if they could show that it was possible, Peilow and Sharpe will let others know that it can be done.

I don't keep a private jet in my garage for the occasional transatlantic flight. Their confidence-inspiring road trip tells me I don't think I'll need that traditional gasoline-powered car, either, just to complete that once-in-10-years road trip.

Did they make it? You could look it up.

But we challenge you not to.

We'll tell you the full outcome of this unusual trip tomorrow.

Michael Thwaite is an electric-vehicle advocate who lives in New Jersey and works in information technology. He also runs the Tesla Motors Club. When he was 12 years old, he hoped that when he grew up, we’d all be driving electric cars. More than 30 years later, they’re finally here.

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