Nordic Tour with an Electric Vehicle, part 1

[This blog post describes part I of our 5000 km Nordic Tour, accomplished with an Electric Vehicle with a 400 km driving range in the summer of 2022. Can it be done?]

Let me introduce you to our newish iron horse: Polestar 2, aka Polle, is an electric vehicle that entered our household after our old, faithful servant Skoda das Auto had to be released from its duties. Now don’t get any ideas about the nickname of Polle. It was adopted from a cartoon pony, a character whose adventures I loved to read about as a kid, and my daughter is reading now.

Learning to use an electric vehicle has been quite interesting and would require a story of its own. We shall leave that for another time and go directly to our summer adventure: we decided to do our yearly Nordic Tour with Polle. I was skeptical as the charging station network in Europe is still under development, and Polle’s driving range with one charge is about 400 kilometers. In contrast, our old Skoda could drive 1000 kilometers before it needed refueling. And gas stations are everywhere. So you may understand my concern.

Another concern of mine was the Finnish country roads. Although Polle drives perfectly on freeways and is a pleasure to drive even on winding Alpine roads, I do not think the designers of this car, with its narrow car rims, actually had the Finnish gravelly cottage roads in mind. And those would be the ones we’d be driving, keeping in mind that most of my relatives and friends literally live in the middle of the forest. Reaching grandma requires approximately 20 kilometers of a drive on a dirt road after turning from the last asphalt road. On top of that, the car would get a swarm of dead mosquitos glued to its shiny new bumper.

However, Polle seemed confident as always. This city boy is equipped with a rather good self-esteem, and I felt like that thing was smirking at my concerns. I did not ask him what he thought about all these worries, although I could have. You know, he speaks. That is because of the integrated Google assistant, but you would be surprised. I find him a bit precocious at times, but he certainly knows his Wikipedia facts forward and backward.

Many of you already know that we are located in Switzerland. Now, our planned route was to cross the border in Basel and drive through German autobahns to Travemünde, where we would board a ferryboat across the Nordic Seas. After landing in Helsinki, Finland, we would drive through half of the country and back. Next, we would board another ferryboat from Turku, Finland, and enter dry land again in Stockholm, Sweden. From there, we would drive to Malmö and cross the bridge across the sea to Denmark. Finally, after a couple of days of exploring the Danish versions of dirt roads and one ferry later, we would enter Germany again, and the long drive home could start. The plan was to drive 5000 kilometers with Polle on this tour. Our smirking electric vehicle seemed sure of its success, but how did it go in reality?

We charged the battery full before leaving our home behind. My husband had researched the charging stations along our route, and Polle’s built-in Google Maps proved rather helpful, but we also had to learn its limits. Germany is well-equipped when it comes to charging stations, but we soon learned that we could not blindly trust that Google Maps would choose the best, or even functioning ones, for our purpose. You see, finding a charging station does not automatically mean that it also works. After some not-so-nice moments and feelings of heavy frustration (The only one who never lost its composure during these experiments, was, of course, Polle!) with the ones that did not function, we became experts in finding working charging stations. A few experiments proved that Ionity stations were the most reliable ones in Germany, and my husband started to determinedly look for Ionity stations on his phone app. By relying mostly on Ionity, things went quite well for the rest of our drive to Travemünde. However, we also noticed that on our earlier trips, we always picked our staging points thinking of the kids’ best benefit, but now we were choosing our stops based on the car’s needs. Polle did not seem to notice or care, but I must mention that it raised mixed feelings in a mother.

Recharging, Ionity works!

Putting aside the experiments with recharging the car, driving German Autobahns was a pure pleasure. Polle’s abilities did not disappoint, and even though I was emotionally attached to our old Skoda das Auto, I must say that these two cannot be compared. Polle was almost floating a few centimeters above the asphalt, so smooth was the driving experience. No vibration or rising noise levels as soon as 120 km/h is exceeded. Just pure, quiet, smoothly gliding race forwards. We reached Travemünde in no time, or so it seemed. We decided that charging the car’s battery full was necessary before entering the ferryboat since we discovered that charging inside the ship would not be possible.

Waiting to enter the ship in Skandinavienkai, Travemünde

Polle slept in the car deck while we enjoyed the pleasant days at the sea. After reaching the dry ground in Helsinki, we found out that Finland is also equipped well enough for electric vehicles, although driving long distances requires some planning. Being on familiar ground, I was not worried about it anyway, as I was sure we could find help if needed. You know, charging a car in most homes is possible; almost all houses there are equipped with a current power plug. Again, we picked our stops based on the car’s needs, and everything went smoothly. It is noteworthy that we were traveling in the summer, and I cannot say how the cold Finnish winter would have affected our trip. It is common knowledge that electric devices tend to be affected negatively by cold weather.

Taking a break and recharging at Koulumäen B&B

A one-night pit stop at Koulumäen B&B, Kärkölä, was a success. Kids enjoyed, we enjoyed, and the car got some fresh electricity into its veins (read more about our stay at Koulumäki). The next day we headed on the road again. Our goal was to drive another 400 kilometers to grandma. Again, Polle performed well, even on those most dreaded dirt roads. Our only real concerns were the so-called ‘birdhouses’ that are sprinkled by the main roads everywhere in Finland. Mark my words; you want to watch out for these; they are speed-control cameras set up by Finnish police, and the fine for breaking speed limits can be outrageous.

Recharging in Finland

We made it to a grandma with one stop and recharge policy, and it was time to launch the kids to the flower fields surrounding grandma’s house. The time we spent there was epic for the two little ones, chasing colorful butterflies all day long in the magical summer of Finland. And what did Polle do meantime? It smiled at my concerns and seemed to say, “See, it was not that difficult. I brought you here, right?” Then it hummed to sleep, occasionally opening its other eye to keep an eye on the kids chasing butterflies. It did not seem to mind the mosquitoes and other flying creatures glued to its bumper. I think Polle enjoyed the break in the Finnish countryside before returning to the road.

“Look! I eliminated some Finnish ‘airforce’!”

Come back to read about the second part of our trip next week! :)