A tour of Germany purely on electricity

Rolf Rombach is an emergency paramedic. His everyday life is hectic. When he is on the road in an ambulance, it is often a matter of “life or death”. So he likes to slow down on vacation. His plan for the summer holidays was to drive from Rüsselsheim to Kiel in the Opel Zafira-e Life. What is it like to drive long distances purely on electricity? And what does the family say about it? He wanted to find out.

Let’s go! The luggage is stowed and the adventure begins with the journey in the Meriva from southern Germany to Rüsselsheim. An Opel Zafira-e Life is waiting there for the Rombachs and their two daughters, Marielène and Kira. The children are immediately impressed: “So many seats!” Nine are possible, but seven are enough for the family of four. The cuddly toys occupy seats number 5, 6 and 7 – buckled up, of course! With a view through the big panorama roof.

Start in Rüsselsheim: Rolf Rombach makes a final route-check before setting off.
Rolf Romach’s cockpit in the Zafira-e Life: The family prefers all the space and legroom.

Day 1: Keep calm and climb the hills

The range display indicates around 300 kilometres at the start. Enough. The Rombach family always uses vacation trips to get to know new things. Instead of simply rushing from A to B on the Autobahn, they always make stopovers anyway. Today’s destination is Bad Hersfeld. “By now I was getting a bit nervous,” recalls Rolf Rombach. The steep ascents on the A5 have eaten into the predicted range. “Driving at the maximum speed of 130 km/h did not help,” he admits. But everything is going smoothly and there is still plenty of range left when the Zafira-e stops at a fast-charging station in Bad Hersfeld in the evening. While the Opel is recharging, the Rombach family goes to dinner.

Lots of stowage space: The Zafira-e Life gobbles up the family of four’s luggage.
Arrival in Lübeck: Marielène and Kira have christened their travel companion “Zaffi”.
Holstentor Lübeck: The Rombach family enjoys a stroll through the old town past the local landmark.

Day 2: Eco mode and cruise control
for range and relaxation

The next morning, with a full battery power, the second stage begins: 400 km on the Autobahn to Lübeck. Eco mode and cruise control promise range and relaxed travel, as Rolf Rombach will discover. But the paramedic wants no risks on his electric maiden voyage and prefers to plan two stops. At Hildesheim, 34 per cent state-of-charge (SOC) becomes 86 per cent within 30 minutes. Two and a half hours later, charging is just as fast in Seevetal near Hamburg. After 29 minutes, the SOC has climbed from 30 to 80 per cent. Meanwhile, the family buys fruit stand and the daughters give their new travel companion a name: “Zaffi”.

Status after two days:
Increasing confidence

Arrival in Lübeck! The family made three charging stops over the first 625 km and the battery display shows more than 40 per cent SOC. Confidence in the range is increasing. Instead of recharging at the hotel’s own station for the onward journey the next day, as planned, the Rombachs stroll past the Holsten Gate into the picturesque old town island encircled by the Trave river. With 40 per cent SOC to the Bay of Kiel – that will do nicely.

Arrived: Welcome to the Bay of Kiel.

Day 3: Free charging at the supermarket

The journey is nearing the destination – a holiday apartment in Laboe in the Bay of Kiel. While the Rombach family is making a stopover to buy groceries in the supermarket, the Zafira-e is charging for free on the supermarket parking lot. A charge-pole neighbour offers information on where to find more chargers. In most cases, you even save the parking fee while charging. Good to know.

Local day trips: Charging the battery
instead of paying to park

Summer, sun, sea – the family enjoys the next ten days on the Baltic Sea. And for day trips, “Zaffi” comes along again. And just as the neighbour at the charging station promised: in Kellenhusen, for example, “normal” parking would have cost €1.50 per hour. While the family enjoys the sun and the beach, their van parks for free and receives a 30-kWh charge. Another detour to Cismar for the famous monastery festival and back to the holiday apartment in the evening – in the end the electrified Opel has more juice in the battery than in the morning. As simple as that, without additional effort.

The return-journey is no problem: There are more and more charging stations along the route.
Impressive: 60 per cent state-of-charge after 17 minutes’ charging.
The final stage: From St. Goar to Rüsselsheim.

Homeward bound:
Fast-charging network = fast way home

After ten days it is time go home. Only one overnight is planned. Thanks to the fast-charging network along the Autobahn, that should not be a problem. However, the A1 invites Rolf Rombach to find out what the 100-kW electric motor can do. “The quiet gliding means you don’t even notice how fast you are going,” he admits apologetically. Ultimately, he remembers what he had learned on the first day: eco-mode and cruise control. The Rombach family spent the last night of their holiday in the Middle Rhine Valley. Sankt Goar Youth Hostel is just a few hundred metres from a charging station. During the hike to Rheinfels Castle, “Zaffi” recharges one last time.

Future mobility:
The Rombachs go electric

When the Rombach family returns their travel companion in Rüsselsheim, saying goodbye to “Zaffi” is particularly difficult for the children. “Yes, charging takes longer than refuelling. So we used the time as a family – to eat, play or go for a walk,” says Rolf Rombach. But he and his wife are already looking forward in eager anticipation: they have ordered an Opel Corsa-e. Delivery in November. “Because we now know that a family holiday is perfectly possible with a purely electric car,” concludes Rolf Rombach.

September 2022

Text and Photos: Rolf Rombach