Over this St. Patricks weekend while most were celebrating with our famous national Shamrock, our motoring columnist Brian McDaid was celebrating the success of a leaf of a different type, that of the all-electric car the Nissan Leaf and his unique journey.
Survey Survey Survey
I’m getting a bit fed up with surveys of what people think of electric cars that never have sat behind the wheel, so in roaming reporter mode, I went in search of real people that actually own and drive all-electric cars.
To do this, Inishowen Motor kindly supplied us with the late 191 Nissan Leaf for the Bank Holiday weekend.
The Nissan Leaf that I drove was the latest 40 KW version with a range of 280kms between recharges.
And with that limited piece of info, a fully charged Nissan Leaf and an app installed from the ESB on my phone, I was on my way.
I headed in the direction of Inishowen to start my journey. I did this to follow in my father’s footsteps as he was the first person to represent the ESB to put the pegs in the ground for the locations to place the poles that would carry electricity to this peninsula of Donegal for the first time in the mid-1950s.
I wonder what he would think now if he was about a car was able to make a journey to Letterkenny and back on a single charge.
Starting up in Malin Head and making my way over Glengad, I took advantage of the steep hill into Malin Town to harvest power through the different types braking on the car that recharges the batteries.
My app let me know that a basic public charger was located in Carndonagh.
And even though I didn’t need it, the knowledge that it was there help to build my confidence in these all-electric cars or (EVs as they are known).
At the start
There is always someone visiting Malin Head no matter when you drive there, and that was the case the day that I arrived and because the car has signage in saying it was 100% Electric it wasn’t long before the sightseeing German tourists were overlooking around the Nissan.
After a few selfies, the journey proper began.
Lily’s in Malin
On my way through Malin, I stopped off at lily’s where my late father would have stayed in digs there when he was pegging out where the first electricity lines for the ESB and thought of stories he told about all the great people he got to know around that area.
The White Paddy’s, Hudi Dykes, Harvey Stewart, Willie Joe McClean, Paddy Logue to name but a few and not forgetting the Henrys long before they were a household name as famous singers.
Today its another member of the Henry family from, Seamus “Henry” Mc Laughlin from Malin who supplied us with this electric Leaf from his Nissan Agency based in Malin and in Drumkeen to embark on this journey.
Planning the journey is a priority when considering an electric car.
Armed with a great onboard navigation system on the Nissan I also downloaded an app from the ESB who are the providers of the public charging locations. What we didn’t plan for was snow which we were greeted by on the morning we set off.
If anything the snow just added to the adventure which the Nissan ploughed its way through with ease.
A quick top-up of the battery at Tobin’s in Letterkenny on their quick charging unit to the same amount of time as it took for us to get something to eat in their deli.
At the start of this journey, I must admit that I did worry a little about running out of battery power so I found myself topping up the batteries a lot even when it was over 60% mainly because I wasn’t really trusting the navigation system or the app on my phone.
A top up at Londas in Grange, Co. Sligo and a conversation with a fellow Nissan Leaf owner who was charging his 191 Leaf there put a lot of my worries to rest.
With the valuable first-hand knowledge passed on from this fellow electric motorist, I was on my journey proper and tested the range of the car as I travelled through Co Sligo, Mayo and Galway before topping up before I headed into Co. Clare.
Darkness was falling as I joined the motorway to head for Limerick City and then passed under the river Shannon.
By this time, I realised that the quick chargers were the best option to keep moving so now I was heading to Newcastle West for my next charging point.
In Newcastle West, I met another electric car owner at the charging point who had one of the earlier models which had a lower range.
He told me that buying an electric car was one of the best decisions he ever made.
He done a lot of research before his family car of choice was going to be electric and has never looked back.
If you are prepared to be part of the team and make adjustments to planned things out electric cars are a brilliant idea both for a family and for the bigger picture.
With more valuable advice including the fact that most of the electric charging points are available 24-hours, my talk with this man built my confidence for the road ahead.
In Killarney, I decided to top up the batteries for this leg of the journey ahead where I had to make a change of plan and divert from heading up over Molls Gap because of the freezing temperatures that were flashing up on the dash of the Nissan.
So, I headed inland a bit and eventually ended up in Bantry at 2am in the morning.
In Bantry, all that was available was a slower charger so I plugged in and took a much-needed rest.
Early on Sunday morning, I headed out of Bantry in search of the final part of the journey, which didn’t have an electric charging point on its peninsula.
The road looped back and forth along with the most southern part of Ireland and I was lucky enough to see the sunrise shortly after 7am.
Then another couple of kilometres down the way and the road came to a complete end at the visitors’ centre at Mizen Head.
We had made it from Malin Head, the most Northerly Point in Ireland to Mizen Head the most southern point.
The Leaf never failed us or did the charging points along the journey and I never ran out of electricity – we just run out of road!
A couple of photos of the Nissan leaf beside the the big reg Buoy and the centre and a couple of photos of the the car on the finishing line and beside the propeller of the 1909 steamship that went aground in heavy seas and the event was celebrated with a makeshift breakfast which consisted of a half carton of Centra’s own milk and a few hot cross buns.
The Nissan did well on its journey.
Starting all over again
It wasn’t long to the car was turned around in the carpark on the visitor centre and the same journey had to be repeated again in order to get the Nissan Leaf back to Donegal.
The journey down from Donegal had learned us a lot about electric cars and the network of charging points in Ireland.
Then on the way down the car was driven very easy and the E-braking was used most of the time to harvest as much energy back into the batteries.
One the way home we pushed the car on a bit were able to gauge the charging points better sometimes even missing every second one.
We managed to include a trip through the beautiful Molls Gap on the way home and were soon through Killarney and Newcastle West an on to the motorway through Limerick and under the river Shannon again.
Back to the future
When we arrived at our charging point in Ennis a beautiful 4×4 Tesla was charging in the bay where I stopped and soon I got chatting to the owner of this beautiful piece of engineering as we waited for power to charge both our batteries.
I didn’t want to ask him how much his Tesla cost but I Google the price of it when I was sitting in my own wee Nissan Leaf.
OMG- €200,000 for the top of the range of this model Tesla which was beautiful and completely silent as it sat in the charging bay with it back to the future looking gull wing doors popped up to the opening position.
As I made my way up through the middle of Ireland, a stop off in Ballindine had a funny experience from someone who seemed to be enjoying the St. Patricks Day celebrations but was trying to make out they were a lot soberer than they actually were.
Standing out in the carpark of the filling station away from all harm and enjoying a smoke they spotted me plugging the car in above the front bumper.
Stepping over and giving me a friendly wave they proceeded to the charging point to have a closer look at it.
They carefully held their lite cigarette at arms length away from the unit thinking I was filling the car with gas or something other than petrol.
Before I knew it I was crossing the border from Leitrim back into Co Donegal on St Patrick’s Day eve, less than 24 hrs the day before.
We were now on the home straight and our journey would end in Letterkenny.
1,200 km on free light!
Summing up our Journey over the St Patricks Day weekend from Malin to Mizen by electric car.
This was both exciting and very enjoyable and possibly will never be done again the way we did it.
Our Journey from the tip-top of Ireland in the North of Co Donegal to the most southerly point of Ireland, Mizen Head in Co Cork, which is 599 Kms one way and then back, cost us zero euros and zeros cents.
This is because from the start of the introduction of electric cars in Ireland the network of public charging points were free of charge.
This may change in the future but even charging the car from a power point at home cost a lot less than the cost to run an engine powered car of any type.
The Nissan Leaf has been the bench for electric car and did not disappoint us on our journey over the weekend.
At some stages of the journey, I have to remind myself that I was still driving an electric car as it is so quick away from a set of traffic lights especially when you are in the wrong lane and want to change over while the driver beside you is struggling for gears.
The drivers that I met were all a wealth of information on the cars. some of them said they could do with more quick charging points in their area.
One off the bucket list
Mizen to Malin has been on my bucket list for the longest time since the day. My father and the four of us boys joined his fellow ESB workmate, Michael Casey for a couple on miles on his walk from Malin Head to Mizen Head back in the 1970s.
Last weekend I got my chance to drive from one end of Ireland to the other in the latest type of motoring electric cars in what may become the future in motoring for everyone.
Happy Motoring Folks.