Through the Chunnel and beyond

Jean-Pierre Van Wingen, Tesla Roadster Owner, December 22, 2010

We’ve been driving our Tesla in Belgium for more than six months and have racked up nearly 20,000 kms. Every working day I drive it to my job and to my business appointments – no problems whatsoever. It’s perfect for our daily use in and around our home in Ghent. But we were curious to know whether it could “go the distance,” so to speak, and serve as a road trip car.

Coincidentally, I had recently received an invitation to a meeting near Bristol, UK – 325 kms from Ghent, across the English Chanel and on the west coast of England on the Irish Sea. For those of us from “the continent,” crossing the Channel is a huge psychological barrier, and we joke that London is on another planet.

But we wondered: Could we cross the Channel with our Roadster? Would it possible with an electric car? Where would we charge it?

Through the Chunnel and beyond

We drove from Belgium to Calais, France, and arrived at the Channel Tunnel, or “Chunnel.” Employees on both sides of the 55-km Chunnel, which is operated by the Eurostar international train service, looked at us with big eyes. It was funny, and people’s reactions were mostly very positive. They told us we were the first electric car on the Chunnel train!

Here’s how we achieved this milestone.

With the Roadster fully charged, we left home in the afternoon. The goal was to arrive in London before Tesla’s London store, just off fashionable Brompton Road in Knightsbridge, closed for the night.

Through the Chunnel and beyond

We arrived in plenty of time and didn’t worry about range. We drove through London’s streets, where the famous, red double-decker buses looked like skyscrapers. Later that evening, while we enjoyed the musical "We Will Rock You" at the Dominion Theatre, our Tesla charged at the store.

The next day, after shopping at nearby Harrods and eating a picnic lunch in Hyde Park, we drove our fully charged Roadster to the world-famous university town of Oxford – and then we just kept going to the lovely Cotswolds countryside.

In Witney, we pulled off the motorway and discovered the beautiful back roads of the picture-perfect Cotswolds, including Ascott-under-Wychwood and Bourton-on-the-Water, where we drove along the lovely Cotswolds Romantic Route. We passed through fairytale villages of Lechlade-on-Thames, Fairford and Bibury – and the views were even sweeter knowing that we were not leaving behind emissions.

We departed the historic Swan Hotel the next morning and drove to our meeting near Bristol, where we plugged in the Roadster. During our five-hour meeting, the car charged. When the meeting ended, we returned to London. We had so much charge remaining that we decided to make a few detours, including a swing past Windsor Castle, Queen Elizabeth’s weekend home. We spent another night in London, where the car charged at the Tesla store. Then we returned to the continent and all the way home to Ghent on a single charge.

Our weekend in historic Britain was even better thanks to our historic Chunnel crossing. We’ll have to do it again when the weather improves next year!