My last day in Spain has come. I have to get to Barcelona early, as I need to get a full charge to be able to get to Seb’s on one charge. Seb is a long-time friend and reader of this blog who lives in lower Valais. There are only a few commercial charging options in Barcelona and I have a selection of charging cards and apps to choose from. Given my experience with commercial charging in a southern European country earlier this year, I’m expecting the worst. At 5 AM I load my stuff into the TWIKE which is ready with a max-range 419V OCV charge. #gogogo!
Before I start driving towards Barcelona I need to decide on a discharge strategy – this is especially true with a TWIKE: shall I drive at max speed and have more time in Barcelona to find a charging spot? Should I have problems finding a working charging station I gain time as I can charge at a rate that is faster than my max speed. Or shall I drive slow, save energy and still have a reasonable DOD in Barcelona? This allows me to top up my charge at a lower throughput plug as the last 20% are at charged at a slower rate? Failing that, I will have to charge somewhere in Italy. Today, I decide: #gogogo!
Driving at higher speeds lets me forget the distance. Very light traffic sees TW560 zoom along at 90+ kph though the early moments of another beautiful day.
I even take a shortcut just before Barcelona, leaving the increasingly busy main road behind me. Crossing over a few last hills, the road takes me down to the sea and towards Barcelona’s port.
As much as the drive was fun until the outskirts of Barcelona, I didn’t really enjoy the heavy morning traffic into town. It took me as long from Tarragona to Barcelona’s city limit to the center, where all the charging stations are.
Finally, I’m back to the city centre – two weeks ago, I left TW560 at the hotel and was walking along the super-congested main central roads. This time driving and interestingly, after the suburban chaos, traffic at the very center of the city is quite acceptable!
As mentioned, I want to charge before boarding the ferry in order to be able to drive to Seb in one charge – this would be the most comfortable option. Given my DOD, I need about 60 mins on a 3 phase plug or 2h 45min on a normal 13A plug.
Arriving at my first charging station – a fully loaded Type2 64A with DC options, it looks like it hasn’t been used in a very, very long time. Not surprising given its state:
I then drive onward to another charging station on my map – This time I have the option of using one of my many RFID cards or activate the charging station via an app. This time, none of my RFID cards help and… my Italian EnelX app refuses to work due to … I don’t know why. I download the Spanish version of the app and experience the exact same behaviour. Support can’t help me with this version either and suggests to go and try elsewhere. That wouldn’t help at all as it is the app that is misbehaving. During all of these calls I wasn’t charging – GRR.
I CAN’T EXPRESS IN WORDS HOW MUCH I HATE SITUATIONS LIKE THESE!!!
WHY WRAP SUCH A SIMPLE TECHNOLOGY IN LAYERS OF NON-FUNCTIONAL AND NON-PROVEN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY? WHY DON’T PROVIDERS USE THEIR LOG DATA TO CHECK ON CHARGING STATIONS THAT HAVEN’T BEEN USED IN A WHILE…THERE MIGHT BE A REASON!
Anyway – I drove to another few charging stations, wasting valuable energy and time. None of the charging stations worked. 🙁
As readers of this blog know, I usually go to loco-mode creative charging when I’m situations like these – and this time isn’t different. I decide to drive into the main ticketing hall of the shipping company and set up a charge from a normal plug in the wall. Which worked like a treat…until
Well, for glorious 10 minutes until I was unceremoniously kicked out by security guards.
I then decided to appeal to the kindness of the next person I saw in the port of Barcelona.
…and was successful. A friendly security guard from one of the many other shipping companies let me charge using the plug in his entry bay. Jokingly, he asked me what he should tell his boss if he came by and I said: Adding to the company’s Karma!
An hour later with around 2.5 kWh back in my batteries but still not enough to reach Seb’s in a single charge, it’s time to drive to the main gate, check-in and register the vehicle.
It takes me 30 minutes to get to the end of the motorcycle line before being told that the paper ticket I have is not enough to get on the ferry: you have to leave your vehicle in line and go check-in with valid official documentation and papers for both driver and vehicle.
Another 30 minutes and a 2 km walk later I’m back with the ticket I need to board the ferry:
Have jumped through all the hoops, I – as so often – forget I’m in Spain. An hour after we should have started boarding we’re still waiting in the sun with no idea when things are going to move forward. I could have easily filled my battery by now. This flexibility manifests itself also in the fact that there were still Spanish and Italian cars and motorbikes joining the queue even at this late moment.
As always in such situations, suddenly someone starts moving and everyone else gets ready at the same time. We’re boarding for real now!
MS Excellent has multiple car decks – it’s huge! There are about 100 motorbikes and we just take up a small part of one lane within one of the 3 car decks.
We park our vehicles and are told to take anything we need with us as there will be no access to them during transit. I’m prepared and have my small overnight bag with me.
I’m planning on relaxing on deck until sundown and then write some entries as long whilst indulging in one of my geekier passions – keeping a mobile link to the shore up as long as possible. Which will be much, much further than anyone else on deck thanks to some technical trickery, better equipment/antennas and many years of experience with regards to propagation conditions in the many bands available in 3G and 4G (and forcing my phone/modem to connect to specific bands/frequencies depending on how conditions are). My current record for a 3G LOS link with commercially available equipment is approximately 90km. I’m counting on antennas on higher hills on the French side that will help overcome earth’s curvature. 2G isn’t interesting for this use-case as it will not go further than 35.2km in European networks and available bandwidth is super-low nowadays.
The ferry is huge – it takes me for ever to get to my assigned seat on the uppermost deck.
Even navigating the place requires a map!
I didn’t book a cabin because sharing one can be worse than being in a larger room with many others and the prices for a single cabin were close to what I spent for all the hotels during the last 2 weeks together – I’m planning on napping on a reclining seat which costs a fraction of a cabin. I quickly found out that there is an even cheaper version: This ferry’s first leg was from Morocco to Barcelona – most of the people coming from there set up camp in the corridors of the ferry and slept on the floor – I take a mental note for a future trip to take a yoga mat and cover with me. I just hope there aren’t too many people that booked seats and I can grab some adjacent ones and lie down.
I then decide to discover what the ferry has to offer. Rust mostly. And cracks…everywhere. I wonder if all of this decay is just on non-essential and non-structural metal or if this is a more serious problem throughout the vessel.
Other infrastructure is just non-functional… like the advertised on-board pool.
There are many communal spaces with 100% plastic and ageing furniture. Not very appealing or comfortable.
The ferry then departs from Barcelona and I wave good-bye to some people at the dock. Our current position and route is visible on the many on-board information screens. Even if it doesn’t feel like we’re going fast, the GPS marker on the detailed map moves at a steady speed and on a very straight line.
Still with a very stable mobile phone signal, I decide to call EnelX (Italy’s largest energy provider Enel’s X project group around sustainable energies and mobility) and try to sort out my app problem. Given that I’ve got unlimited roaming calls in 47 countries, I’m happy to stay on the line and explain my issues multiple times…I’m not in a rush.
After a good hour on the phone it looks like they found the issue with my account and promise me that by tomorrow all will be solved and I will be able to charge at any Enel or Endesa charging point or roam to 3700 other charging points around Europe. A ver, a ver…
Slowly we’re moving out of reception range for most people’s mobile phones and it’s interesting to see how people suddenly look up and start interacting with each other. The next 12 hours will be a digital detox.
I’m relaxing, too. After a few days on the road, it’s very nice to do nothing and just have the sun shine on my face with my eyes closed.
The next few hours looked like this:
As GNV is an Italian company, the bars on the ferry all have very good pizza. As a kid living in Italy I really liked the Focaccia-style red and white one…as served on this ferry. This is just my luck as the restaurants don’t seem that inviting and prices are sky-high.
Two of the 6 bars feature live music late into the night. As I got up early today, I prefer to go back to my reclining seat and see if I’m in luck to find a few to lie down and sleep.
Karma works again – not only is this the only room where the light is off and noise levels are very low: I get a full row just for me and can sleep horizontally! This promises to be a good night!