Those hours sitting behind the wheel on rain-soaked roads are not the most exciting, but driving is a convenient and cost-effective way of travelling to the alps. But, the mass onslaught of visitors each winter does take its toll on the environment.
Morzine in the Portes du Soleil has a population of 3,000 people. However, it receives 900,000 visitors from Britain alone each winter, when you add this figure to the thousands that drive from France, Germany and the rest of Europe, you can imagine the impact on the local air quality.
Looking for Alternatives
You would be forgiven for arguing that if we really wanted to help the environment, we should stop going on ski holidays. However, many people’s livelihoods rely on the tourist industry, and banning skiing holidays will see many people without jobs.
I believe that it is time to start looking for alternative ways to get to the French Alps more sustainably. This is where electric cars come in. Not everyone is lucky enough to afford a new electric car just yet, but they do promise a brighter future for CO2 emissions. As with anything new, the more people that buy electric vehicles, the more affordable they will become. Pretty soon they will be the norm, but is the infrastructure ready to support electric cars?
What is it Like Driving to The Alps in an Electric Car?
France is quite a large country, and driving an electric car to the Alps will require a few stops for charging up your battery.
Let’s take a Tesla Model 3 as an example of a typical electric car people drive to the French Alps. According to EDF, A Tesla Model 3 has a real-world range of 295 miles on a single charge, and it utilises Tesla’s Supercharger network, that spans across Europe. Superchargers are located in service stations and charge a Tesla’s battery to 80% in just over thirty minutes. However, other types of charger may take longer and may require you to sign up to their service in advance, such as France’s KiWhi network.
The French motorway network is excellent. The tolls can be pricey, but these roads are usually quiet and are an efficient way of eating up the miles. There are many service stations, but you will need to plan your route to ensure charging points are available. If you were driving from Calais to Morzine in a Tesla, you will probably need to charge three to four times. As you get to your chosen ski resort, you may notice your range start to reduce more quickly. This is because cold temperatures affect electric car’s batteries, reducing their range. This is something you need to keep in mind when working out where and when you will need to charge your car.
If you were to make the same trip in a 2-liter diesel Audi A4, you would have to fill up two to three times. You would most likely not have to think too much about where you were going to fill up next.
So, it is possible to drive to the French Alps from most European countries in an electric car, but it will take a little longer. It will also take a bit more thought and planning about where you can charge. Is that such a bad thing though? Having a break for half an hour is good for you and decreases your chance of getting into an accident as you are well rested before driving onto your next stop. Don’t forget, you need to refuel yourself and stop for comfort breaks anyway. Compared to flying, the carbon footprint of driving an electric car to the French Alps is dramatically smaller.
What About Charging in The Ski Resorts?
As the world heats up, less snow will fall in the mountains. This will seriously impact the number of people visiting ski resorts, especially ones at low altitude.
Therefore, French ski resorts are trying to reduce their impact on the environment. One way they are doing this is by improving their infrastructure to cater to electric car drivers. For example, Morzine currently has ten public electric vehicle charging stations, and neighbouring Les Gets allows people to charge their car for free. To attract more electric vehicle drivers to Les Gets, the lift pass office gives them a discount on their ski lift pass.
While this is all excellent news, ski resorts currently only provide a small number of chargers. Electric vehicle owners could experience problems when Covid-19 travel restrictions are relaxed. Many people will be desperate to drive to the French Alps for both winter and summer holidays. The small number of charging stations will put electric car drivers off, and the ones that do drive to the resorts may have long waits for topping up their battery. Therefore, the charging network needs to be expanded quickly. The best way to do this is by making it easier for people to charge their cars at their accommodation.
Hundreds of ski hotels across the French Alps now have chargers for Tesla and other electric vehicles. Staying in one of these hotels usually means you can charge your car for free. The additional bonus of staying in one of these hotels is that you can charge your car whenever you need to. Charging at your accommodation means that you don’t need to sit around in a car park or service station.
Some ski chalet owners are also providing charging stations for their guests. These charging points are provided by companies such as EV-Pow, who specialise in fitting EV charging points in existing and new-build properties in the French and Swiss Alps. It is these forward-thinking owners, and businesses that will accelerate the growth of the electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the French Alps.
Chalet owners and chalet management companies need to do everything they can to ensure that their properties are full of paying guests. The ones that embrace the electric car generation early are the ones that will flourish. Providing charging points isn’t just so they can boast about their green credentials. Charging points are a practical and useful service for their guests.
Should you Drive to the French Alps in an Electric Car?
With car manufacturers ranging from Aston Martin to Citroen rolling out battery-powered models and the fact that Britain and France are on track to ban cars with an internal combustion engine by 2040, you can see where the world is heading. The charging infrastructure is still in its infancy, but will rapidly improve in the near future.
Driving long journeys in an electric car will take a little longer and involve more planning than with a traditional car. Until the infrastructure makes charging an electric car as similar to petrol pumps as possible, all long trips in electric cars will need to be planned around charging your battery as efficiently as possible. It would be best to choose accommodation that has a way of charging your car. This will give you the peace of mind of starting every journey to the different pistes and the resorts surrounding by having a fully charged battery every time.
If you don’t mind the planning and waiting that comes along with such a journey, getting to the French Alps with a perfectly fine trip to make with your friends and family. After all, you can boast about having a very eco-friendly holiday that helps preserve the sport you love!