The highway is not an electric car’s best friend. The opportunity to (re)discover national and departmental?
At a time of inflation, soaring fuel prices and climate change, the very idea of a “roadtrip” is perhaps no longer really relevant, especially if we hear in this term “burning fuel for the pleasure of driving”.
Unless you drive electric, of course (I know, it’s also energy consumption, but without polluting emissions, in short, you understood me).
But if there are two universes that seem incompatible, they are those of road trip of discovery (the best translation I could find for roadtrip) and motorway. In fact, everything opposes them. Most of the time the highway is boring, with rare exceptions built through uninteresting landscapes, and the coffee-pee breaks are anything but a part of the fun, which is more so in times of great summer migrations. Except, of course, if you love to wait 20 minutes in line in front of the coffee machine or questionable toilets in a service area taken over by a population equal to half that of Switzerland.
Alongside this, and not even very far at all, there is the discreet and sometimes somewhat old-fashioned charm of the cross roads of modern man, I have named the national and departmental ones. No need to travel thousands of kilometers to rediscover the pleasure of dawdling at legal speeds and (re)discovering sometimes unexpected landscapes, in France, in Europe, or in any country with an almost passable road network.
Getting off the highway, a constraint that has become a choice
We have already seen it, the electric car induces a new approach to travel, more peaceful and more contemplative. The gossips will say that it is not a question of a choice but of a constraint imposed by the anxiety of the autonomy which commands that one drives slowly between two recharges, and therefore that one avoids the highway. Maybe. Still, what was originally a constraint has become a choice for many electromobilists, and this need to save battery has made them discover another way of traveling. In fact, they no longer use the highway unless absolutely necessary. It is all the more a choice as many electric cars can easily travel 300 to 350 kilometers at 130 km/h and as motorway sections of more than 250 kilometers without high-speed charging stations are now rare. .
Electric car travel should be viewed in a different way. Shorter ranges and longer recharge times than a full tank of gas should be an excuse to stop and sightsee, rather than an obstacle to getting to your destination. The opportunity to bring up to date this old maxim: “In travel, what matters is not the destination, it’s the journey”.
A trend that could increase with the threats posed by some elected officials and environmental activists on motorway speed limits, since some are calling for a passage to 120 km / h, or even 110 for the most radical. At this price, the interest of having to part with a kidney each time you travel on the motorway would become very questionable in terms of the time saved, not to mention of course the excess consumption, whether of fossil fuel or electricity.
The electric car to revitalize secondary networks
So many reasons that argue for a revitalization of the secondary network. A wishful thinking? Maybe. But we could also imagine public (and private) policies that promote the development of incentive infrastructures promoting electromobility on national and departmental roads. How ? You see me coming: by deploying charging networks on secondary networks in addition to (or instead of) those that are beginning to populate the highways. And then also by encouraging hotels, restaurants and places of passage (supermarkets) to install charging stations at their destination.
So of course, local and regional authorities have already taken the plunge and made efforts in this direction by installing the famous terminals that have become as essential as the bakery or the town hall on the village square (and given my latest experiences it works and it is rarely saturated). On the other hand, with a few exceptions, the vast majority of Tesla Superchargers are located outside the highways, but all this is still insufficient.
Let’s imagine that there are as many electric charging stations on the Nationale 7 as there were petrol stations in the 1970s, and this sleeping beauty would certainly pick up some color, with the resulting virtuous consequences in terms of economic dynamism. the regions. Moreover, if we look elsewhere, we see for example that from 2014, certain American states crossed by the mythical Route 66 (a bit the equivalent in disuse of the N7 here) have activated a charging station deployment policyhaving understood that theelectric way of life was perfectly compatible with the spirit of strolling that reigns on this historic route between Chicago and Santa Monica. A modest effort, of course, but a network that has only become denser since, attracting a number of private operators.
All right, this is all very romantic, but concretely there are still two obstacles.
On the one hand, as indicated above, most of the effort to deploy electro-stations is currently being done on the major highways. Thus, the Ionity, Fastned and other TotalEnergies multiply the openings on the highways. However, other players like Electra or Power Dot prefer other locations along the roads. Ditto for Allego, in particular following its agreement with retail giants such as Carrefour.
On the other hand, apart from the promise of time saved, another strong argument pleads in favor of the motorway, that of safety. In France, highways account for “only” 8.4% of road fatalitiesthe rest of this assessment still too macabre being divided between secondary network and agglomeration.
However, improved infrastructure and smoother driving have already convinced many electromobilists to leave the motorways. A trend that will only increase with the development of electric vehicles (12% of new car registrations in France last May, and above all a 30% increase compared to the same period of 2021).
Enough to revive the secondary networks and a whole ecosystem of shops, places to visit, places of accommodation and restaurants.
If the electric car allows the opportunity to see the development of some local alternatives, in other words the small restaurant on the side of the departmental road rather than the McDo at the next roundabout, that will always be a winner, right?