Go electric!

I am one of the participants who are lucky enough to “test” the Renault ZOE electrical cars at the Summer School in Bernau.
Driving was never so much fun as it is when you go electric. And cheap. Since it is not my first time driving an electric car (I had the pleasure to test it for the first time last year at the Summer School) that it made me absolutely sure, this is the car I want to buy in the future.

Did you know that there are FREE charging stations around Berlin? Imagine that you drive a car and you don’t pay a cent for the machine to run. This is the future.


Commuting: Bernau – Berlin – Bernau

I enjoyed the rides to Berlin and back, I have had a pleasant feeling of driving which was given by the comfort of the sitting possibilities. Also, I enjoyed the acceleration of the car. It was very functioning. I rather prefer to use these electric cars within a city because of limit reduction of 95km/h. Also, I have to say that I was a bit confused by the usage of the gear shift. The display was placed next to the kilometer display, I would prefer a classic display directly next to the gear shift.


Excursion Bauhaus Dessau

On Sunday the 20th of August, 11 participants and paper artist Eric Gjerde drove with three electrical cars to Bauhaus Dessau. It was for the first time, that we have taken the cars for a long-distance trip. We have driven in eco-mode all the way to Dessau, which was slower and challenging because the infrastructure for electrical charging stations is still in developing phase in Germany. To find working functional charging stations was quite an adventure, as well as saving battery and driving eco-mode costs us a lot of time on our journey. Nevertheless, we have found our first charging stop in a small town called Michendorf, where we had 4 electrical stations at the local Golf Club which was perfect. The stations were fast, so we chilled for a bit, had a coffee and continue our journey to Dessau. It was definitely a fun, challenging and unforgettable experience!

Sandra, ZOE 1

As an American, driving the Zoe was my first experience behind the wheel of an electric car, and a profound one. We made a road trip with our small group of Zoes from our location in Bernau to Bauhaus Dessau, 175km away. Normally, would just drive this distance on the Autobahn, selecting the “fastest route” and speeding along. But with the electric vehicle, things work differently, and one must take distance and recharging into account. This reminded me of the experience of my grandparents on the Great Plains of the United States – in the early days of driving, one had to think ahead about purchasing petrol at your next stop. The same applied to our travels with Zoe, in that we mapped out stopping locations to recharge the vehicle on our trip.

The result of this was we made several stops off the main roads, as well as taking a more direct route through the centre of Berlin. It was a joy to drive in Berlin with the windows down, a happy crew of friends in the car, and almost no noise whatsoever from Zoe – this was such a positive experience! You don’t notice how noisy other cars are until you drive an electric vehicle. We made a scenic tour through the center and then made our first recharging stop in the countryside at a posh golf course, enjoying espresso on the restaurant terrace as we waited – possibly the most sophisticated car-refilling experience I’ve had in my life.

On the terrace at the Golf-und-Country Club Seddiner See

We then drove along to Dessau, opting to step out of ECO MODE and let Zoe show us what she could do on the Autobahn. Without ECO mode, Zoe really moves – powerful acceleration! We got to Dessau quickly, and located our next recharging point – which was freely provided by a power company. How often do you get to refuel your car for free? After walking through the lovely Beckerbruch Park in Dessau we stopped at the cafe in the Bauhaus for a meal, and then a visit to the famous building itself. After filling our minds with great ideas from the past masters of the Bauhaus, our merry team switched up cars and headed back for Bernau.

The famous Bauhaus Dessau, our road trip destination.

We chose to change up our route in return, finding a new charging point to stop at in the town of Beelitz (compliments of some useful smartphone apps for locating charging stations). We arrived in Beelitz making good time, and found the charging point – again a free charge, compliments of the city! This was a pleasant surprise. We parked in the old city center to charge and walked around the old town, admiring the old buildings and following the old road around the former city walls. We also learned that Beelitz calls itself “Spargelstadt” because of its famous Spargel. As a tourist in Germany it was a very welcome stop to see some of old Brandenburg outside of Berlin.

The old center of Beelitz.

The author and some larger-than-life Spargel in Beelitz.

As it was dinner time on a Sunday evening, we were unsure of what we would find; but our happy luck provided an excellent Greek restaurant, “Athens”, which was open and full of locals enjoying their Sunday dinner. We went in and were warmly greeted by the owners; shortly four glasses of ouzo arrived at our table! (Enjoyed by everyone but the driver, of course.) As an international mix of people – American, French, Spanish, and Turkish – we ordered several large platters of items and shared them all, comparing tastes and experiences from our own countries. We chatted at length with the owner making our attempt at sharing our story, with little German skill present at our table, and a good time was had by all. We left to pick up our friend Zoe who had just finished charging – ourselves and Zoe, well fed, headed back to Bernau for a well deserved rest.

We learned a few things from this trip. One, that charging infrastructure is still something in development; Zoe is an excellent car for city trips, but perhaps not the best option for long road trips. However we also learned that the road less traveled is often much more enjoyable than just driving from point A to point B as fast as possible. On our road trip, we saw new sights, met new people, and created friendships from the shared experience. I can’t wait to do it again!

Eric, ZOE 2