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Durham University

Durham Energy Institute

Testing the electric car for long distances

Sergio and Giannis with Electric car

Project Team

Sergio Roldan (Engineering and Computer Sciences)

Giannis Sarrigiannis (Engineering and Computer Sciences)

Project background

In October 2012 two DEI engineering students studying the MSc in New and Renewable Energy at the Durham Energy Institute (DEI) completed a 705-mile round trip driving an electric car from Durham to Cardiff and back to demonstrate the possibilities of Smart Grid power and low carbon electricity. Sergio Roldan and Giannis Sarrigiannis took two days to reach Cardiff in time to attend the 2012 Low Carbon Networks Fund Annual Conference in Cardiff where they received an enthusiastic welcome. The trip demonstrated the increasing viability of electric vehicles.

Durham’s electric vehicle is a Mitsubishi I-MiEV, which has a maximum range of 80 miles between charges. The car is an integral part of the Smart Grid laboratory project at DEI with all of the power it uses to charge when based at Durham University coming from our Smart Grid. The trip investigated how well the equipment works in action on a substantial journey, and whether obstacles still remain for using electric vehicles over long distances such as the distribution of charging infrastructure nationally.

Electric vehicles and the national charging infrastructure have already made big advances compared to just a few years ago. Electric cars work well for short trips and with nearly 95 percent of all our car journeys nationally being under 25 miles, they can already successfully meet the majority of our travel requirements. However this is the first time that the practicality of longer journeys has been fully explored.

The students found some difficulties finding charging points particularly on a Sunday when many places were closed and charging was found to take a significant time. The trip therefore increased from 6 hours to 2 days and more miles had to be covered to find charging points. However even with this increase in distance covered the students found that compared to a similar type of petrol car the journey cost half the amount (£30 versus £62) and the CO2 emissions were a third of the amount (57.68 kg compared to 164.73 kg of CO2). The benefits of using electric cars is therefore already significant. However these benefits would dramatically increase with improvements to the UK charging infrastructure with more frequently spaced charging points and speedier charging. To read the student’s report on the findings from their journey visit the DEI smart grid website [


A blog of Sergio and Giannis’ experiences on the journey to Cardiff and back in an electric vehicle can be found at:

An interview by Mike Parr on BBC Tees with Sergio and Giannis before they set-off on their journey a

Electric Car charging