I have paid many a visit to the Gap of Dunloe over the years. I have cycled it (Ring of Kerry Cycle), hiked and driven it more than I can remember. It is definitely one of my favourite drives down here in Kerry, which says a lot considering we have the Ring of Kerry, Slea Head and Kerry Head all of which are part of our Southern Ireland Driving Routes!
This time, however, I decided to tackle it with my wife’s 2015 Renault Zoe – a fully electric car! Now, as the car is one of the earlier electric vehicles (EV’s) to hit the market the battery range is not massive. The newer Zoe’s have a real world range of up to 365km in mild weather, or 265km in cold weather – more than enough to take you around the Ring of Kerry (twice in the summer!!).
My trusty steed for today, however, only has a range of 160km in mild weather, or up to 120km in winter. Bearing in mind, these are averages and estimates, and not taking in steep pulls up to Molls Gap or the Gap of Dunloe. I was interested, and slightly concerned at the same time…..would the EV make it? Or would we be calling for a tow back to Killarney, as there would be no charging locations along the way!
The great thing with Electric Powered Cars is preheating, or preconditioning. This can be timed to have your car nice and cosy for you before you get in to it in the morning – thawing your windscreen if needed and preventing your windscreen from fogging up. At 2 degrees Celsius (35 Fahrenheit) today, this is a welcome comfort!!
Setting out from the Great Southern Hotel, in Killarney, with a full battery charge, thanks to their complimentary fast charging station, we headed towards Killarney National Park. As I mentioned, today is a particularly cold day, so my starting range was only 85km – should be plenty to complete the 58km round trip.
Passing the jaunting cars near the entrance to Muckross House we had lost a few kilometers battery charge – to be expected, especially with the heating on – but nothing to be concerned about. We still had plenty of miles of range left in the battery packs.
On the climb up to the top of Moll’s Gap, and the Avoca Shop, we had to stop at Ladies View. The day was amazing for photos – bright blue skies combined with the autumnal colours it was spectacular. I promise you there was no filters applied to these images!!
Back in the car, and after the twisty bends and climb to the top of Moll’s Gap we had used over 30km of battery – travelling only 22km – meaning we had 58km range left. Again with Electric Cars this is quite normal as pushing the car up hill required more power.
Turning right towards Sneem and then off the main road we started the descent in to the Black Valley – this is where the Electric Car comes in to their own for economy. Over the 12km from the top of the mountain pass at Molls Gap to the Hostel in the Black Valley we actually gained 5km, meaning there was now 63km left in the battery. Not bad considering we had travelled 35km from the hotel.
As we left the Black Valley behind we were greeted with wonderful views of snowcapped mountains to the north and valleys to the south….who says Ireland is only worth a visit in the summer??
I knew there was still one last hill to climb…….literally!! From the Black Valley there is quite a big pull uphill to get to the top of the Gap of Dunloe. It takes plenty of leg power to cycle up there so it would need a nice bit of battery power too!! The elevation change is 150m up over a short distance of 2.5km – doesn’t sound like much until you tackle it.
Sure enough the climb took 6km of battery power to travel the short 2.5km distance but with little to no fuss our plucky little Zoe conquered the Gap of Dunloe!! With well over half a battery charge remaining all the hills were behind us and we were only 22km from the hotel……there would be no fear of needing a tow now!!!
As we descended through the Gap the scenery became more and more spectacular. With the cold winter weather, the water in the lakes was still and acted like a mirror – reflecting the hills and mountains around them.
As we passed Kate Kearney’s Cottage – 6km from the top of the Gap – we had an extra 8km of battery left – meaning we made back the kilometers lost, with interest, climbing up to the top of the hill.
The rest of the drive was pretty straightforward, passing by Beaufort to rejoin the main N27 road back to Killarney. As we passed through Fossa, just outside Killarney town, we still have over 40% battery range left.
Even though I was a little skeptical about the cars ability to take on the highs of the Gap of Dunloe I was pleasantly surprised with the ease at which it managed it. As I mentioned at the start, this was a first generation Zoe with a very limited battery range.
As Electric Cars improve the range is going to continue to increase – from the 2020 Zoe with the 365km range or the Tesla Model 3 with a range of 310km it is only a matter of time before we can all take a 0 emissions driving tour of Ireland.