Charging in Siaulai, Lithuania

Dense charging network in Europe

Benedikt and I traveled for over 72 days without any official charging station. We always managed to find electricity somewhere and planned with enough spare time for the task. Being back to the EU means for us being back in an area with plenty of charging opportunities (or so we thought). Despite, despite the EU and all the wonderful charging stations, today in Siaulai, Lithuania, we encountered our most serious problem so far…

Charging or rather not charging in Siaulai

We left Riga in the late afternoon and intended to charge at a CHAdeMo charger in Siaulai. What we didn’t expect was that the charger was out of service! We had our battery at 7% and there wasn’t really any other charging opportunity in the city. What to do? First, we asked at Lidl, the supermarket that provided the charger on their parking spot, if they have another three-phase outlet we could use for charging. They had none or didn’t wanted to give it to us. Second, we contacted someone offering a private CEE to charge EVs in Siaulai. Unfortunately, he was out of town and couldn’t really help us either. Benedikt already thought about camping at a Schuko outlet. That would have been the last option for me. It was about 7 or 8 p.m. when we started to drive around the city to look for restaurants or gas stations that might have a three-phase outlet. And then we found a small mall. Since we had quite a few good experiences with finding CEE-outlets in underground parking, we gave that one a try.

Charging (at least a bit)!

And there it was, right at the entrance door, a red CEE-32 outlet! There were even a few official charging stations in the garage! But, all of them were without electricity. No one in the shopping center was interested in solving this problem. We found one other, better hidden, CEE-outlet in the garage. Since it wasn’t our lucky day, the fuse blew after only 2 minutes charging.

We had no other choice but to go back to the “obvious one”, roll out an extension cord and charge like in a goldfish bowl. Luckily, no security noticed our doing. Unfortunately, we could only charge with about 13 amperes (even though the outlet was a CEE-32), since the voltage dropped increasingly with more amperes. It took us 2 hours to reach a percentage of the battery that would allow us to drive to the next charging possibility at a hotel, 80 km away from Siaulai.

The last charge of the night

With the 22 kw of the hotel charger that we could use for free, it took us another hour until the car was charged enough to finally drive to Kaunas. We left Panevezys at 1 a.m. and it took us almost 2 more hours to reach Kaunas. You can imagine how tired we were when we finally fell asleep in the early morning in our hotel beds in Kaunas.

outlet/socket Volt Ampere kW kWh
CEE-32 (strongly fluctuating voltage)  220 volt  3 * 13 amperes 8 kW 15 kWh
Typ 2  220 volt  3 * 32 amperes 22 kW 25 kWh

Charging outside of Ashgabat, Turkmenistan and having a crazy border-crossing

Exiting Iran

It was a few minutes past 9 a.m. when we arrived in Bajgiran at the border between Iran and Turkmenistan. We were supposed to meet an agent of Hossein (Hossein was the one bringing us into Iran at the first place – see this post). We only found him after already having passed through the first police checkpoint. A confusing process to export our car from Iran started right away. I had expected a short wait and quick-and-easy process (we just wanted to leave the country…), but I got proven wrong (again). Benedikt and I criss-crossed the border buildings, always following that agent (who only spoke Farsi). We waited and waited, went downstairs after a while and finally got exit stamps in our passports. After that was done, we couldn’t find the agent anymore.

It was probably over 1.5 hours later that I finally found him. He was at a very particular clerks desk. A guy there started to explain to me that we have a big problem. Our customs paper indicate that we would leave Iran at the Nordooz border to Armenia and not to Turkmenistan, where we are right now. The paper also stated the car is grey, even though its main color is black. The people from the Bajgeran border already contacted the customs officials in Nordooz. Everyone is waiting for a letter of the border boss in Nordooz that indicates that we can leave Iran towards Turkmenistan. I was told that this can take 1, 2 or 3 hours or a day. A day?!? I started to be really concerned. We had to get to Turkmenistan that day. Our whole trip, including guides, hotels and visa, was planned that way that we should enter Turkmenistan on the 17th of June (it is obligatory to have a planned trip with a guide in Turkmenistan if you enter the country with a tourist visa).

At around 1 p.m. we got informed that the letter of the border in Nordooz arrived! Ufff…. Because every border official had to type our customs form in their computer with a slow two finger method, it took another hour till we could leave the building. At 2:30, after about 5 hours at the Iranian side of the border, we finally left Iran.

Entering Turkmenistan

The Tesla had to wait in no-man’s land, while Benedikt and I got our Turkmen visa in the police building (we only had letter of invitations from a tour company). I was taking the passenger way, while Benedikt got the car registered (btw: we had to pay petrol-tax even though we tried to explain that we will not use petrol – it wasn’t understandable for them). We met our first tour guide and driver, Mr. Zadar, who was already patiently waiting since 11:00 a.m.

Compared to the Iranian side of the border, the border process on the Turkmen side went extremely smooth – until the final step… We waited and waited and nothing happened. Only afterwards, the tour guide told us that the color of our car (black), tinted windows and colorful stickers of our Tesla were too much for Turkmenistan. The border officials weren’t sure if it is allowed in the country (their president has a strong preference for white cars…). After many discussions, some official decided that the car should not enter Ashagabat, but would be allowed to transit Turkmenistan. In Ashgabat, everything is marble white, and so have to be the cars. It was probably the strangest city I have ever been to.

Ashgabat and a long drive to Mary

Our guide found a parking spot for the Tesla outside the city. We charged at a Schuko in a small car wash in that parking lot. Unfortunately, the tour operator arranged a price for the electricity that was way too high (electricity is in most occasions free of charge to the people in Turkmenistan; petrol only costs USD 0,30 and gas is free as well).

We spent two nights in Ashgabat in the most luxurious hotel of our journey. On our third day in Turkmenistan, we left Ashgabat and continued a long journey to Mary (380 km). Benedikt and I were a little worried about this leg of the trip, since it really depended on the weather conditions how easily we could make it (the distance was quite far). Luckily, there was almost no wind. We drove slowly (around 70 km/h) and sometimes behind trucks. With 24% left we reached Mary. Way more than expected!

 outlet/socket  Volt  Ampere  kW  kWh
Schuko 220 10 amperes 2 kW 35 kWh

Charging in Cayeli, Turkey

The first hotel between Trabzon and Batumi that we were heading for was charging for the room far more than expected. Also, a gas station in front of the hotel with a three-phase socket, didn’t want to let us charge there (unfortunately their English was too bad as that we could have convinced them or understood their reasoning). Benedikt and I got already used to denials and a recurrent hotel and electricity search every night that we are in a new city. Usually it takes two to three trials to find a place that offers us electricity and a nice hotel room. I took me some time to get more relaxed with this fact and to not get frustrated.

There was no reason to get frustrated that night, since we found a few kilometers further east, in Cayeli, a small and friendly hotel that not only offered us a nice triple room with breakfast, but also three-phase electricity in their basement garage. We charged with 11kW overnight and left Cayeli with a 100% charged battery the next morning.

Cayeli is a nice little town in the very east of Turkey. Cay means tea in Turkish and the hills around Cayeli are covered with tea plantations. We liked the atmosphere of this town. After staying for more than 10 days in Turkey it was time to say goodbye to that country and cross the border to Georgia. A country that couldn’t be much more different to Turkey.

Before we left Turkey though, the country where we had mysteriously internet connection, an extremely nice surprise happened to us. One day earlier our Autopilot stopped working (see this post). Benedikt and I were worried that we will have to be driving the next 20.000km without Autopilot. Mysteriously and from close to scratch, about 5 km before the Georgian border, Benedikt noticed the camera lines on the screen behind the steering wheel. We stopped on the right shoulder, restarted the car and … the Autopilot worked again! You can’t believe how relieved Benedikt and I were. Till now, we don’t know how this happened. It is very unlikely that the problem solved itself. Our theory is, that it was a Tesla technician in Switzerland who helped us out with a distant repair work. Luckily we were still in Turkey and the car was online when that person was doing this. We are definitely saying a big thank you to this unknown hero!