Lonely Planet’s new book Electric Vehicle Road Trips Europe will help expand the horizons of owners of electric vehicles.
It’s also for the try-before-you-buy experimenters, who can do so by renting an EV to enjoy a road trip along any of dozens of routes our expert team has mapped out. And it’s for the not-quite-convinced-yet, too: you’ll soon find out about how the rapidly growing European charger infrastructure and the ever-improving battery range of new EVs now makes an impressive mix of European nations, landscapes and experiences accessible for the eco-minded.
To celebrate the publication of this exciting new guide, we’ve selected seven routes through European countries that are ideal for an EV journey. So plug in – then buckle up.
Slovenia: Ljubljana to Piran
Green, glorious, tree-cloaked and compact, Slovenia is an engaging choice for an electric drive. Spend a week connecting the capital and the coast, via magical lakes and flourishing vineyards.
International organization Green Destinations has declared Slovenia “the first green country in the world” – and the nation is simply drop-dead gorgeous, too. After some time in charming Ljubljana, hit the highway northwest, bound for the mountains. At fairy-tale Lake Bled, a crag-top medieval castle looms beside a mirror-calm lake, from which a bell tower rises on a tiny isle, all against a backdrop of green foothills and snow-capped peaks. Then drive on for 16 miles (26km), winding around the eastern edge of the majestic Julian Alps to reach Lake Bohinj, Bled’s wilder, undeveloped sister.
Next comes the wine country of Goriška Brda, a hilly region known as “Tuscany in Slovenia.” The Vipava Valley, 30 miles (48km) further south, is arguably Slovenia’s most dynamic wine region. The Vipava extends south to the Karst, also a winegrowing region but better known for what’s going on underground. This limestone plateau is riddled with tunnels and caves, and its name is the descriptor for such karstic landscapes worldwide. Drive south for 16 miles (26km) to Unesco-listed Škocjan Caves, one of the most astonishing examples of this subterranean splendor.
Tips for EV drivers in Slovenia
Slovenia is wholeheartedly embracing EVs. The network of chargers is swiftly growing with proportionately more fast-charging points being introduced and more accommodation providers installing chargers for guests. Also, the country is compact, so distances between chargers are never too great, although the terrain can be hilly. Ljubljana has a high number of charging points.
The Netherlands: Rotterdam to Groningen
Start by soaking up the impressive architecture of buzzing Rotterdam, then head out of the city across the Erasmus Bridge – a local icon. After a pit stop to bike through Amsterdam (don’t attempt to take on the center in your EV), drive north. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a place more archetypically Dutch than Zaanse Schans. Windmills from the 17th century line the Zaan River, while traditional shops include a cheesemaker and a clog factory. Continue north, driving on reclaimed land, to the Afsluitdijk. An incredible feat of engineering, this causeway dammed off the Zuiderzee upon its completion in 1932. It’s one of the best examples of the country’s epic water management – learn more in the brand-new Afsluitdijk Wadden Center.
Time to head east toward De Alde Feanen National Park. This excavated peat bog forms an interconnected area of lakes and rivers that you can explore at a leisurely pace in a rented electric boat. Back behind the wheel, enjoy big, blazing skies as you drive the final stretch toward Groningen, a student city famed for its nightlife. Start with a walk around the center, then toast reaching the finish line with a Dutch beer and a plate of piping hot bitterballen (meatballs) on one of the terraces.
Tips for EV drivers in the Netherlands
The Netherlands has the highest total number of chargers of any European country, so range anxiety is a non-issue. Shell Recharge offers the best EV charge card: order it well ahead and use it to charge at all the stops with AC chargers on this route. For a quick top-up, use the Shell Recharge app to find rapid DC chargers. Alternatively, download the Fastned app, add your bank-card info, and charge at their numerous (and excellent) rapid stations.
Norway: Bergen to Ålesund
Norway’s west coast is characterized by one feature: fjords. Carved out by glaciers during the last Ice Age, these deep, sheer-sided inlets slash the western seaboard into ribbons, necessitating numerous ferries, bridges and detours to navigate a frustratingly circuitous journey. But while road trips in fjordland definitely take a while, there’s an upside: the jaw-dropping scenery that unfurls around every corner. Huge cliffs, glittering waters, cascades, mountain passes, meadows – you’ll encounter them all here.
Start in handsome Bergen, an old trading port stacked steeply around seven hills and seven fjords that’s known for its colorful, timber-clad buildings and its long trading history From Bergen, take your EV onto the fjord-side E16 as it twists and turns inland, offering a fine introduction to the dramatic scenery that awaits.
East of Flåm, on the way to Lærdal, is a National Scenic Route: Aurlandsfjellet, known locally as the Snøvegen (Snow Road) and usually only passable from June to mid-October. If you decide to brave it, don’t miss a pit stop at the striking Stegastein Viewpoint, a curving platform which reaches right out over Sognefjord.
After a night in Lom (notable for its fine stave church), roll west along Rv15 as far as Hornindalsvatnet, then detour back via the Fv60 to Hellesylt for the chance to catch the car ferry along Geirangerfjord, the world-famous, Unesco-listed, ultra-photogenic fjord that makes it into pretty much every Norwegian tourism ad campaign.
Our last National Scenic Route is the most famous of all: the legendary Trollstigen (Troll’s Road). This switchbacking, serpentine road traverses 13 huge loops as it climbs up to Trollstigen Pass at 2789ft (850m). Then descend back toward the coast at Ålesund.
Tips for EV drivers in Norway
Norway has proportionally more EVs on the road than anywhere else in Europe. There’s an extensive nationwide system of public chargers, including at parking lots, supermarkets and shopping centers. Of the many providers, major players include Recharge, Ionity, Mer and Eviny. At some charge points you pay by credit card; others require the operator’s app. Plan charges carefully, as steep mountain roads and cold temperatures drain batteries fast.
Germany: the Black Forest
Legendary land of chocolate cake and cuckoo clocks, the Black Forest is awash with clichés – but it also makes an extraordinary place for a road trip. Even if you’ve never set foot in this improbably picturesque corner of Germany before, you’ll almost certainly have tasted a slice of Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, that classic cherry-topped chocolate gateau. The region also boasts forest trails, spa towns, sparkling lakes, cozy beer halls, cuckoo clocks and even the odd lederhosen-wearing local – making Schwarzwald as near as you’ll get to the Grimm Brothers’ Germany of your childhood imagination.
Kick off in Baden-Baden – the famous spa town with an air of fin-de-siècle grandeur – then take the Schwarzwaldhochstrasse (Black Forest Highway, also known as the B500), a brilliant mountain road that takes in big views of woods, peaks and waterfalls as it meanders south into the Black Forest proper (officially known as the Nationalpark Schwarzwald). It’s one of Germany’s oldest scenic roads, winding along a mountain ridge. Next, venture south along the B294 as it travels into the Kinzigtal, a dramatic valley that follows the babbling course of the Kinzig River.
Triberg is perhaps the quintessential Black Forest town, where the original 1915 Black Forest cake was invented (there are plenty of cafes around town where you can treat yourself to an absurdly generous slice), as well as the dramatic Triberger Wasserfälle. After the lakeside resort town of Titisee, take the B31 east, exiting the Black Forest as you travel on toward Germany’s southern border with Switzerland and Austria and vast Lake Constance.
Tips for EV drivers in Germany
With over 50,000 chargers (and counting), Germany has one of Europe’s most extensive EV charging networks. Maingau and Ladenetz are two of the biggest charger operators. This is a rural route, however, and you will find chargers a bit scarce outside the towns: plan charge stops at Baden-Baden, Freudenstadt, Trossingen and Konstanz. Due to the hilly mountain roads, err on the side of caution when it comes to range predictions.
Austria: Salzburg to Lienz
The snow-topped Austrian Alps offer many challenging drives, but none compare to the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse. This mountain road trip ventures into the heights of the Austrian Alps, with lakes, castles, caves and, of course, some Sound of Music sightseeing along the way – not to mention the curves of the Grossglockner High Alpine Road. Your legendary adventure begins in Salzburg, home of both Mozart and Maria, a city that combines traditional alpine atmosphere with baroque architecture and incredible mountain views.
Leaving Salzburg, it’s southwest along the B158, better known as the Österreichische Romantikstrasse (Austrian Romantic Road), a famously picturesque route that meanders into the Salzkammergut, a land of lofty mountains and alpine lakes. Among them are mirror-like Wolfgangsee and Hallstätter See, where one of Austria’s most famously postcard-perfect villages, Hallstatt, stands beside the lakeshore.
Southwest of the Salzkammergut, mountains stack up along the horizon as you drive west towards the start of the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse, named after Austria’s tallest peak at 12,461ft (3798m). More rollercoaster than road, this renowned stretch of tarmac runs for 30 miles (48km) between Fusch and Heiligenblut, traversing 36 hairpin turns and crossing the Edelweissspitze – at 8435ft (2571m), the highest point navigable by road in the Alps.
The medieval town of Lienz stands at the southern end of the Grossglockner, and makes an exceedingly pleasant conclusion to your Austrian expedition.
Tips for EV drivers in Austria
Austria’s urban charger network is generally excellent, but outside the cities and larger towns – and, here, along one of its most famous roads – it’s a little patchy. There are only a couple of public chargers available on the Grossglockner, and its twisting, steep inclines and potentially cool temperatures will challenge your range.
Sweden: Stockholm and around Lake Mälaren
Cobbled harbor towns, imposing castles, Viking heritage and plenty of mini golf are some of the rewards in store on this leisurely loop around Lake Mälaren from Stockholm.
When you’re done exploring the capital, set off early to Vårby Brygga, 11 miles (18km) west, aiming to catch the morning boat to Björkö. This island on Lake Mälaren was once the Viking Birka trading center and is now a living museum, with archaeological sites and reconstructed Viking houses, plus demonstrations, feasts and re-enactments on the events calendar.
The next morning, you’ll spot Gripsholm Slott across the water. The sturdy Renaissance castle, complete with massive circular towers, is now a museum and houses the country’s State Portrait Collection. The next stop is the town of Strängnäs. It’s a handsome place, with a medieval cathedral, cobbled streets lined with traditional red-painted houses, and a lively harbor.
After breakfast, take Hwy 56 toward Västerås, crossing over to Lake Mälaren’s north side. It’s well worth stopping to explore the interiors and gardens of Strömsholms Slott, a beautiful, pale-yellow baroque palace. As you circle back toward Stockholm, stop off at Vallby Friluftsmuseum, a living museum that showcases traditional rural life in Västmanland, with a collection of 50 historic buildings scooped up from across the region and spread through the site’s 37 acres (15 hectares).
While you’re still on the lake, don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy some more natural pursuits, from mountain-biking to kayaking.
Tips for EV drivers in Sweden
Sweden has fully embraced electric vehicles. You’ll be able to rent one at major car-rental companies and find charging points all along this route; download the Electromaps app for locations in Stockholm and beyond. Most chargers use a Type 2 connector. Note that batteries can run down quicker in cold weather; if your EV has it, use eco-mode to extend battery life.
Luxembourg: around Luxembourg
Among the nations of the world, there are republics, kingdoms, principalities and sultanates – but there is only one Grand Duchy. Luxembourg is a geopolitical anomaly: a sliver of land at the heart of Western Europe, ruled by a Grand Duke. Miniature though it may be, it is a nation ideally sized for a road trip over a long weekend.
Start in the eponymous capital – an unsung treasure, with a handsome Old Town ringed by steep gorges. Then head north, a region dominated by castles – some former Roman frontier forts, others bastions from the heyday of the Holy Roman Empire; some crumbling, others still upright. Driving due north from the capital, you’ll eventually happen upon medieval Château de Bourscheid – it’s impossible to miss, being the biggest castle in the country.
The next day, rise early to return south. As you enter the southeastern nook of Luxembourg, the landscape subtly changes, with rows of vines chequering the hills beside the banks of the Moselle, planted to supply the country’s small but thriving wine industry. Most motorists in these parts are heading into France, but instead swerve westwards to hit the village of Mondorf-les-Bains, Luxembourg’s preeminent spa town.
Tips for EV drivers in Luxembourg
Luxembourg has a higher density of chargers compared to the neighboring regions of Belgium, France and Germany – especially in Luxembourg City, where they fringe the Old Town; and also along the A7 highway. Luxembourg is a relatively flat country with mild winters, which will help your charge sustain. Chargy is the main charging-point operator – their website has an easily navigable map of charging stations throughout the country.