Due to Covid19, it was a difficult decision about what to do in the summer of 2020. We wanted to do a 4-week road trip with our Audi e-tron 55. But many borders were closed and a lot of countries were classified as ‘high risk’. In addition, we wouldn’t really enjoy visiting beautiful but crowded cities under these conditions. Therefore we decided to go north and try to reach the Nordkapp.
Since the borders from Sweden to Norway were closed and we would have to go in 14 days quarantine after the trip if we would visit Sweden it was clear that we have to travel via Norway and/or Finland and avoid Sweden. We decided to take the ferry from Travemünde to Helsinki and then drive all the way through Finland up to the Nordkapp and return via the Norwegian coast back to Oslo, hoping that the border between Finland and Norway stays open.
This route has some advantages for us (compared to going through Norway both ways):
- We will get extensive experience in the charging infrastructure of two Scandinavian countries.
- Nordkapp can be reached quicker through Finland, giving us more time to explore other regions.
- I always wanted to visit Karelia and especially the wild bears living there.
- I’ve visited Norway more than 30 times in the past but have been in Finland only once.
- At the beginning of our trip in Finland were only 3!!! active cases of Covid19 and we expected only very few tourists in Finland further reducing any risks for Covid.
We started our trip in the second week of August close to Munich in Germany with a fully charged e-tron. There were three of us: Kerstin, Linnéa, and me, Boris.
Although the e-tron is not a small car, it wasn’t easy at all to store all the luggage inside the car. Besides the normal personal belongings, we carried complete camping equipment (in case we can’t find any suitable accommodation), food for about three weeks (due to Covid risk reduction and the extremely high prices of restaurants in Scandinavia), and lots of photography and filming equipment. We stored most of the food in the spare wheel recess and the camping equipment on one half of the rear bench.
After a stopover in Berlin, several fast 150 kW DC charges along the way, and a quick visit to Lübeck we reached Travemünde.
At the end of the trip report, I will give you some detailed statistics about our energy consumption and the charging infrastructure along the way. Whenever possible we used 150 kW DC HPC chargers, because the main advantage of the Audi e-tron compared to other EV’s is it’s really fast charging time at these chargers. For the activation of the chargers, we mostly used the Audi e-tron Charging Service card. But there are some areas in northern Scandinavia where this card is currently not widely accepted and we had to switch to other methods.
The reliability and the customer service of the charging networks in Germany are lacking especially compared to other countries like Norway. My experience is that about 30% of the fast chargers along the German motorways are not working and very rarely the customer service hotline is able (or even willing) to solve this problem via remote control. That it doesn’t have to be like this will show my comparison with Norway. More on this later.
From Travemünde we took the Finnlines ferry to Helsinki.
It was a smooth 30 hours ride in a nice cabin. Boarding was around midnight and arrival at 9 a.m. This means we had to spend one day and two nights on the ferry.
Besides that most people were wearing face-masks inside the ship there were no additional Corona restrictions like temperature measurements etc.
On a Monday morning, we finally arrived in Helsinki.
We spent one day and one night in Helsinki and explored some of the highlights, like the Esplanadi, the Design District, the Kauppatori market place, and the lovely old market hall Vanha Kauppahalli.
We found it a bit irritating that nobody was wearing a mask inside of public buildings or shops. It’s understandable with only 3 Covid cases in the whole country, but we felt at first a bit uncomfortable since we were so used to it from the last months in Germany. Therefore on the first days, we were still wearing maks inside of buildings despite being the only ones.
Later on this trip, we accustomed our behavior to the local habits and were wearing masks only on very rare occasions.
In Helsinki we charged directly at the market at a 11 kW AC charger.
And learned two new facts: Even in the capital of Finland DC chargers are very rare and contrary to most places in Germany if you charge on a parking lot you have to pay for both charging and parking. In Germany, parking is often free during the time of charging.
Koli National Park
After one day in Helsinki, we continued our trip to the next destination: the Koli National Park, about 500 km north of Helsinki.
With two 50 kW DC charges along the way in Lappeenranta and Joensuu, we reached Koli in the late afternoon.
We stayed there at the lovely Break Sokos Hotel Koli at the top of the Koli mountain. It is quite expensive but clearly the best choice in this area especially if you plan some photography or filming during sunset or sunrise. The best viewpoints are just minutes away from the hotel.
Below the hotel is a slow but free 11 kW AC charger, sufficient if you stay there overnight.
From the top of the Koli mountain, you have an awesome view of the Pielinen lake, likely the most spectacular viewpoint in Finland.
We stayed two nights at Koli and used the day to explore both the mountains in the national park and the Pielinen lake.
Directly before the trip, I’ve bought my first drone, a Mavic Air 2, and was eager to try it out. Luckily drone usage is allowed in the Koli National Park. Both at sunrise and sunset, I was shooting some timelapse and drone footage from the top of the Koli mountain.
After our visit to the Koli National Park, we continued north through lovely Karelia. This is a wild area of Finland close to the Russian border. Only a few people live there with abundant and spectacular nature.
Our next stop was Kuusamo, about 450 km from Koli. We charged in-between at Kajaani, which turned out to be a bit more complicated as expected. It took us 6 tries on 2 different networks before we finally managed to get a connection. The customer hotline of the Loiste network was extremely friendly but sadly wasn’t able to solve the problem. Luckily the 50 kW DC Lataus charger at a different location in Kajaani did work.
On the way to Kuusamo, we stopped at the impressive art installation ‘The Silent People’ in Suomussalmi.
If you would like to know more about the artist Reijo Kela take a look here.
In Kuusamo, we spent the night at the Holiday Park where we had another 11 kW AC overnight charge.
From Kuusamo we drove east through one of the wildest areas in Europe.
We had our first encounter with a reindeer on this trip.
We continued the track until we reached the Russian border.
This is definitely not the typical EV territory. There is nowhere any electricity in this area. But with a bit of planning, even this is easily possible with an Audi e-tron.
Our main reason for traveling to this remote location is the bears which are crossing frequently the border from Russia to this area in Karelia. For the next night, we had booked a cabin in the forest via Karhu-Kuusamo, from where we could safely do some watching of the wild bears.
It is not cheap, but it was an absolutely awesome experience worth every penny. We were mostly filming instead of taking pictures, but here are some quick shots of the bears by Linnéa.
The Arctic Circle
Our next stop was Rovaniemi, the largest city in northern Finland, 200 km away from Kuusamo and located directly at the Arctic Circle.
North of the Arctic Circle the sun never sets in summer and never rises in winter. We were now officially in the polar region.
We spent one night in Rovaniemi (the Santa Claus Village is extremely touristic and not really worth a visit) and continued then to the Norwegian border at Kivilompolon Tulli. We stayed the night at a rustic cabin a few km before the border.
Along the 350 km drive from Rovaniemi, we charged three times: at the start in Rovaniemi (50 kW DC), at the Lapland Hotel Olos (50 kW DC), and at our cabin in Galdotieva with 11 kW AC overnight.
The charging at Olos was a bit tricky. The Audi card was not accepted and there was no number printed on the charger which is necessary for check-in via the website. After trying out all possible charger numbers of this area as shown on the website plugitcloud.com we finally found the right one and gained access to the charger, but it took us an additional half an hour just to start charging.
To continue with part II click here.