With the adoption of electric vehicles increasing fast, more and more British skiers will be driving to the Alps in an electric car.

Iain Martin, founder of Ski Flight Free, drove to Zermatt at the end of August 2022 in a Tesla Model Y to see what it’s like on a long-distance journey in an EV.

Carbon Footprint: A huge saving

If you fly to the Alps, you can expect to generate at least 170kg CO2 per person (this is on the lower end of the scale, depending which carbon calculator you use).

This can represent anything from 60-80% of the total carbon footprint of a ski holiday, so choosing a flight free option can be the best decision you can make for the planet.

Taking the train will cut your travel emissions by around 85%, but driving in an electric car has a negligible carbon footprint, even lower than traveling by train.

There are no tail-pipe emissions from the car and most rapid chargers en route – including Tesla superchargers and networks such as Ionity – are supplied with 100% renewable electricity.

The only sizeable carbon contribution comes from crossing the channel. You can bring this even further down by taking Eurotunnel, which contributes only 2kg CO2e per crossing, compared with 147kg CO2e by ferry.

Eurotunnel passengers stuck in tunnel for hours after shuttle train breakdown | Euronews

An even smaller carbon footprint than travelling by train

Let’s be very conservative in our calculations and assume that you are unable to charge at a Supercharger powered by renewables. The figure for an EV shown below is a multiple of the average electricity emissions for France in 2021 (56 g CO2eq/kWh) and the the total kWh put into the car during charging stops on this trip (310 kWh). We have added 4kg CO2e for a return Eurotunnel crossing.

If using chargers supplied with 100% renewable electricity, the overall total of 21 kg CO2e would be reduced to just 4 kg CO2e.

Electric Vehicle: 21 kg (per car)
Train (Eurostar/SNCF): 26 kg
ICE vehicle (4 people): 110 kg
Flying: 162 kg

Figures shown are kg CO2e per person unless stated, based on 2020 data from Anthesis. EV

We are mindful of the fact that there are embedded emissions from the construction of an EV. This is an excellent article that covers the lifetime impact of EVs over ICE vehicles. This article from Autotrader also runs through the sustainability impact of EVs in detail.

tesla supercharger france

Cost: Saving of almost 50%

Driving an electric car represents a significant saving over an ICE vehicle.

Iain charged at Tesla Superchargers along the way at an average cost of €0.50 kWh. He also benefited from free EV charging when parking at Tasch before taking the train to Zermatt.

Total Charging Cost: £158
Estimated ICE Cost: £302 *

* Based on a diesel vehicle averaging 40 miles/gallon at a cost of 180p per litre

Note that toll costs are the same for EVs as ICE vehicles (roughly €160 return depending on your route) and are in addition to fuel/charging costs

tesla zermatt

Journey Time: Longer, but not significantly

Iain travelled out over two days, stopping in Troyes on the way. On the return, Iain drove from Zermatt to Chamonix for a couple of nights, before returning from Chamonix to Calais in a single day.

The Tesla Model Y had a WLTP range of 330 miles, which worked out at around 260 miles in practice (driving at 130km/h). Tesla Superchargers are well distributed across Europe and ‘range anxiety’ was never an issue.

While slightly longer than if driving an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicle, the total journey time in an electric car was not significantly different:

Total Distance: 1477 miles
Total Driving Time: 19h45m
Total Charging Time: 3h00m
Total Journey Time: 22h45m

You can watch Iain’s video about his trip here: