“Automotive Pioneers” by guest author Michael Arrowood

I’ve been following the adventures of my dear friends Steve and Marian with their new Nissan Leaf.  Of particular interest to me was the tale of their trek home from the dealership in Tennessee – a well-planned long road trip that ran into a few misadventures along the way, mainly because of the still-emerging infrastructure for charging electric cars.  Among other things, there were the long waits to charge, widely-spaced charging stations that were supposed to be working but weren’t, and the (minor) indignity of having to get a tow across the great divide of the Smokies.  Really, aren’t these people crazy to go to all that trouble to get an electric vehicle?  🙂

That got me to thinking about the history of travel by internal combustion vehicle, particularly right here where we live in Western North Carolina…

Horse-Buggy-and

In 1910 there were no hard surface roads anywhere in Henderson County.  Most rural areas were a sea of mud or dust, and the best roads from South Carolina were all dirt roads.  The townspeople of Hendersonville were astonished when a lone driver, Carl Thompson, pulled into Main Street one day, looked at his watch and made an announcement.  According to The French Broad Hustler (yes, that was actually the name of our local newspaper):  “Mr. Carl Thompson in his famous Overland Touring Car came from Spartanburg to Hendersonville, a distance of 50 miles, in four hours and 23 minutes.  At one point on the trip he made twenty-one miles in one hour.  Mr. Thompson is one of the best chauffeurs in the two Carolinas.”  An amazing speed for the time – almost 12 miles an hour – but bear in mind that if Mr. Thompson had run out of gas or had a breakdown along the way that was beyond his ability to repair, he would have found himself being towed into town by actual horsepower – simply because in that year there was not a single filling station or garage anywhere between the two towns.

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A restored 1910 Willys Overland Touring Car

In 1914 three intrepid drivers made it from Hendersonville to Charleston, SC in a mere 17 hours… an average speed of 19 miles an hour!  This was also considered a noteworthy event at the time, and made the papers in both towns.  Much of the public was probably skeptical of early automotive pioneers’ efforts… after all, the train went to most towns already at much faster speeds.

Southern Ry # 5023 Asheville NC

If you had to use a horse there were livery stables and blacksmiths in every town and village.  Why go to all the trouble to adopt a new technology when it was such a hassle to get fuel and parts for it, and when the transportation already available worked perfectly well?

1900 Asheville NC Postcard RPPC man in wood cartcprt

Photo from: http://ashevilleandbuncombecounty.blogspot.com/2011_01_01_archive.html

The United States only got its first transcontinental highway (the Lincoln Highway) in 1913, and it was surfaced in every variety of pavement or lack thereof.  Our area got the Dixie Highway in 1915, but calling it a “highway” was a bit of a stretch, since it mostly consisted of bits of local road hastily improved and tacked together to make a north-south long distance route.  Yet only a decade later the U.S. was crisscrossed by paved highways and had a real national highway system, and a century after real roads came to America we can hardly imagine life without them.

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Filling stations were originally nothing more than any general store, hardware store, blacksmith’s shop or even pharmacy that carried a petroleum product that could power an automobile.

The first actual gas station (pictured below) was built in 1905…

ChevStation1st in worldinCA

Photo from: http://justacarguy.blogspot.com/2011/07/1st-service-station-in-world-1907-and.html

…and the first “drive-in” filling station was built exactly 100 years ago.

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Photo from: http://justacarguy.blogspot.com/2011/07/1st-service-station-in-world-1907-and.html

Ed: It is interesting to note that many of the early fueling stations were curbside as in the below photo from http://justacarguy.blogspot.com/2011/07/1st-service-station-in-world-1907-and.html

curbsidegas

History is repeating itself with curbside EV charging stations such as this one as seen in Asheville, NC.

EV Charging Station - Biltmore Square

From: http://carstations.com/20434

Again, with the rapid expansion of automobile use, a decade later filling stations dotted the landscape all across the United States.  The technology drove the need, and the system expanded rapidly to meet that need.  The same situation exists with EV charging stations now.

Ed: Steve and Marian’s Leaf getting a solar charge from one of the BrightfieldTS solar charging canopy in Asheville, NC. This type of charging station uses solar power to charge the EV’s battery.  When an excess of power is produced or no EV’s are charging at the station, the excess power is fed back into the local power grid.  This lessens the need to burn coal which reduces our dependence on fossil fuels and reduces carbon emissions even further.  With the addition of more EV filling stations such as this, the power grid will only get cleaner and greener–something that will never happen with petroleum based propulsion.  (notice the non EV’s parking in the EV only parking spaces despite the signs.  They were ticketed:-)

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The power grid already exists almost everywhere, and an EV driver can charge anywhere (just slowly).  Now a network of fast “filling stations” needs to grow up to serve the growing number of electric cars.  More electric cars = more demand = more ease of use = more electric cars.

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I think maybe Steve and Marian are pioneering the next great thing in driving technology, the way those mud-splattered pioneers of (only!) a century ago pioneered the first internal combustion driving.

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More power to them!  (Pun intended).

Ed: Thanks for the great article Michael!

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Dirt Road Leaf

Just the other morning while driving to work on the three mile uphill forest road part of my morning commute, I stopped to snap this photo of sunbeams spilling through the forest canopy.

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The morning felt surreal with the soft sunlight and sounds of the forest on the quiet country road.  I was moved by the beauty of the morning as I continued on my drive up the mountain to work.  I lowered the windows and as I drove on I could hear only the forest sounds and the crunch of my tires on gravel–not the growl of an internal combustion engine as in my Toyota 4Runner.

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While the Leaf is primarily a road car, it does surprisingly well on gravel, mountainous roads and handles wonderfully.  I do not drive the three miles at speeds much above 25-30  and the Leaf takes the turns well and negotiates the shallow wash outs and washboards with ease and no excessive vibration.

I am constantly finding new reasons to love my Leaf.  From handling on and “off” road to being able to hear the sounds of the forest and my music to only paying around $1.50 per day for energy–the Leaf is a true marvel of modern technology and I am 100% happy with my EV purchase.

If you are tired of paying for petroleum,  tired of padding the wallets of the big oil barons and want to lower your carbon footprint–then you owe it to yourself to test drive a Leaf or other EV today.

If you power your home with renewable energy and are either off the grid or grid tied or if you have a source of renewable energy on your land such as solar, hydro or wind then you could switch to and EV and drive for free!  Think about the freedom it would give you, how much money you would save and how you would be part of the solution!

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2000 mile report

We have had our Leaf for two weeks as of today and the odometer just rolled over the 2000 mile mark.  Do we still like it?

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No, we LOVE it! 

We have driven over 500 miles gas free and emissions free and that is a wonderful feeling!

We have charged at home, at work, at a BrightfieldTS solar charging station, at a friends house and the Leaf continues to get us where we need to go and preform flawlessly.

As far as range, it really has not been a concern.  I tend to average between 45 and 70 miles per day and on the lower mileage days I only need to charge it when I return home from work in the evening, plug it in and it is ready to go again the next morning.  On the longer days I will start with a full charge, drive the 15 miles to work-that are mostly uphill, plug in to top off the battery, then drive the remaining miles–also uphill.  The downside is that all the uphill miles really drain the battery.  The good news is that on the return trip home I regen and therefore reclaim a good portion of the energy I lost when climbing the mountains.

As an example of this, yesterday I went to work with a full charge.  The GOM said that I had 75/84 mile range (75 in D/84 in ECO).  I drove as I would an ICE vehicle–headlights on due to the fog, stereo on and fan on low.  Upon arrival at work the GOM said that I had 45 miles of range remaining–about average for my daily morning commute.  I decided to plug in the Leaf at work and top it off on the chance that I may make an extended journey after work.  After work I departed deciding not to make the extended journey and just go straight home.  I had received a full charge over the course of the day and had a range of 73/81 as I set out down the mountain for home.  As I made my way down the mountain–a rather steep, 3 mile gravel road in a remote forest–I watched as the Leaf regenerated loads of energy into the what I thought was a full battery.  By the bottom of the mountain the GOM said that I had 91 miles of range!  WOW!  Then I made my way home driving normally.  I am in no way a hypermiler and I drove most of the way in Drive only shifting into ECO when going down the three mile gravel stretch and two short inclines on the way home.  Upon arriving at the bottom of my driveway–a very steep hill of about 1/8 mile in length–I shifted into D and up I went to the top.  Upon arrival at my house the GOM stated that I had  a 74/82 mile range! I had one more mile of range than when I left work with a full charge! How did I just drive all that way and not loose range?  The simple answer is regenerative braking+lots of downhill=free clean power for the Leaf produced by gravity, inertia and the Leaf!  So very cool!  How many of you ICE drivers can say that about your petroleum consuming, carbon belching dinosaurs?  I strongly suspect that the answer is none.  ICE vehicles give absolutely nothing back in return–they only consume.  That is how they are designed and that is how they operate.  A well designed EV is a balancing act between give and take.  The operative word here being give–a word never before associated with the automobile.

EVparking

I am discovering that in a mountainous area, if driven carefully and with planning and forethought,  an EV can reduce your electric costs if driven and charged in a way that maximizes the regenerative capabilities of the vehicle.

If a mountain EV owner has the ability to plan where and when to charge their EV so that they are able to take full advantage of regenerative braking then they can take full advantage of the vehicle’s technological capabilities and further lower their energy use by letting the car charge itself as much as possible!

On top of that if an EV owner has the ability to install or use a solar, wind or hydro charging station at their home or office then they could further unplug from the coal fired grid and become cleaner and greener for it.

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The adventure continues…

Road Hazard!

On Day three of our Leaf ownership I drove the Leaf to work only to look down at the back tire and see this…

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Somehow a 3.5″ rusty old bolt had made its way into my left rear tire!

I was a bit put out with the situation but at least it didn’t happen while we were driving across Tennessee!  The tire was not flat or leaking air and from the location of the bolt I deduced that it would probably continue to hold air until I could get to the tire shop.  I went on to work and later in the day I slowly drove the 12 miles to the tire store–as I drove down the mountain from work I could hear the head of the bolt hitting the road with each revolution of the tire–click, click, click–I was sure that the tire was going to blow out ant any second but somehow it made it to the shop.  Once there I noticed that the bolt had pushed its way through the rubber of the sidewall and it looked like this…yikes!

boltintire2

One of the employees said  “that is not fixable, you will need a new tire.” and then “I have never seen that before, how did that happen?” You know when they say that it is truly bizarre.  They looked up the Ecopia and said that they did not have one in stock but could get one by 8 am so I was forced to drive the car the 6 miles to my home on the other side of town.  On the way home the air pressure light finally came on in the middle of town so I was forced to stop at my friend Dave’s business and ask him for assistance.  First we tried a can of fix-a-flat but it malfunctioned and would not work.  We then went to a nearby auto parts store and picked up a can of Slime which I put into the tire…

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Dave then provided me with an air compressor to inflate the tire and I was on my way home–THANKS DAVE!

davescompresser

The tire held air overnight and the next day I went back to the tire store and they replaced my “old” tire with a new Ecopia…

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And I was back on the road.

The old tire was not old at all…it only had 1800 miles on it!  Luckily, I called Nissan and they put me through to Bridgestone who said that there was a warranty remaining on the tires so they gave me a 50% discount!

Day three of Leaf ownership and already a bizarre accident…hmmm…some might say it was coincidence…others may call it an an omen…I just call it dumb bad luck.

As for the Leaf, it suffered no ill effects form the ordeal and still preforms optimally and I have not paid for gas in over 1000 miles!

 

Solar Charging the Leaf

Over the last weekend I had to be in nearby Asheville, NC for a show–I present wildlife awareness and conservation shows at events, seminars, schools, camps, birthday parties and so on.  I decided to drive the Leaf the 25 miles to Asheville and plug it in at one of the BrightfieldTS solar charging stations in the downtown area to let it charge while I was presenting.  I arrived at the charging station at about 9:15 to plug in.

brightfield1

The only problem was that I had not received my Chargepoint access card in the mail yet so I had to call Chargepoint to have them activate the charger.  I called and was put on hold for about 30 minuets!  My program was at 10 am and it was about 1.5 mile walk to the location of the program–time was ticking away and I was starting to sweat!  While I was on hold it was interesting to watch people in ICE cars drive up to the station, pull in to park, pause for a moment to read the EV parking only sign then back out in disgust because these four parking spots were reserved for EV’s.  I felt quite privileged actually and I believe rightly so because I have taken the plunge into the future of transportation in this country and that should be acknowledged by at least a parking spot reserved for me to charge my EV with free power from the sun!  More ICE drivers came and went and one Subaru owner just thumbed his nose at the sign and ICED the right hand slot then a Toyota Prius driver pulled in his non-PHEV, and while I watched he parked and walked away as if to say “I can park there because I have a hybrid.”

brightfield2

Sorry buddy, this slot is for EV’s only–hopefully they received a ticket for their blatant disregard for EV drivers.  Later in the day I saw a parking services employee and I asked her what they do when they find an ICE car in an EV slot.  She replied “we give them a $25 education–a ticket.” I smiled and told her where she could find two cars parked in an EV only station.  She thanked me and hurried off–hopefully to go ticket them before they escaped in their carbon belching cars.

While I continued to wait I wondered what the orange safety cone was for in the slot to my left but I just figured it was possibly a broken charger.  Finally the Chargepoint rep picked up the phone–he sounded like he had just awoke after an all nighter–he asked me a few questions for proof of my ID and then turned on the charger and I was charging–WOO HOO!!  I plugged in my car and trotted off to the other side of town to present my program. During the program I received a text from the charging station that my car was charged and I may want to unplug my car–very cool!  After the program I walked across town back to my car only to find a city police Chevy Volt charging next to my Leaf–nice! 

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It is really cool to see the Asheville city government using the Volt and charging at a Solar charging station–thank you Asheville!  Now I know what the safety cone was for–saving the space for the Police Volt…hmmmm.  Notice the older pick up ICEing the far right hand slot above–how rude!  I was tempted to go find the officer but I had to get on the road. brightfield4

I unplugged my Leaf and looked at the charger to see what the charge for the charge was–less than $5.00!  My car was fully charged with truly green electricity made from the sun via the PV solar panels on the roof of the charging canopy–NICE!

Now if only everyone who commuted less than 75 miles per day would switch out just one of their cars to a plug in EV, put solar panels on their roof and/or plug in at solar charging stations–what a difference that would make in the world.  The air and the Earth would be cleaner, we would be healthier,  we would not have to rely on as much dirty foreign or domestic oil,  there would be more jobs created to build and maintain EV cars and the EV infrastructure and on and on…

The beauty of the BrightfieldTS charging canopy is that excess power from the solar panels is fed to the grid for everyone to use which simply means more power from locally harvested sun and less from coal!

Wonderful!

The future is now and it runs on the sun! It is time we all accept and embrace that fact. The internal combustion engine is the past–it is time to go EV!

Thank you BrightfieldTS for installing and maintaining your wonderful grid-tied solar charging stations–you are true visionaries!

 

The Acquisition of the Leaf

leafzero

You may be asking “why a Leaf?” or better yet “why an electric car?” or you may be asking  things like “how far will it go on a charge?” “what’s it like to drive?” or “How long does it take to charge it up?” or even “how could you spend so much money on a car with such limited range?” or “You know it still burns fossil fuels if you charge it up using the utility grid?” and “The construction of the car and battery is more damaging on the environment than a gasoline powered car.” and on and on and on…

Well, hopefully I can answer some of those question for you here in this blog and help to dispel some of the misinformation around electric cars (EV’s) and put the nay sayers and deniers in their place–the past.

So, just how did we end up with an all electric car?

EVparking

Here’s the story in a rather large nutshell.

A couple of years ago my wife Marian and I started talking about the Leaf and the possibility of purchasing one someday.  At the time it seemed way out of our budget so we put it on the back burner. Then, a couple of months ago we crunched some numbers and came to a shocking realization–between our two cars–a 1999 Toyota 4Runner and 1998 Honda CRV we spent around $350 USD per month on gasoline/repairs!  We decided that for that amount plus the value of our trade in we might be able to buy a Leaf, lower our fuel costs significantly, replace our ageing Honda and drastically reduce our carbon footprint on our Mother Earth.  In late July 2013 we started looking around for a car but could not find one locally in the Asheville, NC area.  I got online and found two almost identical 2012 Leaf SL’s near Smyrna, TN–the home of the Nissan Leaf’s North American manufacturing facility.  So, we made some calls and decided to check them out and then a couple of weeks later we jumped in the Honda with our little terrier and took a weekend road trip to Barr Nissan Company in Columbia, TN.  Once there we met with salesman John who set up a test drive in a 2012 SL with ~1200 miles on the odometer–it had been short term leased by a Nissan employee who drove it as a promo vehicle and took great care of it so it was practically new.  We were both happy with the car so we sat down with another employee to talk numbers and by 1:30 pm we were on the road in our “new” Leaf!

John giving me the keys to our new car!  This was John’s first Nissan Leaf sale!

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Marian, Tange and I getting ready to drive halfway across Tennessee in our new Leaf!

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So we were now the proud owners of an EV…an electric vehicle.  We were happy but a bit apprehensive due to the range being so low compared to a petrol powered vehicle–just how were we going to get home?  My answer to this was the fact that Tennessee has a large concentrations of Blink fast charging stations along the route we had chosen to take home.  These stations had been installed a couple of years ago in a partnership between Nissan, ECOtality and the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain.  A week or so before the trip I had called each Cracker Barrel to verify that the charging kiosks were functional–they were.  I then called Blink and one of their technicians also verified that all of the stations I would be stopping at to charge were in fact good to go.  I felt fairly certain that we would be ok…but there was still that little nagging “what if” feeling but I just brushed it off and jumped in the drivers seat and of we went toward our first charging station stop at Cracker Barrel in Murfreesboro, TN 53 miles away.  On our first drive in the Leaf as its owners drove it and “ran” great–it was comfortable and the A/C was nice and cold even though I didn’t turn it any lower than 68F to conserve energy. Normally, 53 miles is not a problem in a Leaf however, this part of Tennessee is hilly–with long grades and short downhills, it was about ~88 degrees F and we were running at highway speeds of 65-70 mph and we ran the A/C so when we pulled into Murfreesboro an hour or so later we had 21 miles remaining on the guess-o-meter (GOM)! –the GOM is a gauge on the right side of the main gauge cluster that gives you your estimated range based on charge level.  Nissan does not call it the GOM but that is basically what it does so Leaf ownder have adopted that term.  The new model Leafs (or is it Leaves?) have replaced the GOM with a %charge remaining and that seems more logical to me.  Once at our first charging stop in Murfreesboro I walked up to the Blink fast charger to input my Blink code that I had gotten earlier by calling the Blink network (my Blink card had not arrived in the mail in time for the trip).  The kiosk computer said that it did not recognize my number…hmmm…it seems that gremlins, leprechauns, goblins, sprites or Yokai had gotten into the inner workings of the machine and had a little party on the circuit board… so I called Blink for assistance.  They had me reset the entire charging station and try again…still no luck. It was getting hotter and I was getting really bummed and really hungry…I really wanted to go in Cracker Barrel and eat some lunch while the car charged…but that was not going to happen.  I believe that my wife was having second thoughts at this point and the dog Tange…she probably knew much more than she let on as she cooled off under the shade of a tree.  The Blink tech said I should ask to use one of Cracker barrel’s Blink charge cards, I did and it worked!  The machine recognized the card and after an hour of back and forth with Blink the car was charging!!  Needless to say our first fast charging experience was not the best.

firstcharge Unfortunately we had lost an hour and had no time for a sit down meal in the CB so I walked across the street and settled for an Arby’s wrap while the Leaf charged.  By the time I finished my sandwich–about 20  minuets later–the car was ready to go with an 80% charge and the battery temperature had only gone up by one segment on the gauge. The battery temperature gauge–on the left side of the gauge cluster–is a bar graph representing the temperature of the battery.  Frequent fast charging and higher ambient temperatures coupled with running at highway speeds can raise the temperature of the battery but so far we were good to go!

We hopped back in the Leaf and shot out onto highway 231–the Leaf has amazing pick up due to the direct drive and high torque–and were in Lebanon in no time.  Once there we fast charged again–this time to 100% because we had a 51 mile trek ahead of us to the next charging station in Cookeville.

fastcharging

After charging up we zipped out onto interstate 40 east toward our North Carolina home passing big smoking semi trucks in our clean running little blue EV.

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Soon we realized that the long grades on 40 were longer than the energy we could recover in ECO mode with regeneration and we started to sweat–literally–because we had to turn off the A/C to conserve power in the hopes of making it to Cookeville…now is where the real range anxiety set in.  Running at highway speeds of 75-80 mph in the heat of summer alongside noisy, carbon belching trucks and cars while pulling long grades was not the best situation for the Leaf.  As we watched the range drip away on the GOM the sweat dripped heavier on our bodies and the dogs tongue lolled out longer and longer…the Leaf is not a long distance highway car.  We knew that when we bought it but this experience proves that fact.  I soon realized that we might not make it to Cookeville 9 miles away so I opted to ere on the side of caution so when the GOM said 11 miles so I pulled off the interstate into a filling station for a trickle charge…yes, a trickle charge.  There was no other option.  At first the manager of the station was not going to let us charge–something about not letting anyone but employees use the outside receptacles–until I offered to make a $5 donation to the charity fundraiser they were running…then she said OK, I didn’t see you–whew!  I don’t know what I would have done if she had said no.  That was some real anxiety!  So I plugged in, sat down, leaned against the wall and waited…and waited…and waited…for about an hour.

chargingatloves3All the while as my Leaf slowly crammed electrons into its battery and people came and went from the gas station–filling their tanks, paying copious amounts of hard earned money into their tanks only to spew it back out again into the atmosphere.  Many people asked all sorts of questions about the leaf while I was sitting there, the best being a group of frat boys from UT that were really intrigued by the Leaf and thanked me for buying it and “being part of the future”!   I felt even better about our decision so I just answered the questions as knowledgeably as I could and waited for the battery to charge up a bit more.

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Yes, I know that the electricity I was charging up my car with was generated by mostly the burning of coal…our precious mountaintops…but that is another story for another day.  After about an hour of charging the GOM said we had 14 miles of range and since we only had 9 miles to go we took the chance and off we went on I 40.  We made it…just barely…with 6 miles to spare…yikes…no “turtle mode” but close!  Note how high the temperature gauge is on the right…and the day was getting hotter!

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In Cookeville we charged to 100% at Cracker Barrel and headed to Crossville 30 miles away to grab another charge…however, once there we realized that our battery temperature was just below the red zone so we decided that before we charged the car again we needed to let the car cool down in the shade while we had a sit down dinner at the Cracker Barrel.

tangeleaf

The only problem was that they didn’t serve dogs…crap…come on CB you should be more tolerant of other species, cultures and beliefs.  Tange chilling in the back of the Leaf while we waited to find out if we could eat on the porch of CB.  The management said OK so we used a checkerboard as a table and had a great “home cooked” meal.  While it was nice of CB to let us eat on the porch I still felt like a second class citizen until I realized that the porch was clean, calm and not crowded with people like the restaurant.

dinneronday2atCB

Dinner was wonderful and relaxing but it didn’t give our car long enough to cool down so we opted to stay across the interstate in a La Quinta Inn for the night.  To tell the truth we (and the Leaf) were done for the day.  lasteveningatlaqunita  The next day the battery temperature gauge showed that all was well in lithium land so we headed over to the Cracker Barrel early to charge the car and eat a nice country breakfast only to find the below message on the Blink charging station…oops  Bummer…the gremlins had apparently visited this Blink station as well…so I called Blink and they said that the station was out of order and had went down over the last 12 hours…interesting.  Luckily they said that the level 2 charger should still be working so I plugged in, it worked and we went to breakfast.lvl2

After breakfast the car was still not charged enough to make it to the next fast charger 35 miles away in Harriman.  It needed another hour and a half so I left Marian knitting on the porch of the Cracker Barrel and walked the half mile to the hotel to pick up the dog and a couple of things we had left in our room and check out.  As I walked across the Highway 40 bridge I though about how ironic it was that I had just purchased an electric car and was now makin’ like ten toe turbo* and hoofin’ it down the road…I could only smile, laugh and soldier on.  I picked up the pooch and bags, logged out of the hotel and snapped this pic as Tange and I crossed over the interstate 40 bridge…

*Ten Toe Turbo is a Jamaican term for walking and a great local band from Hendersonville, NC–check them out if you are ever in the area!

tangeandion40bridge I believe that Tange was terrified at this point but she didn’t let me know it…such a trooper!  Then as I passed Cracker Barrel I snapped this pic of the Leaf charging up at the Blink station and I could only smile at this amazing adventure we had embarked on–I live for adventures such as this!  chargingonsunday Finally, after 2 hours of charging, the Leaf was ready to go and so were we so off we went into the cool Tennessee morning.  Once in Harriman we charged to 80% with no problems…fillerup

…and then headed on to Farragut where we plugged in the Blink fast charger for the last time and charged up the Leaf to 90% in 20 minuets and drove on to Knoxville. chargingleleaf

Farragut was the last time we would be able to charge the Leaf because in the 149 miles between Farragut and home there were no fast chargers and we did not want to wait for 2 hours at each level 2 charging station so we rented a Uhaul and car hauling trailer in Knoxville and set out on the road once again.

trailerleaf2 It was not the most energy efficient way to get the Leaf home but it was a MUCH lower cost than having Nissan ship the car to us on a car carrier.trailerleaf The drive through the I-40 gorge between Knoxville and Asheville was a white-knuckle experience to say the least–it felt more like torture than a nice Sunday afternoon drive in the mountains.  The weight of the car and trailer behind an empty Uhaul forced me to drive slower in order to be safe…but it did not feel safe…but we made it with no incidents.  After arriving in Asheville we parked the Uhaul and drove the Leaf the remaining ~20 miles home.  Once safe at home we had only 11 miles remaining on the GOM–another close one!

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Well, we had survived the trip and despite the charging gremlins, battery overheating issue and range anxiety we both love our new Leaf.  It is a beautifully designed car with only a few issues that we can easily get used to in return for virtually free (compared to ICE vehicles) commuting to and from work, running errands and to and from family and friends houses.  After arriving at home we plugged in “Electra” to our house for the first time…

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And by morning she had gladly accepted a full charge and was ready to go anywhere within range we point her.charged

Totals for the adventure:

Total petroleum powered miles driven on journey to get Leaf home:  475

Total petroleum costs for journey: ~$90.00 (Honda + Uhaul)

Total electric miles driven on journey to get leaf home: 265

Total electricity costs for journey: $27.00 ($5 x 4 fast charges + $5 trickle + $2 lvl 2=27)

Time spent charging the Leaf: ~5.5 hours!  (This includes an extra 2 hours due to malfunctioning chargers!)

Time spent pumping petroleum into gas powered vehicles: ~30 minuets

Time spent driving the Leaf: ~4.5 hours

Time spent driving petroleum powered vehicles: ~8.5 hours

Total cargo carried by leaf in pounds: 457 (2 adults, 1 small dog, luggage)

That is the end of our first great adventure with our Nissan Leaf.  Hopefully it has not served to scare you off from purchasing a Leaf because none of the problems with the operation of the Leaf save one–the battery overheating issue–were caused by the Leaf.  The problems we encountered were due to our attempt at using the Leaf as a long range extended use at highway speeds on a hot day vehicle.  It was not designed for this and our adventure proves that fact.  The issues we faced were as follows:

Problem 1: 2 out of 5 Blink fast charging stations not working correctly–this was a Blink issue.

Problem 2: Leaf battery overheating issue.  Caused by frequent fast charging and running at high speeds on hot summer days.  When a Nissan Leaf is used as recommended by the manufacturer the battery overheating issue simply does not happen.

We have had the Leaf for one week as of today and during that time we have driven it 45-80 miles per day in mountainous terrain and charged it every night, at work and at a solar powered level 2 charging station and the battery has never left the middle range of the gauge.  It has driven and operated perfectly and is an excellent vehicle if you do not need a long range high speed vehicle.  If you drive in and around towns and cities and do not drive more than 75 miles per day and keep your speed below 65 for extended periods of time then you might want to take a Leaf for a test drive–you will be glad you did!

LEAF  More on our continuing adventure of Leaf ownership is yet to come…