Tesla Road Trip

Guest post by Bill Wilkens

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I took a Tesla Model S 90D road trip to New Jersey recently from North Carolina. As you can probably tell, I enjoy talking about it. I used Autopilot about 90% of the time. It worked well on Interstate, but can’t be trusted in construction zones, on secondary roads or anywhere there are not clearly visible lane markings on both sides of the road. Just like traditional cruise control, there is a time and place to use it — or not.

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Charging was not an issue. I just stopped at the Tesla Superchargers that were indicated by the on-board computer (two stops/day, four stops for the entire 750 mile trip to NJ). There were more superchargers along the way than needed so I even passed up a few. The biggest change was to my stomach. After a free breakfast one morning at my hotel, the car needed a 40 minute charge about an hour later. So I had another light breakfast while waiting. Next trip I can eliminate double eating by staying at a hotel with a “destination charger” so the car starts the day with a full charge or at a hotel that doesn’t offer free breakfast!

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While at my son’s home, we converted an unused 30A/240V dryer outlet to the outlet used by Tesla (identical to outlets installed for electric ranges). I used it to charge the Model S as a test even though there is a supercharger only 10 miles away. I set the Tesla to charge at 24 amps which is 80% of the 30 amp breaker on the circuit as recommended by the National Electrical Code.

The car is fun to drive. I gave my daughter-in-law, Sibel, and grand daughter, Isobel, their first ride in an electric car. When I “stepped on it”, Sibel let out a short scream and 5-year old Isobel said “do it again, grandpa!”

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The only strange car behavior was that the computer locked up once while driving. The car continued to drive normally, but I was without navigation and radio for a couple of minutes so I could have missed a turn if there had been one. The computer automatically rebooted itself and returned to normal. I plan to ask Tesla about that. Perhaps car computers need rebooting occasionally just like desktops. I also thought the A/C was a little weak compared to my old Acura, but that might just be a learning curve on the way I use the controls. Outside temperature was 90+ most of the time I was driving.

All in all, I really enjoy the car. The more I learn to use the features, the more I like it. I haven’t yet dared try Autopark and Summon. I don’t want to ding up the car prematurely!

Editor: When Bill finally gets around to testing out Autopark and Summon I hope he decides to write about it and post it here :-

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The biggest adjustment for me has been the the feel of the regenerative braking and the accelerator pedal. It feels a little like driving a golf cart. When you let up on the pedal, the car starts braking immediately, so you only have to use the brake to fully stop the car after it has already slowed to a crawl. After 3000 miles, it is finally beginning to feel “normal”. I suspect next time I rent a gas car, that car will feel strange.

The below photo of my Model S was taken at an SAE J1772 charger normally used by Leafs and Volts but which can also be used to charge a Tesla with a supplied adapter. It charges more slowly than a supercharger, but is a good backup if I ever need it. I was trying it out to make sure I knew how to use it.

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Editor: Just last night I had the privilege to meet with Bill and several other members of the Blue Ridge Electric Vehicle Club at a planning meeting for the upcoming National Drive Electric Week EV car show we will be hosting in Asheville, NC. (Read more about it and sign up here).  At this meeting we all parked our EV’s around the recently installed BrightfieldTS solar EV charging station at Earthfare in south Asheville for some truly electrifying photos – take a look at this one with Bill’s Tesla front and center below!

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Thank you Bill for your exciting story of Tesla ownership!  I hope to join you one day with a Model 3 🙂

 

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The cost of driving an Electric Vehicle

Many critics of electric vehicles will tell you that owning an Electric Vehicle (EV) is very expensive.

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The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV w/200+ mile driving range.

The way I see the relationship of debt to owning a car – petroleum or electric powered – is, simply put:

Either one is a subscription to dependency

No matter the car, just the act of buying the thing means you will have to pay weekly, monthly and yearly “subscriptions” for the fuel, repairs, tax, insurance etc…just for the privilege of owning and driving the thing.

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To me the logical choice is to buy the one that fits your needs and is more, well…logical.

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When buying a vehicle I take a scientific approach and try to leave emotion out of the decision so as not to be swayed by peer pressure (from friends, coworkers and the myriad of flashy automotive ads that saturate the mass media) or manufactured conformity (buy this car to be cool, look good, or “fit in” to some imaginary status caste) or manufactured demand (you need this-you need that–because without it you will be nothing so buy,buy,buy!).

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Nor do I listen to annoying, obnoxious, car salespersons like this guy.  I listen more to owners who post their stories and experiences on automotive blogs such as this one 🙂 and then I do all of my own extensive research and crunch my own numbers before making a final decision based on my findings.

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So, in my rationale I could either;

Buy a gas powered car and pay the (higher) subscription fee for the gas, oil and tune-ups and resulting environmental damage cost caused by the cradle to grave environmental and human cost of the mining, shipment, refining, and distribution of those petroleum products that the vehicle requires to operate.

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A blast from the past a 1970 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser 

Also, when I drive a petroleum powered vehicle I am willingly but not happily forced to accept the sad but true fact that the actual end use of all petroleum based fuels requires much less time to actually burn the fuel to propel the vehicle down the road from point A to point B…than the entire complicated and precarious supply chain that has been constructed to bring that fuel to my car’s fuel tank.

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Source

In other words depending on the country of origin of the crude oil it can take weeks to months to explore, deal, mine, protect, trade, ship, refine, store, and transport the fuel to the station where I finally pump it into my tank and then burn it up in only a few days or even a few hours.  Then there is the sad facts that it takes 44 gallons of water and around 15 kilowatts of energy to mine, ship and refine just one gallon of gasoline–ONE GALLON!  That is about half of the amount of water I use in a day and that 15kw of electricity would push my Nissan Leaf EV about 50 miles down the road!  Now if you really want a shocker multiply the above numbers times how many gallons of gas your car holds and if that does not make you furious with the oil companies I do not know what will?  I did the math for my 1999 Toyota 4Runner and the results are shocking: the amount of water required to produce just one tank of gas is: 814 gallons!!!  The electricity needed: 277.5 kW!!!  WOW!  By my calculations that amount of water and electricity would supply my wife and I, our house and EV for over 2 weeks (with my car going an average of 200 miles/week)!! Now, figure that for a month…a year…or a decade…of petroleum powered vehicle ownership…it just makes me want to cry.

bpdeepwater The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon incident 

My rather long-winded but valid point here is that the amount of energy and waste required just to get us down the road in gasoline powered vehicles is just incredible!

There is also the huge cost in human damage, suffering, pain and death caused by the fact that the acquisition of a portion of those petroleum products come from powers and factions that may support terrorism with some of that money.  These powers and factions often become involved in wars that drag us into the melee because we are addicted to their product for which many of us cannot live without due to our societal dictated and manufactured purchasing choices so we are forced to fight in their wars in order to keep the oil flowing to feed our sickening dependency.

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We are shamefully and totally hooked on oil.

Last but not least there is the environmental damage and degradation caused by the mining, shipping, refining and burning of petroleum (and all) fossil fuels.  We have been burning petroleum as our primary liquid fuel and coal as our primary solid fuel for a little over a century and in that very short time we have polluted our planet’s oh so very fragile atmosphere, oceans and wildlife with toxic compounds from oil spills and copious amounts of carbon dioxide–a naturally occurring and harmless gas when in “normal levels” but when in excessive levels it becomes a potent “greenhouse gas” with disastrous effects on life on earth.   It is true that CO2 has positive properties when in “normal levels.”   If you think back you learned of this in your high school biology class.  You will remember that it’s positive properties are;   1. It allows plants to grow and via photosynthesis create oxygen as a byproduct so animals like puppies and kittens, bunnies and whales, and you and me get to live.     2. Another one of its positive properties is that when it is in the form of atmospheric CO2 it traps heat like a blanket on a bed.  This heat trapping ability allows the atmosphere of the earth to stay warm enough for life to exist and that my dear reader is a good thing in every way.

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Source NASA

However, due to the continued and rapid burning of fossil fuels (petroleum, coal, and natural gas) what we are doing to the planet is so far above anything that could be ever considered “normal levels” that the planet’s ecosystems are unable to cope with the influx of high levels of carbon pollution and in turn it the climate has begun to heat up.  It is as if we are adding more blankets to our bed without thinking about how hot it is going to get and how hard it will be to remove the blankets.  This process has often been called “global warming” but a more accurate term that better describes the problem would be anthropogenic climate change.  This is climate change caused by things we humans do to the planet such as burning fossil fuels.  If you would like a good visual of how this works consider the following video by one of my heroes – Bill Nye “The Science Guy.”

It is time for a big change. 

Enter the Electric Vehicle

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A Tesla Model S

Or, on the other hand I could drive an EV and pay the much lower cost for the electricity subscription, support the hard working Americans that build the cars (in the case of Nissan, Chevy, Ford, Tesla, Apple, Faraday Future and more) mine the coal, install and maintain the solar arrays, wind turbines, hydro-electric and nuclear power plants that provide my car with power to move down the road. The simple fact is that the electricity supply chain is much shorter and more efficient than the petroleum supply chain. In the area where I live, the mountains of western North Carolina, the power used to fuel an EV (and a house) is produced locally by a combination of coal, gas, solar, wind and hydro power plants so is therefore MUCH cleaner than any petroleum product will ever be.  (Read the true facts about EV’s here: https://bluewaterleaf.wordpress.com/2016/01/05/just-the-facts/ )

KUWAIT. US soldiers and helicopters in front of burning oil fields. 1991.

KUWAIT. US soldiers and helicopters in front of burning oil fields. 1991.

The human cost of driving EV is also MUCH more positive in that foreign wars do not need to be fought over their fuel source–electricity–since it is produced domestically, locally and in some cases on your own property!  If you have the means to install solar panels or some other form of renewable energy on your property you could easily power your home and EV(s) with clean, unlimited, renewable energy for free (after the cost of the system).

That my friend is brilliant!

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Charging up my Leaf at a local solar-electric EV charging station on the campus of UNCA in Asheville, NC. 

The sad fact is that now, in many states such as Florida and in my home state of North Carolina, our state government is hell bent on destroying renewable energy development despite the fact that NC is near the top in the nation for new solar installations which, if allowed to continue to grow, our energy grid would continue to get cleaner with each renewable energy installation and in turn the carbon footprint of our homes and our EV’s would just get smaller.  There is absolutely no logical reason this kind of backward action should ever be allowed to happen yet our lawmakers and politicians seem to be simply backward thinking Luddites who fear anything new and fear positive change especially when it means good paying jobs, a cleaner environment, and equal rights for all people.  If we ever want to progress and if we ever want to break our addiction to fossil fuels we MUST get the fossil fuel fired old fossils out of office and replace them with science minded, educated, caring people who think toward the future and want to make good and lasting change happen for everyone.  That change will only happen if we do our research,  speak out, vote, and get active.

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The BMW i3 EV

Either way and whatever car I choose to drive I will always have to pay the subscription to dependency to drive and power the thing…however, I choose the EV because it has a much lower subscription cost* and a much smaller environmental, human and future impact cost and that is as important to me as is the money. *I drive an average of 200 miles/week and my Nissan Leaf EV costs me only about $7-10/week in electricity!!

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However, something else to consider is that the EV may initially cost a bit more than the gas car so therefore I may need to finance the EV and go into debt. Yuck…yet another subscription to dependency. However, by buying the EV I would, from day one, have more money in my pocket since I have no gas, oil or maintenance costs typically associated with gas powered vehicles (especially used cars) so…all that money that I would have pumped into the gas tank and crankcase and then burned up and spewed into our shared atmosphere (to the determent of my loved ones, wildlife, the earth and future generations) can now be used to pay off the car loan 🙂

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In conclusion; my sleuthing, science and number crunching all allow me to come to the conclusion that I would rather pay for the financing on the EV than drive a lower initial cost yet high operational, high environmental cost, petroleum powered car…but that is my logic, and everyone’s logic is colored and molded by their knowledge, research and experiences so you can take it with a grain of salt if you wish.

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The Nissan eNV200 100% electric small van.

The Roadblocks

Do not believe the fossil fuel fed naysayers who have spent millions on manufactured lies, false advertising through mainstream media outlets and propaganda campaigns (online and on TV) that try to say electric vehicles are dirtier to operate than their petroleum powered counterparts–none of these stories are true.

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The oil soaked Koch brothers are some of the worst EV bashers who are spending millions in the attempt to make EV’s and renewable energy look bad.  We must do all in our power to end their assault of outright lies against science.  

Even in the dirtiest states with the blackest, coal fired grids, an EV powered by 100% coal produced electricity (which is rare now with all the new wind and solar farms going online all the time) is still much cleaner than any gasoline powered vehicle ever will be (especially Volkswagen’s “clean diesels” or any diesel for that matter) and, because the electricity it uses to push it down the road is generated domestically by Americans – it supports American jobs and does not support foreign wars and terrorism…and that is a really good thing.  Furthermore, there are those who will say “what happens to the battery when it reaches the end of its life? It must be toxic waste and more dangerous than the emissions generated over the life of a gas powered car?!?!  Answer,  this is simply more lies and fabrications designed by those who want to keep you addicted to petroleum fuels.  The truth is that the lithium-ion batteries that drive an EV are 100% recyclable.  Before they are recycled they are often used as back up power supplies for computer data centers and soon even houses just like a back up generator.   (Learn more true facts about EV’s here: https://bluewaterleaf.wordpress.com/2016/01/05/just-the-facts/ )

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The 215 mile range Tesla Model 3 will be hitting the roads very soon!

The future

With Chevrolet and Tesla soon to be releasing new EV’s with a 200+ mile driving range, and Nissan releasing their plans to release a redesigned Leaf with 200+ mile range but they have not revealed the release date, (and hopefully they will also release a 200 mile range small van that would be a game-changer!  Check out the story I wrote about it here on this blog: https://bluewaterleaf.wordpress.com/2015/10/25/the-env200-nissan-electric-van-where-and-when-is-it-for-the-usa-market/ ) all with prices in the $30-35k range (before the $7500 government tax incentive) Soon, the issue of “range anxiety” is going to be a thing of the past and we will all have no logical excuse to keep driving our dirty old gas guzzlers.  16volt

The 2016 Chevrolet Volt

I truly believe the day is coming very soon when kids will look to their parents and say “Mom, dad – why are you driving that dirty old gas guzzler when you could save so much money, have a great car, and protect my health and future by driving an EV?”  and ” I want my first car to be all electric!” ( I already hear that from students in my middle and high school science classes all the time 🙂  Then there’s this very encouraging article from England:  http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/most-british-teenagers-expect-their-first-car-be-electric-1524811

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The Nissan IDS concept…is this the new Leaf or something more!?

Soon, I believe within 3-5 years, the choice will be ours to go electric and support a clean, healthy war-free future for us all or…digress and remain in the past while denying the science and refusing to accept the inevitable truth that driving EV is just a better and more economical way to drive for everyone, for the planet and for the future.

What path will you choose?

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

 

Just the Brakes

 

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In the fall of 2015 I noticed the Leaf’s brakes acting unusual at low speeds.  As I was slowing down at speeds below 30 mph the brakes would grab and slow the car in an inconsistent manner.  It was as if there was a sticky substance on the brake rotors causing them to grab intermittently and very briefly, slowing the rotation of the brake rotors making for an uncomfortable ride.  This problem came and went at random- the only factors that were consistent were;

it always happened at speeds below 30 mph

it was more frequent in cold or wet weather

it was always random

When the issue first started I promptly called Jennifer in the service department of Anderson Nissan in Asheville, NC where I regularly have my car serviced, to get the issue investigated…unfortunately, she informed me that the service department was closed for a day or so while they were having their floors resurfaced so my only option was to take the Leaf to the Hunter Nissan service department in nearby Hendersonville, NC for the check up.  Upon arrival at Hunter I dropped my Leaf off in the service department and browsed the lot while I waited for a report.

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My Leaf at Hunter waiting to be checked out…it is very dirty due to the constant rains associated with the powerful 2015-16 ElNino

Soon, I found myself checking out the details of an NV200 small cargo van and shortly thereafter a wonderful sales associate ( I wish I could remember his name) introduced himself and we were off taking a test drive in the NV200.

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The test drive and conversation with the salesman was wonderful but obviously I had no intention on buying an NV200 because it is powered by the wrong fuel for my needs…gasoline.

12190057_10207024051892475_5148828535035350589_n The reason I test drove it was to try to get an idea what the electric version of this small van might be like to drive.   Th electric version is the eNV200 and it is powered by the very same battery-electric drive-train found in the Leaf.  My test drive was wonderful, with the NV200 driving surprisingly well for a small van…it really felt like I was driving a car.  However, I do not believe it is a good comparison with the eNV200 because truthfully, from my point of view as an EV owner – it was noisy, vibrated, and smelled a bit odd.  Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking down the NV200 at all, it is a very capable vehicle and all those things I mentioned are status quo for gas powered vehicles.  In my defense I suppose I am a bit more sensitive to these things because I have been driving electric almost every day now for 2.5 years so I guess you could say I’m a bit biased since my conversion to the wonderful all electric Nissan Leaf.  In fact, thanks to Nissan who is leading the way in the world of electric vehicles, I’m a total convert to driving electric.  So much so in fact that I will eventually divest from gasoline totally and the path to make that happen for me is the eNV200.  If Nissan ever decides to bring it to the USA I will be the first to own one and will use it as the company vehicle in my nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation and conservation and renewable energy education organization Earthshine Nature Programs.  I’m sure the eNV200 is an even capable vehicle than the NV200 due to its lower center of gravity, higher low end torque, virtually silent drive-train, and much lower operating costs.

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Sadly however, the game changing all electric version of this wonderful small van is currently only available in Europe and Japan and there is no word from Nissan when or if they have plans to bring it to the USA.

I feel so passionate about this vehicle becoming a reality in the USA that I recently authored a blog post on this amazing van and how I believe Nissan should get to work on bringing it to the USA as soon as possible.  In my opinion, if they do not, they are missing out on a really great opportunity found in the thousands of large and small business owners, Uber, Lyft and taxi drivers that would jump at the chance to lower their overhead, make a difference, and drive clean, green, EV vans on their daily routes in cities, towns, and in the countryside of the USA.

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Maybe one day soon, Nissan will decide to bring the eNV200 to the USA and offer it for sale alongside the best selling EV on the planet –

the 100% electric, zero emission Nissan Leaf.

Until that time I will continue to drive my Leaf and love every gas free mile.

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Charging up at a BrightfieldTS solar charging station in Asheville, NC. 

After the test drive I had a nice chat with some of the Nissan employees about the eNV200, Leaf, IDS concept and the future of EV’s in general.

Then I received the message that my car was ready and I was told that they could not duplicate the problem…interesting?

I knew the problem was there because I had experienced it but Nissan’s own service technicians could not find any issues…and apparently their diagnostics did not reveal any issues either…reminds me of when you finally get in to see the doctor…and the symptoms are gone.  Murphy’s law.

I drove off the lot a bit frustrated with the situation but since there was nothing I could do about it I went on with my day.

A few weeks later I found myself in Asheville, NC pulling up to a CHAdeMO DCQC to grab a charge when out of the blue the car exhibited the odd braking symptoms again!  This time I was ready for it and had installed a LeafSpy Pro app on my smartphone coupled with a Konnwei KW902 OBDII Bluetooth adapter (read more about it on the Electric Vehicle Wiki.) This device allows me to monitor the Leaf’s systems at a glance and, at the push of a button, scan all of the car’s systems for error codes (see below photo for an example of how LeafSpy Pro reads Diagnostic Trouble Codes. Note, these codes are not from my car, I found this photo on the LeafSpyPro app page in the Google Play Store.)

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As soon as the Leaf’s brakes started acting up I rolled to a stop and hit the Leaf Spy only to discover all systems were green and operating perfectly – save for the BCM that was throwing out an error code.  I promptly called Anderson Nissan and informed Jennifer of the issue.  She said that I should get the Leaf to her ASAP.  I agreed with her because as I see it – if there is a both a physically detectable and technologically documented problem in the braking system of you car, putting things off is never a safe option.

I was only about 5 miles from Anderson Nissan so off I went and soon I was rolling through the big bay doors and onto the beautiful, newly finished service room floor.  Jennifer was there to greet me and after she gathered the required information she informed me that the 3 year/36k mile basic warranty on the car had expired within the last few days and that the braking system was no longer covered by the warranty…bummer.

She said however that since I had documented the problem almost two months before and had been a loyal customer of the Anderson Nissan Service Department since I had purchased the Leaf, that she would contact corporate and see about getting the part covered in “good faith” but the only catch was that it may take several days to get an answer from Nissan HQ.  I had no issues with waiting because Jennifer and team quickly had me a loaner car – the pretty, new Nissan Altima in the photo below.

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I drove off leaving the Leaf behind thinking I would see it again in a few days…but that was not the case because Mr. Murphy is always ready and waiting to pull out his law and make life a bit more complicated for us all.

A few days later I spoke with Jennifer and learned that Nissan had agreed to cover the cost of the brake master cylinder and booster assembly as well as the Intelligent Brake Control Module (IBCM) under a good faith agreement.  The only cost to me was going to be for the use of the loaner car that had now become a rental.  This was great news to me especially when I found out the cost of the OEM components would have been $2000!!  Ouch!!

THANK YOU NISSAN and THANK YOU JENNIFER!!  

Later, I did some quick research online and found a used OEM unit for $265 which I would have opted for had Nissan not been able to cover the parts under warranty.  I’m a teacher and do it yourself mechanic and would find covering a $2000 repair bill out of the question unless there was absolutely no other way.  Luckily, that was not needed as Nissan agreed to cover the parts…whew!  I am very glad I did not need to install used parts in my Leaf just yet because the car is still covered under its 5yr/60k mile power-train and 96 month/100k mile drive battery warranty so during that time I do not want to use anything but new OEM parts if possible for fear of voiding any part of the warranty.  I may be overly cautious with this but I feel it is better to err on the side of caution in these matters.

Jennifer then said that the parts needed to fix Elektra were not going to be in for several more days. I was fine with this as I had the now rental car but the issue was that I needed to go out of town on important family business and had no other option but drive the Altima.  She said I could take the rental car out of town so on the road I went…WOW!  Nissan and Jennifer are even more AWESOME!!

A week later I returned from my out of town trip, borrowed a car and, and returned the Altima – which by the way gets amazing fuel economy – it averaged around 40 mpg for the entire time I had it!  When I dropped off the Altima I learned from Jennifer that the parts were in transit and should be installed by the end of the week.  At the same time I snapped this pic of Elektra looking lonely in a parking lot full of gas powered cars.

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A few days later I spoke with Jennifer again and she said the parts were going to be installed on Saturday!  Woo Hoo!! Below is a pictorial timeline of the removal of Elektra’s faulty braking system components and the installation of the new parts.

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In the middle of surgery to remove the defective parts

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The defective parts removed. Note the hole in the top center looking into the cabin of the car.  This is where the brake master cylinder/booster assembly bolts to the bulkhead. 

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The defective components 

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The shiny new components

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The surgery is complete!

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On the road again! (Yes, the little Nissan Leaf is surprisingly agile in the snow!)  

A huge thank you NissanHQ, Anderson Nissan, Jennifer, Marlon, the Leaf technician that performed the “surgery,” and the other players behind the scenes that all worked together to get my Leaf back on the road as painlessly and as fast as possible and for helping me make this blog posting happen for all those out there that are interested in learning about driving the all electric Nissan Leaf (and hopefully one day soon, the eNV200 van!)

20160118_175001   Awesome, friendly, service from Jennifer, Marlon and crew!

Very well done!

(…they even washed it and fully charged it!!!)

Until next time…

“Plug into the future!”

Blue water leaf is not affiliated or responsible for any ads that may appear below this line.

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A Nissan Leaf Misadventure

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Part One: Setting the Stage

In mid November 2015 I was faced with a situation.

I had the opportunity to attend a science education workshop at the SciWorks science museum north of Winston Salem, NC almost 200 miles from my home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina.

This workshop was important to me for not only the knowledge I would gain but also in the hours that I could use to further the completion of my North Carolina Environmental Educator’s Certification.

The only issue was that my wife was out of town with our long range ICE powered vehicle so I was forced to make a decision – miss the class or drive the Leaf on the almost 400 mile round trip.

It was an easy decision – I like a challenge so I decided to drive the Leaf.

But first I would need to do some research to be sure that I would be able to make the trip without much difficulty.

Factor One – The Route

After comparing the charging station map on Plugshare.com with the distance and elevation maps on mapmyride.com I came up with this map…

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Green = Level 1&2 EVSE and Orange=level 3 EVSE 

As you can see there would be no issues getting from Brevard to Black Mountain – I have done it many times when I have attended the Leaf Festival (it has nothing to do with the Nissan Leaf).  However, between Black Mountain and Hickory there is not a single EV charging station to be found so I dubbed this section of the route – “The Wasteland.”  I felt almost positive that I could make the crossing of this stretch of highway without any issues and then continue on to my destination.  My resolve to attempt this run was strengthened after my friend and fellow Leaf owner Rudy completed this same route in his Nissan Leaf a few weeks prior.  In fact, Rudy’s adventure took him much further than I was going to go – all the way to Chapel Hill – so his accomplishment gave me inspiration to tackle the shorter drive to Winston Salem.

What I failed to factor into my calculations was that “Murphy’s Law” always has a way of throwing unforeseen factors into the mix that often result in undesirable outcomes of which you will read all about in the play-by-play I have outlined for you below…

Factor Number Two – The Car

I drive a 2012 Nissan Leaf SL.  It measures available range only in mileage, not in percent of charge remaining as all newer Leaf’s so nicely do. Many owners of this, and earlier model Leaf’s, refer to the estimated mileage range meter as the Guess-O-Meter or GOM which calculates potential range remaining based on many constantly changing factors such as speed, elevation, temperature, accessories being used, and more.

I routinely drive my Leaf in ECO mode in order to conserve as much power as possible so all mileage reports in this document will be for ECO mode unless otherwise noted.

My Leaf has 31k miles on the odometer and it has recently lost its first battery capacity bar.

Factor Three – The Driver

Remember Melville’s story about the white whale…well, in the past I have often looked at driving long distances in my leaf as sort of my “white whale” so to speak.  In all other instances I have defeated my whale and always made it to my chosen destination and back using meticulous research, planning, knowledge, driving skills, and a bit of luck I suppose…and fortunately without the undesirable consequences Captain Ahab encountered fighting his whale.  On this trip however, due to errors of miscalculation on my part – the whale almost wins.

The Drive

Day one 11/13/15

Home. 8:30 am. o miles driven. I left home with  a full charge and  77 miles on the GOM.

Mills River. 9:00 am.  I stopped for a car wash to remove the dirt and grime built up from the last week and a half of constant rains.  Not only would the car look nice for the trip but the clean, shiny, paint would hopefully help the car slip through the air a little bit better thereby lowering my drag coefficient resulting in a bit better energy economy…that was my theory anyway.

Asheville. 10:20 am.   26 miles driven,  41 miles remaining on GOM. I made it to my first charging location of the DCQC CHAdeMO unit on the campus of Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College where I plugged into the massive Eaton Level 3 charging unit and filled up the Leaf up to 80% and 82 miles of range on the GOM before heading out to Black Mountain.

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DCQC View

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Leaf View

Black Mountain.  12:37 am.   17 miles driven, 44 miles remaining on GOM. At this point I was farther east that I had ever been in my little electric car.  I plugged into the Level 2 GE Watt station and waked about a block into the middle of the quaint little mountain town and found a bar and grille style restaurant called the Ale House where I had a great lunch.  After lunch I headed back to a fully charged Leaf with 72 miles of range so I pointed the car to the east.

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The only way to get out of the mountains from Black Mountain,  without undue difficulty and copious amounts of time, is to take interstate 40 east over the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge escarpment –  a massive wall of a mountain that drops from around 2800 feet above sea level to around  1400  feet in just  a few miles.

2:00pm. After leaving Black Mountain with a full charge and getting on interstate 40 I headed up to the gap in the ridge where I found that had only 54 miles of range remaining due to the high speed climb up from Black Mountain.  54 miles of range was nowhere near enough to cross “The Wasteland” – that close to 70 mile gap from Black Mountain to Hickory where not a single EV charging station can be found… but I threw caution to the four winds, trusted the science and the car’s technology and my “hyper-mileing” skills…and down I plunged off the edge of the mountains and into the foothills bound for the Piedmont. Then, after dropping over the escarpment – gravity, mass, and momentum coupled with the ingenious science of the regenerative breaking system in the little EV worked together to totally top off the car’s battery upon reaching the bottom!! Wow! The Leaf’s regenerative breaking system had filled the battery all the way back up to full even though the cruise control was set to 60 mph for the entire run down the escarpment–amazing!  I then set my sights on Hickory in the distance, set the cruise to 65mph,  turned up the stereo, and off I went.

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Hickory.   3:58pm.    63 miles driven,  3 miles remaining on GOM!!  WOO HOO!!  I made it across the wasteland without stopping!!! I rolled into Hickory with only 3 miles of range remaining on the Leaf—now that was close, the lowest I have ever drawn down the Leaf….but I made it across “The Wasteland” at 65 mph!

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Now I’m sitting here at Crossroads Nissan plugged into their CHAdeMO quick charger and will be getting back on the road soon to Statesville. I love my car!!

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Statesville.  4:58pm.   35  miles driven.  25 miles remaining on GOM!! Made it with no issues. Going to go find food while Elektra suckles the grid from the Level 2 charger at Classic Nissan.  Wandered inside to talk to the friendly sales staff and drool over the NV200 delivery van (hopefully soon to be sold in the USA as the eNV200 fully electric small van of which I will one day have for my nonprofit company’s education outreach and wildlife rescue vehicle–read all about it in one of my recent postings.)

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Statesville. 7:15pm.  Still in Statesville…walked a few blocks down the street for some carnitas and chorizo tacos…car still charging…slowly…seems like this L2 is a bit under-powered…

After an 8:00 departure with around 60 miles available range I headed east on I-40 bound for SciWorks science museum north of Winston Salem where I planned to camp for the night.

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West Winston-Salem.  9:00pm.  46 miles driven.   12 miles remaining on GOM!!  Made it as far as a Microtel…only about 12 miles short of my destination…just too tired to keep going…been a long day and the Leaf was down to 12 miles of range…and it was dark…and the territory was unfamiliar…so I didn’t want to try to push the envelope like I did earlier crossing the “Wasteland” so I found a hotel on Plugshare where a user stated that they had successfully charged via a 110 outlet on the back of the building…so I booked a room and plugged into the outlet for the night. All in all it has been a successful but long day. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

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My outlet for the night…I hope nobody unplugs the Leaf!

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Day 2

8:29 am.  Had a decent nights rest at the Microtel and the Leaf charged at L1 for the entire night but only made it to around 75% charge. No problem however since my destination for this morning is the CHAdeMO DCQC at Modern Nissan just a few miles north of the city.

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North Winston-Salem.  7:20am.    12 miles driven.   37 miles remaining on GOM!! The drive to Modern Nissan was short and uneventful. I decided to feed the car first but had to squeeze my Leaf into the space that was partially ICE’d (blocked by a gas powered vehicle).

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It is charging now so I have some time to ponder the insanity of my surroundings – several older Nissan gas powered vehicles sit in various stages of repair from decades old to shiny new…almost all of them ICE powered… here I sit, charging my all electric intergalactic spacepod of light and wonder (not to be confused with the Intergalactic Spaceboat of Light and Wonder) from yet another technological wonder, the charger…that is unflatteringly installed on top of several wooden pallets and hidden in a remote corner as if they really couldn’t care any less. The people running this establishment and reading these words may not see as I do but as far as I am concerned, the future of passenger transportation is, no, must be the fully electric car powered by renewably generated electricity. There is no other way to get us out of this fossil fired mess we are in.  If I was Nissan I would have the DCQC installed prominently out in front of their facility for all to see and would be promoting their EV’s with more gusto….then again, there is the 2nd generation Leaf, the eNV200, and this to look forward to.
Meanwhile, the maintenance staff that has just arrived seems to not share my views as they were all driving large, noisy, modified ICE vehicles that looked like they either had just driven off the set of one of those childish fossil fired Fast and Furious movies or were built to survive an apocalyptic  zombie hoard…the one sad thing they all had in common was the huge and loud exhaust pipes. Do they even have any clue about the brilliance of driving electric? I doubt it.

8:15am Even with the range limitations I still love my car….it just finished charging so time for me to go get some fuel for myself now…off to the Waffle House.

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Sci-Works. 8:59am.  3 miles driven. After a great Waffle House breakfast I made it to my destination of SCI-WORKS with 66 miles remaining on the GOM.

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Modern Nissan. 5:04pm. After a great day of science education I departed SciWorks and headed back to Modern Nissan to top off the battery before   heading west to Hickory where I will flop at my sister’s place for the night!

Salisbury.  6:57pm.   41 miles driven.   15 miles remaining on GOM!!  I decided to detour to the newly installed Greenlots DCQC in Salisbury for a quick charge while I forage for sustenance on main street… salisbury11.15.15

8:52pm.  While the Leaf was fast charging I wandered down a nearby alley to main street, turned left, and found a great Italian restaurant where I had a wonderful vegetarian calzone before getting underway once again.

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Statesville. 9:50pm.  25miles driven,  31 miles remaining on GOM!!  I made the short run to Statesville where I was not planning to stop but once I hit the city limits and saw the 30 miles of range remaining on the GOM I felt that it was prudent to grab a short charge before pushing on to my sisters place in the backwoods north of Hickory.

Naptime…

10:15pm. The L2 has brought the estimated range up to 60 miles.  Time to set out on the 41 mile trek to my sisters home north of Hickory.  It will all be secondary roads so the drive should be easy and uneventful…

11:00 pm. My sister’s house somewhere north of Hickory.  41 miles driven, 6 miles remaining on GOM!!!  Made it to my sister’s house around 11pm…with 6 miles of range remaining!!  Good thing I decided to charge in Statesville!  During the charge and subsequent non stop 60 mph 41 mile drive in the country, the temperatures bottomed out around 28f so it is possible that temperature+speed+headlight use+hilly terrain may have been the combined factors that drained the leaf’s battery so fast on this leg of the journey…but I did make it.

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I pulled out the extension cord and plugged into a 110v outlet beside the porch and quickly fell asleep on the couch…

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The next morning

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Day three.

9am. This morning the sun cracked over a frosty morning with temps around 25F and a Leaf charged up only to around 65%. I set out on the 14 mile run to the CHAdeMO unit at the Hickory Nissan dealership that I visited on Friday…

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Hickory Nissan dealership.   9:45am.  14 miles driven.   35  miles remaining on GOM!  At the dealership now charging up as much as possible and planning my route back across “The Wasteland” and then up, up, up the escarpment to my mountain home.

Truthfully, I’m more worried about this leg than any other part of the journey due to the cold temps last night and gradual elevation gain possibly forcing me to stop and trickle charge somewhere in “The “Wasteland”…only time will tell.

10:15am – This quick charge seems to be slower than usual…must be the cold…

Marion. 12:30 pm.   45 miles driven.    7 miles remaining on GOM!

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I rolled into Marion around 12:30 pm…with only 7 miles of range remaining! I feared this might happen and here I am – that damn Murphy again.  After driving around looking for an outlet and not having much luck and then being turned down by two different small business owners-despite offering to pay them for the electricity – I finally found a place to trickle charge–at the Smokey Que BBQ restaurant.  I plugged in and let my car trickle charge while I filled up on a nice lunch of grilled catfish and veggies.

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As I ate I calculated just how long it would take to charge the car enough to make the climb up the steep escarpment. At level 1 trickle charge, since there are no L2 charging stations in “The Wasteland,” the remaining distance to the L2 charger in Black Mountain was only about 18 miles away but I needed to factor in not only the distance but the elevation gain up the escarpment and increased speed of interstate driving, so by my rough calculations I would need around a 75% charge to safely get me there with some juice to spare…and to do that in my current charging situation (or lack thereof) I would need to wait for the car to charge for about 8 hours…!

CRIKEY!!

I thought about all of my options and there were only two.

Option 1. Wait for 8 hours then drive to Black Mountain, charge at L2 for about an hour, then make for the DCQC at AB and charge up to 80% and then head home – this option would take me the most time putting me home at probably 1am…but it would also allow me to do the entire trip on electricity so I would have again killed the “white whale” and have some really awesome bragging rights 🙂

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Option 2. I could forget my pride and let the whale win for once.  Nissan offers, with all EV purchases (at least for now), the option of calling roadside assistance for a tow in the event an EV owner cannot make it to their destination due to either running out of a charge or a lack of charging station infrastructure…my current situation definitely qualified as lack of charging station infrastructure and would have been both had I continued without plugging into the restaurant.  I decided to make the decision that I never thought I would need to make – I called Nissan’s roadside assistance and asked for a lift.  The operator was very helpful and professional and soon the driver called me back and said it would take him 2 hours before he could get to my location so I pulled out my new Bill Nye book and read a few chapters while I waited.

After reading for awhile I took a walk and soon found myself chatting with the restaurant’s owner who seemed very open and interested in the possibility of installing a Level 2 charging station at his business.  If he did so he would not only put his business and town on the navigation systems of every EV in the region but he would also remove “The Wasteland” from the maps and make the drive to the “High country” that much more open to electric vehicles.  My challenge to all local EV drivers that are reading this – please, if you ever find yourselves in Marion, make it a point to stop by the Smokey Que BBQ and let the manager know how much an electric vehicle charging station would open up his business and his town to the future–and maybe he will see fit to be the first to do so.

About 1.5 hours later I decided I had enough juice to make the 12 mile drive to Old Fort where it would be easier to meet the tow closer to the interstate so I called the driver to let him know I was moving a few miles up the road.

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He soon met me in Old Fort and I snapped this pic of the Leaf being loaded onto the flatbed with Black Mountain looming overhead in the background.  At first I regretted having to make the call but later decided that it was a a good test of Nissan’s roadside assistance and I soon discovered that Nissan’s service was smooth, seamless and well orchestrated and if you are an EV owner it is there to help you should you ever need it.  Well done Nissan!  However, with proper planning you should never need to call for a tow.

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The view from the cab of the flatbed as we made our way up the escarpment…

While Nissan’s roadside assistance for EV owners is a complimentary service and my piggyback ride up the mountain was 100 free of cost to me –it was not free of fossil fuel due to the rollback being diesel powered.  So this one heavy hauler diesel fired trip most likely negated most if not all the electric driving I had done over the last three days – what a total let down 😦  

Live an learn.

The driver soon dropped us off at the AB Technical Community College’s DCQC – the first and last charging stop of the trip.  I plugged in and charged up to 80% in 22 minuets and headed home.

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Home.  8:15pm. Finally, back at the old home place after an epic 427 mile EV driving and charging adventure that I do not want to repeat anytime soon.

FINAL NOTES

-I only spent $6 on electricity for this entire 427 mile round trip while driving the Leaf.  Try that in a gas/diesel vehicle.  Had I completed the entire trip without the help from the tow the trip would have been closer to 450 miles…but that is water under the bridge.

-Most of the greenhouse gasses saved by driving the Leaf on this journey were most likely negated by calling for the diesel powered ride up the mountain.

-Detailed trip planning is very important.

-The 2012 Leaf is a wonderful machine in almost every way but it is just not a long-range-at-highway-speeds vehicle.  However, if you have access to EVSE charging infrastructure including DC quick chargers spaced about every 50 miles…then it would be doable…although a bit more time consuming.

-Level 1 “trickle” charging is unbelievably, painfully, SLOW!  Do it at night while you are sleeping or while you are working.

-Electric cars will often force you to slow down and stop and smell the roses, taste the food, drink the ale, and generally enjoy life a little bit more.  This can be very good for business in towns that have charging infrastructure located at or near local businesses.

-Some see an adventure like this as just that–a grand, forward thinking adventure–even with the anxiety that is often inherent with new technologies.  Others see it as an impractical waste of time or a massive hindrance–I would be in the former.

-EV battery technology needs to be drastically improved so that EV’s can regularly go over 200 miles on one charge.

-From my experience on this and other long range EV adventures in my Nissan Leaf, as far as I am concerned – even with their limitations (and there are not many) – battery electric EV’s are going to play a major role in the future of automotive transportation.

When will plug in battery electric vehicles begin to dominate the roads?  I believe it will happen when all of the factors listed below fall into place;

Battery technology develops to increase range to around 200-300miles/charge.

Charging stations get fast enough to charge an EV to 80% in 10 minuets.

Fast charging infrastructure is more widely developed to fill in the gaps on the maps.

A wider variety of makes and models of BEV’s are offered that appeal to a wider range of buyers.  This should include passenger cars, pick-up trucks, delivery vans, motorcycles and luxury super-cars.

More people take a ride in or drive an EV and experience the freedom and joy of driving electric.

From all the hype it looks like 2018 may be the year of the EV if all of the rumors hold true.  I suppose we will just have to wait and see.

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In the meantime – watch out for white whales.

 

Chapel Hill and Back Without a Drop of Gas. By Guest blogger Rudy Singh

“Chapel Hill and back without a drop of gas,” I exclaimed, walking through the door, after traveling from Asheville to Chapel Hill in the electric vehicle.   With a “range” of only 85 miles, traversing 500 miles in two days was a significant good achievement.   Gone were the days of “range anxiety” as I had mapped out the trip to the last mile.

Two days earlier, after dropping my child to school I headed to Black Mountain. Opposite the visitor center there are two J1772 chargers. Attached to one charger was a red Model S from Georgia. No doubt they were on a road trip. It looked like they had left it there overnight as the screen on the unit indicated “charge complete” with a charge time of 10 hours. I had a mind to pull out the charger from their car in case someone else needed to charge, but decided not to lest they were offended.

Knowing the car would require a few hours on the Level 2, I needed something to do. I strolled downtown Black Mountain and found a café where I grabbed a coffee and bagel while settling into The Martian, by Andy Weir.   A friend recommended the story to me after hearing of my adventures on the trip to Atlanta!

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After 1 hour and 50 minutes, I returned to the chargers. The red Tesla was gone. My car had 98% charge and 90 miles. I then headed to Ridgecrest – the top of the grade.   Regenerative Braking is an aspect of EVs that is unparalleled in gas counterparts.   At Ridgecrest the meter read 80% and 77 miles.   By the time the car had wound down the 6% grade to Old Fort, the meter was at 83% and 85 miles – a gain of 3% in battery energy – more than 700 watt-hours of energy (about 2400 Btu). Tell me of a gas car that can gain fuel while driving!

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The next stop was Hickory, 62 miles from Black Mountain.

One of the disadvantages of electric cars (or me) is that on long trips I tend to drive the speed limit or less, attempting to maximize the range.     Thus, it seemed everyone on the highway was passing me. I drifted into strange thought patterns wondering why we were always in a hurry to get somewhere. I drifted to the past: The distance from Toronto to Montreal is about 550 km. In my college days I would boast: “It took me four and half hours” an average speed of 122 km/hour, way above the speed limit of 100km – and never a ticket!

Finally, I pulled into the Hickory dealership with 25% battery. I charged for 30 minutes (CHAdeMO) and left with 91% and 78 miles.

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By noon, I was in Statesville with 47% charge and 50 miles. I could have tried to venture to Winston Salem without charging, but the distance from Hickory to Winston Salem is 78 miles, plus the dive to the chargers. I felt this might have been stretching it somewhat since one wrong turn it would be trouble!

The dealership in Statesville had only Level 2 chargers.   A friendly sales girl told me where they were and tried to sell me a new Leaf as wellJ One hour later, Watney had almost destroyed the HAB and I left Statesville with the range meter read 77% SOC and 77 miles.

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The Winston Salem dealership is far off I40 to the north of the city on University Drive.   The CHAdeMO is located behind the service area. When I arrived a car was blocking the unit, but a nice worker noticed I wanted to charge and moved the car. Arriving with 25 miles and 27% charge, I left with 91% charge and 95 miles.   NASA had discovered Watney was alive.

Burlington was 53 miles away, however I entered the dealership with 40 miles and 40% SOC.   When I plugged into the CHAdemo, the unit showed an error. One of the employees tripped the unit off waited a few minutes and then put it back in.   I re-attached the vacuum plug and hit start. It worked! However, I noticed the battery was hot – 1 bar away from the critical zone.   Perhaps, the continuous draining and charging to over 80% SOC was heating it up. I hoped it would not hit the critical heat zone which could potentially damage the battery. I was tempted to take the vehicle through an underbody car wash to cool the pack, but luckily the “air cooled” system on the car worked keeping it below critical.   I finally arrived at Chapel Hill with 50 miles and 59% SOC. Watney had found the Pathfinder!

The trip back was a retrace of the forward journey with the exception of climbing the mountain at Old Fort. I had planned to charge at a campsite there and had travelled with my Level 2 charger from home to do so.

But, after leaving Hickory, 9 miles out of Old Fort, the sign read “Black Mountain 19 miles”. The car had 37 miles. Sure, a no-brainer, I could make it up without charging. As I entered the grade the meter read 25 miles. Up and up, the car made the hill admirable, but every mile of the 6% grade took away 2 from the meter. By the time I reached the top of the 5 mile grade the meter read 14 miles. Yes, Hickory to Black Mountain was possible using this EV with energy to spare! Having left Chapel Hill at 8:30 am, I arrived home at 5:30 pm, travelling 240 miles with 5 stops and not a drop of gas!   Did I mention that even the energy was free on this trip!   Tell me gas car that can do as much?

So there you have it. Long distance travel is possible with limited range electric vehicles. All it takes is patience and thought. If anyone tells you about the range of electric cars, you know what to tell them as Watney would: “&* &%(+ & $%^&$#%^!”

The reason for narrating this otherwise routine trip as a story is to being attention to a function what we all take for granted – travelling. Our addiction to oil over the last century and a half, while bringing a lot of positive growth has not been without extreme negative environmental and political consequences. While politicians clamor about spending and national debt, they tap into the non-renewable oil bank at alarming rates. In fact, if the US were to use only its reserves for our consumption, we would run dry within 3 to 5 years!   http://www.eia.gov/naturalgas/crudeoilreserves/

 

It seems that the advent of the electric car will revolutionize transportation and you all are all pioneers of this technology. I apologize to those of you who have not read or seen the Martian for some “spoiler” effect, but the novel seemed to fit well with this narrative.J

A Leaf Trip to Atlanta

By Guest Author Rudy Singh

“I think we have enough miles to reach Cornelia…” said Dad – were the words used by my daughter to start off her story about our trip to Atlanta with the Nissan Leaf.     Paying no attention to my wife’s warnings about heavy rain in Northeast Georgia, I left the Kia dealership Chademo in Gainesville with 77% charge. For some reason, the charger had shut down after twenty minutes, so I decided to venture on to Cornelia, about 22 miles away – a decision, I would somewhat regret later.

The trip down to Atlanta, GA two days previous had been long. However, we made it safely with only one anxious low battery moment – saved by the charger at a grocery store in north Gainesville, some 60 miles downhill from Clayton. Clayton was the weak link.   The Blink Chademo in Clayton, while looking beautiful was off line!   Instead, we relied on the adjacent Level 2 to bring us back up to 79% charge, while we ate dinner.

They say if you want to test the durability of something, give it the harshest conditions and see how it responds.   This was my motto as we left Asheville on a very stormy weekend. After picking up my daughter from school, with dog and stuff packed in we headed west for Waynesville, NC.   At the Greenlots Chademo on Depot Street, I topped off the Leaf to 90% and then headed on to Franklin, NC. I had estimated that there was enough battery energy to reach Clayton, GA. However, I had noticed a Level 2 charger on the Plug Share app at a Chevy dealership in Franklin. Perhaps we could pick a few more miles at the dealership just in case… The people at the dealership were very friendly. As I picked up a few more miles on the car, we chatted about the new Volt and GM’s electric truck.

The car drove like a dream the whole way, but we were relieved to reach Gainesville after a close call. We spent 40 minutes at the grocery charger and then headed 6 miles down the road to the Kia dealership where we bombarded the battery pack with fast moving electrons from the Chademo! After having to sit many hours at several Level 2 chargers, I sure appreciated these super fast chargers.

Hoping that the roads had not flooded, in pitch darkness we drove across Lake Lanier and entered Alpharetta around 11:30 pm. The trip had taken 9 hours – twice the time that it would usually take with an ICE car.   However, we had not used a drop of gas!

Atlanta is a hub of electric cars and charging stations – many more networks than I thought existed! For example, within a mile of our hotel, there was an nrg EVgo Chademo station at a AAA service station. The cost is high at $9 per half hour, but it was easy enough for me to go “gas up” to above 80% and come back for breakfast.

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With an 85 mile range (according to EPA), Leafs are not designed to travel long distances. But the purpose of this trip was two fold – to see if I could get to Atlanta and to visit the Tellus Museum in Cartersville, just north of Atlanta.   The museum was great!   The Dinosaur exhibit was incredible. But of special note was this:

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I had to touch the body of the great ancestor EV1! It was exhilarating!

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On the way back from Cartersville, we stopped at a pharmacy and took a few hours on yet another network: Sema Charge, while we perused the adjacent hardware store.

The weather projections for Sunday were heavy rain and wind – a perfect day to drive back home in an electric car! The trip back to Gainesville was uneventful and I thought we would make it back home pretty quickly – no problem. There were two Level 2 stations in Cornelia and if I needed to top off, I could do it there while we looked at the shops by the train depot.   At the Kia dealership in Gainesville, I lost signal on my phone and could not call Greenlots after the Chademo stopped charging.   With 77% charge, I was sure we could reach Cornelia to recharge enough for the trip to Clayton.

As we drove up Hwy 23 towards Cornelia, the rain was constant, but not heavy.   However, I did see some downed trees on the side of the highway.   As we exited onto Hwy 105 in Cornelia, there was spooky feeling.   The lights at the intersection were not working!   I started to drive towards the train depot and noticed that all of the lights were not working! Oh no! I needed to top off and there was no electricity. Even the big box store had closed its doors. Then there was Walt, the ex-Nissan salesman that I met in the parking lot. He informed me that two places down the road had power.   Perhaps they would share some – Not! They were operating on generator back-up and would not share an amp.

Thus, with rain pouring down and 30 miles left on the meter, we headed for Clayton, which was about 34 miles away. 10 miles further up, we saw a gas station with the sign, “last gas for 22 miles”. The car read 19 miles, but Clayton was 24 miles away. “We do not have any plugs outside” said the owner after I had seen a juicy 110 volt in the back of the station. Incidentally at the same gas station I met two students from the college. “Hi Professor” one student chirped. “What are you doing here?” I nonchalantly replied, not wanting to be obvious about my precarious situation. Boy, I was tempted to ask them to stay close and tow us to Clayton if necessary.   Instead I carped “Oh I drove my electric car to Atlanta and it was great!” Yeah right! I was about to run out of power and be stranded in the rain – in the middle of nowhere.

Range anxiety is not a myth and for a brief period on Sunday, I experienced this terrible feeling.   Driving much below the limit of 55mph, we chugged slowly up past Toccoa, which was out of power and then to Tallulah Falls. I vaguely remember seeing a station at the Tallulah Falls state park when my phone was working. Thus, with the blank lines across the range-meter on the dash, we entered the park not knowing how many miles were left. “We’re out of power as well.” said the Park Ranger. Crap – the drive up to the highway was at least a mile and I had about 2% charge left, having captured some energy on the way down. “But there is a private resort park close by that may have power. It’s about a mile down the road on the right and they just opened to the public!” On our way up the long state park driveway, we met a white Leaf. They were from Clayton, 10 miles away, the driver assured us. At the highway, we turned right and headed towards Clayton.

A mile down the road on the right we entered the resort campground.   “How much power do you need?” The nice lady at the desk enquired.   “There’s an outlet right behind the cabin.”

“Hallelujah”, she was our savior! Sure it was only 110 volt , but it was better than being stranded.   We thanked her plugged in and took a stroll through the park:

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The weather cleared up slightly and the campground was great place to spend a Sunday afternoon!

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Just after 4 o’clock we unplugged, and after promising to come back camping headed to Clayton 8 miles away. The range-meter read 15 miles and 12% SOC. However, the drive to Clayton was mostly uphill and that can really draw down the battery! Those were the longest 8 miles I have ever driven.   As we climbed, the meter kept dropping… We were not going make it. The first set of traffic lights into Clayton were far ahead and then the last bar disappeared! 0 and 0 – I was waiting for turtle mode!

We inched into Clayton still in green mode, hoping I remembered where to turn off to go to the station. Left on Savannah, right on Main, left by the restaurant – Ah! We had reached the Blink god in the parking lot!   Never again would I charge the car to less than 100%

It took 4 hours and twenty minutes to bring us back up to 99%. In the meantime, we ate dinner, had dessert and walked around the town. For the last few hours, my wife read her book, my daughter finished her homework and I reviewed some differential equations!  I also had a chance to fix the error with the Greenlots card, courtesy of wifi at the restaurant. An extreme sense of guilt overcame me for torturing my family with this EV obsession. Maybe a gas back up was not such a bad thing. No never – I am a purist!

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Out of “gas” in Clayton.

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A nice town to spend 4 hours in…

We left Clayton at about 8:50pm and with 99% charge, I was confident we could get back to Waynesville.

There are two main climbs on the way to Waynesville, Cowee Mountain between Franklin and Sylva and Balsam Mountain that takes you into Waynesville. Although, Cowee is a bear to climb, the Leaf handled it nicely and the car almost gained as much coming back down as it had lost going up. However, Balsam was a terror.   The rain started to pour and the road work made it hard to see — it seemed to never end! Finally, we passed under the Parkway and were home free.

Back to Depot Street in Waynesville, NC.   Unfortunately, the Chademo would not work. There was an error code.   Oh no – so close to home and yet so far!   The car had 29 miles, but we needed more to make it back to the north of Asheville.   Would we have to stay in Waynesville overnight?

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Depot Street in Waynesville.

Luckily, I was able to call the company this time.   The problem was the emergency stop button on the charger – somebody had pushed it in and forgot to reset it.   Thank goodness!

Around midnight we waltzed into our home having completed our maiden trip to Atlanta.   Yes, it was trying at times, but we had just completed a 400+ mile ride in 2 days though hostile gas country, with an 85 mile range electric car.   Not bad I say, not bad at all! Next trip: Chapel Hill:)

Life in a Leaf – a Nissan Leaf Adventure

In July of 2015 I documented a full weekend of travels in my 2012 Nissan Leaf.

I did this to show anyone and everyone interested in the Nissan Leaf, or in driving electric, just how I use this remarkable plug-in electric vehicle on a daily basis.

What you will see in the video is a typical summer weekend for me driving my Nissan Leaf EV.

All video footage was recorded by myself and friend Pierce Curren as we traveled between Brevard and Asheville North Carolina over July 4th weekend 2015.

Lengthy travel segments have been compressed using time-lapse techniques.

Enjoy.

Please visit Pierce’s Scaly Adventures and learn more about Pierce and his families mission to educate the world about the truth of wildlife, animals and the people that are working to conserve, protect and understand them via his true reality TV show Pierce’s Scaly Adventures.

Music by The Steep Canyon Rangers and Narayanaya used with permission.

Video by Steve O’Neil and Pierce Curren of Pierce’s Scaly Adventures.

Editing by Steve O’Neil of Earthshine Nature Programs.

 

Asheville Outlets throws switch on new EV charging stations!

On Saturday May 18, 2015, in honor of Earthday, the new Asheville Outlets held a grand opening ceremony for two new electric vehicle charging stations.

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These two new Chargepoint charging stations are located in the front parking area of the Asheville Outlets shopping complex at  800 Brevard Road in Asheville, NC.

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The event was hosted by Asheville Outlets management with several members of the Blue Ridge EV Club in attendance to mark this groundbreaking occasion.

Watch a video of the inauguration ceremony below.

Asheville Outlets will be opening to the public on May 01, 2015 and at that time they will be powering up two more Chargepoint Level 2 charging stations for EV drivers to use while visiting this beautiful new outlet mall.  All four charging stations will be free for use however, drivers will need a Chargepoint card to activate them.

This forward thinking move by Asheville Outlets reflects a growing trend among business owners, cities and towns all across the country.  This trend, as discovered by ChargePoint, is “the installation of an EV charging stations increases customer “dwell-time” significantly -by an average of 50 minutes per customer according to one business customer.”  The Sierra Club also recently reported that Small Businesses are Installing Electric Vehicle Charging Stations as a way to attract new and loyal customers.  It seems that the studies are showing that by installing EV charging stations customers will have more time to visit businesses and spend money in the local community and what is good for local businesses is good for the local community.  If you are a small business owner, local city planner, or official, you may want to consider the benefits of opening your businesses and your communities doors to EV drivers because it can only be good for business.

The next time you are passing through the Asheville area, please stop in and charge your EV at this new Chargepoint linked charging station and take the time to visit, shop, and dine at the new Asheville Outlets 🙂

Read more: Asheville Outlets to Unveil Electric Car Charging Station

Watch on the local news.