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…

winstonEVadventureElevations

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 🙂

or

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.

 

Changing the Cabin Filter in a 2012 Nissan Leaf

It had to happen eventually…routine maintenance.   I have been driving my Leaf now for over 30k miles and the little EV has required no specialized routine maintenance by me other than the occasional washing and vacuuming, a set of new windshield wiper blades, adding a little air to the tires, and the occasional topping off of the washer fluid – you know, the things you would need to do to any type of vehicular construct no matter its fuel source.

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Recently however the Leaf popped up a message on the infotainment/nav screen and informed me that it needed maintenance on its Air Conditioner Filter aka: cabin air filter.

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Below I have outlined the step by step method I used to change the filter.

  1. Remove the glove box in its entirety–a simple matter of removing a few screws and then gently pulling the unit down and toward the rear. (This does not need to be done if you are a contortionist and want to use the tiny plastic door located on the back left of the inside of the glove box).  This is a view with the glove box removed.  GBremoved

2. A look inside reveals the ECM – the “brains” of the beast – bolted to the bulkhead.

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3. Looking to the left of the ECM we see the air handler system.

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4. Note the white plastic cover (black in some model Leaf’s).  You will need to remove this to access the air filter. No tools are needed, just simply locate the tab on the bottom of the cover and lift outward to remove the cover to reveal the air filter.  Mine was overdue to be changed so there was an assortment of botanical debris collected around and on the forward side of the filter.

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5. Lift the flexible tab near the top of the filter (just above the word front in the above and below photos) and pull gently down and out to dislodge the top of the filter from its housing. Then pop out the bottom and the filter will slide out as in the next photo if you do it properly.

oldfilterout

6. Continue to slide the filter outward until it stops. You will then need to gently work the other side of the filter loose to get it out of the housing.  Once out, you can inspect it for damage and debris.

You may want to take a look inside the air handler box to make sure all is clean and debris free.  This is the inside of mine…

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The old and new filters compared side by side. The old one (30k miles) is on the left.  The new one looks darker due to a coating of charcoal and baking soda that will act as an air freshener apparently.

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7. Installing the new filter is the reverse of removal but you will need to be careful in how you insert the filter to get it just right.  I found this video tutorial very helpful – especially for this part of the job.

8. The type of filter I used is pictured below.

filter

After the filter is inserted, replace all the parts and you are good to go for another 15k miles or so.

I hope this tutorial has helped guide you in the replacement of your Leaf’s cabin air filter so you can save even more money and grin an even wider EV grin 🙂

Notes.

By replacing the filter myself I saved around $50 labor cost (as quoted by my local Nissan dealership)!

Costs: $35 for the filter and about an hour of my time.  This is not that bad considering this is the first in-depth preventative maintenance (that was not covered in the warranty*) that I have completed on the car…in 30k miles!  Had this been a gasoline/diesel powered vehicle I would have had to spend far more time and money over the same 30K mile time-frame. For example to keep my 1999 Toyota 4Runner “Godzilla” running in an efficient as possible manner (for a machine with so many miles  – 200+k – and so many moving parts that can and will wear out due to constant use thereby lowering the fuel economy of the vehicle and lowering the amount of money in my bank account) I use G-Oil, a bio-based fully synthetic motor oil, and I change the filter when I change the oil.  Just the oil/filter changes for my 1999 Toyota 4Runner have cost me $230** over the last 30k miles! Operational costs for user replaceable parts and non warranty covered parts for the Leaf during this same period of time = $55 (wiper blades and cabin air filter)!

The simple fact that EV’s do not have as many many moving parts as ICE (petroleum) powered vehicles makes them much more reliable and cost effective to operate than their fossil fuel powered counterparts.  This is one of the many reasons that EV’s are superior to everything else on the road.    march

* Parts replaced under warranty included one shock absorber, 1 strut, grease for the power window actuators, and two suspension bushings – all of these things are not EV specific and are commonly replaced/repaired items on all road vehicles.  Non-warranty covered and non-user replaceable parts that needed replacement due to age/wear = Tires and brake fluid.  Total cost = $610.

** Oil change only parts I have purchased for the 4Runner over the last 30k miles – several gallons of GOil and several Oil Filters = $230.  Had I included all of the other parts I have replaced myself on the 4Runner over the same time-frame – the costs would have been well over $800!  (If I had included the non-user replaceable parts and labor I have given to Larry at the auto repair shop then add another $1200!!!)

Total parts cost to operate Nissan Leaf for $30k miles = $665

Total parts cost to operate 4Runner for 30K miles = $2000

While I am aware that the 4Runner has over 6 times the mileage as the Leaf, the point remains that I have spent over 3X as much money on just parts to keep it on the road during the same period of time so…

After “Godzilla” dies, I will never go back to gas.


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!

Leaf 1

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.

Leaf 2

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.

H1

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

The Nissan eNV200 electric Van…where and when is it for the USA market?

It is not as sexy as a Tesla.

It is not as everyday as a Nissan Leaf.

It is not as futuristic as a BMW i3.

It is not as unique as a Chevy Volt.

It is not as radical as a BMW i8.

What is it?

It is the Nissan e-NV200 all electric compact cargo van!

 eNV200

Above photo from: http://insideevs.com/nissan-e-nv200-sale-japan-october/

It is a small cargo-utility van based on the successful Nissan NV200 fossil fuel powered cargo van but it is powered by the motor and drive train of the all electric Nissan Leaf!

nissan-env200-ev-05-1

Above photo from: http://latestheadlinenews.org/2013/11/22/nissan-e-nv200-ev-tokyo-2013/

The eNV200 is a wonderful and incredibly practical cargo vehicle that will benefit so many large and small businesses, taxi, Uber and Lyft drivers, shuttle and delivery companies, nonprofits, schools, churches and other organizations as well as families that need to tote around several people, cargo, and animals, on a daily basis.  Its beauty is not only found in its practicality and simplicity, but also the very low cost of operation due to its all electric drive train that has been proven by the astounding success of the Nissan Leaf.

interior

Above photo from: http://www.nissanusa.com/content/dam/nissan/future-and-concept-vehicles/e-nv200/gallery/6_large.jpg

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Above photo from: http://www.autocar.co.uk/car-review/nissan/e-nv200/first-drives/nissan-e-nv200-combi-first-drive-review

Nissan-LEAF-e-NV200avis

Above photo from: https://chargedevs.com/newswire/avis-denmark-orders-401-nissan-e-nv200-vans-and-60-more-leafs/

Unfortunately, this wonderful, small, electric utility van is not offered in the USA…yet.

Since it’s debut in early 2014 I have been patiently waiting for a revelation form Nissan about when the e-NV200 all electric small utility van will be released in the USA.

I have thoroughly searched the internet and found several great articles, reviews and open-ended, non committal commentary such as these.

http://www.env200.com/

http://www.nissanusa.com/future-and-concept-vehicles/e-nv200

http://www.autonews.com/article/20140609/OEM05/140609830/nissan-e-nv200-van-debuts-in-japan-but-is-it-a-good-fit-for-n.a?

http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1092763_nissan-e-nv200-electric-van-battery-adds-thermal-conditioning

https://chargedevs.com/newswire/avis-denmark-orders-401-nissan-e-nv200-vans-and-60-more-leafs/

http://2016nissancars.com/nissan-e-nv200-usa/

http://www.caranddriver.com/news/nissan-e-nv200-electric-van-photos-and-info-news

https://transportevolved.com/2015/03/03/nissan-officially-launches-7-seat-evalia-variant-of-e-nv200-electric-minivan-in-europe/

http://cleantechnica.com/2014/12/07/nissans-e-nv200-now-available-japan-us-release-delayed/

http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1092704_driving-nissan-e-nv200-all-electric-small-commercial-van

http://www.autoblog.com/2014/06/13/nissan-expands-us-ev-test-market-for-e-nv200-to-portland/

The debut at the Washington Auto Show:

Or follow the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kk9USADkx5A

2016 Nissan eNV200 review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjMAchflGf0

Or follow the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjMAchflGf0

A review by Robert Llewellyn of Fully ChargedOr follow the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcf-NSkPE_w

 

Another good review of the eNV200

 

More from Fully ChargedOr follow the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGFt3i3kLqM

A video review by the Red FerretOr follow the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGxN2uShN5c

The Dalbury E: http://insideevs.com/nissan-e-nv200-transformed-worlds-first-electric-camper-van/

Dalbury E videoOr follow the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qb1JTOrdbKU

As you can see the eNV200 is a very capable vehicle that is loved by many and, as far as I am concerned, its obvious benefits as a small, electric cargo vehicle outweigh any current range limitations. Unfortunately, I assume that from Nissan’s business point of view – this is not a practical outlook and I fully understand that position.

However, if Tesla can make a vehicle with a range close to 351 miles…and Chevy can make a car with a range of 238 miles why is Nissan taking so long to catch up, make a longer range battery, and get the eNV200 on the roads here in the USA?

I have questioned the “authorities” at Nissan in person and online and all I get is vague open-ended comments that lead nowhere and on one occasion a Nissan associate even attempted to re-direct me to another subject…hmmmm…why all the cloak and dagger…?  It is just a van…not an issue of national security.

After all my research and I have finally come to the conclusion that either-

  1. Nissan is working on and/or waiting on battery technology that will offer the longer ranges that many sources have reported will be in the next generation Leaf.  This technology could obviously then be applied to the van and thereby make it much more appealing to the US market where the average person drives a longer distance each day than in Japan, Europe, and the UK where the van has been available for the last year or so.  I would welcome longer range between charges so if this is the case I have no issue waiting.
  2. Nissan is planning to release the van alongside the redesigned Leaf in 2017 -possibly with the same battery options as with the second generation Leaf.
  3. Nissan has the technology in place for a 200+ mile range Leaf and/or van but is waiting to release the car at a later date in order to dispose of the current stock of older technologies.
  4. Nissan is no better than all the other fossil fuel fired car companies and in bed with the oil companies and does not care at all about EV’s – they are only producing the EV’s they now produce as compliance cars in order to offset the toxic effects of their other more polluting offerings such as the over-the-top nasty GT-R over 100k gas guzzling sports car or massive guzzler the Titan XD pickup.
  5. Or…Nissan is not planning on releasing the eNV200 in the USA.

Option one and option two make the most sense from my point of view.

Option three I can understand as well but I do not believe it to be the case as the technology in the Leaf and the van is essentially the same so one would think that Nissan would produce all the EV vans and Leafs it had in stock in order to maximize profits in order to produce the next generation of EV’s/vans with more capable range.

Option four…if this is the case I will have lost loads of faith in Nissan as a forward thinking company in position to rule the EV market.

Option five…well, I truly hope it is not an option.

Nissan Light Commercial Vehicles product planner Evan Fulton stated in this article that “If we had, say, a thousand business owners waiting, we could move very quickly.”  Well, I would be one of those business owners that would put an eNV200 to purposeful, and highly visible daily use should it become available in the USA so that leaves only 999 more businesses and individuals to get on-board with the eNV200 to possibly count for something.  If you are interested in the eNV200 please, PLEASE do contact Nissan or at the very least comment on this blog posting with your interest because Nissan needs to know there is interest so that the eNV200 will become a reality.

UPDATE as of August 2017: Hey Nissan, just look a the comments to this blog.  It looks like people in this country really want the eNV200 so why are you still dragging your feet?  Let’s do this thing!

nissan-env200-concept-dash-guage

Above photo from: http://www.trucktrend.com/cool-trucks/163-1201-nissan-env200-concept-photo-gallery/photo-gallery/#photo-10

I am usually a very patient person but just knowing that there are eNV200’s all over the roads in many other parts of the world, and that real people are enjoying daily use of these remarkable cargo-utility vehicles for purposes very similar to my needs…I just could not take the suspense any longer so a few months ago (years now) I wrote Nissan HQ in Atlanta in the hopes of being considered as a product tester for the eNV200.  Below is the letter for what it’s worth…

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Hello Nissan North America,
I would also like to personally thank Nissan for supporting the WNC area in working to build our EV charging infrastructure with the assistance of the installation of the first DCQC on the campus of Asheville – Buncombe Technical Community College and for bringing the Nissan Leaf EV to the world’s roads.  It is truly a remarkable vehicle that I have been driving to-from work daily since August 2012 and I am excited to see what upgrades and improvements are to come for the Leaf.
I am also very excited to someday see the eNV200 all-electric cargo van hit the roads in the USA.
If at all remotely possible, I would like Nissan to please consider my non-profit wildlife conservation organization, Earthshine Nature Programs, to be included in any future field/beta tests of the eNV200 van.  If Nissan chooses to select my company to test an eNV200 (if this is even possible) I would give it a very thorough beta test in an area that would give it great visibility.
Why do I say this?
1. Earthshine Nature Programs is a small 501c3 and currently, I drive my personal 2012 Nissan Leaf as our only company vehicle.  We are in great need of a dedicated company vehicle and, as we are an environmental/wildlife conservation nonprofit organization whose goals are to teach ways to better live with wildlife, conserve and protect nature, and live more sustainably by using renewable energies such as solar, wind and driving EV’s, to me it makes perfect sense to use a clean EV as our company vehicle and promote Nissan’s clean vehicles and clean charging technologies to everyone we meet.
solarcharging714UNCA
Solar charging at a local BrightfieldTS L2 charging station.
2. We drive our Leaf an average of 15k miles/year and all of these miles are in and around the Western North Carolina, East Tennessee, Upstate South Carolina and North Georgia areas.  We are very visible to the public in our Leaf however, other than a small front license plate, it has no company insignia that denotes who we are.  However, if we are able to one day acquire an eNV200 van we will have it outfitted with our company logos (see photo example) and (if a field test vehicle for Nissan or a vehicle donated by Nissan…) we would gladly apply any and all appropriate logos chosen by Nissan to the vehicle to make it more visible to the general public when we were out and about.  This could only help promote Nissan’s amazing EV technology to everyone we meet.
ENPoutreachvanconcept
The outreach van would be charged primarily via classroom generated solar energy from our our soon to be constructed, student-built and maintained 6 kW solar array! 
3. I would drive the eNV200 in all types or weather and various road conditions as I have been doing with my 2012 Leaf.  I have a ~30 mile round trip daily commute and this route takes me from my home at an elevation of around 2200 feet to around 3000 feet at my office.  This route consists of several miles of high speed driving at 55-60mph, several more miles of “country road” driving at speeds of 35-50mph, then ~6 miles of mountainous driving on curvy, two and single lane paved and gravel roads at speeds of 15-30mph.  I also drive to and from my various wildlife conservation/research study sites at least twice/week and I frequently make many wildlife rescue, rehabilitation and consultation “house calls” all around the WNC area throughout the year.  In all of my travels, on all road surfaces, and weather conditions, the Leaf has preformed above and beyond my initial expectations.  It is truly an exceptional EV.  Should I be able to partner with Nissan and acquire an eNV200 van, I would drive it in the same conditions as the Leaf in order to test it’s capabilities as an environmental outreach education, wildlife conservation and rescue and renewable energy education work vehicle in the cities, towns, and countryside of my service area.
4. I would also display/promote the eNV200 van at any/all National Drive Electric Week events, public car shows, farmers markets, and EV club meets that our local EV club (the Blue Ridge EV Club on Facebook) hosts or attends in the future.  In 2014 I was one of the Asheville “City Captains” for NDEW,  we put on a great show and I produced a video documenting the day, it is available via the YouTube link below. If you skip ahead to 6:28 there is a fun spin around downtown Asheville, NC in my Leaf and a convoy of EV’s that you may also enjoy 🙂
 Or follow this link to the video:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=an9C_iILSzg
In conclusion, I believe that if Nissan chooses to offer/loan/donate an eNV200 van to Earthshine Nature Programs as a test vehicle, we will certainly be able to give it a wonderful field test and give it great visibility in the community. Also, as an early adopter and a science-minded person, I love to keep track of usage data.  As I have done with my Leaf, I would keep detailed daily written reports as well as video documentation on all of my experiences with the eNV200 van.  I would then post detailed stories with photos and videos on a blog similar to this one that would be dedicated to the eNV200.   This blog would allow people anywhere in the world to learn from my company’s experiences using an eNV200 van as a company vehicle and it would serve to further promote Nissan’s game changing EV technology to the world.
For more information on our nonprofit please visit our blog at www.earthshinenature.wordpress.com and our website at www.earthshinenature.com 
I hope to hear from you soon.
                                    ——————————————————-
It has been almost two years since I sent that email to Nissan HQ and in return I have received…silence.  Hopefully, this means that they are considering shipping my company a shiny new eNV200 complete with the new longer range battery technology as a Christmas present…or maybe a birthday present next July…
I can dream can’t I… 🙂
From my point of view as a forward thinking nonprofit business owner, science and renewable energy educator, and supporter of the rapid adoption of clean technology and energy innovation, I believe that once the eNV200 is released in the USA it will be a great seller among progressive small businesses all over the country and a great move by Nissan that I will support 100% just as I have done with the Nissan Leaf.
nissanvan
Thank you Nissan for working to create the future of transportation today, now stop wasting time and please bring the eNV200 to North America because many of us are  ready and willing and tired of waiting!
UPDATE 8/23/17: Still no contact from Nissan.  Still no eNV200 van in the USA.  Since I posted this article dozens of like-minded people have commented that they are also very interested in the eNV200 as a Nissan offering in the USA.
I wait in suspense to see if Nissan will surprise us all in September when it releases the redesigned Nissan Leaf with longer range and maybe just maybe along side it, the eNV200 small cargo van with longer range for the US market as well.
We can only hope Nissan has chosen wisely because if they wait much longer, other companies will grab the spotlight and they just might loose their lead…for example, have you seen the upcoming VW I.D. Buzz  or the Bollinger B1 and who knows what Tesla is working on…

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.

20151004_090406

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:

image (4)

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?

20151004_222501

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.

AOutlets

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.

AOutlets2

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.

 

 

Asheville’s First DC Quick Charger is Online!

abcrew2

On Friday, March 13 2015 Asheville North Carolina’s first DC Quick Charger was powered up for the first official time!  This charger has been in the works for many months and finally it is available for anyone with a plug in vehicle to access and charge up in as little as 30 minuets!

theleftport

This new Eaton CHAdeMO charging station is located on the campus of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.

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The event was attended by local EV owners and local and regional leaders in the Electric Vehicle industry including representatives from:

AB Tech

Land of Sky Regional Council/Clean Vehicles Coalition

Nissan North America

Eaton

Duke Energy

online

Watch a video of the inauguration ceremony below.

The event also made the local news.  That is my blue Leaf featured in the news broadcast 🙂

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The location also includes two Level 2 Eaton chargers as well.

first charge lvl2AB

So the next time you are passing through Asheville please stop in and charge your EV at this new Chargepoint linked charging station 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Electric Vehicle Charging Etiquette 101

tl

Drivers of EV’s everywhere are beginning to see issues crop up around public charging station etiquette.  This is happening for several reasons, some of which are listed below;

1. More people are buying EV’s or PHEV’s or EV REx ( for the remainder of this article collectively called EV’s) than ever before.  In many areas there is just not enough charging station infrastructure to cover all the EV’s that need to charge, especially on busy days.

2. Some uninformed or inconsiderate EV drivers are treating EV charging spaces as a right not a privilege.  They park in the space, plug in their car and walk off, sometimes leaving it there or many hours even after it is fully charged.  It is as if they believe that they are entitled to park in that space simply because they have an EV or that they perceive the spot to be a standard parking space to be used as long as they like.

3. The space has been ICE’d by an inconsiderate or unobservant gasoline powered auto driver.

4. Plug In Hybrid Electric vehicles (PHEV) and Range Extended Electric Vehicles (EVREx) drivers that have a gasoline back up, are plugging in at charging stations when they just want to top off their battery to save gas and ignoring battery electric vehicles that may need to charge.

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How can we stop this madness?

If you drive an EV please follow these 12 simple rules of charging station etiquette (see sources at end of article) and all of us–from the pioneering early adopters, forward thinkers and tree hugging earth worshipers to the EV tech geeks and and those just out to save some money on gas–will be able to work together in helping to promote the future of EV’s and their associated charging infrastructure.

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1. Pure Electric Before Plug In Hybrids and Range Extended EVs

If your EV is fully electric and runs on battery power 100% of the time, common sense and good etiquette says you should have priority over EV’s with internal combustion powered range extending technologies such as the Chevrolet Volt or BMW i3 REx.

If you are the driver of a Plug In Hybrid or Range Extended EV, and any of the below conditions apply, please do not hog the charging station.

-There is a small number of charging stations.

-You see battery-electric EV’s waiting nearby to charge.

-Your vehicle has enough of a charge/fuel to get you to your destination.

– Your car has a gasoline engine to fall back on if you run out of charge.

Please do the right thing, be courteous, and let the battery electric EV’s charge first. Remember that some of them may have come a great distance and need a charge just to get home.

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However…

Owners of fully electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf, BMW i3Tesla Model S  or Zero motorcycle do not have the right to unplug extended-range EV’s such as BMW i3 REx or Chevrolet Volt, simply because those vehicles have backup gasoline engines…

…unless they are fully charged.  See #2 below.

2. Do Not Unplug Someone Else’s Vehicle – Unless They Are Finished Charging

If you arrive at a charging station and another EV is charging, please do not unplug it. You have no idea how far they have to go and how much power they will need to get there. However, if their car has finished charging as indicated by the blinking charge indicator lights on the car’s dash, or as indicated on the charging station’s screen, then you may unplug it, close their charge port, and plug in your car.  In this event, the driver of the EV in need of a charge should leave a note explaining why it was unplugged. The note should be full of gratitude and should always include your cell number and/or a business card.

Be aware that on some later model EV’s the charging cord cannot be removed without being unlocked by the driver.  In this case it is entirely up to the driver of the plugged in vehicle to be aware of his car’s status and unplug and move it when its charging cycle is complete or when he has enough charge to get to his next destination.

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3. Be Courteous, Charge Up, and Move On

Please occupy a charging station only while your EV is actively charging. As soon as the charging session is completed, no matter if your battery is full or when you have enough range to reach your destination, please unplug your car and move it to allow access for another driver in need. Please remember that these are charging spots, not standard parking spots. Using a charging space as a standard parking space is really not cool.  Would you leave your gas car parked at the pump for several hours after its tank was full and if you did so, what would happen?

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Brammo Empulse Electric Motorcycle charging

Most EV’s, or EV networks such as Chargepoint, will text you when the vehicle is full. If your vehicle/network texts you to say “I’m full!” then please, free up the charger for another driver.

In some areas with pay to charge access, the charging network will continue to charge you a fee for as long as your vehicle is plugged in and in and even after it is fully charged.  This is a great motivator for the vehicle owner to get unplugged and moved as soon as it is charged in order to avoid overage fees.

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4. Charge Only When Really Necessary and Share and Share Alike. 

Just because you drive an EV does not mean you’re entitled to an EV charging spot–remember it is not a parking spot for those with the most expensive EV’s, or perceived higher social status, it is meant to be equally shared by all Plug In Electric Vehicle drivers. If you do not need the extra juice, please leave the spot open so another driver can use it.

EV Charging Station - Biltmore Square

Personal Observation: I have noted on several occasions, at one particular charging station in the south Asheville, NC area, that certain repeat offenders treat the only two available free charging stations in front of a certain Hilton Hotel as regular parking spots.  These owners will often leave their vehicles, of various manufacturers, in these spots for many hours at a time thereby blocking assess to other EV owners in need.  I noted this once again on January 03, 2015 when I arrived to view a movie at 2:30 pm.  Two Chevy Volts occupied both charging stations and were actively charging.  There was no way to park beside them and wait to charge as the only other available parking spot was handicapped access only.  My Leaf was low on juice and needed a charge to get home after the movie.  Since I had 45 min until the movie started, I parked nearby and decided to have a beer at a nearby restaurant in order to keep an eye on the cars in the hopes that one of them would leave and I could therefore get a charge during the movie.  When it was almost time for the movie to start I checked both cars’ charging status and noted that one was fully charged and the other was still charging.  I could not wait any longer so went on to the movie.  After the movie I found that the Volt that was still charging before the movie, almost three hours earlier, was gone and had been replaced by a Leaf that was actively charging.  The other car, the same volt that I noted to be fully charged before the movie, remained, still plugged in and still fully charged just like I found it over 3.5 hours previous.  According to this information from Chevy it takes around 4 hours to fully charge a Volt, and since the Volt in question was fully charged before I entered the movie theater and remained plugged in over three hours later, it seems that that the volt owner was using this spot as a privileged parking spot rather than an EV charging station.  This is just totally uncool and very bad charging station etiquette and, as I have said before, please do not hog charging stations and always share with other EV owners in need.  Anything less makes you and other EV drivers look bad.

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I know it goes without saying but please, never park like I did in this well composed photo that illustrates really bad parking etiquette no matter what you are driving.  

5. Drivers Must Follow The Rules 

This goes without saying but simply because you drive an EV does not mean you can park in a handicap space or on a curb just to be closer to a charging station. Do not do it unless you enjoy having your car towed.

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6. Do Not Leave Nasty Notes…But Do Leave Notes

If the charging spot you counted on using has been occupied by another EV for an extended period of time or has been ICEd—in other words, a gasoline powered Internal Combustion Engine powered vehicle is taking up the spot—the EV driver should leave a polite note on the vehicle explaining the predicament. The note should be viewed as a good-will gesture that will hopefully work to convince the offender not to make the mistake again.  Please also note that in some areas such as Raleigh, NC, drivers of internal combustion engine powered vehicles that park in spaces reserved for EV charging are subject to high fines.

7. First Come, First Served

It doesn’t matter what you drive, how much money you make, where you live, or who you are, or if someone else was in the charging spot before you, then that is your tough luck and you are going to have to play be the rules and the etiquette, be nice, and wait your turn.

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8. It’s Okay to Ask for a Charge

If you are really in need of a charge and the spot you need is occupied, and you are able to park next to the car that is currently charging, you can signal the other driver that you would like them to plug you in when they are finished charging by opening your charging port/door.  It is also a good idea to carry in your car “charge” cards like these from Pluginamerica.com.  You can put them on your dash when you are in need of a charge as a signal to the other driver to plug you in when they leave.  Another really cool high tech option is to use a myEV datalogger *  not only to keep track of your vehicle’s stats and health, but it also allows you to ask other EV drivers if you can unplug their vehicle via a text message, wherever they may be. See an example image from the app below.

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* This option requires that both EV owners have a myEV datalogger and it’s associated QR code window sticker installed in/on their vehicle.  NOTE: The myEV datalogger is currently in the beta testing phase and will be available soon for all EV owners everywhere.  I am a beta tester for the unit so if anyone in the Blue Ridge EV Club wants to learn more about it just ask me at the next club meeting and I will be glad to show it off 🙂

9: Register With A Charging Network.

If you are a frequent charging station user then it will benefit you to register with the charging networks that serve your area.  It will also greatly assist you to download the charging station locator apps (such as Chargepoint and Plugshare) to your smartphone.  With these you will be able to pull up all nearby stations and, depending on the app, see which stations are occupied and you will also be able to comment on if the station was functional or not or any other issues other station users need to be aware of.

The map below is from the Plugshare.com website/App showing charging stations in Asheville, NC USA.

asheville charging map

If you are a local business owner/operator and have installed an EV charging station that is not on any of the charging station networks and/or you live in an area that does not have a strong charging station infrastructure, then you should really consider registering your charging station with one of the charging networks and put your station on the map.  This will not only let other EV drivers know you are out there via their cars navigation system and/or app, but it will also give more people access to your business and more money in your pocket if you decide to charge a fee for the use of your station.

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10. Safety First

Watch that cord!  While your car is plugged in, make sure the charging cord is either flat on the ground and/or tucked under your car so pedestrians do not accidentally trip or drive over it. You would not want to have the surprise of a nasty lawsuit thrown in your face because someone tripped over your charging cord and was injured.  Once your car has finished charging, remember to wind the charging cord back up onto its holder if the station is so equipped, to keep it neat and out of the way of others.

11: Charging Is A Privilege, Not A Right

As stated previously in Rule #4, just because you drive an EV does not mean you’re entitled to an EV charging spot.  Remember, it is not a parking spot for those with the most expensive EV’s or perceived high social status, it is meant to be equally shared by all EV drivers and it is a privilege, not a right.

Remember this: You are the future of clean transportation,  you are helping an entire new industry get off the ground and at the same time lowering the nation’s consumption of fossil fuels by driving electric.  However, owning and driving an EV is a personal choice and as a direct consequence of that choice, any charging stations out there are there for your convenience, especially the ones that are offered free of charge.

Many of these charging stations are offered by nearby businesses so please be courteous to those who have provided it, take care to look after the chargers and report any issues to the owners.

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Lastly, if you are in need of a charge from somewhere in between charging stations or at an even more remote location without EV charging station infrastructure, such as a barn, gas station wall outlet (as I wrote about on day one when we drove our new Leaf across half of Tennessee), or a beer and ice shack at a festival (as seen in this article ), do not assume that access to the power is free.  Be courteous, positively represent all EV owners everywhere, offer to pay for any power used, or at least give the business/outlet owner a tip.

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Charging my Leaf at the Earthshine Discovery Center barn in Lake Toxaway, NC.  The good folks at Earthshine will let you charge if you are in dire need of some juice–please be sure to tip them for the charge.  While charging take a walk around the farm and see what this wonderful place has to offer–you will be glad you did.  Hopefully soon I will have this location on Plugshare as a residential emergency charge point.  If you do not see it there please contact me for more information on how to access it when you are in need of a charge.

We do not want to in any way be known as rogues, bums, or moochers and give a bad name to the EV community as a whole.

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I gladly donated $5 to a children’s charity for one hour’s access to this gas stations’ outdoor wall outlet.

12. EV Owners Are Ambassadors For A Better Future For Everyone

Being an EV owner and driver means you are also an ambassador for a gas-free future. Help make that future an even brighter reality by spending time talking with people who stop to ask questions when you are plugged in at public charging stations or parking your EV in a public parking lot.  Be nice and genuine to those who ask questions, do not be in a hurry and always spread the word about the joys of driving electric electric in any way you are able.

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I know that is a lot of information to process but I believe you will see that these “rules” of EV charging etiquette are really just basic common sense that when applied, will make your EV ownership experience better for you and for those you share the roads of the future with.

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Sources:

http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1050431_your-ultimate-guide-to-electric-car-charging-etiquette

http://www.pluginamerica.org/evcard

http://gmauthority.com/blog/2014/06/general-motors-offers-ev-drivers-10-workplace-charging-etiquette-tips/

http://www.chevrolet.com/volt-electric-car/faq.html

http://www.chargepoint.com/

http://www.plugshare.com/

http://www.plugincars.com/eight-rules-electric-vehicle-etiquette-127513.html

http://www.recargo.com/

http://insideevs.com/one-charging-spot-generated-27000-fines-ice-drivers/

The Wonders of Regeneration

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It is a known fact among EV owners that their cars use regenerative breaking systems to help charge the car’s battery and extend its range.  Regenerative breaking is defined as:

“In a battery-powered electric vehicle, regenerative braking (also called regen) is the conversion of the vehicle’s kinetic energy into chemical energy stored in the battery, where it can be used later to drive the vehicle. It is braking because it also serves to slow the vehicle. It is regenerative because the energy is recaptured in the battery where it can be used again.” Source Firmware Engineer Tesla Motors.  Read more of Greg’s great article on regen here.

“Vehicles driven by electric motors use the motor as a generator when using regenerative braking: it is operated as a generator during braking and its output is supplied to an electrical load; the transfer of energy to the load provides the braking effect. Regenerative braking is used on hybrid gas/electric automobiles to recoup some of the energy lost during stopping. This energy is saved in a storage battery and used later to power the motor whenever the car is in electric mode.” Source Wikipedia

Regenerative Breaking mechanisms have been used for over a century, have a very fascinating history, have many very interesting applications including early experimentation with the Amitron and Voltswagon concept cars by AMC.  Regenerative systems developed by are now used on the worlds best selling electric vehicle, the Nissan Leaf and all other EV’s and hybrids on the roads today.

An interesting video on how the Nissan Leaf’s power/regen system works:

I have owned my 2012 Nissan Leaf now for 13 months and have been keeping detailed daily notes on SOC, distance driven, temperature and other data points of interest. Recently I started taking notes on the regeneration that my car produces during my daily commute. Specifically a the 3.4 mile section of my commute that is almost all downhill (see a graphic representation of the route below).

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Map from www.mapmyride.com

The question

Recently I began to wonder just how far per day this 3.4 mile descent with 845 feet of elevation loss would take me on braking and gravity produced free fuel.  In the hopes of answering that question with some degree of accuracy I developed an experiment with the procedure listed below.

Every day I used in the experiment I drove as I do on a normal day; in ECO mode and with all possible environmental variables such as road conditions, traffic conditions, different routes*, elevation loss or gain, temperature, humidity, wind resistance, tire resistance, speed, accessories used, and others variables in order to keep it as real world as possible.  *I do not drive the same route every day due to errands I often to run after work.

UPDATE 1/25/15; Speaking of environmental variables effecting regeneration, on one recent occasion I had to drive the 3.4 miles section of route immediately after a motor-grader had scraped the road.  The road surface was the consistency of something like thick beach sand mixed with damp oatmeal.  The car bogged down a bit but powered through it but the regenerative breaking system was practically useless since I had to keep gently accelerating in order to keep moving forward.  At the bottom of the 3.4 mile route I had regenerated only 1 mile of range.  I am sure this will lower my overall average just a bit once I recalculate the numbers at some point this spring but science can be a harsh mistress.

The data (so far)

Regenerated potential range at the end of the route for seven days during November 2014

16.0, 14.0, 11.0,13.0, 7.0,14.0,15.0

= 90/7 = 12.85 average miles of potential range regenerated per day.

However, as we EV drivers know, this potential driving range is not an accurate representation of real world driving range due to the variables mentioned previously. In the attempt to deduce just how far in reality the car would go on the regenerated power from the 3.4 mile daily descent, I needed to calculate the distance the car would travel before reaching the pre-route SOC on the GOM (my Leaf is a 2012 so it does not show battery state of charge as a percent–it is a calculated guess by the on-board computer of mileage remaining based on vehicle system health, environmental conditions and driving style.)

The procedure

I first recorded the SOC from the GOM at the top of the route, drove the 3.4 mile route, stopped at the bottom and recorded the number of regenerated miles, reset the trip odometer to 0 and drove until I had reached the first recorded SOC from the top of the route.

The results

The resulting number is the real world miles driven on Leaf regenerated free fuel.  The 7 day adjusted test results are listed below:

16.5, 9.0, 13.1, 7.5, 8.0, 8.7, 9.3

= 72.1/7 = 10.3* average miles of potential range regenerated per day!

*I continue to keep a daily record of regeneration on this route, so this number will change as I average in those numbers.  In the spring of 2015, I will post an update to this story with the updated findings.

Based on the data for the short time period in question, the results seem to indicate that during this 3.4 mile descent my car generates an average of 10.5 miles of potential real world range per work day when driving this route. This data also suggests that the Leaf often powers itself home for free since the route is only 9.3 miles in length from the bottom of the descent to my home.  I have documented this fact many times when upon reaching home the SOC is at or above the starting SOC when I left work.

This ads up to a substantial amount of Leaf produced free fuel, but how much in a year is possible?

10.3 miles per day!

10.3 x 5=51.5 miles per week.

51.5 x 4 = 206 miles per month.

206 x 12 = 2472 miles of Leaf generated free electric fuel per year.

If these numbers are accurate, then my car, simply by rolling downhill on the same 3.4 mile route described above, for 5 days each week, regenerates enough power in a year to power itself for the equivalent of two months worth of driving*, all freely powered by the Nissan Leaf!  *I drive an average of 300 miles per week (300 x 8 = 2400)

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I use a Kill A Watt meter to keep track of my Leaf’s power consumption.

How much has this potentially saved me in power costs for the Leaf?

Driving my leaf costs an average of .03 per mile so .03 x 2472 = 74.16

$74.16 potentially saved each year just driving home from work every day!

And this is only for this one route.  I drive several other routes where I pull a good amount of regeneration from long descents so I wonder how much am I saving in power costs from those routes?

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In a rough comparison, if I had to drive my 1999 Toyota 4Runner the same distance that my Leaf has driven on freely produced regenerative power, it would have taken me around 8 tanks of gas and cost me around $360.00 in gas at current fuel prices of $2.84/gal!  (2472 miles at 2.84 (per gallon) x 16 gallons = $45.44 x 8 (tanks) = $363.52)

WOW!

Let’s just think about this fact – is there a consumer available, stock built, gasoline or diesel powered vehicle anywhere that will produce it’s own fuel. No. The facts are in: petroleum powered vehicles only take hard earned money from the owner, give nothing back but a ride, require lots of expensive fuel and maintenance, are often noisy, contribute to a polluted environment, enable the continued destruction of the Earth’s ecosystems through oil drilling/strip mining and pipeline construction in fragile environments, are not energy secure, and even fund terrorism.  EV’s give so much back, have very low maintenance costs, are quiet and fun to drive, can be fueled on domestically generated energy and renewable energy generated at home or work and are therefore energy secure, do not fund terrorism, and produce a portion of their own fuel…for free!  It is no wonder that some automakers, fossil fuel corporations and their supporters, and certain oil soaked politicians, are afraid of EV’s and will stop at nothing to ruin their image with negative ad campaigns and tactics.

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The simple reality is this; while the currently available electric vehicles do have some range limitations, they are far better in so many ways than petroleum powered vehicles.  Given time, advancements in battery technology, expanded charging infrastructure, and the support from the people and our purchasing power, the EV will one day dominate the roads. Once a person drives an EV and experiences the joy of driving electric, freedom from the gas pump and from years of costly maintenance, more money in their pocket, the resulting cleaner air and environment that comes from driving EV, and with the ever growing option of powering their EV from home generated renewable energy such as solar, wind and micro-hydro–they will see that driving electric is the better choice and will hopefully trade in or recycle their old gas guzzler in favor of the future of transportation, the EV.

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 DRIVE ELECTRIC!

The Blue Ridge EV Club meeting at the BrightfieldTS solar charging canopy on Charlotte St. in Asheville, NC.