Road Hazard

Recently I embarked on another road trip adventure in my 2012 Nissan Leaf EV.  Due to many factors in and out of my control, that adventure turned into a bit of a misadventure.  In the following pages I will outline the trip and share with you the unfortunate series of events and factors that seemed to be compounding and conspiring against me reaching my destination.

Purpose of the trip: install a citizen science air quality monitoring device at a remote location near Franklin, NC.  This air monitor was to be part of the Clean Air Carolina Air Keepers project that is working to build a statewide network of private air monitoring stations that will help us all become more aware of what is in our shared air.  This network will give us all better tools, data, and evidence in fighting air pollution in our shared air.

Chosen vehicle for the trip: 2012 Nissan Leaf SL

This is my personal vehicle and my nonprofit organization’s outreach vehicle.  Being a 2012 “first generation” Leaf it is now suffering from battery degradation due to a chemistry issue Nissan has been aware of for many years.  Unfortunately, Nissan HQ has been zero help in repairing or replacing this failing battery despite their knowledge of and my extensive documentation of the issue.  I dearly love the car, its technology – well, except for the battery chemistry that is causing the degradation – and all that it stands for as the planet’s highest selling all electric vehicle, however, I am extremely upset with Nissan on this issue and I am sure this fact will impact my decision making process when it comes time to buy a new electric vehicle for myself or for my nonprofit organization.  That however, could change if Nissan would choose to support their end of the deal.   

Day 1.

Weather: 45F rain and fog.

EV status: 92.1% SOC, 14 kWh available in traction battery (yes, that is all it will hold – the car is a 2012 Nissan Leaf SL with a generation one traction battery…oh how I miss those lost 10 kWh…)

Battery capacity bars remaining: 8

Beginning odometer: 70,609

10am – departed Brevard, NC bound for Cashiers, NC

Travel was slow going due to rain, fog, and slow traffic on curvy mountain roads.

11:00 – arrived in Cashiers, NC at the Ugly Dog Public House.

Weather: 48F heavier rain.

EV status: 20% SOC, 2.5 kWh remaining in traction battery.

I plugged the Leaf into the Ugly Dog’s Clipper Creek L2 EVSE (the only public L2 in Cashiers), verified the charger was working, then I took a wet walk for about half an hour. Upon returning I discovered the L2 had died during my absence and charging has stopped. Red lights on the unit indicated a power/charging fault.  In my almost six years of EV ownership, this was only the second time I have had an EVSE malfunction while charging.  The first time it was a Clipper Creek EVSE at my workplace – good thing I had L1 “trickle” charging capabilities adjacent to the L2 so no worries.  This time however was very different…and it was dumping down a cold winter’s rain. 

Lucky for me the EVSE had delivered a 1.9 kWh increase to the drive battery before it malfunctioned and the car now had a 32.6% SOC and 4.4 kWh available. 

I visited the Ugly Dog pub and informed the manager of the station error and thanked them profusely for installing the only EVSE in Cashiers.  Staff said they would inform their owner and would work to remedy the problem ASAP.  I updated the EVSE error status on Plugshare and then noticed that other Plugshare users had reported charging issues for this EVSE in the past…then I asked myself why the *!@#%! didn’t I check Plugshare before I departed home…!

It was now noon. 

Weather: 48F heavy rain.

EV status: 32.6% SOC, 4.4 kWh remaining in traction battery…oh boy.

I consulted with Waze and realized that I had only two options:

Drive the 21 mile, mostly downhill yet out of my way distance to the L2 EVSE at WCU in Cullowhee and maybe get a battery boost from regen and make it there…or…take the shorter, but steeper, 10 mile run to Highlands and maybe make it to the Highlands Ugly Dog’s L2 EVSE.  From there I could charge up a bit and then roll downhill through the Cullasaja gorge letting gravity give me forward momentum and some great regeneration and hopefully make it to my destination of Franklin, NC.  This time I checked Plugshare and based on the good ratings chose Highlands as it was closer and there was only a 730 foot elevation gain before I would reach the high point of this next leg of the trip and could run on regeneration over the last few miles.  Based on my Leaf’s current 3.2 kWh/mile and 32.6% SOC, the regen, and some dumb luck – I calculated that I would be able to make it to Highlands…but only just…what could go wrong… 

I departed the Ugly Dog and went into full on power saving mode…or as some call it – “hypermileing.”  I powered off all nonessential systems, turned off the stereo, seat, and steering wheel heater, dimmed the info-tainment display and instrument cluster lighting, turned off the defroster using my hand to wipe the windshield when needed…however, due to the weather, safety, and NC law I had to use the headlights and windshield wipers…and I set out into the cool, foggy, rainy winter weather bound for Highlands almost 11 miles up the mountain.



After an uneventful but wet, foggy, and slow drive up the mountain I somehow made it to Highlands arriving with a 13.6% SOC and 1.4 kWh to spare.  I made my way through the little mountain hamlet and up yet another hill to the Ugly Dog Pub #2…only to find that their only Clipper Creek L2 EVSE was ICED – as it often is – DRAT!

Raining harder. DRAT! DRAT!!

I had to park the Leaf crooked and illegally hoping nobody would notice the little bright blue EV blocking access to the recycling bins…

I made my way around the ICE car to access the EVSE – which, by the way had a nice sign stating “Electric Vehicles Only” – a sign that has been conveniently (or arrogantly) ignored by many ICE driving visitors to the area who frequently block access to it…so, I dragged the nice long charge cable around the ICE car to my Leaf and plugged it in.  As I was about to head into the Ugly Dog to get out of the still heavy rain, the owners of the ICE car (a Porsche Cayenne) came walking up and moved their car…but not before I was able to nicely introduce myself hand then hand them a “If you are not charging then you are blocking” notice which was greeted by nothing but snorting attitude from the recipient – fat lot of good it will do I’m sure.  I wonder how they would feel if I blocked their gas pump with my EV…hmmmm.  I re positioned the LEAF into the EV parking space and plugged it back in, verified a bit longer this time that the car was going to continue to charge, and then made my way into the Ugly Dog pub where I had an ice cold Guinness to calm my rain soaked, hypermileing, inconsiderate ICE driver stressed nerves.

I charged the Leaf @ L2 for about 1.5 hours for a 41.5% SOC and 5.9 kWh, and jumped back on the road with my next stop in Franklin – it was all downhill through the Cullasaja gorge so no worries – lots of regen – and lots more rain and fog.  As I coasted through the beautiful Cullasaga gorge I watched as the cliffs become waterfalls under the torrential winter rains and wondered, and a bit worried, about how much more rain it would take before more than water was going to come tumbling down the steep ridges into the gorge and the road I was driving on?  Luckily no rocks, trees or mud joined me on the road and I made it to Franklin.

2:30pm Arrived in Franklin, NC at the Ingles L2 EVSE with 20.1% SOC and 2.2 kWh…and it was still raining.  All five EV spaces were open and well-marked (THANK YOU INGLES!) so I rolled into one close to the EVSE and stepped out into the rain to plug in the Leaf. First I plugged the left cable into the car and…nothing.  Tried again…nothing. I then tried the cable on the right side of the bollard and luckily it worked. 
I reported the faulty charger on Plugshare and to Ingles.


I let the car charge for 2 hours while I worked to install the air monitor at a nearby location then returned to pick up the Leaf.  The two hour L2 charge session had brought the leaf’s battery up to a 70% SOC and 10.3 kWh.

4:30 pm. Departed for Cherokee, NC in yet more rain.

I drove over 441 in the rain, high winds, and fog and because I was driving on an expressway I was traveling at a higher rate of speed and climbing one of the steepest, longest grades of the entire journey – so all of these factors became a real battery drainer – until I drove over the top of the mountain and regenerated for several miles down into Dillsboro, NC.  This regen boost pushed me on to the Cherokee Welcome center where I rolled in at 5:30pm with a 10% SOC!!

I rolled up to the site where the trusty Schneider L2 EVSE – that I have used many times in the past – only to discover that it was missing!!!! I looked around for it and found nothing but a metal plate on the ground where it used to be…DRAT DRAT DRAT!!!  …

…again, why did I not check Plugshare before I left home…???…had I checked I might have noticed a comment by Plugshare user/Model 3 driver “Steven” who stated ““Please note the charger has been moved and is next to the main street now.”
Because I did not check Plugshare I was not aware of this fact, and from my vantage point near the original location of the L2 EVSE I could not see the new location obscured behind some shrubs in the distance.  So, due to my oversight – and my lack of sight – my only apparent option was to drive to the Oconoluftee visitor center 3 miles away in the GSMNP where there is a DCQC and L2 EVSE.
Again I practiced my best “hypermileing” techniques, however, as it was now getting dark, still raining, and foggy I was again forced to use the Leaf’s wipers and lights and soon my car dropped into the dreaded “Turtle Mode” as I passed through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance gate. 
I have only encountered the turtle once before and that was part of a controlled, good weather, safe, daytime test so I would know how the car performed when in an extremely low battery scenario (watch my video of that test here https://youtu.be/ZTNZchis_Fg ).  This time however was not controlled, nor was it daytime, the weather was terrible and safety was most definitely an issue as a huge pickup truck was now riding my bumper.  I could see my destination in the distance about ½ mile away and I was not about to pull off the road unless the car stopped dead.  At the time of the initiation of Turtle Mode the car was moving about 30 miles per hour and as I made my way across the ½ mile distance to my destination the car started to slow down, getting slower and slower but still moving forward up the slight incline adjacent to the “Elk field.” As I topped the small incline I was able to back off on the almost nonexistent accelerator and let gravity help pull me forward…but it really did not help much as the vehicle was continuing to gradually slow down.  Somehow, the EV was able to slurp up enough ghostly electrons to make it into the parking area at the VC at a little better than walking speed, I rolled past the main building, around the curve, and then, when I had the EVSE in my sights – the car just could not give me any more and it came to a dead standstill…about 50 feet from the EVSE. According to LeafSpy Pro the drive battery was sitting at an SOC of 6.6 with 0.3 kWh remaining. 

We pushed the LEAF the remaining distance to the EVSE only to find the DCQC offline and dark – DRAT! DRAT!! DRAT!!!
I tried the reset button a few times – no luck – still dark and offline.


The Greenlots L2 was online so I plugged in and left the car alone in the growing darkness to charge.

We trekked into Cherokee for dinner and later returned – 4.2 hours later – and the car was still charging but it now had a 76% SOC and 11.3 kWh.
Still raining, foggy, dark…but at least it was not cold.
I updated Plugshare with details of offline DCQC and drove to a friend’s home in a neighboring county for the night.  I arrived at his home with a 32.5% SOC and 4.6 kWh.  I plugged the Leaf into a wall outlet and bedded down for the night exhausted and personally out of a charge from all the discharging drama of the day.


The next morning, after trickle charging all night, I awoke to fine the Leaf still charging – yesterday was a long day for the little car and I did not plug in until around 11pm.


Morning stats: SOC 88.5% and 13.3 kWh available. Light rain and fog.
I made my way back to Cherokee without issue and immediately found the new location of the Welcome Center’s Schneider L2 EVSE and laughed at myself for making such an obvious error the night before.  Had I found the new location of the EVSE I could have easily avoided the dreaded turtle mode.  I plugged into the trusty Schneider EVSE with a 35% SOC and 4.9 kWh and charged for 2 hours for an 84% SOC and 12.8 kWh. Before heading over Soco gap to Waynesville I updated Plugshare with the new location details.


I then unplugged and drove up, up and up over Soco in the rain and fog and on to Waynesville where I arrived at the downtown DCQC with a 25.4% SOC and 3.5% kWh.

I plugged the little old Leaf into the Greenlots DCQC and charged for 30 min for a 81% SOC and a gain of 12.5 kWh.  After all the drama of the last day and a half I wanted a full charge before heading out on the last leg of the journey up, up, and up through the rain, fog and steep terrain of the last steep, remote ridge crossing. 

When the DCQC finished I unplugged the L3 and then plugged in the nearby L2 for a further 40 minutes charging to top off the Leaf with a final full charge of 94.1% SOC and 14.2 kWh that would hopefully push me up and over Hwy 276 and back home safe and sound.     
As I sat there in the rain charging L2 I watched as an ICE driver in a red Nissan pulled hastily into the parking space opposite mine, jumped out, and ran off into the rain.  It seemed to me that the driver had absolutely no idea that he had just parked in an EV charging location.  He was in a hurry and failed to notice the signs…and the EV parked and charging 10 feet away. 

I believe this is what happens in many of the innocent ICEing events – people are just not very observant of anything outside of their frame of reference.  Maybe someone needs to come up with an ICE vehicle detector that, when deployed in EV charging spots, will detect the hydrocarbon based fuels/lubricants/exhaust used in ICE vehicles and, when detected, trigger highly noticeable strobe lights and possibly even illuminated signage indicating to the ICE vehicle driver their mistake. While many ICEing events are simple mistakes, others are intentional acts of aggression toward EV’s – but that is another story I have written about before in this blog.

After charging I updated Plugshare.

As I set out on 276 it was still raining, but this time it was only a mist and the sky seemed to be clearing a little bit – a good sign?  My drive up 276 and over the Blue Ridge Parkway was uneventful, and upon reaching the highest point of the last leg of the trip my SOC was 39.7 and kWh 5.7.  With all the great gravity provided regeneration I pulled on the descent to home I soon arrived in my garage with a 28.9% SOC and 4 kWh remaining in my trusty old first generation Leaf’s ageing battery.

Against all the odds I had made it.

I plugged the Leaf into the nearby wall outlet and let it trickle charge until morning.

I love my old Leaf even with its rapidly failing generation one battery.  The Nissan warranty department – I do not care for them very much. Maybe one day a 3rd party battery manufacturer* will make a replacement battery for the first generation Nissan Leaf or, Nissan will drop the price of the OEM unit to something much more reasonable than the current outrageous and unreasonable price that is so egregious that I will not even speak of it here.  I really hope one of these things happens soon so I can upgrade my old Leaf and give it a renewed range and a second life as my nonprofit outreach vehicle and daily driver. *Note: If you are the maker of such a battery please do contact me because we need to talk 🙂

Round trip statistics

Beginning odometer: 70,609

Ending odometer: 70,835

Round Trip Mileage 226

Charging Sessions:

L1 – 2

L2 – 5 

L3 – 1

Time spent charging:

L1 – 6.0h (overnight), 8.0h (overnight), = 14h

L2 – .50h, 1.5h, 2h, 4h, 1.5h, .70h = 10.2

L3 – .50h = .50

Total charging time = 14 + 10.20 + .50 = 24.7h (14 overnight, 5.7 during lunch and dinner and down time, 2.0 while working and 3.2 on the road)

It is important to note that my EV is a first generation Leaf.  This simple fact means that it charges 50% slower than newer EV’s due to its 3.3 kW onboard charger which limits the speed at which it will charge from L1 and L2 charging sources. If it were a newer EV my L1 and L2 charge times would have been cut in half.

Electric fuel cost for 226 mile round trip: $6.72 (L3) + $2.00* (L2) + .75(L1) = $9.47 

*All but one L2 charge session were cost free.

kWh per mile = 3.57

kWh used for round trip = 62.8

Electricity cost/kWh from energy mix on the road = 0.04 (9.47/226)

Electricity cost/kWh – if I had used only electricity from my home power grid = $7.53     (62.8kWh * .12)

Electricity cost/kWh – if I had used only electricity from my solar workplace L2 EVSE  = $3.76 (3.76 =.06 * 62.8kWh)

MPGe = 120.4

MPGe cost for round trip = $2.64/226 = 0.01/mile   WOW!!!

It is interesting to note that if I had driven this route in my 2013 Honda Pilot I would not have needed to stop to charge but my fuel bill (maybe we should call it a conveyance convenience cost) would have been $31.72 or around 0.14/mile!        (0.14 = 31.72/226)

That is a fuel cost savings of $22.25!!        (22.25 = 31.72 (gas) – 9.47(electricity))

 (Check out this handy MPG/MPGe calculator: http://mpgecost.com/calculator/mpge.html#/ )

These savings add up rather dramatically when you consider the following:

Even with all the charging station issues, the old EV battery related crazy, and the garishly long charge times – you cannot rationally dispute the cost savings of driving electric…and that is before we have even discussed the significant greenhouse gas emissions reductions!

Those savings are as follows:

A total of 97.9 pounds of CO2 were released into the atmosphere by using 62.8 kWh of electricity to push my EV on this round trip.

Therefore, by driving electric I prevented over 509.1 pounds of CO2, as well as other harmful pollutants from entering the atmosphere.  (607 – 97.9 = 509.1) 

Where did I get the 509.1 pounds of CO2?

Had I used my Honda Pilot for this journey it would have used over 31 gallons of gasoline which would have emitted 607 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere.

That is equivalent to burning 301 pounds of coal which would generate 1,068.96 kWh of electricity.

This amount of energy would be able to charge over 35 thousand smartphones….

And…this next fact is mind-blowing…

This same amount of energy (1,068.96 kWh) would push my Nissan Leaf over* 3,816.18 miles!!!!  *I say over because with regenerative braking it would go even further since EV’s make a portion of their electric fuel when slowing down, descending grades, and braking!!

WOW!!! 

Here are the numbers so see for yourself. 

If one gallon of gas contains 33.70 kWh of electricity and my Honda Pilot would have burned 31.72 gallons of gas on the 226 mile RT trip then:

If 33.70 kWh * 31.72 gallons = 1,068.96 kWh

And my EV will travel an average of 3.57 miles per kWh

Then 3.57 * 1,068.96 = 3,816.18 miles 

The cost, efficiency, and environmental savings of driving electric cannot be rationally disputed.

Just for fun…

The electricity cost to drive my Leaf EV 3,816.18 miles at the average US energy cost of .12/kWh = $128.28        (1068.96 * .12 = $128.28)   Source: https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.php?t=epmt_5_6_a

Gasoline cost to drive my Honda Pilot gas vehicle 3,816.18 miles at the current average gas price in the USA of $2.43 = $431.32         (3816.18/21.5 mpg = 177.50 gallons * 2.43 = $431.32)

Source: https://gasprices.aaa.com/

That is a cost difference of $303.04!!

And that is just for gas…

Knowing these amazing facts – why would anyone choose to drive petroleum powered vehicles??

Source: https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator

Source: https://afdc.energy.gov/fuels/fuel_comparison_chart.pdf

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gasoline_gallon_equivalent

Maps

The route. Green indicators are L1 and L2 charge points, orange is L3. Turtle icon is where the dreaded turtle payed me a visit.
Elevations along the route with EVSE locations.


Route grades

GREEN LEAF!

One of my oldest childhood dreams is now a reality – and more!

That dream was to one day drive an electric vehicle that was charged with electricity provided by the sun.

solarcarhouse

After originally dreaming up the idea in Mr. Jackson’s 6th grade science class way back in 1980*, then pondering, dreaming, and researching the idea for many decades until recently, with the convergence of technologies over the last few years,  and by working with great friends, nonprofit supporters, patrons and my amazing students – I have finally made that boyhood dream come true for me and, most importantly, for my students – who are the next generation.  Our children are the generation that will benefit the most from these coming of age technologies – technologies that they will soon come to see as normal and as every day as we kids of the last generation viewed the internal combustion engine, land-line telephone, film camera, CD, and MTV.  *Read all about my 6th-grade epiphany in this blog post I penned on my nonprofit blog.

Now, over 35 years later, I am finally daily driving an electrically driven vehicle whose battery is charged with locally grown electricity from the sun – and a good chunk of water and wind produced renewably generated electricity!  I use this renewable energy fueled electric vehicle for commuting to and from work, as an outreach vehicle for my nonprofit environmental education organization – Earthshine Nature Programs – and as a teaching tool in my middle and high school science classes where I work to demonstrate working models of the “new normal” of these now off-the-shelf technologies to the young minds who will lead us forward into a clean, renewable energy powered, and electrically driven future!

How did all this happen?

It all started in the late summer of 2012 when my wife and I purchased a slightly used 2012 Nissan Leaf Electric Vehicle (EV).  I wrote all about that misadventure in this previous blog post.

wejustboughtaleaf

We quickly came to dearly love the little electric car, and for the first 4 years of EV ownership, we charged the vehicle using the local grid provided energy mix.  In 2017 this all changed when my classroom’s new 4.8 kW photovoltaic solar array went online.

Now I charge my EV almost every day with sunlight!

The data I have outlined below reveal that 48% of the power I used to charge EV’s drive battery over the period of this study came directly from solar produced, renewably generated, clean electricity produced by the 4.8 kWh photovoltaic solar array at my classroom/office where I charge on weekdays.

Read more about the construction of our student-built solar array.

Due to the logistics of driving an early, short range, EV – the other 52% of the power needed to get me around during the time of this study came from the local power grid’s energy mix.

That energy mix is not perfect but it could be much worse.  As of only about a decade or so ago it was provided by electricity generated primarily by burning coal – the dirtiest of the fossil fuels.  As it stands today our local energy mix is a blend of coal, natural gas, hydroelectric, solar, nuclear, and wind (more or less in that order).

This 52% of my electric vehicle’s electron fuel originates from the local energy mix which I source from various 120 volt standard electrical outlets at my private residence and at the homes of friends, and the readily available Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE)  – aka car chargers – network located all around my “home range.” (Home range = the area in which I spend the majority of my time.)

When on the road I always try my best to use EVSE that are in close association with, or not far from solar or other renewable energy power sources in the attempt to keep my car’s electric fuel as clean as possible.

But how does all this work you may ask?

First, let us look at the solar side of things.

It all starts with our nearest star – the sun.  Sunlight, which is made up of photons – that can take up to as long as one million years to be produced inside the sun – is produced by our nearest star then zip through space at the speed of light and around 8 minutes later strike my classroom’s photovoltaic solar array – that’s my classroom in the below photo taken by the ENP solar charged camera drone.

DCIM104GOPRO

The photons are then converted into direct current (DC) electricity by an almost magical process that takes place within in the blue semi-conducting solar cells contained within the 20 solar modules that currently* make up the array.  After the electricity is produced in the solar modules it travels (again at the speed of light) via wires to the SMA Sunny Boy inverter where it is modified from DC current into AC current and sent into the building’s power grid.  From the there it travels via more wiring to a Clipper Creek Level 2 EVSE.    *I say currently because we are now working on raising funds to complete Phase Two which will add 10 more solar modules to our classroom solar array powering the entire building and the EV with solar!  Learn more about how you can help us make this happen for our classroom and nonprofit on our Patreon page or on our GoFundMe page.

Read all about our very special EVSE – donated by Pine Shore Energy

From the EVSE the energy then travels along a cable into my 2012 Nissan Leaf and charges the car’s battery with clean, locally produced, renewable solar electricity.

ENPEVSE

No dirty, toxic, life-destroying fossil fuels needed for this configuration.

just

Sunshine + Science + EV + Willpower + Determination + Generosity +Hard Work = a Solar Driven Electric Vehicle!

sunflowersolargarden1

Renewable energy + EV’s are the “new normal” and they offer all of us freedom from the subscription to dependency that is fossil fuels.

Although I have been daily charging my 2012 Nissan Leaf in this manner since mid-July 2017, this report will only cover a 4-month time-frame between August and November of 2017. At the end of 1 year, I will recalculate and we will take a look at the changes.

I only live about a dozen miles from my classroom/office and during the week I always charge my Leaf at work. After work and on weekends I often travel around the area for work and play so I must occasionally plug my Leaf into a standard power outlet on my carport at home or use the many conveniently located community Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) public charging stations* that are powered by other local energy sources – and some of these energy sources are not as clean as our favorite neighborhood star.  For these logistical reasons, my Leaf is not entirely powered by the sun – at least not yet. *see map below and visit Plugshare to learn where there are EVSE near you.

The local charging station network as of the writing of this post.  The blue dot is approximately (but nowhere near exactly for security reasons) where I live.

plugmap

So, how do I know my Leaf is 48% solar powered?

To answer to that question I took a deep look at my “Leaf Log” – a charging status and usage journal that I have been keeping of my daily charging/driving activities since day one of EV ownership.

I compared my Leaf Log with the daily power production logs from my classroom’s SMA Sunny Boy Inverter and cross-referenced those with the power usage records from Duke Energy – my grid power provider.

The Data.

Time period covered: August 01- November 30, 2017.

Total solar array production to November 30th: 1.36 MWh

Average monthly solar production over the time period: 280.45 kWh

Average daily solar production over the time period: 9.34 kWh

Total number of times the Leaf was fully charged* using solar produced electricity over the time period: 65

*I only recorded data for days where solar production equaled or was greater than the kWh needed to fully charge my Leaf EV.

Total number of times the Leaf was charged at home over the time period: 47

Total number of times the Leaf was charged with local energy mix* over the time period: 53  *Our local energy mix includes a mix of Coal, Natural gas, Hydroelectric, Solar, Nuclear, and wind more or less in that order.  From:   https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/#tabs_unit-1

energysourcesnew

Number of kWh from the cleanest solar produced electricity (my classroom solar array) over the time period: 535.19 kWh

Number of kWh from the local energy mix over the time period (home+other local EVSE): 687.3 kWh

Number of kWh sourced from Level 1 home charging: 357.3 kWh

Number of kWh from all other sources outside of solar/home: 330 kWh

Total kWh used by EV over time frame: 1222.49

Leafenergy17kWh

It is important to note that my home energy mix is supported by wind power carbon offsets through Arcadia Power.  This is significant because when I charge my Leaf at home, the energy used to charge its battery, while being physically generated by the local energy mix, has its carbon pollution offset by the construction and operation of wind farms which serve to lower my EV’s carbon footprint even more!

Number of kWh from wind energy offsets used to charge my Leaf at home over the time period = 357.3 kWh

Now let’s take a look at the local energy mix.

The total kWh sourced from the grid mix over the time period = 330 kWh.

Total kWh electricity sourced from EVSE in close proximity to renewably produced energy from home range grid mix over the time period = 97.3 kWh

Number of kWh from known renewable energy augmented EVSE stations*: 51.9 kWh * Solar BrightfieldTS EVSE at UNCA/Asheville Public Works BrightfieldTS solar EVSE/EarthFare BrightfieldTS EVSE/Sierra Nevada Brewery/WCU BrightfieldTS EVSE/Cherokee Welcome Center solar/wind EVSE

Total kWh used from charging the Leaf adjacent to the dirtiest EVSE* in our local energy grid over the time period = 27.2 kWh *Note: I refer to this as the dirtiest EVSE in the area as it is less than a mile from and within sight of the largest local fossil fuel-fired electricity power plant in the area – as you can see from this image.

 

energymixother17

FINAL ANALASYS 

Total energy used by EV over time period: 1,221.77 kWh 

1041.69 + 180.08 = 1221.77

Total kWh from known clean energy sources over the time period: 1,041.69 kWh 

535.19(classroom solar) + 51.9(RE EVSE) + 357.3(home wind offests) + 97.3 (near RE)  = 1041.69 kWh

Total kWh from fossil fuel generation sources:  180.8 kWh

153.6 + 27.2 (fossil fuels) = 180.8

 

leafenergypercents

CONCLUSIONS

My calculations suggest that, over the time period in question, the LEAF received 85.3% of its energy from renewable energy sources via either local sources or via carbon offsets.  The remaining 14.7% of its energy came from local fossil fuel-fired generation sources.

leaffinalenergy

So it seems that if my maths are correct (and please do correct me if you find an error) that my data and calculations suggest that during the time period in question my Leaf was 48% solar charged and 52% grid mix charged with 37.3% of that grid mix being sourced from renewable energy sources.

During the 48% of the time my Leaf was solar charging at my classroom – it was, in fact, receiving its electrons from the sun.

The other 52% of the time, while it is reasonable to deduce that my EV received 37.3% of its energy from renewable energy sources – it is more complicated to pinpoint the exact energy sources for my vehicles electron fuel.  This is due to the nature of nature, the nature of the electric grid, the loads on the grid at any given time, the nature of electrons, and my varied locations when charging.

Nonetheless, if the numbers and my calculations are accurate then it is reasonable to say that my little EV is truly a “green” Leaf and, for its specific situation and use – it is as clean as it can possibly be when compared to vehicles powered solely by internal combustion engines that receive all of their energy from carbon-based fossil fuel sources.  These results make me very happy by giving me the knowledge that I am doing as much as I am able to do to shrink my carbon footprint and I am working to share my findings with the next generation.

I am also fully and acutely aware that everything we do has an impact on our shared earth – from the manufacturing process of the vehicle, EVSE, solar array, and all the parts that tie it all together – these all have their own unique carbon footprints.  I am also fully aware that all grid-based energy supply networks – from the dirtiest coal or diesel-fired power plant to the cleanest hydro, wind or solar sourced renewable energy installation also have their own areas of inefficiency and loss that compounds to lower their carbon footprints – so no, there is no such thing as a 100% carbon-free human-made energy source and there will always be some losses in the manufacturing processes, in the power delivery along the way to you, and in the final use of that power by you, the user.  I am not here to debate those things nor am I hear to claim that I have all the answers.  What I am here to do is share with you the ways I have discovered that you can make use of to lower your personal carbon footprint by using renewable energy and electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf in your everyday lives.  Those other, larger issues – we common folk have little control over – but those issues will improve as our technology improves.  For those improvements to happen we need to vote strong scientific minds into offices of power and we need to vote with our money in support of renewable energy projects, electric vehicles and their support infrastructure, and better efficiency in our homes, schools and workplaces and maybe then, by working together, we can work to make our collective impacts on our fragile ecosystem as low as possible for the benefit of us all and for the benefit of everything moving forward.

MORE PONDERINGS

The 149.2 kWh of RE generated/augmented electricity sources used to charge my EV varied depending upon where I plugged into the grid, was it sunny, overcast, windy, what was the ambient temperature etc.  Although I am not 100% sure on any of the following I will take a stab at hazarding an educated guess.

Looking at the below map you will see two polygons.  These represent my daily home range and the electricity generation sources located therein.  I spend around 90% of my time within the area of the yellow polygon while the green polygon represents the extended home range that I visit around 10% of the time.  Note: the Duke Energy power plant located just north of center of my primary home range is listed on the map as a Natural Gas Power Plant – however, that listing is misleading as it is, in reality, a “Conventional Steam Coal; Natural Gas Fired Combustion Turbine with Net Summer Capacity by Energy Source: Coal = 378 MW, Natural Gas = 320 MW.” – so it is currently not as “clean” as it is reported.  The Oconee Nuclear power station, the closest one to my location, is just off the southern edge of the map to the left of Liberty, SC.

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On the next map, we see all of the locations where I frequently charge my car and their locations in relation to the local power grid’s energy production sources.

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The L1 and L2 EVSE in the lower left of the yellow polygon are clustered around my home and office.  My home is located midway between the Duke energy coal/gas plant and a large clustering of hydroelectric power plants to the west.  At first glance it appears that around 50% of my home’s electricity may be provided from this renewably generated clean hydroelectricity – however, those hydroelectric generation stations are on a different circuit so I am therefore unable to take advantage of their much cleaner hydroelectricity.  Although my home circuit’s power grid is fed mostly by a mix of coal, natural gas, hydroelectric, nuclear, and solar more or less in that order – however, when we take into account the renewable energy offsets I receive from Arcadia Power my home energy mix becomes MUCH cleaner!

When I am in the northern part of my most frequented home range I usually charge at solar assisted EVSE locations located in downtown Asheville at the BrightfieldTS solar assisted EVSE stations located on College St., on the campus of UNCA, at the Sierra Nevada Brewery, or at the Earthfare Grocery store in South Asheville.  These EVSE stations receive a large portion of their power from solar energy so, if an EV is charging during the day it is solar charged.  When an EV is not charging, these EVSE then feed clean solar produced electricity back into the power grid.  I can, therefore, hypothesize that when I charge at these locations (on sunny days) I am driving on sunshine and my car’s electron fuel is potentially as clean as when I solar charge at my classroom.

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Charging on sunshine on the campus of UNCA

When I drive out of my most frequented home range area and into my extended home range (the area within the green polygon) not only is the majority of the electricity in that area provided by clean hydroelectric generating stations, but on top of that,  whenever possible I charge at EVSE locations that are relatively close to hydroelectric, solar/wind* augmented generating stations.  It is interesting to note that the EVSE on the campus of  Western Carolina University is also fueled by a solar canopy as seen below.

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This EVSE is also very close to the nearby Electron Garden , a small campus solar farm seen in the following photo,  as well as being located “downstream” from several hydroelectric power generating facilities that produce close to 50 MW of clean hydro-generated electricity – so these facts suggest that this is indeed a very clean EVSE!22279717_10213086155961288_6919179988762042057_n-1.jpg

Another EVSE I use frequently is located at the Cherokee, NC welcome center in Cherokee, NC.  This EVSE is powered by a mix of hydroelectric, solar, and wind generated electricity.  The building (pictured below) is attached to a hydroelectrically energized power grid and it has two solar “trees” plus a small-scale wind turbine on site that generates even more clean energy from the sun and wind.

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This clean energy is then fed directly into the building’s grid and the three EVSE located in the parking area.  If an EV is charging then its batteries will be solar, wind, and water power charged.

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My Leaf charging at the Cherokee Welcome Center.

On a few occasions, I am forced, due to my Leaf’s limited range, to charge at EVSE located very close to coal-fired generating facilities.  On these occasions, my car is fueled with clean electrons produced by dirty energy generation stations.  The good thing is that these occurrences are rare and totaled only 27.2 kWh of my total energy usage during the time period under study.

Follow Up

I have arrived at my conclusions based on data from my home range map, charging history data from the “Leaf Log,” and knowledge of the local electricity providers power generating facilities and their service areas.

Even with the gray areas in the numbers this 85.3% renewable energy provided fuel is far and above cleaner and more energy secure and has a significantly lower carbon footprint than anything out there on the roads that runs on any liquid petroleum fuel.

In fact, even if I did not have a solar generating station at my classroom/office, or use Arcadia Power for carbon offsets, or charge at renewable energy powered EVSE – my Leaf would still average around 73 mpg equivalent*.   This is due to our country’s grid mix continuing to get cleaner every day with the retirement of aging coal fired power plants and their replacement with cleaner natural gas and much cleaner renewable energy power stations! *From the Union of Concerned Scientists EV Emissions Calculator found here: http://www.ucsusa.org/clean-vehicles/electric-vehicles/ev-emissions-tool#z/28768/2012/Nissan/LEAF (24 kWh)

This data is based on the following chart of the US energy mix as of March 2017.

2014-map_blog_5.19-1024x749 Source: http://blog.ucsusa.org/dave-reichmuth/new-numbers-are-in-and-evs-are-cleaner-than-ever

North Carolina’s Energy Mix

Now let’s look take a deeper look at my local energy mix.  The energy mix is just that – a mix of different energy sources all working together to provide us with reliable power for our homes, businesses, schools, and for a growing number of us – our electric transportation choices.

Traditionally, North Carolina was powered mostly by mostly coal but over the last couple of decades, we have seen a slow but steady growth in renewable power –  especially since 2010.  Since then NC has gone from near the back of the parade to #2 in the country for installed solar power!  Solar now provides NC residents with ~3.57% of our energy mix coming from the sun as well as over 3000 MWh of installed capacity – enough to power over 341,000 homes – and on top of that solar provides over 7,100 North Carolinians with great jobs and in the process, our energy mix just keeps getting cleaner!

Evidence of this can be seen in the below map image of NC’s current solar  (hydroelectric and nuclear) situation! (Note: yellow stars=grid scale solar power generation facilities, Blue=hydroelectric, purple=nuclear.)

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This trend is happening all over the country as evidenced by this amazing graphic from this UCS article.

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As of May 2016, the USA had installed 1 million solar installations – including around 950,000 rooftop solar arrays! (Source: http://blog.ucsusa.org/mike-jacobs/one-million-solar-energy-systems-now-turned-on-in-us )

Many more solar and wind generating facilities are planned for the 2018 year as can be seen in the map below.

planned RE generating facilities 2018

It is wonderful to see the fall of dirty “King Coal” with no new coal-fired power stations going in and the rapid growth of renewable power generation nationwide.  What this means is cleaner air, cleaner water, and a cleaner future for all of us, for nature, for wildlife, for our children, and for the children of the future.

It also means that even when we charge our EV’s on only local grid power they will  ALWAYS be cleaner and have less of an impact on our environment than ANYTHING powered by petroleum products (source).  Furthermore, with more and more new grid scale and private renewable energy generation facilities going online, the grid just continues to get cleaner – so every time we charge our EV’s anywhere – the electrons fueling our vehicles also just continue to get cleaner.

This is a win-win situation for all of us…well, unless you are still driving around in an old fossil burner because, as we all know, their fuel source can never be made clean and on top of that as they age their efficiency drops as their multitudes of moving parts wear out with use only causing them to pollute more and more.

Below a wonderful sign of the times from the Sunday funny papers 🙂

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I almost forgot to mention that when I looked at how the numbers have changed when it comes to my fuel costs to push my Nissan Leaf EV down the road – the new solar array has lowered my costs by,  you guessed it, almost half of what I was paying in the past.  My previous costs of operation for my EV’s electric fuel were around $30/month and now, with my classroom solar array online and charging my car with sunshine, I can now drive my average 1200 miles/month for about $15 – that works out to a little more than 1 cent per mile to fuel my EV!!!

OUTRAGEOUS!!!

That my friends is the ultimate smackdown to petroleum-based fuels.

I could not be happier.

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!THANK YOU!

Thank you to everyone who worked with me to make this dream a reality!

You are all HEROES!