Just the Brakes

 

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

it always happened at speeds below 30 mph

it was more frequent in cold or wet weather

it was always random

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the 100% electric, zero emission Nissan Leaf.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THANK YOU NISSAN and THANK YOU JENNIFER!!  

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

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

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

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

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In the middle of surgery to remove the defective parts

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

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The defective components 

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The shiny new components

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The surgery is complete!

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

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

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

Very well done!

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

Until next time…

“Plug into the future!”

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

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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.

 

Electric Vehicle Charging Etiquette 101

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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 Acquisition of the Leaf

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

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

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

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Here’s the story in a rather large nutshell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

fastcharging

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

highwayleaf

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

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

chargingatloves2

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

chagelow

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

tangeleaf

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

dinneronday2atCB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

homedash

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

firstchargeathome

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

Totals for the adventure:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time spent driving the Leaf: ~4.5 hours

Time spent driving petroleum powered vehicles: ~8.5 hours

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

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

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

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

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

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