EVolution

Photo courtesy of GM, Detroit

Darwinian Evolution is defined as: “descent with modification from preexisting species cumulative inherited change in a population of organisms through time leading to the appearance of new forms the process by which new species or populations of living things develop from preexisting forms through successive generations” – From Merriam-Webster

In Automotive Evolution we might say the following: automotive technologies descend with modification and enhancement from earlier preexisting forms and technologies cumulative inherited change of traits occur within a population of automobiles/automakers through time leading to the appearance of new and often more evolved/advanced automotive forms the process by which new automotive systems and/or collections of systems – as dictated by necessity and/or markets – lead to novel and more advanced automotive systems and/or collections of systems developed from preexisting forms through successive generations often (but not always) leading to more superior technological adaptations : those forms and technologies deemed inferior by function/markets are quickly weeded out of the population by the process that drives both automotive and Darwinian evolution – Natural Selection. Those forms and technologies deemed superior and that perform at or above their design will survive and their technological traits will be passed down to future populations.

Recently, I made the EVolutionary choice and I EVolved my automotive system.

In late September 2019 I purchased a 2019 Chevrolet Bolt.

Yep. The days of the BlueWaterLeaf are over.

My trusty old 2012 LEAF “Elektra” served me well for a little over six years but due to her failing battery chemistry and resulting limited driving range of only around 45-50 miles – natural selection prevailed and I was forced to automotively EVolve.

Yesterday meets today.

The old LEAF found a new home with a wonderful couple in a nearby town. Since they only drive around 25 miles per day I believe it will serve them well for many years to come.

For my needs, I require a vehicle that will travel more than 50 miles per day and sometimes upwards of 200 miles at a time. I also needed a vehicle that I can afford to fuel, maintain, and pay for as a company vehicle. Now that we have EV’s I feel that it is not logical nor is it a good use of funds for a small nonprofit organization to pay large amounts of money for fossil fuel powered vehicles and their fuels. Essentially, using a fossil fuel powered vehicle for a nonprofit – or any business for that matter – is like lighting generously donated and/or hard earned money on fire, then tossing it out the window. It is not only a garish waste of funds but it also pollutes the environment – the very thing my organization is working so hard to protect, conserve, understand, and share.

So, after extensive research and planning, I decided to purchase a new 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV – Premier edition as a replacement outreach vehicle for my small, non profit organization Earthshine Nature Programs (501c3) – www.earthshinenature.com

I have owned the Bolt EV now for four months and during that time I have driven the little EV close to 6500 miles! It is a remarkable car that makes the old LEAF seem, well, – like ancient technology – or, in keeping with the EVolutionary theme – an earlier form of life.

The last solar charge for Elektra.

I really loved my LEAF but the primary reason I decided to go with a Chevrolet over another Nissan was mainly due to the ongoing terrible experience I had with Nissan HQ. Despite my detailed record keeping, sticking with the car’s dealer defined maintenance/warranty schedule, countless service visits/inquiries/emails/phone calls with Nissan HQ about my LEAF’s battery degradation issue, and even working tirelessly to promote the LEAF to many people online via this blog and in person via my nonprofit programming through EV education classes, and through the Blue Ridge Electric Vehicle Club at EV car shows during National Drive Electric week – all of these things lead up to many people I knew and many I did not who then purchased Nissan LEAF’s for themselves. Despite all this Nissan still refused to stand by their product and would not offer to replace my car’s degrading battery. Then, to make matters worse – just when I was about to consider the purchase of a new battery for my LEAF – Nissan raised the price by thousands of dollars as if trying to force owners of the first generation LEAF’s to upgrade to a newer car!

On top of all this madness, Nissan opted to forgo the implementation of an active battery management system that would extend the useful life of their EV batteries in favor of keeping the costs down so they could then sell more new LEAF’s using an out-dated technology while making a higher profit.

All these reasons pushed me over the edge so I decided that I was finished with Nissan and chose to look elsewhere. I looked at Tesla, Hyundai, Kia and then Chevrolet. Chevrolet already had several years of EV experience with the Volt and the Bolt’s technology was a few years old therefore giving them some time to weed out any major issues with the newer Bolt. Chevrolet also opted to go with a battery management system similar to Tesla’s that would keep the battery at the optimum operating temperature extending its driving range and its useful life. The bolt also has amazing driving range second only to Tesla (at the time) – at 238 it was a massive improvement over the old gen one LEAF which would only travel 73 miles before needing a charge. Another big deciding factor for me was the fact that at the time I was shopping there were some really nice end of model year deals on the Bolt so, for all these reasons, I chose the Bolt EV.

Taking ownership of the new “MIGHTY BOLT” from Walker Chevrolet in Franklin, Tennessee…interestingly enough only a few miles from where I purchased the Nissan Leaf in 2013.
With the new Bolt at the Nissan HQ saying goodbye Nissan!

So far I love the little EV – although, it does have a few odd issues that need mentioning. These are issues that I believe need some real attention from Chevrolet – so let us get those out of the way first.

1: Ultra reflective dashboard deck. The windshield facing side of the dashboard (in my car) is light colored so it reflects sunlight onto the underside of the windshield making it almost impossible to drive without visual discomfort from the “flashing” reflections. This creates an unsafe and uncomfortable driving experience. During the test drive I did not notice this phenomenon – possibly due to the sun angle at the time – or I would have chosen a vehicle with a dark colored dashboard. To remedy the situation I purchased a custom fit charcoal black, non-reflective dash cover from Covercraft.com and the problem was solved.

2: Thin driver’s seat bottom cushion. I am a relatively thin person so the narrowness of the seats do not bother me as they do for some people. However, the thin cushion and adjacent plastic framework of the seat near the seat adjusting levers puts pressure on my left outer thigh region as I exit the vehicle. Over time this fact began to cause my left upper leg to ache. I fixed the issue with a simple pool noodle slipped over the plastic piece. It worked for me but GM should really work to remedy this problem as it may be a deal breaker for some buyers especially those who do not want a pool noodle flopping about in their new car.

This added pool noodle cushion ended all discomfort and is removable if need be.

3: Cargo space. For many people the Bolt will be perfect in size for town runs etc but I needed more carying capacity so I opted to install a roof basket.

This allows me to carry much more cargo when I take long trips and even lumber 🙂

Or bales of straw for the chickens 🙂

And even more lumber and conduit 🙂 !

Things I LOVE about this little car.

238 miles of range – and more depending on conditions! WOW! It is a real car!!

Range anxiety is a thing of the past!

Cool UI. I love all the data and functionality the UI provides and it is pretty.

One pedal driving – SO COOL!!! (and the brakes will last MUCH longer!)

Awesome stereo system with the option of SiriusXM.

Roof rack ready.

The three level cargo area.

Arm rest/drink holder in the rear seat.

Heated seats and steering wheel.

USB charging ports everywhere.

Qi/wireless phone charger.

Wonderful windshield wipers that really work well.

Deep, multi-level storage in center console.

Sliding sun visors.

Built-in rear-view mirror backup camera.

Surround view camera.

Automatic headlights.

Automatic Emergency Braking.

Lane keep assist.

Android Auto.

The hulkingly huge 60 kWH battery that lets me go for days without needing to charge.

The insanely low cost to fuel and operate.

In fact, lets look at some numbers on that last topic.

I am not bragging but I feel that I need to share this very revealing automotive data with you should you be considering EVolving up to a Bolt or other EV.

I have calculated the fuel costs to drive the car the 6500 miles I have traveled up to this point.

Are you ready for this?

Are you sitting down?

Here it is.

$119.71

Those costs come primarily from the five “quick charge” sessions I needed during these first four months of ownership. Those sessions resulted in a total charge of $77.95 or and average of $15.59 per charge.

The remaining $41.76 comes from multiple “Level 2” charge sessions on the road and from several overnight “Level 1” and “Level 2” charging sessions at home.

In summary, during the last four months, I have driven an average of

1,625 miles per month.
406.25 miles per week.
58.03 miles per day.

At a cost of –

$32.60 per month.
$8.15 per week.
$1.16 per day.

119.71/6500 = .0184

So that breaks down to be $0.0184 cents per mile for the Mighty Bolt’s electron fuel.

$0.2 cents per mile! I will let that sink in for a moment.

Those numbers are accurate as I keep detailed notes on all charge sessions/energy costs.

My EV’s electric fuel costs are much lower than many EV drivers since I am able to use locally generated renewably produced solar electricity as my EV’s primary fuel source. The largest percentage of my Bolt EV’s electron fuel comes from the classroom solar array my students, interns, volunteers and I installed on my nonprofit office/classroom.

For the average US homeowner without solar who is charging their EV at home using the local power utility energy mix (US average @ .12/kWh), their costs would be a bit higher than my numbers.

My stats.

Regional Energy Grid Data from: https://www.eia.gov/state/

Arcadia Power: https://www.arcadia.com/

The fact remains that no matter an EV’s fuel source – fueling, maintaining, and driving an EV will always be much lower than anything powered by dirty, toxic, nature, life, earth, and future polluting fossil fuels.

It is very interesting and revealing to note that if I had driven those 6500 miles in my only remaining gas guzzler – a 2013 Honda Pilot – I would have needed to stop maybe 15 – 20 times to refill the gas tank (and change the oil and oil filter one and possibly the air filter once) and therefore my gasoline fuel bill (maybe we should call it a conveyance convenience cost) would have been a massive $812.50 or around 0.13/mile! …then add in the cost of the oil/filter change of around $50 and that’s $862.50!!

I do not care who you are, where you are from, or how much money you have to burn but you must logically agree with me – that is a CRAZY STUPID expense for anyone to spend just to get from point A to point B!

In fact, below is a photo of the gas pump the last time I filled up the Honda’s fuel tank…YIKES!

That $47 will push the Honda Pilot around 360 miles but it will also push the Chevy Bolt EV over 2300 miles!!!

Some Maths

6500 miles at an average of 20mpg = 325 gallons x $2.50 (per gasbuddy.com) = $812.50

Or
812.50/6500 = .125 (per mile)

(812.50 (gas) – 119.71(electricity))

That is a fuel only cost savings of $692.79!!

No one can deny the fuel savings of driving electric – but what about the grossly unacceptable downsides of driving EV’s:

THE DIRTY DOWNSIDES OF DRIVING ELECTRIC

Charging: What about the horrible inconvenience of charging my EV while I sleep…It is just so difficult and time-consuming to need to remember to plug in the car before going on to other things…oh the horror!

First quick charge!

Stopping: The painfully needling fact that when on a road trip I always need to stop driving every 200 miles or so to plug in my car while I take a break, read a book, surf the net, take a nap, graze on food, have a cold one, get some exercise, go shopping, fish for lunch, fly a drone, watch a movie, spend time with friends and family, ride a zipline, pet a dog, pick some fruit, or just smell the flowers (these are just a few of the terribly inconvenient things I have been forced to do or could do while waiting for my EV to charge)…I just can’t take this intolerable electric car life of any longer!

Gas Stations: What about the hot insanity of never ever again needing to stop at dirty gas stations*? I so greatly miss the ritual of waiting in line for a pump, grasping the infectious germ and “booger” covered gas nozzle, shoving it into my legacy vehicle’s fuel port, engaging the trigger, inhaling deeply of the toxic and highly flammable hydrocarbon fumes while watching other oil addicted users doing the very same – oh and sometimes some of them leave their engines running and/or are even smoking while fueling – WTF!!! All this time our tanks fill up and our bank accounts drain…oh and let’s not forget the great fun of shopping in the station’s store for low quality overly processed foodstuffs…oh how I miss those days. *Ok, so I do occasionally stop at filling stations – but only if they have EV charging stations and/or to use their bathrooms or squeegee my EV’s windshield đź™‚ (Read one of my earlier posts about an earlier and most unusual filling station experience.)

Fueling up on electrons at a Dandridge, Tennessee Exxon station – maybe one day the pump locations will be reversed 🙂

Cash Flow: How about the fact that driving electric means you will never again be forever stuck in the endless “subscription to dependency” that owning and driving petroleum-powered vehicles truly is. Therefore, I will be FORCED to stop endlessly paying out loads and loads of cash for gas/oil only to just burn it up over and over again harming our individual lungs and our shared environment. Whatever will I do with all this extra cash???

Health: When my asthma and the seasonal ozone/fossil fuel pollution-induced respiratory inflammation and distress go away – I will shed a great and lonely tear of loss. What will I ever do with all this improved health I just do not know…

Maintenance: Then there is the unbelievable madness of having virtually no maintenance costs/repair downtime on the EV’s motor, battery, brakes, and drive systems…like the LEAF before it, this BOLT EV (and all EV’s) are virtually maintenance-free. I am going to really miss the time-honored ritual of raising the hood and/or crawling under my vehicle on the side of a busy road – in the rain, mud, ice, snow, and boiling summer heat (been there done all that many, many times) – to fix some failing component such as a faulty belt/hose/fuel line/fuel tank/plug wire/radiator/thermostat/clutch/carburetor/alternator/exhaust/intake manifold/”johnson rod” and on an on…and/or wiring up a broken exhaust pipe/muffler…and/or adjusting some broken or maladjusted linkage/shaft in 20-degree weather then bashing my knuckles on a cross member etc…or having my old beater car towed to a repair shop and then waiting hours or days for it to be professionally repaired and then receiving the huge charge $$$$$$ for all those frequent repair/labor costs…again, what will I ever do with all this extra money and time? Note: I really do love working on older, classic cars – especially with my dad. However, working on a classic car at home in the garage or in the driveway/yard on a nice day is a totally different animal than what I described above – which is a fresh hell I would not wish on anyone.

Efficiency: Oh, and what about the insanely stupid fact that EVs produce a portion of their own electron fuel through the process of regenerative braking thereby extending their driving range by hundreds to thousands of free driving miles each year and therefore lowering my fuel costs even more…how will I ever adapt to all this egg-headed science nerd tech geek madness saving me loads of money and making my life easier, faster, stronger, better?!

The first road trip from Franklin, TN to Chattanooga, TN – a Bolt and a Tesla Model 3 – so cool! Photo by Bob Harris of Black Bear Solar Institute

Sound of silence: How about the unbearable and unbelievably smooth, quiet ride? I just cannot handle all this calmness, comfort, and serenity. Oh, how I miss the endless internal combustion engine drone drowning out the silence and/or the nuances of my favorite songs, audiobooks, and podcasts. Then there are the random noises, sudden jerks, squeaks, rattles, bangs, parts falling off (yes, that really happened), and body wrenching lurches that used to assault my ears, muddle my thought processes, and often torque my spine in all my previous legacy vehicles…

…all this EVolved silence is just so unbearable – oh, the humanity!

Convenience: What about that ridiculous one pedal driving thing! It is just so bizarre and inconvenient to only need to use one pedal instead of two. Not having to step on the brake all the time means my brake pads may last over one hundred thousand miles – how will I ever adapt to all this efficient madness? What will I ever do with all the extra money that I would have spent on bake jobs? My foot really misses stepping on the brake all the time so sometimes I do it out of nostalgia.

High above my EV’s fuel refinery. Note how clean the air is 🙂

Safety: I am not at all comfortable with the increased safety of this car. It will automatically and without asking me to authorize it – put on the brakes to avoid a collision!! What a HUGE compromisation of my freedoms to stop whenever I want to and under my own power and control!!! …oh and then there are all the airbags – they wrap around me on all sides – and then there’s the seatbelts holding me down keeping me from flying through the windshield in an accident – I feel so invaded!! …and what about all the CAMERAS!!! Giving over control to the machines – we all know where that leads!! It all must be a conspiracy…a plot fabricated by the Russians or maybe the Chinese…NO it is the greenies working with the Russians, the Chinese, the North Koreans and the DUTCH!!!! (To be clear: I am not racist and this was not a racial slur – it was a cheezy reference to an obscure comedy movie series staring Mike Myers.)

Furthermore!

I will not stand for all the EV safety madness!!!!

Give me back my 1969 Vista Cruiser!!

That 70’s Show photo courtesy of Carsey-Warner.

Fuel: How about the garishly un-American ability to charge an EV’s traction battery with home-grown electron fuel made on my own soil – be that electron fuel renewably generated by sun, wind, water, landfill gas, cow farts, or even the dirtiest hulking coal-fired power plant.

It is all domestically produced American made energy that does not require dirty deals, endless wars, and the terrible loss of our brave loved ones in the service just to keep it flowing into our tanks.

Nor does all this locally grown renewable energy destroy the very environment that gives all of us clean air, clean water, healthy food, diverse wildlife, our own lives, and a healthy future.

Source: NASA https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_2159.html

Driving electric vehicles powered by renewable energy is obviously such an un-American, un-patriotic sacrilege that our founding fathers must be spinning like oil-soaked V8 crankshafts in their graves!

__________________________________________

Ok, so for those of you that somehow missed it – I absolutely LOVE my Chevrolet Bolt EV and I absolutely LOVE driving electric. I was attempting to be overly and intentionally sarcastic and humorous with my previous outline of EV shortcomings. From my point of view and over six years of EV driving experience – there really are no EV shortcomings.

Driving electric is simply a better way to drive.

Despite my sarcastic attempts at humor aside and despite all the mostly manufactured EV shortcomings you may encounter from the deniers, doubters, Luddites, and FUD generators – and those with money/politics tied up in the legacy automakers and fossil fuel economy – I fail to see how anyone can rationally dispute the massive cost savings of driving electric vehicles as daily driver commuter vehicles and soon, much, much, more…and all this before we have even looked at the significant reductions to toxic air and water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions saved by driving electric vehicles especially when they are charged by locally grown renewably generated 100% energy secure electricity – but that is another long-winded data-rich topic for yet another blog posting on yet another day.

Final Question:

How much does it cost you to drive your fossil burner 6500 miles?

Charging with my cousin the Chevy Volt

So, suffice it to say that I absolutely LOVE my Chevrolet Bolt EV.

I will keep you posted on my newly EVolved EV life with the “Mighty Bolt” EV and hopefully I will be able to offer you some insight into the world of the Electric Vehicle, renewable energy, and maybe, if you have not already, you will take the necessary steps toward your own automotive EVolution.

SPECIAL THANKS to Bob Harris of Black Bear Solar Institute, Jim Hardy, Catherine O’Neil, Marian O’Neil, and the Blue Ridge EV Club, my awesome students, and everyone who worked with me to make all of this possible – you know who you are!

Note: I do not work for, receive compensation from, or own stock in GM, Chevrolet, Tesla, or any electric vehicle or electric vehicle supply equipment company or renewable energy technology or company. I do however support all of these technologies, companies, and ways of life as long as they stay focused on their goals and work to help more than harm and because they are all working toward a better, cleaner, more energy secure, lower ecological footprint, science-focused way of life that supports everyone everywhere.

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