Our First Trip That Required a Charge
In the fall of 2013, after driving our Leaf on mostly local trips for several months, plans started coming together for a trip that would require one stop for charging. This was an exciting proposition and added a bit of a range “thrill” to what had quickly become predictable driving. We have a second car that uses gas but it seemed like a fun challenge to try to plan a longer trip in the Leaf.
Being a pilot, once we committed to going, I threw myself into serious preflight planning, doing as much research as possible to feel comfortable with the equipment and the “mission.”
Our trip would be about 95 miles (of road travel) from the Boston area to Martha’s Vineyard, just outside the likely comfortable range of a highway driven Leaf. Another factor to consider was that the family would be along, so taking too many risks with range was out of the question. In addition I had to count on using climate control should it become necessary. (There’s a whole other post waiting to be written about being a hyper-miler in a family of normal people.)
The Carwings online system is a great place to start planning, offering the ability to plan your trip, including routes, distances and the possible need to charge along the way. It also takes into account things like terrain, and incorporates data acquired from other owners making the same trip. Some trips of course don't have prior data, but often there is some good information.
There are also apps that show public charging station locations but it’s worth noting that not all sites or apps have the same information and not all of the information is current. So it’s always worth confirming data from a number of different locations.
Anyway, because the trip was a little too long, I looked for opportunities to charge along our usual route and there was a cluster of charging options near Bridgewater, MA (about 35 miles into the trip.) After that, the next opportunity would be on Cape Cod itself, just over the bridge at a Nissan dealer. The stations near Bridgewater were at a 99's Restaurant or a Chili's and we chose the Chili's because it is within walking distance of a Lowes (since we needed to entertain kids while charging for around an hour. That’s why waiting until the Nissan dealer was out…just not much to do at a car dealership if you’re a kid.
I also liked that we had several charging options in that same location, because you can't guarantee that the chargers will be available when you get there. Another route offered a few charging stations at a mall, but was many miles out of the way.
So that was the calculus for the decision we made to stop where we did. I did the math and knew how much charging we would need to make it to our destination with a good comfort zone. Hearing from some experienced Leaf drivers, I learned that the car takes longer to fill at the top end of the battery than the bottom. As you near full, things slow down a bit. This was unfortunate in our case because we were forced to charge early in our trip, meaning an inefficient use of our charging time. But it was what it was.
The bottom line on the math, we needed to leave Chili's with more than 80 miles estimated range and hit the Bourne Bridge with 40 miles estimated range or better. The departure number at Chili's would ensure the second number, but the second number was guidance for deciding whether or not to stop at the Nissan dealership (a mile south of the bridge) as a back-up.
Anyway, all went well. The trip required highway driving, but the time of year and good weather meant that climate control was not necessary and the batteries were not terribly cold or hot.
That day, because of some local morning driving I had to do before leaving (which I could not re-fill fast enough to bother), we left home with 12 miles less than full. We charged for an hour and a half at Chili's and left there with 91 miles estimated range (a very comfortable margin.) We hit the bridge with 50 miles left (higher than 40 so no stop at Nissan) and had 37 miles estimated at the ferry. Got to our destination on Martha’s Vineyard with 27 miles still in the “tank,” so the data and planning were right on.
Ran into a little challenge charging where we were staying. This was mostly because it was tricky finding a 20amp circuit and had never been in a situation where the amps on a circuit might be an issue. But that problem was quickly solved and all went well. The trip home was a duplicate in reverse and as before, proper planning made everything seem effortless.
More to come!