During the Memorial Day Weekend, we had our first opportunity to drive the Leaf on a bit of a longer drive. Our son James just recently moved to Pinellas County, which is about a 50 mile round trip. We had a great time and an excellent driving and charging experience. This post might give you an idea of what is possible with a little creativity on the part of an EV driver.
We left Tampa with not quite a full battery charge, as we had done some driving around town in the morning. So we had about 84 miles of range on the dash indicator. Remember, the range is not a ‘set-in-stone’ thing. It is a combination of your battery charge, your driving style, the speeds and accelerations used, how much you used the brakes, etc.
For those of you not familiar with the Tampa Bay area, Pinellas is a peninsula, which has 3 main bridges connecting it with Tampa to the east. Kim, who has been using the Volt as her daily ride, took the driver’s seat for the outbound journey. It was a combination of 50% divided highway and 50% expressway conditions, including a ride over the bay on the Gandy Bridge. In total, it was a 25.7 mile segment. She pulled into the apartment complex, which does not have an EV charging station, but was able to pull right into a visitor spot with a close by 110v outlet. I had talked to the apartment management earlier about the options for charging my EV while on visits with James. They had said they had never had that question asked before, but they agreed that I could use the outlet there any time I visited.
Strictly speaking, we would have had absolutely no problem doing the entire round trip journey without charging during the stops. Even with the air-conditioning running full blast (it is already very hot and humid here in Tampa), the range of the vehicle makes a 50 or 60 mile trip possible without charging. However, when you drive an EV you will become like a thirsty explorer in the dessert. You might have used only half a canteen of water, but would you pass up a well or water hole without topping off?
So we pulled out the charging cord and plugged in. The 110v charger that comes with the Leaf (the Volt has a similar and interchangeable charger too) is referred to as a trickle charger. It is by far the slowest method of charging the Leaf, but it works almost everywhere. It also takes 30 seconds to plug in (right now, it is what we use to charge at home.). We ended up being plugged into the 110v for only about 20 minutes, as we decided to all go to a restaurant to eat lunch.
The restaurant was only a couple miles away, and as we approached the area, I pressed the ‘Find Nearby Stations’ on the center screen. This showed that there was a level 2 charger at Applebee’s restaurant, in the same complex as the BJ’s restaurant we were headed to. I immediately selected to home straight into that EV charger, using the navigation system. With just a click of the touch screen, in a couple of minutes we arrived. The charger was at the back of the Applebees, with no other cars around it. Usually, EV spots are marked EV Only and are in the front of most places that have them.
The charging station was not of brand that I was familiar with, and it did not require any type of credit card or swipe card. In fact, all I did was pull the charging wand out from the charger and plug it into the car. The charging started immediately. Of course, we then did a very non-typical things for Americans… we walked 2 blocks down to the other restaurant! Sorry Applebee’s, but we promise to eat there another time. I have no connection to Applebees but just looked up their website and found this really great page on how they are trying to be a positive force in the world – rock on!
The following are readings from the smartphone app (no, I didn’t keep getting up from my lunch to go outside LOL).
- 2:15pm, range of 53 miles remaining at the start of the charge.
- 2:38pm – 61 miles
- 3:12pm – 77 miles
- 3:40pm – 88 miles
- 4:48pm – 91 miles
So we got 38 miles of free energy. After an excellent lunch, we drove back to the apartment and – you guessed it – plugged into the 110v plug again! It was enough to charge (at a much slower rate than the level 2 charger) enough to cover the distance from the restaurant to the apartment.
We spent more time with James, and a few minutes before we departed I sent the Leaf (using the app on my phone) a command to start the air-conditioning! It was very hot out, so turning on the climate system while still hooked up to any charger lets the car cool down without using any range up (the Volt has the same type of app and capability). In Florida, this is VERY cool. After a great visit, we left at 5:53pm with 91 miles on the range. We had traveled a total of 34.6 miles at that point.
Being a Sunday evening, with less traffic in the Interstate system, we decided to drive back on I-275 and the infamous Howard Franklin Bridge (often called the Howard Frankenstein Bridge). I-275 is all torn up with construction on the Tampa side, but luckily we flew along the whole way home. Driving the car in Eco mode with occasionally taking it off Eco to really accelerate – EVs are FUN to drive!
24.8 miles on the return trip, with a time of 34 minutes (return trip average speed of 44.28 miles per hour with speed bursts in mid 70 MPH). We made great time, and got home at 6:27pm,
The total trip was 59.4 miles, with 59 miles of range remaining on the Leaf when we pulled into home. So we went on an almost 60 mile trip and used only about 25 miles of our electricity. The rest was all free for us to plug into. Now even if we had to pay a reasonable rate of say, 25 cents an hour to charge on a level 2 charger, that would have been worth it!!!! The SUV we traded in would have used at-least 2.5 gallons of gasoline on this trip. At about $3.70 a gallon here, that means we saved about $9.25 of gasoline on this trip. Even if you factored in that we ‘spent’ maybe – MAYBE – a $1 or so of electricity, it is amazing. Kim’s overall reaction was “it was pretty darn easy!”.
Now to be honest, I personally find this all A LOT of fun. Hunting down free places to plug in, saving money, driving around in a cool car full of apps and touch screens – it is heaven for a Computer Engineer. Remember, we could have just driven there and back as well, and still have saved real money on fuel.
I hope this example, with the charging and trip details provided, helps people understand what real-life driving for a family is like with an EV these days.