Our First Trip Over 50 Miles In The Leaf

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.

Leaf on Crosstown Expressway Toll CameraWe 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.

plugged into 110v outletStrictly 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?

The Leaf plugs in the front of the carSo 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.

free charging at St Pete ApplebeesThe 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,

60 mile Leaf road tripThe 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.

 

My Life In Cars

People covet many things: beautiful homes, designer clothing, jewelry, etc. For me, cars have never been one of them. I always viewed cars as a depreciating asset and a necessary evil. My ideal was to pay cash for a gently used vehicle you bought from a private individual. EVs were exotic creatures only glimpsed at green themed conventions – out of reach and out of my price range. So, it’s pretty weird to now have an EV only household.

We Are A Two EV HouseholdFor me, the important thing about EVs is lowering my carbon footprint and saying “sayonara” to the gas station. Those are no brainers. The obstacle was simply price. The tipping point came when Jamie located first the Volt, and then the Leaf, both available for lease for about $300 and $200, respectively. It’s hard to argue with that math. The cost of leasing is equivalent to my gas bill. Yes, there was an initial investment of a down payment, but we are also free of the constant stream of repairs and maintenance that went with our used cars. With leasing everything is under warranty.

So, the real question is how is it going? Well, I can assure everyone that I am possibly as untech savvy, as Jamie is tech savvy, and I don’t plan to change. I’m honestly having no trouble. My only challenge is keeping my hands and eyes off the controls for my new sirius radio, while I’m driving. Most of my trips are about 20 miles, so I don’t experience “range anxiety”, and of course the Volt does have a gas tank as well if you choose to use it. It’s way quieter than a conventional vehicle, so I’m extra paranoid about going slow in my neighborhood where there are plenty of people and pets on foot and paw. Also, the Volt has a special pedestrian horn to help make its presence known. It is extremely luxurious inside and I have a big case of “imposter syndrome”, as I feel like I don’t belong in this super fancy vehicle, but I expect that will fade quickly. Love, love, love not going to gas station!

Why we Are Doing This…

To put this blog into context, it is important to understand what Kim and I are trying to.  Essentially, this blog is an experiment – at 4 levels.

Technical: What is it really like to drive 100% on electric power - commuting to work, driving kids to school, shopping, vacation trips, charging at home and in public?
Environmental: Can we really figure out ways, as individuals and as a society, to save our planet from the climate change disaster. Are EVs part of  that equation?
Financial: Does upgrading older vehicles to new EVs make economic sense, including the cost of buying vs leasing, the cost of charging vs buying gasoline, the costs of normal gas car repairs vs EV maintenance?
Psychological: Does doing something we both feel strongly about to help the environment also help our relationship? Are there any EV related stresses or anxieties to deal with, such a range anxiety or charger sharing?

We both talked about it and each of us felt it was worth the effort to chronicle this adventure, so that others might get inspired to make the leap as well, to a practical and more sustainable future.

We have decided to try to field questions from anyone who is thinking about driving an EV or who might be having some sort of issues holding them back.  If we feel it is useful for the larger community, we will post the question and our answer.  Use this contact form to communicate with us.

 

 

Leaf range indicator at 102 miles!

I was pleasantly surprised to find that my Leaf is showing 102 miles this morning on the range indicator. This is after about 3 days of operation and charging, on the “trickle charger” on the home 110v circuit.

Months ago when we first got the Volt, I noticed that the fully charged range startLeaf charging at homeed out around 38 miles.  After a few weeks, as I remember it, the range started going up to typically 42 to 44 miles.  The Volt seems to charge up to its highest reading when on a Level 2 charger as opposed to the home 110v charger.  I will have to experiment on both cars to see if this effect is real or not.

I have the car set on ECO mode, which I am finding very good for normal driving. By default, the car was not in ECO mode.  With ECO off, the car feels almost exactly like the Volt when it is in Normal mode, in terms of acceleration.

leaf dash show full charge Again, it is not what it says as much as how you drive the car.  If you pay close attention to the acceleration and speed, as well as juggle the climate controls, you can often get more distance than the range indicator says.  However, the inverse is true too.  If you have to blast your way onto an Interstate, or decide to let it rip on the way to an important meeting or class or something, you may get less than you thought.

volt dash show full chargeHere is the Volt on a normal full charge.  Thought – we will have to find a secluded ‘track’ somewhere and do a test drag race with the Leaf and the Volt :)

 

The 2014 Leaf

2014 Nissan Leaf

All electric, with no gas recharging engine to cover you.  But the average range, according to the Leaf information is at least 84 miles – this could be even more depending on your driving settings and conditions.  I have had the range indicator show over 100 miles after a charge up.  Range on any EV depends on your driving style, attentiveness to your range/power/speed/acceleration factors, and your climate settings.

leaf dash show full chargeThe specs show a 24kWh Lithium Ion Battery pack, with specs at 30 kW-hrs per 100 miles.  I will talk more about range of these EVs in specific posts.

We got our leaf on May 15,  2014 – on a 3yr, 36,000 mile lease – for $228/month including taxes (we traded in an SUV and put $2000 down).

For comparision purposes, here is the actual window sticker from our 2014 Leaf SV:

The actual window sticker from our 2014 Leaf SV

 

 

The 2014 Volt

2014 Chevy Volt

Volt charging on solar energy The 2014 Chevy Volt has about a 42 mile range on its EV battery, but it also has a gasoline (premium fuel) generator that can be used to seamlessly recharge the battery as you drive.  So your range is, in effect, as ‘unlimited’ as a gasoline powered car.    However, 42 or so miles, depends on the way you drive, just like with any EV.  I have gotten 50 miles out of it.  With recharging, it has the ability to drive 100% of the time as an EV.

volt dash show full chargeThe Volt should be thought of as an EV with a built-in power generator.  I think the goal of a Volt owner should be to use power the gasoline this way 1) a backup so you feel you can push the car to its battery limits    and  2) a long-distance car for vacations.   That is our thinking, now that we have no ‘normal’ vehicles.

The spec sheet says it gets 35 kW-hrs per 100 miles, with a specified average range of 35 EV miles.

We got our 2014 Volt Sunday, December 29, 2013.  We have a 3 year, 36,000 mile lease for $309 per month, with a trade and $2000 down.

Here is the actual window sticker form our 2014 Volt:

The actual window sticker from our 2014 Volt

The Man & The Woman

Quick Profile:

Who we are is not really important… it is the fact that we are just ‘normal’ people, who for various reasons and circumstances have suddenly gotten rid of our hybrid and standard internal combustion driven vehicles.

It probably is significant that we come at this from two completely different angles, based on our individual natures and educational backgrounds:

  • Jamie – Bachelors of Science in Computer Engineer, University of South Florida (USF)
  • Kim – PhD in Clinical Psychology,  University of South Florida (as well as a Masters Degree from USF and Bachelors Degree from the University of Miami, Florida.)
  • Both of us are from Florida, which we fear is ground-zero for climate change effects, especially sea-level rise.
  • Both of us have a strong desire to help solve human-created climate change, and while it appears daunting, every little thing can help.  We want the world to be a better place for our children and our children’s children, not a wrecked wasteland created by human weakness.

Read why we decided to  create this website.

To ask us a question about our experience or something that may be holding you back from getting an EV,  please use this contact form.