An Update on our EV Adventure

Stephen Smith | December 28, 2011 | Clean Transportation, Electric Vehicles, Energy Policy

So we made it to see all the family yesterday. The LEAF is now in Nashville. The trip took a little longer than we planned, about 5.5 hours, including an hour for lunch. We planned for it take a little over 4 hours with the addition of the “charge-up” stops. Driving on the dirty fossil stuff, it usually takes about 3 hours to make the drive.  We arrived for the rendezvous with the family with about 6 miles of range remaining so the first thing I asked my brother for was an extension cord as we all laughed. They had been reading our updates as the Tennessean tracked our progress across the state. I left the LEAF at my brother’s to “trickle” charge overnight.

There are a few interesting lessons learned from our trip so far…..

Leaf Panel, range indicator to the lower right

First the LEAF’s range indicator fluctuates with driving conditions and can create anxiety which takes some getting use to. I believe the indicator sheds miles more quickly at a higher state of charge, i.e., you may lose 10 miles of range when you have only driven 5 miles in the car,  and then it appears to be  slower to shed miles as the state of charge decreases.  This all is impacted by a number of conditions, e.g., speed, hills, outside temperature, inside climate control, etc.

Bottom line, don’t get too fixated on the numbers as they change.  We saw the climb up the Tennessee Cumberland Plateau on I-40 between Harriman and Crossville pull the range down about 25%. It appears you get some of that back on the downhill side, due to the car’s regenerative systems, but not all. Here is a great article on the LEAF’s range generally.

Second, we were very impressed with the Blink Fast Chargers that have been deployed at the Cracker Barrel locations along the interstate.

These appear to be great machines. When you first drive up you are taken by the size and large screen TV monitor. Not sure how efficient these are, but they do get your attention. Then there is the music playing at the charger, Libby, my wife, described it like something out of the movie Tron. They do work as advertised, 90% of full charge in 30 mins or less. Currently there are 12 of these deployed around the “Tennessee Triangle” of Knoxville, Nashville and Chattanooga as part of the EV Project.

Fast Charger at the Lebanon, TN Cracker Barrel

When we stopped in Cookeville to charge up and eat lunch, the car was charged from less then 20% of charge to 90% quicker then it took us to get our table at Cracker Barrel. We did eat, but the charge time was less than 30 mins. We stopped at four Cracker Barrel fast charge locations on our way to Nashville. All worked great except the last one at the Lebanon, TN location. It would not activate with our Blink card. The was a smaller Level 2 charger at that location, so we charged for an hour with it. We had been contact by the Nashville media on the way down, so we had them meet us at Lebanon, unfortunately it was the only station that did not work perfectly. Oh well, this is the state of play right now in the EV world, making good progress, but not perfect.

I did get a call from a Blink representative today after the story ran in the newspaper, he was very nice and explained what had happened to that station. He said it had been down because of a software update. He did let me know that it was working today.  I went back after I spoke to him and charged the car and verify its was up and running, as this station will be critical to our return trip. It worked great. Good customer service!

Third lesson, the “trickle charger” is not impressive, yes, it will charge the car if you have 10 or more hours, but once you have used the Level 2 or the Fast Chargers the trickle charger is well, just a trickle. So the adventure continues…….

Stephen Smith
Dr. Stephen A. Smith has 30 years of experience effecting change for the environment. Since 1993, Dr. Smith has led the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) as its executive…
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