Road Trips On Electrons

This is a guest post written by David Earnhardt, EV owner and member of the Blue Ridge EV Club. The original post can be found here:

Guest Blog | August 7, 2017 | Clean Transportation, Electric Vehicles

One of the most common questions I get when I talk about driving electric is “But what if you want to take it on a road trip?”  A worthwhile question, that I never really had a great answer for until now. I chose to begin driving electric about 5 years ago in a CARB state…which meant that my driving choices were easier to manage.  I could charge at home and work, I had a L2 approximately 4 blocks from my home, and my little Smart Electric Drive was the perfect vehicle for the city.

But my move to North Carolina presented a different set of challenges to my desire to drive electric.  I could no longer charge at home, my job changed to needing more range, and my lease ended for the Smart…so I changed to a 2016 Nissan LEAF and have been completely dependent on public charging infrastructure ever since.

With the new 107 mile EPA range, and DC Fast charging on board in the LEAF, I have felt much more emboldened to try and test the car, to see what is really within range, and within reasonable charging times.  My first trip to Charlotte was for work, and I was able to find the Nissan Dealer in Gastonia that was a nice destination for my trip.  I was able to charge there, walk across the street to get lunch, and finish my trip to Charlotte.  The Gastonia location was also nice because it was close enough that I could get to Charlotte and back without finding charging in Charlotte, and another stop. The only downside? It is behind a gate… had I not been there when they were finishing an after hours sale, I would have been out of luck.

To this point, this was the most eco trees I’d ever seen.

This was a good test for me though, because I was able to see what affect hills had on the battery.  I took 74A though Chimney Rock to 321 to Charlotte, and I only used 6% of the charge from my apartment in Reynolds to Chimney Rock, a total of 22 miles!  This also taught me about how I would be at the mercy of the hills on the way back.  I was at 9% after the curves on 74A and had to get all the way to AB Tech, about 20 miles.  I used B mode for acceleration, drove 20MPH, and used D mode for long downhill coasting.  It definitely helped that I was coming back about 10pm.

I also learned from a BREVC member about how much the DC Fast charging affects the temperature of the batteries. A lesson I’ve continued to learn as I’ve tried other long distance trips.  The heat affects the range, performance of the vehicle, and limits the battery’s ability to regen.

Next, I tried a couple of trips to my hometown of Grassy Creek NC., which is outside of Boone, by about an hour. Each time I’ve taken 221 out of Old Fort, and had plenty of range if I start full to get to a DC Fast in Boone.  Because the speed is so different on 221 vs. 40, I’m always tempted to try to make it all the way home rather than stopping, but haven’t built up the nerve just yet.

The charger is under a nice solar canopy, not sure what the KW production is, but it probably covers 8 or so parking spaces.  The charger is located off King Street across from a brewery and just down from the library…nice ways to spend 45 minutes or so as your car charges.

On the second trip was also pleased to see that the L2 charger close to my home town had been completed and was able to find a space to charge, even though it was during a huge festival that welcomes more than 50 thousand people to town. Folks were willing to heed the EV Only charging signs and I wasn’t ICE’d out at all!

Needless to say, while the infrastructure isn’t as ubiquitous as it was in Massachusetts, with a little planning, I have been able to go just about anywhere I’ve wanted to go so far!  Range anxiety? Who has time for range anxiety? I’ve got places to go!

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