EV Roadtrip: 30kwh LEAF Pt2

As mentioned in the previous post, we found ourselves with 98 miles to travel to the rapid charger at Chester in the 30kwh LEAF due to the intermediate one having broken. I was very concerned, after a near-failure involving a Volkswagen e-UP! last year. In that, I only just managed to make it home from the rapid charger at Oswestry.

As it happens, I needn’t have worried. There was no drama. In the LEAF, we sailed past said rapid charger with 77 miles of range still showing! I had enough juice to turnaround and drive back home if I’d fancied it. We were off to Liverpool though, so I didn’t do that.

First rapid charge, after 98 miles of driving.

First rapid charge, after 98 miles of driving.

Now, I wasn’t doing anything special to boost economy in the LEAF, though perhaps I was deploying a few small tricks. For a start, I was in ECO mode. This makes the air conditioning less power draining, decreases the throttle response and reduces the total amount of power you can access. We needed the air conditioning throughout the journey, as the conditions were horrific! Lots of rain, so lots of headlamp and wiper use too. That was fine really, as I wanted to test the car in everyday conditions.

The other trick was gentle acceleration. I’d estimate that I was getting up to 60mph about as quickly as my 2CV manages it – a 0-60mph time of 30 seconds. Acceleration batters your range, whether in an EV or a combustion-engined car. It’s why you always get better economy on a long run – it generally involves more travelling at a consistent speed.

You know when you’re driving well, as you start acquiring ‘trees’ on the dashboard. I’m not sure how they actually work, but found it quite easy to amass a veritable forest.

A veritable forest. But what does it mean?

A veritable forest. But what does it mean?

I refused to actually lower my speed so, where traffic allowed, I would do 60mph if that was the legal limit, and I increased that to 70mph on the motorway once we reached it. This was the most enjoyable aspect of this. The e-NV200 roadtrip had seen us cruising along at a miserable 50-60mph on the motorway, often freezing cold as we desperately tried to eke out every bit of range. I was being spoilt in the LEAF. Range anxiety just wasn’t an issue.

Well, that’s not entirely true. At the start of our journey, which saw us climb over the Cambrian Mountains, the range did drop down to 88 miles, when we had 88 miles left to cover. Experience has taught me not to stress in such circumstances though. By the time we reached Newtown, 30 miles away, the range was back up to the 105 miles it had been predicting before we set off. This highlights that the range is only a guide really. It can’t hope to predict how you’ll drive, nor how hilly the terrain is.

I’ll do a proper review of the LEAF later, but I was certainly enjoying driving it. When I first drove one in November 2013, it was a frustrating experience. It felt like a great car for covering distance, but I wasn’t within range of any rapid chargers at all at that time. I was stranded in mid-Wales. As cars go, it couldn’t be more simple really. There’s a go pedal, and a stop pedal and a steering wheel.

The biggest downside to the Oswestry charger being down is that we now had to go out of our way to find power. A quick trek along the M56 was necessary to access the pair of chargers at Roadchef Chester. As we arrived, one charger seemed to be getting glued back together by a chap in a French-registered van, but a second charger was free and ready to use.

Rapid charger being 'glued' back together.

Rapid charger being ‘glued’ back together.

The charging process is as follows. Press the fuel flap release, which unlocks the small panel in the nose. Flick open the cover on the main charging point (there are two, the smaller one is used for smaller chargers ie home use). Grab the DC rapid charging ‘gun’ (the charger has three cables) otherwise known as ChaDeMo (Volkswagen and some other manufacturers use CCS, for which there is a different cable). Now, press DC charging on the machine present your Ecotricy charge card (the Nissan press car came with one, but you can order one yourself. There is currently (June 2016) no charge). Wait for it to initialise, then the charging will begin.

We’d been driving for over two hours by this point, at an average of over 40mph, so we were due a break ourselves. We brought along tea and cold toast, because motorway services are generally horrible and expensive (Gloucester and Tebay excepted). That is one downside of EVs. Most of the rapid chargers are at motorway services, which are almost universally grim places in which to spend time.

After 20 minutes, the battery was up to 72%. As well as having greater range, it seems the 30kwh LEAF also charges more quickly. Sadly, I didn’t note down what the battery percentage was when we arrived, but I’d estimate it to be below 20%. We still had 24 miles of range left, having driven 98 miles (the car was wrong, Google maps called it correctly!) to get to the charger. Given the claimed 124 miles of range, that was pretty good going!

You’ll note we didn’t charge up to 100%. There are several reasons for that. Firstly, we couldn’t be bothered to wait. We had enough to get to our next destination, why waste time? Secondly, the last 20% of the battery cannot be charged as quickly as the previous 80%. As the battery fills, it’s harder to squeeze the last bit in, so it could have taken a very long time to charge. Thirdly, it’s better for the battery not to repeatedly charge it beyond 80%. On the e-NV200 roadtrip, we had no choice. We often needed 100% (or close to it) to get from one charger to the next. Now, we had the luxury of not bothering.

I disconnected, with the car now predicting 88 miles of range. We headed to Liverpool and only got slightly annoyed at the sat nav. It isn’t actually very clear to read in city conditions, and was sometimes too slow to react to our actual road position. An one point, I had to drive through a seriously flooded section. It was nice not to have an engine air intake to worry about…

We overnighted in Liverpool, leaving the car in a general car park. We could have perhaps found somewhere with a charge point, but we’d be passing a rapid charger in the morning. That would do.

Overall though, is it impressive that I managed to cover 98 miles with out recharging? Well, against a combustion-engined car, no it isn’t. However, it does make the LEAF feel a lot more valid. 98 miles was enough for a couple of hours of driving, after which we were very keen to stop anyway. Does that mean everyone should get an EV? No. It just means the limitations are perhaps less limiting now. A bigger test would be driving back home via Bradford, and covering over 300 miles in a day. That’ll be the next installment. Stay tuned!

 

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