Can an Electric Car complete over 330 miles in 2 days without range anxiety?
I had a couple of calls recently from businesses based in the North East of Scotland and I had planned to meet them on a single day as I always want to use my time wisely outside the office. So after the hotel was booked, a couple of site surveys arranged, the most important decision was still to come: do I take the 600 mile range diesel VW Tiguan or the 85 mile range Nissan Leaf?
Well my wife made the decision for me saying that she was taking our 6 month old, my mother-in-law and our 2 dogs out for a walk so she needed the larger car!
So the day began as normal leaving my home in Kincardine and travelling to the Jorro office in Stirling. After a few hours working on our new Electric Avenue project I came back home to pick up my overnight bag and more importantly my plan for charging stops. I wanted to stop at times when I wouldn’t be waiting for the charge so first stop would be dundee and dinner!
(shameless plug alert) with my Rolec home charger I got a free Charge Your Car (CYC) membership card so I had all I needed to use the public chargers on my route.
At the top of the page you’ll see a route I planned using Google Maps in combination with the CYC app which listed all of the available chargers, including the different types; Rapid, Fast or standard/slow. For my trip all I needed were the Rapid DC chargers.
The first 50 mile stretch was a mix of speeds along an A-road through Fife, taken in ‘B-Mode’ which maximised the re-gen braking as I slowed down for the villages. A brief motorway section was then followed by a flowing country road, crossing the impressive Tay Bridge and up through Dundee to my first stop.
I’m sure my fellow EV drivers also experience the butterfly-in-your stomach feeling when you’re around the corner from a public charger. It’s a bit like a blind date. Will there be other cars already there? Will it be working? Will I be first and then someone will arrive just after I start meaning I have to sink into my seat hiding from view as I feel guilty about my 30 min charge? Did I definitely take my CYC card or is it now 50 miles away? Oh the drama!
Turns out that I had remembered my card but so had the other 2 EV drivers who were there already! But us Leaf drivers know that seeing a Renault Zoe means that we can still charge using the DC connection and the other car was a Mitsubishi PHEV which is never long charging, as it has a smaller battery than my car. So what could have been a 30-40 min stop turned into a 55 min stop as I waited for my turn, so I upgraded to a large meal to help pass the extra time at the local fast food establishment!
After the car charging to 91% (the rapid chargers never charge the car fully which knocks up to 8 miles off the usable range which is frustrating) and charging my stomach to 107% I pushed on to Aberdeen.
It’s funny how you start viewing traffic differently when you are in an EV. The most efficient driving method is to maintain a constant speed where possible and high speeds have a huge impact on battery levels. So you develop a very relaxed driving environment, never worrying about the speed cameras, the sneaky camera vans and I was actually excited by the sight of roadworks knowing I’d be able to travel a few extra miles due to the lower speed. In my previous life of fast petrol cars and free fuel company cars all of these things added frustration and stress.
Technically cruise control uses more battery power than relying on your right foot (because the car can’t see gradients so can’t ‘read’ the road like you can) but for the next 64 miles I was happy to settle into a constant speed of 64mph.
Does anyone know the legal definition between slip-streaming and tail-gaiting? Anyways…
I arrived in Aberdeen with 17% left in the ‘tank’ so had used 74% for the 64 miles, which at the higher speeds was pretty good. After the Leaf started warning that the world was about the end if I didn’t locate my nearest charger (happens every time I have 15 miles predicted range left) I plugged in to the rapid charger at Asda. Other supermarket brands are available but none with a rapid charge point so they got my business that evening. I didn’t need to stop as I would have reached the hotel which was 2 miles further on and could have done it in the morning, but I decided that since the charger was free I would take advantage.
Day 1 = 141.6 miles. Fuel cost = £1.80 (for the charge at my home, the rest was free!)
My morning started with a quick tour of Aberdeen car showrooms letting them know that their customers can still receive a fully funded home EV charger in Scotland and that we cover most of Scotland. Most didn’t know that there was also funding for workplace charge points so hopefully we can help them convince a few more people to move to plug-in hybrid or fully electric cars rather than a more predictable diesel car.
There is ongoing debate as to when and if EV drivers should pay for the electricity at public charge points. I believe that we could look at an amount of free electricity that you could have, just like the parking at Inverurie.
The first 30 minutes were free and then you were charged a small amount for 2 hours and a greater amount for 2-4 hours. We could apply that to ‘kW’ of charging; first 7kW free then an amount per kW thereafter. That would mean plug-in hybrids pay a little, EV drivers pay more and larger capacity cars (which will be coming soon) would pay to draw a large amount of power.
Anyway before I start to try and change the industry, all you need to know is that the coffee was great, a diet cappuccino (no chocolate) and I was on my way into the most rural place my little Leaf had ever been.
I forgot how hilly the road was from Aberdeen to Huntly. While I can’t bend the laws of physics all I could think about as I saw the battery percentage drop faster than normal as we drove up the winding gradients (up to around 800 feet above sea level, with Aberdeen being eh, at sea level) was how much coasting I could do on the return trip.
My charge point site survey was for a company which is converting its company cars from diesel hatchbacks to the more luxurious and useful 4×4 Mitsubishi PHEVs perfect for rural businesses. Three so far with plans for double that as they have been a success with everyone who’s tried them. I used to live in Huntly and I had to leave my rear-wheel drive BMW for 3 WEEKS at home one bad winter, when the snow reached 4 feet!
Having completed over 3,000 miles in my Leaf I’m getting the hang of achieving the most from the battery with a combination of route planning, driving technique but also how to use the technology in the car. Day-to-day I always have it in the ECO mode and the ‘B-mode’ which increases the regenerative braking. However on a long stretch of mostly flat or downhill gradients I use the normal D-mode so that I can coast without dropping as much speed.
Using that technique allowed me to reach Aberdeen using 21% less energy than it took going north and aimed for my trusty Asda rapid charger for lunch. But when I got there… well see the picture. I know Ford make an electric Focus but this wasn’t one of them.
After a second survey for a commercial charge point I was on my way home and while I could have reached Dundee, I decided to stop short for a tactical charge at Forfar. The first thing I noticed was the marking of the bays was very clear and more obvious to non-EV drivers that they shouldn’t park there.
My Leaf was ready to go in 21 minutes but after another diet cappuccino I was ready in 25! My reason for the stop was to try and avoid the Dundee rush hour. The Leaf is such a peaceful place to be in traffic with good insulation and of course no engine noise, but I still wanted to keep moving.
We (am I starting to like my Leaf too much that I’m giving it a personality?) arrived home after 65 miles non-stop with about 40 of that at motorway speeds. I apparently had 26 miles still to go so that would have been around 100 miles on a single charge in theory as the rapid charge only gave me 90% at Forfar… next experiment planned is to get over 100 miles on a single charge!
So after 5 rapid charge sessions averaging 30 minutes, each while I was off doing something else (mainly eating and drinking) I think I did my bit to demonstrate that you can use an EV as an everyday car. Of course it would be nice to have a longer range but then the charge times will increase as well so there’s a balance to be had. If I was using a Tesla I would have needed to charge at Aberdeen and that would have been it. But this was the greatest mileage I’ve done in any car for over 6 months. The other 50 weeks of the year my Leaf covers the journeys with ease.
Day 2: 195.9 miles. Fuel cost £0.00
p.s. those eagle eyed-readers may notice may mileage shown on the dashboard was taken after my visit to the office so the number of miles is slightly different than the actual start mileage that morning!