Southern California 140-Mile Journey Pushes Limits of EV Charging

By · January 06, 2012

Our Nissan LEAF was delivered June 10, 2011. It now has about 5,900 miles on it. In the time we have owned it, we have made trips from our home in West Hills to Santa Monica, Culver City, Downtown Los Angeles, LAX and Century City, as well as many trips to visit our grandchildren and their parents, our daughter and son-in-law, in Studio City. On occasion, we did run low on “fuel” and just made it to our charging station in our garage.

The Experiment

We decided to try an experiment: A trip to our friends in Del Mar, a distance of about 140 miles. With a range of about 70-100 miles, that would be impossible without charging the batteries along the way. That’s where the adventure begins.

Mitsubishi's Quick Charger

Getting access to Mitsubishi's DC Quick Charger proved to be tricky.

Our home 240-volt unit will charge the LEAF in 7 hours or less depending on the status of the batteries. That works out to about 14 miles per hour of charge based on 100 miles per charge. The other two alternatives are ordinary 120-volt AC that takes about 20 hours, or about 5 miles per hour of charge. A DC fast charger allegedly will give an 80% charge in about 30 minutes. Sweet. Or so we thought.

Advance Planning

Without charging stations along the way, the trip would obviously be impossible. And, without a fast DC charger it would simply take too long. In searching out the existing facilities, Mitsubishi’s North American office popped up as the only location in southern California with a fast DC charger. Located in the city of Cypress, it is more or less along the way to Del Mar. Barbara, my wife, called to be sure the unit was up and running and would be available on the dates needed, Wednesday, December 21 and Friday, December 23.

The first date was not a problem, but the offices would be closed Friday, she was told. But, the security guard would have the key to unlock the charger. Okay, that would work.

We would drive to Mitsubishi, a distance of about 60 miles and “fill up.” Next, we would stop for lunch at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, a distance of 15 miles from Cypress and “top off the tank” while we had lunch. That was the plan. Also, we turned off the climate control to maximize driving range. Not a problem this time of year.

Someone Didn’t Get the Memo

Arriving at Mitsubishi, Ida, the person with the key appeared after a few minutes and we started to charge the batteries. When Barbara asked Ida to confirm what we were told about coming back again on Friday, she knew nothing about it, but would check on it.

Installation of EV charger in Costa Mesa

EV charging was installed at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, with great fanfare in April 2010.

The charge took longer than 30 minutes to get to 80%. When another LEAF owner arrived, we aborted the charge after about an hour with about a 95% charge. We easily made it to the next charging location, a Level 2 charger at the South Coast Plaza (located on the lower level near Crate & Barrel).

We let the LEAF charge until it had enough to make it to Del Mar with a buffer of 20 miles. Driving the distance of about 70 miles with a gently rolling terrain (no steep hills), we made it with 10 miles to spare driving mostly at 65 mph. Of course, cars and trucks blew by us at speeds probably up to 80 mph. On arrival, we plugged the LEAF into an ordinary AC socket. About 16 hours later it was done.

Bad News

On Thursday, Barbara called Ida and was told that the information that the security guard would have the key was wrong. Yikes! We had no way to use the fast charger on the way home. Now what?

Now, we had to go to Plan B, which was to charge the LEAF along the way as much as was needed to get home. Leaving Del Mar at 10 am with a full charge and trying to maximize the range, we drove along the coast as far as Oceanside before getting on the freeway. When it was possible, we exited the freeway and drove through the beach cities to Costa Mesa. That took a very long time and left us with only about 13 miles of “juice” left. Much less than we had hoped. Would staying on the freeway have mattered that much? Who knows?

Finding a charger in South Coast Plaza near the valet stand next to Nordstrom, the LEAF starting charging. It was 70 miles back home, IF the charge would hold considering the hilly terrain (which sucks energy). Also, there was the issue of traffic and a lack of charging stations.

EV chargers at IKEA, in Carson, Calif.

EV chargers at IKEA, in Carson, Calif.

One idea was to drive to IKEA in Carson, which, according to the IKEA web, had a charging station. IKEA in Burbank also was supposed to have them. Neither the Carson nor the Burbank location answered the phone after repeated tries. Since it is impossible to talk to anyone at a store location, we talked to an IKEA customer service representative and he could not get anyone on the phone, but told us that the website for the stores had pictures of where the chargers were. So we decided to head to Burbank. We wanted to get as close to home as we could before charging and Burbank has a lot of restaurants around the store. Contrary to what the IKEA web showed, there were no charging stations at the Burbank location. But, there were other options in Burbank.

The decision was made to take surface streets home. When the LEAF had a charge of about 78 miles, we headed to Burbank, and distance of 53 miles. Hey! A 25-mile buffer. Nice.

Leaving just before 4 pm, we started the leg to Burbank. That took about two and a half hours due to terrible traffic. The 25-mile buffer dwindled to 7 miles, as we pulled into a parking structure at 6:30 pm, adjacent to Islands restaurant where there were 2 charging stations.

At 9 pm, we headed home arriving at 10 pm. Total elapsed time: 12 hours.

Analysis

First, we really love our LEAF. The last time we were in a gas station was last June. Since we have solar generating in our home—about 15,000 kWh per year—it costs us nothing to charge the car.

Also, in a sense we were lucky. What if there was a line of cars waiting at Mitsubishi or at the other locations? This could have taken much longer than it did. Imagine a car with a gas tank that holds only 3 gallons. At 40 mpg, that would approximate the range of the LEAF. Now, imagine gas stations with a couple of pumps that take 7 hours to fill the tank. Can you see the line of cars? Even with fast pumps, say 30 minutes to fill the tank, who would want to do that on a regular basis?

So, here it is. The plan for Blink, and other manufactures of charging units, is flawed. Even if there were the equivalent of gas stations with 12 pumps, waiting 30 minutes for a charge is just too long. When the number of electrics reaches a critical mass, it simply will not work. Unless, there will be a way to “fill up” an EV in less than 10 minutes.

The solution? Electric vehicles must have a minimum range of 250 ACTUAL miles. Also, because hills kill power, the navigation system should take into account speed limits and terrain to give better information as to whether a proposed trip is within the range of the vehicle.

Comments

· David Noland (not verified) · 6 years ago

As I Volt owner, I'd like to suggest one other option to your proposed solution to the e-car range dilemma: add a gas=powered range extending generator.

I put down a deposit on a Leaf years ago, but finally got fed up with the waiting and the lack of communication from Nissan about when it would arrive. So I bought a Volt as a compromise--it wasn't a "real" electric car, but it was better than nothing, and there was one sitting on my local Chevy dealer's lot.

Now I wouldn't trade my Volt for a Leaf in a million years. I drive it full electric 95 percent of the time, and the other five percent, I just drive it like a regular car. If I'd bought a Leaf, I would have had to keep my old car for long-range trips. With the Volt, I was able to trade my old car in, reducing my lease payment to zero down and $250 a month, I'm saving $200 a month in gas, so my net cost for the Volt is $50 a month. And I can take it anywhere, without calling ahead and all the other adventures of finding charge stations.

I firmly believe that range-extended electric drive is the way to go. Twenty years from now, it'll be the dominant form of plug-in car.

· Kei Jidosha (not verified) · 6 years ago

Nissan’s choice of a 3.3kW on board charger has the unfortunate consequence of a ~10mph speed limit (driving + charging) beyond base range. Since California’s peak demand rates will inhibit the proliferation of QuickCharge, for Californians that want to drive beyond base range, the key is a 6.6kW+ on-board charger.

Also, most employees of business hosting/near charge sites know nothing about them. I would suggest a smart phone and Chargepoint + Blink + Recargo apps to view site status.

· · 6 years ago

Thank you for sharing your experience. As a LEAF owner myself since last April, with about 8200 miles on the car, I've done my share of "experiments" as well. My longest was a 172 mile round trip to Los Angeles from my mountain home in one day, with no Quick Charging.

I have to agree that 250 miles of range and quick charges in 10 minutes would be very nice. However, to see those capabilities as prerequisites for the adoption of the electric car is mistaken.

On most days, we do not exceed the single charge range of our LEAF. So, the question is, on those limited occasions where we do longer drives, do we take the LEAF and use public charging, drive a different vehicle, or perhaps rent a car? We've found ourselves using the LEAF more than we had expected to.

Your 140 mile drive down to Del Mar, thanks to the Mitsubishi QC, seemed to go reasonably well. Given some reading material, or perhaps a laptop or smartphone, 30+ minutes for a charge isn't bad at all. Remember, you're not doing that every day, not even close to it. Yes, in the future, there could be lines for QCs if not enough are built. But with the great majority of charging still done at home, that might not become an issue.

With Quick Chargers reportedly being added in southern Orange County and northern San Diego County, it should become easier to do that drive to/from Del Mar.

Also, the "range extended" Volt is a great solution for many. However, as a multi-car car family, we chose the LEAF because it has more EV range, seats five, costs less, and has fewer parts to maintain.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

I couldn't agree more that the NAV system in the LEAF needs improvement. It never has all the public charging stations. Where I live near Seattle, the hills are sometimes long, steep, and avoidable. If the NAV system took hills, speed limits, ambient temperature, and driver style based on the key ID (my wife and I drive TOTALLY differently), it might actually be a usable tool. So far the NAV system is the biggest disappointment by a long way. The stereo sounds pretty good though, and the blutooth streaming works well so I'm generally happy. I just don't use the NAV much.

As far as public charging goes, I'm waiting for Blink to announce the fee schedule they will be moving to before I comment on how workable/broken the paradigm is.

· · 6 years ago

You are lucky living in a warm climate. I am struggling to get 50 miles of range when it is 20 degrees out here.

One week after getting the leaf I decided to take my family on a 52 mile round trip. I thought if I drove only 55 mph in Eco mode and leave the heating off we should easily make it. When we reached our destination we were down to 6 bars (half). With heavy traffic on the way back we might not make it. Luckily we managed to find a spare 120V socket at our destination and added a couple of hours of trickle charge to it.

5 miles from being home I am on the last bar in heavy traffic. With images of stranding my 2 small children in a car with freezing weather got me really worried. Luckily there was a Walgreens with a charger close by. The charger was not working and when I tried to remove it the handle was stuck. The release button was broken and the hook would not unhook. Luckily after about 10 minutes I could get it unhooked by poking my key in between the hook and the socket.

We decided to carry on and made it home with less than 10 miles ranges on the Guess O Meter which in real life probably means a couple of miles as 108 miles apparently means 45 miles.

I really want to support the Leaf but it's cold weather performance is totally unacceptable. 50 miles is really really limited.

Now I am stuck with a $38000 car.

· · 6 years ago

@dutchinchicago

Pre-heating while plugged in pays off (I'm guessing you already know that). The 2012 Leaf adds a battery warmer (and seat warmers) that the 2011 Leaf lacks. Heavy traffic should actually improve your range unless you have the heater on.

I get the feeling the guess-o-meter over-estimates the range in the beginning and under-estimates it in the end (to be on the safe side). It really is an anxiety creator. I'm tempted to do a test and drive around the block with 11 miles remaining until I'm down to 1 and measure the actual distance.

· · 6 years ago

Bob,
Congratulations on making a trip with the Leaf. Unfortunately, this kind of proves that the Leaf, as poorly as it was designed with today's poor J1772 charging infrastructure isn't really capable of long road trips.

I do, however, disagree with your solution: "Electric vehicles must have a minimum range of 250 ACTUAL miles". While I do agree that 250 of actual miles will make a trip such as yours possible (actually simple), the addition of reasonably fast charging or more range would make it a whole lot more feasible. I've driven similar trips in a Tesla Roadster that has 2 major advantages over the Leaf:
1) 200 mile (real-world) range
2) charging rates up to 70 Amps (16 kW)
In the Tesla Roadster I've easily made a comparable trip (Pasadena to La Jolla) on a single charge, charged overnight in La Jolla, and made it back on a charge.
I also did the same trip in a Gen 2 EV1 back in 2001 (9/13/01 to be exact as my way of thumbing my nose at Al Queda after 9/11) which is also superior to the Leaf in range and charging speed.
I'd suggest that the Leaf could reasonably do your trip with the following changes:

1) Increase the range to a real-world 120 mile range like the EV1 had.
2) Increase the charging speed to between 30 and 70 Amps (6 - 16 kW) for ~40 mph range.

This would only require that you to stop to charge anywhere between about Anaheim and San Clemente, CA for about an hour at your favorite place to stop with a Charger.

The extra battery increase would probably cost an additional $5000 at today's prices and the increased charging speed would probably cost a negligible amount.

I can almost understand why Nissan took the cheap route with the cheaper battery but there is no excuse for their wimpy charger.

The installation of a couple of fast-chargers along the route would also make it quite reasonable, even today if the fast-charger was at a reasonable place to hang out. You'd have to spend about a half-hour charging.

· · 6 years ago

@David Noland
I am a Volt owner too. While I agree with the current charging infrastructure environment that EREV route would be safer; I do hope the infrastructure would be more complete a lot sooner than your prediction. BEVs’ utility depends a lot on level 3 charging and especially for a one car household. Leaf cannot fail and I still feel it won’t. I just hope the next Leaf will be less froggy looking ;p (No offense to current Leaf owners, just IMHO.)

· · 6 years ago

In a year there'll be a dozen or so DC fast chargers installed between LA and San Diego. At that point, this will soon be a non-issue.

· · 6 years ago

@Indyflick,
Its that "or so" that bothers me. I'll believe it when I see it. As far as I can tell everyone is standing around waiting for the EV Project and we know how competent they are.

· Mike I (not verified) · 6 years ago

"In a year there'll be a dozen or so DC fast chargers installed between LA and San Diego. At that point, this will soon be a non-issue."

Well, by then we'll need smartphone apps that allow you to see which ones are in use or allow you to make a reservation. It doesn't help much if you get to a location with a single DC FC and there is a car charging and two others waiting while another DC FC 2 miles away is sitting idle.

· · 6 years ago

@dutchinchicago: I'm sorry to learn the LEAF hasn't met expectations, but I have two thoughts. I did read your post at http://www.mynissanleaf.com/viewtopic.php?f=24&t=357&start=560#p163317.
1. Your reported "mileage" was only 3 miles/kWh, which would indeed yield a pretty limited range, particularly with a cold battery pack. Normally, even in 20 F temps here in the SoCal mountains, we average above 4 miles/kWh. One potential problem with ECO mode is that whenever you lift your foot from the accelerator, the car does a lot of regenerative braking, which is "lossy". I personally make an effort to not do any regen braking unless I actually want to slow down. When driving 55 mph to conserve power, I try to keep the "throttle" very steady. Although you intended to leave the heater off, if you were running the fan at all, the heater would have been on as well (sort of a design flaw).
2. Are you garaging the LEAF? If so, does the garage have basic insulation? Keeping the car a little warmer at night should help. (Personally, I don't have a garage, though.)

· Londo Bell (not verified) · 6 years ago

@dutchinchicago,

With (persumably) 3Mi/kWh, getting ~50 mi range is normal, though I'm not sure if you've the CWP one or not LEAF.

The avg energy usage tells me (or us) that you're kinda heavy foot. And judging from your description, you do sound like one, because heavy traffic actually improves range (I've tested it personally), i.e. the slower your drive, the longer (time and displacement) you can drive.

Moreover, if your vehicle tells you that you have 52 mi range available, why would you think that it will be save to go over that range, even in ECO? Remember, what ECO does is really not to give you more range, it
- permits much high energy regeneration; and
- produce higher resistance on the accelerator to try to make you slow down.

Thus, easy solution to your low range problem - step on your accelerator lightly, and don't go over 2 (or 3) bubbles during acceleration. Soon you'll be getting 5+ Mi/kWh, and ~100 mi range in D (or ECO), even in cold weather. For reference, I don't go over 2 bubbles, and I avg 5.3 Mi/kWh with temperature b/n 35-45 degree F, speed of around 30 mph, and tons of stop/go traffic. Able to reach range of 125 mi in ECO (one time 138 mi in ECO).

@David Noland,

Too bad that you've skipped out on the LEAF, and missed the experience of 100% emission and gas free driving - something that the Volt can NEVER achieve no matter what. In fact, the way you are cheering for the joy of going to the pump - sounds to me like you aren't ready for the revolution. With this trip, a Prius would have been a better choice if charging is limited. In fact, the worst vehicle in terms of gasoline usage will be the Volt in this case (vs a LEAF or a Prius).

Last but not least, trading an old but good running car in for a new vehicle is NEVER a smart financial move, so what you are saying is that you've to spend thousands of dollars to get the new vehicle, then with gas savings, you still have to subsidize $50/month on the vehicle, and when lease ends, leave with no vehicle or pay some $25K to get it. Not smart at all financially. Hope you can see that, because a lot of Volt owners (and even LEAF owners) has kept saving how much they are saving in gasoline, when in fact, you've pre-paid tens of thousands into doing so.

Point is, you don't get these eco vehicles because of gas $ savings; you get them because - well, not for the Volt - you don't have to use 1 drop of gas 100% of the time you drive the vehicle, and you aren't producing ANY pollutants while driving the vehicle.

· · 6 years ago

@abasile - "Although you intended to leave the heater off, if you were running the fan at all, the heater would have been on as well (sort of a design flaw)." Interesting! My LEAF just barely passes my 'make or break' test of climbing 5500 feet in 30 miles to get to the top of Tucson's Mt. Lemmon. And it is a closer call in winter than summer. I noticed I was still getting heat with the Climate Control system turned off. Your suggestion may not be relevant for dutchinchicago but I'm going to give it a try. How do I verify my fan is off?

· · 6 years ago

@world2steven: 5500' climbed over 30 miles isn't bad, though you can probably improve on your efficiency if you're just barely making it. I've climbed 5000' over 50 miles multiple times, and normally I'll get a "low battery" warning ("17%" charge remaining) just before arriving home at 6100'. It probably helps that, immediately prior to each ascent, I've warmed the battery by driving and then charging to "100%".

Just push the "on/off" button to turn the climate control system off. But before you do that, set the Mode to "foot/defog". Even with the climate control turned off, this setting will help to draw some fresh air under the windshield and into the cabin.

· · 6 years ago

@Londo Bell: Depending on use parameters, a Volt can be very effective at reducing overall petroleum consumption. As a LEAF owner, I'm certainly not "above" using gasoline or jet fuel for long trips when necessary. However, I'm quite thankful to not need gas for the day to day stuff, and even a bit more. We recently used the LEAF for a quick getaway to Palm Springs. :-)

· · 6 years ago

I think the competition from other dealers in 2012 will push the range up likely on the 2013/14 Leaf. Nissan's going to have to deal with the extra range of the Focus EV. All they need to do is make a Leaf SX or something and toss some more batteries in, or better batteries. I guess it gives people who can't afford a new car now a little reward for being stuck waiting. hehe :)

· Londo Bell (not verified) · 6 years ago

@abasile,

That's actually my point - Volt can be effective, but only under a very limited set of condition. It is great technology (for now), but it sucks in marketing view point. Essentially, what is the target market for the Volt? It's too expensive to make it a commute vehicle, and too limited in terms of electric driving. How will a "halo" vehicle be able to contribute to significant reduction of petroleum usage? Beats me!

· LB (not verified) · 6 years ago

All great exchanges above. But, a lot of mis-information too. Mostly, it shows that driving an EV is a learning experience, and that the technology and infrastructure is evolving (and at times open for interpretation). A few quick points:
- Nissan has already announced that they have developed a $10K quick charger unit that will be available to public/private entities in early/mid 2012. Previously, those same units had cost $35k + so this could change the game (discussion).
- Nissan has also said 2013 Leaf will have quicker on-board charging system.
- One man's 250 range expectation is another's 100 mile expectation. In other words, of course, more is always 'percieved' as better but does cost always justify (I.e. what level/cost iPhone do you really need based on usage/cost trade off?)
- despite price, Volt is a good option...for some, not all. Again, balance and trade offs. One size does not fit all. Leaf has trunk space and full seating, unlike Tesla for instance. All depends on your primary needs.
- if you want to drive longer distances, you need to really moderate driving habits now, until more chargers becoming available. (I attended the Plug-in Day parade this year. Drove 80 miles on the 405 from San Clemente to Santa Monica. All freeway mostly on cruise control in Eco mode at 59 -62 mph. Yes, an adventure at times at that speed on 405 but I made it with 8-15 miles to spare! I quick charged the car at they event in 25 minutes - they had a portable unit there - and made it back! Again, that is not exactly what the car is designed to do but...it can be done. If there was a QC in Long Beach I would not citing this example! It will happen, eventually.

Change sometimes requires patience and sacrifice. To me, the benefits (sometimes cost, sometimes political, sometimes environmental, sometimes driving enjoyment) far far far outweigh the challenges.

Maybe EVs are not perfect (yet) or for everyone, but it is exciting time for those who have concerns about above benefits...we now have options (Volt, Tesla, Leaf, etc) and they are/will get better.

Good luck all.

· · 6 years ago

A similar 180 mile journey was undertaken in Tennessee.

http://www.tennessean.com/article/20111229/NEWS21/111229025/Nissan-LEAF-...

By contrast the journey took 6 hours one way and 5 the other. The difference was the availability of DC Quick Charge stations along the route. Journey time compared to an ICE was doubled.

When there are more vehicles on the road competing for chargers like these there could be an issue making the infrastructure make for effective journeys. However Nissan have already announced new quick charge technology that will cut the charger price in half and speed up charging 2-3 times. But that's 10 years out.

Also ten years out is the prospect of Lithium-Air batteries being developed by IBM which have 10 times the energy density of the current lithium-ion batteries. 500 mile actual miles of range should be feasible. The first prototypes are promised for 2013 with the prospect of production volumes at reasonable prices feasible by 2020.

I don't see EV's being mainstream technology until 2020 anyway. So anticipated advances in technology should arrive in time for the EV gold rush.

Here's hoping.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

Nice story, but 12 hours to cover 140 miles is just absurd... I'm all for EV but this proves EV are commuters, nothing more. Everyone makes the relation about $ saved. But how much worth 9 hours of your time ?

Also, be careful with statement that it cost nothing to fill your leaf. Your solar panel installation probably cost you $25K or more... that's much more than nothing to me...

I hate to be negative, and I honestly and truly believe America needs to find a way to energy independence, but EV are just not the way right now.

· · 6 years ago

@Anonymous
In 2009 the U.S. used 70% of the oil it consumed for transportation - http://www.bts.gov/publications/transportation_statistics_annual_report/.... You can be forgiven (once) for stating beliefs you may have acquired from worthless drivel authored by the Washington Post editorial staff. The US COULD achieve energy independence by using coal and other fossil fuels it still has to generate the electricity required by EVs. By using existing generating capacity, something like 87% of that capacity is already in place if people charge at night when much of it isn't being used.

That isn't to say it SHOULD. About 1 square mile of desert filled with solar panels in the desert around Tucson could furnish enough electricity for most of its homes. If my LEAF experience means anything, add 25% more and you would cover Tucson's EVs as well.

· Londo Bell (not verified) · 6 years ago

"EV are just not the way right now"

So the question is - are Americans lifestyle really that different from any other countries in the world?

Most working Americans work 5 to 6 days a week. 90% travel in less than 80 mi or below per day, which includes grocery shopping, going to restaurants / daycare, etc. in addition to work. Most Americans take long traveling trip during main holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas/New Year, Memorial Day, and Independence Day - that's 4 times a year). Oh, and 100% Americans sleep (when long charging occurs).

So I guess that for 4 times a year, plus a few times of unexpected situation, a LEAF won't fit the lifestyle of 90% Americans...too bad that it's not "99%" like the occupiers, but I still consider 90% the vast majority!

Don't you see that this argument is very similar to the Volt fire - making something that rarely occurs (that there is a need for long trip of over 100 mi) a big thing, and giving the impression that the rare occurrence will occur a much, much higher frequency?

· · 6 years ago

" . . . this proves EV are commuters, nothing more"
This proves nothing about EVs. It only proves something about the 2011 model Leaf in Southern California, in 2011.
We technologists know that the Leaf, designed by a 2nd rate car company, Nissan, doesn't even live up to the state of the art in 1999 with the possible exception of the price.
Only the myopic would assume it indicates the full capability of the EV. I've often said that the Leaf is really only good as a commuter vehicle and little else.

· LB (not verified) · 6 years ago

Wonderful analogy on Volt fire topic. EVs may not be perfect now, but they are a huge step forward. Most drivers - not all - will admit the car has becoming their PRIMARY car, and because of the many benefits they learn to live with the challenges. No different than when I got my first iPhone....it lost charge quicker than I expected. I learned to use it, be smarter with usage, and sacrifice a bit (yes, I'm more aware of charging 'opportunities').....and now I can't live without it but those early challenges are a distant memory. It is all a process folks, and it is cool that some folks don't want to deal with the process, but that does not mean a) the technology is taking off, b) that those of us leading the way are helping to pave the way for future progress and improvements. As they say....it's all good!

· · 6 years ago

It's very true that the EV-1, in multiple respects, was a more capable car than the LEAF. But it must also be said that, as far as we can tell, each EV-1 was far more expensive to manufacture. (The same could be said for the past RAV4 EV.)

I would say that the LEAF is not revolutionary because of its capabilities, but rather because it is an EV accessible to the masses. I've long thought EVs are cool, but never considered purchasing one until the reasonably-priced LEAF came along.

The current LEAF is terrific for the day-to-day driving that a great many people do. Just don't buy one expecting the same level of convenience as an ICE, a PHEV, or a more expensive EV on longer drives. I'm sure the same could be said for the cheaper and less capable Mitsubishi "i".

· gotmyleaf (not verified) · 6 years ago

Hi Bob! I am the other LEAF owner that showed up at the QC that day in Cypress. I'm glad to hear that you made it down and back with no problems. The first time I take a new route in my LEAF is always the longest because I don't know what the energy usage will be.

I think that you should have stayed on the freeway on your trip back. Even though you have owned your car for a while, you haven't really adjusted your driving-style if you are truly getting 3.3 miles/kwh. On new routes, that are extended, I roll between 55 & 60 mph and really keep the acceleration moderate, which is easier to do if there's no traffic on the freeway. I think that I told you that my father drove his LEAF from Oceanside to South Coast Plaza. He had a few bars to spare too.

I suggest that you make the trip again, this time it will be easier because the QC should be up and running in Cypress. I think that you will still have to stop in Oceanside or the Kohl's in Laguna Hills before reaching Cypress though.

I have made the trip from Rancho Cucamonga to Oceanside five times now. It's a total of 80 miles to door-to-door, where I must charge. The trip back requires me to charge up by two bars between Oceanside and Rancho and there are two L2's on that stretch now, Wal-Mart Corona and Temecula Nissan. When you know what to expect, the drive is much more pleasurable.

I use the QC in Cypress at Mitsubishi at least twice per week. On those days I drive 140-160 miles. Just the one QC is all that I need in order to do that many miles without much of a change from my ICE driving pattern.

· · 6 years ago

@ex-EV1 driver , "We technologists know that the Leaf, designed by a 2nd rate car company, Nissan, doesn't even live up to the state of the art in 1999 with the possible exception of the price."

If Nissan are second rate that must mean Tesla is what 10th or 11th rate? (I'll take a purpose built automotive battery over a laptop hack job battery any day.) Lets not forget the EV-1 was a two seater whereas the LEAF seats 5 with room to haul your stuff.

· · 6 years ago

When a comment is written anonymously, and contains nuggets like this:

"I'm all for EV but..."
and
"I hate to be negative..."

You know you're in for a fun ride.

· · 6 years ago

@Indyflick,
Good point! I'd say Tesla still has to prove itself as an automobile manufacturer altogether so it really doesn't have a rating as such yet or goes to the end with 10th or 11th as you suggest.
I'm not sure I agree with your concern about the approaches to batteries. I've seen how Tesla makes their packs and there is nothing hacked about the packs. They are very well built, low cost, and have proven themselves very well in the real world. Their raw materials just happen to be well-proven, commodity 18650 cells instead of completely starting from scratch with the chemicals. If these cells can be assembled into larger format battery packs for billions of laptop computers, why don't you believe they can be assembled into large format batteries for automobiles?
The wheel that Tesla uses was invented many thousands of years ago but nobody is suggesting they should start with something new there. Sometimes its good to go with proven designs, other times its good to innovate. I think that overall Tesla has done a good job at picking which and when.
Reality seems to bear my statements above. I had my 48,000 mile checkup on our Tesla Roadster recently and the service staff were fairly bored because they aren't getting very many vehicles in for service. It seems that most of the infant mortality problems of the original designs were corrected so nothing is coming back except for tires and 12,000 mile checkups.

· Volt Owner (not verified) · 6 years ago

For all you tree hugging volt bashing leaf drivers take note.
The volt is an electric car. 100% electric, 100% of the time.
I have had my volt for 6 months, and didn't use a drop a gas. Not once did the engine have to start. I have my level 2 charger in my garage, and I can fully charge the battery in just ober 3 hours. On most days I can top up in an hour or so.
Now last week I was driving home from work, and there was a pile up in a tunnel, and I along with everyone else was detoured. (either that or wait the estimated 4 hours to clear the wreck)
My normal daily commute is around 30 miles, something that the volt does quite nicely. The wreck was about 3 miles from home, but it required me to drive back towards the city, and take an alternative highway to another town, over a bridge and then back to my home. This added an additional 45 miles to my drive that day. 75 miles for the day. Well beyond the battery range of the volt, but thanks to the onboard generator, it fired up, and I burned just under 1 gallon of gas to get me home so I could charge up again. I wouldn't trade my volt for any other car. I would never buy a fully electric car. Even if they claimed it would go 120 miles on a charge, because I know that battery life depends on terrain, driving habits, temperature, age of battery, accessories used ect, the range can be is little as half of that. 60 miles would have left me stranded. I know from my own experience on my volt that even though the battery is rated for 40 miles, and my commute is only 30, some days I arrive home with 1, or 0 showing on the guage, and other warmer days I arrive home, and the guage still shows 12 - 14, so there is a big variable on battery capacity. Something that all EV drivers have to worry about, but not Chevy volt drivers. We just drive, wherever we need to go , whenever we want to. Way to go GM, mission accomplished.

· · 6 years ago

@Volt Owner (not verified), "The volt is an electric car. 100% electric, 100% of the time. I have had my volt for 6 months, and didn't use a drop a gas. Not once did the engine have to start."..... "This added an additional 45 miles to my drive that day. 75 miles for the day. Well beyond the battery range of the volt, but thanks to the onboard generator, it fired up, and I burned just under 1 gallon of gas to get me home so I could charge up again."

Sounds like your hybrid used at least a gallon of gasoline. :-)

· · 6 years ago

In 2010 I wish Nissan had paid for the installation of DC fast chargers at their dealerships (and perhaps other strategic locations along major highways) rather than on ad buys for a vehicle you couldn't even purchase. It would have been a valuable service to their customers as well as driving customer traffic to their dealerships to potentially purchase other vehicles. But it's not too late for them to start now!

· · 6 years ago

@Volt Owner,
First of all, I agree with you. The Volt is an electric car, just a short range one that drags along a long-range gas engine for long range trips.
regarding your statement that:
"This added an additional 45 miles to my drive that day. 75 miles for the day. Well beyond the battery range of the volt,
Your 75 mile day could have been handled by a Leaf's ~80 mile range as well. At worst, you might have had to divert to a public charging station and squirt a few more electrons into your battery.
It could be done.
The moral to your story is that it is good to have a backup plan no matter what mode of transportation you use.

· Londo Bell (not verified) · 6 years ago

Funniest post EVER by Volt Owner!!!

"The volt is an electric car. 100% electric, 100% of the time."

Followed by

"I burned just under 1 gallon of gas"

Followed by

"I would never buy a fully electric car. Even if they claimed it would go 120 miles on a charge..."

So WRONG, but so funny!!!

Of course, unless I misunderstand the definition of 100% and fully, or the definition of electric and gas.

· · 6 years ago

Am I missing something? How hard would it be to simply load more battery on a trailer and hook it into the LEAF's power supply? Who needs all the Better Place high-tech wizardry? Admittedly having everything inside the car would be preferable. But for most of us who only need the extra range occasionally this seems like a 'right here, right now' low-tech solution. Why couldn't Nissan (or somebody) make a lot of money renting you an extra LEAF battery for those occasional long trips?

· · 6 years ago

"For all you tree hugging volt bashing leaf drivers take note.
The volt is an electric car. 100% electric, 100% of the time."

Wow. Quite a chip on your shoulder, eh? I assume it is OK for those of us who've been driving gasless BEVs for over ten years without issue... without being stranded... to continue enjoying our cars?

Cracks me up that you've decided to call the Volt 100% electric 100% of the time, and then mention that burning gasoline in the same car is what makes it better than other electric cars?? Yikes.

· Londo Bell (not verified) · 6 years ago

@ darelldd,

Don't forget, Volt Owners swear that he will NEVER buy a fully electric vehicle, so he bought a 100% electric vehicle, because all EV drivers have things to worry about, but not 100% electric Volt drivers!

I thought that the smarter you are, the more money you can "probably" make (and Volt owners, in general, are rich). I guess there're always the exception, and in this case, has nothing to do with richness...

@world2steven,
Do you see any ICE car or hybrids having an extra gas tank attached at the back or anywhere around the vehicle, because it has a limited range of about 250-600 mi, depending on your driving styles?

Yet, gasoline stations can be found easily just around the corner, or some 70 miles at most in those rural freeways...way within the range of an ICE vehicle.

My point is, built more EV charging stations, or employ the idea of Better Place. Cheap to EV owners, more business (and employment) for the charging stations, and long distance travel with minimal time. Win-Win-Win!

· Ben Brown (not verified) · 6 years ago

Freedom from near total control by oil companies and political parties influenced by oil companies doesn't sound as easy or fun as I had hoped. I'm in line for a Leaf, but really like the i-MiEV (except for its range.)... After this article I'm wondering if the range of the i-MiEV will be more serious than I've given credit. I know without a cold weather package I'll be...not quite pleased.

We've been dropping our electric use by increasing efficiency throughout the house, but are not quite ready for PV panels yet... I consider Bob lucky to be there now. His experience with driving was indeed a test, a wake up call and a challenge to be answered by him as well as info for me to consider.

Given limitations, how elegantly/practically creative can one be? Is the answer right now, a rental car for longer distance driving? Is it a second car? Is it a secret strategy of reserving among the growing network of people a chance to quick charge at their home? Is it selling your ev and buying a vehicle that more realistically meets the majority of your needs? I Really don't have his answer. I've got to work to find my way. I just know, knowing some seriously injured vets, and reading about people who live down wind from refineries, what I've been doing hasn't been working and saying tomorrow changes little.

· · 6 years ago

>> Is it a second car? <<

Rarely. But it IS convenient to have a gasoline hybrid on hand as your second car. The car that gets driven the most will be the EV. In my book, that makes it the primary car. The secondary one is the one used the few times per month (or year) when the primary car stays parked.

· Billtheharp (not verified) · 6 years ago

Just went to a meeting 30 miles away. Carpooled with two other people. Offered to take my Leaf (a 60 mile round trip on my average 80m+ driving range leaves 20 miles to spare, plus there was the chance to add a couple of bars to the charge while the meeting was in progress). One of the other people said she didn't want that because she didn't want to risk being stranded. We took her ICE and she drove it in a way that would give her about 40 miles of range in a Leaf - I shudder to think what her gas mileage was. I think the EV range "problem" is really a driver problem, compounded by fear of new technology and puffed up by press that is either (a) after sensationalism; (b) in the pocket of Big Oil; or (c) both of the above.

· Brett Owen (not verified) · 6 years ago

@Volt - I can't afford a Volt, but in defense of the imaginary me affording one, it does go pretty far on electricity. Maybe far enough to get to work. Plus the ~$3.50 price of gas is a pretty powerful motivator to only run battery. If you can only have one car, the Volt seems like a good choice for the very near term. Once there are more quick chargers though, that may be less true. Plus, really, you could probably top off with a 110v charge at work and go easier on the battery, and have plenty of range from the nine or so hours it spends at work.

· Anonymous · 6 years ago

Thanks "OC" LEAF owner for your post. Yesterday, we did a trip from West Hills to Santa Monica and on to LAX and back home. 75 miles in all. We left with a "full tank" of 98 miles. We arrived in Santa Monica with 84 miles left because we drove over Topanga Canyon which is very steep going up, but a long gradual slope going down. Charging the LEAF at Santa Monica place added about 20 miles of range. From LAX t o West Hills burned a lot of juice at 65 mph going mostly uphill. We had about 20, or 3 bars left. When we got home. So, the 75 mile trip pretty much emptied the "tank."

· · 6 years ago

@Londo Bell - There is a lot of interesting research in the works, including that by some MIT students to make commercially viable a charged material that could be pumped in like gas. But for the immediate future – and possibly if EVs are to have ANY future – we need to discard ideas like “gasoline stations can be found easily just around the corner, or some 70 miles at most in those rural freeways”. My guess is that at least in my lifetime you will never be able to charge a battery with the same amount of energy you can get filling a gas tank in anywhere close to the same time.
The point of my last post was more along the lines of “employ the idea of Better Place” but possibly without all of its high-tech wizardry. Another legacy of the ICE-powered 20th century the public needs to relinquish is the idea that it should be possible to hop in a car on the spur of the moment and drive “250-600 mi”. I have a 2006 Prius sitting in my carport that AAA has had to jump-start 3 times now because I’m having trouble relinquishing it – and my Prius.
But if I could get or rent something as easy as a trailer-towed battery to connect to my LEAF for those occasional trips that exceed its range (once since I got my LEAF in June 2011), the Prius would be history. And even though it would probably ‘make sense’ to rent rather than buy, I would at least consider purchasing a stand-alone battery pack I could use as a backup for my PV panels in the event of a massive, prolonged power grid failure – particularly if I could get my electric utility (EU) to chip in a little on the cost. Like other posters I’m not real keen on trusting the EU to not dip too deeply into my operational LEAF battery. But a use once in 7 months spare is a different matter.
The one requirement for all this to work (and my Prius to go) is the availability of said battery trailer – at Nissan dealers, Better Place(s) or battery “stations can be found easily just around the corner, or some 70 miles at most in those rural freeways”.

· · 6 years ago

This is still the early days of EV mass production. And so the more affordable EVs for the next couple years are best used for every day, normal use. What nearly everyone uses a car for nearly every day.

People who buy an EV should not feel shame to rent a car a few times a year. Just by buying an EV and using it as your main form of transportation you are helping to change our society for generations to come. So if you go on a long trip you deserve to rent whatever car you want.

Or if money is tight, try this: find a friend who has a really light commute (so that the friend can charge from 110v while you are gone) and swap cars. You drive your friend's car on your trip. Your friend gets to experience an electric car. Everyone winds.

· · 6 years ago

Even if money isn't tight, this is a really great idea!
"... find a friend who has a really light commute (so that the friend can charge from 110v while you are gone) and swap cars. You drive your friend's car on your trip. Your friend gets to experience an electric car. Everyone wins."

· Jim McL (not verified) · 6 years ago

We do a 140 mile round trip in one day every month in our Think City EV. We charge at nothing but household outlets along the way, although sometimes we get access to a 240 volt stove outlet (NEMA 14-50).

The Think has the same range as the Leaf, but no fast charge. And it is no big deal to do 140 miles without fast charge. A portable 240 volt charging box helps a lot. As does that "quick 220" box. Just make sure you are always plugged in when you stop.

Our trip is to a social event about 70 miles away, and we are there (charging) for several hours. If we get there a little early, we sometimes even take the interstate freeway home instead of the slower US highways that give so much better range.

· jim1961 (climate change alarmist) (not verified) · 6 years ago

I don't want to get into a Leaf verses Volt argument. I like them both. The Volt is absolutely not a 100% electric car. The Volt is a 69.5% electric car, According to 352 Volt drivers. 69.5% was the average percentage of miles driven in EV mode. Found this information at voltstats.net

· · 6 years ago

@jim1961. There you go. That seems more realistic. Somewhere, somebody knows the percentage of EVERY Volt mile out there. I wonder if GM will ever release that info.

· · 6 years ago

@Londo Bell - "Do you see any ICE car or hybrids having an extra gas tank attached at the back or anywhere around the vehicle, because it has a limited range of about 250-600 mi, depending on your driving styles?"

Funny you mention this; I have absolutely seen it happen. Often people on long road trips will bring a gas can with 3-5 gallons of gas. Of course, the motivation is a little different (misjudging distance to next gas station, as opposed to not having any gas stations around). I do actually agree with world2steven that renting an extra-large battery to go 250 miles would be preferable to stopping 2 or 3 times for 30 minutes each for a QC.

· · 6 years ago

That's the beauty of the *potential* of a car like the Model S. The potential is that you buy the car with the "small" battery. You're planning a big trip, so you drive to your nearest Tesla dealer and have the battery swapped for the 300+ mile unit for your two week vacation. Come back, pay the battery rental charge (cheaper and more convenient than renting a while car) and swap back in your owned battery. A guy can dream....

· · 6 years ago

@world2steven - Thank you for turning my wind into a win!

Sometimes I just type too fast.

· · 6 years ago

@darelldd - The Model S guys say they dropped the idea of swapping to different battery sizes due to differences in the suspension system for each weight. But I have to believe that part of that is them being under time pressure to get their car on the market. Give them some time and they will probably come up with some kind of work around to the suspension issue.

It is a really good way to handle the problem.

· · 6 years ago

Can I third that emotion and grab a quorum?

It turns out that many "good ideas when money is tight" are good ideas for EVERYBODY.

· · 6 years ago

@ alt-e

Ah, I hadn't heard that. While I don't think the Better Place battery swapping deal can ever pan out, I think a "rarely needed" pack upgrade situation *could* work. There are definitely some weight/handling issues that need to be dealt with. Doesn't seem like rocket science though - especially for a car that handles correctly with either one or seven passengers!

· Mike I (not verified) · 6 years ago

@alt-e - The active air suspension would probably help with the battery swap issue on the Model S, but it is only standard on the cars that already have the big battery :( If getting the $1,500 optional air suspension on the base car would be the key to allowing battery swap at the Telsa center, I would probably pay it.

· · 6 years ago

@Mike I - I think air suspension is great anyway. Especially on battery heavy EVs.

And they can allow huge weight changes really well, if you design them that way.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

Reading these posts makes me grateful. Bless all of you who are on the leading (maybe bleeding) edge of EV. I am old enough to recall my grandmother (1875-1974) talking about the challenges of changing to the auto. Bad roads, getting stuck, buying gasoline, unhappy horsemen ("get a horse" was a remembered cry) flat tires, breakdowns, etc. In historical terms it was not that long ago.

Those in the "drill baby drill" crowd with their head in the sand need to admit that we have passed the half-life of the oil fueled society, but thanks to adventurists like you we will move on!

· · 6 years ago

@ Anonymous - what a great note!

· jak42 (not verified) · 6 years ago

So this strikes me as trying to write a novel on a cell phone. You can do it, but...

Seriously, I've had a Leaf now for 6 months and it is absolutely the best car I ever had. Fun to drive, and great milage. I power it off the solar panels on my roof. I don't try to push it in terms of how far I drive. I just use it for driving to and from work, and around town. Sometimes, my wife picks me up at the airport. At some point, I will probably try to go out of town for a weekend trip, i.e. to push it, but it will be with a spirit of adventure and lots of time in case I get stranded.

Depending on the public charging infrastructure to rescue me, at this early stage of the game, is unlikely to work.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

I think a better solution (other than 30min. charging stations) would be to provide gas stations with fully-charged energy packs.
Then, when a customer arrived with a low 'tank' he/she could simply trade it in for a new one. I envision the capability to unsnap the dead battery out of the Leaf and then the ability to snap a new on into place in a matter of minutes.
*The gas station could even have its own re-energizing area where it could store and re-charge the used batteries that it receives from drivers.
* Customers could have a choice to wait to re-charge (30 min) or buy a new battery.

· · 6 years ago

@Anonymous - see also Project Better Place?

· · 6 years ago

@Anonymous - who pays for all these extra packs? One quick charger can service a hundred cars a day, and can cost ~$5,000. An extra pack can service one car and will likely cost more than that... and they need to be distributed where they are needed.

See Better Place (as Brian Suggests) and count the problems with this scenario. The cost is a huge one... but is only one of many.

· NISSANMASTTECH (not verified) · 5 years ago

@indyflick,
Nissan doesn't pay for the chargers, dealership owners do. I don't know how much the chargers cost with installation, but I know the special tool package that they had to buy was over $20,000. Also training for technicians figures in, a pretty large investment for a smaller dealer.

· Tommyworld (not verified) · 5 years ago

Thanks for sharing your experience, but I have to disagree with you on the NEED for a 250-mile range in an EV car. The background info in your first paragraph actually reveals how much the existing range has satisfied your driving needs. You've taken care of your daily commuting as well as trips to multiple other locales to see family without the need for any additional range.

You've only now finally had a need after almost 6,000 miles of driving for additional range because you have friends who happen to live 140 miles away.

What if those friends had been 400 miles away? Then you have the same issue with a 250-mile range. Would you complain that 250 isn't enough? Would you find that distance to be far enough that you wouldn't take a car?

How about this. Have you ever had to move a large piece of furniture or help somebody else do that? Was it ever too big to fit in your car? Did you complain that your car should've been made larger to accommodate those rare times when you needed to move a sofa? Or did you ask somebody who did have a truck to help? Or did you rent a truck?

I'm probably confusing my argument by asking too many questions, but my point is that I don't believe choosing (or judging) a car should be based on 5% of your needs, it should be based on 95%. And for the 5%, you can always find an alternative. When you start choosing a car because it can handle the 5%, you often compromise in some way how your choice handles the 95%.

Say Nissan decides all Leafs should have a 250-mile range, so they put a larger battery in place increasing the cost to $45 or $50k. (I'm making these numbers up. I have no idea how much it would really cost to add 150 miles of range.) Well, now we'd have a Leaf that had a very nice range, but it's also now priced out of a lot of people's budgets. So no electric car for them anymore. I'd be in that group. I bought a Leaf, but if it had been $10k more, I couldn't afford it. Nissan would've responded to those who wanted a car for 100% of their driving rather than 95%, but the consequence would be a higher cost that keeps the promise of an electric car beyond the grasp of the mainstream consumer (see Tesla). And that would be a shame.

· · 5 years ago

@ Tommyworld - I think that the points that you make are not inconsistant with Nissan offering different battery sizes at different price points. They should have EVs that are affordable for the majority of the population and they should have EVs with more battery for those who need it or can afford it. Or perhaps an air spring suspension which can accomidate different battery pack weights so that we can all buy a 150 mile EV and rent the 250 mile battery when we need it.

Or maybe this whole issue will become out of date once IBM is done with their lithium air battery and standard EVs will have a 300 mile range.

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 5 years ago

"The volt is 100% electric, 100% of the time. In 6 months I didn't use a drop of gas" (!!??!!)

I'm also the proud owner of a 2011 volt and 2011 tesla roadster. But on my volt, the engine starts at least once every 6 weeks, or when it is under 32 degrees fahrenheit outside. It supposedly will also force you to empty the tank of gas once a year to prevent the gas from getting stale. The irksome thing here is that you have no choice in the matter, other than fooling the system to prematurely start the engine. I've found no other choices possible.

Therefore, I think it is much more accurate to say that the volt is 98% electric, most of the time.

The Tesla is also a bit irksome in that you have little control over what the system does as to power level, regeneration rates, battery heating or air conditioning.. But at least Tesla shows you how to outsmart the car 10% of the time. The other 90% of the time there is no way to get the car to do what you want.

Why is it that electric car manufacturers think someone who can afford $150k of cars is too dumb to be given a choice as to how to control the car? To be fair, in this respect the Volt is much worse than the Tesla, but I'm basically satisfied with both cars at this point.,

· Dave (not verified) · 5 years ago

I just wanted to comment on the IKEA Burbank charger. The announcement of the presence of the charger was made at the same time as the announcement of the IKEA charger at the Carson store. And the photos of the chargers are that of the chargers in front of the Carson store. At first glance one would think that the Burbank Ikea charging station is also in front of the store. However it is a cross the street next to the parking structure.

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