Canada to Mexico Electric Car Rally Changes EV Range Perceptions

By · July 08, 2013

Canadian Tesla Model S

There have been a number of long-distance electric car events held to counter perceptions about range limitations of EVs. The latest was last week's BC2BC-2013 Rally, in which eight electric cars and one electric motorcycle traveled from British Columbia to Baja, California. All but one successfully arrived, although the journey revealed weaknesses in electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

The rally was organized by Tony Williams, an electric vehicle activist and entrepreneur from San Diego. He did a similar trip last year, solo, driving from Baja to British Columbia. That experience led him to organize the event, this time inviting other electric vehicle owners to join him.

Terry Hershner, filling up

The rally started in Blaine Washington where I-5 enters British Columbia, traveling southward through four segments and a large number of checkpoints, ending at the Tijuana border crossing where I-5 enters Mexico. The participants were timed for each section, and the overall winner was the one who completed the total trip the fastest for the timed segments. There were pauses in the schedule between each segment allowing the slower cars to catch up.

The event included a Tesla Roadster, Zero S electric motorcycle, Toyota RAV4 EV, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, two Nissan LEAFs, and three Tesla Model S cars. The top finishers were, no surprise, the Model S drivers.

  • Jack Bowers and Georg Kuhnke, driving a Tesla Model S, finished first with about 41 hours of driving time.
  • Terry Hershner, riding a modified Zero S electric motorcycle, finished second with about 52 hours of riding time.
  • Randy and Cheryl Taylor, Canadians driving a Tesla Model S, came in third with about 57 hours of driving time.
  • David and Helen Kiker, from Redmond, Ore., also driving a Tesla Model S, came in fourth, also with about 57 hours of driving time.
  • Asoka Diggs, a brand new Tesla Roadster owner who lives in Portland, came in fifth with about 70 hours of driving time.
  • Tony Williams, of San Diego, driving a second generation Toyota RAV4 EV, came in sixth with around 74 hours of driving time.

Built for Range

Both the Tesla Roadster and Tesla Model S are well-suited for the road trip. They have a long driving range, fast-charging and can be plugged into a wide variety of power outlets through power adapters. The Zero S has similar capabilities, with with an extra-large battery pack, about nine chargers on the bike which can be used with any combination of power outlet or charging station, and can pull more than 20 kilowatts of charging rate.

Without modification, the Tesla Model S with 85 kilowatt-hour battery pack has a 265-mile E.P.A. driving range, and can recharge in about an hour at the Tesla Supercharger stations.

The Nissan LEAF drivers were still en route when the results of the race were being tallied. Both of the LEAFs had respectable results in Washington and Oregon, due to the plentiful CHADEMO chargers along the West Coast Electric Highway. However, despite promises dating back several years that California would be part of the West Coast Electric Highway, the CHADEMO chargers stop at the Oregon border. One of the LEAF drivers got stuck in Weed, Calif. for 15 hours charging at 120 volts, for example.

Nissan Leaf, charging at a Nissan dealers' CHADEMO station

The 2013 LEAF has an E.P.A. range of 73 miles, and a recharge time of three to four hours with its 6.6-kilowatt charger—or about one hour on CHADEMO fast charging stations.

What makes any car suitable for road trips is the ratio between charging time—and driving range. The better that ratio, the more easily you can take long road trips with an electric car.

Steve and Tanya Coram, LEAF drivers, live in the Seattle area, and over the past year traded in both their gas-powered cars to become a two-LEAF family. It wasn't until his wife, Tanya, went on a trip from Seattle to Portland and back, using the West Coast Electric Highway, that they obtained the confidence to go fully electric. Fast-charging improves the charging-to-driving time ratio on the LEAF, making it more capable of long trips.

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