Leaf Roadtrip

Have you ever been to Wendover, Utah?

So I was stuck in Wendover, UT, or West Wendover, NV, I’m not sure which. The two towns border each other and the seemingly arbitrary boundary is only marked by where the casinos start on the main drag.

My app showing EV charging places had two options in Wendover: a KOA RV park, and a gas station with a truck-stop charging area.

The woman at the KOA would not let me charge. She would not even let me rent an RV site to charge. She was basically resistant to helping me in any way (though she did wish me a nice day as I left!) -- I'd call this strike one, but the three strike metaphor is not nearly sufficient for this tale.

I went to the gas station and they had no idea what I was talking about with regard to charging stations. But they did point me to the local electricity cooperative, which had a charging station out front. None of my charging network credentials worked on the charger, so I went in and asked for help. I was informed that only employees could use that charger.

I went back to the gas station and drove around back, and found a gigantic truck-stop area with the charging area along the outer edge (I guess the three employees who were mystified at my request for charging stations were all new that day). This seemed more promising at first, but it had three outlet types: a standard 110V outlet (110V gives you about 4 miles of range per hour of charge), a TT-30 120V outlet, and a 14-30/208V outlet (I think this is mainly used for electric clothes dryers). The plug that comes with the leaf is a 14-50 (not compatible with the 14-30) -- see? this would already be strike three!

I wandered the city looking for a place to plug in (desperately dropping my range as I did). I found an outlet outside the very back of the Nugget Casino, plugged in and went inside to camp for the 20 or so hours of  110V charging required to get me to Elko, NV. The casino had wifi, but you needed a room number for access. I figured, if I’m going to sit around for 20 hours, I should find a place with wifi.

I found a coffee shop near Wendover High School, the latter of which had a 110V plug accessible outside. There was no one around, but a school is a public building, so figured I could plug in. I left my phone number on my dash and started walking to the coffee shop. Before I even got to the coffee shop, I got a call saying that they had unplugged my car, and I needed to move it or they would probably tow it. It turns out the school was deserted because it was on lockdown. They were very upset that I had just plugged  my car into an outlet on private property. After some unproductive debate about whether a school constitutes private property, I walked back and moved my car.

At this point, I went back to the 110V outlet at the truck stop, called the power vendor, and started my painful 110V charge.

I’m not a huge fan of casinos, so Wendover/West Wendover is not my ideal place to be (and September at 100 degrees, it was not an ideal time). I went up to the gas station to sit it out.

While I waited, I rechecked my EV charging app, and saw that a previous Leaf owner had unsuccessfully tried that very truck stop, but had found the Nugget Casino RV park just to the south. The RV park is actually a sad, sad, almost completely unmarked parking lot, with RV sized parking spaces and odd looking five foot poles coming out of the ground at regular intervals.

RV outlets are of type 14-50, so I was able to plug in and enjoy the fact that my 20 hour wait just dropped to closer to 3.

I walked back to the Nugget casino, sat in their Starbucks enjoying their wifi and A/C (the wifi was free at this end of the building).


Maybe the baseball metaphor works after all -- I just had to hang in there and foul a few off before I could get a good one I could hit.

Overnight near Salt Lake City

I finished the days drive at the Sandy City Hall, right across from my hotel.

My car said that I still had over 80 miles left:



If you remember (or even if you don't) I left Price, UT with 165 miles of range, having driven 412 miles so far. Added together, this represented 577 total miles. The total shown above is 600 miles, so I gained over 20 miles on this segment.

Driving between Price and Sandy, the total miles varied by about 50 miles, which illustrates to me that when I'm done with this trip, I should work on a formula for how elevation differences affect the true range.

So my first day of driving was just over 500 miles, and spanned just over 14 hours. My spreadsheet showed that this trip totaled 1289 miles, so I had to face the truth that my dreams of a two-day trip were unsurprisingly dashed.

My battery temperature was improved, but because I was staying overnight, I connected to the slower level 2 charging station (which doesn't stress the battery).

When I woke up the next morning, my console showed me this:


In addition, my battery temperature was back to normal.

My next stop was Elko, Utah, about 110 miles away, so it should be an easy first leg.


Reaching Price, UT in a pool of sweat

Made it to Price,  UT!

It shows that I arrived with a remaining range of 29, but there were times on this section where it was just 13 miles more than the distance here (remember the 53 mile buffer I started with?):

As a result the range issue, and the fact the running the A/C drops the range between 5 -8miles (too close for comfort, vs. too hot for comfort), I drove the last half of this section with my shirt and the A/C off, and the fan blowing on high (it was 100 degrees, so it's debatable whether the fan was helping or hurting).
Here's a screen capture of my Leaf app from when I got to that station. Notice the car interior temperature (between 103 and 113):
Knowing that the range got back to 29,  next time I'll run the AC.
After the charge, the station showed this:
and my car showed this:
And here's the battery status I mentioned, which showed cause for a little concern:

I moved my original first overnight stay to Sandy, UT, just south of Salt Lake City (in part because of the battery status and part because the day was a bit longer than expected). This meant I was just over 100 miles from my first break -- on to Sandy!

Made it to Grand Junction

Well, I made it to the Grand Junction library while charging station.

Here's my console when I stopped:


If you'll recall, when I left Eagle, CO, my miles driven was 132 and my available range was 269 (a lie!), for a total of 401 miles.

As you can see above, the sum of the two is now down to 335 miles, this after an elevation drop between Eagle and Grand Junction of over 2000 feet.


The Grand Junction charging station looks more "industrial" than the more commercial one in Eagle, and it took several times through the six step process (about 15 minutes, total) to get the charge started. Once started I went in to the Grand Junction library next door and worked on my laptop.


At this point, I should highlight a wonderful phone app provided by Nissan that allows me to monitor the car remotely. Here's a screenshot:


As you can see, it provides the charging status, the car's interior temperature, and the fictional mileage range for the current charge. This allowed me to keep track of the charging session from the comfort of the public library.


At the end of the charging session, about two hours later (note: this is because the car slowed the second charge to protect the battery), the charging station showed this:


And my car showed this:


My next charging station is in Price, Utah, a distance of 165 miles, so this should provide a good buffer to get there.

Making it to Eagle, CO, and a portal into the cake-like lie that is estimated range

Let's talk about the Leaf display that shows you the expected range based on the current level of charge in the battery.


Here is the Leaf console as I was about to start my trip. Notice the amazing 280 mile range available to me:


This is first lie. Similar to a pattern that I would notice throughout the trip, when I started driving (conservatively, mind you!) out of my neighborhood, and at some point I didn't catch, the range suddenly dropped to 260 miles. It was as if the 280 mile range was some sort of maximum of the range probability wave, but when the wave collapsed, the eigenvalue was always 260. In other words, 280 miles was only available if I didn't actually drive the car.

Driving west on 70 from Golden, CO was an uphill climb to the continental divide. The range dropped precipitously, losing almost 100 miles more than the distance I had driven. Here is a snapshot of my console at the Eisenhower tunnel (the divide). Notice that the 110 miles range and the 64.3 miles driven is 170 total miles. Not quite the 260 miles promised at the start:


This is where my previous Steamboat Springs trip gave me comfort. I knew that the very effective regenerative braking of the Leaf would recover much of the lost 100 miles on the way down.

And here is my console when I reached the charging station in Eagle, CO. I haven't recovered the full 100 miles, but I've driven almost 70 and my range has dropped 1.


I plugged in, then made myself some breakfast and ate it while it charged. When breakfast was done about 50 minutes later, the charging station showed that my battery was at 95% ($3 is not bad!):



Which my car translated to 269 miles (the range is a lie!):


If the rest of the trip goes this smoothly, this blog is going to be pretty monotonous (I drove, I stopped, I charged...).

Mapping my route

So, I've mapped out my route to San Francisco next week:



I've decided to go the more southern route (route 70 CO->UT->NV->CA) rather than the more northern route (CO->WY->UT->NV->CA) because of the better charging options along the way. The northern route is an hour shorter, but Wyoming has only Tesla-proprietary Supercharger stations (thanks, Elon!).


The rest of the post is for those that want to nerd out on the charging details:


My Leaf Plus has the larger 62kWh battery, with an official range of 226 miles on a full charge (vs. the standard Leaf has a 40kWh battery with a range of 150 miles). But know that I was an annoying hyper-miler in my Prius, getting mid 60’s MPG in the summer, so, as I mentioned before, I’m hoping to be able to extend that range.


The Leaf has two charging ports, shown here:



The on the left is the “quick charge” connector called CHAdeMO (mothers, don’t let your engineers grow up to name things), and right connector is called J-1772.

Actually, according to Wikipedia, the name CHAdeMO: “is an abbreviation of "CHArge de MOve", equivalent to "move using charge" or "move by charge" or "charge 'n' go", a reference to the fact that it's a fast charger. The name is derived from the Japanese phrase O cha demo ikaga desuka, translating to English as "How about a cup of tea?", referring to the time it would take to charge a car.”

For the Leaf Plus, the CHAdeMO connector supports a “Level 3” charge (the highest), and can charge the Leaf Plus battery 80% in 60 minutes (subject to battery temperature, which I talked about in an earlier post).

The J-1772 connector supports “Level 1” (a standard American 120v AC outlet plug), and “Level 2” (a standard American 250V Nema 14-50 plug, like those used for electric ranges, or in RV parks) charge.

I’ve found different numbers, but Levels 1 and 2 charge times are in the range of 4-5 miles/hour of charge (i.e., about two days to go from 0 - full charge!) and 20-25 miles/hour of charge (about 9-11 hours to go from 0 - full charge) respectively.


As you can see, Level 3 charging is the way to go for this trip, and with more Level 3 options, the southern route it is!


Preparing for Cross Country trip in Nissan Leaf

I have a Nissan Leaf SV Plus (purchased in June 2019), which Nissan tells me has a battery range of 226 miles. However, my experience to date suggests that if I drive conservatively, and am willing to leave the AC off, the range is actually closer to 250.

My daughter, her husband, and my 17-month-old grandson live in San Francisco. Since the young one was born, I've tried to visit them as often as I can. It's been a little while, so I'm planning a visit in September to help my daughter during an intense time with her job.

In my continuing efforts to reduce my carbon footprint, I've decided to drive the Leaf to SF instead of flying.

After a successful trial run from Boulder up to Steamboat Springs for our 40th anniversary (which google tells me is 165 miles one way), I'm ready to  give it a shot.

In preparation, I've been trying to find a route that will allow me to charge at convenient points along the way. I'm hoping to do it in two days of driving, but we'll see if that works or not.

I also have to take into account the restrictions on quick charging: specifically, that frequent quick charges can damage the battery life, so the car will proactively make the quick charge less "quick" if it senses that the car was recently quick charged.

I'm retired, and so have the luxury of time to give me some buffer.

I also am renewing my Nissan Connect for an extra month in case I get stranded with an empty battery.

I'll be giving updates throughout the trip.

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