Turning over a new LEAF

It’s been almost 9 months since I started driving an all-electric car. I’ve driven it in snow, rain, back roads, dirt roads and rough driveways. I’ve charged it at negative 20 and up through the 90’s. There were fewer than 10 charging stations in Vermont when I first started and now we’re closing in on 30. The new updated Church and Main street station in Burlington is a great addition.Burlington station

The most common end to a conversation I have with a non-ev driver when we get through the common questions: How far? How long? How much (always sheepishly asked), How much electricity? How about snow? and all the other Hows is, “thank you for saving the planet.”

This blog journey has come to an end but you can keep following the Vermont EV story at http://www.driveelectricvt.com/

If this blog has helped convince you that an electric car can work for you in a rural, cold weather, hilly state while saving you hundreds if not thousands of dollars you can take a pledge on the Drive Electric Vermont website that “My Next Car Will Be Electric”. I look forward to seeing many more EVs on the road and folks may just say to you, “Thank you for saving the planet.”

Improvements in the 2013 Leaf

As followers will recall I am leasing a 2012 Nissan Leaf. Early on I mentioned some easy improvements; light under the charge port, external access to the charge port and better range measurement. Of course more range and a better heater also joined the list. Well the 2013 Leaf seems to address most of these issues. There’s now a light in the charge port and you can open it from outside the car. In addition the new heating system uses heat pump technology and is reported to heat the cabin much more effectively, in the same way a heat pump system would heat your home far more efficiently. This article from Edmunds is entitled, “Why Current Leaf Owners Should Hate the 2013 Leaf.” http://blogs.cars.com/kickingtires/2013/01/why-current-leaf-owners-should-hate-the-2013-model.html

Basically the rapid rate of improvement makes earlier models and versions pale by comparison. This is the major reason why I leased rather than purchased my Leaf. I have no doubt the 2015 model, which Nissan says will be able to park itself (semi-autonomous?), will be light years ahead of the 2012 I’m driving now. I can’t wait.

Signs of spring

While the signs of winter were perhaps less apparent as I was getting use to my Leaf, there is no doubt now that temperatures are above 25 degrees that my range has increased and my charge time decreased. I’ve noticed this even when I’m running the heater. I hadn’t quite been able to distinguish between ambient air temperature and heat use on range until now but I’m clearly finding ambient air temperature does play a key role in range and charge time. So, the hardest part of the year is over for me and my Leaf. Welcome spring.

I don’t know what she’s doing sweetie

I stopped at the Waterbury charging station on my way back from Montpelier on my way to Green Drinks in Stowe. As I pulled in to charge a young girl, maybe 5 years old and her mother were on the dock and the daughter said, “why is she getting gas.”  The mother said, “I didn’t know they had gas here.” As they got closer she saw that it wasn’t a gas pump and said, “I don’t know what she’s doing sweetie.” I explained to them that my car didn’t use any gasoline but ran on electricity which I was getting from the charging stations here. By then a gentleman approached and inquired about how the vehicle worked, how long it took to charge, etc. the usual questions.

I went in to get something while I accessed the web for work and mentioned that I was charging up. They got quite excited and asked if they could take a picture and post it on their website. Thank you Green Mountain Coffee Roasters!

Prior Planning Prevents….

Or, no room for spontaneity. Twice this past week I’ve been faced with range issues. The first was when I didn’t look at my schedule and see that I had a mid-day dentist appointment and had only filled the battery to 80%. That meant that I drove from Jericho to Burlington to Essex back to Burlington. I might have been able to make it home but opted to head to Healthy Living to give it an hour on a Level 2. Thankfully the spot was open and the wifi is great there so I got an extra hour and half of work done over dinner there. This was not a major inconvenience but of course if we had workplace charging it wouldn’t have been an issue at all. Hopefully this summer we’ll get some chargers installed.

The second time was more problematic. I had run my Saturday errands; Jericho-Williston-Richmond and home only to have our younger daughter ask to go into Burlington, an unplanned trip. There was no range issue with the trip to Burlington and back (charging at City Market for the hour we were in town). The problem was when I had planned to return to Burlington to see a show and I saw that I only had 13 miles of range (it’s a 17 mile one way trip). If I had a Level 2 charger at home that would have taken care of that issue. The bigger problem was that our older daughter is home on spring break and had already taken off with the Jetta. Saying that she’s “home” on spring break is a bit misleading – her stuff is here and she makes an occasional appearance. I thought my husband would have been home since his day started quite early but he wasn’t. So what to do. I might have been able to make it since the descent from Jericho to Richmond adds a couple of miles of range. But this would also require that the City Market charging spot be available or less desirably so, the Church and Main Level 1 spot be open.

In the end he came home a little earlier than planned and we met at the Richmond Park and Ride and exchanged cars, with a few choice words from him about the benefits of an ICE. Of course when I got in his car the low fuel light was on. I powered on and made the show and as I ran down Main St to the Flynn I passed the Church and Main Street charger only to see an ICE parked in the spot. I made the show, just and as a sign of thanks filled up the tank ($60!!!) before returning home.

My mother made the comment during the show, “that car of yours really isn’t very convenient.” It is for about 98% of my trips and if I had workplace charging, a Level 2 at home and/or the 2013 model, which has ~20% more range, or a Tesla it would meet closer to 99.8%. I still think 2015 is the year for the EV breakthrough. In the meantime I’ll continue pioneering and remembering the mantra, Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

What’s a nice car like you doing in a place like this?

I wondered this as I stopped at the local gasoline station to pick up some windshield washer fluid. I hadn’t considered that there might still be a reason for me to frequent a gas station but there I found myself, a fish out of water. I wanted to tell everyone, “I’m not here buying gas, I’m just here for windshield washer fluid.”

I do wish that the Nissan LEAF had a low windshield washer fluid monitor like my VW does. That would have avoided the situation where you find yourself driving down the interstate and plumb run out without warning.

98% of the time

While we all have different travel behavior yesterday was one of those days where I needed my ICE car or more Level 2 chargers. I drove from Jericho to Hinesburg and back and then from Jericho to Montpelier and back and Jericho to S. Burlington with stops in Williston and back. Easily over 100 miles. If I had a level 2 charger at home,  one at the National Life building in Montpelier and one in Williston I could have made it in the Leaf. Or if there was one level 3 Charger in Montpelier I could have made it.

It did make me think about how realistic this kind of travel is for those who would prefer to just get in a car and if necessary stop at one of the many gas stations for 6 minutes to refuel and continue on, without considering their travel speed or the amount of ancillary power the heating or AC may require nor the cost. It’s getting close but in early 2013, with a 2012 model year Leaf it’s not quite there yet. A few more chargers and a few more miles of range at an affordable price and it will be. It’s days like this that make me feel like a pioneer.