Fascinating day in the Nissan Leaf

Checking that the POLAR charger was working
at Little Chef Honiton

Yesterday was a classic day in the Nissan Leaf. Not because of what we did particularly but for what we didn’t do!

We needed to go from our home in Saltash, Cornwall to just north of Seaton in Devon. This is a round trip of about 150 miles and so clearly we would need to charge on the way. The first stop would be JFE Nissan to rapid charge but that would then leave a round trip from the dealer to our destination of about 65 miles… right on the edge of the normal range of the Leaf.

Not the cleanest charging station I have seen!
But at least it was WORKING!

Looking at Zap Map (http://www.zap-map.com/) I saw there is  a POLAR station at the Little Chef, Honiton which might serve well as a top up in case we needed it to get back to the Nissan Dealer.

The trip to Exeter was uneventful but wet… very wet! After a full charge overnight at home we arrived at JFE Nissan, Exeter with the usual 4 bars remaining. So, it was clear we might need a 100% charge to get us the 60 odd miles so I rapid charged up to 80% then pressed the button again to take it up to 98%.

I stopped the rapid charge once the charging current was in single figures because it takes ages to get to 100% and for very little extra mileage.

So off we set, still raining, for Seaton.

Honiton is about 13 miles from our destination so when we arrived at the Little Chef we checked that it was working. It was (Phew!) so we then knew that we had a fallback if we needed it to top up a bit to guarantee we would make it back to Exeter.

We carried on to our destination, had lunch in a pub (we don’t eat in Little Chefs… you probably know why!) and then set out back towards Exeter and the Nissan dealer’s rapid charger. On arriving at the Little Chef in Honiton we still had about 20 miles to go and we had travelled 40 miles since we last charged so we had a decision to make… should we stop at the Little Chef for a hour to top up or carry on to Exeter?

Looking at the bars remaining it looked to me like we would make it reasonably comfortable. We had 20 miles to go and had 5 bars remain out of 12… so we had used 7 bars for the previous 40 miles. We decided to continue without stopping as we really didn’t want to stop at a Little Chef for any reason!

The drive then went well with us arriving back at JFE Nissan with 8 miles estimated remaining and 1 bar still lit. A quick 80% rapid charge saw us on our way back home and a successful 150 round trip completed in our Nissan Leaf with just 2 rapid charges and no scares.

I felt that the trip highlighted a few points worth mentioning:

  • Rapid charging makes long trips easy. OK, there is a little sitting around but to be honest, I never feel that time is wasted. I do Internet stuff or read a book. It makes trips like this almost free compared to using petrol and I expect will continue to do so when rapid charging is paid for.
  • A lot of people know fast charging (16A/32A) is not much use for enroute charging as it is too slow, but in this situation it might have been the difference between getting there and being recovered. I have already said I don’t like Little Chef but at least some of the restaurants do have charging and I think we should not ignore the importance of these slower charging stations. We might not use them for all long trips but they are certainly essential IMO as a support network for rapid charging.
  • Our trip was possible without needing a top-up charge because I know my Nissan Leaf performance very well. I have done 20k miles and had it over 2 years and so I was able to make a sensible assessment of how much range in all likelihood I actually had. EVs are not quite like petrol/diesel cars where you just get in a drive. They will get more like that as the technology and charging infrastructure develops and that is eventually how it must go. But for now, where charging infrastructure is in its infancy, we must make these kinds of judgement calls and knowing your car will help with that hugely. I have never needed recovery yet and although there is always a first time I am hoping to keep it that way!
  • The weather was wet but mild (15C). Had we needed the heating on then we almost certainly would have needed to stop for that top up charge. I have an early model Leaf and heating affects range significantly. If I had a top-spec mark 2 Leaf, with a heat pump and an extra 10-15 miles range because of it, then this trip would have been easily achievable without the top up.
  • I could have taken my Vauxhall Ampera, done the first 40 miles on battery and the rest on petrol but I felt I want to start to use the Nissan Leaf for more longer trips when it is sensibly possible and this was a great example of what can be done with even the existing charging infrastructure. Sure, I can’t do all possible trips in the Leaf but that is why I have the Ampera!

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