London to Edinburgh – Trip Overview

London to Edinburgh – Overview of the Day

Introduction

On Friday 24th January 2014 Robert
Llewellyn and David Peilow drove a Nissan Leaf from Marble Arch, London
to Edinburgh. They wanted to do it in a single day as a response and in
contrast to a trip done by BBC reporter Brian Milligan 3 years ago in a
Mini E. The Mini E trip took 4 days with overnight stops. David wanted
to show just how much electric vehicles and the charging infrastructure
have come on since that trip in 2011.

Read about the Mini E trip of 2011 here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-12138420

Read more about David’s and Robert’s trip here: http://llewblog.squarespace.com/electric-cars/2014/1/26/london-edinburgh-mainly-mundane.html

That trip was a great success and they
completed the trip in 13hrs 48mins but that was with with lots of chat and PR on
the way. They believe that trip could have been done in 11-12 hrs
with less chatting on the way.

I wanted to do the trip with David and Robert but
it just wasn’t practical.

An Idea Brews

It occurred to me that the car they used
for the trip was a brand new Mk2 Nissan Leaf. They had no issues with
range but it got me thinking… how would my older, Mk1, 2011 Leaf with 23,000 miles on the
clock fare? This is a question that many people might be asking if they were considering buying a second hand Nissan Leaf… will the older battery
and no heat pump make this kind of longer trip any more difficult? In
fact… would I be able to complete the trip at all?

David Peilow and Robert Llewellyn drove a brand new, mark 2, Nissan Leaf loaned to them by Nissan specifically for the trip. It was literally brand new and so it had a brand new battery and so likely to have the maximum range a Leaf was likely to have. On the other hand, my mark 1 Leaf was nearly 3 years old, had done nearly 23,000 miles. A very different proposal indeed.

I wanted to show that you don’t need a brand new mark 2 to do this trip and you don’t have to have a celebrity on board, with all the support that brings, either. I wanted to show just what it took to do a trip like this and to compare their experience, as much as is possible to do, with mine.

So, on Thursday 30th January to Sunday 2nd February 2014, one week after David and Robert, I drove my mark 1 Nissan Leaf from my home in Saltash, Cornwall to London, Edinburgh and back.

Follow Me?

I wasn’t particularly interested in getting PR for the trip beyond what I could do via Twitter etc so I Twittered throughout the trip in the hope that some might pick up on what I was doing and maybe enjoy following along. To make this more interesting I did as David and Robert did and I set up a Glympse tag for each day. Glympse allowed people to follow my position and see me travelling in real-time. People could see the exact route I took and also see when I went wrong (more on that later!).

Glympse is great! It really allows people to feel involved with the trip and it was a great success.

I will be doing several blog posts based on the event. This one is the general overview and comparison of my trip and theirs and I will be doing other posts about specific aspects of the trip and lessons learned that are more general in nature. Watch out for the follow up blog posts won’t you 🙂

I hope you enjoy reading about the trip and maybe realise that the Leaf and electric cars in general are viable and affordable right now. If I can do a trip like this then I hope it is clear that when used in the way the Leaf was designed, i.e. daily use of under 100 miles, then it is a very capable, very cheap and very environmentally clean transport.

London (Reading) to Edinburgh

David Peilow and Robert Llewellyn started their trip from Marble Arch but for me to get to Marble Arch I would have to charge at Heston and then drive into London. I decided that I didn’t need to do every leg identically to them to make my trip worthwhile and so I elected to travel direct from Reading to their first stop of Newport Pagnell.

After that I tried to follow their route which, for the most part, I did. I recorded the power used on each leg so that I might compare what I used to what they used as a comparison of the Mk1 vs Mk2 Leaf. However, my trip was never meant to be a direct or close comparison… that just would not be possible for even if I did follow their route I would have different weather and traffic and it would be impossible to make any comparison that exact. Nonetheless, I was hoping that it would be close enough to make some kind of a sensible comparison and if wildly different I was hoping we could find some reasons for the differences.

Typical Leaf Spy Screen Shot

So it was with that in mind that the day progressed. Before setting out I would zero the power display on the Leaf Spy software and at each stop I would record the power used by taking a screen shot of the Leaf Spy screen. This not only recorded the power used but also other details such as the state of charge at the start and end of the leg, start and end time etc. I will be using these screen shots as the basis for my comparisons later.

Regarding timing of each leg. I wanted to stick as much as was sensibly possible to their original planned times. I have a Mk1 Leaf and so my power use and charging requirements may have been different to their Mk2 requirements and so I was not going to be too strict on timing. However, to make the comparison realistic I felt that if I could stick closely to their timings then I would have to drive at similar speeds thereby reducing the number of differences. As it happens, I think I drove a little more slowly. I suspect that as they neared the end of each leg and they realised they had power to spare they would have increased speed to use up the spare power they had. I was expecting to use more power than them (being a Mk1) and so I didn’t plan on doing that at all.

As it happens, I generally used less power than they did on each leg. These are the power use figures with both theirs and mine for comparison:

Leg Peilow/Llewellyn
Power Used
kWh
My Power Used
kWh
Comment
Newport Pagnell 16.08 14.45 No comparison as not same route
Leicester Forrest East 15.9 9.8 Cautious Speed & heat on half of time
Tibshelf 14.8 11.32 Heat on
Wooley Edge 15 10.1 Heat on
Wetherby 10.06 8.65 Heat on
Aston Hotel 18.06 Messed up Leaf Spy so no figures
Hexham 14.78 10.83 Heat mostly on
Newton St Boswell 16.9 Snow Diversion
Alnwick Did not record
Haggerston Castle Did not record
Edinburgh 14.92 Haggerston Castle to Hotel in Musselburgh

As you can see, on some of the legs the difference was marked and always in my favour! The fact that I was generally using significantly less power than they did was a surprise and comfusing. The Mk2 is more efficient than the Mk1 and so I was expecting to use more power over the same trips. This was not the case.

I can only put forward suggestions why this might be the case:

  • They had 2 persons on board with associated luggage… I had one and I was travelling very light with just a small overnight bag.
  • I was being very cautious at first as I was expecting my range to be less than theirs and so I was driving more slowly at the start of each leg until I was certain of my range.
  • They had much more tech on board and that takes power. I know that they had a 120W inverter, several phones, cameras etc. I had just my mobile plugged into the USB port.
  • The had a heat pump heating system and so they were confident that their heating would not reduce range and so they had their heating on all the time. I was expecting the heating to significantly reduce my range and so I used the heating but on legs that I thought were marginal I left the heating turned off until I was 100% certain of reaching my next charging point.

I suspect that these all combined to mean that I used less power, not more. Who knows? Ultimately, the fact that I used less is pretty good news as it means that I could have driven a bit faster or had the heating on for longer and yet I didn’t drive slowly or freeze on most of the legs and I found that I could drive at 60-70mph most of the time and have the heating on for most of the time.

Snow Diversion

Everything was going well as I started the leg from Hexham to Newtown St Boswell. I had had a great chat with some other Leaf owners at Hexham, I was fully charged and confident that the final two legs would go well. However, the weather was rotten. It was cold at about 2C and raining. About 7 miles out of Hexham the SatNav on the car threw up a message that the A68 was closed. I stopped and called my wife and asked her to check it out on the web and sure enough… the road was closed due to snow. I wasn’t totally surprised as this was the highest leg at 420m but it rather threw the cat amongst the pigeons.

I decided to re-route via Alnwick and Haggerston Castle but it would add at least 3 hours to the trip and also mean that any chance of getting comparable figures for these last 2 legs was now gone and this leg in particular was the one I wanted to compare as it was the one with the most hills.

I returned to Hexham and recharged before heading off to Alnwick.

At this point I was tired and for some reason or other I stopped recording the power use. I am really cross with myself that I did this because I could not then get total figures for the whole trip but I think by that time I just wanted to get to the hotel. I did record the last leg… I think by then I had recovered from the diversion a little bit!

I arrived at the hotel exhausted at 10.45pm after a 17hrs 28mins trip!

What did I Learn?

Well, not as much as I had hoped as far as power use was concerned. It was clear that my trip and their trip was radically different in some way to result in power use differences so different. What they were can only really be speculation.

What was clear though is that a Mark 1 Nissan Leaf can do this trip every bit as easily as the Mark 2 and ultimately, this is what I set out to prove and I did that.

For me though, the biggest lesson was that the Nissan Leaf is a wonderful car in so many ways but it is not really suited to trips like this.

Of course, this trip and that of David Peilow and Robert Llewellyn the week before, show that it can be done if you really want it to and as the charging is currently free to the driver it is certainly a cheap way to travel… my trip cost me NOTHING! However, the 60-90 mile range is very limiting, especially if you have problems on the way, the planning needs to be done carefully beforehand (no just jumping in and going) and you need to have time – lots of time! I honestly can’t see many people making this kind of trip if they have a choice to go in any other way. It is pretty hard work to be honest with all the stops, charging, constantly assessing whether you have the power to get to your next charge point etc. There will be pioneers and enthusiasts that do it but this is not really the best use of a Nissan Leaf in my opinion.

The Nissan Leaf is great though for shorter trips and daily commutes and when it is used within its capabilities and I really do not know why more people don’t have one. You can get a new one now for about £18,000 and a good used one for about £11,000 so I urge everyone to consider it if it could suit your usage.

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