Not quite what I had planned!

Since Ecotricity launched their charging points at Welcome Break motorway service areas I have been dying to try them out. There has been a lot of speculation and rumor that they are not compatible with the Nissan Leaf and so I decided that today I would go to my nearest one and put these rumors to rest once and for all.

Unfortunately, the nearest one to my home in Saltash, Cornwall was Michaelwood Services, 160 miles up the M5. Well I say 160 miles but the reality of travelling that kind of distance in an electric car at this stage of the development of the charging infrastructure means that I can’t just drive up the M5… I have to go via the Nissan dealers at Exeter and Wincanton and fast charge there before heading a further 50 miles north to Michealwood Services.

The trip there was uneventful except for one thing… well, several things really… well, I suppose in all truth, the trip there was eventful.

Firstly I left too late. I had planned the trip on Google Maps, as I always do, but I had ignored a couple of important factors in estimating how long the trip would take. In particular, I had not properly accounted for the small roads that I would need to use in the final leg of the trip. Nor did I account for the significant hills that those roads took me across. The upshot of these oversights was that the final leg took nearly twice as long as I had planned.

Actually, I was already running late before leaving Wincanton. I bought my Leaf from JFE Nissan, Exeter, and when I arrived there I spent a very pleasant hour chatting. So lesson number one was when on a schedule DON’T CHAT!

Lesson number two then is when planning a trip allow adequate time when travelling on small roads and also expect the trip to take more power when there are significant hills on route.

I have owned my Leaf for 5 months now and I have done nearly 5000 miles which have included many long trips and so I already knew all about these issues… so what went wrong? I screwed up… that is what happened. There is no getting away from it. For some reason or other, I simply didn’t plan the trip adequately.

So, what actually happened? I left Wincanton and after about 10 miles it was obvious that I would not be able to get enough charge at Michealwood Services, charging at 10A,  quickly enough to get back to Exeter before they closed at 5pm. I did think though that I could get back to Wincanton before they closed and so I decided to push on and complete the trip. I wanted to get photos and see the charging station and if I could get back to Wincanton, fast charge there and then drive to Exeter, there was a private owner in Exeter on the EV-Network where I could charge for a few hours before driving back to Saltash. Exeter to Saltash is only 44 miles so I wouldn’t need a great deal of charging at Exeter even though it was slow charging.

However, as I said before, this last leg was very slow and took a lot more power than I had expected and so rather than arriving at Michealwood Services with 40 miles remaining I arrived with 20 miles. That is the difference between 2 hours and 4 hours charging at 10A. I was stumped. There was now no way I could get back even to Wincanton before they closed.

Now I had two choices: book in to the Days Inn which is at the service area and accept that I had screwed up and take the £50 hit and an unscheduled night away or call out the Nissan Recovery Service and get them to put me on a flatbed truck and take me home. The first would mean that I was spending yet another unscheduled night away (the last time was when the fast charger failed on me at Southampton) and I was reluctant for that. The second would get me home without a night away and without further cost… you can guess for yourself which one I opted for.

Yup, I called the number on the tax disk and requested that I be recovered back home.

Considering that it was the final weekend before the schools go back and was incredibly busy the wait was only 1.5 hours and I was back home before 7pm! Great service and although being recovered on a flatbed is rather embarrasing I was pleased that Nissan have provided this service to us Leaf owners for the first year free of charge precisely for these events… a genuine mistake. I think if someone used the service frequently then they might have something to say perhaps, but for the odd occasion when you get it wrong in that first year whilst learning it is a Godsend.

So, what of the Ecotricity Charging Station? I shall report on that in my next blog entry…

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