The Shakedown Cruise

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Off on a road trip…

We needed to go to Albany, New York, this weekend, and decided to take one of the Leafs, as a trial run for this summer’s planned trip across country. Albany isn’t super far, but we had to charge several times each way to get there, and probably drove 350 miles over the course of the weekend. Call it a shakedown cruise. Some pics and some short lessons-learned—

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Topping up at the fast-charger at Green Mountain Power, on the way through Rutland.

Mini-golf, next door to the Davidson Brewery (and charger) in Queensbury, NY.

Mini-golf, next door to the Davidson Brewery (and charger) in Queensbury, NY. We visited their tasting room; good beer.

Hmmm, not a good putt...

Hmmm, now that one wasn’t a good putt…

We charged twice to get to Albany, and then stayed at a Hampton Inn with a charger in the parking lot. There was a ten-dollar fee to charge, but we charged at another station near where we ate supper, so in the end we didn’t use the hotel chargers. In fact, all the charging was free for the whole trip.

Solar-powered charging at Green Mountain College, in Poultney, VT.

Solar-powered charging at Green Mountain College, in Poultney, VT.

On the way home we charged at the Kohl’s chargers in Saratoga Springs, NY, (and walked to Target from there), and then took small roads over to Poultney, VT, to charge at Green Mountain College. We ate lunch at the nearby Main Street Eatery while we waited. Good food, especially the ruben sandwich!

More PV at Green Mountain College, with sheep grazing underneath. They're in there, but they don't show up well in the photo.

More PV at Green Mountain College, with sheep grazing underneath. They’re in there, but they don’t show up well in the photo.

In the end, it was a really enjoyable trip, and I learned a few lessons about long(er) distance EV travel—

— It isn’t too conservative (in a Leaf) to plan to charge at chargers that are 40 or 45 miles apart. If I charge to 80%, where the battery starts taking a charge slower, and then drive 45 miles, then I might be down to around 30% when pulling in to the next station. When travelling to chargers you’ve never visited, or navigating in strange towns, it’s not a bad idea to have this buffer (especially, as Mr. X puts it, when your alternative is a tow truck). In general, your total time charging is about the same whether you charge a lot in one spot, or less at two spots, so there isn’t much downside to charging more often. Speaking of…

— When planning a longer trip, have a backup plan in case a charger is out of order, in use, or blocked. On this trip we didn’t have any trouble using the chargers we’d planned on, but we had enough charge throughout to get to an alternate one, and I had a map of where they were. As I’ve mentioned before, plugshare.com is a great resource, especially if you have internet access or a smart phone while on the road.

— Don’t be too proud to use GPS. I don’t normally use the Leaf’s GPS, because it seems to dull my sense of navigating without it, but using it beats spending time and miles backtracking or searching. I used it off and on to get to Poultney, and it saved us two wrong turns on some confusing back roads. With an EV, you don’t have as much of a range buffer, so it pays to have maps, and to pay attention, and to otherwise avoid getting off-track.

— The batteries do heat up as you use them all day, but I’m not sure yet if it will be a problem this summer when we’re planning to go more miles per day. We shall see…

So, I’ll be with students on a trip to Spain for the next two weeks, but we plan on starting the eco-Leaf trip shortly after I get back, near the end of the month. My wife wants to up the ante and try to do the trip without creating any garbage or using plastic disposables, but that might be too high of a bar to tackle all at once, while on the road. In our carbon-powered world of disposables and consumption, it isn’t always easy to buck the status quo, and takes a bit of practice. But, it wasn’t hard on this weekend trip—it was a lot of fun.