Eco-Trip Day Four—How to Travel Fast and Far in an EV

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Another EV-day…

(Note, 25 July 2015— In this post I discuss following a large vehicle to increase efficiency, and I need to add a great big caveat— even if you are a few lengths back, it is clearly more dangerous to drive like this. In one case on our return trip a tractor-trailer changed lanes abruptly as his lane ended, which left me with no lane in heavy traffic at highway speeds. In another case a truck ran a red light on a limited-access highway, and I ran it too because I couldn’t see ahead of me well enough. So, unless it’s an emergency where you need the range, I’d avoid following someone for mile after mile, it just isn’t safe. Charge enough before you leave that you don’t have to do it.)

Well, we’ve now traveled 1,211.7 all-electric miles. We’re almost there, so this will be my last daily eco-trip post, unless something dramatic happens in the next few hours. Yesterday went smoothly, despite hitting one charger last night in Indianapolis that kept setting an error. But, I had a backup plan, and some backup juice in the car. In fact, that’s been an important lesson on the trip—have a backup plan, and be conservative with your “chunks”. The sweet spot seems to be the fifty or so miles between 30% charge and 90%– keep that bottom part for backup, and don’t take the time to charge that top 10%, because it takes longer, and just do repeated 50 or 60 miles chunks in the middle.

So, back to the title of this post, yesterday I figured out how to deal with these places where the interstate is the only good option, and the speed limits are 70mph. This is what threw me off the other night—going 70 uses quite a bit more battery power, and really lowers your range. BUT, it’s not safe to be poking along in traffic that’s moving 75mph or faster. But I’ve got this problem figured out—I would pick a great big semi-truck that’s not going quite as fast as the others, and get a few car-lengths behind it. Get this—with a truck breaking the wind, I was able to average right at 100 miles per charge (though I wasn’t using the whole charge in one go), which, for the Leaf, is a mile per percent of battery charge. Pretty amazing to be whizzing along at 65mph and be getting the same range I would normally get driving carefully at 50mph.

Travelling a few car lengths behind something big and slower...

Travelling a few car lengths behind something big and slower. I was actually closer than the photo makes it look, but not tailgating-close… I followed this prison bus for a good long while.

At first I was trying to catch up to slower trucks ahead, but then realized that it’s better to just get on the highway and drive slightly slower than most of the traffic, and wait for a big semi with a box trailer to go by, preferably one that was catching up with me slowly. Then I would speed up a bit and get three or so car lengths behind it. Then, if the truck I was following passed another, slower, truck, then I didn’t pass, but would get behind the slower one. Anyway, definitely the ticket for making some time while not burning through the battery charge, and for dealing with super-fast traffic.

So, it’s been fun. We’ll be doing it all in reverse in a few weeks, but I don’t expect it to be too much different from this trip, so I won’t be doing a daily post. It’s been cheap, too, most of the chargers are free. I enjoy the pace, and I think the rest of the family does too—just when I get tired of driving, it’s about time to get out and walk or do something. Then, about the time I get tired of hanging out, it’s time to drive again. That, combined with seeing backroads and places that I normally would bypass, has made it interesting. I’ll be travelling like this again, and I suspect it will get easier and easier as more fast-chargers get installed.

 

It all fits! Camping and travel gear for four people, plus the car chargers.

It all fits in the back! Camping and travel gear for four people, plus the car chargers.

 

Charging in Columbus, Ohio. These Signet chargers are by far the least reliable of all the chargers, in my opinion. Fortunately, this one was working.

Charging in the rain in Columbus, Ohio. These Signet chargers are by far the least reliable of all the fast-chargers, in my opinion. Fortunately, this one was working.