Friday, January 28, 2011

Running on Empty

I am now officially an electric vehicle owner: came close to running out of charge last night. I won't go into the specifics, but I spent the last 30 minutes of the drive hypermiling for all I was worth (using the tricks I learned riding my bike).

When we bought the LEAF, I really didn't think we'd use public charging stations. Fill up the battery at home, drive to/from work, plug it in at night. Why would I want to spend 2-3 hours at the mall, trying to get enough electrons to make it home? After yesterday's adventure, my perspective is changing.

Make an unexpected trip during the day? Forget to plug in the night before? Worried you don't have quite enough charge to make it home? A public charging infrastructure addresses these situations, and provides a more important benefit: peace of mind. If I miscalculate, I face the minor inconvenience of stopping for 30 minutes or an hour or two, versus having to arrange towing.

In the US, The EV Project and ChargePoint America are rolling out public charging stations (240VAC and 480VDC) in selected communities. The stations will initially provide free charging, but switch to a subscription model sometime in the future.

Incidentally, Nissan really doesn't want you to completely drain the battery. We hit just the first of three warnings designed to get you to a charging station:
  • Level 1 - Gas pump/plug icon starts blinking (~10% charge remaining)
  • Level 2 - Visual/audio alert and console displays map to nearest charging station (~5% charge remaining)
  • Level 3 - Reduced performance ("Turtle") mode, limits acceleration and top speed (~2% charge remaining)
Update: According to CARWINGS, panic-induced hypermiling reduced my energy consumption by 30%. Life on the edge has its benefits!


Laurie said...

So, how much charge was left?

Random Menace said...

@Laurie: We were down to the last blue segment (out of 10). There are two red segments below that, so we probably had about 15% capacity remaining before the battery was completely dead.

Chad Schwitters said...

15%?! Psht. That's not cutting it close. :-) I got down to 2% once.

It is a little nerve-wracking at first, but after a couple of months you get a lot more comfortable with it. EVs give you a lot of information about what you have left, so you just have to get used to how much you use in various conditions.

The only time I have had a scare (the time I got down to 2%; I didn't plan that) was when the end of my trip was up a mountain pass, so no down side to use regen. I had thought the mountains didn't start until after the campground I was heading to. It was cold (snow on the ground), dark (about midnight), in the middle of nowhere, and I had to climb 4500'. But I just slowed down and it was fine.