251 Mile Leaf Touring Test Drive

Darien Rest-stop Charging

Wednesday August 20, 2014 – Today I went on a touring test drive with my leaf. This was purely a test drive using a route that I found to be most suitable for this adventure. I was going it alone to avoid any “we have to wait how long for it to charge” wining, and certainly not that I couldn’t get anyone to go on this sojourn, lol. I was determined to be flexible in my route but ended up going with the route that I had initially chosen. Here is a summary of the Leaf touring test drive.

After re-reading the warnings from Nissan about repeated Quick Charges (QCs), my rough plans included a Level 2 (L2) charger at my farthest point. This together with 2, 1/2 capacity QCs I reasoned would prevent excessive battery heating. I was not happy with the battery heating however and am not sure the QC causes much more heating for a given charge level than the L2. Although the battery temperature bars never got into the red, I was surprised I got to 10 bars which is just before the red.

I started out at 6:54 AM after have some problems getting Waze going. I am headed for the QC at Darien, CT. Waze saves me from some Long Island Expressway traffic right away, putting me on the North State Parkway at the Jericho interchange. This speeds me to the Cross Island Parkway (CSP). The CSP has moderate traffic which lightens after the Throgs Neck bridge exit. Traffic is found again getting on the Whitestone bridge but no big delays anywhere. Not driving very aggressively from the start and this continues throughout the trip. Never felt much in danger from speed-limit-type driving for even when the roads opened up there was always some slower trucks around to stay with.

I didn’t have the exact location of the QC entered in Waze since I had read Google navigation had sent someone to a closed back access road to the south bound service area. This tip came from the indispensable Plugshare website. The misdirected EVer suggested instead going to the further exit 10 and coming back to service area. This was a short diversion which clearly seems like the way to go. This service area is all new. It is equipped with two Eaton QCs and four Tesla Superchargers. When I arrived, after 1hr 23min of driving, one of the QC spots was ICEd but they left before I had a chance to take the other QC spot. These QCs have cables long enough to reach the next space however. Maybe I should have tried that out but didn’t think of it at the time. The older Eaton QC that I have used at Flushing, NY has a very heavy short cable that feels like wrestling a python. Also, the older one has a huge clumsy connector which is not as intuitive to use as one would like. These new Eatons have a longer more flexible cable and a smaller, simpler to use connector. This is first QC at a turnpike service area in the area as far as I know.

There was a Model S in one of the superchargers when I arrived. After I started the charge I went inside to use the shiny new facilities and get some breakfast. After getting a flat bread turkey/egg sandwich and coffee from Dunkin, I headed back to the Leaf to eat. I was wowed when I saw the Li-Ion was at 79% already. And as I ate and watched the charging as it continued passed 80% until I stopped it at 90%. I barely had time to enter the next destination in Waze before the charging was done. The Tesla owner had come back as I was eating and all I saw from him was his disconnect, a quick wave and off he flew. I suppose he was commuting and didn’t have time to chat about EVs. Another guy walking passed asked about the QC but he didn’t stop and chat either.

I am off to the next QC, at a CVS in West Haven. This turned out to be a scouting visit since I didn’t need more charge to get to my next destination. This is the only one of the three stations I visited that is not free. It is a Chargepoint station charging $0.49 a KWH. I got my Chargepoint card for this trip but did not use it. I did use Chargepoint once before using a credit card though. They are happy to accommodate you over the phone when you don’t have the card. I would have been fine with using a Chargepoint station if it was at a convenient point in my tour. I did end up doing some shopping in the CVS anyway.

So this last leg was 37.9 miles and my battery was at 51% at the destination. Waze was reporting 31 mi to my next stop in Middletown. That seemed like a happy margin so off I went. Although CT is not known for it’s mountains, it is a far cry from the flat stuff I’m used to EVing over on Long Island. I have noticed that there is some climbing going away from the coast on RT 91. I also sail on Long Island Sound and on a clear day can see ever higher hills looking north into CT. But without the benefit of experience, I failed to take this issue into consideration and correct my range for it. It would have been only a WAG anyway. It did make me wonder if the Nav system in the above-S version Leafs would take this into consideration. I will have to inquire about that soon.

So as I am climbing and climbing and wondering where the highest hill on RT 91 is, I am consequently seeing my range margin being eaten up. Telling myself “there are 2 spots at the next station” and as an engineer I know that means the chance of them both being dead is not something to be concerned about. So I kept going without much additional conservation. And here it is the peak and I can see the land gently falling ahead to central CT. The range margin is recovering now and as I turn off of RT 91, the road to Middletown is quite downhill. No big surprise knowing that Middletown is on the CT river. I arrive with 10% charge, having blown nearly half my margin on the unaccounted for hills. Experience is the best teacher, but hopefully the mind doesn’t create tunnel vision like this.

This is an impressive station, for the environmentalist especially. It has a very large solar panel array, which doubles as a carport for many cars. It is on the campus of Wesleyan University and within a reasonable walk to downtown Middletown. So I played tourist, seeing some of the campus on my walk to town and seeing the town. Always nice to escape from the land of malls and see a nice town. The university, which is often shorten to Wes, is quite attractive also. The location probably wouldn’t be convenient for most trips though. It worked for me being the arbitrary final destination. These level 2 stations are certainly intended for university people who can conveniently make use of them. For me, I had to create an activity to make them practical. I came prepared to do some running but decided to only do walking. Ironically, I found the station is right next to a first rate running track!

I left for the Darien QC with an 80% charge. I would take a different return route using the Wilbur Cross and Merritt Parkways which is shorter than the RT 91 route that I arrived from. The parkway route was recommended by Waze and is 64 mi. Now wiser in the ways of hills, I reasoned this route would be less demanding on range reserve but probably would still have a 5 mile range hit. The risk I took with this WAG was minimized by convenient stations located late into this leg after the hills of unknown range hit.

By now my concern was less about battery range and more about the rising battery temperature. The highest battery sensor temperature leaving Middletown was 102 F. I think that was 7 bars on the dash indicator. I’m thinking this is not good since I have lots of driving and charging yet to go. On the way I gain another bar and checked the temperature with my Leafgeek android app at Darien and it read 105. QCing from 13% to 75% raised in to 109. How high will it go, I still have a 57 mile drive?

While charging I got a Mocha Coolatta, again from Dunkin. After I bought it, I noticed MacDs had a $1 iced coffee special which may have been a better choice. While waiting for charge to finish, a guy with a nearby SUV asks me about the QC “What, do you use a credit card for that thing”. He seemed a little surprised with “No it’s free”.

I left Darien with the dash temperature at 9 bars and it quickly changed to 10 bars. This isn’t good! Hoping it doesn’t go into the red with another bar. What then, should I stop and wait for it to cool off a little. Back in Middletown, I had waited 15 minutes after charging to see if the temperature would go down but the was no change. As I know now, the battery cools off at a snails pace.

This was the slowest leg of the trip, so maybe that helped with avoiding too much battery heating. The dash never went into the red and I made it home, no problem. I checked the temperature two hours later and it was only down 3 degrees. Even the next morning, after a timed charge, it was still elevated more than I would like, but no longer a concern for driving.

Looking at Plugshare for my area, I see there are a growing number of QCs at convenient points to do Leaf touring to other destinations. My experience will surely help me make the decision whether to try these sojourns. I have to admit I didn’t realize the way the battery heats up and so slowly cools off.