Range Anxiety or Stupidity? Pushing an Electric Car to its Limits

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Long-Distance Electric Car Trips by Night

Long-Distance Electric Car Trips by Night

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Yesterday we told you about our generally hassle-free, two-day, 520 mile round trip in a 2011 Nissan Leaf. Thanks to a succession of available rapid charging stations, a little measured driving and a few strategic detours we were able to arrive at both destination and start point without little more than the discomfort that comes from sitting in a car for many hours at a stretch. 

But with expensive rapid chargers certainly not nationwide and even Level 2 charging stations lacking in some areas we wanted to know the flip side: what happens when you have to make a trip without the comfort of a rapid charger well within range?

As we’ve pointed out before, electric cars aren’t designed to do long-distance trips. In keeping with that statement, our test-trip this time would be a 101 mile trek on a mixture of slow and medium speed roads at night time, using nothing but the Level 2, 240V 10A charging cable supplied with our European specification 2011 Leaf. 

NIght Driving

NIght Driving

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Leaving our departure point with a fully charged battery and dusk setting in, we pushed into the night, taking care to embody the very heart of eco-zen driving style. 

25 miles in we were feeling positive: our car told us we had managed to consume an indicated 0.14 kilowatt-hours of energy per mile and we were feeling great. Taking into account the known inaccuracies in NIssan’s Carwings system we were skeptical, but the state of charge indicator was still showing us well over 90% of charge remaining. 

Pulling into a drive-thru, we noted a nearby power socket capable of providing up to 16A of power at 240V. Sadly though, our portable EVSE cable could only pull 10A. Cue a 15 minute supper break and an paltry 5 miles of estimated extra range put back in the battery. 

Our aim? To keep a buffer of ideally 30 miles between the estimated range and the actual miles left to travel.

Onwards into the gloom and with cabin heating turned off to maximize range we followed the pre-planned ‘shortest’ route calculation to our destination.  Two hours in and driving at at speeds of between 25 and 40 mph, we had covered just 60 miles.

And then it happened. As the temperature dropped we began to notice the estimated range of our car drop just as rapidly. Our delta between estimated range and actual distance to go dropped to 20 miles, then to 10. We inched further onwards, the radio our only companion. 

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