Chris and I make a habit of visiting Leavenworth every Memorial Day weekend. Delicious schnitzel, yummy cookies, and a 2.5 hour beautiful ride through Pacific Northwest scenery. For the last few years, we’ve made that trip by motorcycle, enjoying the crisp spring air and on one occasion a hail storm.
Today we did it differently, with our Nissan LEAF, our electric vehicle #1.
With the Current Motor electric scooter, this would be impractical for a number of reasons: its range is only 40 miles per charge (20 highway, and who knows how much less with a passenger aboard), recharge time is over 4 hours from empty, and there is an uphill climb of over 3,000 ft to Stevens Pass that would further reduce the effective range.
With the help of like-minded LEAF owners, one of whom took the same route along SR-2 back when that part of the West Coast Electric Highway opened, we took their word that a LEAF could successfully pass over the Cascades and down to Leavenworth. In fact, with the recent spike in demand for the Nissan LEAF, and this being the first long weekend of the year, we feared that many of these new LEAF owners would be competing for the same chargers. We were pretty much resigned to using our motorcycles again. However, we knew that we would try it eventually, so it was going to be worthwhile to visit even one of the fast chargers on the route, just to make sure that it would work with our car. In other words, we thought we would give it a try and simply turn around if at any time if we were inconvenienced by a line of people waiting to charge.
So how did it go?
Leg 1: Duvall to Sultan, 17 miles, 55 mph
We decided to set out earlier than we usually do, getting to the Sultan AeroVironment charging station (EVSE) at quarter to nine to find…nobody charging. Of course, it was fortunate not to have to wait in line behind another vehicle. We even had the luxury of choosing between the Level 2 charger or the DC fast charger.
Although we started with a full charge at home, traveling at highway speeds drains the batteries faster than traveling on city streets, so we only had 59 miles remaining according to the LEAF’s dashboard. We might have made it all the way to the next fast charger in Skykomish, but we needed the practice, so we chose the DC fast charger (DCFC).
The DCFC has a plug different from the L2 charger. Plugging it in took some getting used to, too. Unlike the L2 plug, which can just be pushed into its socket until it locks with a click, the DCFC plug must not only be pushed in until it resists, but the trigger-like lever at the bottom must then be squeezed to pull the plug into its socket the rest of the way and lock the plug in place. The first time I did this, at the Sultan EVSE, I kind of shoved the plug in until it stopped and then pressed the start button on the charging station. I mistakenly thought that the lever was used for releasing the plug, not locking it into place. Yeah, yeah, read the manual – but really, when the dealership you bought/leased the car from doesn’t even have a DCFC on site (they do now), how are they going to teach customers how to use it? And when push comes to shove, how many customers are really going to open their glove box and read the manual?
|Level 2 charger plug||DC fast charger plug||Nissan LEAF with both sockets (DC charger in use)|
|Sultan Visitor Center||Time||Est. Miles Remaining||Bars (of 12)||Dashboard|
Doesn’t look like a lot of charge recovered, but it was only about 15 minutes and we were within 26 miles (albeit highway miles) from the Skykomish charger, so we chalked it up to experience and moved on.
(Next: Leg 2: Sultan to Skykomish)