[Oeva-list] Maiden Voyage of a Leaf

Alan Batie alan at batie.org
Sun Apr 17 19:50:19 PDT 2011

or: To Portland and Back...


Corvallis->Portland in 3 1/2 hrs
Portland->Corvallis probably 4 1/2 hrs
McMinnville Nissan key to pulling it off, but they need to leave their
charger on...
234 EV miles in one trip over the weekend

Having picked up my new Leaf (turned over a new leaf?) Wed, and
discovering it's surprisingly low range on the freeway, I decided I
should spend this weekend seeing what it *could* do.  Quite a lot, as it
turns out, though I still need to characterize the freeway range more

I started by looking around to see where I could go that was about 30-40
miles as I should be able to get there and back with careful driving.  I
looked at Salem and Eugene and Falls City (they have a nice pizza
place).  Salem, oddly enough, has *no* level 2 chargers for some reason.
 You would think their Nissan dealer would...  I was also playing with
on the Leaf Owner's Portal and Carwings sites, and found the "Route
Planner" there.  It's a basic map routing based on google maps, but
knows about charging stations, though it times out for some reason, and
all too quickly, making you start over.

Between that and the http://electric.carstations.com/ site which it
links to, I noticed that the Nissan in McMinnville had a level 2
charger, and was only about 45 miles away, and the fast charger in
downtown Portland was only 35 miles from there.  If I drove 55, I could
go to McMinnville, charge for an hour, drive to the fast charger and
fill up in 1/2 hr and then the Portland area is mine for the taking ;-)
 And I can reverse the process.  It's rather longer time charging than I
hoped when I ordered the Leaf, but it was doable.

Since the trip depended on the McMinnville charger, I thought I'd better
call ahead and double check.  Later, the gal that answered the phone
said she thought it was a crank call at first ;-)  She said she'd go
make sure it was turned on (which seemed odd for something wired in),
and I headed off, after Toby and Joyce stopped by to pickup the old
Solectria I traded Joyce in exchange for my old Explorer back.

I finally got out of Corvallis around 2pm, and made it to the Nissan
dealer around 3:15ish.  They had to kick a salesman's car out of the EV
spot, then I plugged in, having used about 3/4 charge to go the 46
miles.  I chatted with a couple people briefly about it, then went over
to the Pizza Hut next door for lunch while it charged.  I came back and
decided that the business of "need to make sure it's turned on" was a
little disconcerting, since I needed it to get home.  I went in to talk
to someone about it and was assured it would be left on.

At this point, it had charged for about 50 minutes, taking it from 38
miles estimated to 52 and I decided that was good enough to go the 36
miles to the WTC parking garage in Portland (where the fast charger is).
 That was about 4:15pm and I got to the fast charger at 5:30 with the
estimator reading 18 miles and the guage just down to the red line.
That was pretty good considering the estimator dropped 34 miles when I
went 37, but this trip is probably the first time in my life I've toed
the speed limit ;-)  I did take Barbur all the way, but would probably
take I-5 from where Barbur crosses it because it's 55, down a pretty
good grade, and no stop-and-go stop lights.

It hadn't turtled yet though, but did put up a "Battery level is low"
warning, and in fact that's the next test I need to perform: find out
just where the lower limit is before it "turtles" (goes into reduced
power mode, where you're limited to about 25mph).

It took a couple tries to figure out the interlock mechanism on the
quick charger --- a 50kw power source wants to take extra precautions to
make sure you don't fry yourself!  You have to hold down the red lever
and *not* hold on the black lever, and wiggle the nozzle just right so
it springs out so you can then release the red lever and squeeze the
black lever to lock it in place.  It's a little complicated, but once
you've done it a couple times, I think it'll be no problem.

And wow!  You can watch it count up percentages!  I chatted with the
gate attendant to the garage a bit, then went to recycle some diet coke
and came back to find it already nearly to 80%, which is when it was
supposed to stop, according to the manual (on re-reading it now, I see
that it's *90*%, not 80%).  It's a little confusing because when you
start, it gives a "time remaining" that's about an hour, but now that I
write this, I remember that they have a one hour limit to prevent doing
too much damage if something goes wrong and the charging doesn't stop.

I also checked out the EV area there --- they have several EV parking
spots, though the ones in front of the quick charger are really short,
so your car sticks out.  There's actually a fair amount of room, but
it's right at the bottom of the entrance ramp, and the second time I was
there, a large pickup had to backup once to make the turn with my car there.

There is also a Tesla charger and a Blink charger, and true to form, the
Blink charger was crashed with a "System Error" and some diagnostic
info.  I'd thought about topping off to 100% with it after 80% quick
charge, but decided to leave the screen alone (probably "touch here to
reload screen" would have cleared it, but I didn't really need to top
off and wanted to leave the message for whoever manages the charging

I watched the counter go up to 81% and thought maybe it was going to go
to 100% after all, so I went over to Pioneer Place for a bit and got
some chocolates at Moonstruck (it seems Godiva isn't there anymore,
unfortunately! but I think Moonstruck is local and they're good too).
When I got back, around 6:30pm, I found it had only run for another 6
minutes and had basically stopped at what the car thought was 80%.  Not
sure why they disagreed...

One friend was busy, but another one, who lives in Battle Ground, was
available, and his place is about 26 miles from the WTC, so I headed up
there, showed him the car, and then we went out to dinner at a nice
little local restaurant.  The estimator went from 88miles to 52 miles (a
drop of 36) for the 26-27 mile trip, which I did take the freeway on
because the freeway in there is 55-60 (with a couple of miles of 70
before the Battle Ground turn off).

After dinner, I headed back to the WTC for a quick recharge.  We'd
driven around a little and I decided to take "surface streets" (a weird
name for non-freeway streets ;-) ) since the estimator had dropped so
much, in fact it only dropped 32 miles, to 20, by the time I got back,
including a couple of miles of running around in BG (and my friend lives
at the top of a steep hill).

By the time I got back to the WTC, it was 10:30, and I knew it was going
to be a late night getting home.  According to the manual, if you start
quick charging with the battery below half full, it will stop at 90%,
but if you start it over half, it will charge to 100%.  I wanted to
minimize the time in McMinnville with the lower powered charger, so
wanted to take the battery to 100% here, but pushing the start button
again (as the manual says), nor even taking the nozzle out and
restarting the process completely from scratch worked.  So I resigned
myself to a 2 hr stop in McMinnville (when I came up from Corvallis, I
was starting with a full charge, not a 90% charge).

I got to McMinnville at midnight, and just as I feared, the lights were
out on the charging station there.  I'd thought about getting someone's
phone number, and now I realized I should have talked to whoever was
actually going to lock up, because I know businesses have a habit of
using circuit breakers as switches when they close up.  I thought about
options, but at midnight, I didn't think either my cousin in
Independence (which I thought I could make, the estimator still said 40
miles), nor a friend who lives in McMinnville (but I haven't seen in a
long time and who often stays in Portland) would want a call.  I found a
motel and asked if they had an outside outlet for the 110 adapter that
comes with the leaf, but no such luck.  There was a gas station next
door that had an outlet where the vending and ice machines were plugged
in, but I'd forgotten the long extension cord I'd intended to toss in
for just this eventuality and without it, the car would have to be
parked in the way, and it probably would have overloaded the circuit
anyhow.  At least I *did* have my CPAP machine, which I'd tossed in as
this sort of thing was a distinct possibility given that I was trying to
see what the vehicle could and couldn't do.  I slept fitfully, wondering
what I was going to do if the Nissan dealership wasn't open on Sunday
(and the one in Corvallis *isn't*), as the 110V charging would take
about 10 hrs to do enough to get me home.

Fortunately, when I got to the Nissan dealership at 10:30 the next
morning, they were open (even though the sign on the door said 11am) and
they got someone to turn on the charger.  I plugged in and got it going,
then asked where a good breakfast place was.  Turns out there's one
right next door (the opposite side from Pizza Hut), but when I got
there, they *are* closed on Sundays.  So I settled for Jack-in-the-Box.
 Taking my time, I got back after an hour, and it had gone from 34
(after driving to the hotel and back) to 52, but it was only 1/2 full
and it had taken 3/4 to get there, so wanted to give it another hour.
About that time, my friend called, having seen my post on Facebook that
I was stranded there and came down to get me for a visit.  While
waiting, I went in and talked to the sales manager, who turned out to be
the one who'd assured me that it would be on the previous night.  I
pointed out that at the moment, he's critical infrastructure for EVs and
it wouldn't take too many experiences like this to kill the whole thing.
 He apologized and said he'd talk to the owner and they'd see it was
left on in the future.  I suppose now us EV owners need to make a point
of using it ;-)

Jerry showed up and we went back up to his house up in the hills out of
McMinnville for a nice catchup visit and he said I should have called
him at midnight --- it would have worked out well, because I could have
made it (if I could find it --- his driveway is hard to spot and it's
been a while ;-) ), and then at 110V all night and half the day while
visiting with him would have been sufficient.  I'll probably make use of
that visiting him in the future.

I got back to the car a little before 4pm, and by now it was 100%
charged, with the estimator reading 91 miles.  Since I was headed home,
this allowed me to stop pussy footing it --- I drove back at 60mph with
the air conditioning on, arriving home a little after 5pm with the
estimator reading 27 miles --- down 64 miles for the 50 mile trip.

The local Corvallis dealership is right on 99 on the way into town, so I
swung in and was pleased to see that, despite being closed, their
charger was lit up and operational...

Despite the hiccup in McMinnville, the weekend far surpassed my
expectations --- I half expected to have to stop and turn around
actually.  But instead of the 60-70 miles I thought I'd go when I
originally started planning an experimental trip, I drove 234 miles and
the stops for charging weren't as bad as I expected.  Partly that was
novelty, it would be too painful to do frequently, but with only a
little planning and incorporating the stops into it, driving to Portland
is quite doable, and that's *without* the quick charger near Salem that
I thought would be a requirement.  It will certainly make the process
easier if it works out that I can actually make it that far on the
freeway without pissing off other drivers, but it's far from a

So, the next steps are to figure out just what I can get away with on
the freeway, and just how far I can really push it in a pinch...

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