CleanTechnica Busts Into Electric Car Wilderness

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CleanTechnica has long been on the forefront of electric vehicle coverage and analysis, and we have accumulated a large number of EV owners as readers, commenters, and even writers. Now we are going to have first-hand coverage of a segment of the market that few have ventured into. Before clarifying, I think some context is useful…

The largest electric vehicle charging and infrastructure study in the world was recently completed by Idaho National Laboratory in partnership with the Blink Network, ChargePoint, General Motors and OnStar, Nissan North America, and Car2Go. Unsurprisingly, the study found that the vast majority of EV charging is done at home, and another large portion is done at work.

Nissan LEAF Chevy Volt Home Charging LEAF Volt home work charging percentages Charging few locations

Home and work charging are super convenient, but not everyone has those options. What about all the people who have neither? Well, Cynthia Shahan (one of our writers and also my mom) is one such person, and we just got her a Nissan LEAF SL. She will be doing a long-term review of the LEAF here on CleanTechnica, and she will be showing what it’s like living with a LEAF (and no other car) without home or workplace charging. As an acupuncturist as well, she will be driving around quite a bit to give people treatments, so she will put miles on the car.

Nissan LEAF 4
Cynthia’s youngest daughter, and my sister, in front of CleanTechnica‘s new Nissan LEAF SL and two nearly identical siblings.

Nissan LEAF 3 Nissan LEAF 2 Nissan LEAF 1

As you can see, given that most EV charging is done at home and a good portion more is done at work, Cynthia is venturing into the “electric car wilderness” with this vehicle. We planned things out, and it looks not only do-able, but even more enjoyable than living with a fossil fuel car that needs to fill up at the gas station. Furthermore, there’s a good bit of free Level 2 charging in the city, so she may even end up saving much more on “fuel” than she would have with home charging. Hopefully, this long-term review (by a lady approaching retirement age, nonetheless!!) will inspire others to jump on the electric car bandwagon.

On the whole, she will still fall in with the majority of LEAF drivers who just charge via Level 1 and Level 2 charging stations, but not using home or workplace charging is a whole different game.

LEAF charging

Wish Cynthia luck! And keep an eye out for her long series of articles describing and discussing life with a Nissan LEAF and no home or workplace charging (for now, at least).

Image via Idaho National Laboratory

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

Zachary Shahan has 7158 posts and counting. See all posts by Zachary Shahan

37 thoughts on “CleanTechnica Busts Into Electric Car Wilderness

  • I hope you are paying your sister well for the car-show-babe modelling. But where are her “nearly identical siblings”?

    • The siblings are the LEAFs 😀

      She is getting exactly $0 for the modeling. 😀

  • The final chart is a radical Tufte fail. Never use 3-D shapes to represent relative quantities. Are the data proportional to height, area, or implied volume? Square 3D column charts are OK because they are pointless, height being proportional to volume.

    Tufte would also fail the first two charts as unnecessary; there aren’t enough data points for graphical presentation to add anything. Compare the NREL chart of solar cell efficiency, where a table would be incomprehensible.

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    • You show the the last chart as a Tufte fail, but it still has visual interest – even though virtually all of the information is from the superscale numbers. All in all the graphics included are a minor distraction, but considering the simplicity of the information, meh.

      My question is, why keep reversing the colors (vehicles) from figure 3 to 7 and then 4.

  • One thing is missing in the comparison, (in my opinion) comparison of cost, as in price to buy and operating cost of the models and CO 2 output (that is something I have just seen in a chart with estimate d fuel use per year and CO 2 output).
    What will happen to ICE models once there are carbon taxes on the fuel, say $ 50 per ton to start and by 2030 $ 150 – 200 per ton?
    Look at what happed to demand in the UK just now.

    • Higher gasoline taxes are long overdue in the U.S.. In most states you pay considerably less than us in Canada, and much less than many European countries. It makes me question American commitment to CO2 emission reduction. After all, the tax money should be returned in better services and infrastructure.

  • Zach, this is ingenious. I look forward to reading Cynthia’s articles. In addition, it would be good to get your perspective on the experience. How many hours in training and support do you provide to ensure Cynthia has a positive experience.

    • Thanks. We’ll try to publish as comprehensively as makes sense. I have helped her a bit — didn’t even think to write about that. Am trying now to leave it to her to figure things out and write about it… but maybe not as much as I should. Useful points to consider.

  • About time, you should advertise in Quebec canada(that province is pushing very hard and very quick for electrification of transport. I bet potential customer there might like to know they are not alone in this new adventure.(going from gas to electric is an adventure when home is in canada(cold ,wet and snowy, basicly everything electricity HATE)

    • Actually, electrons are happier, faster and more efficient in cold temperatures. Solar panels improve much in the cold.

      • Actually, batteries do not like cold and will not release as much energy. Heating them and the cabin requires considerable energy and snow on the road reduces efficiency. All this contributes to less range. A comfortably warm cabin is likely not an option at temperatures common to Canadian winters and in particular the prairie provinces.

        • I totally agree for the batteries… for now… But electrons circulate more easily in the cold. This is why we are fiddling with supra -conductors.

          For the battery, it is interesting to note that a Leaf will lose more range (~30%) than a (~10%)Tesla. This is mostly because 65% of the loss goes to the heating of electric components and the battery.

          BUT! Because this number is merely a constant, the more batteries will increase in range, the less the loss will be in percentage. And it will come a time when we will barely notice the small loss on a 1000 miles battery pack.

          Better isolation and cooling/heating systems will also help.

          It is also interesting to note from the info-graphic below, that ICE cars ALSO lose in the cold, and the difference is only 10% with a Leaf. It will also comes a time when ICE cars will lose MORE in the cold than BEVs, because the nature of the infernal combustion engine limits its efficiency improvements. 🙂

          Fleetcarma harvested data from electronic devices installed in thousands of fleet cars.

        • Warm it up while it’s plugged in.

          Really cold parts of the US sometimes have curbside plugs so that people can plug in their block heaters during the day. Plugging in your ICEV at home is common in cold country.

          Block heaters are a big improvement over the ‘trouble light under the hood and blankets on top’ solution we used to use.

          I had a friend who lived in a really cold part of the US. Many nights of the year his father would drain the oil out of his car and bring it inside to stay warm overnight.

          Man, I just remembered the days of living in a place like that. Your tires would be “frozen” flat on the bottom in the morning. You kind of whoomped along at first while the tires softened and rounded themselves out.

          • I lived in frigid Edmonton for a while. I had a timer on my cord to the block heater that sent juice to the heater 2 hours before my morning commute. Worked like a charm. I rarely had trouble starting that Corolla.

          • With modern engines and lubricants, and yes better tires and batteries, such things are rarely a concern any more.
            At one time I needed to take many drastic actions to get started. Today an unheated garage or plugging in a block heater is all we ever need and usually only when temps are likely to reach 35 F below or colder.
            I did have the problem, one time, of a battery not being able to turn over a big block engine because of cold. In spite of the block heater I needed to bring the battery into the house for a few hours. The temperature reached -62F in the morning according to my own thermometer. A little guessing here as it only registered to 60 below. I have never seen it that cold before or since,
            The garage is the best answer as it means energy (gasoline or electricity) is not spent melting of ice or snow and the windshield does not immediately fog.
            If commuting to work in our area, You will be driving in the dark most of the time during winter. The period gets longer as you move north, Lights will effect the range of an EV.

  • Sweet! Congrats! 6.6 charger, correct?

    • And I agree that’s a bigger deal than fast-charging… unless you really need fast-charging for regular trips or long/regional trips you definitely want to take in your EV.

  • I look forward to some interesting reading. Brilliant idea. Our Leaf has been our only car since February (2015) , but we do have a L-2 charger at home.

    I have some tips to make adapting to life with the Leaf easier for her. First, just like trying to get the most mileage from an ICE vehicle, go easy on the accelerator unless necessary. Back off the accelerator going down hill. Coast whenever possible. Second, don’t speed, the speed limit is your friend. Third, avoid freeways whenever possible. Finally, under 45 mph in stop & go traffic, you can go farther when running the heat or air by switching to ‘Eco’ mode. Except that ‘Eco Mode’ part, drivers with manual tranmissions will recognize my advice as standard procedure.

    Also, a couple of essentials are planning ahead when going somewhere she’s never been and getting the Plugshare app for her phone. Depending on Carwings alone to locate charging stations is a very bad idea. Hope this helps.

    • The techniques you describe, when used on an gasmobile, will also increase efficiency and reduce emissions tremendously. In my own experience mileage can be increased by 25% or more and emissions are likely lowered to an even greater extent.
      Worthwhile in any case, since much of the electricity you use will also have an environmental impact.

      • Thanks. I agree. I drove a manual transmission for many years. Driving a Leaf is a lot like driving a manual transmission. You are forced to think about hills and traffic. Instead of anticipating what gear might be optimal for a given situation you think about which mode (Normal? Eco? Braking?) and how much throttle. Forget about efficency for a moment. I believe having to pay attention and think ahead makes stick and EV drivers safer drivers.

        I think automatic transmissions have made us sloppy (inefficient) drivers. We’ve picked up bad habits like racing up to red lights and slamming on the breaks. We’ve forgotten how to use the mass & momentum of an automobile to our advantage. Instead, we just force a car down the road and wonder why we’re having to buy gas so often.

        • The Tesla doesn’t have “modes”, but I and others have found that the heavy regenerative braking on the throttle means that we try to “coast to a stop” by easing off the throttle, rather than braking.

          • Wow, I didn’t know that about Tesla’s. I’ve never driven one. I love how the Leaf’s regen-braking doesn’t seem too heavy handed most of the time, but ‘B’raking mode is available when you want it. Shifting into ‘B’ mode is like pushing a large anchor off the rear of the car and having it gouge into the pavement behind you when going down a hill. Exiting the interstate on to a ramp it’s more like deploying a large drag-chute. Approaching (coasting) to a light on level ground then engaging ‘B’ is probably the closest experience I will ever have to landing on a aircraft carrier. It’s one notch below manually slamming on the brakes.

    • This has been a conundrum of mine since I got an EV. Do I go the speed limit for efficiency while literally everyone (Los Angeles area) passes me and thinks to themselves “damn those EVs are sure slow…” or do I keep up and lose some range? I suppose as long as there are a fair number of EVs on the road, people will eventually see one going fast and hopefully lose any possible bad impression.

      I’ve also been pleased to see about one Model S on the road per hour around Santa Monica while visiting my parents, although I should have probably expected that. In Beverly Hills, we saw zero, which is telling.

      I do try to make up for any slow driving by almost flooring it from stoplights on to freeway on ramps to make people behind think “wow”. Problem is I have to hold my GPS up or it flips off the dash… Bah! 😉

      Oh and glad to see Cleantechnica will be reporting on charging without base camps!

      • Don’t worry about what other people think. They’re not paying your bills. My rule of thumb is if others can safely go around me and I’m not hindering traffic flow, drive for range efficiency. Otherwise, go with the flow.

        This means I’m always in the right lane except to pass (remember driver’s ed?). Four or more lanes are easy. On two lane roads by myself I go the limit or less. If I get one car behind me on two lanes I figure if they’re in a hurry they should have left earlier. I leave it up to them to pass and I’ll make it easy if I can. If I get two cars behind me I’ll pick up the pace for a short distance until either (A.) The road widens. (B.) One of them turns-off or passes. (C.) I can find a place to safely pull off and let them pass like a gas station or store. If I’m on two lanes with three or more cars behind me I pick up the pace until I can get out of the way and let them go ahead.

        • If possible,you can choose routes that allow you to drive slower, safely. I agree, safety trumps efficiency, and impatient drivers stacked up behind you do not create a safe situation. Not really our fault, but still, we should make the effort to get out of the way.

          • I think like most folks I basically travel the same roads almost every day. Fortunately, I rarely find myself in a situation where I’m the one going the slowest. Planning ahead goes a long way when visiting places I haven’t been or don’t go often.

  • I hope she doesn’t run into issues of EVSEs being ICED since home charging isn’t available. Why exactly is home charging not available?

    • I agree. Finding working chargers that are not ICEd is probably going to be her greatest challenge.

  • Kudos and good luck to Cynthia on this adventure!

  • If that is a sales guy with you, I’m really impressed with his product of both the Leaf…and the competition.

    • Yeah, that was the sales guy. They apparently move a couple or so a month, and he seems to be the one who handles the LEAFs. He’s into EVs a little bit because of the torque/performance. Honestly, though, the BMW, GM, and Porsche sales guys also knew a ton, and really seemed enthusiastic about the cars. Nice surprise. And they all seem to see quite good EV sales.

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