An 8 Hour Road Trip In A Nissan e-NV200 Electric Van

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Originally published on EV Obsession.

In light of the just announced 150—350 kW High Power Charge system from ABB being presented in Stuttgart, Germany, this month, I think this story needs to be told now, before it is so outdated no one will care.

When first-movers travel far

118 km (73 miles) is what my Nissan e-NV200 Evalia showed as possible range one cold morning fully charged. In my daily commute, it was actually often quite accurate. However, in this case, the outdoor temperature was below 15°C, and that meant even lower range.

I had just decided to lure my family into a trip that would take very much longer than anticipated. But hey, it was fun doing all the stats!

The e-NV200 is a big van that can be configured to seat 7 people. It has recently been announced that the 2018 version will have a new 40 kWh battery. In my case, though, it was equipped with the 24 kWh battery also found in the Nissan LEAF at the time. In other words: a very large and roomy EV, with a very short range, due to its weight and bad aerodynamics.

A lot of stops and a lot of luck

With 50 kW fast chargers along the highways in Denmark, I am actually not experiencing range anxiety at all. There are 2 main providers competing for charging locations in the country, E.on and Clever. This means almost all rest areas on the highways have fast chargers. Great! But there is a catch. Most charging locations only offer one point of charge, so you can easily find yourself waiting for someone else to finish charging, making it very difficult to plan your time of arrival.

Anyway, on this trip we had more than 400 km (250 miles) ahead of us, and the unexperienced EV driver might make the mistake of just dividing the total distance with the range, and thus anticipate 3 charge stops in this case. Not even close to reality!

This is how we ended up charging on this trip (energy consumption approx. 2.5 miles/kWh):

That’s 8 stops of more than 2 hours total charging! But why? Well, first of all, just because your EV says 118 km of range, that does not mean you will drive 118 km and then look for a charger, right? Secondly, a fast charger will charge your EV to about 80% pretty fast (from 20% to 80% in roughly 15—20 minutes), but that last bit up to 100% you can forget about, because that would take you an additional 30 minutes, due to the battery management system taking extra care not to overheat the pack.

So, in order to maximize average speed, you need to optimize your charging to hit in the range of 20—80% battery charge. This actually decreases your useful range to a maximum 70 km (44 miles). Bummer.

Anyway, this trip “only” lasted 8 hours. And in the end we found that a quarter of that time we spent charging. The kids even got tired of saying “are we there yet?” and accepted that daddy is an EV nerd. I just thought that we had been very lucky not to run into occupied or defective chargers.

Bigger batteries or faster charging?

This trip presented an interesting dilemma. Would I prefer a larger battery or faster charging? Well, of course I would like both, and I could have that if I bought a Tesla Model S. But if economics matters, and I had to choose, I would actually prefer fast charging in combination with more charging points at each stop. The uncertainty of whether there is a free plug is extremely annoying.

If we had made this trip in the 2018, 40 kWh battery version of e-NV200, we would likely have needed to charge 4 times in order to reach our destination. With 50 kW chargers, that would have taken the same total of 2 hours charging time.

However, if we had access to 150 kW chargers with the 24 kWh battery, we would have had the same 8 stops, but we would only have spent 7 minutes of charging each time, totaling 1 hour or less. Although, I’m not sure a 24 kWh battery would actually be able to suck up electrons that fast — you need bigger batteries for that.

In this context, I would argue that an EV with a 50 kWh battery and access to fast charging of at least 100 kW hits the sweet spot. Wait, that’s the Tesla Model 3! Coincidence? I think not.

The barriers for wide EV adoption

Apart from price, range, mineral scarcity, and uncertain taxation, what else is a barrier for choosing an EV when shopping for a new car? Well, actually, the most common problem I have faced in my daily use is being “ICE’d” (i.e., a car with an internal combustion engine, aka ICE, blocking a space designated for charging an EV). On this particular trip, we were lucky. Only once did we get ICE’d, but luckily the cable was long enough:

In light of what I said in the beginning — this story will very soon be a tale of “the good old days” with the coming of the 350 kW charging network. Or will it?*

*editor’s note/question

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Jesper Berggreen

Jesper had his perspective on the world expanded vastly after having attended primary school in rural Africa in the early 1980s. And while educated a computer programmer and laboratory technician, working with computers and lab-robots at the institute of forensic medicine in Aarhus, Denmark, he never forgets what life is like having nothing. Thus it became obvious for him that technological advancement is necessary for the prosperity of all humankind, sharing this one vessel we call planet earth. However, technology has to be smart, clean, sustainable, widely accessible, and democratic in order to change the world for the better. Writing about clean energy, electric transportation, energy poverty, and related issues, he gets the message through to anyone who wants to know better. Jesper is founder of and a long-term investor in Tesla, Ørsted, and Vestas.

Jesper Berggreen has 238 posts and counting. See all posts by Jesper Berggreen