It was nearly a year ago that I wrote an article on CleanTechnica about taking a 300 mile journey in a relatively short-range car, the Peugeot iOn, which is capable of only 50 to 70 miles at the absolute most on a single charge. The idea behind it was to say to people, “Look at me doing this. If I can do it in this little car, anyone can make use of an EV for a longer journey, especially a modern EV with 100 to 300 miles of range.” I thought it might give people more confidence to consider getting an EV, knowing it can be used for any journey, and knowing that you do not need 400 miles of range to make an EV practical for everyday use.
Journeying Again — For Young Ollie’s Birthday Bash
I have done that same journey since, a number of times, and did the journey only last week, but this time in a Nissan LEAF. The purpose, this time, was to see “Young Ollie” on the occasion of his first birthday. Young Ollie is my latest grandson, Oliver. There was to be a garden party, and all the relatives were to be there, so it was a chance to see everyone, all at once, including my other grandson “Bullaboo Dan.” That is my name for him because he is a little blonde 3 year-old bundle of energy who rarely seems to run out of steam for having fun, and has a constant commentary going, about all his thoughts, for anyone who might be in earshot. His name is Daniel, and is a lovely little character.
The garden party was all set up with a gazebo and sun shade, but almost as soon as the guests arrived, as is often the case in England, the heavens opened and visited a deluge on us fit for the great flood. We all fled to the house, apart from one lady who got stranded under the gazebo, waiting for a lull in the monsoon to make a brave dash for the back door.
The party continued inside well enough, with plenty of food and drink and conversation to keep people occupied. One of the topics of conversation was electric cars, and two things became apparent. Firstly, people were all interested in electric cars, and many were saying that their next car would be an EV. Secondly, though people were interested, they were very short on knowledge. There were all the usual questions about how to charge them up, and one person thought they were slower that internal combustion engine (ICE) cars, and was highly surprised when I told her it was just the opposite. My nephew, Jack, is quite keen on getting an EV, and asked for a demo in my LEAF. Needless to say, I switched off Eco mode, and he definitely understands now that EVs are not slow. He was most impressed.
You Can With A Nissan (LEAF)
So, ordinary people who are not experts in electric cars do need reassurance and information to help them, and an actual account of a road trip in any EV helps to build their confidence. In this article I intend to compare my experience with the LEAF and the iOn, and show how just a small increase in range can make a big difference.
One thing that was no different, was getting up early in the morning. I am not much of a morning person, and am dangerous to approach until I’ve had my second cup of tea and get beyond my grumpy just-out-of-bed semi-consciousness. My scheduled time for departure was 8:00, so I got up at about 6:30 to give myself plenty of time to wake up, settle down, chill out, eat up, drink up, pack up, load up, and, finally, set out.
That Old Familiar Road
I did not need to plan the route, as I know where all the chargers are and the route is very simple. I live about 15 minutes from the M42, and about 5 mins from the main road that goes straight to it. I do have the satnav switched on, but only need it for time and distance information. The M42 goes directly south, past Birmingham. It then loops round to the west, where it joins the M5, which continues south, past Worcester and Gloucester. Finally, the M5 hits the East to West, Motorway M4, and the final leg of the journey comes off the M4, past the ancient city of Bath and on to Frome.
Familiar Favourites For A Break
In the LEAF a 100% charge gives me about 100 miles of range, but the charging stops are at about 45 miles at Hopwood Park, and 95 miles, at Gloucester Services. Theoretically, I could skip the first charging stop, but I would then arrive at the charger after 95 miles with hardly anything left in the battery. I might have been tempted to try it, but unusually, Hopwood Park, the first charging stop, is also the last before Gloucester. This is because the motorway services in between the two has no charger. It is one of the few that does not, and when I enquired about why, they said the local electricity infrastructure was inadequate. My suggestion was to install solar panels and a battery, but still none yet, as far as I know.
Pit Stop At Hopwood
When I arrived at Hopwood Park I was quite glad of a break. The difference this time was that the LEAF still had about 35% battery left, where the iOn was down to about 30%, after a slower journey. With the iOn, to be sure of having enough to get to Gloucester, I charged up to about 90%, which took quite a while, but the LEAF had plenty of range to cover the remaining 45 miles on an 80% charge, so the pit-stop at Hopwood Park was only about 15 minutes. Also, the drive from home to there in the iOn was all at 60mph, or less, to conserve range, where I kept the LEAF at 65mph, minimum, on the motorway, knowing I had plenty of range. So there, the LEAF saved me time, with faster driving, and a shorter stop.
The total Journey, down to Frome, in Somerset, was 150 miles, and the two charging stops were more, or less at 33% of the way, and at 66%, with the last leg to the destination, in Frome, being the remaining 34%, so all very equal stages. I arrived at Gloucester with about 20% charge remaining in the LEAF, having started with 80%, where I seem to remember running very low with the iOn.
The Scenic Route — Gloucester Services to Frome
From Gloucester I had the option of going the fastest route, which was about 6 miles longer, or the “eco” route which was shorter, but took about 15 minutes longer. I decided on the shorter route, as I thought the time difference would depend on doing a steady 70 mph on the motorway, which I would not be doing. On the LEAF’s navigation system, the “eco” route is worked out to give the best range, so is more sophisticated than using the shortest route. I remember with the iOn, the last time I did this journey, the shortest route took me up lots of steep hills, and at one point I had less predicted range than the distance left to travel. Fortunately, regenerative breaking, coming back down the hills, put enough power back in the battery to get me to Frome. The time before that I went the longer, fastest route, but ended up having to do a third charging stop.
This time, I was tired of motorway driving by Gloucester, so looked forward to the more picturesque “eco” route, which goes directly south, skipping the M4 and leaving the M5 from just after Gloucester, then going through Bradford-on-Avon on route to Frome. I got to Frome after about 4 hours on the road, with about 10 miles of range left, which was more than enough to get to the destination charger around the corner. The charge there cost nothing, so I set the car to charge to 100%, all ready for the ride back.
The further difference between the two cars is that the LEAF is more comfortable. It also has cruise control, which is much more relaxing on the motorway and more comfortable for my right leg, freed from the full-time task of pressing on the speed pedal. Also, had I needed any heat, the heat pump has only a negligible effect on range, whereas the heater in the iOn would take a full 10 miles off the range, which is very significant when 50 to 70 is the most one can hope for.
So, that was the difference between the two EVs. The LEAF gave me a faster, more comfortable, and worry free journey, even though the difference in range is only about 20 miles more for the LEAF. That little bit of extra range makes all the difference between arriving well within the range of the vehicle and just making it, running on fairy dust and prayers. It also allowed me to charge up to only 80%, so avoiding any delay from extra charging.
The journey back was just the reverse of the journey down, with the exact same charging stops. Having charged up to 100% at the destination, I originally thought I would take the fastest route back to Gloucester, knowing I had plenty of range. On a whim, as it was a nice day, I changed my mind and thought I’d go the scenic route. That turned out to be a mistake, as it was a different route from the one coming down and I ended up on a winding single-track road that threaded its meandering way through the Cotswold Hills and took ages. From Gloucester it was all plain sailing, and I was home about 3 hours later, after 4½ hours on the road.
Those Bad Old ICE Days
How would the journey compare with my previous ICE car, a Fiat Qubo? I would have had to go to the fuelling station the day before to fill up, which would have taken some time and inconvenience compared to just plugging in and leaving the LEAF to charge up overnight. It would also have made my wallet lighter by £50. Being less conscious about range, I would probably do a steady 70 mph, rather than 65 mph in the LEAF. The Qubo was a diesel, so quite noisy, and had no cruise control, so a less relaxing drive.
With the Qubo, I could have driven directly to Gloucester Services, but would probably have stopped at Hopwood Park for a break. I would have had to find a space in the public car park, rather than enjoying the privilege of an allocated space for EVs only while charging up. Again, not being bothered about range, I would have gone the fastest route from Gloucester and would not have spent any time charging up there either, so with faster speed I think I would have got to Frome a little earlier, but less relaxed. I would also feel guilty about all that pollution and CO2 my car had emitted just to take me on a jaunt to Frome.
When I get home in my EV, I just plug in, but in the Qubo, having used nearly all of the £50 worth of fuel driving 300 miles there and back, I would have to be going to the fuelling station fairly soon after my return to donate yet another £50 to the Oil Company Benevolence Fund.
Happy Birthday, Young Ollie
Not forgetting what the journey was all about, we can all sing Happy Birthday to Young Ollie, wishing him many happy returns of the day. It is Young Ollie’s generation that will have no future if we do not take urgent action now to stop global warming.