When I leased my 2017 Nissan Leaf, I figured that for longer trips, I would rent a car and would still come out ahead in terms of money because of the good deal I got on the Leaf and the fact that I don’t take many long trips (several new EV models have longer range).
As I planned to visit my friend in Lake Tahoe, I thought this would a time I’d need to rent a car. But then I looked at my handy-dandy charging app and saw that there are quite a few DC fast chargers along Highway 80. It turns out that there’s a charging network called Drive the Arc which has placed many DC Fast chargers between Monterey and Lake Tahoe. “Awesome”, I thought, “I’ll drive my Leaf to Tahoe.”
The short version of the story is that I made it there and back! Yay for road tripping with an EV. It was fun to go so far on electricity and even better that it was all free thanks to Drive the Arc and my Nissan “Easy Charge” card (a 2-year benefit of leasing/buying from Nissan).
The slightly longer version includes some lessons I learned before and after my adventure.
- There were plenty of DC Fast charging stations and I never had range anxiety although I did need to plan my stops.
- Each stop added about 20 – 30 minutes to the trip. Most of the time was for charging but some of the chargers were challenging to find in large retail parking lots. All were located with bathrooms!
- I experienced something new: “battery temperature anxiety.” I have never paid any attention to the battery temperature gauge on my dashboard. But, I noticed that after a fast charge, that the temperature went up a notch. And driving through the hot Central Valley, it went up another notch. The anxiety was due to not knowing how much more it might go up and what would happen if the gauge got into the “red zone”. It did not go up any further due to driving but did go up a notch each time I “fast charged”. But, I was able to charge the three times needed to get to my destination and stayed out of the “red zone”. I learned that the Leaf does not have active battery thermal management. Who knew? And all that happens when the temperature gets into the “red zone”, is that the car won’t allow you to charge until it cools down – it won’t blow up or anything! I trickle charged the car while staying overnight with my friend and the battery temperature dropped back to its normal.
- Google search results once I got home included blogs from people who drove their Leafs farther than I did and some tips about managing the battery temperature.
The bottom line for me is that I would take my Leaf to Tahoe again although probably not in winter. I enjoyed driving my comfortable, zippy car up over Donner Summit although I was not in the fast lane as I was trying to conserve power. It was really fun to see how far I could go driving downhill!
Most of the time, I can get where I need to go and back without charging. But, now, I won’t hesitate to go much farther with my Leaf.
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