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Our neck of the woods near Nelson is a really beautiful part of British Columbia.  The roads along the lakes, valleys and over the passes are amazingly scenic.  You can drive a little slower with the windows down and really enjoy the scents and sounds of the mountains, or you can tighten your grip on the wheel and enjoy the twisty roads (safely of course!)

On this day-trip from Nelson, we head along the North Shore of the West Arm of Kootenay Lake to Balfour, where we catch the longest free ferry in BC across the lake to Kootenay Bay (this ferry, and several others, should be converted to be electric!)  From there, we hop over a small ridge to Crawford Bay, a very neat village with a dense collection of artisans.  After browsing and shopping for a few hours, we decided to head north on the east side of the lake to check out Riondel, and then south of Kootenay Bay onto Pilot Bay Peninsula to visit the restored lighthouse.  (Data about the drive from a Nissan Leaf electric vehicle point of view is at the end of this post.)

I’ve embedded a video I pasted together from our trip below:

Riondel – wow, what a stunning location!  The campground is located just north of the village and is located in an amazing bay looking towards the north end of Kootenay Lake.  We will definitely be coming back here later this summer to do some camping, canoeing and hiking.  (click any photo below to open the gallery)

Pilot Bay is also a special spot.  A few years ago we brought our canoe and camping gear and paddled over to the Sawmill Point campsite.  You can also walk into the campsite on an up and down trail – about 45 – 60 minutes to the campground with kids.

And yes, we brought everything on and in our Leaf!  We are backpackers, so our gear is fairly compact, but we did manage to fit all the canoe accessories (life jackets, paddles, bailers, etc) in the car, along with a full-size cooler and our gear… all in the hatch area!  (Hatchbacks for the win!)

The canoe on the roof and all our gear inside

The canoe on the roof and all our gear inside



The campsite is just amazing, and the cove is very protected so sailboats tend to moor here as well.  The night we stayed had clear calm weather, so we decided to go for a paddle around the Pilot peninsula onto the main lake to see the lighthouse from the water.  I’ve included pictures below, but I don’t think they can fully convey how stunning and magical that evening paddle was.  Our youngest had just turned 3 before that weekend, and the experience has obviously stuck with him because he has asked us to go back several times over the last few years.

One word of warning though – if you are canoeing, definitely respect the fact that on the main lake, the wind can blow up some fairly large waves, typically in the afternoon in the summer.  We paddled to Boomer’s Landing the second day and ended up stuck on the beach for several hours waiting for the wind/waves to abate.  No big deal, but it did mean catching the last ferry home that night and missing a few hours of work in the morning!

Electric vehicle (EV) specifics for the trip:

We have done a trip similar to this twice in 2014 when the car was still fairly new and had very little degradation.  Now that the car is older and has lost about 10% capacity, I did double-check the numbers in my trip planning spreadsheet to ensure a smooth day-trip (there are no opportunities to charge easily on the East Shore of Kootenay Lake, though if you had an Open EVSE, you could charge at some of the campgrounds in a pinch if you asked I bet).

Metric Predicted Actual
Distance (km) 123 105
Energy Used (kWh) 15.4 13.4
Energy Efficiency (km/kWh) 7.8 7.9
Consumption (Wh/km) 128 127
Battery % Used 83 72

You will notice that the predicted distance was much larger than our actual distance (determined using the method I describe on my trip planning page).  I was originally thinking we might not be able to go to Riondel or to Pilot Bay, depending on how close our actual efficiency was to the predicated efficiency.  We got to the other side of the ferry and had way more battery than I was expecting, so it wasn’t a problem.  Once I got home, I realized that something was funny with the distance, so I played with Google Maps and noticed that it includes the distance travelled by the ferry!  Something to be aware of when planning future trips 🙂

I have done the trip to this area three times now, so thought it might be interesting to compare the different trips:

 3 Trip Comparison June 2014 – 4 people, minimal gear Sep 2014 – 4 people, canoe and camping gear (+5 km/h) June 2016 – 5 people, minimal gear
Distance (km) 95 100 105
Energy Used (kWh) 11.9 15.4 13.4
Energy Efficiency (km/kWh) 8.0 6.5 7.9
Consumption (Wh/km) 125 154 127
Battery % Used 59 80 72
Inferred Capacity (kWh) 20.2 19.3 18.6

* Note that inferred capacity is a very approximate relationship; temperature of the battery and other factors can influence this calculation on any given day

As you can see above, adding a bunch of gear weight and a canoe on the roof can impact the range pretty dramatically!  We were travelling a bit faster on the day with the canoe, but we can estimate the increased consumption as about +20 – 25%.

Our Nissan Leaf serves primarily as my commuter vehicle on weekdays, but it also does admirably as the regional trip vehicle too.  When possible, we take the Leaf over our Subaru Forester.  It is far more pleasant to drive an EV – the ride is so smooth and quiet, and the cost can’t compare.  For the most recent trip, we consumed 15 kWh at $0.091/kWh, or $1.35.  In terms of energy equivalent, it was about equal to using 1.7 L of gasoline – of course no gas car could travel 105 km on that small amount of gas – a Prius could have approached 5 L on this journey, or $6.25 at today’s gas price of $1.25/L.  In fact, we did all 3 trips at less cost than a Prius for one!  Our Subaru consumes more fuel of course, so we saved even more.  (And that is not even accounting for maintenance costs – grand total for the Leaf so far is ~$120 over 2 years and 80,000 km.

Now we await a suitable replacement for our Forester – AWD, a bit more cargo room than the Leaf, a bit more ground clearance, and a range of > 300 km should do it.  I expect to see at least one option arrive in 2017, with several more arriving before 2020.  Exciting times!

kootenay andrew
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2 thoughts on “Day-trip: Nelson to Crawford Bay area”

  1. Pingback: Electric ferries are in Europe, why not BC? – Kootenay EV Family

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