Two trips to Kelowna – and many new Highway 3 chargers!

I’ve gone from Nelson to Kelowna twice in the last month and thought I’d share some photos, data, and random insights from each trip… and in between the two trips, several new chargers were added on Highway 3, happy days!!

Don’t worry, this isn’t a novella (unlike the Sechelt trip report!)

September – Nelson to Kelowna via Revelstoke, back via Osoyoos

September Map
Click to enlarge…

Since I completed my last trip to Kelowna in the spring in our electric vehicle (EV), a 2014 Nissan LEAF, a new Direct Current Fast Charger (DCFC) had come online in Revelstoke, so when I planned this trip, I really wanted to take the slightly longer northern route.

Slightly longer by distance, but potentially much longer charging times en route, at least to get to Revelstoke, since there are no public chargers from Nelson all the way to Revelstoke, a distance of 255 km, and as far as I had seen previously, only campgrounds with either 120V 15A or 30A service (e.g. 7 – 15 hour charge times!)

However, some searching turned up a nugget of information new to me – the Village of Slocan campground has 240V/50A RV sites! Slocan is about 100 km from Nelson, which would allow us to get to Nakusp in one afternoon, and then camp overnight at their campground and recharge via 30A service (wondering how I use RV campsites to charge? I use an Open EVSE). With that knowledge in-hand, we set off heading north on the last weekend of August. This leg was totally uneventful, which was great!

(A note on all photos in the post, hover to read the caption, click to view in a larger gallery.)

The next morning we left Nakusp for the ferry across Upper Arrow Lake. There were a zillion rock cairns at Galena Bay – I think probably from mid-August, when the Rock Creek fire closed Highway 3 and all the traffic was routed through the ferry routes south and north of Nakusp. Heading into Revelstoke, we were planning to use the DCFC, and I was excited to be the first one (to my knowledge, and as shown on PlugShare) to use the unit.

Murphy chose this time to raise his ugly head… we arrived downtown Revelstoke to find the unit out of service! As it was Sunday, I didn’t have much hope we would get lucky and have it fixed, but I called Greenlots anyways, and went into the Visitor Center. The lady there called around for me and found out that the station had malfunctioned at some point in the recent past and a part was on order. Good to hear, but that wasn’t helping me out on a Sunday morning when I’m trying to get to Kelowna that day!

This is exactly the reason why I suggested at the workshop in June (scroll down to just past the Day 3 Stats table) that the DCFC roll-out would do better to mimic the way that Tesla deploys their Superchargers. Having multiple units (even if it is only 2!) would dramatically increase the apparent reliability of the network. Even if individual units continued to fail at the same rate as now, I posit that it would be much less noticeable to the public, since they would still be able to charge at the other unit and continue on their way (pretty much all of the failures have been a part breaking [with the exception of the Eaton units with the poorly thought out e-stop button; if that button is pushed on a charger, the unit must be reset by a technician]). I would rather have the network with a smaller range and reliable then stretching it out and stranding people for hours on end – it really wrecks your trip planning. At the very least, there should be a Level 2 charger installed in tandem with the DCFC.

Anyways, the kids really didn’t care about the prospect of spending 2.5 more hours in Revelstoke since there is an awesome train museum nearby – I dropped Marley with the kids at the museum and took the car back to the highway and the Best Western Sun Country Highway Level 2 unit, where the Tesla Superchargers had a chance to mock me once again (see Part 3 of my first Kelowna trip for the first time they got to mock me!)

Thankfully once we were back on the road, the rest of the trip to Kelowna went smoothly. We stayed in the Carr’s Landing area for a few days with some friends, charging overnight with a regular outlet in their garage (do check out the Allan Brooks Nature Centre if you are near Vernon; fantastic place!)

We headed back to Nelson via the southern route – first stop Penticton. This was the first dual-standard DCFC installed in BC and it worked like a charm. It also has the newer version of the CHAdeMO connector, which was easier to use than the other units we have encountered so far. The station is located right downtown with many great cafés and shops nearby. We took the route on the east side of Skaha Lake through the wineries and stopped at a cool strawbale veg/fruit stand (Matheson Creek Farm). We only stopped for an hour in Osoyoos, just to get enough charge to get us up over the Anarchist Summit and back down to Rock Creek where we were staying the night at Kettle River RV Park.

We had a leisurely start to our last day, leaving for Grand Forks at 9:30. We first stopped in Greenwood at the Deadwood Junction (a café), where I wrote a note to myself to contact the City of Greenwood to suggest they install a charger (little did I know they were planning that very thing!) In GF we charged at the municipal campground (at their 50A sites) and also walked over to the visitor info center. They plan to install public Level 2 chargers sometime this fall, which will be great, since most people don’t have a portable L2 unit like we do. Since we were not in a rush, we also stopped at two other places we have wanted to, but have never made the time on previous trips through in our gas car (see photos below).

Rather than head down to Rossland to charge, then back up to Nelson, I had pre-arranged for us to charge at the GM dealer in Castlegar, since they are a Volt dealer. The owner was very obliging, and the staff set me up when I arrived (I dropped Marley and Linden off downtown so they could view the sculpture walk). Luckily Cedric and I stayed at the car to have a snack rather than walking away, as after 20 minutes I had noticed that I had only gained a few % of my battery back! Turns out the Volt-specific chargers don’t communicate well with other brands of cars – once I pointed out the problem to the staff, he recalled that a Tesla had come through some time ago and experienced the same thing (essentially it defaults to some safety mode and only delivers the same power as a household outlet). This close to home I didn’t want to hang around for hours, so I called around to a few campgrounds in the Castlegar area and found that the local golf course also has a new RV park with a number of 50A sites, so I collected Marley and Linden to head up the hill to the golf course where we charged with no problems and headed home, arriving late afternoon, in the end only 1.5 hours later than I had planned, despite the charging challenges in Castlegar.

Overall we felt the trip was relatively successful – we were delayed on both routes by about 1.5 – 2 hours due to charging glitches, but I remain convinced that these types of issues will become a thing of the past with a few more years of infrastructure deployment. (And a reminder, 90%+ of my driving is my regular commute, for which I rarely have any glitches, and any that I do are self-inflicted [like forgetting to turn off my charge timer!])

October – Kelowna and back via Highway 3

A month later I found myself needing to go back to Kelowna again, this time by myself. So I threw my bike and work laptop in the back of the car with a vague notion to do some riding at different stops, mixed in with work at other stops.

As it turns out, a few days before I left, I received an email from Rob MacGregor, the Director, Western Canada for Sun Country Highway (SCH) to let me know that a number of stations had been installed along Highway 3 just in the last few days (we had discussed this route previously and I had the pleasure of meeting Rob at the workshop in June) – from east to west, Creston, Trail, Christina Lake, Greenwood, Midway and Rock Creek! Rob also confirmed that Grand Forks is working on their installation too. Christina Lake is unfortunately a Tesla-only charger (a High Powered Wall Connector [HPWC]).

When Grand Forks is complete, it will be possible to take a Nissan Leaf, with no additional equipment purchased, from Nelson to the Okanagan to the Lower Mainland! Big thank you to Sun Country Highway, Tesla, and the host locations!!

A short-range EV like the Leaf won’t be able to get to the East Kootenay yet though, because the Salmo-Creston Kootenay Pass is at 1,800 m, yielding 1,650 m of climbing, 1,450 m descending, and the distance between Trail and Creston is 125 km. One more charger in Salmo will fix that!

Note that for this entire trip, I travelled at or just below the speed limit or with the flow of traffic.

I left on a bluebird Sunday morning for the Castlegar Golf Course RV Park (since the City of Castlegar still hasn’t installed a charger); after a bit over an hour, I was off to Christina Lake. The larches are turning colour in the mountains right now and were a brilliant yellow, so I couldn’t help myself and stopped a number of times to take some photos. At the pass, I had 41% remaining, and I got as low as 39% before starting the descent into Christina Lake – I had regained back up to 46% by the time I reached the lake elevation, and was at 42% at the Christina Lake visitor center. After a quick stop to see their visitor center and to see the Tesla HPWC, I continued to Grand Forks.

I went for a major route-finding mountain bike ride to a trail called Ripper, which didn’t appear to have been ridden in a number of years – great bones for a trail, but grown over it made for some challenging trail finding. On the lower portion of the ride I came upon the much more ridden Papa Harpold [link to their website], which was an incredibly fun swoopy trail through grasslands and stands of yellow aspen. I was about an hour longer riding then I expected though, so the car had been finished charging for quite some time when I got back – oh well, the adventure is half the fun for me!

The only leg of the trip where I was at all worried about running out charge was from Castlegar to Grand Forks with the bike on the outside, so I had it in the car for this leg; after that I put it on the rack. I made three successive stops in Greenwood, Midway and Rock Creek to check out the brand-new chargers, to take some photos, and to add them to PlugShare. I headed up to the Anarchist Summit on Highway 3 into the setting sun – what a treat!

Driving into the sunset over the Anarchist Summit - the views on this section of road are just spectacular.
Driving into the sunset over the Anarchist Summit – the views on this section of road are just spectacular.  (Click to enlarge…)

I camped overnight in Penticton, so had a full battery in the AM. I went for a 3 hour ride on one of the local trail networks, 3 Blind Mice, what an amazing job the local bike club has done on those trails! Three hours was barely enough for a sampling – I’ll be coming back for the full course next year, hopefully to do the BC Enduro as well. After running around Penticton for the morning, I still had over 80% of my battery, so I zipped over to Kelowna for my appointment, then charged at the Okanagan College campus for a little over an hour, just enough to get back to Penticton to use the DCFC.

I recorded some video of the fast charging experience, plus shot some interval photos and did some timing of %/min. I plan to edit together a video and post it to YouTube – stay tuned for that (update:  video edited and posted!). Interestingly, I didn’t really notice the tapering effect until the battery was around > 75%, and the charger kept going at a good clip right up to 93%. Total charge time from 15% to 93% was 30 minutes.

I had left Kelowna around 4:30 pm, Penticton at 6:00 pm, and had only charged long enough in Osoyoos to get over the pass to Midway, leaving O at 8:30 (at the summit I had 24%, by the time I got to Rock Creek, about 20 km further, I had 25%!) I had a quick nap while charging for 1.5 hours in Midway and left there a bit after 11 pm for Grand Forks where I spent the night. The next morning I headed to Kocomo’s to “fuel-up” for the road – I had a good conversation with the owner, originally from Vancouver, who serves the beans at his café that he roasts onsite. There is a very cool hidey-hole garden in between his building and the next one that has a very neat ambience.

I popped up over the Paulson Summit, then headed south on Highway 3B even higher up to the Strawberry Pass, then down to Rossland and Trail all in one charge (32% battery remaining at Paulson, 31% at the highway junction about 15 km further; then climbed up to Strawberry with 18% remaining 8 km further; the lowest I reached was 15%, just outside of Rossland; by the time I had descended into Trail 10 km on, I had regained 10%). I got to work at noon and was able to put in half of a day, then it was back home that evening.

This trip went very smoothly with the new chargers – the Sun Country Highway chargers have been absolutely bullet-proof in all of my travels so far, and the new ones installed were no different. I had no reservations about being the first person to try them out!

The Data

I should note that we really didn’t need to use the heater all that much on either trip, and in any case, rain on the road seems to do more to the range than using the heater. The heated seats and steering wheel really help a lot!

A note on the GOM…

The Nissan Leaf (and most EVs) come with some version of a “range estimator” – on the Leaf it has become known as the GOM (the “guess-O-meter”!!!) Apparently the 2011/2012’s are terrible, the 2013 and onwards are ok, but you have to understand a bit of how they work so that you don’t freak out when driving through the mountain ranges of BC. As near as I can figure out, they have some sort of running average efficiency calculation combined with remaining battery capacity to project your remaining range – the important thing to remember in all of this is that it assumes you will continue driving as you have been.

So for example, when I was climbing out of Castlegar up to the Paulson Summit, the car was predicting less range remaining than I actually had left to drive to reach Grand Forks. This was repeated between Rock Creek and Osoyoos, and then again of course on the return legs. If you know you can reach a destination based on someone’s previous experience, or a range calculator like my spreadsheet, just ignore the GOM and keep your blood pressure normal.  🙂

kootenay andrew

kootenay andrew

Andrew is an environmental engineer by day, "kid activity/school volunteer" by evening, and EV advocate / blogger in his remaining spare time.

He is very passionate about the future of energy generation & usage.He prefers bikes to cars, but acknowledges that Canadian cities have been developed primarily with cars in mind, so if we're going to drive, let's make them all EVs!(But let's get EV buses and take those where possible first.)
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kootenay andrew

Andrew is an environmental engineer by day, "kid activity/school volunteer" by evening, and EV advocate / blogger in his remaining spare time. He is very passionate about the future of energy generation & usage. He prefers bikes to cars, but acknowledges that Canadian cities have been developed primarily with cars in mind, so if we're going to drive, let's make them all EVs! (But let's get EV buses and take those where possible first.)

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