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Hello again from the New West EV Family!

This post is the third in a series and discusses the second half of our Seattle Zoo trip in our 2013 Nissan Leaf. My first guest post was an introduction and review of charging requirements for the trip. In part one of my trip report we discussed the drive plan and our trip south from New Westminster to the Seattle area and our stops for charging along the way.

On my last post we ended day one enjoying a nice meal at the Cheesecake Factory while charging to 100% on L2 at the Bellevue Square mall. We returned to our hotel in Everett with 73% remaining and 7 battery temperature bars while Leaf Spy showed the battery temperature to be nearly 40 degrees C. Now for most of you in California or Arizona this isn’t an uncommon temperature but we barely saw 6 bars this summer, 5 is normal, and we will probably see 4 bars all ‘winter’. Regardless, the battery cooled to about 24.5 C overnight on this trip. (note: the ambient temperatures I am guessing were ~12 C overnight; high battery temperatures are something to be minimized over the long term).

In the morning we left our hotel with the goal of reaching the Space Needle area and visiting the Seattle Children’s Museum. “Plan A” was to L2 charge at the Seattle Center Parkade below the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation HQ. However, my Apple map showed that the access street was closed for construction. The backup plan was a 20 kW DCFC at a nearby Whole Foods and failing that we would return to Magic Nissan.  (Definitions of charging are here for the unfamiliar.)

It turned out that half the street was closed and we were able to enter the parkade with no problem. As shown on, this parkade has three L2 EVSE’s- two on an upper deck and one below. When we arrived the L2 station on the upper deck was occupied with a blue leaf and the second station beside it was in an unoccupied Handicap spot. How awkward- what takes precedent, disability or EV charge? Statistically how often will an EV only handicap spot be used? I really think in this situation there should be three EV parking spots for 2 EVSEs with one spot marked handicap to make better use of the resources. The parking attendant said we would get towed if we left the vehicle there unattended. I contemplated using the EVSE lock feature to ‘lock the Leaf’ there. Instead we decided to try to find the third EVSE down below. Plugshare noted it was on the “main floor” so we drove to the bottom 5 ramps down and could not find it. As we drove back up we spotted the second entrance which was one level below the first which I assume could have been the ‘main’ entrance. Here we found the third EVSE unoccupied. This L2 was interesting as it is charge-company agnostic. It simply takes a credit card and is $0.50 per half hour per credit card swipe. So I swiped my card 4 times to get 2 hours of charging. These instructions I mentally noted from plugshare as they were not clear at the site. In the end I was only billed $1.50 so I guess the Leaf stopped charging and I didn’t get billed for what I didn’t use! All L2’s should be like this one! When we left the hotel we had 73% but I neglected to record the battery % when we parked at the Space Needle. 

The Seattle Children’s Museum was dated inside but kept us and our friend’s kids interested for a solid two hours. It was worth the admission if you have not been before. Fortuitously there was also a Hawaiian themed festival in the same Armory building and we had a pleasant lunch in the food court where a variety of Hawaiian food, music, dance, and arts and crafts were available . A short walk back to the Experience Music Project there is a super incredible playground for kids with VERY high climbing apparatus and bridging- it was great for the kids but somewhat scary for to see our 5 year old climbing up two stories!

Click on any image to see a full-size gallery and captions.

When we returned to our Leaf, it had charged up to 100% and the guess-o-meter (GOM) was showing 167 km – the highest ever! Of course this is a fictitious reading. We drove directly to Burlington Outlet DCFC by-passing Seattle Premium DCFC. We arrived with 25% remaining having used 75% to cover about 101 km (Google Maps: 106 km.) We used the AV DCFC to charge up to 94% and drove north 40 km via the Chuckanut Drive, the slower scenic waterfront route into Bellingham. It was a real pleasure to drive through the picturesque and wooded cliff-side drive,  in the nearly silent Nissan Leaf.

At Sehome Village DCFC in Bellingham we charged to ~88% (sorry didn’t record our usage Burlington to Bellingham due to hangry family citizens.) On the last leg to our home in New Westminster we traveled 72 km, arriving with 32% remaining having used 56%.

Day 2 overview:

Trip Leg Distance (km) Planned % used Actual % used % discrepancy
Space Needle to Burlington DCFC  101  112%  75%  -37%
Burlington to Bellingham DCFC  39  42%  no data  no data
Bellingham to home  72  68%  56%  -12%

Carwings Trip Overview:
Lets compare overall trip data using Car Wings, Nissan’s telematics service.

Leaf  Car Wings
Total Distance  563 km  572.8
Trip Efficiency  7.1 km/kW/h   7.0 km/kW/h
 Total kW/h consumed  79.3 kW/h Calc’d  82.8

So as some of you probably noticed I have been using LeafSpy for iOS. However, I have not used it regularly on trips like this- only here and there to check on temperatures and battery health etc. It is also nice to use for checking tire pressures. If one was running very low on the battery it gives you a bit better information as to how much battery is left after the GOM gives up the ghost.

Whew! Getting near the end finishing this post has taken too long! Here is a quick overview and tally of charging costs for this trip:

Screen shots of Charge provider reports.

  • AeroVironment:
    Membership fee: $15 USD
    Monthly unlimited charge fee: $20 USD
    Number of DCFC’s: 4+1 (one for the other Leaf I met travelling south)
    Actual cost of 4 DCFC’s a la carte: $30 USD (if not using monthly program)
  • EvGo: $5 set up fee
    One DCFC southbound: $9.35 USD
  • Chargepoint – no membership fee
    Magin Nissan DCFC: $3 USD
    Bellevue Square Mall L2: $5.50 USD

Total Membership/Card/Setup fees: $20
Total $ for energy purchased: $37.85
Grand Total: $57.85

Cost of driving the Passat TDI:
(570 km @ 6.2 L/100 km & $1 per litre)= ~$36 USD

So even with this trip and excluding membership fees the Passat was marginally cheaper to drive and we would have only stopped for fuel once! Also of note, the L3 charging at Nissan Dealer Chargepoint stations is the best deal out there at $3 per charge. It even beats the cost of L2 charging at the mall!

Would I do it again? Before doing the math I would have said yes. It was a great experience taking the Leaf. I liked slowing the trip down with the DCFC charing stops as it interrupted the usual frenetic pace. We also drove some of the scenic routes we normally forget about. I was surprised that the cost was nearly identical! We probably could have avoided the EVGo DCFC and replaced that with a Chargepoint DCFC at Magic Nissan saving a whole $5 or so! I think we would take the Leaf again.

Another side effect is meeting other EV owners at the charge stations! It is so nice to travel in near-silence and Carwings showed we saved 105 kg of CO2 compared to a similar vehicle. I also like supporting transformative technology. Future plans? Perhaps a trip to Great Wolf Lodge near Centrellia, WA on spring break or the Oregon Coast later in the year? We’ll see.

Other brief parting thoughts for further discussion:

  • The Nissan navigation system sucks. It is hard to scroll, set a destination, search, and often routed us in illogical and downright range depleting routes. Very frustrating. The other media and climate control aspects of the system are nice.
  • The LeafLink iPhone app is great for transferring waypoints to your Nissan Nav. But, if you have a Canadian car, Carwings does not work in the US.
  • Nissan’s EV charging stations are NOT up-to-date (despite the online telematics updates) and no where near as accurate as Plugshare.
  • Even L2 stations go un-maintained for significant periods of time (Bellevue Sq. Mall).
  • Even with all available planning and resources expect charging hiccups and and potential frustrations.

My next post will be the Day Trip to Whistler! Until then, this is the New Westminster EV Family signing off!

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