Skip to comments.Taxpayers' Leaf: Four Recharging Stops Needed to Go 180 Miles
Posted on 01/03/2012 11:21:53 AM PST by jazusamo
Consumer Reports has painted an ugly picture of the Nissan Leaf, as did an early enthusiast based in Los Angeles, who described his frustrations with the heavily subsidized, all-electric car in a recent column.
Now comes what must be the definitive example of the Leafs impracticality this time from a (still) hard-core advocate, whose 180-mile Tennessee trek to visit family over the holidays required four lengthy stops to keep the vehicle moving.
Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, set out from Knoxville on Monday with his wife and son, headed for the Nashville area. His plan (appropriately) was to follow Interstate 40 West, where a series of Cracker Barrel restaurants equipped with so-called fast vehicle chargers (if you want to call 30 minutes or more fast) along the route would provide an electricity security blanket as the Leafs charge diminished.
Only problem was, the Leafs charge dropped more rapidly than promised. In what has to be a public relations disaster for Nissan, Smiths EV was unable to travel no farther than 55 miles on any leg of the trip and for the most part, much less. The company, and its government backers, proclaimed the Leaf was built to go 100 miles on a charge (large print), with a footnoted disclaimer (small print) that it travels shorter distances (like, 70 miles) if the air conditioning or the heater is used. Turns out even that was an exaggeration.
It was about 35 degrees in the Volunteer State when Smith departed Knoxville on Monday, and Mrs. Smith and his five-year-old son apparently were not willing to forgo heat in order to make the EV cause look good. A trip that should take according to map Web sites less than three hours, ended up lasting six hours for the Smiths because of all the stops they had to make. The approximate intervals where they paused for recharging were as follows:
Hence the Smiths required four recharges in order to travel approximately 180 miles. According to the account in The Tennessean, they experienced their first hair-raiser range anxiety before they even reached Harriman.
The display on the dashboard of their Nissan LEAF showed a drop in available range from 100 miles to about 50, when they had only traveled about 40 miles, reported the Gannett-owned newspaper, which also owns USA Today, a cheerleader of all clean energy projects regardless of viability.
If the specs promised by Nissan and Leaf advocates were to be believed, the Smiths should have been able to travel about 25-30 miles past Harriman (where it took 20 minutes to boost the battery to 80 percent) before theyd need a recharge, even when using the car heater. But because of the limited availability of so-called fast chargers (440 volts, 30 minutes), the intermediate stop was necessary in order to climb the upcoming Cumberland Plateau and reach the next Cracker Barrel fast charger in Crossville. The chargers (which, by the way, dont work for the Chevy Volt and wont for many future EVs planned for release) are sparse because they cost $40,000 each, and companies like Ecotality apparently can only do so much with the $115 million Department of Energy grant it received to deploy the equipment.
At Crossville, according to The Tennessean , the Smiths battery gauge failed them again. The reading at Harriman said they could go another 70 miles, but after 31 miles, the gauge indicated they only had 20 miles of range remaining. Obviously that wasnt to be trusted.
It was a little nerve wracking, Stephen Smith told the Nashville-based newspaper. Im finding the range is not 100 percent accurate.
But heading west from Crossville, according to Smith, would not be as taxing on the Leaf: Cookeville will be about the same distance but it will be flat or downhill. It turned out his battery gauge maintained accuracy on that leg of the trip, but when he reached Lebanon (50 miles), he found that the Ecotality Blink fast-charger at the Cracker Barrel was, uh, on the blink (he should have known that was possible, if not likely). So instead he had to plug in to another slower charger at the restaurant, which took an hour to boost the battery enough (they hoped) to travel the remaining 22 miles to their destination.
The Smiths arrived at their destination in Antioch with what the Leaf told them was six miles of range remaining. All that after an anxiety-filled six-hour trip that was more than twice as long as it would take in a gasoline vehicle, which could probably have been accomplished with a single stop for a bathroom break.
The Smiths experience echoed that of a Consumer Reportsreviewer and Los Angeles columnist Rob Eshman, who called his Leaf his 2011 Nissan Solyndra. Eshman, editor-in-chief of The Jewish Journal, experienced the same gauge inaccuracies and range anxiety that came from traversing hills and mountains and the use of his air conditioning in hot, smoggy L.A.
My life now revolves around a near-constant calculation of how far I can drive before Ill have to walk, Eshman wrote. The Nissan Leaf, I can report, is perfect if you dont have enough anxiety in your life.
Of course, you wont hear words like that from the lips of passionate Green energy advocate Smith, who chalked up the experience to being an early adopter and a pioneer.
Its good knowing we didnt use a drop of oil getting down here, he said. He must have had a similar fuzzy feeling on his return trip , which "only" took five hours, since the Lebanon charger was working later in the week.
As for the heavily coal-generated electricity from the Tennessee Valley Authority that powered his trip, well, lets not go there. Lets just pretend that windmills and solar panels could have just as easily done the trick, if the EPA and Department of Energy would just do their jobs and eliminate all coal power plants and invest billions more taxpayer dollars in renewables deployment.
As for why Tennessee as part of this EV system rollout, you might ask? Thanks be to taxpayers there, also, as Nissan has in its back pocket a $1.4 billion federal loan to retrofit a plant in Smyrna just outside Nashville to mass-produce the Leaf. As company CEO Carlos Ghosn has said publicly, Nissan will produce EVs wherever government will produce the financial incentives.
And thats what it takes in order for the Green energy industry swindle to survive.
Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center.
They should have used their brains and either installed a rooftop mounted generator or one in a small trailer, turn the car into a diesel/electric. Generator charges while it drives.
You nailed it. I haven't followed the Leaf, I've been following GM and the Volt and they've misrepresented many things. Looks light Nissan is doing the same with the Leaf.
Aw come on, a little convenience to too much to sacrifice in order to “save the earth?”
180 miles, six hours.
Shoulda brought the soap box derby car along as a back up.
Doing some quick energy calcs, they used a total of 101 KWh for the trip assuming a full 24 KWh charge at the start and 80% charges en route. Gasoline has a combustion energy of about 33.4 KWh per gallon. This results in an equivalent of 59 MPG for this trip. Anybody know how much energy it takes to turn X tons of coal into 1 KWh stored in a battery? Bet it’s a good bit more than it takes to turn oil into gasoline at the pump.
Thinking back, I had a ‘89 Jetta diesel back in the 90’s that I bought for less than 3 grand. It got 50 MPG with my foot on the floor all the time. I could drive it 750 miles without refilling.
Now if only there was a way to charge the batteries while driving. Hmmm.
Give the guy a break! He’s from Knoxville and more than likely a Tenn. grad.
Yep, all the items you listed suck the battery down faster, some of them much faster.
I doubt we’ll ever see 480 volt service in residential areas but in the Western states I’ve always found that 240 volt is standard, don’t know about the rest of the country.
Not an expert in all battery types.
Most batteries at 35F will put out only about 65% of the power they will at 80F.
Which in an electric car means ~65 mile range instead of 100.
Assuming you don’t run the heater, which isn’t likely at 35F.
Hey, I have an idea... Put another battery pack on a trailer, and tow it behind the Leaf! :D
That’s basically what the Chevy Volt does. It has a 1.4? liter gas engine that runs a generator to recharge the battery after the first 35 or so miles.
The initial cost of the vehicle is out of sight and it has to use premium fuel so you’re not saving a bunch of money.
Example: An alkaline powered flashlight will gradually dim as it powers down.
A lithium will continue to operate then simply power out.
Ergo lithium flashlights operate better in cold weather...just bring extra batteries.
And yes...I'm in the box with this. I just don't know the technology behind long lasting rechargeable lithium batteries.
in the midwest, 220 single phase is fairly common in OLD houses, and is easy to upgrade to in newer houses that lack it. But 240 3 phase is very rare for residential. Even in commercial buildings it is not standard. In fact, most areas don’t even have 240 3 phase on the pole. It would cost 20,000 dollars to get your electric company to run the wires to the utility poles and to your meter. Then figure on another 10 grand minimum to have an electrician wire up your circuit breaker and run the conduit and wire to outlets.
And 480 3 phase? forget it.
All of the factors you list of course affect the drain on the battery. My point was that cool/cold temperatures also affect the capacity of the battery.
The equivalent of a smaller fuel tank in a gas-powered car, so that when the temp is 35 your tank only holds 8 gallons instead of 12.
BTW, you forgot by far the larger energy drain. Hills. Pushing a car up a steep hill takes a LOT of juice. East TN, as I recall, is fairly hilly.
The wife’s car is not an electric - it is a 454 chevy with a 38-gallon tank.
The darn thing lies to me - it tells me we are on “E” when it gets down to twelve gallons.
Wow. My ‘95 Dodge Ram would only be about half empty at 12 gallons.
coal is cheap.
there are 14,000 BTUs per lob of coal. figure about 15 to 20 cents per million BTUs. A coal power plant is about 85% efficient. That’s about as far as I can get. I don’t know the conversion from BTUs to KWh off hand. Figure about 50% line losses in the power lines.
Doing the math, you will find that an electric vehicle is amazingly efficient. But what you are not accounting for is the waste heat off a gasoline engine that is used to heat the car in winter. That 35% efficient gasoline car goes up in efficiency in the winter if you count the free heat, and the efficiency of electric cars goes down even if you don’t heat the car interior.
My 2001 F250 beer-can snow-plow also holds 38 gallons.
I don’t really care, when it snows. Other than that, it sits in the driveway.
It reliably gets 12 MPG, unless you tow something. Then it gets bad.
The Chevy Volt does much better as you never have to turn on the heater, you just keep replacing the burned-up back seats.
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