Autovolt Magazine

The Long Ranger and the Leaf

Nearly 1,000 miles have now been covered in OY16XLO, not a huge amount, but about average for any car – 1,000 per month or 12,000 per year. Most journeys have been local, it must be said, but one finds that occasionally a longer distance journey is necessary and the Leaf is just as adept at doing this as it is short journeys.

I’ve become comfortably accustomed with charging the Leaf roughly Twice a week. Because I live close to about six conveniently located Source East charge points, including a Nissan Dealership less than a mile away with CHAdeMO rapid charging and the local Waitrose that offers free coffee to MyWaitrose members (very nice, thank you) I find that I rarely have to charge at home. This goes someway to proving electric cars are perfectly viable even without a home charger, just as the vast majority of people who live in flats don’t have their own petrol station downstairs either.

Nonetheless, when travelling a distance beyond the range of the car, things need to be considered. I’ve been driving electric cars for a few years now and so have become accustomed to this process and indeed know where most of the major locations for charge points are around the outskirts of London, where I frequent.

i recently had to do a longish journey of driving from St Albans, just north of London, to Bedford then from there to London Heathrow and return to St Albans again. It’s a distance of some 120 miles and of course requires quite a bit of motorway driving, where the Leaf – and all other cars – use more energy if travelling at 70mph. The best figure I have seen stated on the estimated miles remaining gauge is 135 miles at 100%. Easy, you might think. But of course travelling at 70mph for any extended period saps energy at a faster rate than town driving and so charging en-route was likely to be necessary. Likewise, the passengers I was to collect had two large suitcases and there’d be four people in the car, adding weight that’s not usually there.

My 135 mile range would therefore likely drop to less than 120 miles. Fortunately, I was able to nab some charge while at Bedford area, so I’d be topped up a little after the run up there. I could also opt to take the scenic route rather than blat along the A1. This would conserve some energy for the long slog down to Heathrow. Likewise, I was hoping for at least a little traffic on the M25 that would slow things down a bit and reduce energy consumption. The M25 can generally be relied upon to offer some good energy saving hold ups.

With all this in mind, range anxiety was kept well in check – for me at least. My passengers, on the other hand, were less confident. Why? Simply because they’re not accustomed to driving a car with a 100-mile range. No other reason than that. Experience plays the greater education in this regard and the journey went without a hitch. I opted to travel back from Heathrow via the North Circular, rather than the M25 too, as it is both slightly shorter, slower and has several charge points en-route, just in case.

At the time of travel, Ecotricity were half-way through changing their Electric Highway to be equipped with the new App payment scheme of £6 per 30-minute charge and on arriving at South Mimms Services (where the A1 and M25 cross) the Leaf had 10% remaining charge. That’s nearly 3kWh of energy, or a lot of miles in truth. I decided to pop in for a quick top up – if the charge point had not yet been updated. It hadn’t. So, a quick five-minute charge later as we were on our way again using only 5% energy to do the remainder of the journey to St Albans.

Five EV Driving Medium/Long Range Tips

  1. A shorter route on slower roads will help get your further. Plus there’s the bonus that it’s prettier and more engaging, but it may take a bit longer to reach your destination. This may be offset by not requiring plugging in though, depending on the distance.
  2. Charge when you can, if you can, for short periods. Just five minutes plugged into a regular 7kW charge point will give a few valuable miles. it’s worthwhile doing if it means you’ll avoid a £6 30-minute charge on the Electric Highway.
  3. In the South East at least, distances may be shorter than you think. 100-miles is actually a long way. It helps put into perspective the Leafs range and how short the vast majority of journeys actually are.
  4. Travelling at speed on motorways is fine. The car is more than capable of keeping up with traffic, but consider that your range will be reduced by a good 25% if you’re driving at a constant 70mph, whereas you’re usually around town.
  5. Patience is a virtue. We all know this, but some traffic on a motorway can help slow things down and enable you to travel further. Don’t necessarily leave 30-minutes later than you want to, in order to avoid traffic. That same 30-minutes may end up being wasted unecessarily at a charge point, for the sake of a little patience driving in traffic instead.