IMG_20170909_072342225_HDRJust returned from a holiday where I left my Leaf at airport parking for a week. It was far enough away (123 miles) that I needed to charge en route, and wanted to leave the battery at half-charge while I parked, as it should avoid any degradation that way.

As any electric car battery ages and capacity shrinks, so does the range.  Currently I have  19kWh capacity at best; about 85% “State of Health”. The Leaf “24” model was only ever 21kWh when new, so the loss isn’t as great as it might appear.

So basically what I planned was to leave Swindon, use motorways and the Electric Highway; charging at M4 Reading and have some breakfast, then stop at M25 South Mimms, and get to Stansted at about 50% charge remaining. Plan B would be to use M40 Berkhamsted, and top up near Stansted. Always have a Plan B!

The outbound trip went very nicely, beautifully clear weather and all chargers were working; at 6am on a Saturday nobody else was charging.

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The return trip also worked, but I was much closer to the limit at times and had to slow down to 50-ish mph, cruise set at 55, to make sure I reached a charger. That really didn’t impress a certain Audi driver on the M1, who felt the need to tailgate me and flash his headlights for at least a mile, despite having 2 lanes he could have used to overtake. I feel sorry for him/her 😉

So the return trip went something like:

Arrive at car with 45% charge,

Charge at Birchanger (Stansted) to 80%,

Charge to 90-95% at South Mimms,

Top-up at Reading if need be.

The charge at Birchanger was actually free (as in “no cost”), as the data connection to Ecotricity was down. This wasn’t obvious, as the first sign something was wrong was that I couldn’t get a wifi connection to the pump. Connecting via wifi enables the app to automatically recover, and for you to be able to unlock the connector when you want to, rather than waiting for the full 45 minute charge session to end. So I simply plugged the car in and pressed “start charging” on the pump. If only it were always so simple!

I arrived at South Mimms at about 8% remaining. A combination of wet roads, binding brakes from leaving the car still for a week, meant higher energy use- so as I said, I slowed down and reached South Mimms with no drama apart from that Audi.

At South Mimms, two Leafs were plugged in and a Renault Zoe driver was waiting for a charger, so I was second in the queue. Not great late at night, and unexpected. By contrast, at the Tesla “Superchargers” only 2 of the 12 chargers were in use! One Leaf finished charging and left, and luckily for me the Zoe couldn’t use the vacated charger, so I plugged in. This was one of the reasons I bought a Leaf – the confusing choice of Zoe motors and far fewer useful rapid chargers. I got 17.7kWh in 42 minutes which shows an issue with trying to cram as much charge in as possible; the average charge rate is quite low because my car slows the charging rate above 80% full. Apparently later cars don’t do this as much.

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The next leg could have been all the way to home without a stop, 90 miles, in ideal conditions – but with a slight headwind and rain I was short of charge and so stopped at Reading for a top-up. At least on the M4 there are plenty of options for charging, for example if one charger is down or occupied. One of the advantages of a top-up approach is the high charging rate, I got 11kWh in just 17 minutes. The downside is that a charge with Ecotricity has a £3 fixed charge and then costs 17 pence per kWh.

The last leg, with plenty of charge, was quite quick as I could afford to drive less efficiently.

For me this trip highlighted 3 things – sometimes there aren’t enough (non-Tesla) rapid chargers at key locations like South Mimms; destination charging would really help; and a slightly bigger battery would make trips like this much quicker- a Leaf 30 would be ideal. I guess I already knew that. However, a used Leaf 30 costs about twice what this car is worth!

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Last charge at Reading – battery nice and warm (left hand bars)

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