Road Trip: Day 6: Eugene to Florence

By Tyrel on September 3, 2013

Our first night camping went fairly well. The campground was basically empty, as it was the day after Labor Day. We packed up after breakfast in the morning to head west to the coast.

The first thing we did was stop at the first town (Veneta) where we had decent cell service so we could get some things done that we had intended to do the night before — but we had no connectivity at the camp. Then we headed out over the hills to the coast.

Day 6 Charge Level Map

Day 6 Charge Level Map

The drive was easy, beautiful, and largely uneventful. We listened to another Radiolab podcast to pass the time. We were so distracted by this that we missed the turn for the quick charger at the casino in Florence, and had to turn around to go back for it. While we were charging we were approached by a couple of folks who had questions about it.

We weren’t able to check in to the campground until 4pm, so we grabbed some lunch and headed to Sandland Adventures, which offers tours of the sand dunes here. They were already booked for their last tour of the day (1:45) but lucky for us, someone cancelled a few minutes before it was to head out, so we got to go on it.

I have to say it was extremely enjoyable! They have two options, a high-speed joy ride or a slower-speed sightseeing tour. Our was the sightseeing variety. It was definitely worth the $15/person to do it! We thought we might even do it again. It was a full hour tour of all sorts of different types of terrain in the dunes, along with great explanations from the tour guide/driver, Doug.

Sandland Adventures

Sandland Adventures

After that we went up to check out a beach on the north side of town. It was exactly like the beach I remember from San Diego, with lots of sand and big waves, except not as many people zooming all over! I never realized all of this was so close to home.

Honeyman Park Campsite

Honeyman Park Campsite

Finally 4pm rolled around and we were able to check in to our campsite. This campground is bigger than the one last night, and a lot busier, but it’s far from packed. Probably less than 50% of the campsites are occupied, and most of them are tents. We again have 50 amp service at our site so the car can charge up; again, though, the breaker panel gets warm so we’ll do it a bit at a time.

We don’t need much charge for tomorrow anyway — we’re just going to stick around the Florence area and check out a few things (we’re not sure what yet!). We’re camping in the same spot again tomorrow night. It’ll be nice not to have to take down and set up everything for one night. Hopefully we can find some fun things to do!

Road Trip: Day 5: Albany to Eugene

By Tyrel on September 2, 2013

First LEAF Campsite

First LEAF Campsite

After an outstanding dinner, sleep, and breakfast with a friend in Albany, we were off toward our first night camping.

There were three quick chargers along the way, but we only used the one in Eugene/Springfield. The terrain before Eugene was remarkably flat and the roads straight, making for easy driving as long as you can find a way to keep yourself awake, which we did by listening to a Radiolab podcast.

Day 5 Charge Level Map

Day 5 Charge Level Map

Our intention was to hike up to the top of Spencer Butte, just south of Eugene. We got most of the way up, then wimped out and went back down. We were exhausted, hot, and not feeling very well overall. Oh well.

From there we went to Fred Meyer to pick up some groceries for camping. After getting what we needed, we headed off to camp at Richardson Park, west of Eugene. Only a few other folks were in the camp, as it was the night after Labor Day, so it was very quiet. We plugged the car in to the 50-amp outlet and charged it up. However, the electrical panel there was getting very hot, so I turned off charging every 10% or so to let it cool off. I suspect it’s not designed for continuous 30-amp draw. We’ll keep this in mind at other camps as well.

The plan for tomorrow is to head west to the coast, where we will camp at Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park in Florence for two nights while we find stuff to do around there.

Day 6 Planned Route

Day 6 Planned Route

Trip odometer so far: 542.8 miles.

Road Trip: Day 4: Portland to Albany

By Tyrel on September 1, 2013

Day 4 Charge Level Map

Day 4 Charge Level Map

Today we had a delicious home-made breakfast with our friends in Portland, then we all traveled southwest to McMinville to see the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, where we spent most of the day. Trish took some pictures — we’ll probably upload some later. They house the “Spruce Goose”, which is the largest aircraft ever built. It really was immense. Unfortunately the fee for entering the museum doesn’t include getting to enter more than a tiny little portion of the aircraft — that’s another $25 per person. We elected not to do that.

Their collection of spacecraft was very interesting. It is quite amazing the size of some of those things. I was particularly amazed at the size of the lunar module used in the Apollo missions!

After the museum we did a quick charge in McMinville then drove south toward Albany. We did another quick charge in Monmouth (which we didn’t really need, but I like checking out each charger). The LEAF mapped its address wrong so we had trouble finding it until we looked at PlugShare again. From there we cruised on to Trish’s friend’s house in Albany.

Day 5 Route

Day 5 Route

Tomorrow we will continue southward to Eugene. There are a couple quick chargers we’ll stop at to check out along the way. Then we’ll go hiking on Spencer Butte. If we get down from there okay, we’ll stop to get some groceries and then go check out our first campsite! That will be very exciting.

Hopefully we’ll be able to get decent Internet connectivity from the campsite (depends on our cell service) and will be able to update like we have been so far. If not… well, we’ll try to do a minimum update at the very least.

Road Trip: Day 3: Portland Area

By Tyrel on August 31, 2013

View from Vista House

View from Vista House

Our main goal today was to head out to Multnomah Falls with our friends. We weren’t actually able to get in to see the falls, as it was extremely busy, but it was a fun drive anyway. We took the old road route (not the freeway) because it was more scenic, although somewhat more hilly, so we used a bit more power than planned.

Day 3 Charge Level Map

Day 3 Charge Level Map

Day 4 Route

Day 4 Route

On our way back we took a detour to get a charge at another Walgreens while we wandered around and found some late lunch. We hit the Low Battery Warning a few miles before the Walgreens. In just over two hours at Walgreens we picked up 12 kWh of charge. This was plenty to get us back to the condo and so with a level 1 charge overnight, we’ll have a 100% charge for tomorrow’s travels.

Tomorrow we will go with our friends to the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinville, then continue southward. There are plenty of free chargers so we are not expecting any difficulties.

We will arrive at Albany later in the day and stay with a friend of Trish’s there overnight. That will be our last night in a building for a while.

Road Trip: Day 2: Lynnwood to Portland

By Tyrel on

The travels today were largely uneventful, despite the long distance we traveled. We left Lynnwood about a half our late (at 10am) and arrived in Portland about 45 minutes later than planned (at 5:45pm). We ended up taking Highway 99 for most of the route from Lynnwood to Tacoma, because traffic was insane on I-5.

Day 2 Charge Level

Day 2 Charge Level

We stopped along the way at a Walgreens in Des Moines, where we plugged in to the 220 charger. We went inside and grabbed a few snacks, then ate a bit of this in the car for a few minutes. I checked the numbers and it looked like we’d be fine to make it all the way to Tumwater (allowing us to bypass the expensive charger in Fife). We were at Walgreens for about half an hour.

At the Tumwater quick charger, we encountered a woman who was test driving a LEAF and was looking at the charger. She asked some questions about it but did not charge. I hope she made it back to the dealer (sounded like it would be close!).

The next charger was in Centralia. We still had quite a bit of charge from Tumwater and wanted to take a few minutes to eat a late lunch, so we just plugged in to the 220 charger here instead of the quick charger. We continued on after we finished our lunch.

At Castle Rock, the car’s navigation system warned us that it did not have data for the area, and they’re doing a massive road construction project, but the charger was not hard to fine. We used the quick charger for a few minutes here.

The next charger was in Ridgefield. It’s out back behind a restaurant in a rather lonely place. It was getting hot out by this time (about 80 degrees) and the car’s batteries were also getting warm — we hit 8 temperature bars around 105 degrees while charging. We didn’t need a full charge to get to Portland so I unplugged at around 70% charge.

Getting into our destination from there was not a problem at all. Our hosts have a 110 outlet next to their spot in the parking garage which they allowed us to use, so we’d have 100% by morning. Being 4-5 stories under ground, however, the car gets no cell service so I cannot use CARWINGS to get charging status and such, unfortunately.

For the next day, our plan is to hang out with our friends in Portland. At some point we’ll take a trip out to Multnomah Falls and back. This is about 63 miles round trip, so it shouldn’t be an issue — especially considering the number of chargers available in Portland.

Day 3 Plan

Day 3 Plan

Road Trip: Day 1: Bellingham to Lynnwood

By Tyrel on August 29, 2013

We expected today’s journey to be largely uneventful. It was a little bit more exciting than expected, however.

We left home about ten minutes earlier than planned (wow!) and stopped for a late lunch at Boomer’s Drive-In in Bellingham. Then we headed south, charged at the quick charger in Burlington for 12 minutes, and continued to Magic Nissan of Everett.

Trish and her blue appliqué

Trish and her blue appliqué

At Magic we were met by Ray, from whom we bought our car, who had a special surprise for Trish! A while back she had seen someone else’s LEAF had a blue console appliqué, and decided that she wanted one too. Ray wasn’t sure that we could get one, as it’s typically a factory option. Nevertheless, we was able to get one and we installed it in the car for Trish. She was delighted!

Just as we were finishing our charging session at the dealer, the heavens opened and released, of all things, cats and dogs. I quickly unplugged and got in the car to not get wet in my t-shirt and shorts, and we headed to our destination.

Day 1 Charge Level

Day 1 Charge Level

Traffic was a bit heavier than expected, probably partly due to the heavy rain, but we got through at all and got to Trish’s dad’s house. I plugged the EVSE to my extension cord and adapter and that into the 50 amp outlet in his garage — it works! We charged up to 90% then stopped — we’ll charge the rest in the morning, so the car doesn’t sit at 100% overnight.

At the left you can see a GPS track of our journey. The color of the line reflects the amount of charge in our battery: green is 100%, blue is less than that, purple even less, and red would be 0% (which we hopefully won’t be seeing!). You can see where the hue changes abruptly when we charged.

We’ll need 100% tomorrow because we’re going to attempt a long drive. Ideally we would charge in Fife and then Olympia. However the company that built the charger in Fife is now charging a $5.00 flat fee for using the quick charger — even if we only used it for a minute. So we, along with many of our EV-owning friends, are protesting by not using these chargers. We’re not upset that there is a fee, just that it is a flat fee. We’d like to see them charger per-kilowatt-hour, ideally, or per-minute otherwise.

Day 2 Route

Day 2 Route

Anyway, this means we’d like to get to Olympia (Tumwater, actually) without using the charger in Fife or any of the ones in the Seattle area (which are all the same brand). The distance we need to cover, then, is 82.5 miles. I’d like to have a reserve of 2-3 kWh for emergency detours and such. With a full charge we end up with 21.3 kWh usable in our batteries, minus 3 kWh reserve, gives us 18.3 kWh to go 82.5 miles. To achieve this, we would need to get 4.5 mi/kWh. This is probably not going to happen: our car is loaded full of camping stuff and we’ll be going at freeway speeds (depending on traffic). On the way down today we only were able to get 3.9 (the rain doesn’t help, neither did the headwind).

So our plan instead is to stop at a level 2 charger (instead of the quick charger) about halfway through the route. We will likely use the one at the Walgreens in Des Moines — it’s close to I-5 and WA-99, either of which we may be using. By my calculations, we’ll want to charge there for about 35-40 minutes to get what we need to comfortably make it to Fife. We’ll probably use this time to find some lunch nearby (there are many options there).

The rest of the day should be fairly straightforward. After charging in Tumwater, we’ll continue south and charge in Centralia, Castle Rock, and Ridgefield. This will get us into downtown Portland, where our friends live, with plenty charge to spare. They have a 110 outlet in their parking garage we can plug in to for charging overnight.

The trip odometer now reads 88.6. We’ll be adding about 200 miles tomorrow.

Remember to follow @tyrel and watch #EVroadtrip on Twitter for updates along the way. I’ll write again tomorrow night from Portland!

Road Trip: Day 1 Pre-Post: Bellingham to Lynnwood

By Tyrel on

day1route

Welcome to the first day of our road trip!

The plan today is very simple. We’ll go from Bellingham to Trish’s dad’s house in Lynnwood. We will leave home with a 100% charge, do a quick charge in Burlington, and another quick charge at Magic Nissan of Everett (the best car dealer in the world, by the way!). This second charge may not be entirely needed but we aren’t 100% confident that we’ll be able to get a L2 charge at Trish’s dad’s.

After we get there I’ll write another post detailing anything interesting that happened and what our plan is for tomorrow — a hint: it’s the longest drive of our whole trip!

Getting Ready

By Tyrel on August 27, 2013

We’re now less than 48 hours from the start of our trip, so preparations are rolling along. We’re still looking for camping meal ideas and places to stop and check out along the way.

Here is our route (which I drew up in Microsoft Paint, much to Trish’s dismay):

trip_full_route

We’re pretty excited about seeing friends we haven’t seen in a long time, and then camping out on the coast. Hopefully it doesn’t rain, but we’ll be prepared for that in case it does.

Vroom vroom! … I mean, shwoooooooooo!

How to Follow our Roadtrip Progress

By Tyrel on August 22, 2013

If you’re interested in following our progress on our upcoming road trip, here’s what we plan on posting:

  • Twitter – Either Trish or I will be posting regular updates on Twitter with our charging status, mileage, etc., and any interesting things we see along the way. You can follow me @tyrel and Trish @Trishkit or watch #EVroadtrip.
  • Facebook – We will post EV-specific things that we think would be interesting or useful for others on the Seattle Nissan LEAF Owners Group on Facebook and photos on our own timelines.
  • Blog – Right here on this blog we will post one update per day (hopefully) with a summary of our travels, including distance covered, where and for how long we charged, fuel economy, and so on, and probably post interesting pictures of things we see.

Again, the plan is for us to travel almost every day from August 29th through September 12th.

We’ll be camping most of the time so our Internet connectivity will be rather limited, but we will do our best to post to these things as often as we can. Twitter will be the easiest thing to post (least amount of bandwidth required, works well on our phones), so that’s probably the most likely place to find information.

Car Charging Adapters

By Tyrel on August 16, 2013

Something that could become a challenge on a long trip in an electric car is finding places to charge. The cars can plug in to any regular household outlet, but the current is so low there that it could take all day to charge up. So being able to plug in to higher-powered plugs, such as outlets for clothes dryers or RVs, could potentially be very useful.

Probably the best option for this for a new EV owner would be to get an EVSE Upgrade with whichever adapters you may need. However, I did not know about this when we got our first LEAF, so I purchased a fully fledged wall-mount EVSE instead. However, I did have the foresight to buy one that can plug in to an outlet, rather than requiring to be hard-wired.

cord1So the EVSE we have in our garage is the AeroVironment EVSE-RS. This is pretty much the same thing you’ll see at most Nissan dealers, but without the Nissan branding. Also, it can be removed from the wall very easily just by pulling a little lever on it. It slides right off. But, the most important thing with this model is that it is designed to plug in to a NEMA 6-50 receptacle on the wall. A NEMA 6-50 outlet is a 208-240V 50A outlet probably usually used for welders and such. I was able to find such a receptacle at Lowe’s and had it installed even before the EVSE itself arrived from Amazon.com.

On the left here you can see our EVSE installed in the garage. Notice the cord coming out of the left of it plugged in to the outlet. Since it plugs in to an outlet, I was able to create my extension cord and adapters for different kinds of outlets, so we can charge in many places now.

cord2I decided it would be nice to be able to utilize the adapters that are sold by EVSE Upgrade. Their modification to the EVSE for the 2013 LEAF includes a NEMA L6-30 plug on the end, and they sell adapters from NEMA L6-30 to various other plugs. So I wanted first to adapt from my EVSE’s NEMA 6-50 to NEMA L6-30 to be able to use these adapters.

It’s worth noting that this is an adaptation to a lower amperage socket. This usually isn’t a great idea, and I must tell you that I am NOT an electrician and if I was, I probably wouldn’t do this. However, I know that my EVSE will only draw 30 amps, since I have it connected into an old 30 amp breaker (used to be for a baseboard heater). So I’m taking a little risk.

I also wanted to have a long cord so we could, for example, reach into a relative’s house to plug in to a dryer outlet.  I combined these two needs into one 30-foot cable with a NEMA 6-50 receptacle on one end, for the EVSE to plug in to, and a NEMA L6-30 plug on the other end, to use the adapters with. You can see this on the right above.

50-amp RV hook-ups at campgrounds and some electric clothes dryers use various NEMA 14 outlets. EVSE Upgrade sells a single adapter that works in NEMA 14-30, 14-50, and 14-60 (by cutting off the unused neutral pin). I purchased this adapter as-is and the 30-ft cord can plug right in to it. That was easy!

cord3Adapter Connected to Extension CordOther dryers and electric ranges use NEMA 10-30 and 10-50. To support these, I built a cable with the NEMA L6-30 receptacle on one end, and NEMA 10-50 on the other. Then, to make it also fit in NEMA 10-30 outlets, I cut the neutral pin in half, so it’ll fit in one leg of the “L” of a NEMA 10-30, as you can see on the left.

Now, with the 30-foot cord on this plus the 25-foot cord on the EVSE itself, we can plug in anywhere we find any of these outlets within 55 feet: 10-30, 10-50, 14-30, 14-50, 14-60, L6-30. We can also plug in within 25 feet of a 6-50 and within 23 feet of a regular 5-15, 5-20, or TT-30 outlet (with yet another little adapter). The total cost, not including the original EVSE, was $174.

Outlet chart