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A 1200 Mile Journey: Testing The Limits Of The 2018 Nissan LEAF

A 1200 Mile Journey: Testing The Limits Of The 2018 Nissan LEAF


Revealed on Might 4th, 2019 |
by Jennifer Sensiba

Might 4th, 2019 by Jennifer Sensiba 

This is the story of a 1200 mile journey taken in what’s principally the incorrect automotive for the job. I made a decision to test the 2018 LEAF to the bounds, in a number of alternative ways. Speedy charging repeatedly, going up one of the steepest interstate freeway climbs within the US, some off-highway driving, and lengthy journeys into places with no charging stations have been just some of the issues I decided to take on. I assumed that after more than a yr with the automotive and virtually 50,000 miles on the odometer I knew what the LEAF was product of, nevertheless it turned out that I still had more to study.

This is principally a followup to a earlier story I wrote about getting ready for backcountry EV journeys. That article exhibits the issues I did to organize. Now I’m going to share the way it all worked out.

Day One: Deep Into The Heart Of Arizona…or Not?

Armed with knowledge from A Better Route Planner, I began the journey in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Las Cruces is a smaller city about 35 minutes north of El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. I began at one among my flats with a 100% cost. I had beforehand picked up a full-size spare tire, a compact floorjack, and numerous other emergency provides that the LEAF doesn’t come with from the manufacturing unit. That added some weight and decreased vary a bit.

I started the climb toward Arizona utilizing U.S. Highway 70 as an alternative of Interstate 10 (I-10). The first few miles are quite steep — the climb from the Rio Grande to the flat deserts past challenges most automobiles making an attempt to maintain up the velocity, and I knew it might challenge my LEAF’s battery, each when it comes to consumption and warmth buildup. Unfortunately, my LEAF is likely one of the first 2018 models and still suffers from #Rapidgate.

Deming’s Electrify America station. Photograph by Jennifer Sensiba

By being cautious on the steep climb and watching the rest of the primary 50 miles, I managed to maintain the battery’s temperature low enough to get an honest (for the LEAF) 43 kW charging fee. It was expensive, but I charged the LEAF to 98% at Deming, New Mexico’s new Electrify America station. I figured that with some ice on the pack and cautious driving, I might forestall an excessive amount of warmth buildup, particularly once I had hours to go earlier than reaching the subsequent CHAdeMO station in Tucson, after an extended, steep drop down Texas Canyon.

I ended two more occasions for some degree 2 charging at RV parks in Lordsburg, New Mexico and Willcox, Arizona. The stops have been largely uneventful, but I did verify every small town along I-10 in search of Electrify America stations. Despite nonetheless being a desert very similar to El Paso, small Arizona cities like Bowie and San Simon have some very nice inexperienced patches along their “business loop” roads in small river valleys, but nonetheless haven’t any degree three charging.

I made some errors leaving Willcox on a climb as much as the top of Texas Canyon, and had much less battery left than I hoped for, so I needed to do dozens of miles of downhill coasting. I managed to make it to the CHAdeMO close to Tucson’s airport with Turtle Mode appearing simply as I pulled into the parking zone. I experienced a lot more nervousness than I appreciated, however I did make it!

It was right here that I began experiencing real problems. I knew concerning the problems with #Rapidgate, but all of my earlier experience with it had been driving in the metropolis and never after repeated highway driving. I only acquired 22 kW from the Tucson station, and needed to charge for about an hour to make it. I took it real straightforward going to Casa Grande, and still obtained only 18 kW at that station. Considering that outdoors temperatures have been within the 60s, this was the worst I had ever seen. The unique plan was to hit 2–3 extra stations within the Phoenix metro space after which climb to Cordes Lakes, Arizona. It was already 2:00am, and I knew the brutal I-17 climb was going to put the battery pack nicely into the pink zone, so I had to seize an affordable motel hours in need of my objective for the day.

Day Two: Beginning A Wrestle With Nissan

A cool little unbiased vendor I’m writing about in another story

I knew the automotive needed to chill in a single day before charging additional, so I decided to spend the first a part of the subsequent day operating errands in the Phoenix space. Cease one: the local Nissan supplier.

I’m writing more about this in a separate article, however briefly, Nissan shouldn’t be taking good care of the second-generation LEAF’s early North American consumers. When it turned apparent that folks have been unhappy with the LEAF’s charging conduct, they built an upgraded firmware for automobiles that have been bought simply months after mine. The new software permits for a lot better charging speeds without such intense throttling. For European clients, they allowed the early 2018 house owners to get the most recent firmware. US clients like myself, however, don’t have this feature.

I made a decision to stop by the local vendor that has a slower CHAdeMO station (to avoid more heating) and make 100% positive that they were not going to offer a firmware upgrade, they usually verified that my info was current. No software program updates have been obtainable for my car. I then had a telephone name with Nissan concerning the problem, and registered my grievance with them.

By this time, the battery was getting toward full, so I ended by a number of other places in Phoenix where I needed to collect info for other tales.

The Massive Climb

After hitting one other slower CHAdeMO station in northern Phoenix, it was time to start out heading up one of the steepest Interstate freeway climbs in the USA. With battery temperatures slightly elevated, I knew there can be some minor problems, however I did time issues to make this climb later in the evening to keep away from overheating. Once I left Anthem, Arizona, the air temperature was around 70°F, and the battery was just one tick above the center.

As anticipated, I was passing semi-trucks repeatedly. The steep grades, particularly after Black Canyon Metropolis, are simply too much of a job for even the most important diesel engines when carrying 80,000 pounds of cargo and car. Unusually, although, I noticed two SUVs, a sedan, and a motorbike all on the aspect of the street, overcome with a tragic combination of deferred upkeep and excessive circumstances. Small clouds of steam billowed from underneath each car’s hood.

As I acquired toward the top, I saw that the LEAF was starting to wrestle. It had reached the pink zone on the battery temperature gauge and was beginning to limit energy output to stop injury. I never wanted the extra energy to climb, nevertheless it reduce a few third of the facility by the time I reached Cordes Junction. It never slowed me down, however it’s clear that doing full velocity expenses down in The Valley followed by a summer time daytime climb would doubtless make it fail before Cordes Junction.

As planned, I ended for the night time at a nice place with both lodge rooms and an RV park. It’s right behind the truck cease, and in addition has a bar and ’50’s fashion restaurant. The house owners have been really nice, and the rooms have been great. At this greater elevation, in the spring, temperatures have been around 60°F, so the automotive would haven’t any drawback cooling down in a single day whereas utilizing degree 2 charging.

The automotive and I each rested and ready for the subsequent climb as much as Flagstaff. I was starting to get a cold, so it’s debatable whether I or the LEAF was in worse form. For a minimum of a number of hours, the LEAF was in all probability struggling more.

Day three: Heading to the Grand Canyon

One of many Grand Canyon’s views.

I ended up starting today a bit late. Not only was I just a little drained from the day earlier than, but the chilly was progressing and getting worse. I slept a bit more than standard, and ended up hitting the street round 11:00. I needed the remaining, but I’d come to regret it later.

The automotive easily made it up the rest of the best way to Flagstaff. There were still a couple of steep climbs, and some disabled automobiles on the aspect of the street, however I didn’t construct up too much warmth after a cool morning start. I managed to reach with some range left and relatively little warmth buildup.

Not too way back, the Swift truck cease close to the Flagstaff airport installed a 50 kW CCS/CHAdeMO charger, so that was going to make the journey so much simpler! Once I pulled up, I was pretty impressed with the appearance of the station, and it appeared like a nice place to hang around while getting enough electrons saved up for the subsequent leg of the trip.

Sadly, although, the warmth did have an effect, and I might only get a 25 kW charge price from the LEAF’s pc. I anticipated that, but I didn’t anticipate that the charger was going to die every jiffy and require that I restart the session. Despite the challenges, I managed to get enough juice together for the rest of the journey. ChargePoint was pretty cool and gave me a partial refund for my hassle. After virtually an hour, I used to be ready to go on.

I passed by way of Flagstaff and started my means up US-180. At this level, I was a bit nervous. I knew I had plenty of range and even had 20% to spare in accordance with ABRP, however I also knew there was loads of up and down on the route I used to be taking. Google Maps and Waze each really helpful going by means of Williams and then up to the Grand Canyon, however ABRP showed a lot much less consumption taking the extra direct route. I knew that there was an enormous drop not long after Flagstaff, however the first few miles have been tons and plenty of uphill. Finally, after reaching over eight,000 ft of elevation, the drop began. For a lot of the best way right down to the top of US-180, I was capable of coast the LEAF in N-mode and acquired loads of “free” miles.

The remainder of the trip to the South Rim went pretty easily, and I made it to the charging spot I had picked out with about 12% to spare. Ready 6 hours to cost on degree 2 wasn’t an enormous deal at this level, although. I walked to a nearby shuttle bus stop and managed to see a superb chunk of the South Rim earlier than it was time to pack up and go. I saw every little thing on the Hermit’s Rest shuttle route and a lot of the places close to Brilliant Angel Lodge. Later this yr, I hope to return back and see more of the park!

Once I left the Grand Canyon, I had 98% battery and the cool temperatures made warmth buildup much less of a problem. A lot of the first few miles have been coasting and lightweight energy, proper up till I received to the intersection with US-180 once more. The climb after that led to some pretty good heat buildup, despite the temperatures approaching freezing as I reached the eight,000 foot high-point. I reached the ChargePoint station in Flagstaff with temperatures elevated enough to get solely 25 kW once more.

These delays, mixed with my late start within the morning, made me arrive method too late at an Arizona state park near Winslow. Individuals around have been all asleep, and even quiet makes an attempt to arrange camp have been too noisy for the nearest neighbors. We ended up having to sleep within the automotive till morning. This was principally the low point of the journey, but we survived it.

The LEAF at the Painted Desert

Day four: The Petrified Forest

Once we arrived on the Petrified Forest, we nonetheless had a bit bit of charge, however not sufficient to start out exploring the park. At the north entrance, the portion devoted to the Painted Desert, we found a working ChargePoint degree 2 station. Kind of. After a number of occasions connecting and disconnecting it, we received it working and obtained a cost for a few hours while testing the visitor middle, a brief movie, and the present shop. This gave us enough cost to go forward and drive around the park and explore it more absolutely.

We knew that the south entrance visitor middle wasn’t communicating with ChargePoint’s network, but have been hoping it was a minimum of working disconnected. That might have made it simpler to spend so much more time doing the hikes on that finish with out disruption to our schedule, but we discovered the station to be stuck in some type of reboot loop. Every time it will be wanting like it will come up, it started the boot process once more. We would have to wait till later within the journey to spend good time down at that end of the park.

I can haz cheeto?

On the best way again, we bumped into a very skilled beggar. He was brief, had very darkish hair, and piercing eyes. He’d take a look at us with probably the most pitiful look, and we knew he needed some of our Cheetos. We threw some on the bottom and he flew down from his little perch to grab them. He swallowed them multi functional chew and flew away. He had obviously accomplished this before, as he was one of the heaviest crows we had ever seen.

We enjoyed the remainder of the park as a lot as we might, including taking within the sights. We noticed loads of fossilized timber, wildlife, and tons of vacationers. It was enjoyable. But then we would have liked to go back to the north entrance customer middle to get a charge to make it out to our motel for the night time and have sufficient charge for the subsequent day’s exploration within the desert.

We spent the night time at the Day’s Inn in Chambers, AZ. Despite being the only business on the exit, it was an excellent place to get some relaxation. We managed to run an extension twine out to the automotive for some degree 1 trickle charging, and the lodge administration didn’t mind in any respect. The onsite restaurant had a superb breakfast, and after sleeping in the automotive the previous night time, we slept extraordinarily properly.

Day 5: The Rural Land Loop

The Painted Desert. Photograph by Jennifer Sensiba.

This was the part of the trip I used to be probably the most nervous about. We would have liked to visit several plots of land in the space for one among my images shoppers, and the most effective property was situated a superb methods away from pavement. With all of this unpredictable consumption ahead, I was glad to know I was starting the day with 100% battery. It simply helped scale back the stress a bit.

The most obscure property was south of the Navajo Travel Middle exit on I-40. We started on pavement, then went by means of a gravel development zone. After 11 miles or so on pavement, we went onto a well-maintained gravel and dust street. After three extra miles, an indication read “regular county maintenance ends.” The final house we saw had an enormous image of a gun at the end of the driveway and a warning to not come up the driveway until one was providing free beer to the owner. four miles later, we went from that washboard street to a easy two-track street with weeds in the center.

By means of all of this, together with some brief sand patches, the LEAF did just high quality. Sometimes, some brief weeds would brush along the bottom of the automotive, but that didn’t harm something. Even when the path acquired considerably uneven and bumpy, the LEAF had loads of articulation and by no means even came near bottoming out. I didn’t even should disengage traction management. It was like somewhat Dune Buggy and simply trucked right via something that obtained in the best way. It was so surprisingly good on uneven terrain, that I questioned whether or not I can purchase an older LEAF and make an off-road car out of it.  

Don’t get me improper, though — I’ve lots of experience off-roading and know that you must decide your strains rigorously. I all the time stored the automotive’s limitations in mind, and knew find out how to work with them. That having been stated, the automotive did quite a bit higher than other small automobiles I’ve taken into the desert.

At this level, we have been really in the midst of nowhere. There was no one for miles around, and no homes or different infrastructure of any sort close by. Even the drone at 400 ft couldn’t see any indicators of humanity aside from us or the filth roads. It actually doesn’t get rather more wild or remote than this, at the very least within vary of a round journey to a charging station.

The area we took the LEAF into. The automotive is a small, black speck alongside one of many dust roads close to the center of the photograph. We really took it into the middle of nowhere.

Once we started heading back to the freeway, we observed the only error I’ve ever seen the LEAF present on the dashboard. After gently bumping a small sand dune, the automotive’s ahead collision avoidance function was disabled. Some sand had blown into the sensor embedded within the Nissan badge on the front. As soon as we acquired onto the nicer filth roads and obtained above 20 MPH or so, the error cleared and went away. Apparently, the air dashing by was sufficient to wash out the sensor and make it return into operation.

In any case this, we made it to the Petrified Forest customer middle again with about 20% cost. The last little little bit of energy I had gathered up at the motel the night time before stored us from getting to “low battery warning” territory, and drastically lowered our nervousness. We did have to cost for a lot longer than we had hoped, especially when the ChargePoint station give up on us half method by means of a cost. As soon as again, the telephone help gave us a partial refund, so that helped soften the blow a bit.

This time, we had much more power than we had on our previous visit, so we took some hikes. Close by, I knew there was an previous alignment of Route 66 that handed via the Nationwide Park territory. It was just a little robust to seek out at first, but once I found the previous pavement, the hike become a miniature archaeological expedition! We discovered tons of previous bottles, some automotive elements, and even beer cans.

A discarded beer can alongside previous Route 66

It dawned on me that we’re at a crossroads of historical past. My electric car was charging close by nearer to Interstate 40, and I used to be strolling where generations of travelers had come earlier than on Route 66 in automobiles that have been much totally different from mine. Even the legal guidelines had changed quite a bit. For example, right now you’d be in a real mess if caught consuming and driving, and even having an open container of alcohol in the automotive. Just throwing a soda can may deliver lots of of dollars of fines. The individuals of half a century in the past? They have been throwing their beer cans out once they have been accomplished with them.

But on the similar time, I was out right here testing some relatively undeveloped know-how and had to make frequent stops, identical to the travelers did in the previous days on 66. In an era of closing fuel stations and abandoned rural interstate exits, I used to be extra just like the previous street’s customers than most of right now’s vacationers.

After climbing, we had lunch at the little restaurant next to the present store and I sat and worked for some time. The meals was fairly good. The international-style architecture of the building and sophisticated, mixed with pleasantly colored blue and orange tables, plus good decoration, made it a nice, enjoyable place to eat, relaxation, and charge the automotive up. When not tired and wired, it was also a superb place to get caught up a bit on emails, article writing, and checking on social media. It’s good to get out and set up workplace in such far-flung locations.

For those who ever travel by way of the world in an EV, it’s value noting that utilizing the charger doesn’t require paying the park’s admission payment. It’s situated within the parking zone before the admission gate, so it’s a usually nice place for anyone needing a couple of more miles of range.

As soon as we had enough charge saved up, we took yet one more drive by way of the park and again to US-180 outdoors the south gate. It was good to see all the sights round sunset, and we even noticed some wandering wildlife. Rabbits and hares have been widespread, like anyplace within the desert, however we additionally managed to see some pronghorn antelope. Before the park closed, we lastly had a chance to stroll out to the Agate Home on a path that was a street just some years ago.

From there, we drove to Lyman Lake State Park, where we had a cabin reserved for the night time. Arizona State Parks is basically cool, and places a full set of RV hookups subsequent to most of their cabins, they usually didn’t cost us additional to use that plug to charge the LEAF whereas we slept.

Day 6: The Journey Again to New Mexico

Route 66, then and now.

By this point, we have been greater than able to be house and sleep in our own beds once more. The journey had been tough on us, and we have been sleeping lower than we would have liked each night time. Whereas the LEAF had dependably gotten us this far without being stranded, it wasn’t doing in addition to we felt it should once we bought it. I’ve all the time been the adventurous, early adopter sort, however my companion shouldn’t be. The stress was lastly starting to actually eat at her.

We drove by way of Springerville, Arizona, and on to Alpine, Arizona. Alpine is considered one of Arizona’s highest cities, but the climb was spread out over many extra miles on lower velocity roads than our earlier climb up I-17. Heat wasn’t really a problem, and we arrived at the journey’s highpoint with about 55% battery. This left us with about 2.5 hours of cost needed to succeed in the subsequent charging stop.

I had been to Alpine a number of occasions earlier than, so I was considerably conversant in it. I grew up in a Mormon household, and the city began long ago as a Mormon settlement. I had buddies who had lived there, and family who frequented the world. It was additionally a variety of enjoyable heading up to nearby Huge Lake during summers as a kid. My associate had by no means been there before, so we had a bit enjoyable exploring the outlets and testing the surroundings because the automotive charged.

Having not stayed a member of the Mormon church and being in a relationship they still think about sinful, I was somewhat nervous hanging out in a small Mormon city, however it turned out to be nothing to worry about. Identical to a lot of the rest of the world, the individuals of Alpine appear to have made progress and treated us as kindly as some other travelers passing by way of. I used to be glad to see that a place I loved as a kid was someplace I can still take pleasure in at present.

The subsequent a part of the drive was so much less nerve-wracking than most of the previous few days. We have been headed on a steep downhill for a lot of the next leg of the journey. It was at this level that I discovered lots concerning the LEAF’s e-Pedal system.

On some steep downhills, I’ve observed that the e-Pedal system likes to skip regenerative braking at occasions. I’ve seen it on a full battery, which doesn’t surprise me, however I’ve seen it try and go down steep hills driving the friction brakes at quite a lot of battery levels. I might understand if the LEAF threw within the occasional friction brake for a number of seconds to stop rust buildup or something, but driving the friction brakes for extended durations is the right recipe for disaster.

To drive the automotive to do the protected thing, I had to turn the e-Pedal off and shift to B mode. This made the automotive reliably use regenerative braking down each following steep downgrade and stored the automotive from overheating the friction brakes. For those who’re a LEAF owner and discover the automotive behaving this manner, be sure you do the identical.

I knew I needed to attempt one thing totally different to protect myself, but drivers who don’t know what to be careful for right here might get themselves killed with e-Pedal on a mountain street. If it runs friction brakes for lengthy enough, it might cause the brake system to stop working in any respect, leaving a driver in a really dangerous position. I really hope Nissan takes a take a look at this and corrects no matter poor coding causes this harmful conduct.

We stopped for lunch at the Catwalk Recreation Area close to Glenwood, New Mexico. We didn’t need a cost at this point, but we have been ready to eat and stretch our legs. On the best way in, we went by means of two river crossings on the access street. Stream flows on this space have been much greater than normal because of larger snow soften this spring. One of many crossings had short-term warning signs saying it was passable only by high-clearance automobiles.

The LEAF, parked near “The Teepees” at Petrified Forest Nationwide Park.

Despite water touching the LEAF’s doors, we easily crossed the river at the concrete crossing and came up the other aspect. This in all probability additionally gave our battery a fast cool-off that it actually wanted.

After we have been finished eating and climbing, we drove the remainder of the best way to Silver Metropolis. We arrived there with solely about 8% battery left, despite ABRP predicting we’d have about 20%. After wanting into this, I noticed that ABRP relies on OpenStreetMap knowledge, which frequently has incorrect velocity limits. At this point, I was actually glad that I had given myself additional margins and didn’t plan to reach anyplace on the EV equivalent of fumes.

After dinner and charging for a few hours in Silver Metropolis, we have been prepared to go on to Deming, NM. After two days of relying on nothing but degree 2 charging, we have been glad to lastly make it to a different speedy charging station. Regardless of all the downhill driving and river crossings, the battery had heated up once more and only gave us 28 kW of charging power. However compared to 6.6 kW, we have been still joyful to have it. We only wanted to stay in Deming lengthy sufficient to make use of the restroom, and we have been capable of easily set the cruise at 80 mph and drive the final 50 miles back to Las Cruces.

Remaining Thoughts/Takeaways

This was a HARD journey. Describing it to my mother, she informed me she’s unsure she’ll ever need an EV. I explained the restrictions of the Nissan LEAF to her, and she or he chilled out a bit, realizing that these issues have been principally confined to at least one sort of EV, however it scares individuals. Once we try to help get more individuals to drive electric to assist save the world, automobiles like this don’t assist the cause. Giving US clients the software update would go a great distance, but the best way the battery overheated leaving Phoenix on a spring night time nonetheless exhibits why EVs need an actual cooling system.

I once had a pal who obtained stranded in her 2013 LEAF and was afraid to inform others concerning the expertise for worry that it might harm EV adoption. I disagree. We need to inform the reality about EVs which are sub-par so individuals don’t get a nasty shock shopping for one and determine to never attempt one once more. We need to hold producers accountable and get them to do the suitable thing if long-term EV adoption is the aim. For now, we have to ship our associates to purchase Mannequin 3s, Bolts, and others with the correct stuff.

I nonetheless actually like the automotive, though. For many of my driving, it does the job high-quality. It gets the youngsters to high school, takes me out to run errands, and makes for a fun drive. It’s a disgrace that one thing as relatively low cost as a cooling system would have made the automotive so much more helpful.

I’m nonetheless glad I took the trip. I hadn’t pushed the automotive so onerous with speedy charging up to now, and didn’t know what a pain it might be on journeys, or how shortly it will turn on me and delay me. I’m nonetheless hoping to take a 4,000 mile journey later this yr once more Electrify America stations are put in, and understanding these limitations helps me know that it gained’t be feasible till Nissan issues a proper software update like the company did for European clients. I’m glad I didn’t find myself stuck out someplace in west Texas later this summer time!

Despite the large drawbacks I discovered, it still proved itself to be good in most different respects. The automotive did an incredible job going out into the desert on unpaved roads. It did an excellent job taking me from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon and back. It has loads of room for street trips, and was very snug the whole time.

The thing I really hope to realize from doing all of this troublesome testing is to get Nissan to assist me make this automotive a better car, not only for me, but for all the other drivers who trusted Nissan sufficient to sign on the dotted strains final yr. I hope we will work collectively to make an ideal car even better! 


Tags: #rapidgate, Arizona, CHAdeMO, chargepoint, DC fast charging, Electrify America, EV fast-charging, EV street trips, Google Maps, New Mexico, Nissan, Nissan Leaf, Nissan LEAF long-term assessment, Nissan LEAF street journeys, Waze

Concerning the Writer

Jennifer Sensiba Jennifer Sensiba is a very long time efficient car enthusiast, author, and photographer. She grew up round a transmission store, and has been experimenting with car effectivity since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to explore the Southwest US together with her associate, youngsters, and animals.

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