My friend Klaus and myself have spend more time and more miles (on motorbike(s)) together than we care to count. And the pattern is that once in a while we need to do something crazy. This time around we decided that in the next 5 years we will visit all of the major road races in the UK & Ireland (at least) once. To refresh your memory, these are ...
- The Manx GP on the Isle of Man
- The Northwest 200 in Portwest
- The Ulster GP on the Dundrod Circuit
- The Southern 100 on the Isle of Man (in the south)
- and a couple more, but let's start with these four
Last week we went to see the Northwest 200. The trip was awesome!!! Road racing is different. One good way to learn more about it, is to watch "Road". The movie tells the story of the Dunlop Dynasty (a family of road racers). Robert Dunlop died on 15. May 2008 racing at the Northwest 200. Two days later his son Michael was racing again and won the 250cc race at the Northwest 200. While we were there we obviously took the chance to pay our respects to Robert and his even more famous brother Joey.
So ... it was an emotional trip, but also very inspiring and very impressive. The skill, the passion, the commitment is unbelievable.
But ... that is not what I wanted to talk about!
What I wanted to talk about is range anxiety, because I now own the Nissan Leaf for 2 month and this was the first time I wanted to go on a road trip. Naturally I was concerned about the range of the car and if I will be able to make it from Dublin to Portrush or if I will get stranded somewhere in the middle of nowhere with no power and no charge point nearby.
To cut a long story short: All my fears were unfounded, but there are a couple of things that I learned and that you need to think about when you do a road trip with an electric car. Here are my lessons learned ...
- First things first: Let's talk about range and the range of the car. The advertised range is 199km. That is not realistic. A more realistic range under optimal conditions is 150km. Charging the car to 100% takes a long time, means on a road trip you will probably use the quick chargers that you find on the way and charge to 80% (30-45 mins). With 80% charge you can get a range of 120km. But again that is not realistic, because to feel comfortable you probably want to have 20km of range left over by the time you get to the next charging point (just to make sure you have enough left over in case you get lost looking for the charging point or in case the charge point is broken and you need to go to the next one). That means that for a road trip you should calculate with a range of 100km between charge points. Wind resistance increases with velocity, means it makes a big difference if you are driving 80km/h, 100km/h or 120km/h, means to get to 100km range you cannot go faster than 100km/h, means you will roughly drive for an hour and then charge for 45 mins and that leads me to the big conclusion of the road trip: Getting there (to Portrush) was actually no problem. There are plenty of charge points on the way and if you realize that you need to get into this rhythm of 60 mins of driving followed by 45 mins of charging you can go as far as you want, but ... it is going to take you twice as long as you think to get there, means for me a road trip has nothing to do with range (anxiety), but with making peace with the fact that it is going to take twice as long to get to where you want to go. In our case it took us 5 hours to get to Portrush. In Portrush I was talking to another Nissan Leaf owner and he mentioned that earlier in May he went from Portrush to Cork and it took him 14 hours. I have to say that I actually enjoyed this rhythm of 60 mins of driving and then a cup of tea and a quick walk. We arrived safe and sound and were very relaxed (not exhausted).
- The second take-away from the trip is that the infrastructure in the Republic of Ireland (ROI) and in Northern Ireland (NI) is second to none. There are plenty of charge points in NI and in the ROI. All of them work. All of them are free of charge (using the ESB charge card). All of them are compatible with the Leaf. Very rarely you arrive and need to wait for somebody else to finish charging (and if so most of the time it is less than 15 mins). There are mobile apps (for iPhone and Android) to help you to find the charge points and the navigation system in the Leaf will help you to find the best charging points on the way.
- At home I am fine with the public charging points and with my home charging points, means I do not miss the granny cable, but while traveling (especially when you arrive at the B&B at the other side) I would not mind to have the extra option of a granny cable. The original Nissan cable is <believe-it-or-not>EUR 1000</believe-it-or-not>. No comment :(. But I am thinking to get this one.
- The best thing about charging the car while being on the road is that you get to talk to a lot of other Leaf drivers/owners and all kinds of people who want to know how this works :).