Last Friday I noticed that the fuel efficiency or “mileage” display in the Leaf indicated 8.0 km/kWh. (“kWh” or kilowatt-hour is the amount of electricity required to light ten 100 watt light bulbs for an hour.  One kWh costs $0.12 in New Brunswick.) The Leaf’s mileage has been improving each month since hitting the usual low of about 5 in mid-winter. This latest milestone, brought on by the warming spring weather, made me reflect about how my perspective of the value of tracking mileage has changed.

Ever since getting my driver’s license at age 16, better mileage simply meant saving money. The better the mileage the more I had to spend on other things.  My 1977 Honda 750 Supersport motorcycle was a fun ride but at 80 miles to the gallon (mpg) it was also incredibly cheap transportation.  Later on Lee and I kept things thrifty with our 1985 Camry which beat 50 mpg.

Now with our Leaf, improving mileage is no longer about saving money. Well, it does save money but the amount involved is tiny. If the mileage in our Leaf drops 10% then the cost of electricity for our Leaf rises $2 from $23 to $25 for a month (1,300 km). With the Leaf I only focus on mileage when we’re going on a trip because better mileage means more range.

My typical out-of-town trip is to Saint John. That’s 108 km one way. The Leaf can hold a charge of about 20 kWh. At 5 km/kWh the Leaf could only go 100 km (20 kWh x 5 km/kWh) on a charge so travelling to Saint John wouldn’t be possible, forcing us to use our gas car.  At 6 km/kWh the Saint John trip is a breeze. Definitely a reason to know what mileage to expect and plan accordingly!

The range of electric cars and the number of high-speed chargers are both expected to grow dramatically over the next couple of years.  The 2018 Tesla Model 3 and the 2017 GM Bolt will have a range of at least 320 km. The 2018 Leaf is expected to match that. Long range models for 2020 have been announced by many other manufacturers.  The recent federal government budget includes funding for high-speed chargers along all major highways.  Increased range and good access to chargers will mean long distance travel in electric cars will require no more planning than when using a gas-fueled vehicle.

For now, mileage determines whether our trips will be fueled by gas or electricity but very soon mileage will get relegated to the dusty corner of interesting but unused statistics.




South Shore Tour

In 2014, a month after buying our Leaf, we headed out to PEI on our first electric car road trip.  In 2015 we did our second trip, this time to Halifax.  For our third trip, this year we’re going to drive the complete southern circuit of Nova Scotia.

Our grand tour includes taking the ferry from Saint John to Digby then visiting Digby, Yarmouth, Liverpool (Hell Bay Brewery!), Bridgewater, Lunenburg, Chester, Halifax, Avonport (quilt shop!), Grand Pré (Just us Coffee!), Kentville, Middleton, and Annapolis Royal.  Our previous trips to PEI and Halifax involved multiple 2-3 hour charging stops to get to our destination.  This time we’ll be able to get to each destination on our tour with a single charge. At each stop we’ll plug in the Leaf then wander off to explore. Yup, on this road trip the Leaf will be waiting for us to finish exploring rather than us waiting for the Leaf to finish charging.

The first part of our route includes crossing to Digby on the new Fundy Rose ferry.  While talking to the reservation agent I pointed out how handy it would be if their nice new modern ferry had a charging port on board for electric cars.  Hint! Hint!

Charging the Leaf on the tour will be mostly free since many Nova Scotia communities have installed Sun Country Highway chargers.  These level 2 chargers are installed in public locations and are free to use.  Kind of a thank you for not producing emissions. One charger which is not free is the fast (level 3) charger in Halifax.  There are only two of these fast chargers in Atlantic Canada so, even though we don’t need to, we’ll probably pay the $5 for the thrilling experience of filling up in 20-30 minutes instead of two hours. Ah, what passes for a thrill for us these days…

As I mentioned, most places we plan to explore have level 2 EV chargers. shows us where they are, whether they are working and when they’re available.  The charger in Kentville was last reported as broken so I’ve asked, through Plugshare, a fellow EV owner to check it out so we can plan appropriately.  Lunenburg does not have one but the owner of the B&B is allowing us to plug into one of their regular 110 volt outlets. Annapolis Royal does not have one either but the B&B owner wants $20 to use their 110 volt outlet.  Hmm. An overnight (10 hour) charge would use about $2 (12 kWh) of electricity. $20 for $2 of power seems a little steep so I plan to skip that offer since we won’t need a charge at that stop anyway. I do plan to quiz the B&B owner about that rate though.

We’re both looking forward to the trip.  We’ll get to visit places we’ve enjoyed before and places neither of us have ever been even though we’re both Maritimers! I’ll let you know how it goes when we get back.  Here’s hoping for sunny skies, warm days and speedy charging!