We had a fun week on the road in Nova Scotia: good food, beautiful scenery, friendly people and some neat historical stops. Of course there were a few twists, given that our transport was our electric Nissan Leaf.
What’s it like going on a 1,000 km trip in an electric car with a 100-140 km range? Well, we did a lot of planning to ensure that the route has chargers/outlets not too far apart. Even then you can run into the odd snag.
After a foggy two-hour crossing on the Fundy Rose (Saint John – Digby ferry), we headed to the charger at the Digby town hall to top up the Leaf before heading to Yarmouth for our first overnight stop. Instead of a charger this is what we found:
Just a smashed corner and a dangling wire where a charger used to be. Not good. There are no other chargers listed in PlugShare (www.plugshare.com) for Digby, and it was Sunday so the town hall was closed. Lee spotted a regular electrical outlet next to the front door so we decided to plug into that and scout around to see if we could find a faster charge elsewhere.
After a short walk we found the Digby tourist information center and explained our situation. In true small town hospitality, they tracked down everyone they could think of who might be able to help even though most of these people were at home since it was Sunday. They were unable to find a charger but we did find out what had happened. Three days prior to our arrival, a fellow accidentally plowed into the corner of the town hall with his car. The charger had been removed until repairs could be completed. Bad timing on our part.
In the end, using the regular 110 volt outlet instead of a level 2 charger increased our Digby stop from a one-hour supper stop to a three-hour visit. So instead of exploring Yarmouth that evening we explored Digby. Just proof that a good plan still needs flexibility.
Digby was the only place where we didn’t get to use the charger we expected. In Yarmouth the EV charger was right where PlugShare said it would be – in the free central parking lot. We charged for about 10 minutes then headed over to the hotel for the night. The hotel directed us to one of their regular outside outlets so we could plug in for the night. Although Yarmouth had two EV chargers available for use, we ended up using the hotel outlet for most of our charging since it was so convenient.
In fact, during the tour we were able to charge overnight at each of the five places we stayed using a regular outside outlet. Almost half of the power required for the trip ended up coming from these convenient outlets. At the NS Power small business rate ($0.155 including tax), the cost to the innkeeper for each of these overnight charges was pretty small – about two dollars.
In Shelburne the charger was conveniently located in a free public parking lot next to the waterfront. Liverpool does not yet have an EV charger, so we plugged into the regular outlet at the local tourist information center. At the Lunenburg County Lifestyle Center in Bridgewater there were fourteen chargers! That’s what PlugShare indicated but they were still quite a sight!
In Chester the charger location was not only convenient but had a view:
Our charging in Halifax, Grand Pré, Avonport, and Kentville all went off without a hitch. Before leaving home, PlugShare alerted us that the charger in Middleton was not working. We had enough power to get to our next stop but we decided to send a PlugShare charge request message to a fellow EV driver in Kingston. He was happy to oblige so we added a Kingston stop to the tour, top off the Leaf charge and exchange EV stories with a new friend.
To charge at Annapolis Royal I needed to provide a little EV education. This village near historic Port Royal did not have a community EV charger so we planned to charge at the B & B at which we were staying. The initial response from the owner was to say that it would cost $20 for us to plug into their outside outlet. After we arrived I talked to the B & B staff about just how little electricity the Leaf would use. We charged for free.
We’ve learned a few things about touring with an electric car with a 100-140 km range. First, you do a lot of planning to ensure that the route has chargers/outlets not too far apart. Second. you drive (more) conservatively (90-95 k/h in a 100 k/h zone) to improve mileage to ensure you can get to places near the edge of the car’s range. Third, your priority at each destination is to start charging before doing anything else. Lastly, you need to be ready to handle some surprises like a missing charger or an interrupted charge due to a blown circuit breaker.
As Canada’s charging infrastructure rolls out, trips like this will become far easier. As hotels, restaurants, etc. install chargers, EV drivers will be able to easily access another charger if the first is unavailable. More chargers also means less planning about charging – probably less than the planning most of us do now for when to fill the gas tank.
The other change coming that would have made a big difference in this trip is the increase in the range an electric car can go on a full charge. By 2018, the minimum range for new EVs will be 320 km and shortly thereafter many cars are likely to exceed that. With that range we would only have needed to charge three times on our tour and most of that could have been overnight.
So how’d we do? Our total trip was just over 1,000 km. We found lots of places to charge the Leaf. Although we were surprised by a missing charger the worst adjustment to our schedule was a two hour delay. We finished another road trip without tailpipe pollution and, even though NB and NS power generation uses some coal and oil, far less greenhouse gas emissions than our gas car would have. Feels good. Looking forward to the next time.