12 Jan Len’s Tips for Current EV Owners
Who is Len? Len Beck is a Senior Rate Analyst at PHI. Len has been a Nissan LEAF owner since February of 2012. Keep reading to learn about Len’s experience and tips on owning an EV!
About the Leaf
Q: What’s the ECO mode in a Leaf?
LB: ECO mode extends the driving range of the Leaf. When driving in ECO mode, the acceleration speed is reduced a little, and the heating and cooling systems use less power to save more for driving. In addition, the regenerative braking system is more aggressive, capturing more power when braking. Regenerative braking converts the rolling motion of the car to electricity, which is returned to the battery pack, allowing more driving range.
Q: What’s the range of my 2012 Leaf based on the smaller battery size?
LB: My 2012 Leaf has a 24-kWh battery pack; 4 kWh make up the minimum buffer and cannot be used. So, 20 kWhs x 3.5 = an expected range of 70 miles. The speed of travel makes a big difference in how far you can drive. At 65 miles per hour, I might drive 35 miles; at 35 miles per hour, I can drive 100 miles. The newer Leaf has a 30-kWh battery pack, so the range is expected to be about 100 miles per charge.
Q: Did you ever test the range to zero to see what happened?
LB: Yes. Once when returning home from an outing, the range remaining showed about six miles. My son and I decided to drive in the neighborhood and surrounding area to see when the limp mode would engage. After driving about five miles with a low speed, and the range reducing to two miles remaining, the limp mode did not yet kick in. We gave up and returned home to charge.
Q: What is the “limp mode” programmed into the Leaf?
LB: If you’re driving and nearly out of power, the Leaf will automatically change to limp mode, which reduces the top speed to about 35 miles per hour. With this feature, it’s really hard to run completely out of power.
About Home Charging
Q: Did you buy a 240-volt charger, and at what cost?
LB: Delaware offers a rebate for EV chargers, which I learned about and applied for in 2015. I bought a Siemen’s wall-mounted, Level 2 charger from Home Depot for $550. The rebate was $500, so my net cost for the outlet and charger was only $200! Note that the price is lower today.
Q: What can I expect the cost of installing a 240-volt plug to be?
LB: The distance from your circuit breaker box to where you will install the outlet will make a difference. If the box is in the garage, the cost will be lower than if the electrician needs to run a line from the opposite end of the home, or through the basement. My 240-volt outlet installation (labor and parts) cost $150.
About Public Charging
Q: Can you depend on internet searches to locate recharge options?
LB: Over the years, the internet has captured more and more charging locations as many organizations have installed charging equipment for public use. I’ve learned to be cautious about blindly depending on new charge options. If the location you plan to use happens to be a Tesla recharger, you cannot plug your Leaf in. If the charger is behind a locked fence, you may not gain access. If a gas-powered vehicle is parked in the “EV only” space, the wire may not reach your car. I tend to do test drives to new chargers to confirm they’re installed, in working order and accessible.
Q: Do you have a ChargePoint access card? How does it work?
LB: Yes. It works like an EZ-Pass card. I paid an initial $25 deposit. Each time I recharge, the balance is reduced. When the minimum is hit, the card automatically refills using my Visa card number on file.
Q: Have you ever run completely out of power and needed to be towed?
LB: Yes. I usually check Google Maps to confirm distances. The one time I was towed in five years of Leaf ownership, I thought I knew the distances between chargers. I was off 20 miles! I was towed to a not-so-high-powered Level 2 charger in Philadelphia where I waited about three hours to fully recharge for the 50-mile drive home. Fortunately, I was within blocks of a movie theater, so during two of the hours I spent waiting, I enjoyed a movie.