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My 280-Mile Single-Day Nissan LEAF Roadtrip |

did something last weekend that was completely normal and uneventful for most Northern California motorists: I drove a car from San Jose to Sacramento and back. The only difference was that I was driving was a 100-percent battery-electric Nissan LEAF.

One of the recurring objections to pure battery electric vehicles is limited range, so I set out to Sacramento to see if the 2013 LEAF’s real-world range (and the region’s charging infrastructure) would be an onerous task, or smooth sailing. Full disclosure: Nissan offered me the use of a top-of-the-line loaded 2013 LEAF SL (MSRP $36,910 before incentives) for this medium-distance day trip, utilizing the current CHAdeMO Quick Charger in Northern California.

A Zero-Emissions Yogurt Excursion

The itinerary would take me from my house in San Jose, to Elk Grove, Calif., a suburb of Sacramento, 140 miles away. The first Nissan DC Quick Charger in Northern California had just been installed at Elk Grove Nissan. Here’s the important part: My wife wanted me to pick up a particular type of yogurt for her, which is only available at a few stores in the Sacramento Delta area. If EVs are ready for prime time, shouldn’t I be able to add errands like this?

The 280-mile round trip would be primarily freeway driving in 85-plus degree weather. In a conventional car, this trip would take about two and quarter hours each way.

I left the house with a full charge on the LEAF at 7 a.m. and proceeded northeast on highways 101 and Interstate 680 toward Sacramento. Traffic was already getting heavy with the usual weekend Tahoe traffic, and for the first leg of the trip, I averaged about 62 m.p.h. My first stop for recharging was in Concord at the Concord Hilton Hotel at 60 miles. Hilton has installed two Blink CHAdeMO Quick Chargers, and five of the slower Level 2 chargers that are available for anyone to use.

I arrived at the Quick Charger at about 8 a.m. and plugged in to charge with the car indicating that the battery had 21 percent capacity or 22 miles left in it. While the car was recharging, I went inside the hotel, used their facilities, had a cup of coffee and relaxed and read the paper.

The car was done recharging 32 minutes later, and with 85 percent capacity, I was back on the road again by 8:30 a.m.

Escaping Notice

I proceeded onto Interstate 680, then to Interstate 80 moving along with traffic that was getting heavier. I set the cruise control to 65, and settled in the slow lane. Nothing out of the ordinary so far. In fact, the LEAF is all but invisible on the road, with no one giving me a second glance despite the fact that I was cruising along in traffic, and using absolutely no gasoline.

When I left the Concord Hilton, I still had about another 80 miles to go. At freeway speeds I was going to end up a little short, so that would require a short stop in between Concord and Elk Grove to get just a bit more charge. The next charging station was in Vacaville, Calif., at a city owned Park-and-Ride that is right off of the Freeway. That station has both a CHAdeMO Quick Charger and several of the 240v Level 2 chargers available at no cost to the public.

Unfortunately when I arrived in Vacaville at 9:00 a.m., the Quick Charger was offline, but the Level 2 Chargers worked just fine. I had driven 33 miles from Concord to get to Vacaville—that’s 93 miles from San Jose—and still had 42 percent battery capacity or 35 miles of range left. So I just needed enough of a charge to add about 15 miles of range to the car. I decided to charge for 30 minutes on the L2 chargers and see how far that would get me.



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