I started the trip with about 95% battery. I normally start with 100% but this time I didn’t leave first thing in the morning. I got back from work and put the car on charge for about half an hour and there was only 95% when it was time to leave. My plan was to drive as far as Olot and get a top up charge. So we headed in the direction of Girona, pleased to see the roads were still clear. Usually, late on a Sunday, the roads get completely filled with traffic leaving the beaches of the Costa Brava. The Sun was still shining and they hadn’t left the beaches yet. It was smooth sailing all the way to Olot. Onwards for some destination charging.
The rapid charger was easy to find. This was at the north of the city and we haven’t used this one before. I’ve used the other two Chademo chargers in Olot. There is one at the Nissan dealership which is just down the road from the other public charger at the restaurant by the roundabout. I used the Nissan dealership on my previous visit to the town. This was because the charger at the restaurant didn’t activate so I couldn’t use it as before. I’ll try that one again next time and give it a go with the Barcelona Electric Vehicle charging I now have. The last time I was trying with the Girona electric vehicle card. Weird the way it worked one time and then not the next. Such is the way of the world of RFID cards.
The car said No…
Stayed for about 35 minutes and I added around about 15 kWh to the battery. It was on the second try when I got the charger to work. The first time didn’t go well because I got the order of set up incorrect – possibly. The machine activated but the car said no. So I disconnected and started again from the start and the second time around everything went smoothly. The car was charging at about 32 kW which was pretty good. It would’ve been nice if you could have gone in at the maximum 44 to 48 kW. It was long enough for us to get a drink of Coke in the cafe nearby. It was another chance to see a slice of life from the town we were visiting for the charging. The people inside the cafe restaurant were playing cards noisily and a little girl was cutting up a cardboard box to make something or other. Her dad was telling her off and she wasn’t interested. She just ignored him. It was quite funny to watch. A couple of young boys were playing on the fruit machine, wasting their money. There was another restaurant nearby although it was only a kebab place and I didn’t like the look of it. One more cafe in the vicinity but it wasn’t open. I was surprised it was closed but it didn’t really matter in the end. We could just have easily sat in the car, we had snacks and drinks anyway.
Charge Points Improvements Needed
It would be nice to see some of these charging points with some sort of covering. To save us sitting in the Sun while charging the car. It would be even better if these canopies included solar panels. It seems like these charging points would be the perfect place to situate used electric car batteries. They might not be any more use for electric vehicle but perfect for jobs such as this.
On the Road Again
Left the charger in Olot with plenty of battery. We headed towards the mountains. Still very little traffic on the road so the drive was easy. The countryside getting more interesting the further we got away from the Mediterranean Costa Brava. Good to see the landscape getting greener due to different types of trees. I waited until we arrived in Vilallonga de Ter where the hostel was situated before setting the GPS to find the place. It wasn’t easy to find first of all because it was tucked away down a small alleyway. Then the place wasn’t open and the owners were not answering the telephones. Fortunately we only had to wait for about 20 minutes before a little lady turned up to let us in and show us our room. I was a little bit despondent and frustrated during the waiting time. I was thinking the place was completely closed and we would lose our money on the booking. Thought we’d have to go and book somewhere else. I wasn’t happy at the thought of wasting money in that way. When I booked the room I asked if it would be possible to charge the car. When we arrived we could immediately see it wasn’t going to be possible. There was no parking right next to the place and we were parked about half a kilometre away. I don’t think I was going to run a cable that distance. Even so, I still had 73% left in the battery and so was time to work out if I’d have enough to go the next leg of the journey. There were no public chargers in the town. There was one in the next town, allegedly, but when I sent a message to the owner of the charger I didn’t receive a reply. Lucky I didn’t need it for the trip.
Still a bit of an electric vehicle newbie
In the evening I was having discussions with my wife about the trip. To be honest she’s a little bit negative still about electric vehicles and the charging capabilities. Still thinks it’s necessary to have a car with 500 km of battery range. She could be partly right if things don’t improve with the charging network here in Spain. It is still early days for electric cars in some countries. I used to be a little bit worried about travelling across the border into France and finding charge points. Not any more! Now I have the NewMotion card I’m confident I have enough range to get from one charger to another. The only problem is most of the chargers tend to be the one suitable for the Renault Zoe. A Zoe can charge at up to 22 kW AC which is fairly fast charging although not quite to the level of CHAdeMO or CCS. Unfortunately, the Nissan Leaf can only take in about 6 kW from these chargers. This is only as fast as I can charge the car using the level II charger at home. It can still be quite useful for this type of grazing charging in between the CHAdeMO charges.
Don’t Worry Be Happy
So bearing in mind a level of worry regards having enough battery range to reach the top of the mountain and then onwards to the first charging point available on the other side, there was some worrying to be done. It turned out I was worrying about nothing and my plan was going to work out. At one point I had thought about giving up the route across the mountain and going in the other direction completely. If I’d been able to do some destination charging at the hotel my level of confidence would have been higher.
How much range do you need in an electric car?
If you have a large battery it’s extra weight for the car to carry. It’s also extra time needed to charge that battery. The right size of battery is one which gives you enough kilometres to complete your journey without worry. This is going to depend upon the charging infrastructure along the routes to your destinations. To go some places within Spain it would be better to have the Tesla with a larger battery and longer range. Or a better, cheaper possibility would be the Hyundai Kona. One example of this Problem would be the drive from Zaragoza to Madrid. At present there isn’t a charge point at the halfway point between these two cities. It would be necessary to make phone calls to tourist information points in the towns on the route to ask for specific help. You need to find if there is a restaurant, bar or whatever type of public plug socket available in order to get some charge into the car. Maybe it will be possible to pull into a campsite or you’d have to stay overnight in hotel which offered whatever charging facilities.
The scarcity of chargers will be eliminated over time. There is the chicken and the egg situation with the electric cars and charge points. Fortunately more people are buying electric vehicles and someone is bound to see the light and start building a network of electric charge points throughout the country. This has already happened in countries such as France, Germany and the UK. Some cities within Spain are adding public chargers, some to look after the citizens of the city and some for general public use by passing traffic. The public chargers for the citizens of the city tend to need an RFID card you can apply for locally. These are not much use if you arrive in the town in need of a charge and you don’t have the card. Some businesses and companies are working on the basis of providing charge points to encourage electric vehicle drivers to visit. Restaurants and hotels get business from the people waiting while their car charges up. Even supermarkets have added various levels of charge point to encourage people to use their facilities.
Does the 2018 Nissan Leaf have enough range?
I would have to agree my wife at the moment to say that the 2018 Nissan Leaf could do with more range. You could say that 95% to 99% of the journeys made by a Spanish driver a Nissan Leaf would be more than enough. It’s the longer trips and you have to make detailed plans when you start to wonder. It sometimes necessary to have a plan B and maybe even a plan C. I have already run into situations where a charger I wanted to use wasn’t working for me. I had other options when this happened. If worst comes to worse there’s always the option of knocking on someone’s door and asking to plug-in. Failing that you drive as far as you can and then call the flatbed truck of shame to get you to the next charging point. Only needs more range here because the Spanish as a bit slow to roll out the infrastructure.
That all seems a little bit negative, but on the other hand there are many plus points to having an electric vehicle. I’m prepared to be at the forefront of technology and being an early EV adopter. This way I get to see more of the benefits of having an electric car. The running costs are extremely low. Low in terms of cost of energy to propel the car. Low in terms of negligible maintenance required due to the absence of so many moving parts as you’d find in a combustion engine.
It’s impossible for me to have an unbiased view of the merits of my Nissan Leaf. I love the car and its technology and I’m prepared to put up with the range/charging infrastructure conundrum as it is at the present time. It’s without a doubt the best car I’ve ever owned and I’ve owned quite a few, including a few good ones. If money wasn’t a consideration then I’m sure I would just go and buy a Tesla. The use case I have for an electric car doesn’t make a Tesla a good option for me. My finances simply wouldn’t stretch to one of those and I don’t really need one either. I could have stayed with perfectly acceptable ICE car I had for 4 years before the Leaf. Not what I wanted though. Running a non-polluting car with fantastic technology is more important to me. I’m loving the trips out to test the capabilities of the 2018 Nissan Leaf. The future looks great for Electric vehicles!
Driving down the mountain
The road down the mountain was fairly slow for driving with lots of bends to negotiate. This meant I was able to get lots of battery regeneration. I started off with about 160 km of range and at the bottom of the mountain I had about 240 km. That’s a significant amount of charging using regeneration from the motor to the battery. So we arrived at the Reveo type 2 Mennekes charging point at the back of some shops in Saint Jean Pla de Corts and I used the NewMotion card to activate the charging point. You’ll see how it’s done in the video. The charge was going in at around 5 kW or 6 kW which is the limit for the onboard charger in the Nissan Leaf. We stayed there for about an hour and the charge cost me €3.09. It was at the right time during the day because it was lunchtime. It was good to time the charging for when we expected to be doing some eating. So what if you spend an hour charging the car. You are doing something else is not like you were standing at the petrol pump holding the filler to put in dinosaur juice for that amount of time. I can’t see why people would complain about the time it takes to charge a car in this situation. At the end of the charging period, I had more than enough to get me all the way back home. No range anxiety was felt at any point of time after reaching the top of the mountain. I drove home on the non-motorway roads just because it was a more interesting drive and I wasn’t in a hurry. Even with going faster and using the battery less economically by going on a motorway I would still have had enough to get home without worrying.
No stress driving
I didn’t drive as far as with the last trip where I did 500 km in one day. On this trip, I drove 300 km split over two days. I arrived back at the house still as fresh as a daisy due to the assistance of the 2018 Nissan Leaf driving technology. Pro Pilot Assist is still useful to use on the national roads especially when used in conjunction with the E.pedal. I love using pro pilot when I’m in slow-moving traffic. Just a quick press on the reset button on the steering wheel to get moving again. I don’t even need to press the button if the stop has been less than three seconds. Not having to mess about switching from the accelerator to the brake pedal also makes for less stress when driving.
Already planning the next trip
This still more to visit and see in the mountains. For the next trip in the 2018 Nissan Leaf will be stopping at the same mountain village. The hotel we stayed at was so good and with a good price, it’s worth going to again. Next time will be going to look at some other nearby towns we didn’t see on this trip.