My 2014 Nissan LEAF SV plugged in at a home about 300 meters away from my own home in Aurora., Colo. after it ran out of charge. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]

editors-blog-entry3I finally pushed it too far with my 2014 Nissan LEAF last night. My SV and me and my two daughters came up 300 meters short of our home, running out of charge just about 50 meters beyond a very dangerous left turn we have to make across three lanes of traffic with cars traveling 55 to 60 m.p.h.

This happened at precisely 12:15 a.m. Denver time. I had to wake up my sleeping kids, pull them out of the car, roll the car backwards down a hill I wasn’t going to make it up, and park it on the street.

We then trekked 300 meters home in the chilly January air, and hopped into bed.

Well, I didn’t hop into bed, I hopped online and mused over whether I should finally get an Aeroenvironment AV TurbCard 240 Volt portable plug-in EV charger, which can charge my LEAF three times faster than the trickle charge I am using exclusively now.

I’ve been “trickle” charging my 2014 LEAF for the entire 11 months I’ve had it, meaning I’ve been charging it exclusively with the 120 Volt plug-in EV charger that comes with the LEAF. The 120 Volt charging cord/set is incredibly slow in re-charging the LEAF’s battery. From a zero charge, it takes 21 hours or so. And that’s my core problem — I’m charging exclusively at a slow rate when the LEAF is my ONLY car!

So, it’s kind of “my fault” that we ran out of charge last night. But not entirely.

We were coming back from my brother’s house in Boulder, Colo., which is 45 miles away from my home in Aurora, Colo., with 90 percent of the driving consisting of highway driving — highway driving uses up the battery’s charge the fastest.

My brother has a Tesla Model S. That means I cannot use his 240 Volt charging station unless he buys/I buy an adaptor — because Tesla has an exclusive charging sytem/unit/plug-in “hole”. I’m forced to trickle charge at his house. That’s really annoying!

I bring my daughters up to my brother’s house 45 miles away from us  once every two weeks, and I’ve cut it close a few other times with a 90 mile round-trip and only trickle charging at his home. I thought about buying a portable TurboCard unit just for that purpose — plugging into a dryer outlet he has in his garage.

I do not have a 240-volt outlet in my garage in Aurora. I’d have to shell out $300 to $400 to have one put in + plus another $599 for the TurboCard portable charger — the charger’s portablity is very attractive to me. So attractive that I would definitely not want to buy any other kind of charger for my garage.

So, why not just spring the $1,000 for the entire set-up?

Well, since my wife moved out after we separated in August 2014, taking our gas car with her, I’ve been thinking seriously about moving and selling our home, and I didn’t want to invest $400 (I’d take the TurboCard charger with me when I sold the house) to get a set-up that works. I know I will not recoup that $400 in the sale of our home.


The display of my Nissan LEAF 2014 as it appears after the car has zero battery charge left. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]

I also don’t have the money — it would immediately go on to a credit card bill I can’t pay off (BTW, I’m not living the high life here, just trying to survive on a split family income and a journalism professor’s income — a business or law prof’s salary we do not get ;-).

On the other hand, what I’m doing right now is probably downright unsafe — what if my LEAF had completely run out of power as I was making a left across three lanes of oncoming traffic traveling at 60 m.p.h.?

It would all be solved if I could actually plug in wherever I went — yesterday morning I drove 24 miles round trip to our church and back before I had to do the 90-mile trip to Boulder, Colo., and back.

But the reality is not charging stations everywhere, a reality which would essentially solve all my problems. Instead, it’s one where I was forced to knock on a stranger’s door and ask if I could snake an extension cord into her home so that my LEAF would have enough charge to make it the final 300 meters to our house.

She said yes, though I think she doesn’t have a clue what an electric car really is.

I’m definitley grateful for the kind neighbor :-), and that everything worked out. But I’m thinking I’m going to have to spring the $600 for the over-priced Aeroenvironment 240 volt charger at this point. What do you think?

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6 Responses

  1. Tom

    Electric cars also have reduced battery output in cold weather. You should get an app that shows electric charging stations and use them, especially on trips you know will tax your capacity. Most hotels at interstate exits have them, I know La Quinta does. It is only a few bucks to charge and might keep you and your daughters from a terrible accident.

  2. Doug

    I would personally look at getting really cheap beater gas vehicle. You need a buffer for emergencies. I did buy the Aeroenvironment 240V cord charger and did it myself on the plug in the garage. So, I kept the cost 700 range. The nice part is that the cord can do 110v like your original cord. Also, with a little plug magic you could plug in at brothers house. And also… cord goes with you to the next house.
    Thanks for opening up about your late night adventures. It gives me that extra motivation to keep clear of the red line of battery life. 😉

  3. Glenn

    There are many ez charge and charge point stations from boulder to denver. (Free at boulder nissan ) I think a little bit of planning goes a long way with a leaf!

  4. BillSF

    I have a 2015 Leaf S. I had my cable upgraded by the company that Riley listed ( http://evseupgrade.com/?main_page=index&cPath=1) so I could charge at 240V when needed. I did have a separate circuit installed (it cost about $200 if I recall correctly), but I could have just bought an adapter to my dryer outlet for $30. They have multiple adapters available so if your brother has a different socket….only $30 for another adapter. The upgraded cable by EVSEupgrade charges at about 2 1/2 – 3 x faster than the standard 120V. Power draws is something like 3.6 kW vs 1.6 kW IIRC. The charging equipment inside the car uses something like 400W baseline, so that is actually 1.2 kW net versus 3.2 kW net.

    I switched to time of use electricity billing so my power is cheapest from 11 pm – 7 am. The 2015 Leaf S has a crappy menu-based charging timer that is very limited. I have gotten around this by getting a simple 120V mechanical timer ($11 or so on Amazon) for when I just need to charge 10 – 45% during the night (using the onboard menu timer if I need to charge at 240V during the night for a 50%+ charge). If you can use a standard dryer plug, you can get a similar mechanical timer for 240V and charge at full speed during the night. Having the 240 V available makes it easy to recharge during short weekend trips. Your 25% round trip to church could be recharged in about 1 1/2 – 2 hours with the 240V cable upgrade.

    If none of these are an option, you’ll have to just plan to hit a Level 2 / DCQC charging station somewhere along your route. The Level 2 charger will give you about a 35% charge in an hour for a reasonable price (after your 2 years of free NC2C expires). The DCQC costs about as much as an equivalent amount of gasoline and will give you +60-75% charge in 30 minutes depending on where you are starting.

    • Christof Demont-Heinrich

      Thank you for sharing. I appreciate the input and suggestions 🙂


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