My First Long Journey in my Leaf

The plan had been to travel to Bristol on the 11am train from Worcester and meet up with Jan for lunch and to stay over with friends for the Harbour Festival. We believe strongly in public transport and green issues so how disappointed was I when the bus failed to arrive and I could not get to my train?

IMG_5688aI could wait for the next but, like local buses, the trains to Bristol run every two hours. It seems my best option was to take my Leaf. I’d never tried such a journey before where two charging stops may be needed.

From home to Bristol is about 70 miles so, theoretically, I could do that easily with one charge in Bristol for the return. But my actually destination was south of the City and I was meeting Jan city centre which meant some extra miles to find her and park.

I did go to Slimbridge some three months back and tried a charge at the new Gloucester services so I was comfortable with the idea of motorway charging. It was that I would travel down the M5 using Gloucester services each way to be sure of easily meeting my Bristol destination and getting back home again.

Having been on charge overnight I was ready to go, luggage loaded my car slid quietly off my drive in the direction of Worcester and the M5. And that’s where I realised that my caution to have enough charge was wise. The southern link road was at a standstill so I pulled of into Worcester as soon as I could and took an alternative route to a roundabout nearer to the motorway.

I found myself back in the slow queue but fortunately not for long as we passed the large truck on the highway having a wheel changed. I estimated that this had added about three or four miles to my journey so not serious.

Down onto the M5 another decision was needed – how fast should I travel?

Last time I used the M’Way I kept to 50; I recall other EV drivers commenting that they kept to 50. This time I set cruise control to 60 with faith that the cruise control would ensure smoother control of braking and acceleration and compensate a little for the higher speed.

And so I travelled until I arrived relaxed at Gloucester services about half way on my journey.

1stChargeGloucServSBoundI was the only one at the electric bays and was soon hooked up – my reading on arrival was 40 miles travelled and an estimated 63 miles in the battery.1stChargeGloucServSBoundMeteronArriveSo, despite my constant 60 mph I had a total travelled and remaining mileage of 103 and felt very pleased.

1stChargeGloucServSBounda The meter on the Ecotricity charger said that it had charged my car to 94% in 40 minutes – given that I already had about 60% when I arrived that meant a charge of 30%+ in 40 minutes; plenty now to ensure my arrival in Bristol and to get back to Gloucester on Sunday without anxiety.

But I was soon to understand why it is wise to top up when available – just as I keep my iPhone charged. Soon after re-joining the M5 I found myself in a very long traffic jam.

I looked at the map on my dashboard and saw that the cause of the problem was way down towards the M4 junction at Almondsbury. I could try leaving the motorway and using the SatNav to guide me but it seemed that too many people were already doing that and it felt like Hobson’s choice.

So I stayed put and planned to drive as economically as I could – keep a distance from the car in front, get as steady a speed as possible and lifting my foot to allow the car breaking system bring me to a stop when needed using the regenerated braking to supplement. Remarkably, as I observed others getting quite hot under the collar, I felt quite calm. The mere act of working with the car for the best outcome and travelling in such a quiet cocoon with some lovely soft music helped me to sit quietly and go with the flow.

Eventually we arrived at the horrific aftermath of a big accident with police all over the place laying markers and taking photos – in a few minutes we were through and I had been delayed almost an hour – but my remaining mileage seemed quite good and getting into, and then through, Bristol to South Bristol should be no problem.

We had lunch in the City Centre and did some shopping whilst the car sat at a 13A charger in Cabot Circus car park and then we went down to our friend’s house on the route out towards the airport. My only concern was to ensure that I had enough power to get back to Gloucester Services no matter what incidents I might encounter. Fortunately my 13A charging lead would reach from my friend’s driveway into the kitchen and we charged to full charge.

When, on Sunday morning, I switched on my predictive distance was 105 miles – despite all the problems of Friday and the constant 60mph where possible.

The day had started well; my wife would take the shorter route across the City and up the M32. I decided to get quickly onto the Portway and go directly to the M5; the reason I took this route was to get back to cruise control and have the minimum of stop/start and speed changes.

The decision seemed to pay of and when I got to Gloucester Services to have a predicted 49 mile left to travel – more than enough to get home comfortably.

ArriveAtGlocServNBoundSundayI decided to re-charge – doing what EV drivers usually do – work in the way we use our iPhones – when not in use, plug in. My wife, delayed a little after a stop for some shopping, pulled in nearby a few minutes later – no matter the real reason, it felt good to have got there before a big diesel engine.

We had planned to stop here for lunch ; another Leaf was leaving as I arrived so I slipped into his bay and connected – then, as I looked round an Electric Highway [Ecotricity] car pulled alongside – travelling on a journey to meet EV drivers as they stopped at Electric Highway chargers on motorway service stops.

Met EV enthusiast charging his Nissan Leaf at Gloucester Services Northbound

ReturnChargeGloucServNBoundIt was such a good opportunity to thank Ecotricity for providing such a fantastic – and free – service to EV drivers.

After lunch, and shopping for amazingly good produce at Gloucester Services, I got back to find the car fully charged (I get an e-mail from the car telling me when charging had finished!) to find it now predicting 105 miles – I was amazed that I could travel at a decent speed and still make the distance.

Now for the final leg I decided to indulge and set the Cruise Control at 70!

I had to move between nearside and second lanes. At 60 I had been almost only in the nearside lane and it felt fine. Now I had to overtake occasionally and was sometimes tail-gated – didn’t bother me, I was only paying 2p a mile – in fact that’s untrue as most of my power was free courtesy Electric Highway.

So what was the effect of the higher speed, apart from getting home sooner?

After an overnight charge the predictive mileage was 95 but after a normal local trip out today that moved closer to 100. So some travelling at higher speeds can be OK. I felt very pleased!!