Will we make it? Silicon Valley to Malibu EV road trip in a Nissan Leaf electric vehicle
Lately I have been wondering which is crazier, my decision several years ago to bicycle across America in my first year of marriage, or the plan my husband and I have hatched to drive his 2012 Nissan Leaf from Silicon Valley to Malibu. That’s 365 miles. It’s an easy day drive for anyone cruising in a traditional car, hybrid or Tesla. But his Leaf cannot make even 100 miles on a single charge.
Still, there’s no turning back now. The Malibu hotel reservations are made, and soon we will depart from San Jose after work on a weekday evening, chug along to Salinas, the home of John Steinbeck, whose writings coincidentally inspired our bicycle trip. But it is practicality, not sentimentality which is bringing us to to Salinas. There is a charging station there, and after 60 miles of traveling, we will need one before we turn in for the night. Traveling only 60 miles on the first night of a trip? It’s unheard of right? Not when you have an EV.
Then, it is up early the next morning so that we can make it 194.4 miles to the quirky, Danish-inspired village of Solvang, California. (If you saw the movie “Sideways” you saw Solvang). If any of you are doing the math at this point you will know that on this day, we will drive for about four hours and charge the car for close to seven hours, spread over two stops. Through his ChargePoint app, my husband has been keeping his eye on one of the crucial chargers we will need along the way, and every day, it has been available. We are keeping our fingers crossed that it will be vacant when we arrive. Then, we will need to find a way to kill three hours while the Leaf charges. Blogging about our adventures (and misadventures) will occupy some of the time, but three hours is a long time to do nothing. We were unable to find any super chargers along the way. There are only about 386 of these DC Quick Charging Stations in the nation. The only ones in between San Jose and Malibu are those specifically designed for Tesla Motors vehicles. These super chargers would reduce our charging time to less than 30 minutes, but the Tesla ones are not compatible with my husband’s 2012 Nissan Leaf.
Our destination in Malibu has not one, but two chargers, and the inn owner drives a Chevy Volt. Now, that is our kind of place. We are spending two nights there so we can relax and rest up for the trip home, which honestly, we haven’t quite figured out yet.
The logistics of planning this trip are not for the faint of heart, and underlines the challenges of selling the Leaf to Americans as the only car in the family, as the latest advertisements are trying to do. ( We could, by the way, ask Nissan for a free gas-powered rental car to take this trip, a benefit offered by the dealership for those who want to take a jaunt past range, but what fun would that be?)
This beats the challenges of planning a bike trip, and we will be able to beat our 44 miles a day average for that trip. When we pedaled 4,697 miles across America in the 90’s, we actually used paper maps and had to cut out the names of motels and tape them on pieces of paper and pack them in panniers. Now, we just search for the charging stations through Blink Network or ChargePoint apps, plot them on Google maps, and click to find the accommodations nearby.
Nevertheless, what traditional driver needs to spend an entire evening creating a spreadsheet for 365-mile road trip? That is what we have done, mapping out charging stations, and our backup, fellow EV drivers who are part of PlugShare, and allow others to come to their home to charge an electric vehicle. A total of 4,785 chargers of the 20,138 chargers in the nation listed by PlugShare are home charges which EV drivers open to others. We are hoping we will not need to do that, but if there is one thing I learned about out bicycle trek, it is to expect the unexpected, and never underestimate the kindness of strangers.
We are hoping for both as we take on the EV ride of our lifetime- or perhaps the first of many. Come along for the ride, and see how well our EV and our marriage survives a road trip from Silicon Valley to Malibu. And, wish us luck!