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Kolob Kilowatts
EVSEs at the Visitor Center

March 24, 2015

Mark D Larsen

Last Friday, the Environmental Protection Assistant for Zion National Park, Ranger Juli Rohrbach, gave me some very good news: two of their EVSEs were now installed and operational at the entrance to Kolob Canyons. As the PlugShare map shows, for a $5 fee (plus 30¢ sales tax), EV drivers can obtain a passcode valid for three days, with two more EVSEs to be up-and-running in Zion Canyon by mid-summer.

Naturally, I couldn’t resist the temptation to be the first visitor to put those Kolob Kilowatts into my EV’s battery pack, as it had been over two years since I had hoped to see charging stations installed there. Yesterday dawned clear and mild, so ‘Tisa and I loaded some refreshments into the Leaf and set off for a day trip to the mountains. I have to admit that I was concerned whether or not my battery capacity was still sufficient to make the steep ascent. You can see in the photo on the left below that the Guess-o-Meter predicted 72 miles of range from a 100% charge upon departure, and the middle screendump from LEAFStat shows that the battery capacity was at 79.56%.

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As the photo above on the right shows, we arrived at the Visitor Center after 45.5 miles on backroads and a stretch of the I-15 freeway. The GOM now guessed 14 miles of range with 3 charge bars remaining. That gives a theoretical total of only 59.5 miles from the full pack. Obviously, the climb and the freeway speeds had taken their toll. Still, thanks to the slower pace on the backroads, and every hypermiling technique I could muster, I managed to achieve a very respectable 4.7 miles-per-kWh —notably higher than the first time I drove my LEAF there. Whew!

At the Visitor Center you have to pay your entrance fee at the rangers’ station, but the charging fee separately at the gift shop counter, run by the Zion Natural History Association. Since I was the first tourist to purchase a passcode, the process was a learning curve for both me and the shop employee. We both then went outside to see how to initiate a charging session. We discovered that you first need to enter the code on the EVSE's keypad, next push the blue “start/stop button,” then plug in the J1772 connector to your EV. In my case, I also had to override my timer by pushing its button inside the LEAF. Voilà! The electrons were flowing.

I only charged for a few minutes while I took ‘Tisa for a walk around the Visitor Center and browsed the displays and gift shop. It didn’t take long before I knew that I had restored more than enough charge to drive the steep 5-mile road to the highest lookout point in the park. Rather than make a long story even longer, I’ll just let the photos below speak for themselves.

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After descending back down the road to the entrance, I again plugged in to give the LEAF a good charge before heading home. The Visitor Center closed just a few minutes later, at 5:00 PM, but there is no problem continuing to charge from the EVSEs as long as you have a passcode. ‘Tisa and I ate a light dinner that we’d brought with us at a picnic table nearby, then listened to an audiobook for while, and finally decided to unplug at about 6:00 PM. The battery wasn’t full, only 10 charge bars were showing, but I knew from experience that we would have more than enough juice to make it home, thanks to ample regenerative braking most of the way.

Below on the left is the dashboard when we pulled into the driveway. We had driven 101.6 miles round trip, including the tour of the canyons. There were 31 GOM miles and 4 charge bars remaining. Adding the two bars less than a full charge, this suggests that we ended up with twice as many bars inbound as outbound. The miles-per-kWh had risen to an impressive 5.5, and the display readout in the middle below showed 5.6, again much higher than the first time I drove to Kolob Canyons. It just goes to show what a difference elevation changes, regenerative braking, and easy-does-it driving can make. Curiously, the battery capacity in the right photo was now 79.62%, i.e., .06% higher than when we left —probably because the pack was now a few degrees warmer.

Back in Garage
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Energy Screen
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I always enjoy my visits to Kolob Canyons. I now plan to take that day trip more often, since I can also recharge both my Leaf and my sense of awe and wonder when contemplating those magnificent vistas.