Las Vegas
National Drive Electric Day

September 12, 2017

Mark D Larsen

Shady Characters
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Like last year, I had considered hosting another National Drive Electric Week EV'ent here in Southern Utah. However, upon polling the other EV owners in the area, only two of them could commit to assist with the effort and expense. Even worse, the dealers were ill prepared, and not very willing, to lend a hand. For example, the Nissan dealer hasn't had a LEAF on the lot for over a year, with no plans to order one, and the Chevy dealer let me know that they anticipated receiving only one Bolt by the end of the year. I therefore decided to forego trying to organize and host an EV'ent all by my lonesome for 2017. Instead, for the 5th time last weekend, I drove my LEAF to Las Vegas to support their celebration. Below are annotated photos of the adventure.

Click to enlarge any photo:

When I got in my LEAF for the journey south, I decided to check my battery’s capacity with LEAFstat. If you click to enlarge the screen shot, you can see that the replacement “lizard” pack still had 95.30%.

The battery was full, and the GOM was guessing 98 miles of range. This early bird was ready to worm his way over the mountain pass to Mesquite, where I would recharge.

When I pulled up to the charging stations at the Eureka Casino, I saw that —as usual— previous drivers had left the EVSE cable twisted and lying on the ground. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. I used to naïvely think that EV drivers, by definition, would be more courteous than other hominids. NOT!

Indeed, one of those previous drivers had evidently broken off the plug holder on one of the Tesla stations, so I could only wind up the cable around its protective box.

I had driven 41.3 miles and used only 4 charge bars, thanks to the steep descent to Mesquite, which explains how I managed to achieve a whopping 6.9 miles-per-kWh.

I plugged in the LEAF, and then went in the casino to have some breakfast in its café while the battery recharged.

After about an hour-and-a-half, I received an alert that that charge was finished. I was now going to try something I’d never done before: drive all the way from Mesquite to the northernmost NV Energy EVSEs in Las Vegas, a distance of about 78 miles. I was hoping that the new “lizard” battery could handle it, if I drove about 20 MPH slower than the speed limit on the interstate.

As the charge bars kept dropping mile-after-mile, I’m sure that my knuckles grew whiter and whiter on the steering wheel. The good news is... I made it, with only the two red “warning” bars left, and 13 miles on the GOM, a total distance of 77.9 miles. Phew! By driving slower than normal, I had even managed to eke out 5 miles-per-kWh.

I arrived to find the EVSE cables... on the ground —gawddamnit! What’s the matter with people? Much worse, I discovered that both EVSEs were... broken! I now felt range panic. I called ChargePoint, and after being on hold for several minutes, the rep who finally answered, Dorel, tried to reset the stations —to no avail.

Dorel then guided me, with the help of my LEAF’s GPS navigation, to the next nearest EVSEs at the College of Southern Nevada, about 4 miles away. ChargePoint must have installed these EVSEs since the last time I had driven my LEAF to Las Vegas two years ago, so I was unaware that they now existed. I had to wander a bit through the CSN parking lots, but eventually spotted them behind the Telecommunications Building.

I used my ChargePoint card to initiate a session and plugged in. To my relief, these EVSEs were working just fine, feeding as much juice in my LEAF as its 3.6kW charger can handle. I strolled around the campus, and entered the building to connect my laptop to its WiFi. I did some work with the online classes I teach, and then even watched a movie while waiting.

It took a good 5 hours to give the battery an 80% charge, which is all I wanted for the NDEW EV'ent the next day. I then drove to my motel near NV Energy again to settle down for the night.

Bright-tailed and bushy-eyed, I arrived at the Springs Preserve for the EV'ent early to see if I could help set things up.

The City Captain, Stan Hanel, was there with other members of their EV group.

They had arrived with a Volt and two Ford plug-in hybrids, just when the morning drizzle had started to dissipate.

I chose a spot on the other side of the lot under its solar canopy, and backed in to display my LEAF, knowing that I would be the only participant from Utah.

I had brought the posters I made for Earth Day showing a comparison of the emissions and fuel costs after 5 years with my LEAF and solar panels. They fit nicely behind the windshield so that attendees could still read them if it started to rain again.

NV Energy showed up with a trailer that touts renewable sources of power. There were solar panels on the roof that they angled up to catch the sunlight. The outfit also boasted a wind generator on the front, but they didn’t bother to extend it up or turn it on for the gathering.

I volunteered to help Stan and his crew set up signs directing visitors to the EV'ent. I took one sign out to the main road at the entrance to the Springs Preserve and set it up as best I could on the corner.

The ground was much too hard to insert the metal legs of the sign, so I borrowed some boulders from the landscaping nearby to secure it upright.

After walking back to the site, I saw that they had managed to set up the tables and laid out the swag, brochures, drinks, and refreshments for the guests.

It wasn’t long before the public started to show up, with many more EVs to display.

I was intrigued that there were some EVs that I hadn’t had a chance to see before.

For example, this was the first time I had seen up-close-and-personal a Fiat 500e.

I also saw a Smart Fortwo EV for the first time, which parked next to an i-MiEV.

Another i-MiEV parked next to my LEAF and opened its hood to show its inner workings.

A Tesla Roadster also arrived, as well as the Chevy Spark EV parked behind it.

A Tesla Model X pulled in next to the Roadster, and it was amazing to see the size difference between them. I think I counted 3 Model X and 3 Model S throughout the day. There were at least a half-dozen LEAFs like mine, and probably 8 Volts. My only disappointments were (1) the Bolt that had registered failed to show up, and (2) there was a Tesla Model 3 in town conducting performance tests in the desert, but it didn’t make an appearance either. Bummer!

When the crowds started to dissipate, I helped Stan gather up the signs and put away the paraphenalia. It was sure good to see him again, as he is the most stalwart EV advocate in Las Vegas, having hosted these EV'ents for years, long before I showed up for the first time in 2012. Indeed, he has already posted a summary of the gathering on the Nevada Electric Vehicle Accelerator website. Jane Feldman, from Sierra Club, likewise also posted a video of the celebration on her Facebook page. They both beat me to the punch!

After everyone left, I decided to have dinner at the Springs Preserve café, and then went back to the motel to turn in early. The next morning I returned to the CSN campus to charge to 100%, hoping that I could make it all the way back to Mesquite on the return trip. The GOM guessed that I had 113 miles to drive the 78 miles needed. Yeah... right.

I did it! When I pulled into the Eureka Casino, I had drive 78.9 miles, again at 5.0 miles-per-kWh, and had only two red bars and 14 miles left on the GOM. However, because I had driven so slowly, it had taken me an hour-and-a-half to get there.

I again had some breakfast at the casino café, and then settled in the motel lobby to again work on my laptop. After about 6 more hours, the LEAF nearly had a full charge. When I got back to the car, I saw that a Tesla Model X was parked in the adjacent spot, plugged in to one of the HPWCs.

I headed up Highway 91 to the Beaver Mountains summit, and then descended to where I could see the red cliffs of my desert community in the distance.

When I pulled into the garage, I could see that cresting the summit had taken a toll on my miles-per-kWh. I had used 7 charge bars to drive the 41.4 miles back home, with 43 miles left on the GOM.

In this photo you can see on the Trip A odometer that I drove a total of 269.8 miles for the entire round-trip pilgrimage to Las Vegas.

The next day, I decided to again check my battery’s capacity. Oddly enough, it now registered 95.50%, i.e., 0.2% higher than when I left. Maybe the stress of the 100% charges over the weekend managed to balance the cells better? Your guess is as good as mine.

Although NissanConnect EV never matches the miles on my odometer, these are the stats that the webpage reports for the entire 3-day trip:

Hey! 4.97 MPkWh is super efficient, thanks to my slower speeds on the interstate. I’ll take it! I also decided to check my account with ChargePoint. Here is what it shows for my use of its EVSEs for the trip:

It seems to show that ChargePoint supplied about half of the 52.2 kWh used, with the rest coming from my garage at the outset and the two times I plugged in at the Eureka Casino. This graph shows all the times I have ever used ChargePoint’s system: every September in the years I have attended the NDEW EV'ents in Las Vegas and the one time I tested out their new DCQC charger in our area last July.

I always enjoy advocating for EVs at these NDEW EV'ents in Las Vegas, and this year was no exception. Who knows? Maybe next year, if the rollout of the Tesla Model 3 ramps up as projected, I will be able to easily make the journey there and back is one day, without the need to recharge en route. Let’s hope!