On The Move Movie
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Plug Trek

National Plug-In Day 2013
Las Vegas, Nevada

Mark D Larsen

Tsk, tsk...! It looks like I have to eat my words. After last year’s Plug-In Day Odyssey to Las Vegas, I posted that I would not undertake such a long day’s journey into night again unless and until QuickChargers were installed along the route. Yet as the 2013 plans continued to grow and expand in sundry locations across the country, with more enthusiasm and registrants than ever before, I realized that I would be shirking my solemn duty as an EV advocate if I didn’t join in the festivities. If readers prefer to forego my usual verbose narrative below, they can simply watch a short video with several clips of this year’s “plug trek” to Vegas by clicking on the still frame up above.

Outlet Shopping
(Click to enlarge)
Since there are still no QuickChargers on I-15, I figured that I would have to come up with some other way to make the plug trek less grueling. After weighing several alternatives, I decided that the best solution might be to find two charging spots between here and Vegas —rather than only one. Since last year on the return trip I barely made it to the summit of Utah Hill with only 5 miles left on the Guess-o-Meter, I located a spot relatively close to the base of the mountain where I could charge, both going and coming. The owners of the 4 Seasons RV Park in Littlefield, AZ, Linda and Harold, were more than happy to let me plug into their 50A outlets without charging me a dime. Next, I found a motel in Overton, NV, where I could stay before and after the event. Deb and Chris, the owners of the North Shore Inn, let me trickle charge overnight from the same 120V outlets in their parking lot that visitors to Lake Mead use to charge their boats. I figured that, when driving my gas-guzzler to Vegas, I spend the price of a motel room on gasoline anyway, and paying for a second night seemed like a worthy investment to help promote EVs at the annual extravaganza. The map to the right shows where these two layovers are located.

I have to chuckle at how exaggerated and inaccurate the GOM was during the trip. For example, when I left home it estimated 101 miles of range. Upon arriving at the RV park in Littlefield, the odometer indicated that I had driven 31.4 miles, yet the GOM now guessed 80 miles of range —as though I had traveled only 21! Conversely, when I left the motel the next morning, the GOM predicted 123 miles of range. Overton is a few miles from the I-15 freeway, and the Plug-In Day event this year took place farther south at NV Energy’s main building. My Leaf’s “low battery warning” sounded when I was about one mile from the destination. When I pulled into a charging bay under the solar canopy, the GOM was flashing 9 miles of range left, as though I had driven 114 miles —yet the odometer showed that the distance was only 67.2! With differences like those, perhaps a better name for the gauge would be Guffaw-o-Meter.

In addition to the round trip miles, I also gave several people rides in my Leaf at the event, which added about 25 more to the total driven. Similar to what I pointed out in my one-year report, however, the distances tallied on my odometer and in CarWings do not match. Below is a comparison of the entire plug trek. Go figure.

MILES DRIVEN Odometer CarWings
Saturday 90.1 88.0
Sunday 152.8 149.0
Monday 84.2 82.1
TOTALS: 327.1 319.1

I also note a discrepancy among the various readouts for my Leaf’s energy efficiency during the trip. I reset both the dashboard and the display counters when I first started the car, but by journey’s end they showed a 1/10 of a mile-per-kWh difference. CarWings reports that I had used 61.6 kWh for the entire plug trek, and when divided into the total miles it recorded, at least that result matches the dashboard, as show in the table to below.

EFFICIENCY Dashboard Display CarWings
Miles-per-kWh 5.2 5.3 5.2

It perplexes me that the Leaf’s various instruments and algorithms are not in synch with one another, and I would suggest that Nissan needs to rectify this quirk and the GOM’s accuracy in the next generation of the vehicle. After all, if the percentage difference for miles driven holds steady, when CarWings tallies 60,000, the odometer will likely have turned over to 61,500. I cannot help but wonder which total will Nissan use as the cutoff for its new 60,000 miles/60 months battery capacity warranty...?

I am very glad that I relented and joined in the celebration in Vegas. The principal organizer of the event, Stan Hanel, reports that about 45 to 50 EVs showed up this year. Mine was one of eight Nissan Leafs. There were at least a dozen Chevy Volts, two Mitsubishi iMiEVs, two Toyota Prius Plug-Ins, and a Ford Fusion Energi. I was delighted to see one of the new RAV-4 EVs shipped in from CA, and at least five Tesla Model S, because this was the first time I had seen those vehicles. The Tesla owners probably didn’t appreciate me drooling all over their cars. They really are the top-of-the-line EV, with all the whiz-bang bells-and-whistles one could ever wish for in a car. Little wonder they have earned so many accolades throughout the auto industry.

There were also several EV conversions, with a gorgeous EV Mustang taking center stage. Stan estimates that there were about 100 attendees, and that we gave at least 30 test rides to interested passersby. I have to hand it to NV Energy for installing such an impressive “juice bar” in their parking lot. It boasts five double-plug EVSEs powered by a large solar canopy overhead, and for most of the day there were ten EVs charging at the same time. Although one needs a ChargePoint card to activate the EVSEs, the charging is free to the public.

After last year’s event I gave a ride to one of my Twitter pals, Jessie, and the very next week she purchased a Chevy Volt. That EV virus infected others: her sister Cassie also bought a Volt, and then the latter’s husband, Mike, bought a Tesla Model S. At any rate, although Mike couldn’t make it, I was elated that both Jessie and Cassie brought their Volts to the celebration. It was great to see them! My small snowball is apparently growing, and maybe the couples to whom I gave rides this year will also end up with EVs in their driveways. Hope so!

Enough narrative...! I'll just post below thumbnails of the plug trek, each worth the proverbial thousand words:

Click on a photo to open a larger version in a separate tab or window:

Can you spare an outlet?

Withdrawal from the Milbank

RV parked

Struck the right cord

Trickle tickle

What's my lane?

Enjoying a nightcap

Feeling mighty low on arrival

Stan Hanel greets the geeks

Westside view of solar juice bar

Eastside view of solar juice bar

The new RAV4-EV from CA

First Model S I’ve seen

Can’t wait to get behind the wheel

White Model S

Signature Model S

Made in the shade

Model S gadgetry

Before your very eyes

Bigger than my bedroom TV

Something new in something old

Also has a frunk

Jessie, her son, and white Volt

Cassie and Jessie

Sum at the Summit

Back in the garage

Efficiency discrepancy

Maybe next year there will finally be some QuickChargers along the interstate...? Somehow I doubt that the fat lady will sing that tune for several years to come.