Road tripping from Portland to Seattle in a 2015 Leaf SL

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Mar 2, 2018
Greetings, everyone. I am attempting my first ‘real’ road trip in my new (to me) 2015 SL, starting this morning. I am partially documenting this here for my own record, and also to see if anyone has helpful tips and suggestions.. I have spent some time reading up in here for some basics. Non-eco mode for freeway travel, coast to stops, traveling more slowly as acceptable to improve range, etc.

I don’t have a proper reader and LeafSpy yet. Got one for a windows tablet, Bluetooth, on sale — the thing won’t communicate with the car properly. That’ll show me.. anyway, here is the info I can provide:

2015 Leaf SL, very near 36000 miles. All 12 bars still present. Dash shows average 4.3kWh. Tires @ 40psi, just set them there this morning, were at 30-35 each before. Typically, at a full charge, the car estimates 87-92mi range. I do not have the cellular upgrade so my car doesn’t communicate with Carwings/etc.

It’s a nice day out. No plan to use headlights or climate control. Straight up I-205 to I-5.
Ideal stops: (realizing this could be a stretch)

Day 1:
- Home (off I-205 and SE Foster Road) to Castle Rock, WA - 62 miles
- Castle Rock to a friend’s house in Olympia - 67 miles

Day 2:
- friend’s house in Olympia to The Landing in Renton, WA - 59 miles
- Renton to The Anderson School in Bothell, WA - 21 miles
- hotel to downtown Seattle - 15 miles.
- back to hotel - 15 miles.

Day 3: all the way home, reverse prior plan with a charging stop, instead of a friend’s house.

I have mapped out some alternative shorter jaunts if my range isn’t working out as planned, just in case. (Woodland, Longview, Tumwater, Auburn) - it also appears that chargers in Seattle proper/ downtown are hard to come by or have limited hours and availability.

I did a trip to Salem, OR last weekend, mostly 60-65MPH with a strong wind against the car, arrived at a charging station with three dashes of range blinking, at 54.6 miles total travelled. Used eco mode for surface roads and regular D mode for freeway, cruise control was on where possible. On the way back, same route, reversed, reported 19 miles range left when I pulled in to the driveway. More time was also spent at 65MPH on the way back than on the way down..

Soon to be heading out, I will post updates and observations as I make stops to charge.

Thanks in advance for any tips and suggestions.
Got to Castle Rock with 14 miles to spare. Car is charging now while I have some lunch.. optimistic I can make the 67 mile stretch after this.
Sounds like a fun adventure! It's pretty much impossible to speculate on range for a specific leg of a journey without knowing the route well. Biggest factors - elevation changes, dry vs wet roads, average speed, etc..

The EV trip planner does a decent job, if you adjust the default parameters and choose the EV model as "Nissan LEAF (Beta)":

It's generally pretty conservative, but if you adjust downwards by 10% then you should have no problems making a given leg of your journey in decent weather (rain makes a big difference).

Good luck and have fun!
Stopped in Tumwater, as my predicted range was floating neck and neck with my 67 mile destination. When I got to the charging station, it read 13 miles remaining, with my ultimate destination being 15 miles away. Close. There were some hill climbs that ate up some of my range. Lesson learned. Still, not bad, really. Was at 60-65 MPH most of the way from Castle Rock to Tumwater. Now with this charge, I should be able to cruise around town with my friend this evening to show off the car and still charge it to 100% overnight from a wall outlet.

I’m fairly happy with how this has gone so far.
Yup, traveling longer distances with our LEAFs is a bit of an adventure, but approach it with the right attitude and it becomes a bit of a game. I know many people in my circle of contacts who would get all stressed out doing anything but commuting in a LEAF. For those people, even a 2018 LEAF would give them anxiety.

When you get down to a low SOC and the GOM is showing fewer miles of range than how far you need to go, LeafSpy really shines. I'm guessing you could have very easily have made it to Olympia. Also, on rolling terrain you can easily beat the GOM by making use of neutral to coast down moderately steep hills (more efficient than regen if you keep your speed below 60 mph, at which point do some regen). Using a combination of B mode, ECO, and D mode, you can really stretch out your range with some practice.

One other hint - Google Maps will show an elevation graph if you put in the starting point and destination and then switch to bicycle view. That can be really useful, as you can then see how many hills there are and if there are opportunities to regen.
agedmachine said:
I don’t have a proper reader and LeafSpy yet. Got one for a windows tablet, Bluetooth, on sale — the thing won’t communicate with the car properly. That’ll show me.. anyway, here is the info I can provide:
The GOM is not a very good thing to depend on at all. You do have a % state of charge display.

Leaf Spy doesn't run on Windows tablets. Get the proper dongle for whatever you plan to run on (e.g. Android or iOS device).
One important tip you may not have seen is this: it's faster to slow down than to make an extra L-2 stop to charge. Slowing from 65MPH to 55 will add a surprising amount of extra range as will slowing to 40-45MPH where possible. Still if you like driving at 65 and don't mind the additional charging required, that works too.
Update for today — when I powered up the car this morning, it reported a guess of 96 miles range, the highest it’s displayed so far. That was cool to see, even if I knew better. Went into town, had breakfast, drove my friend home, then made my way toward Auburn. That was 24 miles of winding, hilly road driving in eco mode by the time I reached the freeway.

I landed in Auburn at the Walgreens with 13 miles to spare, having traveled an actual distance of 64.1 miles total since first starting out this morning. I did notice the Blink rapid chargers are a bit slower to charge than the AeroVironment stations I’d encountered yesterday, possibly double the time. The Leaf guessed 82 miles range after that charge.

There are free L2 chargers at Bothell City Hall, just a couple blocks from my hotel. Landed there, after 35 miles of actual travel, with a 47 mile range reported remaining. The math is actually spot-on for that. There were some stretches of bad traffic and city-speed stop and go traffic, even on the freeway, where I dropped it into eco-mode, on the way. Now i’m Going to take a brief nap before deciding to eat a meal here or wait until I’m in downtown Seattle.

My destination this evening is right in the heart of downtown Seattle, 12 miles away. I should have no issue driving there and back (especially since it should be fully charged again in the next hour or so) and will park it at City Hall again and plug in after the show tonight to charge up for the journey home tomorrow.

I’ll probably try to do my route plotting and such over breakfast in the morning before heading back. All the way through, Seattle to Portland...
About to embark on the journey home...
ideally, repeat the stops on the way up:

Here (Bothell) to Tumwater Deli & Shell - 62.5mi
Tumwater Deli to Cascade Select in Castle Rock - 55 mi
Cascade Select Market to home - 63 miles

This ~should~ work out, based on the drive up and so on, plus it’s another lovely day.. however, I’m not sure what kind of traffic I’ll encounter leaving town, presumably around 10am. I’ve plotted out some other possible stops at 36, 40, 55 miles from here, just in case.

Checking in from Tumwater Deli/Shell. I made it here with 20 miles range showing. 3 bars charge remaining, though I imagine it was right about to drop to 2..

The way out of Seattle was kind of slow moving, I piggybacked behind some semi trucks and kept it between 50-60mph most of the way. Didn’t use cruise control this time.

3 little trees popped up, and my average went from 4.3 to 4.4kWh.

Next stop, Castle Rock... guessing that will be no big deal, and certainly enough from there to get me home if this kind of performance keeps up.

The AeroVironment charger topped me up to 100% ~ 14.14kWh in 25 minutes...

Here goes...
Just got to Castle Rock — with 33 miles range left. I drove a little faster on this stretch, as to flow with traffic more - often 65-ish and sometimes 70.

I might have been able to make it to Woodburn, which is 29 miles further south — but it is some hilly terrain, so I figured it would be best not to press my luck, and I did enjoy the lunch place in Castle Rock that I’d stopped in during my last charging session here. (Lacey Rha’s)

The car reported an estimate of 101 miles range when I left Tumwater.. that gave me more joy than perhaps it should have. It’s also about 72 degrees out today, I had to roll my windows down a few times to keep the cabin cool...

This is all going very well!
Final stop — made it home from Castle Rock with 20 miles to spare. Did 60-65ish most of the way.

Ran into the beginnings of rush hour in Portland the last 5 miles or so.

Total trip time from Bothell to SE Portland was about 5.5hrs, and I spent probably a half hour longer than needed in Castle Rock while having lunch. It got up to 77 degrees outside at some points.

The car estimated 103 miles range when I powered it on in Castle Rock, again beating my highest ever reported range estimate.

That was fun, and now makes me far more willing to make that jaunt in the Leaf in the future.
I did Camas to Seattle three times, all on 2015 ans earlier Leaf models. It was fun the first time, and maybe the second. It was not so fun the third time. I would not want to have to stop more than once, look for an available and functional charger.

Last trip was with the Honda Clarity PHEV. 77MPG going, 56 MPG coming back, no charging at destination. That trip was the first time I pumped gas after 6 years. The dealer pumped the first tank. It did feel weird. It was at a Costco store, and while enjoying my slice of pizza, I was thinking that a Tesla could have been charging while I was eating. It was about a month and a half ago, I pumped 6 gallons and still have half tank. 1800 miles and the mpg average maxed at 200MPG. I still feel I made the right choice for us. The 2011 Leaf at 80,000 miles still covers our Camas, Vancouver and North Portland trips. Farther than that the Clarity is a better fit. I do charge the Clarity when a charger is available.