Skokie IL to Lawrence KS and back road trip report

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Well-known member
May 10, 2013
Chicago North Side

I will try to keep this trip report brief, but we don't have too many reports on 500+ mile in a day drives, and as this one had 2 of them, I thought it was worth the write up. We took a different route in each direction.


Outbound 564 miles; 156.4 kWh charged; 180 min charging; 622 minutes driving time

Return: 587 miles; 150 kWh charged; 159 min charging; 562 min driving time.

Our Outbound trip took us down through Springfield IL then west to Bowlingreen Iowa, Kingdom City MO, and then finally Lawrence KS. We took this route primarily to visit Wallys in Pontiac IL, which has a full EV charging plaza, and a huge indoor area with bakery, beef jerky bar, deli, etc..

Temp was in the mid 30s at departure and we had some pretty heavy head winds (garaged battery was at 68F). 3.4 efficiency which was only that high due to the first 25 miles around the city (294) which has physics defying properties for EVs. The real time efficiency headed south was closer to 2.5 (so about 135 mile range for the Plus at that rate).

At wallys we arrived around 35% dash and charged up to 90%. 4 Chademos (100amp)! I don't have a hard number on charging time as their chargers are unaffiliated and did not have a digital monitor. We lost a little time as the charger stopped at 80% and we didn't immediately notice before resuming. Wallys was the fun stop, so the length of the stop really wasn't a bother.

Given efficiency, my original plan of making the 200 drive to Bowling green at 1 go was out. I would have needed a full charge and 4 miles/kWh to have a shot, and our efficiencies were not even close. The fail safe was Springfield. While Springfield has 2 Chademos, there are not really that close to each other. The EA station reported up and was in route, so went there.

EA Springfield thankfully worked. Efficiency was brutal at 3.1 including hanging with some trucks. We went to the adjacent Walmart to use the restroom, and take a walk around the store to stretch our legs. With 39 kWh in the car, we headed on to Bowling Green. Battery was at 105F.

The weather had warmed a bit (low to mid 40s) and now heading west, efficiency moved up to 3.6 miles/kWh. This felt amazing efficiency-wise versus early in the day.

We only had 65 miles to go between Bowling Green and Kingdom City MO, so only charged for 25 minutes. (In retrospect, I should have charged here or Champaign much longer) While the first 2 chargers were 100 amp, this one was 125 amp, charging at around 51kW. No noticeable charge slowing yet at this point with 3 sessions done. The pack was pretty warm though. 2 DC Chademos (and L2s), and the unit was in perfect shape.

Between Bowling Green and Kingdom I made the mistake of following Google's "fuel efficient" route, which included gravel roads...the upside was we got a great shot of the rising moon at dusk and saw a pair of bald eagles (at least that's what they looked like..I am not a bird watcher).

In Kingdom we planned to have dinner as we needed 90% to make the 176 miles to the Lawrence service area which had our last stop for the day. I had expected charge slowing for this stop. We arrived with 108F on the temp sensor. We were above 40kW for the first half but then slowed. 70% - 90% charged at barely above 20kW. I wasn't too upset given every location had worked without issue. We ate too fast though and had to wait the last 20 min.

The final drive saw declining temps, falling eventually into the upper 20s. Thankfully we didn't face headwinds, and 0got our best efficiency of the day while keeping up with the fairly thick traffic. We pulled I to the Lawrence plaza with 6 dashes and a little over 4kWh left per Leafspy. Some would say a perfect run. 2 DC and 2L2 here as well. 15 minutes to take the car up over 20% charge and then drove the final 7 miles to the hotel.

We came home a couple days later.

We left at 90% SoC. The hotel didn't even have a Level 1 and I didn't want to leave the car at 100 overnight, so 90% felt like a good compromise. It was low 40s when we left and battery was in the mid 60s to start.

The first stop was only 129 miles. We were lucky and caught a fast moving set of cars and trucks doing upper 70s, so made great time to the first stop with 3.8 m/kWh. I am guessing wind was in our favor until Illinois.

In Bethany, MO I charged to just over 65% as we were only going 117 miles on the next leg. This was a mistake, and I should have charged to at least 80%. The car at this stop we getting 55kWh at the 125 amp charger. Stop was only 25 min which gave time for coffee, pit stop, and a quick stretch.

Pulling into Altoona Iowa (with efficiency of 4.2) While we had plenty of charge, we didn't cool the battery too much, and in the final couple miles, the couple degrees which it went down came back up as the voltage decreased. It would have been much better if I had spent more time at the first stop as we basically wasted almost 2 hour of rapid air cooling. Temps were now in mid 50s.

In Altoona, we charged at a free 200amp charger. Again standard 2 DC location. We moved up to 60% in 25 min at a charge rate rate 60kW….the battery also gained over 20F in that time. The car quickly dropped to 20kW. We had to charge to 80% for the next leg. At 70%, I unplugged to get a car wash (we still had an inch of soot on the car from the gravel roads) and plugged back in at 29kW to 80%.. even here I should have let it charge up to 90%. Another Leaf (2021 SL Plus) from Florida was charging at the same time. We chatted a bit about the travel dynamics.

Tue 3rd leg was 157 miles. Again, while I had enough charge, we pulled into our last stop with just over 10kW. At 15 kW the air cooling of the battery essentially stops and starts increasing again. Different than with cars using liquid cooling, every degree matters and so that 10% additional charge would have given me 4 extra degrees of thermal room, which is not trivial. We left at 117F.

The last stop of the trip in Davenport was the most painful. It was a nice strip mall, and we were just tired of traveling so we're not in the mood to shop and also we're not hungry. A Tesla driver was charging at the stop when we arrived. Thankfully 2 DC chargers. He was using his Chademo adapter. He said he had moved back from the local Tesla chargers to this one as Tesla had doubled or more the charging costs. This charger at .14/kWh was the best deal. He mentioned his Chademo adapter had paid for itself many times over. We arrived at 108F on the battery. The car kept 41kW from 11% on the dash until somewhere in the 40s. Then down to 20kW. I reconnected a bit later and it went up to 25 for a while, than slowly drifted down again. Ending temp at the top 122F. At 85% with cooling weather and some pretty good efficiency, I decided to leave a little early (original target was 90%)

We made the final 175 mile journey home with 6 kWh left in the tank, but did keep speeds between 65-70mph vs. the 75 I was doing earlier in the day on the other legs.

Still in spite of the slowness, we still stopped for less time than on the way down and covered more miles. Over an hour less overall.

Lessons learned:
Infrastructure is soo much better than 2 years ago (we only had EA then). I had many possible stopping points in Iowa to charge. (Iowa city has 4 DC plazas bear the highway)

For the Leaf, plan to charge with no less than 20% on the dash (15kWh Leaf Spy) if going multiple charging stops. Going lower actually heats the battery.

Keep to 100 and 125 amp chargers. Yes the 200s are fast, but the Leaf can really only take 1 charge at them before maxing out the battery...great if only needing 1 stop for say a 350 mile trip...not good when needing 3 or 4 stops.

Air cooling on the Leaf on the highway works fairly well..and seemed to cool at the same rate for both sides of the trip whether it was 55F or 35F out. In 2 hours we could shed over over 10F off the top and 15F on the bottom temp sensor. That's almost enough to do a normal 100amp charge from 20 - 80% (dash) without slowing. You want to keep your efficiency at 4 or above though to limit the draw which competes.

The breaks, while.much longer than with a Tesla, MachE, Lucid, etc.. actually helped keep me fresh for each leg of driving.

Seats were very comfortable for the long hauls.
Has any Plus owner tried using Dala's code change to limit charging speed?

Also Hx went up from 108% to 110% from pre to post travel.

Finally for comparison purposes I plugged the return route into abrp with a M3 SR+ (including temp and leaving SoC). It showed 11 hours and 11 minutes with 106 minutes charging. I feel pretty good about the 12 hours in the Leaf in comparison.
Nice write up although I would use a combination of charging speeds. Faster chargers for the short stops and I like to go well below 20% before stopping if possible but I don't charge up much past 65-75% so would prefer more frequent stops although shorter in duration. In doing that, I slowly get to a lower and lower SOC since I am charging based on how much time I need at the stop and no so much with how much range I have to gain and soon (ish) we will all have that option. There currently aren't many (if any) directions I can go that require anything near the distance between stations you see so its really not the same here. But I do want a lower 120 amp charge for meal stops which has worked out well. Generally able to eat and get back to the car before it hits 90%. Also as you probably already know, 120 amp doesn't heat the pack very much at all compared to the smaller packs.
Outbound 564 miles; 156.4 kWh charged; 180 min charging; 622 minutes driving time
Does 'driving time' include time spent charging ?

Do your kWh figures include what you start with in the battery from home ?
Driving time was the LeafSpy reported travel time, and does not include the charging time.

kWh charged does not include the starting charge. Also no heat used on the trip.

I went back and looked at my checkout time, and under reported 15 minutes, so the difference was more like an hour, which makes more sense given the significant charging curve differences.

Still, the fact we bow have choices when traveling this far was wonderful. Certainly waiting for the car on the final stop was painful, but now the fun to figure out how to better optimize on the next trip. I learned alot.

I had thought I could beat Bjorns 1000km Leaf trip using the faster chargers in Iowa and with a more efficient Leaf... I don't know that I could looking at my numbers.
I appreciate your honest reporting, your perseverance and can-do approach to the car.

But the LEAF as a long distance trip car for the other 99.99% of car owners ? That would be a huge NO
But the LEAF as a long distance trip car for the other 99.99% of car owners ? That would be a huge NO

Another way to say this is "99% of the time a Leaf will be used for day trips, the one % of time it is used for long trips the drivers will need to stop and spend time charging every 3 or 4 hours, at places where they might not have stopped in an ICE car." We will probably eat more junk food when we travel but so far and at our age we need to stop and move around at these intervals anyway.....
dmacarthur said:
But the LEAF as a long distance trip car for the other 99.99% of car owners ? That would be a huge NO

Another way to say this is "99% of the time a Leaf will be used for day trips, the one % of time it is used for long trips the drivers will need to stop and spend time charging every 3 or 4 hours, at places where they might not have stopped in an ICE car." We will probably eat more junk food when we travel but so far and at our age we need to stop and move around at these intervals anyway.....
I like to read this type of real world write up, especially the battery temps and draft-cooling behavior.
My brother keeps asking when I'm going make the 1500 mile drive to his place in Salida, CO in my Leaf (from from Kent, OH). I just laugh at him hysterically... Though it would be an interesting challenge. That drive takes me a couple long days in my Ridgeline, which is an excellent high-speed cruiser.
My brother keeps asking when I'm going make the 1500 mile drive to his place in Salida, CO in my Leaf (from from Kent, OH). I just laugh at him hysterically...

With your Leaf, 40kW battery, the trip is a double challenge and worthy of hysterical laughter......
For a once a year really wasn't that horrible, but certainly not amazing. My wife, while she loves the Leaf for local/regional driving, and even said the 250 mile (each way) trip was fine, said she was not game for this type of drive.

The DC locations were interesting, but as great as I thought from Google maps. While I am impressed how truck stops have added salads, wraps, and other stuff, we were junked out by the end of the trip. While I thought we could walk to the restaurants nearby, often that wasn't really safe given the type of roads, especially in the dark.
I admire those who are pushing the limits (like the guy in Africa who drove a Leaf the entire length of the continent) but for me, it's still an in-town car. Maybe that's because my Leaf is only 30kWh.....but I really do love my Rav4 Prime. EV for around town, ICE for driving 14 hours in one shot.
I would be game to do this drive one more time to see if I could optimize the charging a bit more. I am only doing the Iowa route though, unless Illinois has its game with charging stations.

If my daughter does end up going to Kansas for school, I will get plenty of chances.
Curious Doug whether you take the S or the SV.... has either one proved more efficient? I seem to remember you saying that the extra energy used by the PTC heater was offset by some other factors.....
I only considered taking the S+ for this distance. We don't run heat except when charging (at least not at the 28-55F temps we saw), so the heat pump doesn't matter much. Between the smaller wheels and ev01+ rims (about 10lbs lighter than stock 17" rims each), the S+ eeks out a few extra tenths per mile and reduce the load on the battery as a result (or let's us drive faster depending on how you look at it).

I was actually quite shocked on our last trip in the SV+ (to Bloomington IN) where we did run heat, in term of how much more efficienct the heat pump was over the resistance heater. My wife came for that trip, so I couldn't run the spartan conditions like I do when it's just me and the kids. I accidentally left both AC and Heat on for a stretch, which prevents the heat pump from working (its opposite in the S+...clicking in the AC reduces draw). Efficiency was notable different once I switched it off. A net 2+ kWh difference. Over 3 hours, that could mean over 20 miles of extra range lost.

It would be cool to take both cars in Tandem on a trip to show off the efficiency differences...but boy any needed stops at EA would suck with just 1 Chademo.
This was definitely great to read. I live across the river from Davenport and I've always been a bit surprised by how many more EV chargers there are across the river. I know the one at the World's Largest Truck Stop was partially paid for with grant money to install so I'm guessing that's part of the difference between IL and IA chargers. Everything on the IL side is a L2 that's either a local government installation or dealership.

I had debated trying to take my 30kwh leaf to take the kids to see their grandparents, but i really didn't want to rely on a single DC charge station in Peru along 80 with hopes of making it to Chicagoland's abundance of chargers. Ended up taking Amtrak out of Galesburg instead which the kiddos loved.

I'd love to take a trip down to the STL area to visit family but like you said - DC Charging in IL IA still too spread out for it not to be a potential stranding in the making.

Your story reminds me a little of when I was working for the census bureau and they inexplicably kept trying to send me to Galena and East Dubuque. I ended up having to explain that Galena was the upper reaches of where i could drive and even then i was pretending i got home by 8pm instead of 11pm.

It was an interesting experience relying on only L2 charging to make that happen. I'd pack the dogs int he car and head out with mostly full charges and stop at their city hall to plug in and walk around the city doing the census stuff, then hang out at Grant Park for a bit walking the dogs debating how long i wanted to hang out there paying a small fee for the L2 charging and wondering if it would get me enough charge to get home or if another stop in Savanna or Port Byron would be needed. First trip up my original plan to top off in Savanna failed since I missed the charging station and ended up going slower than traffic would have liked uphill and made it to Galena with dashes. One of the trips back ende up being similar excitement since I misjudged how much energy I'd be using and because I was tired of hanging around in Savanna and ended up going 30 mph down the empty 55 mph state highway to limp myself along to Port Byron. Depending on how the battery replacement prospects look in 2026 against the range/price/charging infrastructure and tax credit situation - i might find myself in a PHEV since it would cover my regular commutes and give me the gas engine for longer trips.

With my battery degradation as it is now, i have to DC charge to get to my buddy's house in Lowden with a stop both ways in colder weather and L1 at his house. Going all electric and taking medium to long range trips is still definitely in the adventure category.
Yeah, Iowa infra is coming along quickly. At least with the Leaf, no need for EA any more. I am hoping with the Illinlos Plan and the cross unity plan, we will start to cover the desert between Chicago burbs and the Iowa border. The Peru site is a Nissan Dealer, which I appreciate, but would be nervous to count on. I do t think I would try these adventures with anything less than a Plus. In Iowa we the Fellow next to us in Altoona who was up from Florida with his 2020 Plus said he drove it anywhere, so I am far from the most adventurous Leaf driver out there.

Anyone know of any Leafs making the journey to Alaska in summer. I have seen write ups of Teslas and Bolts, but haven't seen a Leaf make the trek yet.
Ok, it was move in weekend, so have the control case with an ICE minivan (Chrysler Pacifica) to compare the same drive. I suggested doing a Leaf caravan instead (that would be great data), but the idea was not well recieved.

A recap, in November we took the Leaf, in what was probably ideal conditions of 45-55F from Lawrence Kansas to Skokie IL in a day. 562 minutes of driving and ~160 minutes of charging. 578 miles per Leaf

In the ICE we did 577 miles of driving in a day with 9:10 minutes of driving (550 minutes) and about 110 minutes stoppage for bathroom stops, gas, and a sit down meal.

A delta of almost exactly an hour, and the beginning and end times reflected the difference of ~11 vs. ~12 hours in total. Now obviously you could cut the stoppage time and suggest a 2+ hour difference, but the idea was to model our normal non-ev drive. One difference in the control case was that my wife did take a short stint in the driving, which was not the case with the Leaf trips. I might have stopped a bit longer if doing all of the driving.

In both cases it was 3 stops, so the number of stops wasn't impacted by the Leaf. Locations of stops was even fairly close, which I found interesting.

Speed was slower in the Leaf, though only by a couple miles per hour (overall 64 in the van and 62 in the Leaf), which was a bit closer than I would have thought (i expected 4-5 mph delta). It makes me curious if the Pacifica speedo reads high ..Will try to test that before returning the car.

What I found impressive for a the non-hybrid was that the minivan averaged a tenth shy of 29mpg for the day. At the speeds I was driving, our Kia Sedona would have done 20-22mpg, so pretty good. That said, we both hated the feel of driving the Dino juice minivan, relatively loud and rattly compared to the Leaf and will be be back in our Leafs again.

As a thought experiment, When I looked up the charge times for doing the same drive with a M3 SR+, it saved 50-60 minutes, so I do believe a (consistantly) faster charging EV with same or greater range would likely not slow us down for what is the longest distance we would drive anymore in a day.

For days at or under 400 miles, even the Leaf is very sufficient for our pace of driving as we have found with a few trips in that range.

Gas was about $150 for the rounds trip including some local in Lawrence driving.
Ok, so here is my latest installment of Leaf Road Tripper.

In the latest run between Chicago and Kansas, we really upped the difficulty level. My daughter was taking the S+ to Kansas for college, and was considered about the hills and snow so we put cross climate 2 tires on the stock 16" rims.

In informal testing we measured the efficiency at around 4.1 miles/kWh at 58-60mph in a looped course at 40F. This compared to 4.9 with our SV+ with 16" EV01s and ecopias.

Normally when doing the 561 mile (Plus stops) run, we could do it with most seasons with 3 stops. 2 longish and one shorter stop (about 2 1/2 hour stoppage time).

This run was much worse. Fist we left at 6am, 24F ambient. Battery temp was 54F from the garage. 702 Gids 54.4kWh

Knowing efficiency was going to be bad, I added a stop on the Nissan dealer in Aurora, the last DC charger before crossing the state. We added 5 kWh on a fairly slow 25kW Chademo. Glad I put that stop in as we pulled in to Davenport with dashes and 5.9 kWh left. Efficiency was barely 3 miles/kWh even taking it was with the speed. At 3, the Plus becomes a 150 mile vehicle max. Much less after the first leg.

We stopped for a quick pitstop, added 18kWh while using the washroom and moved 15 miles down the road to the world's largest truck stop. Quite a mall for a truck stop if you have not been there. Thankfully charging was ok there starting at 50 ramping up to 55kWh before diminishing at higher SoC. We left at 90%. (Only 180 miles covered at this point..and we had done 3 charges summer on the other car, the first stop is 230 miles in at Iowa city). Battery at 106F

Our next stop was east of Des Moines about 130 miles down the road. We pulled in arond 10% on the dash and 9.8kWh in the battery. 90-10% is really your max intra trip leg (Last leg you can push it lower), and battery temp was going to start to matter post this 4th charge. Arrived at 103F and left at 112F, putting 20kWh in the battery. (320 miles complete)

In an attempt to keep speeds higher, we then went to shorter legs with most charging between 15% and 65% SoC. Under 120F you keep a manageable charge rate under 50%, but it tapers fast once above 50%.

Our successive stops were about 50 miles, 80 miles, 40 miles and then the final 90 miles, spacing largely by DC charger placement. With those legs, the max temp was 120, 119, and 118. Ambient Temps had gone up to about 40F, but efficiency remained 3-3.2. I didn't see the car go above 10 battery temp bars, but didn't check too often.
Interesting during these cycles was that our arriving and ending charge temps had hit equilibrium. It wasn't glorious, but it was oddly sustainable. In the bottom of the pack, speeds were consistantly about 38-39kWh until 50% then started tapering.

We pulled in with just under 9kWh, but after 14+ hours. 4 hours 20 min charging vs. the 2 1/2 hours it would take with the other Leaf. 140kWh charged vs. 97ish kWh on a normal trip. On top of that we lost time with each of the additional stops. 2+ hours of travel time difference.

I do think we were pushing some wind getting there, but hoping a little better efficiency in fall/sprig weather. ~3.2 miles/kWh overall. Brutal.

Post this trip, I think 4 miles/kWh is a minumum for the Plus, as stoppage needs to stay under 1 hour of break for 3 hours of driving. (Yes Teslas , Lucid, and EV6s can suggest even less is tolerable)

The landscape of DC chargers is getting more plentiful, but quality still needs to come up. We lost almost 20 min on our last stop as we needed chargepoint to reboot a charger as well as remotely unlock me from it at the end as the screen was not responding. A couple other chargers had some variable power levels (down ad up) which suggested that it was station, not the car throttling.