September 29-30, 2022 – Lineman’s Rodeo
I took the Nolin EV on its longest trip yet, around 442 miles round trip (with some in-town driving included), to attend the Lineman’s Rodeo in Paducah, KY at Jackson-Purchase co-op. Since it was a two-day event, I planned to stay overnight.
If I thought finding a charger in Lexington was a challenge, that wasn’t anything compared to the lack of charging infrastructure in western Kentucky. Though Paducah did offer something I couldn’t easily find or access in Lexington – a fast charger – more on that in a minute.
As before, I found a hotel that had a charger where I would stay the night and (hopefully) be able to recharge for my trip home. At approximately 185 miles to my destination, a full charge was a top priority for me. Unlike in Lexington, I didn’t have the option of returning home without charging – for the first time I would be far enough away from home that recharging was not optional. I admit, I was nervous about that.
I left Nolin very early in the morning and encountered my first challenge immediately – the cold. The car was frosty and I knew enough about the battery to know that would impact my range. I didn’t know how much. On a full charge in mild weather, it gives me range estimates of 270/280 miles or more. The morning I left for Rodeo, my full charge was estimating 242 miles.
This also raised a question for me – could I run the heater without draining my battery more quickly? The answer, unsurprisingly, was no. As I watched the range, I noticed it declining more quickly when the heater was on. This impacted my behavior. I chose to ride most of the way without the heat. Could I have made it if I had ran the heat the whole time? Maybe. But it wasn’t worth the risk.
The other factor in my conservative approach was that I needed to arrive at my destination with enough charge to get to the Rodeo and the hotel after the Rodeo ended for the day. That was the initial plan anyway.
LEVEL 3 FAST CHARGER SAVES THE DAY
As before, I had spent time mapping out any chargers in and around the area I would be in (on the Plugshare site). The co-op I was traveling to unfortunately didn’t have a level 2 charger ( I have not tried the portable charger that comes with the car yet – that will be another post for another day). If no one else was using the hotel charger, I would have that (I called ahead to make sure it was functional), but I wasn’t sure I would have enough charge to make it there after driving to the Rodeo location. So, the night before I left I checked other charger network apps (ChargePoint and Ford) and found level 3 fast chargers listed at a Wal-Mart near the Paducah co-op. (I realized later I didn’t have the right filter checked on my Plugshare search or I would have seen the fast chargers on there as well.)
Because the trip started with a lower range than I expected, I decided the fast charger would be my first stop. It wasn’t 100% clear that they were in service, but I was willing to try. There was a little anxiety setting in as I saw 65 miles remaining and no sure charging in view.
I was grateful to see the chargers as I pulled in to Wal-Mart, but was worried about the port in my car being compatible. Below is the photo of my car’s charger port – I had a brief moment of real panic before I realized there was a flap on the bottom of the port that allowed the fast charger to be plugged in. The charger itself was pretty straight forward and the charge was even free (sponsored by Electrify America). According to the charger information, the 30 minutes I had the car on charge it added 133 miles (49%) charge and would have cost around $9.45.
The rest of the trip was thankfully uneventful. The hotel charger was available, and I was able to get back to 100% overnight. That level 2 charger took almost 9 hours to add as much charge as it took the fast charger 30 minutes to do.
It was in that moment that I really understood that a robust network of fast chargers is one of the main pieces needed in place before many people will choose an EV for their primary mode of transportation. Not only are they the best way to travel more than a few hours from home, but they also provide piece of mind for the unexpected, or even expected, challenges (cold weather, traffic jam, long detours, etc). The fast charging experience was convenient and allowed me to breathe a sign of relief. Even if my hotel charger wasn’t available, I had a solid option to get home.