Travel by electric car

Travel by electric car

‘Road movie’ failed or the impossible dream of jumping from San Francisco to Los Angeles on a Nissan Leaf

A Tesla Model S pursued by a Roadster. With the first (480 km per load) it would be easier to get to Los Angeles, but it costs $ 57,400 (Own) Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Whatsapp 0 > 03/11/2012 02:36 | Updated 11/03/2012 12:03

The anxiety attacks that are known in the world of electric vehicles in San Francisco as range anxiety seemed another exaggerated Californian neurosis. Until, in the middle of the overtaking lane of the Freeway 101, three blinking messages appeared simultaneously on the dashboard of the Nissan Leaf : Battery charge low !

According to our plan, devised in a bar in Manhattan, the trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles, was going to be for the electric car, what the Easy Rider movie, for the Harley Davidson and the Ray-Ban sunglasses. We would take advantage of the 1,000 kilometer trip to maintain interviews with specialists in sustainable technologies at the University of Berkeley. We would stop at the Tesla factory in Silicon Valley, whose sporty Roadster, with acceleration from 0 to 100 kilometers per hour in 3.7 seconds, has transformed the image of the electric vehicle from kumbayá to fittipaldi. There would even be opportunities to talk to venture capital fund managers who have invested nearly $ 1 billion in zero-emission technologies in 2011.

California seemed the perfect place for the trip to the future. More than any other state, its physiognomy of freeways in permanent traffic jam, endless urbanizations without public transport, and McDonald’s drive-in, symbolizes the insanity of the oil age. Moreover, it is the most advanced state in encouraging the adoption of low emission vehicles since the famous 1990 mandate that created quotas. California – as well as the federal state – offers tax discounts for buyers and subsidies for manufacturers.

Although in the USA only 17,000 electric cars have been sold, optimism grows. “The transition goes much faster than we think,” insists James Billmaier in his book Jolt. It may be true. But – as we would soon discover on Freeway 101 – it does not move fast enough to be able to take a Nissan Leaf trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles without suffering severe range anxiety attacks.

FIRST STOP: University of Berkeley
Just start the interview with Mark Huberty, specialist in sustainable economics Berkeley, it is clear that the trip will not be easy. Despite the commitment of the California government to facilitate the creation of 4,500 recharge stations before 2013, there are currently only 1,000 and almost all are grouped in large cities. Moreover, there is still no standardization of plugs. “There are many doubts about the viability of a charging infrastructure throughout the US,” says Huberty. “Many believe that the electric car is going to be a city vehicle, low-range that is charged at home, or a second car.”

SECOND STOP: City Lights Bookstore
To recover some of the utopian spirit of the project, we had dinner with Paul Yamazaki, owner of the legendary City Lights bookstore, mecca for beatniks fans like Jack Kerouak or Neil Cassady, who toured California in the 50s and 60s hitchhiking under the influence of huge amounts of hallucinogenic drugs. Paul seems the right person to restore our confidence in the sustainable future. But he also warns that we could end up hitchhiking like beatniks. “Why do not you forget the electric car and rent a Mustang?” Suggested a book merchant during dinner.

THIRD STOP: Enterprise car rental
Despite the doubts, Blake, the representative of Enterprise (Masson Stret), rents us a Nissan Leaf with a range of about 160 kilometers per charge and encourages us to try to get to Los Angeles. “There are not enough recharging stations but you can recharge at the hotels,” he explains, “the only problem is that with normal plugs, each charge will take 24 hours so that you’ll still need a couple of weeks.” Two weeks to go from San Francisco to Los Angeles! I thought. If the beatniks traveled faster! However, impressed by the silence of the Leaf engine, by the rapid acceleration without gears and by the option of driving on the “sustainable” lane (normally reserved for cars with at least two passengers) we went through the first 100 km of euphoria. 101 to Palo Alto, the nerve center of Silicon Valley.

FOURTH STOP: Tesla headquarters (Palo Alto)
After the success of the Roadster, Tesla already manufactures the Model S, a family car that, thanks to 6,800 lithium ion cells installed in a panel embedded in the chassis, can travel 480 kilometers per charge. It costs $ 57,400 but Tesla aims to increase the production scale to 20,000 from 2013 and lower the price. Thanks to investments by Daimler and Panasonic, a $ 450 million credit from the Department of Energy in Washington, and a spectacular outing in the Nasdaq stock market, Tesla has recovered from the rush that was about to destroy the fortune of its young founder , the Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Elon Musk. “It is a pity that you had not tried to make the trip in three months, that we would have left you an Model S,” said Vice President of Communications, Richard Reyes.

FIFTH STOP: R. 101. Leaving Palo Alto
First attack of “anguish of reach”. The GPS, integrated into the Leaf’s dashboard, indicates that the nearest Nissan charging station is 50 miles (80 kilometers) away. Another screen indicates that there are 24 miles of battery left (38 kilometers). We consulted the bulky instruction manual. “As soon as the battery charge low message appears, immediately go to a station to recharge,” he advises.

SIXTH STOP: R. 101. Outskirts of San José
We have resorted to plan B: leaving the Leaf at the San Jose airport and renting a gasoline car. But stuck on Route 101, we did not reach the most economical speed to conserve battery. San José Airport is 24 km away and we only have 30 km on the battery. It is a very narrow margin of error. Already victims of acute attacks of range anxiety (tachycardia, hot flushes, tremors), we arrived at the office of Enterprise at the airport with 5 km of surplus cargo. What a disappointment to end the trip to the future so quickly! And what a relief to rent a Toyota Camry internal combustion engine to continue to Los Angeles!

SEVENTH STOP: Port of Los Angeles: technology company Balqon
The Indian engineer Balwinder Samra, designer of the first model of electric truck of great weight, insists that we should not lose hope. “The tipping point will be a sodium or magnesium lithium battery equivalent to a 23-liter diesel tank, that will give you 300 km per charge, we will have it in 18 months and there will be more possibilities to recharge”, he explains. .

Until next year.

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