Adventures & Misadventures of an EV in the Country (Part 5)

Jun 08, 2015

There are limits to what you can do with a Nissan, Leaf. Ordering a charging station shouldn't be one of them.

Things have pretty much fallen into place with the EV in the country. There have been some misadventures while ordering a charging station, and we did decide that we were going to use a petrol powered vehicle for a trip to a nieces soccer game because the distance was too far to get there and back on a single charge. The closest charging station to the school where she was playing was too far to walk.

The routine for using my Nissan, Leaf in the country has become to use it for as much as possible and only when we can't use the EV such as when hauling a load of lumber or when going to places outside its range where there aren't any charging stations that would make the journey easy. This week gave me two instances where the Nissan, Leaf would have been particularly pressed to to do those tasks. So, for convenience sake, we used our SUV for those tasks.

The frost and erosion have conspired to pull to pieces the lumber that made up the retaining wall that was anchoring my dock to the shore of the river that flows behind my house in the country. I now have to build a new anchor and transition deck at the waters edge to make getting onto my dock comfortable and safe. The freezing and thawing that occurs in the lumber there is proving a challenge to keep the transition in place for more than just a couple of years. My solution this time is to put in a bulkhead where the timber retaining wall used to be. I will start by putting in four 4x4 posts that will act as the piles for the bulkhead. The first four feet of the posts/piles will be covered in thick plastic sleeves and capped with heavy aluminum caps. I will then instal the posts/piles cap and sleeve side down into the ground. The plastic sleeves and aluminum caps and good caulking should keep water from penetrating the wood below the water line and freezing inside the wood in winter tearing the wood apart as it did to the retaining wall. Hopefully this will make the posts last longer and anchoring the posts/piles well below the frost-line should keep them from heaving through freezing and thawing cycles as well. On top of these posts I will build an 8 x 8 foot transition deck from dry land to the posts/piles, and on the water side I will attach the dock to the posts/piles. On the land side of the posts I will attach wales and drop plastic 1” x 6” x 4' center matched boards to hold the shore in place where the retaining wall used to be. The piles will also be anchored to the shore with metal rods or pipe to dead-man boards under dry land. So, this means that I have to purchase and haul home from the big box store 20 miles away 18 clearance 4 foot plastic boards, 13 1" x 6" x 8' deck boards, seven 2” x 6” x 8' boards for the frame of the deck, four 4x4 posts, four clearance plastic sleeves and 4 thick aluminum caps. All of the above description in this paragraph was to say that to bring all that stuff home with the Leaf would have meant several trips and recharges with hundreds of pounds of wood sticking way out the back hatch. We took the SUV and made it in one trip with the wood completely inside the vehicle.

Hopefully, someday, a major automobile manufacturer will make a rough and rugged electric SUV or pick-up truck that I wouldn't mind hauling lumber in. For now, my Nissan, Leaf is the beautiful new baby in the family, all clean and nearly scratch free. I don't want to make it a totally utility vehicle just yet. After I have owned it a while and it no longer has that luster of “new” car glow about it in my eyes I should be more willing to haul stuff in it. Right now I just can't emotionally do that.

Now that I have owned the EV for over a month I find myself wanting to use it more and more, just not yet for hauling lots of lumber. However, after long trips where I have depleted a significant amount of the charge in the battery I find myself plugging in and waiting for the next day before taking the EV out again. Even though it is not absolutely necessary to have a level 2 charger, level 1 being what I am doing, which is to plug into an ordinary household outlet, I had planned on getting a 6.6 kw battery charger to match the upgraded level 2 charging on the 2013 model of the Nissan, Leaf. Before 2013 model year the Leaf's on-board charger could only charge at 3.3 kw. Now, armed with a charger that can charge at 6.6 kw, the Leaf could be up and running fast even after long trips. That would make it more available for me to use more often.

I wish I could say that I researched what was the best electric vehicle charging station and bought that one, but I didn't. I thought since my Leaf is used a used charger should be just fine and I could save money to boot. I thought that the safest bet for getting a good charger was the one made to be sold along with the Nissan, Leaf. I had looked at them before I purchased my Leaf and came across a bargain for a used one online. Unfortunately I waited to purchase the Leaf before purchasing that one and it had been sold when I went looking for it again. I looked at another company's chargers and found one online that seemed reasonable, but then I read a story of a Leaf catching fire from one of those, so I didn't go for that one. Then a big box home improvement center was selling a particular brand of charger for far less then they were previously advertised. To my surprise they were now selling them for below the prices of the used chargers I had been looking at. I jumped at the sale price, ordering so fast that I failed to look at the address they were going to ship the charger to. In the next few days another major electric component company beat that price, but I have no regrets. The charger I purchased is a very good one and the company that sells them has a solid reputation, plus the charger I chose was the new and improved 2nd generation of that charger.

I hope you caught that I had ordered so fast that I didn't take care to make sure the shipping address was correct on my order. I only realizing that they were shipping my newly purchased charger to my old address after I had looked at the email that came into my email box of the order a few minutes later. First, I tried to correct the address online, but couldn't. I then called the big box company. They claimed that I had caught the error on-time and that they could correct the shipping address error. I was relieved that is until a day later when I received another email from the company letting me know that the order had shipped. When I checked the shipping address on the email it showed my old address again. Again I called and the company and the representative then told me that they couldn't fix the address. I told them that I no longer lived at the address and couldn't receive the charger to return it. The person over the phone told me that I must reorder the item again if I wanted it and he could cancel the original order. Hopefully the delivery service would return the item once it reached its destination without disturbing the new owners of my former home. He also told me that they would charge me for the new charging station and wouldn't give me a refund until the original charging station was received back at its original shipped from destination. I told him to cancel the order and then proceeded to reorder the charger online making sure this time my old address didn't show up on the “ship to” destination.

I am going to rant a little here since the process seemed completely screwy to me. First, the address on this big boxes online shopping site that they had for me on file was my current address. So, why did they ship it to my old address? It was the paying service that injected my old address into this ordering process. When I looked up my address on the paying service site it was also my current address. So, again, why was it shipped to my old address? This paying service kept a record of old “ship to” addresses and since my old address had been my default shipping address for all the previous time I had been using this service, it automatically assumed that it was that address that I wanted my charger shipped to. It, on its own, transferred that information to the big box store as the shipping address. I am rubbing my face and doing a closed lip exhale. I have since asked the paying service to remove my old address from any internal files they may keep on me. Mind you my old address was no where in my accessible profile on either site where I could have corrected it. Also, the order placed electronically didn't ship until the very next day, nearly 24 hours after the order was placed. How is it impossible for them to change a shipping address before the item even goes out the door? However, all is well that ends well. I did finally get my charger. I now have to get an electrician to install it and that is going to be another adventure worth telling you about.

Something else that I am looking forward to telling you about is that a local senior living center is having a classic car show as a fund raiser. What does a classic car show have to do with futuristic electric vehicles, you might ask? My wife, sensing that I wanted to talk to people about electric vehicles, took it upon herself to call the organizers of the classic car show to see if they would accept a Nissan, Leaf in the show. This is a small town so worried about having enough vehicles to attract potential donors they said yes to the Nissan, Leaf. My wife then proceeded to volunteer me to show off the electric car.

I am happy to go. This will be like much of the work I did a decade ago to promote electric vehicles, bringing my converted Fiero to every place I could around Washington, DC to tell everyone I could about my experience owning an electric vehicle. I am once again looking forward to answering lots of questions about driving electric. However, this is a classic car show. I have a feeling my newish Nissan, Leaf will stick out like a sore thumb. I wish I could bring my Fiero to the show. It would be a classic car and electric to boot, but it doesn't currently run and it is dirty both inside and out. It will need a thorough cleaning. It is also in serious need of repair. It is missing its batteries, there are a lot of broken and dismantled parts inside the motor compartment and under the front hood. My wife and son think that it would hurt people's impressions of electric cars if I were to take it. What do you think I should do?

Please feel free to ask questions and make comments in the comment section below.

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