We acquired our new Nissan Leaf (40 kWh battery) about two months ago. Prior to that we’d had a first‑generation Nissan Leaf.

We loved our earlier Leaf and used it as our main family car for getting around Canberra for just over five and a half years – but it was only ever a ‘city car’. When we went further afield we used our petrol Hyundai i30.

The new Leaf offered us the opportunity to go EV on much longer trips and I was really excited to test out our new car on a weekend away.

Naturally, I was also very keen to challenge the Prime Minister’s assertion that you’ll lose your weekends if you get an EV.

For our first venture I opted for a relatively conservative trip: a loop from Canberra to Batemans Bay; to Berry (just north of Nowra); to Mittagong; and then back home.

The NRMA has installed rapid (DC) chargers at each of the three regional locations. We booked a hotel in Bombaderry for the Saturday night.

With our previous Leaf we had only really ever charged at home (about 90% of our EV energy use in 2018 came from our solar PV system) and I was particularly keen to see how charging on the road at the NRMA installations would work out.

We headed out from home on the Saturday morning of the Labour Day long weekend.

Canberra to Batemans Bay

As you can see from the table, we started out with a full battery and there were no range issues in getting to Batemans Bay.

The road between Braidwood and Batemans Bay involves a slow, several hairpins, 25km descent from the top of the scarp to the coast.

It was great to just put the Leaf into ‘e‑pedal’ (strong regeneration) mode and go all the way down without touching the brake. Never done that before!

We gained about 10km in range going down the descent.

The charging at Batemans Bay went without a hitch. It took us about 30 minutes to get back to an 80% full battery. Had a nice chat at the charger with the enthusiastic owner of a new Tesla Model 3.

Batemans Bay to Berry

Again, we had no range problems with reaching Berry. We stopped in at Bomaderry on way and checked into our hotel. We got to Berry in the late afternoon and, as before, the charging was very straightforward.

There were no problems with charging speed while we carried out our second rapid charge in a few hours. This time I had a good long conversation with a man sitting nearby who was very keen to learn about EVs.

Berry to Mittagong

We had plenty of charge to get to Mittagong but the big unknown was how much energy we would use going up the double climb onto the scarp.

We started from Bomaderry and headed for Kangaroo Valley.

The ascent involves a steep, several hairpins, approx 500m climb to the point where one looks down into the Valley; a steep descent down to the township; and then another approx 500m climb back out of the Valley up to the top of the scarp.

On both climbs we used about 30km more range than we would have done if the road had been flat. My family (two adults + two teenagers) weighs about 240kgs in total.

This performance indicated that we should have no problems in the future taking day trips to Batemans Bay in the Leaf rather than in our i30 (this was one of the key things I hoped to find out on our weekend).

Mittagong was where our trip became really interesting. We arrived at the charger around noon and it was occupied by an unattended Tesla Model S which had been charging for about an hour. There was already one EV (Hyundai Ioniq) waiting to charge.

We were second in the queue and not long after another Ioniq arrived. The Tesla finally finished its charging after another 30 minutes (in total it was charging for 94 minutes) and we then began to get the queue moving. The Ioniq, similar to us, took about 30 minutes to charge.

Before we left a Hyundai Kona also turned up to charge. We were all in the middle of our journeys. As we all waited, we had a good chance to talk about EVs and there was a fair bit of good‑natured grumbling about the behaviour of the Tesla Model S owner.

It seemed to us that there is inherently something wrong when cars trying to fill up during a journey are delayed by a local EV owner who carries out a very lengthy charge at a time simply to suit themselves (this was apparently the case with the Tesla). Clearly, some thought needs to be put into managing congestion at EV chargers.

Mittagong to Canberra

If there had been no queue, I would have charged the Leaf to have a range of around 250km before heading back to Canberra but given the circumstances I only charged the battery to 80% full to let the others get on their way.

This led to us having an interesting ride home.

We knew that things were going to be tight, so I set the cruise control at 100km/hr to conserve energy.

Our Plan B was to pull into Goulburn and re-charge if it looked like we wouldn’t make Canberra. However, when we got close to Goulburn we decided that we had enough in the battery to drive straight home.

It was tight, but by constantly monitoring the remaining distance and remaining range and adjusting our speed (we spent most of that leg with the cruise control set at 90km/hr) we got home with a little to spare.

Verdict

Very happy! Love the new Leaf. Weekends are not lost! I’m now confident that in future we can convert many of our regional trips (Batemans Bay, Sydney, etc) into EV journeys. The i30 can have a rest.

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