Our family recently went on a beach trip to Kekaha from Wailua in our 2015 Nissan Leaf. This is about 70 miles round-trip, and we still have about 100 miles of range on the battery meter, so this was a good test of range in real-world conditions. Spoiler alert: we made it there and back without any issues, though we did stop in Lihue on the return to eat, so we went ahead and charged with 23 miles left (7 miles from home).

Why Kekaha? Because we haven’t been beyond Waimea in our Leaf, and I realized in 10 years we’d never actually stopped to visit that beach! In our previous gas car, we had always just driven past on our way to Polihale (that’ll be another trip for another day in the Leaf). Plus, Kekaha is the start of the “barking sands” beach that wraps all the way from Kekaha town to the Na Pali cliffs at Polihale. You can’t walk the entire way because of the PRMF military base, but you can certainly get beyond the crowds at the beach park.

We charge our Leaf from solar panels, so we charged it full the day before. We ran some errands that evening, so in the morning before leaving, we plugged in the trickle charger to get it back to 100% before leaving. I also strapped on a surf board for my daughter, like I said, real-world conditions and less aerodynamic shape meant slightly more drag.

The drive south to Lihue and then to the west side was uneventful. It’s 600 feet uphill to the Knudsen gap  (around the tree-tunnel turn-off to Koloa and Poipu), so that uses more charge. Then there are up-and-down hills in Kalaheo, but it’s mostly downhill to Hanapepe so it evens out.

It was a sunny spring day, so we ran the air-conditioner, which takes about 10% or 10 miles off our range. This did give us a bit of “range anxiety” because 100-70=30 miles to spare, but with 10 less, that’s only 20 miles buffer. And then we stopped in Hanapepe for an hour, and because we had to leave the dogs in the car, we left the air-conditioning running. I was a bit worried about the power consumption, but it turns out it only used 5 miles of range (or about 1.2 kWh).

One thing you get used to as an electric car driver is keeping these numbers in the back of your mind, I call it range awareness–no need for anxiety if you know you can make it. After the air-conditioned stop, we have 15 miles to spare, but we also know we can stop 10 miles before home to recharge in Lihue. So that leaves us 25 miles to spare, though I’d never want to go under 10, so really a 5-mile buffer to make it home or a 15-mile buffer to the nearest charger.

In any case, now we drive to Kekaha beach park, find a spot to park, and enjoy the beach. The waves wash up flat areas of sand and make shallow pools to soak in, which is good because the waves are too rough to get in the water. No sense taking the surfboard, so it stays strapped to the car. We walk less than a mile down the beach, find solitude, get hot, turn around, and soak in the pools of water.

Before the drive home, we stop to take pictures of the car by the beach. In Kekaha, the road is right next to the beach and ocean, so it’s a great place for a photoshoot (see top photo).

On the way home, we keep an eye on the battery charge, and it’s still about as predicted. We do stop at glass beach in Port Allen, but that is only about a mile detour off the main road. As usual, there is also more headwind going east, but it doesn’t seem to affect the mileage noticeably (with the surfboard on the roof, it probably did use a mile or two of range).

In Lihue, we have 23 miles of range left, enough to get home just around the 15 miles as predicted. But we are hungry, so we park and plug in at the free county chargers and eat dinner. Just under an hour later, we have 40 miles of charge and drive home without a worry.

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