I simply couldn’t resist giving the “Coquihalla Challenge” a try with my LEAF.
For those unfamilar, the Coquihalla Highway is a steep, mountainous route connecting Hope to Merritt and Kamloops. The first section, Hope to Merritt, is about 121 km (from the Hope charging station to Merritt charging station) and involves over 1000 m of elevation gain. The profile looks like this:
As you can imagine, that incline eats up range like crazy (and burns gas like crazy in an ICE [internal combustion engine] vehicle).
Several people (http://stevecoram.blogspot.ca/2014/01/conquercoquihalla.html and http://www.mynissanleaf.com/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=14024&sid=75f2e9dae2cf397aef1dabfb01161cbb) have posted before about doing the ‘Coquihalla Challenge’ – trying to get a LEAF from Hope to Merritt – including some of them in the middle of winter! Most of the posts I’ve seen, and plugshare, indicate that many of these people have made it by trickle charging (120V outlet) at the old toll booth for awhile. Others have entered Merritt via tow truck.
I did not want to do either of those options. I wanted to see if my new LEAF (well, it was manufactured in May 2014, so it’s not super new anymore) could make it in one go…
I started with a quick charge at Eco Dairy in Abbotsford, because I’d been running errands earlier in the day and did not start with 100% state of charge.
Unfortunately my timing for all of this wasn’t great, and it was dark for most of the fun part of the trip, hence the poor photos.
I took it very conservatively leaving Hope. I did pop into the Zopkios rest area at 46 km to check it out. I used 47% of my range to travel those first 45.7 km to Zopkios, just below the summit.
I made it, without hours of trickle charging en-route! However, like others before me, I definitely did not go the speed limit (speed limit is 120 km/h much of the way). I went more like 60-80 km/h which is definitely slow, and definitely not optimal (however, I did travel above the minimum speed, 60, and thus legally). Luckily, the road was very quiet in the dark. I also, on recommendation, took the Coldwater exit about 30 km before Merritt to get off the highway and travel a route going slower speeds.
I arrived in Merritt 124 km later with 21% charge remaining, so in hindsight, I could’ve gone faster and/or stayed on the highway. It’s a bit silly, but I charged up at the Merritt DCQC, answered EV FAQs to a curious police officer (how far does it go, how long to charge, etc) and went home. I had to charge for a few hours in Hope (arrived with 41% SOC), after which time I made a new personal record on the GOM (212 km!)
In summary, in my experience, a 2015 LEAF under pretty good weather conditions does not need to charge to cross the Coquihalla, and could drive at a somewhat normal speed. However, with an older car, and under cooler/wetter/windier/snowier conditions, charging is a must. Hopefully some type of formal charging infrastructure will makes its way along that stretch soon.