Coquihalla Challenge

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:

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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.

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Starting with a quick charge at Eco Dairy in Abbotsford. Check out the goats on the roof straight ahead of my car!
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Quick charge at Eco Dairy.

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.

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First leg – Hope to Zopkios.
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Alas – terrible photo, but made it to the Coquihalla summit!

editAnd I made it to Merritt! That is the welcome to Merritt sign, not that you can really tell…

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!)

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Arrival in Merritt
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Charging in Merritt
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Merritt evidence
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Enjoying the views in Hope
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Many wood carvings found all over Hope
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New GOM record after descending from Merritt to Hope!

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.

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15 thoughts on “Coquihalla Challenge”

    1. I’m glad this was helpful to you! Yes, in the summer, taking it easy, without a heavy load, it should be ok. Hopefully there will be at least one charger en-route sometime in the near future, which will make this trip possible in more types of EVs during more times of the year!

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  1. Great post! There are no DC chargers in Hope for the Leaf. How can we get one there? That would eliminate spending the night in hope.There are 6 Tesla super chargers in Hope! Yes, in an older leaf like mine (2011) and with an passenger, charging at the rest stop along the Coquihalla is a must. Let’s advocate for a charger at the Britton Creek rest stop! Write to the BC Government for fast charger. I plugged in into the restroom outlet and picniced for 3 hours. Driving a 2011 Leaf I wasn’t as confident about making the distance to Merritt from Hope in one charge. I crawled behind a slow transport truck (30km/hr) for safety on the steep hills to save energy. If I hadn’t stopped to charge I would have had been 15km short of Merritt. I travelled on to St. Ives on Shuswap Lake, charging at the DC charger in Kamloops at the University sport centre (you could have a swim there) and a nice little charging spot in Chase where I watched bank swallows flying in and out of their caves in the hill. Travelling in my EV I see things at charging stops that I wouldn’t otherwise see.

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    1. Hi Joldine, thanks for your comment. There is now a fast charging station that LEAFs can use in Hope (CHAdeMO) located near the Blue Moose, see http://www.plugshare.com/. There are also DCFCs in Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford, (Chilliwack is coming soon) and Hope, so it is very possible to get there from Vancouver. I was actually able to do Vancouver to Hope in one charge on my 2015 LEAF, but stopping for a quick charge or two along the way is a great option to get there comfortably. If you take a look at the BC DCFC Gap Analysis report, you’ll see that the BC Government is aware that Highway 5 (the Coquihalla, from Hope to Merritt) is indeed noted as a priority route for new charging infrastructure for the next round of DCFC deployment: http://pluginbc.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/BC-DCFC-Gap-Analysis-Report-FBC_Aug-2015.pdf. Even without that, DCFCs should be in place soon along Hwy 1 (Boston Bar, Spences Bridge) and Hwy 5 (Manning Park Lodge, already in place in Princeton and Keremeos) to facilitate travel to the interior through those routes. See this map to existing and planned DCFC stations in BC: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=zVchww04UPOI.kRH1VYKLaeYM. All in all, things are steadily improving for EV infrastructure in BC, slowly but surely.

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    1. Hi Ken. I find it really depends on speed, temperature, weather conditions (rain, wind, snow, or not), elevation, passengers, etc. I have been able do to 150 km on a charge all on the highway, when probably averaging about 100 km/h, if reasonably flat, or ~80 km/h if hilly, with just myself in the car. If it’s rainy, windy, cold, etc, in southern BC the range goes down a little bit (maybe in the 10-20% range) but not much more than that, if temperature is above about -5C. Hope that helps.

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  2. I was wondering if your Leaf has the 24 or 30Kwh battery? I have a 2016 SV and am thinking about making the trip to the Salmon Arm area.

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      1. Nice to hear you made it with the S.. was looking at your ranges and kinda figured that’s what you had but wasn’t sure 🙂 Now I’m REALLY curious about the trip from Vic, should be cake.

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  3. I have to admit you are VERY brave! considering many unpredictable factors like charging station availability (occupied or broken), weather (i remember one time driving to Kamloops at near 30c and it suddenly started hailing and strong wind).

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  4. Just wanted to add to this, did Chilliwack fast charger to west Kelowna fast in a chevy bolt today. Had 20 km of range left. Was very concerned but the down hill Regen made it work! A fast charger somewhere in Merritt or on the coquihalla would make it effortless and get me from Kelowna to Vancouver with under an hour of charge time. The future is here!

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    1. Awesome! Glad you made it ok. The future is indeed here now.

      There is a DCFC in Merritt, but only with a CHAdeMO connector, so that doesn’t help you and your Bolt. Hopefully it will be upgraded soon, as others have been, to be dual standard.

      Slowly but surely, EV charging infrastructure and EVs are improving… it’s exciting times, and really rewarding to be part of the early adopter movement.

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  5. Well I made it from Victoria to Rock Creek fully loaded with camping gear. Left Hope with 91% and got to Manning Park with 9% (I was very concerned). Now in Kelowna (via Beaverdell) and analyzing if Kelowna to Merritt is possible. So far spent $8 in charging costs. 2013 Leaf with 66000km.
    Anyone heard if Merritt is possible from Kelowna?

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    1. Sounds like a great, if somewhat nerve-wracking trip! I can’t provide details at this time, but I think Merritt to Kelowna is about to become a whole lot easier next year, and the Hope-Manning Park section should be too, but probable new charging infrastructure added in between.

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      1. There is now a double Chademo and double CCS as well as level 2 at loon lake rest area half way between kelowna and Merritt on the connecter.

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