Mexico to Canada EV Road Trip: EVCS Interview

July 19, 2022 4:25 pm

July 19th, 2022

We sat down with EV owner and enthusiast Anthony Williams, a 60-year-old business owner from San Diego, who recently commemorated the 10-year anniversary of his first trans-American road trip in an EV by retracing the same route to see what had changed in the world of EV fast charging, for better or for worse. Below are some of his insights and feedback.

US: When did you get your first electric vehicle?

AW: I became interested in electric vehicles about 12 years ago when a Google Ad popped up on my feed that said, “You could be driving 100 miles with electricity.” And at the time, gasoline was kind of expensive. So, I thought, “Wow, that’s really a great idea.” I knew electricity was relatively cheap. Like it could be pennies to drive. And I signed up immediately. I think it was April 30th of 2010. You had to pay a $99 down payment to get on the reservation list, and then you could get a Nissan LEAF. And I thought if this is coming from a big manufacturer like Nissan, by gosh, there’s got to be something to this.

US: So, you started with the Nissan LEAF. And what do you drive now?

AW: My daily driver is a 2012 Toyota Rav 4 EV. I bought it brand new 10 years ago, and I’ll drive it for another 10 years. It has about 120,000 miles on it, but I’m hoping to get it to 240 or 250,000 miles before I decide what to do next.

US: How many EVs have you had in total?

AW: Dozens of them. I’m absolutely an early adopter. Sometimes even ahead of the early curve.

US: Where do you charge up most? And what are the benefits of charging on the road versus at home?

AW: Everybody should want to charge their car overnight wherever it is they go to sleep, just like their smartphone. If you plug your phone in every night, you should be just as used to plugging in your car every night. And then every day, you start out with a fully charged car and you go wherever it is you want to go. But if for whatever reason you’re in a situation, like an apartment, where you have no control or access to electrical power, then you’ll have to go to a fast charger somewhere and charge it, more like a gasoline experience. Or for those people who travel beyond the range of wherever their home or work is. If you want to go out on the road, like we just did from Mexico to Canada, then you use the DC fast chargers.

US: Let’s actually talk more about that trip you took from Mexico to Canada. How many times have you done it and what were you driving?

AW: Probably four or five. I’ve done it in a number of different cars. I used the Nissan LEAF on this latest trip. The reason we picked that – again, it was a reenactment of the first time I did it. What did I use in 2012? A brand-new Nissan LEAF. It was about two weeks old.

US: And what was the purpose of these trips?

AW: The original trip in 2012 had a couple motivations. The biggest one was that the States of Oregon and Washington had this new thing called the West Coast Electric Highway, and I wanted to see how good it was. Ultimately, I was the very first person to drive across both Oregon and Washington using only DC fast charging, and secondly, I did both those states in one day. Back then, you could never really fast charge on the road. It just wasn’t a thing. So, this was pretty revolutionary stuff. And my big frustration was that California wasn’t adopting it. They kept saying they would, but of course, they never put any real money in it. So, the other impetus was to prove to the State of California that this was a worthwhile goal.

US: Did you have a lot of range anxiety on that trip?

AW: Range anxiety is a misused term, I think. Formerly, I was an airline pilot. You plan the flight and you fly the plan. It doesn’t make you nervous. It just means that, provided we’re following the plan that we developed, everything’s going to be fine. And, of course, I never ran out of power. It wasn’t even a factor. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t push limits. Because we had to. In 2012, there was one leg I had to do that was 100.7 miles, and it was really difficult to do in a 75-mile range car. It took me six hours to go from Morro Bay to Big Sur going 15 miles per hour.

US: That was the first trip. What about this recent trip?

AW: The whole idea was to do a 10th anniversary recreation of that first trip. More of a parade lap. I would just follow the same route. I’d use a brand-new Nissan LEAF. I’d start at the Mexico border and end up at the Canadian Peace Arch like I did last time. And what would be different was you’d be able to contrast and say it took nine days to do the trip in a Nissan LEAF last time. By the way, we got great press from television and newspapers and all kinds of good stuff in 2012. Now, on the current drive, I had a car with three times the driving range. But the second largest difference, and probably far more important, is that the charging infrastructure is in the ground now. I did the trip in four days, so less than half the time, with an entire suite of infrastructure to charge the car. That’s the key difference. And that’s where you guys come in – the system that was built 10 years ago has only gotten better. The chargers are better pieces of equipment and now they can handle other cars, not just the Nissan LEAF.

US: How did you feel about the EVCS chargers you encountered on the trip?

AW: The first EVCS charger I went to was literally the very same location I stopped at in 2012 at Grant’s Pass. And it worked great.

US: What’s the best thing about charging with EVCS?

AW: The $49 per month plan is a huge benefit to the consumer. That’s just phenomenal. I think it’s a great value. I did use most of the same charging locations. And they’re great locations for the original plan, which was shorter-range cars. Is that detrimental to a longer-range car? Not at all. You just skip the chargers you don’t need and keep going.

US: What could EVCS do to improve the customer experience?

AW: The number one frustration with EV charging, in general, is wholly relying on cellular communication. If for whatever reason your phone battery is dead or the cell signal isn’t working, and it happens, then you can’t get the charge started. My recommendation would be to continue to install the infrared fob readers so that I can just swipe in front of it and the thing starts charging. I wouldn’t suggest taking away the app, but I’d like to see three different options for activating every charger. If I had a fob and that got it working, that’s fine. If the app can get it working, that’s fine, too. And if those two both fail, maybe a credit card would work. That’s not just your network. Your competitors have very similar issues.

US: So, in the rare instance when you had an issue activating a charger, was our customer service team able to address it?

AW: Oh, they got it going quickly, so that I genuinely appreciate. If I could call, they got the charger running. I never got stuck. There was never any problem that way.

US: If you could use just one word to describe the EVCS network, what would it be?

AW: Well-planned. I guess that’s two words.

US: It’s hyphenated, so I think that counts as one. Anything else you want to add that we didn’t cover?

AW: Overall, the network was well done and well executed. I’m looking forward to what the next 10 years will bring.

Thank you, Anthony!

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