Bakersfield to Grover Beach Using Only DCFC

By Paul Gipe

On 8 September we drove our 2015 Nissan Leaf from Bakersfield to Grover Beach, California using only DC Fast Charging (DCFC) stations.

The limited capacity of the Leaf’s traction battery forces us to take a 250-mile round-about route south on I-5 then west to the coast on Hwy 126 and then north along the coast to Grover Beach. In a gasoline-powered car or a high-end Tesla EV you can drive directly west from Bakersfield, cutting 100 miles off our longer route.

We’ve made the same 500-mile trip several times since obtaining the Leaf, a mass-market Electric Vehicle (EV). In the two years we have driven the car we have refined the route as we’ve become more comfortable with my range anxiety. (My wife Nancy seems unconcerned, figuring we’ll get there eventually. She’s been right so far.)

In our more recent trips we’ve driven the 70-some miles from Lebec to Ventura in one leg. We’ve also crossed San Marcos Pass out of Santa Barbara on Hwy 154, which is a much shorter route than taking Hwy 101 west of Santa Barbara and then driving north. These refinements have shortened the trip considerably.

On the return trip, we cross San Marcos Pass from Santa Ynez and then continue on to Ventura, cutting out the stop in Santa Barbara. However, we have to stop in Valencia or Santa Clarita to charge up before tackling the Tejon Pass.

This trip was unusual in that we were able to use DCFC stations on the entire route. Previously we would have to stop at the Flying J truck stop in Lebec for several hours. There we would use our portable charge cable, Jesla, and a high-voltage, high-current extension cord, and adapter to charge from a Shorepower terminal. This is awkward in the best of circumstances and unpleasant during the winter.

I make a detailed trip itinerary using EVTriPlanner and I use Plugshare to identify the stations and to get their coordinates. I then program the address of the stations into my Blackberry. As Tony Williams says, “Plan the drive and drive the plan.” That’s what I try to do.

After the trip, I compare our results with that from our plan. There have been some serious discrepancies in the past, such that I feel the detailed planning is still justified.

Leaf Spy, which is also on my Blackberry, provides data on Gids, kWh and much more. I summarized the Gids and kWh from Leaf Spy and compare that with data derived from the dash display of State of Charge (SOC).

Subsequently, I compare the actual kWh used for each leg to that estimated by EVTriPlanner and note if there’s any significant deviance. For example, the leg from Ventura to Castaic we used nearly 20% more kWh than predicted. Similarly, we used nearly 30% more kWh on the homeward bound leg from Gorman to Bakersfield. Note that I didn’t drive conservatively here. I drove like everyone else on I-5, confident that I had plenty of charge to reach home.

This is a companion piece to a previously posted article: I-5 Over the Tejon Pass with EV Express DC Fast Chargers and was written in response to a question from a user of