EV Trip Report: Bakersfield to Visalia

By Paul Gipe

We planned another excursion in our 2015 Nisssan Leaf, an Electric Vehicle (EV). This time we planned to join friends for dinner in Visalia to the north of Bakersfield in the heart to the San Joaquin Valley.

While we didn’t meet our friends after all, we did have coffee with John Rowell of EVSE Adapters. It was John’s posting of his adventurous trip to the end of the road—literally—in Mineral King Valley in his Nissan Leaf that encouraged us to make our own trips and report on them to the greater EV-owners’ community.

John now drives a Mitsubishi Miev and is not timid about making modifications to it. He’s an inveterate experimenter and was happy to show off his “mods”.

While John has made the trip from Bakersfield to Visalia in a Leaf on one charge, he’s more adventurous—by far—than we. Instead, we decided to break the 80-mile trip up into two segments: Bakersfield to Tulare; Tulare to Visalia.

We’d charge in Tulare on a Level 2 and in Visalia at Nissan’s DC Fast Charge station.

Our stop in Tulare, a Central Valley Ag town if there ever was one, was at Southern California Edison’s Education Center across from the Tulare fairgrounds. I’d spoken there for hire several years ago, so I knew the general layout.

There are two ClipperCreek stations with two ports each bordering the parking lot. One’s near the entrance. The other is near the covered parking lot. There’s a shaded patio that makes a nice picnic area and if the gates are open so is the building and its restrooms.

Again we learned Tony William’s admonishment remains true, “Plan the drive, and drive the plan.” My GPS took us one exit further than either Plugshare.com or EVTripPlanner had plotted. This took us a few miles further than planned and that required nearly two more kWh than I’d estimated for that leg of the trip.

It was warm and getting warmer by the minute when we reached Tulare. The Edison center is a useful charge stop, but for me it’s grating. In typical SCE fashion, the utility has installed several small “wind turbines”—and I use the term loosely—that are merely for show. When I spoke there on wind energy, the staff justified the installations to me as “demonstrations” of what farmers could use. The only thing SCE demonstrated was how a company could use Greenwashing to cover its environmental tracks. To add insult to injury, they put the worst of the bunch facing the parking lot. Now everyone who comes to the building for “education” can see for themselves that wind turbines don’t work. Brilliant.

Nevertheless, we were happy that they had a charge station.

When we arrived at Nissan in Visalia it was already 90 F, but the Nissan-branded quick charger—noted for their unreliability–worked as advertised. Within 20 minutes we had the charge we needed and proceeded to find a hotel.

The Lamp Liter is a 1960s motel on the main route through Visalia on the way to Sequoia National Park. Though the reviews were mixed, we found the motel more than satisfactory and when we found a 120-volt duplex outlet the staff was more than willing to let us trickle charge.

The return trip was uneventful.

In general the Leaf’s energy consumption on Highway 99 was more than that estimated. Traffic is aggressive on 99 and it’s wise to stay up with the flow, increasing consumption over what it might be otherwise.