A former resident of Wyoming, who now lives in Colorado is experienced at driving his electric vehicle around Wyoming and has taken many return road trips in his Nissan Leaf. Alan O’Hashi learned one thing, and that is that a road trip in an EV is much different than a traditional gasoline-fueled vehicle.
“It was very difficult,” said O’Hashi. “For example, (it took) 15 hours to get from Cheyenne to Casper,” he added. It was his first trip in late May 2022, so this wasn’t back in the beginning days of EVs either. He was able to get the time down to speedy (relatively) 11 hours, a month later. That is 178 miles, to put the trip in perspective. It is less than a 2-and-a-half-hour trip if going at the speed limit.
A plan that will provide money to build EV charging stations every 50 miles along major highways and interstates, was approved by the federal government recently. Getting around the wide-open spaces of Wyoming in an EV is no day trip, at the time of writing, said the report.
O’Hashi wrote a book about the experience of driving EVs across Wyoming titled “On The Trail: Electric Vehicle Advice and Anxiety,” as it has been such a unique adventure.
As there are three levels of chargers that power up different types of EVs at different rates, charging an EV is very different from filling up with gas. None of the methods are as fast as filling up at the pump.
O’Hashi charged up in Wellington, Colorado, just north of Fort Collins, when he was on his first EV trip up to Cody from Colorado in his Nissan Leaf. At a public charging station, he used a Level 3 charger, which can juice up a small EV like a Leaf in 10 to 30 minutes, depending on a number of factors.
He then drove 30 miles to Cheyenne, as it still wasn’t enough charge to get all the way to Casper. He went to Cheyenne, so he could pull into a Nissan dealership to charge up with its Level 2 charger. He would get about 10 miles worth of juice for every hour he was hooked up, at that level. It took him three hours to get the battery back to where it was when he left Wellington.
“What I’ve learned from driving this thing is patience,” said O’Hashi. After a few hours of wait, the 30 miles he added to his range theoretically gave him enough charge to get to Casper. But there is one problem, EV drivers have to factor in hilly terrain and winds that can degrade range by up to half. And the vehicle has to be towed to a place it can charge up, as the EV drivers that run out of charge can’t just call AAA to bring out more electricity.
Before getting stranded in an EV, ideally one could pull off to a public charging station, but unfortunately for O’Hashi in this case, there are no Level 3 charging stations between Cheyenne and Casper. O’Hashi pulled off in Wheatland to use a 220-volt plug-in at an RV park, just to be on the safe side. “So, I could sit there for two hours and get enough charge to get to Casper, but just barely,” said O’Hashi.
When he finally pulled into Wheatland, he was down to just 1% battery life left. Having a fear of draining the battery before getting to the next opportunity to charge up is what EV owners call “range anxiety.”
O’Hashi tried to stop at old motels on the electric road, where he can stay on the first floor and run an extension cord out a window, as in some cases there are plug-ins for block heaters he can use. He could get enough of a charge overnight for another 40 miles. O’Hashi had a bout of anxiety, looking at the distance and fearing not being able to get there on a charge, whereas if he had a gas vehicle, he could fill up the tank a lot easier.
He drove to the Nissan dealership to charge for a couple more hours, just to be on the safe side. When he managed somehow to make it to Riverton, he pulled off into a Hampton Inn that offers car charging, where he charged again for a few hours and was ready to head up into the Wind River Canyon. “So I barely made it to Cody,” said O’Hashi.
What an adventure! Surely, O’Hashi hopes that he will never need to go through this agony again, as the state will receive about $26 million over the next five years to build charging stations along most highways and interstates.