During the 2019 National Drive Electric Week, Plug In America took part in the Charge Forward EV Relay throughout the State of New Hampshire. This began at the far north end of the state, and wound its way 267 miles from Colebook to Portsmouth.
Unfortunately, this year’s event could not be held, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, I thought I would retrace the route myself during National Drive Electric Week, in commemoration of last year’s relay, in hopes of next year’s, and as a chance to get out of the house. Driving through New England to look at the colors of the fall foliage is a time-honored tradition, called “leaf-peeping,” and it is a fall activity perfectly compatible with social distancing.
As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one with that idea.
Last year, I had driven up to Colebrook the night before, to start the relay far up north in the morning. This year, I decided against spending the night away from home, and left my home (near Boston) in the morning after breakfast. I would do the relay route in reverse – if it got too late (due to traffic, construction, or other issues) then I could head back earlier. I began with a near-full charge, with 215 miles on my 75 kWh Model S. I probably could have charged to full, but I knew there was enough charging along the way to not need to do that. So I stuck to my usual practice of only charging to 90% or so. Many EVs available today have greater range than 215 miles, such as the Chevy Bolt. Visit PlugStar.com to view other available long-ranged EVs.
Market Square in Portsmouth was much quieter than last year, in part due to the early hour. From there, I took Route 101 to Manchester (where we had stopped at the Eversource office last year) and then Interstate 93 to Concord and the State House.
I next took Route 106 to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, though unlike last year I didn’t take any laps around the track. Who knows, they might have let me if I asked! There are a couple of EV chargers at the Speedway running off of solar-powered battery-filled trailers, but I did not remember those until I was past. Will have to try them out next time.
Figure 1: New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, NH
Figure 2: The many colors of New Hampshire’s fall foliage, seen from the Speedway.
Then it was back on I-93 to the Common Man Inn & Spa in Plymouth. This is a public level 2 charger intended for guests of the restaurant and inn.
Figure 3: The Common Man has EVSE at many of its properties in New Hampshire.
I stopped to charge at the Tesla Supercharger in Lincoln, at one end of the Kancamagus Highway. Tesla commands a large share of the EV market, in part due to their extensive charging network. Had I taken a different EV, such as a Chevy Bolt or Nissan LEAF, I could have reached Colebrook by taking Interstate 91 along the Vermont-New Hampshire border.
I got out and stretched my legs while the car charged. I have never found getting out every three hours to walk around to be a hardship. I had some snacks and checked my email and texts. I chatted a bit with some other Tesla drivers; the Supercharger station had another EV plugged in when I arrived, as well as one across the parking lot. By the time I left, about 15 minutes later, two more Tesla vehicles had arrived to charge.
Route 112, the Kancamagus Highway, runs through the White Mountain National Forest. This trip was about two weeks later than the 2019 EV Relay, so the fall foliage was further along. The trees hang over the road, and it is an ever-changing kaleidoscope of color as you drive down the highway. Plug In America does not recommend taking pictures or videos while driving, so I pulled over to a scenic overlook of Waterville Valley. These overlooks spots were quite busy. And this was a Thursday, not even a weekend. Fortunately we were all outside, and masked, and more than six feet apart.
Figure 4: Scenic overlook of Waterville Valley from the Kancamagus Highway
At the other end of the Kancamagus, in North Conway, there are a great number of Level 2 chargers, mostly at various ski resorts. Last year we had stopped at Cranmore Mountain Resort. My car informed me that to use this charger I should ask at the front desk. Having plenty of charge, and not wanting to trouble them, I moved on.
I could tell from my car’s navigation system that there were also Level 2 chargers at the Mount Washington Auto Road on Route 16. I probably had enough charge to make to Colebrook and back down to Lincoln again, but I needed to stop for lunch, I wanted to chronicle the chargers on the route, and I didn’t want to cut my range too close. The Auto Road has a small café, so I plugged in, got a sandwich and a coffee, and stayed for a short bit adding some miles before moving on. As in Lincoln, here too I had company at the chargers, as another EV plugged in shortly after I arrived.
Figure 5: Multiple Level 2 chargers at Mt. Washington Auto Road
Figure 6: Mt. Washington and the New Hampshire fall foliage
I took Route 110 to US 3, getting to Colebrook in the afternoon. My car informed me that I could get back to Lincoln without a problem, but even so I stopped by LaPerle’s IGA to ensure that their system was working. While there are no DCFC north of Concord (except for Tesla chargers), there are plenty of Level 2 chargers. North of the White Mountains, there isn’t even much in the way of Level 2. The Level 2 charger installed by the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative at LaPerle’s IGA is over 50 miles from the any other public Level 2 charger in New Hampshire, the nearest of which are in Littleton and in Berlin. As a result, the Level 2 charger at LaPerle’s, supported by a solar array, is vital for EV drivers in the region.
Figure 7: EV charger and solar array at La Perle’s IGA, Colebrook, NH
I plugged in and added a few more miles. A pair of locals stopped their truck to watch my car charging, and I talked about my favorite topic – EVs! I found them genuinely interested, and I am hopeful that in a few years there will be many EV pickup truck options for them to choose from.
The lack of charging options in northern New Hampshire is an issue that state officials, utility experts, and local non-profits are well aware of. This was the focus of an August 28 presentation to the state’s electric vehicle commission, and we are hopeful that the state will support investment in this technology through the VW Settlement funds. These are not the densely-populated areas that see the most travel, but having some charging options in this region is essential; drivers don’t just buy a vehicle that suits their everyday commute, but one that can do their occasional drives to more remote destinations.
I didn’t stay very long in Colebrook, since I had a long drive ahead of me. On the way back from Colebrook I did see this rather portly fellow crossing the road…
Figure 8: Beaver crossing the road, northern New Hampshire
The drive back was a straight shot, rather than zig-zagging across the state, so I was still home at a reasonable hour.
Figure 9: The 2019 EV Relay Route, retraced in reverse in 2020
The relay route itself: 260 miles, 61.6 kWh, for 237 Wh/mi.
My entire round-trip from my home: 558 miles, 133.4 kWh, for 239 Wh/mi.
The mild weather contributed to the low energy consumption, as I had little need to run either heating or air conditioning. And when mountain roads needed more energy to ascend, I got energy back on the way down.
It was a pleasant drive, although it would have been more fun to have a convoy of EVs tracing the route. Next year!