It all started innocently enough for rally organizer Tony Williams. His brother and sister-in-law invited him to their daughter’s wedding, to take place in June 2012.
As an unemployed airline pilot, he had a lot of time on his hands, and he got to thinking. If he flew up, it would be quick, but where was the challenge? His experience with driving the Nissan LEAF 100% electric car for the previous year gave him an idea that perhaps he could drive there… in the electric car. There were more than a few problems with that, however.
First, there was that problem of there being very little infrastructure available along the route to quickly recharge the car, so he would have to be very careful in planning the trip. Second, the car he owned, the Nissan LEAF, only had an EPA rated range of 73 miles (117km). Third, he had never driven any electric car farther than 100 miles from his house. This trip was going to be over 3000 miles round trip. Fourth, the LEAF he was driving already had about 25,000 miles on it in one year, and it’s battery was starting to show a bit of wear and tear. Fifth, the LEAF was never intended to handle trips very far from home, and didn’t come with a spare tire. And sixth, the charging cord that came with the LEAF would take over 20 hours to charge the car after driving those 73 EPA miles.
Fortunately, he had spent quite a bit of time testing his car to determine just exactly how far the car could go in various circumstances. It wasn’t easy, but the car could be coaxed into driving about 100 miles between charges. With careful manipulation of the “gas” pedal, a slow highway speed and without using the energy consuming heater or air conditioner, it was possible to stretch the range. Like the airplanes he flew, he devised a performance chart to help him determine what parameters produced what range.
Like any aircraft flight, he planned the every detail of the trip, and even called it a “VFR flight plan” (VFR = Visual Flight Rules). As they say in aviation lore, a prudent pilot “plans the flight and flies the plan”. The good news was that the states of Oregon and Washington were developing a robust, statewide quick recharging network, and they were calling it the “West Coast Electric Highway”. Unfortunately, it didn’t appear that the largest state the he had to transverse, California, was going to have much, if anything at all, like that futuristic highway.
Of particular note was a stretch highway in California, along the coast between San Luis Obispo and and Monterey, California, where there was approximately 100 miles between places to recharge. With the current LEAF already somewhat diminished on battery capacity, and worrying that this LEAF might not be able to actually complete the trip, he made the command decision to lease a new LEAF. You should have seen the sales pitch he gave his wife as to why this was a great idea! Just a week or two before he had planned to leave, he drove home in a new LEAF. Now he had two of them.
The charging cord from the previous LEAF had been modified to handle much more power, and was put in the new car, along with a long checklist of provisions for the trip. A spare tire had been added to the previous LEAF, and was tossed in the back of the car along with a laundry list of other “checklist” items. The car was ready to go.
He decided it would be fun to share this with all his fellow LEAF drivers online, so he added a tracking device to the car. He further decided that if this drive was going to be done, it might as well be done from international border to border. “BC2BC” was born from the intended departure and destination points; Baja California to British Columbia.
On June 12, 2012, he and his 10 year old daughter started day one of a nine day odyssey from Mexico to Canada in their 100% electric car in a brand new black 2012 LEAF-SL, serial number 20782. They drove down to the city of Tijuana, Baja California Norte, Mexico, which is only about 33 miles (54km) from their house, but it was a great chance to check that all the preparations were all in order. The next day would be approximately 250 miles, a distance he had never covered in a single day.
BC2BC was completed on schedule, from June 12, 2012 until June 20, 2012, from Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico to White Rock, British Columbia, Canada.
The final tally was:
- 1887 miles (3036 kilometers)
- 8 days, 5 hours
- 230 miles (307 kilometers) average per day
- Oregon was crossed in one day, June 19, 2012, from south to north, 7:25am until 7:25pm
- Washington was crossed in one day, June 20, 2012, from south to north, 10:05am until 11:16pm
Planning for BC2BC-2013 started almost as soon as the first trip was complete.