An electric-powered cross-country road trip

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Brian Kent’s Nissan Leaf charging in Ohio. Photo credit: Brian Kent

What’s the conventional wisdom about electric cars? They’re quiet, they have nice pick-up, they’re good for getting around town, but, because of their limited range, they’re not suited to take on a long road trip.

Brian Kent wants to change that perception. Kent, 44, is a freelance writer based in Albion, New York. On Aug. 28 he set out on a 26,000 mile road trip in his Nissan Leaf. His planned route will take him through all of the 48 contiguous states as well as parts of Canada. Along the way, he’s planting a tree in every state and province he visits. KCRW has been checking in with Kent periodically throughout his trip.

“The idea is to prove the viability of electric cars,” Kent said. He’s also using the trip to document the limited availability of public quick-charge stations throughout the country.

“I’ve had to tweak the itinerary quite a bit. I was behind schedule and part of that was due to charging infrastructure problems.”

Several weeks into his electric-powered odyssey, he’s logged almost 11,000 miles. If he watches his speed, Kent is able to average 110 miles per charge.

“If I know it is a fairly remote area, I don’t push the charge as much as I would otherwise,” he said.

Kent is currently making his way through the Midwest but the open spaces of the region are forcing him to be very particular about his route over the next few weeks. “Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska are tough states for charging. I’m routing through charging stations.”

With his fuel costs hovering around $0.02 per mile, Kent is tracking his progress on his blog where he reports on his day-to-day activities and the variety of charging stations he visits. He frequents Nissan dealerships as well as municipal buildings, community colleges and campsites to power up. 

Kent’s trip hasn’t been without incident. His car died in the Catskills but he managed to coast into a driveway where a friendly resident offered him a place to plug in and recharge. He wasn’t quite as lucky a couple weeks later when an 18 mile wrong turn caused him to run out of juice. A tow truck had to help him reach that evening’s campsite.

We’ll touch base with Kent again before he finishes his trip, which is scheduled to wrap up in early December in Washington, D.C.