“We were about as disparate a group as you could possibly have,” he says. “But the one thing we had in common was that we wanted to complete this trip. We knew where we had to be at the end of the day, and one way or another, we found a way to get there.”
As the designated route planner, it was Leffel’s job to guide the group to its final destination — Google’s headquarters in San Francisco. He spent months mapping out less-traveled highways and byways to accommodate vehicles that could only reach 25-35 mph.
But the speed limit wasn’t his toughest challenge. “One of the biggest differences about using electric vehicles is that you have to plan better; you have to know where your power source is going to be,” he stresses.
From South Carolina to the Mississippi River, Leffel was able to recharge the LEAF at public charging stations. Beyond the Mississippi, however, power became scarce, and capturing it required a little resourcefulness.
It turns out that hotels could recharge more than just the group’s sleep cycle. Using a special adapter, Leffel plugged his car into outlets that normally powered hotel vending machines and air conditioners.
“Power is everywhere. It’s just a matter of being able to capture it,” Leffel insists, exuding the kind of optimism that helped him along the road less travelled.
Staying charged was necessary to stay on the road and, more important, on the strict timetable Jones set for the tour. Since part of the challenge was that the group had only 44 days to make the cross-country trip, they had to travel about 100 miles every day. When they weren’t traveling, they were usually sleeping, recharging batteries or spreading the word about electric vehicles at public events.