Lineboro couple takes Nissan Leaf on 'Electric Road Trip'

Jonathan Slade, an associate professor at McDaniel College, and his wife, Novia Campbell, pose with their 2012 Nissan Leaf they drove more than 500 miles across Maryland, from Oakland to Ocean City.
Jonathan Slade, an associate professor at McDaniel College, and his wife, Novia Campbell, pose with their 2012 Nissan Leaf they drove more than 500 miles across Maryland, from Oakland to Ocean City. (Photo courtesy Larry Canner/Maryland)

Jonathan Slade and his wife, Novia Campbell, are no strangers to road trips.

After watching a Maryland Public TV special ranking the best breakfast restaurants in America, Slade and Campbell set off just a week later for Portland, Ore., where the two best breakfast spots on the special were located. The couple made their way across the country in July 2010, and then stayed in Portland for two days — making sure to grab breakfast at each diner they saw on the special.


"We have a history of taking these crazy driving trips," Slade, an associate professor of communication and cinema at McDaniel College, said with a laugh.

Slade and his wife's most recent road trip is nowhere near as long as the trip to Portland, and it could be considered more environmentally friendly.


In the summer of 2012, Slade and Campbell drove their 2012 Nissan Leaf more than 520 miles across Maryland, from Oakland to Ocean City and points in between, to prove that an electric car is practical for people today. Along the way, Slade and Campbell interviewed electric car owners and others for their thoughts on the cars.

The Lineboro couple recorded their trip using four high-definition, GoPro cameras to create a documentary on the benefits of electric cars.

The documentary premieres Wednesday at the Carroll Arts Center in Westminster at 7:30 p.m. It will air on MPT on April 23 at 8 p.m.

Slade described the 60-minute production as a mix between reality show and informational documentary.

"It's really a story of two average people trying to drive an electric car across Maryland and, 'Oh, we're going to learn something about the electric car along the way,' " he said.

Slade and Campbell shot the film together, with Slade editing the film before graphics and audio were added by MPT.

The trip took six days, making them, to the best of their knowledge, the first people in Maryland to drive an electric car across the state.

The couple bought their Leaf in 2012, but Slade, 48, admits that he has been fascinated with electric cars since he was a child.

"I've wanted an electric car since I was like 7-years-old," he said.

The couple had discussed the possibility of purchasing an electric car and were saving up to one day do so before Slade decided to take a break from grading papers in April 2012. Browsing the Internet, he came across a listing to test drive a Leaf at Len Stoler Nissan in Owings Mills.

In keeping with their spontaneous nature, an hour later, Slade and Campbell were at the Owings Mill dealership.

"The Leaf felt like a real car," said Campbell, adding that other electric cars they had test driven felt like toys.


The timing was also perfect. The average wait to purchase an electric car in 2012 was three to four months, due to parts delay. But a Leaf was available for Slade just days after his test drive after a prospective buyer in New Jersey canceled.

Thus, just two days after test driving the Leaf, Slade drove his 1997 Honda Civic with more than 300,000 miles on it to Owings Mills to be traded in for the Leaf.

Just three months after purchasing the Leaf, Slade pitched the idea of driving it from Oakland to Ocean City to Campbell.

"We're always last minute deciding on what we're going to do for our vacations," she said.

Three weeks later, Slade, a former producer at MPT, had equipped his car with two cameras inside, a third on the exterior, and a portable camera for recording man-on-the-street interviews.

Slade acknowledged the distance on the road trip was no challenge for the couple, but the infrastructure — such as finding available charging stations — was the challenge.

Charging the Leaf takes about 18 hours using a standard wall outlet, but using a 220-volt dryer outlet takes four to five hours, Slade said. Those times are associated with the car battery being completely empty, which never happens, he said.

Since owning his Leaf, Slade has begun using the mobile app PlugShare, which maps charging stations for electric cars.

In addition to the hour-long documentary premiere on Wednesday, an electric car show will be on display before the premiere on West Main Street.

Tickets for the premiere are $5, and include a question and answer session with Slade. They are available online at https://library.carr.org/earthday.

For information on the road trip, go to the Facebook page, The Electric Road Trip Across Maryland.

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