EPIC electric minivan
With several very expensive luxury cars to drive, Gaytan family prefers their EPIC minivan.

EPIC Journey Continues - The Sequel

He's putting 3,000 miles a month on his electric minivan.

By Rudy Gaytan

As I reported several weeks ago, I was excited to be one of the first to own and operate one of the first really practical EV's. I am a detailed sort of person, so I get pretty technical in my report. Hope this is of interest to most readers and enthusiasts. I report on what I had been asking EV sales people. Most did not know the broad scope of information required for true EV ownership. It is not for most people. You do have to want to "bother." My family, my friends, and factory employees who get to drive my EPIC would bother, now that they've experienced the EV environment.

I read somewhere that the unusualness of EV ownership disappears soon after you start to use the vehicle normally. NOT IN MY CASE. I LOVE MY EV. AND SO DOES EVERYONE IN MY HOUSEHOLD. And we have several cars to choose from.


Try to understand the discipline and focus that it takes to drive this many miles with a vehicle whose range is 80-90 miles per charge. And initially, we didn't even get 50-60 miles, because you want to "see how fast it goes." But now, we see the large Power Consumption gauge, much like a tachometer, like an energy consumption game, where less is more. Here's the deal, we try to see just how low we can keep the needle and still maintain, say 55 mph, or how long it takes to reach your desired speed at a given power reading, determined of course by the accelerator (rheostat, probably).

My 19 year-old son, who drives a 99 Corvette convertible was responsible for the lowest range per charge (why be surprised)? But guess what? He is the one who because he is great at arcade games, is also the one that got 100 miles on one charge. My wife who drives a 500 Mercedes Sedan had no interest to drive EPIC until one day this week, that I had just come off of an 18 hour shift at my factory, and had to return for important paperwork. I begged her to drive me there, as I reclined in the very comfortable bucket seats provided.

She adapted surprisingly easily and quickly to the vehicle. My wife is Hungarian, and has no tolerance for change. She only drives her Mercedes, and nothing else. She expects to press a button and set the seat position, mirrors, etc. In our EPIC the lights and emergency brake release are ergonomically designed along with the gear selector, and radio knobs. The seat's position of only forward and back, with recline, provided her with the acceptable positions she required.

The drive to and from my factory engaged her just as my other passengers have been intrigued with EPIC. Her fear would be that I'd want her to leave her car in favor of the EV. The fact is, I don't prefer to share my EV with other drivers, however, I did order two of these vehicles, so that we can use them for all local errands. And we've done just that with the one we have.

Except for the lack of power windows and keyless entry, Dodge really gave this vehicle lots of thought and consideration for the drivers and occupants. First of all, the Dodge Minivan is considered the "gold standard" in the category. I now know why. It is solid, very well designed, squeak and rattle free, and due to the heavy battery load and positioning, the vehicle's special suspension gives it a sporty handling characteristic. It also sports a slightly different aggressive stance compared to the other "plain Jane" versions that this is. This is after all, a $15,000 Minivan with $30,000 worth of batteries and charger. The sticker is $45,000. But the lease is the key to the success. It has no mileage limitation, (big mistake for Chrysler, but good for me) and the drive off is $1,300 which includes license, charger and 1st payment of $450.

My family drives cars with character, like the new 99 Ford Super Duty F-250 4 X 4 crew cab, V-10; then a 96 500S Mercedes Sedan (Sherman Tank), and my son's 99 Corvette Convertible. But the most unusual vehicle is the Dodge EPIC.

HERE'S THE SURPRISE: We find that our new EV meets over 90% of our driving requirements. It is quiet, smooth, and reasonable powerful from kick start to top end. In fact the power band seems flat, providing the same torque across the speed range.

I live in a hilly private "horsey-set" community, and the quietness of the vehicle is a really welcomed surprise to the neighbors, but probably not to the many rabbits and squirrels I appear to surprise. That is how I discovered EPIC's agility. I find that I really have to be considerate of our horseback rider friends, because the quietness can be quite dangerous to an unsuspecting rider experiencing the same wind in his ears as I am with my windows down. While scarring horses with noisy vehicles is one hazard horseback riders face, now they face my noiseless vehicle. So I drive very slowly and stay as far across the street from them as I over take them on the parallel (to the street-edge) trails.

You see, with the air conditioning off, and no other load of sudden braking, or turning, the power booster accumulator (my unofficial description) shuts off, and the quietness is like an ordinary vehicle coasting.

The super quiet turbine sound is barely perceptible. I'd like to have a CD player installed, along with power windows, and keyless entry, however, I just don't want to part with the vehicle for even half a day.

Here is how I use it. First of all, I've decided that the available high power access at my factory makes for quicker and efficient charging. I used the highest power connections available on the charger, of the two offered.

The electrical connecting options are 240 Volt single phase, much like your home's central air conditioner condenser (the part that is out side our homes), or a 208-220 Volt 3 phase connection where available in commercial and industrial settings. The efficiency of 3 phase electrical systems makes for higher charging rates, less charge time, and is cheaper to operate. It does require a 60 AMP breaker, and #6 wires for runs from the main or subpanel to the charging station that are less than 50 feet.

The air conditioner is not related to engine operation, and is incredible cold. In fact, it is almost too much air coming out of the vents. I have an odd humidity problem, that I have not identified. So I find that my evening and morning commute requires that the refrigeration compressor be engaged to eliminate fogging up windows. I keep my EPIC garaged. By the way, I like how the air conditioning runs during certain charging cycles. It unfortunately shuts off after the vehicle is fully charged. I'd have enjoyed the option provided in several other EV's that allow for preconditioning of the EV's interior.

Please feel free to ask questions, and I'll continue with other details of my saga.

Times Article Viewed: 6298
Published: 01-Jan-2000


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