Adventures & Misadventures of an EV in the Country (Part 6)

Jun 28, 2015

I thought that I might do a little revisit of some of the adventures that we have talked about in the past, and talk about where they stand now.

My Leaf in our rural country side has become so ordinary that I am having a hard time finding something to write about in the experience. Not having enough texture to write about for an EV experience is a very good thing. So, in order to let you, my readers, know what is going on, and so you don't think I just fell off the edge of the earth, I thought that I might do a little revisit of some of the adventures that we have talked about in the past, and talk about where they stand now.

Do you remember my adventure to the specialty grocery store that had items that I believed I couldn't live without? The first trip up was met with heavy winds blowing opposite to the direction I was going. I also had to contend with the highway speeds, everyone else seemed to be traveling on the Interstate making me a nuisance for trying to stay the speed limit or more accurately a nuisance to one idiot driver in the slow lane. It was also unseasonably cold that day, and my shoes were too tight, and my finger had a booboo, etc. etc. You get the picture. My range indicated by my Leaf dropped to below the miles needed to get back home when I got to the store. I was anxious whether I would make it home without needing to stop somewhere and get a charge. However, on my return the range changed dramatically where I ended up with something like 20 miles range when I got home. I wondered whether to put that store in my “safe to go without planning” file and then thought no. Well, that store is now firmly in the “don't need to think that much to go to it” file. I have been there several times with no problem.

Why the difference? I used an online map to find the shortest route there trying to avoid that Interstate. I used another divided highway closer to my town that was built in anticipation of a bridge that hadn't been built yet. This meant a long, smooth road with little traffic on it, with plenty of room for faster going cars to go around me if they wanted. This only slightly shorter route also weaved through small suburban towns bringing my speeds lower following the advice of one of the commenters of an earlier posting. The weather has been cool, but not windy or unseasonably cold for all my trips there. To make this story shorter we have made it there with plenty of miles to return home and the return home is a breeze with plenty of miles to use for doing other stuff around town. I can now safely say that the specialty grocery store is no problem.

The more I drive the vehicle and get used to the range the more adventurous I am becoming. I had once looked at a place that had a park along the river. In an earlier post I said something to the effect that I was glad that the park had a charging station so that I could go to it. Well, the station turned out to be at a dealer several miles away from the park, which constitutes “near” in distances in the country. The park, however, if I travel directly to it using the shortest route possible, was closer than I first calculated. Their is a flea market in the town nearby the park that I wanted to go to so I decided we should go and check it out. According to the online map the trip was going to be 25 miles out and 25 miles back leaving us with 30 plus miles to spare on our return. We went and the mileage guesser said we had traveled 24 miles to get there. Pretty good. When we were set to return home my wife suggested we go to a restaurant in an out of the way town that featured fresh from the farm food. So we did. I didn't put it in the calculation of mileage, we just did it. I wasn't sure of the distance to the restaurant from the flea market, but I knew that the restaurant was about 15 miles from home. It made our trip, if mapped out from start to finish look like a bid capital D. We went pretty much straight to the flea market, then went along highway X to highway Y and down to the restaurant, then down on Y again till it reached a numbered highway and then to highway T until we reached county road K, which took us home. The trip ended up being longer than I thought and we pulled into the driveway at around 18 miles left in the range guesser, but no worries.

What I am trying to say here is that after a while as an EV driver you develop a sort of sixth sense about range and where you can go and can't go. This trip wasn't planned out beyond the initial planning of how to get to the flea market. However, after the flea market the trip was relatively free form. Yet I don't remember having any anxiety about range for the trip. I guess what I am experiencing is “range calmness,” or “range serenity,” which comes with getting comfortable with the car's range when that range is in one's familiar surrounding area. This will happen to you once you get your EV and drive it a bit.

I am sure you are wondering what happened to my adventure with my level II 6.6+ kw charging station install in my garage? Well, let me tell you. I met with an electrician and found out that my electrical panel is defective. It was the subject of many recalls and government investigations. Not believing that I had to take on this extra expense just to put in a simple charging station I went to the Internet to investigate it. To my shock I ended up reading horror story after horror story online about my type of electrical panel catching fire, with pictures.

I then realized that I had had several odd occurrences much like those talked about in the articles with that panel. Luckily nothing bad had happened so far. One day a few weeks ago, after the electrician told me I had a bad electrical panel, I notice that my air conditioner isn't working. I go to my intelligent thermostat and it says my compressor is not on. So, I went to the electrical panel and don't see any of the breakers triggered. I find the one for the air conditioner, flip it off and then back on and the breaker sparks behind the steal of the panel, and, the air conditioner doesn't turn on. Nervous, I turn it off again and while pressing on the breaker to make sure it is in I flip it on again and the space around the breaker lights up with sparks for a split second, but this time the air conditioner turns on. I immediately email my electrician and beg him to come and replace the breaker panel as soon as he can. I am sorry that I ever doubted him and his knowledge. Unfortunately, he is a very busy guy with other clients in just as much need of his services as I and so he hasn't been able to get to my job. In the mean time I try to put it out of my head that we could have an electrical fire at any time with this panel. It has worked without fire since it was installed several decades ago so I guess we were lucky nothing has happened, but I want that thing out of here ASAP to ease my mind. I also want to get this installation over with because I am an impatient guy and don't want to deprive you, my readers, of the experience of charging in just a few hours. This is all for you folks. I am being totally selfless here.

While I was focusing on my Leaf and living my EV in the country adventure an old friend of mine called and wants to get the band back together. No, not a rock band, unless rock bands can employ a kazoo player. What my friend, Jerry Asher or “EV Jerry,” as we like to call him, and I did was he drove around the 48 contiguous states of the United States, visiting each state capitol with a modified Prius that had an added traction battery that could go about 50 miles on a wall socket charge in pure electric before switching to hybrid drive. This was new stuff when he did it, since no major automaker was talking about plug-in anything at the time. I, from my home, was EV Jerry's advance man, or trying to be. It was my job to call in advance of Jerry's arriving in a town the media, school visits, etc. In the big cities along the coast it was hard to get cooperation from the media. They were somewhat jaded to the idea of a plug-in hybrid, however, in less urban, more rural areas, the gee-wiz factor was strongly in play. Jerry got on the nightly news many times in the heartland of the country, met some governors, talked to groupings of people at schools, and more. All in all it was a success teaching people about the possibility of plug-in cars one town at a time.

EV Jerry, as dedicated as he was and is to the cause of getting people to drive on electricity, often had a hard time. He imagined that this adventure was only going to take a few months, however it took him a year on the road. Sometimes the weather wouldn't cooperate, other times meetings and events would fall through, he was even mugged. When he was discouraged I would keep his spirits up by telling him that all these trials and successes would add up to one incredible story to tell, and when things go bad or goofy, we would recite, “It's all part of the adventure.” So, when EV Jerry called with the idea of starting a new adventure this time driving around the country in an EV SUV that is about to come to the market, I decided to join in.

My EV SOL at the 2009 Auto Show in Washington, DC.

All this talk about a national campaign to promote electric vehicles got me excited about what we did a some time ago to promote plug-ins. I went into my garage/man cave and began cleaning my yellow converted Pontiac Fiero. I am even motivated enough to work towards bringing it back to life. Till next time, keep remembering, “It's all part of the adventure.”

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