Friday, December 14, 2012

Flying with an Electric Car to L.A.

OK, I am not really flying an electric car, but I am trying to park an electric car while I fly. One of the least mature aspects of the Electric Vehicle movement is how to charge and store an electric vehicle while on a trip going to the airport. Many airports are starting to add chargers, but are being misled in the types of charging they should make available. There are primarily two types of charging Quick Charge that can add 100 or more miles of range to an electric car in less than an hour and casual charging that can typically charge a electric vehicle at a rate of anywhere from 4 to 20 miles per hour. Public quick charging is still hard to come by, but casual charging is becoming more readily available. Most public chargers operate at 240 volt 30 to 40 amp circuits that will charge a vehicle in the 10 to 20 mile per hour range, while charging at a standard 110 volt home wall outlet will charge the car at a rate of 3 to 4 miles per hour.

Now here is where the airport parking infrastructure is immature. Many airports are making a “green” effort to add these 30 to 40 amp public chargers that will fully charge a vehicle in anywhere from 3 to 8 hours. However this only makes sense if you are at the airport for a short time, such as picking up Aunt Betty from her flight from Milwaukee and its 2 hour delay gives you a chance to pick up an additional 15 or 30 miles of range while you wait for her flight to finally arrive.  But many of us with electric vehicles are travelling. We will be gone at least the whole day if not several days to a week. We don’t need to charge at a rate of 10 to 20 miles per hour, a standard wall outlet would be an economical choice to charge the car. No special charging station is required, just a space near a wall outlet.

San Jose Airport has installed 8 EVSE charging stations in lot 5, their most premium short term parking lot that runs $32 a day. For the equivalent of about $4 worth of electricity, you could pay $64 to park there for an overnight trip. Los Angeles International Airport also maintains a set of chargers at their terminal 6 parking structure that runs in the high $20s to park per day, but half of their chargers are in Disabled (or as I prefer to call ‘Adapted’) parking spaces. If you park an electric vehicle in these spaces without a Disabled placard, it will cost hundreds of additional dollars in fines.  LAX looks like it is going for a niche market or elite special interest group (However it really looks like they are trying not to lose revenue in more lucrative standard parking spaces by not losing a small set to restricted parking).

This week I had to fly from San Jose to Los Angeles for some meetings. Rather than pay the high rates at SJC, I wanted to try off airport parking to see if any of the lots would accommodate an electric vehicle. I first tried search Google to see if any of the lots actually catered to Electric Vehicles, but no luck, all I could find were the chargers at SJC, so then I did general searches and started calling the lots with decent rates.

I called Park and Jet from the number on their website, A man with a heavy middle eastern accent answered. He listened and said they could accommodate me and to ask for him, Elias and he would help me out. I showed up at the lot that was not very clearly marked, but luckily I took the address with me and was able to locate them. It appears this was a lot that was in competition with EZ Park Fly that EZ Park Fly is taking over. I pulled in to the front booth and Elias was there as promised, however it was not the person claiming to be Elias when I called. I let him know my situation and he was very accommodating. He had me go into a building and was originally going to have me plug in in a disabled person spot, but changed his mind and moved me to another building where he was more confident the plugs would work. Normally they would have someone park the car in the building, but since I was only staying overnight, he didn’t have an issue with me parking the car. I found a good spot next to a plug by a rollup door. I had no issue with the plug, power registered on my charger and the blue charging light was flashing on my car.  All was good.

Walking back to the front gate, I noticed they were doing improvements to the location, adding a new cashier booth where a working was busily verbally assaulting a piece of drywall (not sure why, but I think I learned a few new swear words in a foreign language). I got to the front gate and Elias let me know the van would be their shortly and struck up a brief conversation about my car. The van arrived, a little beat up, but got me to the terminal in 7 minutes. This was also my test to know how much time I should expect when calling for a pickup on my return, my expectation would be they should be able to pick me up within 300% of that time, or roughly 21 minutes.

On return to SJC, I called the number on my claim ticket and Elias was there. He instructed me where to go and the van would be there shortly. This is where I have to knock them down in rating. I waited 25 minutes and no van. I called Elias back and asked where the van was. Elias was very conscientious to get the location of the driver and call me back to let me know he was currently at the other terminal and would be there shortly. True to his word, the driver eventually made it (Total wait time was 33 minutes).

Upon arrival at the lot, I walked back to the building and I had a fully charged car. Cost was $10 a day for indoor valet plus $7 for the shuttle service. I know SJC charges the vendors a ridiculous rate to bring shuttles in, but this is the only supplier I have seen that surcharges parking for it. Still, the cost was less than half of what it would have cost in the airport to charge had I parked at SJC, but it cost me an additional 40 minutes in doing so.

Lastly, somewhere around there, I picked up a drywall screw in my rear tire. I believe it was probably in the lot as they are doing construction, but could never prove it. I went ahead and filled the tire with air at a service station nearby and repaired the tire when I got home.

So in all, it was a positive experience, but not a glowing endorsement. Elias does a very good job with customer service, but it seems like the owner could improve on the maintenance/upkeep of the vans and improve the pickup process letting customers know when their van should arrive and contact the customer if there is a delay. Also with all the EVs in the bay area, it would be a simple way to lure in a new set of clientele.

Park and Jet/EZ Park Fly
1740 North 4th Street
San Jose, CA

Monday, September 17, 2012

Charging in L.A.

From the 1991 movie L.A. Story:

Sara: What did you have in mind? 
Harris: Well, I was thinking of taking you on a cultural tour of L.A. 
Sara: That's the first fifteen minutes, then what? 
Harris: All right, a cynic. First stop is six blocks from here. 
Sara: Why don't we walk? 
Harris: Walk? A walk in L.A.? 

Charging is available in L.A., but like most cities, may require a little bit of a walk. One thing you usually try to do when you have an electric car is when the car is stitting, its a perfect opportunity for the car to be charging. Usually with a little planning and research, you can find someplace close to where you are going to charge the car. Drug stores like Walgreens, some stores such as Whole Foods and Banks such as Rabobank are installing chargers at their facilities.Also apps such as Plugshare and ChargePoint can help you find chargers near where you are and may have some checkin information to help you easily locate them.

On my free day in L.A. I tried to catch up with some people and drove around quite a bit. After I got up Saturday morning, I met my once older, but now younger sister Lisa (This is L.A. remember ) for breakfast at the Grove in West Hollywood. The Grove has a set of 6 Blink network chargers on the third floor of the parking structure. 

Blink Chargers at the Grove

After a great breakfast and catching up, I then went up to Canters and took a day picture of the car in front since I didn't think the picture would come out well from my camera phone at night (and my phone was still giving me issues that evening) and then I went to see a family friend, Tara at her salon Rust on Melrose Avenue where I gave here a ride in the car and also got put to work cleaning a mirror they just mounted high on the wall. 

From there, I went to a Target to pick up some things I forgot to pack at Santa Monica and La Brea in a nice new urban-style shopping center, but no chargers. Too bad, because this would be an excellent location.

Then I drove to Pasadena to meet some friends for lunch at Burger Continental on Lake in Pasadena. It's a funky little restaurant that serves all types of food from American, Middle Eastern, Italian and Mexican. Since the hotel charger stopped short the night before, I thought it would be good to find a charger nearby to bump up the batteries and pulled up the Recargo App on my phone and found a charger about 4 blocks away at CalTech's Parking lot #2. This was an interesting structire as the entire top level was a photo-voltaic solar array. The charger was on the lowest level.

A large PV Solar Array at CalTech's Lot #2

This was a 4 block walk from the restaurant. Here I realized maybe an outdoor restaurant was not the greatest venue on a 100 degree plus day in the valley, but we found an air conditioned area in a banquet room and all was well. I then gave my friends Greta and Steve a ride in the car back to where they were parked and proceeded to go back to the hotel in the afternoon to freshen up for the Reunion that night at Canters. On the way back to the hotel, I could see smoke in the distance. The Exxon Mobile refinery south of the hotel was burning off something. I have seen this there before, but with all the efforts I have been doing, it really made me angry to see this and what it was doing to the air.I could see it from the freeway just south of downtown all the way into TOrrance. The thick black smoke was blowing far out into the eastern horizon, ultimately people are breathing in all this crap they were spewing into the air. I am really happy that I am making a meager difference.

Exxon Mobile Refinery in Torrance burning off something

Once at the hotel, I parked the car at the charger to boost the battery while I showered and changed and then went to the reunion.

The stops at the chargers helped, but I still wanted an additional buffer while I was at the reunion. So I wound up going back to the grove and leaving the car there for about 3 hours while at the reunion and just walked 5 blocks back to Canters. Towards the end of the evening. I walked back to The Grove and took the car off the charger with plenty of reserve for the ride back to the hotel.

After grabbing a bite at Pinks after the reunion. I headed back to the hotel and let it charge overnight. This time there was no issues and I had a 100% full battery to start my journey home on Sunday. 

The day stops really made me appreciate the mobile applications that are available to assist in finding chargers. Most are hidden and hard to find. I only found that Hermosa Beach did an excellent job with signage making chargers easy to find, I just didn't need one at the time.

Sunday would be the start of a 1 1/2 day trip back home. I would take a more casual route and try other chargers on my way home. Overall, I drove over 150 miles around town before I would start hitting more remote chargers along the way home. This time I would go to the charger I couldn't find in Thousand Oaks, a charger in Santa Barbara and then back to the chargers I had used in Solvang, Atascadero (where I would spend the night in a motel) King City and then a charger in Monterey before going to class. 

This was definitely a journey.

The Final Leg: Tarzana to Torrance.

The final leg was probably the easiest. I had a short 45 minute commute from Tarzana in the San Fernando Valley to Torrance where my hotel for the weekend would be. After some sushi for dinner, I headed east on the Highway 101 to the 405 to go into LA, through the south bay and finally to the hotel. Apparently it was an interesting day on this route A brush fire had broken out in the Sepulveda Pass between the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles which is a major corridor between the two cities.

While I was charging in Thousand Oaks and Tarzana, others were stuck for 3 hours in the fire suppression and clean up. Luckily while I was charging, most of the mess was cleaned up and I just dealt with construction traffic. Here I thought it would just be best to not go to Canters late at night because I couldn’t get a good picture of the car at that time, so I decided to take the picture in the morning would I would be in the neighborhood to have breakfast with my sister. So I just stayed on the 405. Driving through LA, the traffic was not too bad until I got passed Los Angeles International Airport. Here, there was more of a construction backup, but this time with my Clean Air Stickers where any freeway legal electric car can apply and can drive solo in the High Occupancy Vehicle (aka Car Pool) lane. Standard hybrids used to have this option, but it was taken away recently as the program proved to be successful and there was no longer the need for an incentive for drivers to purchase hybrids.

I breezed by the traffic jam at 11:20 PM and shortly made it to the hotel near the intersection of the 405 and 110 freeways in Torrance. Once I was there, again there was no signage pointing to where the chargers were. However cruising around parking lot, I found the charger in the back of the property. The layout was a little unusual. They had an old style paddle inductive charger and a Clipper Creek non-networked charger. The chargers were 2 spaces apart. There was one parking space between the two chargers with a sign for only that spot that said “Electric Vehicle Parking Only”. But these signs were not at the charging spaces. Again, the cord was short on the Clipper Creek, so I backed in and started the charge. The batteries were hot, over 90 degrees, but hopefully they would get a good full charge while I slept. I checked in and after getting into the room and calling the family, I quickly fell asleep. I was pretty much away for 43 hours with just a couple of quick naps. I woke up the next day and got ready to have breakfast with my sister and unfortunately, the car only charged to 81% and had some sort of charger fault, but more on my charging in the next post.

Free Parking and Free Charging at the Holiday Inn in Torrance

So in all, I met my goal. I charged at all the stations I said I would (plus 1 more), I took longer than expected, but I made it within my goal of 24 hours and my estimates were not terribly off. The drive was definitely challenging, but it was possible. Would I do it again? Unfortunately I had 2 a couple of days later, but I didn’t have the 24 hour deadline, just that I get back to Monterey by 6 PM Monday for a class at the Aquarium.  I hope this journal gives encouragement to others with Electric Vehicles to burst their range bubble and get out and explore. If you have the time, it is an interesting way to turn a trip into a journey.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Solvang to Thousand Oaks

This was the hardest leg of the trip. One thing I didn't really say much about was that I got up at 5:30 AM on Thursday, September 13, 2012 to help my wife get her day started, worked from home, went to a doctors appointment, was interviewed by the Santa Cruz Sentinel and the Community Foundation Santa Cruz County for the trip and attended my docent trainee session at the Monterey Bay Aquarium before leaving  for the trip. I managed to get a couple of hours sleep in King City, but I was getting a little frazzled on the second to last leg from Solvang to Santa Cruz and I made some mistakes along this portion. As noted in the previous post, the battery in my phone was dead so it was not very easy to get connectivity so I could not check for updates or try to get more accuracy on location of chargers. One good thing I did was print out my itinerary and directions in case for some reason some electronics failed so at least I had that as a backup and a contingency charger selected in case I could not find the charger I picked for the trip in case there was an issue.

Now for what went wrong. First, the route I chose to get out of Solvang. Back in the day, I used to ride the Solvang Century. An 106 mile bike ride from Solvang to Santa Maria with 6,000 of my closest friends. When I would leave the event, I would take the state route 246 to state route 154 to rejoin the 101 back in Santa Barbara.

From above, this looks like a great idea. I would not have to back track to Buelton to bet back on Highway 101. What I forgot from my bike riding days was the hill climbing required for this route. I didn't realize it until it was too late. One site I found after the fact was, This site is primarily for bike riders to plan their route, but it is also helpful for EV drivers as well. Here is the profile of my shortcut from bikeroutetoaster:

I believe the scale is meters in elevation to kilometers in travel.

So at from 30km to 36km I had a pretty nasty hill climb. This is also a 2 lane highway. I did maintain the speed limit on the road and was courteous to pull to the right when passing lanes were available (Do you hear that Prius owners? I moved to the right. Try it sometime. However one pickup truck was offended I held him up 5 seconds while I drove the speed limit and proceeded to honk and throw something at my car as he passed in the carpool lane. I kept my cool and let him pass (more on him later)

The downhill was pretty nice though and was charging the whole distance down. On my way back, I will take 101 instead.This will be 102 miles instead of 88 miles, so I need to watch my mileage carefully.

So I made it past the issue on Route 154, and started down the 101 south through Santa Barbara, and here I got in a traffic jam (There was an accident in south Santa Barbara. Remember that pickup. I was able to find a bus here and used it as a drafting agent (Remember that pickup truck that was trying to have a food fight on Route 154? I passed him while he was stuck in the "Fast" lane. The bus made for a nice way to maintain speed. I was able to use it all the way to Camarillo, before the Conejo grade. I then followed another truck up the grade until I was rolling downhill into Thousand Oaks.

I was approaching the location where my next charging location was supposed to be, Janns Marketplace. A shopping center with a few big box stores and restaurants, so it it seemed like a good stopping location. However, there was no sign if the chargers! I still had no power to my cell phone and I was down to 11 miles on the range computer. I went back and forth through the parking area with no luck. I was tired and desperate.

I then hit the BMW assist button. I reached an agent who was friendly, but still was not able to give me any indication where the charger might be. She gave me businesses to look for, but none were visible from where I was. I had to give up and ask her to feed me directions to the National Park Service headquarters. She got me the directions and I was able to drive up a long uphill driveway and found a pseudo futuristic office complex where there happened to be 3 Clipper Creek chargers that were free and a Blink Fee Charger. I plugged in but it was hot and muggy and no amenities. There used to be a visitor center in this location, but it was closed and the offices were sealed tight. So no restroom and no power for my phone and I had been drinking a lot of water to stay cool.

I was antsy and looking at sitting for 3 to 4 hours to get charged to get to the hotel was not looking appealing and I didn't want the family to worry about me. I saw from the charging site that the mall which was about a half mile down the hill had a Verizon Wireless store. My idea was to first take care of my bladder and just buy a spare battery for my Droid Bionic and then call my wife to let her know I was almost there. However this plan backfired too. I drove down the hill, had to hunt for a parking space and then went to the store just to find out they didn't carry batteries.I thought I was smart and took my power adapter with me so in case there was an issue, I could just plug in my phone and get it jump started. I searched around outside and found a a covered outlet. lifted the cover charger wouldn't fit under the cover. #*(&$@)^%!!!!

So back up the hill to charge for a while. I got to talk to a nice lady from the park service who was disconnecting her Leaf who thought I was another ActiveE driver who parks there on occasion. She recommended I walk back down the hill and see a movie, but I was concerned about the gates at the bottom the National Park Service Entrance and that I could return to a locked parking lot. So I stayed with the car and continued to think of alternate ways to get my phone to work.

As a contingency, I did bring a 70W pocket inverter with a 3 prong plug in case i needed a boost in power. This one did not work well in the ActiveE, but when I found the sweet spot, the green LED ready light eventually turned on. I plugged the phone charger into the inverter and after a few minutes, it worked!!! I then called home and let them know I was OK and got a couple of updates out. As the lot got darker and emptier, I was able to locate another charger in Tarzana at a library that was a little closer to civiization. I drove the car down to the library to the Eaton charger and let it sit for a couple of hours while I had dinner, by this time, my phone died again.

This leg of the journey had me a bit on edge, but it showed the importance of amenities and signage in and around the charger, but with some planning for contingencies, I was able to continue.

Atascadero to Solvang

(Apologies for these late entries - My main internet access tool, my phone died and was not resuscitated until near the finish). I will supply more pictures later. Atascadero to Solvang saw a big shift in my mileage and cost. The day warmed up and the Solvang charger was a fee based charger. The temperature when I arrived in Atascadero was 55 degrees. When I left after the charging was completed, it was up to 74. This is when I started using a truck to part the air for me (but not really going for a draft where I would be dangerously riding the truck's bumper), but following at a comfortable distance. This shot up my mileage efficiency from 3.4 kWh per mile to 3.5 kWh to 5.0 kWh per mile.The range estimator shot up my range from 85 to 90 miles to 130 miles. When I arrived in Solvang with 38% state of charge remaining, this meant less than a 4 hour charge I originally estimated.
This was helpful to drop my overall energy usage. Solvang charges $1.25/hr and I would up using $3.57 worth of electricity. With the tourist trade abundant in Solvang, the car received its most attention while on route. I was surprised how many Europeans were in Solvang too, but they all had great questions. Solvang had plenty of restaurants and gift shops, but lacked the modern amenities in the other stops. E.g. when I saw a bunch of freshly adobe painted stucco structures in Atascadero, I knew a Starbucks must be near (which there was) within 2 blocks of the Rabobank charger.In Solvang, there were no Starbucks, or chain stores, so it would be hit or miss to find a store that offered WiFi. I did use a  WiFi hunting application on my Kindle Fire to find a provider and was able to use for a little while, but then one of my biggest issues of the trip occurred, my phone died.
There are two issues that I have with my Android phone (or as I call it, my German iPhone Nein) is that some OS/App updates make once good applications into poor applications. The other is there is no warning when you have applications drawing more power than they are producing. SO even though I had my phone on a USB connection to the car to draw power, it was not really net charging and the phone eventually quit. With my Droid Bionic, once you have gone into a full depletion, it is just about impossible to get it to build up enough of a charge to start without an AC wall plug connection, so the only internet device I had with a full charge was my Kindle Fire, that only really worked with a WiFi connection. Also apps are limited on this device since it is pretty much controlled by Amazon, so my ability to do much to verify my next charger in Thousand Oaks would be an issue.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mission Accomplished

 Door to Door in 23:21 and 338 miles with only a few minor hiccups. I will try some changes in my next run Sunday and Monday and put together a summary posting by NPID. I tried to start writing the detail for Solvang and Thousand Oaks, but I was literally falling asleep at the keyboard. So I will add them from my notes.  Thanks for your support, questions and words of encouragement. It was a lot of fun.

Friday, September 14, 2012

King City to Atascadero

So far I am running behind schedule. I still think I will make it to LA in a day, but I am not going to sweat the schedule too much. Turns out I should have used a 5.8 kWh for 95% of the charge and 2.9 kWh for the last 5% if I need a full charge while the batteries level if I take it to the full 100%. ( or 5.51 + .15 = 5.66 kW) looks like it is a more realistic charge rate even though the internal charge could handle 6.6 kWh. I did get the internal power working in the car, but it looks like my AC inverter is flaking out.

King City is a great location that has been added to the central coast network, but it is in a commercial section of town and with me being there between 1:30 and 5:30 AM, there was nothing to do but sit and sleep in the car, which wasn't too much of a problem, except there was no restroom, so a little bit of dancing going on but when it was time to go, I went to the local McDonalds and all was right with the world again.

The trip has been a little cool and foggy so far. Temperatures have been in the low 50's which appears to be affecting my mileage. The first stretch only produced 3.4 miles per kWh. The 65 miles between King City and Atascadero were also chilly, but seemed fairly flat, so I was able to get up to 3.5 miles per kWh. The sky is clearing so it should warm up for the next 82 mile leg to Solvang.

The Atascadero charger is in a retail location. It is an older Clipper Creek level 2 charger, but it is located at an eco-friendly Rabobank with a pretty impressive set of PV panels on 2 sides of the bank. There are lots of businesses around too. There is a Starbucks, Movie theater, Rite Aid, Dennys, Subway and other points of interest within walking distance. It is nice to be able to walk around and use the wifi at the Starbucks while I am waiting for this charge.

Now that I am in Atascadero and hitting up Solvang next, this is reminding me why I wanted to do this trip in this fashion. I received a few troll comments on the Santa Cruz Sentinel article questioning why anyone would want to do this, but I think it has a practical purpose. Yes, there are definitely better ways to get to LA and yes, low end public transportation is faster, but this is more about the journey. Can it be done? What are the challenges? What would make it tolerable? Would it make sense that my next car be a 100 mile range EV like the ActiveE or would I want something with a quick charge capability? What other infomration would I wish I had when I arrived in a town? (Closest public restroom, restaurant, wifi, places of interest). It may be difficult for someone who has not driven an electric car to understand the need to know, but with all the comments, you can't refute the cost of $5 in charging, but the cost of time is a definite disadvantage.

This trip also reminds me of a wonderful trip I had with my family six or seven years ago. We took our X5 up from L.A. to Redding and hung a left into the redwoods. We then used the GPS to find places of interest like Whiskeytown lake and other interesting places along the way. Just being able to stop and look around today and experience the people in a location rather than just blow past it along the interstate making it less of a drive and more of a journey.

Aptos to King City

So far, so good, but running a little behind schedule. The car was fully charged when I took off from Aptos at 12:01 AM, but some construction and slower speed limits had me into King City about 15 minutes later than expected. The Charger at Hartnell College in King City was up and operational as expected. However the car is stating it will take 4 hours to charge. I will take a nap and see how it goes. Mileage is 3.4 miles per kWh, outside temperature is 56 degrees F and the batteries when I parked were 71 degrees F.
Besides that, I did receive an email from ChargePoint when my charge completed at the Community Foundation in Santa Cruz, however my ChargePoint app seems to have uninstalled itself from my phone, so I am setting the app back up.

Besides the battery running down faster and charging slower than expected, the other two issues are there is no internal power source while charging, so I am running my laptop on its battery power, also, looks like there is no bathroom around here at 1:30 AM. But the area is quiet, so I should be able to sleep well.

Anyway, there was a good article about the trip in the Santa Cruz Sentinel tonight here

Night all

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Final Preparations

Opportunity Charging at Walgreen's Santa Cruz on Sept 12 
Today is the day. I have the car all cleaned up, going over my plans and packing everything in the car. I had a great conversation with a reporter and photographer from the Santa Cruz Sentinel  I will be taking the car to it's first charging point, The Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County, today around 4 PM for one more set of interviews, and then off to Monterey for training as a guide at the Monterey Bay Aquarium (My next adventure), back around 9:30, have the family drop me off at the car and then prep to leave at 12:01 am tonight on my journey to L.A. I will continue to post updates at charging stops on my route. You can follow here or on twitter at @JournEV or from the Facebook BMW ActiveE Driver Group.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Final Schedule for Driving an Electric Car from Santa Cruz to L.A.

Today I got word from Sharon Sarris from the Monterey Bay Electric Vehicle Alliance that the charger in King City is installed and provisioned and ready for use! Thanks to everyone involved and Hartnell College for getting the charger online!!

So my route is now committed. Aptos to King City to Atascadero to Solvang to Thousand Oaks to L.A. The only bad news is the optimistic charging rate estimate of 7.7 kWh was probably too high as commercial high voltage power is delivered at a lower rate 208V than residential 240V and others in the ActiveE community think the performance is closer to 6.2 kWh when charging commercially. So I knocked my charge rate down and now I am closer to a 20 hour driver again with 5.7 hours of driving and 14.2 hours of charging, but still under a day and my total charging cost?  $5 in Solvang.

Here is how the spreadsheet came out.

On a time schedule, it loosely comes out to this:

There we have it. I will be posting updates from each charging point starting Thursday night here on this blog, on the ActiveE Facebook group and on Twitter at @JournEV

Wish me luck.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Return of the King (City)

El Camino Real, the Royal Highway. It is the 600 mile road that originally linked the California Mission system. Most of that route betwen San Jose and Los Angeles is now part of Highway US 101 which links Northern California to Southern California. This is the route that I originally wanted to follow on my trip except there was one stretch of 109 hilly highway miles between Salinas and Atascadero that was just too daunting in my 100 mile range BMW ActiveE that I was willing to take on.

In the middle of that stretch is a town called King City. The town was founded after the purchase of the land by Charles King in 1884 who bought the land from the Spanish Rancho San Lorenzo. Charles King transformed the once Salinas Dessert into a fertile wheat farm and later work to harness the Salinas River has transformed the area into a fertile agricultural region. There is an "EV Friendly RV Park" in King City called Ciudad del Rey Motel and Trailer Park, but their gates are only open from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM and they charged $25 to charge. Because I planned to drive through the area around 2 AM and also due the high cost, I chose a route that would take me inland to Interstate 5 to the KOA Campground in Santa Nella for $10, then a free charge at the Harris Ranch's Tesla Roadster charger and then pick up my original route in Atascadero on a 90 mile detour where I would actually arrive a few hours earlier than waiting for the Ciudad Del Rey trailer park to open.. Both of the alternative chargers require adapters to charge my BMW with its J1772 connector.

But now, things might be lining up very favorable for my trip. Sharon Sarris, from Green Fuse Energy who is also the Founder and Co-Facilitator of the Monterey Bay Electric Vehicle Alliance and member of the County of Santa Cruz Commission on the Environment let me know that the installation of a new ChargePoint charger at the Hartnell College campus in King City should hopefully be ready in time for my trip. Sharon has been working with Piet Canin of Ecology Action who was the grant manager of the project which was partially funded by the California Energy Commission. This week George Bent from Clean Fuel Connection has been overseeing the installation and they have been waiting for the concrete to cure. Now the installation should wrap up, then the paperwork just needs to be completed and the charger needs to be provisioned on theChargePoint network and it will be ready to use.

This is not only a huge benefit for me, but to any other Electric Vehicle driver that wants to drive between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The distance between Level 2 EVSE charging stations will be less than 90 miles. Cars that have 100 mile range can easily make this route. This will also will cut an hour out of my driving time and 2 hours out of my estimated charging time. 

So even if the charger is not ready for some reason, I still have my alternate route and equipment to make the trip. But just like how El Camino Real linked the network of Missions and Charles King transformed a desert into a thriving agricultural town, this charger is the golden spike in the north/south route and the ability for Electric Vehicle drivers to make the journey between California's largest cities without burning gas in an internal combustion engine vehicle while enjoying the towns along this majestic highway.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Finding a Place to Stay with an Electric Vehicle

The final piece of planning was probably one of the more time consuming parts of the trip. Where to stay with an electric car while away from home? With an electric car, your home becomes your home base. It's not only where you reside, but where you fill up.

At our house we have a 240V 30 amp level 2 charger. This charges the car in about 3 hours. We also use the "virtuous circle". Not only do we have a charger at home, we also participate in our utilities time of use rate, we also lease a SolarCity solar panel Photo Voltaic (PV) System to generate our own power. During the day we produce power and power our home and whatever we do not use, we push back into the grid charging our power generation back to the utility. We then use time of use rates and program the car to charge after midnight and buy the power back at a significantly lower rate. The system is too new for me to quote the net effect, but we currently buy the power after midnight for the car at about 5 cents a kilowatt hour, meaning it takes about 80 cents to recharge the car. The beauty of owning an electric car is not only the low cost, but the convenience of coming home, plugging in and returning to a fully charged car. I never have to divert my commute to find a gas station and face ever fluctuating prices.

When travelling,just like how a hotel provides a place to rest, I will need to have my hotel work as my home base for the EV as well. One of the requirements is that the hotel I am staying have an EVSE that I can charge the car overnight.  Unfortunately, travel and hotel websites do not yet offer this search option. Many are taking the right approach. Marriott installed over 30 EVSE stations last year. I did attempt to try several websites to see if they gave an option to search by EVSE. I tried Hotwire, Kayak, Travelocity, Expedia and None offer a search criteria, amenity filter or description that includes electric vehicle secondary equipment or EV charging listings. I also checked hotel sites directly. My hotel preferences are usually Intercontinental Hotel Group, Marriott Hilton and a funky little boutique hotel that my company gets a good rate, The Belamar in Manhattan Beach. Again, none of these sites allowed a search for EVSE, provided amenity filters or descriptions showing you could charge an electric vehicle at their locations. I did send an email to the Belamar asking if they had a charger or facilities to let me charge there. They were quick to respond that there was a Walgreen's 12 blocks away.Not really a viable option.

So back to my old trusty friend, the Recargo website. Although they do not provide a search by type of business, they do provide the business names on the map. The disadvantage is that you have to search in Recargo by a community and not by business type or brand name (Searching on Holiday Inn took me to EVSE locations in Turkey). The community at a time search does not work very well at my destination. Since Los Angeles starts somewhere in New Mexico. It required several searches around communities where I wanted to be based to find a hotel that I wanted to stay. I decided to make the airport area my base and searched communities I was familiar with around there. I managed to find an Embassy Suites and Renaissance hotel on the Recargo site.

So this was promising, these hotels are usually nice and the rooms were not too expensive, around $120 a night just for the lodging. I went back to the Hotel's websites and I found no mention of their chargers at these specific locations, but I did find other sites that confirmed that there were chargers at these locations along with the status data on Recargo.

The problem now was the price to park and charge. Although the chargers were free, it was $23-$25 a night to park at these locations. Trying to keep this trip on the cheap, this was an issue for me, so I decided to keep looking. I continued sweeping the communities in the area for other possibilities. Then I found the Holiday Inn in Torrance, CA. Recargo listed this as an operational charger, I have tons of points from my consulting days where I had platinum status with IHG and the hotel was recently renovated earlier this year. No problem. I called the hotel and they confirmed they had a charge and it was operational (again, nothing noted on the web site description) and they did not charge for parking. So, I wound up getting a free place to stay on points, free parking and free charging. It's a little bit of a commute at 19 miles from the reunion I am going to, but the cost makes it worth it.

So it was quite a bit of effort but the travel industry is starting to see the advantage to catering to electric vehicle drivers. Hotel executives are seeing the potential of adding chargers to their locations as noted in Andy Kincaid's Hotel Business Review article on ECO-Friendly practices. Not only is it an inexpensive way to promote their properties as green and environmentally conscious, but when a car is charging, you have a captive customer. They will be compelled to check in, use the amenities and shop. If hotels did a little better job making the information available about their chargers, it would improve their utilization as more people adopt electric vehicles and integrate their use into their travel activities.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Preparation Checklist

Me in my ActiveE chasing down Tony Williams from in his Nissan Leaf at Laguna Seca at Refuel2012 last month.Tony drove his Leaf from Tijuana to British Columbia in 8 days last June. He is one of the people that has inspired my trip next month to LA.

One of my inspirations for this trip was Tony William's BC2BC trip in June. Tony drove a brand new Nissan Leaf from Tijuana in Baja California to British Columbia in a little over 8 days. He took his time through California, sometimes due to plans, sometimes due to necessity like when he attempted the central coast route that I am avoiding, he had to drive at as little as 11 miles per hour to make it between charging locations. His charging options varied wildly for his 6 days through California.In my plan, I plan on using only 3 types of chargers (Level 2, NEMA 14-50 and Tesla Roadster) and I plan at staying near or at the speed limit for the whole trip to complete everything in one day.

One of the good things Tony came up as he is also an airline pilot is to create a pre-departure checklist. My checklist will be a little less complex than his.

My checklist includes:

  • Wallet, Driver's License, Insurance Card, AAA Card, Registration
  • ChargePoint and Blink Network RFID Cards
  • Threaded bumper tow attachments
  • 10 Ga Extension Cord
  • Level 1 Charger
  • Tesla UMC Adapter with NEMA 14-50 attachment
  • Tesla to J-1772 adapter
  • Fix a flat, patches and compressor
  • First aid kit
  • Smartphone mount and power adapter and spare battery
  • Lighter power adapter/splitter
  • Log book
  • Flashlight
  • Sunscreen and Lip Balm
  • Laptop
  • Phone tether to laptop and confirm pdaNet access 
  • Wallet
  • Suitcase with clothes, medication and toiletries for 4 days
  • Jacket
  • Sleeping Mask
  • Kindle Fire
A few of these items are obvious to a road trip and a few are not. The RFID cards will allow me to use my account to charge at some of the locations that are on a network such as ChargePoint and Blink. The RFID unlocks the charge connector and also provides communication between the charger and my smartphone. Should I step away, the system will alert me if there is a power fault or if someone has disconnected the charger. The extension cord is for an emergency situation in case I need to charge from a wall plug that I just can't quite reach with the charger. The cord has to be a heavy gauge to handle the current. Fix a flat is necessary because most EVs do not have a spare tire. The industry believes that spare tires take up space, weight and are rarely used, especially with today's run-flat technology that the ActiveE also uses. But they are also ridiculously expensive and could be a time killer should I lose one on the trip, so the fix a flat is compact and easy insurance to bring along. The sleeping mask is for catching naps while I am charging. I tend to be light sensitive when I sleep and I found a blacked out sleeping mask knocks me out pretty well. My laptop and Kindle Fire will be good for when I am charging, so I can update my status or to keep me entertained when I can't sleep, I can finally finish all the back episodes of 30 Rock using pdaNet to turn my phone into a mobile hotspot using it's data plan for no additional fees. 

For the log book, I plan on recording at each destination.
  • Location
  • Arrival Time
  • Departure Time
  • Air Temperature
  • Battery Temperature
  • State of Charge at Arrival
  • State of Charge at Departure
  • Charger Type
  • Charger Network
  • Cost to Charge Unit
  • Total Cost
  • Miles Driven
  • Notes from Location (conditions of equipment, amenities, people met, other findings)
  • Checkin to Recargo, Plugshare, Facebook, Twitter and Blog.
So everything is just about planned, the last thing to plan is, where am I going to stay in Los Angeles?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Risk-E-V Business: The Challenges in Long Range EV Travel

A lot of people have asked me why am I doing this trip? It's a lot easier just to fly, or drive a gas powered car to LA, and they are right, it is. But I wanted to experience the challenge to see how is the infrastructure growing and where it is not. I want to see how the infrastructure is adapting to this new mode of transportation and what challenges did I envision and which I did not and how would I work through them.
It wasn't too long ago that these challenges were also faced by internal combustion engine drivers. This trip may expose risks and challenges, but as said in one of my favorite quotes by John  W.Gardner "Every unsolvable problem is a brilliantly described opportunity". Entrepreneurs may soon see that they have a captive audience for a few hours Many casinos are now installing EVSE chargers for their patrons and have them stay a while.

As with any trip, there are the usual risks, schedules get changed, there may be weather issues, road construction, I may get involved in a traffic accident, fall ill, suffer a mechanical breakdown or there may be a natural disaster along the route (earthquake, land slides, wildfires). With each risk the possibility is the same whether I drive an electric car or an internal combustion engine automobile. However the impact of these common issues may have a greater impact in an EV rather than an ICE vehicle. My route to LA is pretty much has few alternatives and each alternative changes between charging locations. As part of my checklist I will be watching the weather,  Caltrans' quick map site  as well as the traffic indicators on my GPS. At the southern part of my trip, additional EVSEs are more plentiful and I may have other options to get to or charge at my destination, but the options at the beginning of my journey are probably the riskiest if there is an issue along the road.

Risks that are unique to EV drivers on trips are:

For availability, hours of operability and maintenance, I have contacted each location I plan on visiting giving them the time of day that I would be arriving and using the equipment, . So far, no one has reported an issue.I will also be calling ahead the day before my trip to verify everything is still available. and that any special instructions are still valid. For example, at the KOA Trailer site, I will need to leave my 'Dump Fee in an envelope and pick a space, In Coalinga, I will have to ask for the charger to be unlocked because curious people have played with the connector and charge cord and they are afraid the equipment will get damaged.
For ICEing conditions, where an Internal Combustion Engine vehicle is using the charging location as a parking space, I may have to wait are try to find the owner of the vehicle or EVSE to see if it can be moved if I cannot maneuver around it.

It should be rare that one of the chargers along the route should be taken by another EV. The only one with a risk is the Roadster charger in Coalinga, however I should be rolling through around 5 in the morning, so I think the chances are remote. Further down in the route, I can check on the Blink and ChargePoint sites to see if the chargers are currently in use. ChargePoint allows users to reserve a charger, but the chargers for my route do not support this feature. So here I will assume the risk is low, but will be a greater challenge in the future as EVs (and PHEVs) become more prevalent and necessity vs opportunity charging etiquette becomes more of an issue,

For issues during charging such as charging faults, hit and run as well as vandalism, I should be with the car most of the time, so I can watch how the car is progressing, some charging stations will also alert you if there is a charging problem. Sites like ChargePoint even text me if that car is not unplugged in the proper sequence.

The last risk, is always the greatest risk, the one I have not foreseen. If you can think of any risk that night be an issue for me, please let me know.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Silver Lining Crossing the Chasm

Seeing that my charging time was going to get the best of me and take me over a day to get to LA if I continued my current driving habits, I thought I would try a practice run on similar terrain that I would expect to experience on my trip. A mixture of flat and hilly highways. I also wanted to test my Tesla Universal Mobile Connector on a NEMA 14-50 outlet, similar to what I would be using at my first stop in Santa Nella. at the KOA RV Park.The practice trip also allowed me to try some of the techniques I noted in the last post. Using Eco Pro mode for more efficient accleration, enovirnment profile and electronics conservation, keep the windows up, only use the vents, use cruise control to maintain the speed limit. Also, it let me look at one other possible route. Charging at the southernmost charging location in Salinas, and see if it would be available as my first stop and attempt to make it 105 miles to next stop in Atascadero.

The Salinas Loop

According to Recargo, the southernmost charging location in Salinas is at a wild animal sanctuary called Wild Things Inc. Vision Quest Ranch. (Point B), I could then drive through the hills near Laguna Seca Raceway and spy some cars leaving the Monterey Historics and then get back home.for a total of 86 miles.

I left the house midday with the temperature in the mid 70s, so not having the AC on was a little stuffy, but it worked. I reset the trip computer to watch the consumption. The first hills out from Aptos to Watsonville were not encouraging, my miles per KwH was only hovering around 2.6 to 2.8. As I proceeded down Highway 1, the mileage steadily climbed as I switched over to cruise control keeping the car at the 65 speed limit. The cruse control provided smooth acceleration and didn't pulse the go pedal like I tend to do. Traffic was light, so it was easy to maintain distance with the cruise control along the two lane highway

Leaving Highway 1 in Castroville towards Salinas is a mixture of small town roads and more flat agricultural highways. The slower speeds were also advantageous to my trip as I kept creeping up to my goal of 3.6 miles per KwH. When I arrived at Wild Things it was a little confusing of where I should actually go. The business is part of a ranch compound, so there were gates and several other businesses in the complex. The pictures on Recargo were helpful to find the building I needed to go to, but the charger was not clearly marked. Luckily I arrived just before a tour group was to start, so the gift shop was open and the tour guide was extremely helpful in finding out where the charging location was. It seems like electrics have been talked about with the staff, but rarely seen. After a few back and forths over the radio, they found someone who new where the connector was and told me to pull alongside. Along an electric panel were two boxes. One was clearly for Level 1 charging and another box with a cover that was the NEMA 14-50 plug. The spider webs over the box made it evident this had not been used for a while. I was a little unfamiliar with how to open the cover, but was able to find a button on the underside to the box, pressed it hard and the cover opened exposing the NEMA 14-50 plug. I then pulled out my Tesla UMC and Adapter and tried it out for the first time.

My Tesla Universal Mobile Connector with a NEMA 14-50 adapter

Tesla UMC to My EVSE Upgrade Roadster-J1772 adpter 

SUCCESS!! The blue light under the rear view mirror (affectionately known as the clown nose) slowly flased blue signalling that the car was accepting the charge. I let the car charge for about 10 minutes to verify no excessive heat build up was occurring on the UMC, again, no issues.

Mission Accomplished!

The other nice thing I found was I averaged 4.0 miles per kWh, something I never thought I could achieve. So far, so good. So I packed up, checked in on Recargo and gave Wild Things charging a good review (although autocorrect mangled it and I have no way of correcting it) and took off down the road. This was a good charging location, but it was only available at certain times and you had to have some knowledge of where to find the connection as the crew was not experienced with anyone using it before. Luckily I got there at the right time and luck guided me through.Unfortunately, if I were to take this route, I would be passing through around 1 in the morning and this charger would be behind two locked gates. But with the 4.0 miles per kWh consumption, things were looking better for my plan B route.

BMW ActiveE E-Drive Battery Status Screen

I then proceeded south on Highway 68 toward Sand City, a little north of Monterey. This was a great area to test for driving through  rolling hills and seeing the impact on consumption. It was also a great rolling car show. I spotted many Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Cobras working their way out of Monterey Car Week and the Laguna Seca Historics. If you are a car lover, this was the week to be in the Monterey Bay area.

Here, my mileage dropped back down to 3.8, still good and no issues all the way into Sand City. I then hopped back on Highway 1 back towards Santa Cruz. About 6 miles into trip back home, I hit a snag. Dead stop traffic. Highway 1 goes from six lanes to two and merges with another highway in Castroville, there are roadside attactions that causes a lot of turns and merges and all this backed up the crowd quite a bit. This is not good for maintaining highway speed, but it skewed my mileage up to 4.0 again. Since an electric vehicle is not working so hard in traffic and isn't idling ilke an internal combustion engine, there is not a lot of things going on in the car consuming energy, the car runs pretty efficiently. After a good half an hour sitting in  stop and go traffic, it finally cleared up near Moss Landing and I could get back to the speed limit again for the rest of the trip home.

Once I got home, I backed it up to my charger and set the timer for the charger to start at 12:05 AM, where I pay a few pennies a kilowatt to buy back what I made with my Photo voltaic (PV) solar panels during the day that I charged PG&E 5 times more to sell to them. I then checked my stats. 86 miles as expected in 2 hours and 21 minutes. Slower than expected, but that came with the weekend traffic.

Average consumption was 4.0, but I understand a few factors skewed it, but it seems as though 3.8 will be a good estimation number and I still had about 21 miles left according to the computer. So it could make the long trek across the chasm, but just barely and with extra weight of my luggage and computer for the trip, that would really require a lot of good fortune.

With this good bit of optimism, this is the result of my estimation spreadsheet.

With the new consumption rate, it will be no issue to make it to LA in under just over 20 hours, my current driving habit according the car's computer were much lower.

Next, what do I take on my 20 hour road trip and once I get to LA, Where am I going to charge it?

More to come.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Stop Too Far

I have the new route created with sufficient gaps between stops, however , the extra stop and additional 90 miles to avoid King City is hurting my estimates. I have planned the journey with some optimism and some pessimism. Optimism is with the charging rate at most of the charging stops along the way. Pessimism in my consumption rates. The ActiveE has a built in 6.6 kW charger. Nearly twice as fast as a Nissan Leaf or Chevrolet Volt, but half that of a Tesla. I know I wont have issues at the Santa Nella or Coalinga charging stops as they will be delivering electricity at 50 to 70 amps, the Atascadero, Solvang and Thousand Oaks charger may not be charging as fast and require careful supervision to avoid ground faults and lower charging rates. Also, the ActiveE will charge at the full rate up to a 90% state of charge for the batteries, but will slow down for the last 10% so as to not overcharge the battery. I can get away with leaving early from Santa Nella, but probably not at the other stops. Currently my estimates also expect that I drive on average at 65MPH and maintain my current average eDrive rate of 3.2 miles per every kWh used. That is probably a pessimistic estimate. Based on these variables, here is how the trip pans out.

Based on the 5 stops and 437.5 miles to drive. I will spend 6.7 hours driving and 19 hours charging for a total of 25.7 hours. This won't help me with my goal of attempting to make it in a day. So what is better, trying to speed up my driving or be more conservative in my consumption to make it to LA? Speeding up 5 MPH does not help much. Increasing my average speed from 65 MPH to 70 MPH only saves a half hour, and it will probably have a negative impact my consumption rate. However reducing my consumption rate so that I get 3.6 miles per KWh or better handily improves my recharge times saving over 2 hours.

So how can I accomplish this? Multiple changes in the behavior of my driving will play a lot into this. There was a great blog posting on the Tesla website by Elon Musk on how driving behavior affects range in an electric car. By having the tires properly inflated, using cruise control for constant speed, restricting climate control, closing windows, level road driving can help significantly. Also drafting and keeping the eDrive meter in the first band has helped many ActiveE drivers achieve 3.5 to 4.0 Mile/kWh consumption rates.Also, preconditioning the batteries (pre-heating or cooling the batteries to an optimal temperature before starting my drive) may help as well.

The route I will be taking is somewhat hilly, but I can control the other elements for the most part. I will have to practice these techniques for the trip or look for another alternate route. So there could be the Plan C contingency, but it will truly test these techniques. More on that next time.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Plan B Route and Charging Options

OK, so King City may or my not happen in time, so I need to plan out some alternate routes. So to back up a little...When you drive an electric car and are planning a trip, you need to take several important points into consideration. What are the types of charging available on your route and do you have the correct adapters to charge the car? The BMW ActiveE uses something called an SAE J-1772 connector to charge the vehicle. This is a pistol like connector that is very intelligent. It uses a series of signals from the charging station to ensure a clean connection before it ever sends electricity, it communicates charge rate information  and can provide information regarding the level of capacity between the vehicle and the charging station. Most of the current day electric cars and plug in hybrids use the J-1772 standard.

Charging my car at home on my solar panel supported EVSE

When pulling up to a standard Level 2 EVSE, I can typically plug in directly to the charger with the connector provided. However, different charging situation require the use of different adapters. The car also came with an adapter to charge at a basic 110V wall socket, otherwise known as Level 1 charging. Level 1 charging is not ideal for a trip because it would take approximately a full day to charge the car if the battery was totally depleted. It is a good option for topping off at home or for plugging in at an airport where time is not of the essence. Being able to charge at a higher voltage and amperage allows the car to charge at a much faster rate. Not all cars use the same charging options. There is the new Level 3 DC Fast Charging that I cannot use. Fast Chargers can fully charge a Nissan Leaf in less than an hour, and although the ActiveE is wired for it, there is no connector on the ActiveE to accept it, so this is not an option. Tesla uses a higher rate of charge and have created their own proprietary connectors. There are a number of chargers at my employer, but they are setup for Tesla Roadsters, so I had a company called EVSE Upgrade, create an adapter so I could easily charge for free at work.Although a Tesla Roadster can handle as much as 70 amps, the signal from the J-1772 connector tells the Tesla charger to only deliver electricity to the car at 30 amps. I have also acquired a used Tesla Universal Mobile Connector (UMC) that will work with other NEMA outlets that deliver electricity at 20, 30 and 50 Amps. These are convenient when dealing with other public charging options, such as an RV Park. Most RVs connect using the NEMA 14-50 standard.

My car at Refuel2012 at Laguna Seca Raceway connecting a Nema 14-50 outlet to a Tesla UMC to my Tesla Roadster adapter (with an attached security cable) ultimately to my car. This looks crazy, but it is one of the more elegant solutions.

So now that I have my charging options, my next step is general planning. Along with the Charging network apps for Chargepoint and Blink Network that show chargers with their respective networks, there are other apps, such as Recargo which is a social networking site where users can add charging locations, rate them and give other information about the charging location to assist other EV drivers gain info about charging locations. Using the information on Recargo and Google Maps, I determined my Plan B route. Preference criteria was 24 hour availability, low to no-cost charging, approximately no more than 80-85 miles between charging locations and for the charger to be of a type that I could hook up directly to the car or through my adapters.

The new best option appears as though I will need to go inland to Santa Nella, then Coalinga and then back Atascadero on my original route. The first stop would be at a KOA RV Park in Santa Nella/Los Banos 68 miles away from my home. This will break my no-cost preference, but they are EV friendly and only charge a $10 dump fee to charge using my NEMA 14-50 adapter. They  are open 24 hours with advance notice. The next stop is Harris Ranch in Coalinga (that place where you roll up your windows on the I-5). This is 72 1/2 miles from the RV park. There is a Tesla Roadster charger available free 24 hours a day at the Shell station at Harris Ranch plus its a great place to catch a meal. From there, I would be stretching my range criteria a bit to 86 miles to get back to my original route at Atascadero charging at the Rabobank in that city, then to Solvang, Thousand Oaks and finally, L.A..

The new 'Plan B' route.

So now I have successfully set a new route and that also gives me an opportunity to use all my adapters. All well and good right? However, this has increased my stops to charge from four stops to five stops and 340 miles to 437 miles each way. Can I still make it to L.A. in 24 hours? Stay tuned....

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Bay to LA in a Day: How to drive 340 miles with a 100 mile range electric vehicle

The issue with an electric vehicle they say is you can only drive as far as a battery charge can take you, but think again. Can you only drive a gasoline powered internal combustion vehicle as far as what is in the tank? Of course not. You can rely on a network of gas stations along the route to refuel and be on your way. In September, I want to attend an unofficial high school reunion in Hollywood for Fairfax High School at the Kibbitz Room at the famed Canters Deli, a few blocks from my alma mater but thought it would be an interesting challenge for myself. To take my BMW ActiveE with it's 100 mile per charge range and drive it from the bay area to Los Angeles in less than a day. I have already driven over 9200 miles in less than 4 months in the car. I typically drive over 100 miles a day between my house south of Santa Cruz to either one of our company's work sites in Fremont or Palo Alto, charging the car while I am at work. This trip would provide some challenges. I would prefer not to pay for electricity while charging my car and I'd like to make it in less than a day. Granted, this is not the most efficient way to get to LA, but it would show that you can make a journey out of your trip. To get a chance to enjoy the local area while the car recharges.

My first thought, I was looking at 4 stops.Starting near my home, I would follow El Camino Real, The King's Highway, otherwise known as US-101 with stops in King City, Atascadero, Solvang, Thousand Oaks and then LA.  I would start in the Santa Cruz area, probably at the Santa Cruz Community Foundation near my home in Aptos, CA.There is a free Chargepoint Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (aka EVSE  or charger) available. My next stop would be in King City, from friends in the Monterey Bay Electric Vehicle Association, I was told 2 EVSEs would be available around the time of my trip. Otherwise there is an RV park that opens at 6 AM, but charges $25 to charge. Next would be an EVSE at the Rabobank in Attascadero, an EVSE in a city parking lot in Solvang, another in a parking lot in Thousand Oaks and finally at my destination.

Sounded easy right? Not so fast. The King City EVSEs are part of a project to add 60 EVSEs in Monterey county in one year, unfortunately they will not be avaialble in time for my trip. And waiting for the Campground to open (should it open at 6AM) would definitely put a crimp in my plans. Time for option B....