Posts about life as an electric vehicle driver.
I drive a Tesla Roadster. For full disclosure, I own stock in Tesla because I put my money where my mouth is.
With the new year comes a new law: AB 475. I consider this law anti-electric vehicle and so do many others including:
The main objection is that it allows an electric vehicle to be towed when it’s in an EV charging spot just because someone else unplugged it to charge their own car after the first car was done charging. This is common practice among EV owners. I’ve unplugged others’ cars and they’ve unplugged mine. Now I need to worry that I will be towed for doing nothing wrong?
This could have easily been fixed. And the current system of issuing stickers identifying cars eligible to park in such spaces worked fine.
What makes this whole thing even stranger is apparently my least favorite car company right now, General Motors, had a lot to do with this. This is the same company that runs ads calling the Volt an “Electric Car” even though it has a gas tank and gas engine. Apparently they were largely behind this bill. Notice my earlier post about setting off a Volt car alarm when I tried to use it’s charger after it was done. Does GM really want EV’s to succeed I wonder?
Had the pleasure of meeting Bill, the owner of Roadster #48 (the 48th Tesla ever made!) on on Thanksgiving Day while on a family trip to Fresno.
We were driving along in our Highlander Hybrid (there were four of us—the one limitation that prevents using the Roadster—until the model S comes out next year that is), and saw what looked amazingly like a Roadster up ahead. So I gunned the Beast (as we semi-lovingly call the Highlander) and caught up. My wife yelled out the window to him “What number are you??” She figured that would clue him in we actually knew a thing or two about Roadsters.
Well, Bill seemed pleased to meet some fellow owners. Apparently he’s the only Roadster owner in the area. He pulled over and we compared notes and talked about EV life for a bit. I’m pleased to say I was able to fill him in on a few things he didn’t know since he bought it used and didn’t get the official tour from the dealer (although I’m sure they’d be happy to give it to you if you are near one sometime Bill!). With his permission I’m posting a few photos here.
And Bill, I must complement you on the color choice of Midnight Blue which just happens to be exactly the same as Roadster #913 (which happens to belong to the author).
So I recently had to make a run to the Apple store genius bar at South Coast Plaza. (Minor incident involving junk in my headphone jack.)
South Coast Plaza put in the latest J1772 charge tech last year (thanks!): http://auto.ocregister.com/2010/05/10/south-coast-plaza-unveils-networked-car-charging-stations/33769/
I couldn’t charge at the office for a few days while they replace the NEMA 14-50 they had put in for me with a J1772 (thanks Irvine Company!), so I figured I’d top off for the trip home while I was there. But as I arrived I saw a Volt charging in the one J1772 charge space in that part of the mall.
Luckily when I checked it out, I could see on the charger that the car was done. So, I pulled into the empty spot next to it and unplugged the Volt, planning to leave a note on the Volt’s windshield letting the driver know and thanking them.
I about jumped out of my skin as the Volt’s car alarm went off. My fight or flight adrenalin started pumping and I half expected mall cops to come raining down and haul me off to the slammer! I quickly plugged the Volt back in and retreated to my Roadster, which I drove to the other side of the lot and parked in a regular space.
In hindsight I probably could have just gone ahead as the alarm went off after about 30 seconds, but I wasn’t exactly thinking clearly.
Apparently this can be disabled: http://gm-volt.com/forum/showthread.php?9088-2011-Software-Update&p=102645
But really GM? First you make a gas burning car and run ads calling it an “electric car” totally confusing everyone I talk to. Then this? Not cool.
I got pulled over the other day driving in the carpool lane on the 405 near LAX. The CHP officer came to the window and said “you probably wonder why I pulled you over? It’s because you are driving solo in the carpool lane.” “Yea, but I have white carpool stickers” I responded. These are the kind that didn’t expire here in California—Hybrids have gold stickers that expired in July:
“May I see your clean air vehicle certificate.” I gave him this along with my registration, insurance, and drivers license (I’ve been pulled over before. Ahem.)
So he goes back to his motorcycle, checks things in his computer for a few minutes and comes back to the window. “You’re all set. Thank you” and walks away.
Huh? Afterwards I wondered if he just wanted to see the car! Maybe I should have given him the grand tour! Aren’t officers supposed to have reasonable suspicion to pull someone over? But I guess I can’t blame him if he was just curious. And maybe he’d never seen a Tesla before and thought “that can’t possible really be an EV!”
One of the common misperceptions I hear is that you can’t go very far because you have to spend so much time charging it.
Top Gear is a great example of mangling the facts on this. They used a standard electrical outlet as an example so as to claim you’d have to stop for something like 30 hours to recharge (4 miles per hour of charge). That’s ridiculous—there are much better ways that are widely available.
Fact is, I charge in dramatically less time (about 1 mile per minute). Thats using a 70amp charger—which I have at home and are reasonably available in California. Even if you can’t get to one of those, most any RV park has 40 amp outlets that will get you over .5 miles per minute of charge.
But what’s going in now is ‘quick charging’ that adds 5 miles per minute. Nissan Leafs already do this, and the new Tesla Model S will do the same.
That means you can drive 300 miles (4-5 hours of driving—which the Tesla S will allow), stop for a 1 hour break (you at least gotta pee and pick up food right?), and drive another 300. I’d say it’s hard to go faster than that in a gas car! There are already a few of these here in California and more are going in fast.
Vacaville Rapid Charger
Portland rapid charger
A Leaf would be less pleasant because of the much smaller battery, but with quick charging you could still go pretty fast. And I doubt we’ll see many more cars with such small batteries. (A post for another day.)
Not too long ago, you had to plan gas stops because long stretches of highway had no gas stations. Quick chargers will be like that for a while, but it not really a problem with a little forethought. But once they reach a certain level of density, long distance driving will be as easy in an EV as a gas guzzler. And for everyday use you never have to stop since your car is fully charged each night in your garage!
Drive from San Diego to Seattle in an EV? No problem.
I got a question about the rally mentioned in the first link. The event took place on September 10, 2011. We started at the Tesla Design Studio on the same property as SpaceX in Hawthorne and drove to a Tesla owner’s place in Malibu. There we had a beautiful catered lunch.
Here are my pics and some video from that day:
Notice the video of us all pulling out with police escort. The police had the roads all blocked off all the way onto the freeway:
I travel from San Diego to LA regularly. I trade off between driving the Roadster and taking the train. Honestly I think I prefer the Roadster for the convenience of leaving when I want, and I generally get there in about 30-60 minutes less than on the train. But I take the train sometimes for a change of pace. The train here (called the “Surfliner”) is actually quite nice and allows me to work on my laptop during the trip.
Here’s the question: Which is the more environmentally friendly ride from San Diego to LA? Bear in mind that the Tesla Roadster is charged in San Diego at a house with solar panels that generate well more kwh than the Roadster uses (even if it’s not charged with those exact electrons), but it is topped off from the grid in LA for the return trip. Of course driving also uses up tires and eventually uses up the car itself. The train uses diesel, but carries many passengers and will likely run just as often regardless of whether or not I am on it. And when I take the train I still have to take a traditional gas burning taxi a few miles to my destination.