Barely Thinking About Charging

As with so many things in modern life that are good, we start taking them for granted fast.

My boss agreed to buy two Clipper Creek LCS-40 EVSEs, and they arrived a few days later. I bolted them to the wall and ran the conduit indoors myself, but I’m not licensed as an electrician so we had to wait a few more days for our guy to connect them to a breaker box. There’s a ton of construction going on at my Company so we have electricians and carpenters and ironworkers everywhere.

And now I’m just charging every day. When I get here early in the morning it’s no problem to park and charge, but if I’m offsite to start the day I usually park elsewhere and jump on one of the EVSEs when the gas car’s driver goes out to lunch. Only once did I have to ask one of those drivers to move so I could charge.

With winter weather down below freezing, my full-charge range is down to about 60 miles on the Guess-O-Meter. If I start the heater or defroster, it drops by ten miles right away.

Just because I’m naturally efficiency-minded I try to just run the defroster and heater when absolutely necessary. But when I’m driving to work (just 15 miles one-way ) and have 40 miles of range, I should really just enjoy feeling toasty warm.

Looking forward to a L2 charger at work

Because it’s a measured 1.81 miles to the nearest public L2 charger over at the Puget Sound Joint Electrical Apprenticeship.

I got ICEd from our only outdoor 120V plug at work today because of the ongoing construction, then had to make a 32-mile trip to a customer jobsite.

The Blink Network chargers at the PSEJATC appear to charge by the kilowatt-hour, rather than by the timed hour like the one I used at the Sears in Lacey.

Since I got a charging code using the Android app (and the phone was nearly dead… thank goodness it held on) I got the “Guest” rate of $0.39 per kWh. That actually makes power more expensive than gas, in this case, but it’s a price I’m happy to pay.

First, the cart, to get them thinking about horses.

I work at an engineering company, where there are quite a few self-professed “gearheads”. We recruit heavily from the UW’s Formula One team, and many of our younger guys show up in modified cars, mostly Audi and VW.

One client and one consultant visited in their Leafs. Another contractor in his Fusion Energi. But they never plugged in.

Only two of us drove hybrids; a Prius, and my 2000 Honda Insight.

When a new guy started who had moved up from California, he drove his Fiat 500e in twice, but then we never saw it again.   He mentioned he would start driving it to work if I got chargers installed.

Since I brought the Focus Electric in yesterday, a bunch of guys have come up to me asking about it and expressing interest in getting electric cars. One told me that he’d been at the dealer driving an identical Focus Electric, just the day before I bought mine.

Another guy who has driven his 1976 Civic since it was new came and asked what I thought about the prospects for battery longevity.  Yeah, he’s pretty hardcore about longevity, so we talked about the Focus Electric’s battery management system and the less sophisticated air-cooling on the Nissan Leaf.

I think that once the first EVSE goes up on the outside of the building, that it will have an effect on the imaginations of the petrol-burning set here.

Signed, sealed… it’s roadtrip time !

Seattle is probably the third or fourth most enthusiastic market for EVs in North America, so it’s not surprising that the dealerships here don’t negotiate very hard.   I’ve seen some bizzare price inflation with one dealer, had one try their best to cheat me just on principle, and had another sell the car I wanted the day it arrived on the lot.   I’ve been watching the Cars.com inventory of Focus Electric fluctuate, dropping by 4 or 5 cars every weekend then picking up during the week as new ones arrive.   It currently stands at 42 within 100 miles of home.

I can’t bring myself to buy a car at sticker price.   It’s always a negotiating process, and it’s hard to deal with the pressure tactics and intentionally confusing documentation.   If a car dealership is going to play hardball, I’m going to get some discount out of that game.

So I headed south and made a deal with Courtesy Ford in Portland, OR.

My bullshit detector was highly calibrated from my adventures with local dealers, so I pushed very hard on Courtesy Ford to put all their verbal promises in writing, and to explain in detail every number they used in calculating the lease.   I maintained from the beginning that I would not sign any contract I didn’t understand.

Even though their standard forms and processes leave a little to be desired, they did come through with a good discount and they certainly earned their $75 documentation handling fee… they probably spent $50 in UPS charges to get the lease paperwork signed before the end of the month.

So it’s almost a done deal;   the paperwork is signed and delivered, and I’ll make the down payment today.   It’s already been added to my insurance, and I bought a bus ticket to Portland.

Now… where am I going to plug it in ?

It may as well have said ‘Make out with Cindy Crawford for Twenty Minutes”

Tonight I was at a fundraiser for Special Olympics, sponsored by a family friend’s law firm and accompanied by my lovely wife.   If it sounds wealthy suburban, it’s because it is.  We drove across the toll bridge in my old Honda hybrid.   She rolled her eyes when I gave her the latest news of my negotiations with the Ford dealer for an FFE.   Evidently I’ve been quite the chatty Cathy about EVs for a few weeks.   Not everyone shares my enthusiasm for the coming EV revolution.

We had wine, and chicken skewers, and made some small donations.    Chatted with the firm’s various small-business clients, met some of the athletes and coaches from Special Olympics.   Compared notes about the scar on my wrist with a 13-year-old Special Olympian who had busted up his arm falling off a motorcycle.  “Chicks dig scars”, I advised him.   His dad coaches their soccer team and it was mentioned that the jerseys are getting pretty ratty.

There was a silent auction as well.

The usual auction stuff;  gift certificates for some fancy dinners, sets of tickets to baseball games, a couple of timeshare trips down in the Caribbean.    A stylish desk set and coffee basket, a collection of Mariners bobbleheads.

And right there in the middle, a single sheet of heavy paper with a glossy picture printed on it of a sleek white car.

A daggerlike letter T.

The words “48 Hour Ultimate Experience” and “Weekend With the Model S”

SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.

The kids are going to have sweet soccer jerseys this year.   I’m taking Dad for a roadtrip.

A terrible value proposition, if you count in dollars.

“Driving green” won’t save me money, so I don’t have that as a motivator.   I can look totally short-sighted and concentrate on not buying gasoline, but in total dollars an EV is far more expensive than the alternatives.

My daily commute is 31 miles round trip, 22 of which are on the I-5 during the early and late edges of rush hour.   My car is a manual-transmission 2000 Honda Insight gasoline hybrid, one of the most fuel efficient cars ever made and an absolute engineering jewel.   With its original battery and 150,000 miles on the odometer, it routinely turns in an average of 52 MPG.   This summer I’ve been spending weeks at a time out of town so the car’s been sitting, and I once went seven weeks without refueling because I was commuting so little.

The car is long-since paid off and requires almost no maintenance.   My daily cost to commute is roughly $3.50.

In a surge of optimism last year I bought a cool Kalkhoff electric assist bicycle, as I’d learned that the long hill between me and the train station was a insurmountable obstacle for my middle-aged legs and middle-sized gut.   The bike does the job;  it just plain flattens out that hill and lets me make the 5 mile ride to the train station in an easy 38 minutes, no sweat.   The train (the Sounder) is doing its barely-loaded backhaul so there’s always plenty of room for bikes;  most days there are three or four passengers and two or three bikes per car.   It’s an easy two miles from the south station to my office.

But that’s not cheaper, either;  the daily train fare is $8.50 round trip.

And it’s less practical.   I take my little dog with me to work most days because it’s too hot or too cold or too long a day alone on our boat.   And she’s terrible with baskets or trailers.   And I live in Seattle, where soaking rain is a certainty much of the year.   And it’s much slower;  the trip takes close to 90 minutes, compared to 35 on the highway.   And I have to get up at 5 AM to catch the 6 AM train.   And I ride through a villanous section of town (Pioneer Square) every day, and along the most hazardous bicycle corridor (2nd Avenue) in town.

So why on Earth would I want to buy a super-expensive, limited-range automobile ?

If I’m honest, it’s because it’s cool and it’s comfortable.

That little Honda is amazing, but it’s 1800 pounds of aluminum and is more or less a roller skate on the highway.    The compact EVs I’m considering are an order of magnitude more comfortable and safer than that little car.

Somebody has to take the plunge and be an early adopter.   Somebody has to take the step of trading the convenience of an ICE car for the low emissions of an EV.

So why not me ?

At work we have lots of ‘car guys’.   On any given day there are three or four tuned Audis in the parking lot, and most of the guys have at least three vehicles;  their commuter, their fun car, and their project car.   We hire extensively from the UW’s Formula One team.

I’ve talked with some of my colleagues, including one who let me drive the Leaf he borrowed from his neighbor for a week.   They all say they might consider driving electric if there was charging at work.   And the company owner says he is willing to install charging stations and pay for the electricity if there’s a demand.

Same thing at home;  there are six hybrids in the parking lot but no EVs.   The neighbors I’ve talked to say they might consider driving electric if there was a place to charge.  I’ve taken on the job of convincing my neighbors that our overcrowded parking lot should have a charging space.

So there we are.  It’s more expensive.  Less practical.  Has hurdles for charging.   Makes no commercial or financial sense at all.

But boy, howdy, do I like breathing clean air.   Bet y’all do too.

EV Envy

I know I want to drive electric.

My mom was a recycling activist back in the Seventies and I remember very clearly a conversation I had with her about the oil embargo in 1979. “Smart people will figure out how to solve these problems. They have to.”

I don’t think she expected two Bush/Cheney administrations and a willingness to engage in perpetual war to keep gas cheap.

Mom’s voice rings in my head every time I hear an argument about how you could buy 4000 gallons of gas for the price difference between an EV and ICE car.

Somebody summarized the issue simply on another website:

“Park your car in a closed garage with the engine running. Is your main concern running out of gas ?”