I planned to push the limits this week. I started my day at 100% charge in Jericho and drove to Burlington. While I worked out my car was plugged into the station at Church and Main. Unfortunately that is only a Level 1 plug (110 volt) and I don’t work out for that long. An hour and half later I drove down Pine street to start my work day. I was probably up around 85% by this time. No charging available at work. I then headed to Montpelier for a meeting and plugged in at National Life. Again only a Level one plug. After the meeting I planned to meet a friend in Williston and then drive back to Jericho. I wasn’t sure I would make it. I started down I-89 a little over 60% (I got 2.5 hours of charging in).
I decided to go slow (57 mph) and see if I could make it to Williston with enough to get back to Jericho. I knew there was no charging in Williston (there’s everything else there though). I had decided that if I was on the last two bars as I approached the Richmond exit I would detour home, grab the conventional vehicle and continue on my way. It was close but having never run out of gasoline I had no intention of running out of electrons. I’m sure I would have made it to Williston, although French Hill did loom large in my calculations. I was more concerned that I wouldn’t have enough to get up to Jericho. It’s not the distance so much as the speed and the grade. So I aborted at the exit, jumped in my Jetta which was…on empty.
This marks only the second time in a month now when I’ve needed more range. The first was a trip to Lebanon, NH. I used CarShare VT for that trip.
My take away was three fold: one, we need more Level two charging. If I had found that in Burlington, Montpelier or Williston I could have made it all electric. Second, if I had the 2013 model LEAF I would have an another 50 miles of range and could have made it all electric. And finally, having an ICE back-up car for those days when I’ll exceed the 2012 model year range is really critical.
As the army Afghan war veteran walked away from our conversation at the charger at the corner of Church and Main street in Burlington he shook his head and said, “This has changed my life.”
A little before 8:00 a.m. I pulled into the dedicated EV charging space at Church and Main and plugged my car in. A man who had been reading the bulletin board nearby came over and asked, incredulously, “Is that charging your car?” I mentioned that I commuted in from Jericho and he said, “my unit’s in Jericho.” That’s how we got on the subject of his service in Afghanistan where he said 90% of the fatalities he saw were from the fuel convoys being blown up. “It’s not rocket science, it’s always the last truck in the convoy and on those mountain roads we’re only going 5-10 mph.” He described an RPG hitting the fuel truck and the incredible noise and fireballs of fuel shooting all over.
I told him one of the reasons I purchased an EV was to make sure we would never find ourselves in such vulnerable positions again and that he and his comrades wouldn’t be put in harms way because of our reliance on fossil fuel. He said the amount of diesel they would go through was “ridiculous”. I could have stayed chatting with him for hours. I thanked him for his service and he thanked me and walked away shaking his head and saying, “this has changed my life.”
While this sounds like an opening to a joke, I have no punch line. This is what happened on my second trip to Montpelier this week. I pulled up to the charging station behind City Hall only to find a Chevy Volt already plugged in. My range was questionable since I had already driven into Burlington and back to Jericho before starting for Montpelier. A gentleman walked up to the Volt and I asked him if it was his car, “No, I have the Mitsubishi MiEV over there. I’m down here for lunch and was looking to plug in as well.” He suggested it was time to go the Montpelier City Council to ask that they add another charger and clearly identify the spot as EV parking only. “The availability of this charger just isn’t reliable” he said.
As a friendly Montpelierite and fellow all-electric vehicle driver he invited me to plug in at his home on the other side of the city. I followed his MiEV out of the parking lot to his home, in a section of Montpelier I never knew existed. I was able to plug in and he gave my colleague who was along for his first EV trip a ride back into town. Our meeting complete another colleague gave us a ride back to his house and my car was fully charged and off we zoomed back to Richmond.
Maybe the punch line is, “must mean you’re in Montpelier.”
I’ve had two recent exchanges that made me think that today’s electric vehicles are not understood. The first was someone who works in the electric sector asking me if I had to give up a lot of amenities with my EV. My quick answer was no, in fact I’ve never had a car with heated seats (front and back), heated steering wheel, bluetooth, xm satellite, navigation system, and a pre-heating/cooling option. In his mind EVs were still stripped down vehicles.
The second comment came from someone who had worked for decades in the solar industry, so as you can see neither of these were true “civilian” when it comes to energy. When I showed him my car he said, “wow, I thought it would be this tiny thing.” In his mind EVs were still souped up golf carts.
So, if these two had these old stereotypes in their minds I’m sure others do as well. I don’t think the auto manufacturers have done a good job, or much of any job, promoting these vehicles as part of their national advertising. I did see the more car than electric Chevy Volt ads, which perhaps were aimed at dispelling the old myths. I haven’t seen anything that describes what it feels like to go from 0-50 faster than ever nor the feeling of driving past gas stations ($3.96) without the price hitting shocking you.
My Nissan LEAF and I journeyed to Montpelier today. It took more energy on the return trip, I had predicted the opposite. I pulled in behind City Hall where I knew there was a charging station. It took me a while to locate it as the signs face the parking spot where an ICE was parked. There were plenty of other spaces around so I’m not sure why they were parked there. Luckily the spot next to them was open and the cord reach just fine. Imagine my joy on returning to retrieve my car to find another electric car parked in the EV spot and using the level one charger. Montpelier is now the first place where I’ve seen two EVs charging at once.
I’ve checked out both the Healthy Living and City Market charging stations twice each. Both time the spot at Healthy Living was free and both times the spot at City Market was occupied by an ICE. To be fair, there is nothing about the spot at City Market that would make it clear that only EVs who need to charge should park there.
What I noticed mostly at City Market is the number of people who stopped to check out the car when it was plugged in. Certainly an attention getter. This is a car that the same people would most likely just walk past and pay no attention to if it wasn’t plugged in, but the visual impact of seeing the car being charged is what provides the clear signal that this is a different car.
I’ve spoken to a few of the people as I was plugging in and they seemed genuinely excited about an EV, then again this is at City Market in Burlington so what do you expect. I’ve started to think that plugging the car in whenever and wherever I can as a way of promoting EVs is the way to go since I still haven’t gotten that bumper sticker.