Friday, August 3, 2012

EV Welcome Packet

Driving EV comes with a large learning curve--there's much to know. I didn't realize just how much of that learning curve I had conquered until I recently came across a brand new Nissan Leaf driver.  A rookie, novice, newby of a driver.  We met at a Chargepoint EVSE in Riverside.  The newly anointed Leaf driver wasn't sure how to work the unit, and I unloaded what probably sounded like a tidal wave of information on all things EV.  Like a kid talking about his new toy, I was excited to share all I knew.

It occurred to me as I was driving home that (1) I talk to much when it comes to EVs, and (2) there were a few things I forgot to tell him about.  So why not create an EV welcome packet, something that covers the basics of EV'ing.

Most of what I have learned has come from other EV drivers, those who have come before.  But it takes time to sit and listen.  So I put together my own list of EV info, the stuff you can't live without knowing when you are new to EV'ing:

1.     Public Chargers.  "Chargers" are really called "EVSE" (electric vehicle supply equipment).  Here in Southern California, especially in the Inland Empire, you will primarily find Chargepoint America EVSE's and Blink Network EVSE's.  You should go to the Chargepoint and Blink website to register for one of their cards, which will allow you to active the EVSE units.  Even if you don't think you'll need to use these EVSE's, it doesn't hurt to have the card in your glovebox.

A Blink card and CharePoint "Charge Pass" card

There are a few other types of EVSE units around, such as the Clipper Creek units (which don't require a card or any form of payment), and the AeroVironment units (which also don't require a card or payment usually--at least the units that I have encountered).  There are a few others as well, but in my experience only Chargepoint and Blink require cards.

2.     Finding Public Chargers.  Aside from whatever program your car may have, there are websties, iPhone/iPad apps and android apps for both Chargepoint and Blink EVSE's.  The Chargepoint app will provide you with detailed information about your charging session when you use one of their EVSE units.  The downside to these sites is that they only display their own brand of EVSE.

To get a wider view of all available units I highly recommend either Plugshare or Recargo.  They both have websites and apps you can download.  Both of these sites allow users to upload information about EVSE's and people check-in when they use the units so you will have updated information of whether the units are working recently.  You can even add your home EVSE if you are brave enough to share it.

3.     Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3.  There are different types of EVSE's out there based on the amount of power they provide to your car.  A Level 1 EVSE is just a 120 volt line like you find in a residential home.  Most, if not all, EV's come with their own Level 1 cord, but some public EVSE's also have Level 1 power.

Level 2 is the 240 volt, or 208 volt, EVSE units you typically find at public charging locations.  You may have also had an EVSE installed at home, which is a Level 2 charger.

Two Level 2 EVSE's behind the E

My Home Level 2 EVSE

Level 3 is a high-power, quick-charging station.  Not all EV's can take Level 3 power, but if your EV can then you can use it to charge up to 80% state-of-charge in about 20 minutes.

4.     Freeway Freebies.  When you are driving a Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV), there's a few perks to be had that gain you access to HOV lanes and some of the toll roads.

In California, the HOV lane sticker (the little white beauty pictured below) can be obtained from the DMV using Form REG 1000.  This sticker allows for single occupancy in all HOV lanes throughout California.  I love this sticker, may be one of my favorite parts about driving pure EV.

If you use the 91 Express toll lanes on the 91 Freeway, you can apply for a special use transponders using the Special Access Account Application.  The transponder allows you to drive in the Fastpass lanes for free (for FREE!!) at all times, except East bound from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, but even then it's half price.

5.     Tax Credits.  If you bought your EV you have access to a few different types of tax credits.  The Federal tax credit is taken on your income tax returns for the year in which you purchased the EV.  In California there is also a $2,500 State credit.  And if you live in the City of Riverside you can qualify for a local rebate of $2,500.  Restrictions apply as to when you qualify for each credit, so check the website of your local, State and Federal agencies to learn the details.

6.     Social EV.  Forums and Facebook groups are great resources to learn about your particular vehicle and what others are doing and saying.  Plus it's just fun to be connected to other EV enthusiasts.  Whatever type of EV you drive, I'm sure there is a Facebook group for it.  For example, I am part of the Active E Facebook group.  There is also the BMW Active E forum.  Look around for as many groups and forums as you can find, and then check in as often as possible.  You'll learn a lot just by observing.

7.     Getting to know you.  If you're checking under the hood for oil or putting gas anywhere in your EV, then you're doing it wrong.  An electric vehicle is mechanically, and electronically, quite different from a gas-guzzler.  For example, I have been told many times (usually by car salesman when I test drive other EV's) that electric vehicles have no transmission.  Not true.  There has to be a way to transmit the power of the electric motor to the drive wheels, and that usually requires some gear ratio.  But most EV's only have one gear--as in the Active E--so they never have to shift (which may lead to the misconception that there is no transmission).

Also, when charging, EV's take on way more power when the battery is empty, and then decreased the power as the batteries come closer to full.  EV batteries are comprised of many tiny battery cells and each one can only take its fill of power.  As the battery pack reaches full, the cells must be carefully equalized and balanced so less power can be taken.

There are a host of terms that you should know when owning an EV.  Take a look at my earlier post describing some of the Electric Lingo you should know.

8.     Drive, drive, drive.  You want to learn how to drive efficiently, or just have fun, in your EV?  I have a few posts (see Eco Pro vs. Eco Amatuer) on this very blog about how to drive efficiently.  But forget reading those, just go drive and experiment.  The best way to learn it is to do it.  Think slow and steady for efficiency, but use your imagination and see what you can do.

This is a work in progress, but at least it gets the ball rolling.  Welcome to EV'ing I know you'll love it.

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