Friday, May 25, 2012

Electronaut-Friendly Kohl's

I am slowly on a mission to find as many public EVSE's as possible in the Inland Empire.  They are not as easy as you might think to locate.  Even with iPhone apps, such as the apps for Chargepoint and Blink, it can be difficult (and sometimes impossible) to find the actual charger.  Websites such as Recargo and PlugShare make it a bit easier because they oftentimes are updated by real-world users sharing their real-world experience.

This week I scouted out two more public EVSE locations.  One in Ontario, California just across there street from Ontario Mills Mall, and one in downtown Riverside.

1.  Electronaut-Friendly Kohls:

This EVSE is of the Chargepoint variety.  It is located in the Kohl's parking lot (near the side-door entrance) on Miliken and 4th Street.  There is only one EVSE, but its in a nice location near the door, but not so close that it is likely to be ICE'd.  The Chargepoint EVSE did incur a ground fault when I first tried using it, but a quick disconnect and re-connect reset the unit and charging began unimpeded.  Thank you to Kohl's for having an EV friendly view of the world!

2.  Downtown Riverside.

I have previously posted photos of the two EVSE's located at Riverside City Hall.  I really like those units because the parking is good and the units are easy to see.  This one, not so much.  It is located behind (and I mean behind) the parking garage that faces Market Street, on the corner of University Avenue in downtown Riverside.  There is only one unit and it is in the alleyway behind the parking garage.  The good news is that you do NOT have to pay for parking here because you don't have to enter the parking garage to use this unit.  The bad news is there is only one EVSE and, as you can see below, its not real easy to access.

On the day I took this photo there was a Leaf in the EV spot who was NOT plugged in--busted!  When a gas-powered car parks in an EV designated spot, we call that being "ICE'd."  But what is the correct term when one of our brother EV's blocks a spot and is not charging?  Is the space "EV'd," is it an "EV clog," is it "Electro-blocked?"  Whatever the term, it's pretty messed up.  Don't do that!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

You Can't Fight City Hall, But You Can Charge There

My first public EVSE experience at City Hall in Riverside. They have two EVSEs, easy to use and convenient parking.

The charges are located on the North side of the building, and can be accessed from either 10th street or 9th street.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Electric 1 vs. Gas 1: The smooth comfort of electric power

After having my Active E for around 2 weeks, my car told me it was time to be serviced.  Seemed a bit soon, but with such a unique car, I thought it best not to ignore the service light.  I took the car into BMW of Riverside and they were told by BMW to do a full service, which includes checking the ground-fault connections that run from the high-voltage batteries to the chasis.  Apparently, BMW is now setting the service schedule for every 3 months or 5,000 miles, whichever occurs first.

So I received an ICE loner car ("ICE" is an EV'ers term for a gas-powered car).  It was a 1 series, same as the Active E underneath, but gas-powered of course.  What a difference between the two cars.

First, for some ICE'y positives.  The ICE version of the 1 series came with a few amenities inside that I wish my Active E had.  Among them:

     1.  Armrest.  A simple feature that would dramatically increase comfort.  The E doesn't have one, but     the ICE version does.

     2.  Sunroof.  Wish the E had it.  I imagine it does not because of weight concerns, but it'd be nice.

     3.  Homelink.  I really can't figure out why the Active E has no homelink feature (which is just a series of three buttons on the bottom of the rearview mirror that you can program to open garage doors).  It does not seem as though it would add much weight.  Maybe it would interfere with the electronics of the car?

     4.  Power seats.  Another weight issue I would imagine, but I can live without out power seats.

Now for the ICE'y negatives (may I coin the term "black ICE"?).  It is so easy to quickly acclimate to the Active E's smooth driving style.  It accelerates immediately, and increases speed smoothly.  There is no transmission pauses and no winding-up of the RPM's that come with an ICE vehicle.

Transitioning from the E to the ICE, I suddenly felt as though I was on a herky-jerky ride.  The car constantly lunges forward and back as it shifts, pauses, accelerates, and then shifts again.  It felt downright unnatural.  Yet I had only been driving the E for a few days at that point.  

The difference is particularly noticeable on the freeway.  When driving the Active E, you can pull out to the next lane, hit the accelerator, and immediately speed up.  In fact, it can be a bit dangerous until you get used to it because the acceleration kicks in immediately so you have to be all the way in the next lane before accelerating.

In the ICE version of the 1 series (as with any gas-powered car), when you pull into the next lane and hit the gas pedal there is a pause and you lunge forward as the car downshifts, it then engages the lower gear and begins at the bottom of the power curve as the RPM's gear up.  In an ICE, the maximum horsepower output doesn't kick in until you reach the higher RPM levels, 4,000 to 5,000 RPM depending on the vehicle.  And it takes a number of seconds for the gas engine to move the car and achieve 4,000 RPMs.  So from the moment you hit the gas pedal, to the moment the car is accelerating forward, there is a number of seconds of lag (my guess would be 4 to 5 seconds for example).

In the Active E, none of that occurs.  There is no downshift, there is no power curve.  The electric motor has full horsepower immediately.  And while the E does have a transmission, it has only one gear and it never has to shift gears.  So when your foot hits the pedal, the car accelerates--it all happens in less than a second.  If you pull into the next lane and hit the pedal, but then suddenly change your mind about speeding up (is that a CHP up ahead?), you have time to back off the gas in an ICE, but you have no such luxury in the E.  It may sound like a subtle difference, but it is radically different in its feel when you are driving.

The bottom line: the Active E means business at all times.  But when it does its business of speeding up and slowing down, it does so in smooth, comfortable, linear lines.  No harsh herky-jerky movements.  And that alone sells me on the power and comfort of electric transportation.

The E Has Landed In The I.E.

My Active E has finally landed in the I.E.

Me and my E
I took delivery of my Active E last week. In actuality, it was hidden in plain sight, as they say, because I received the dealer demo. So the same car that I test drove and posted a picture of on this blog back in February is the car that now occupies my garage.

Good vs. Evil in my garage
Since the Active E lease comes with unlimited miles, it makes no difference that the odometer read 400 miles when I took delivery. I'm happy to be part of the EV club now, but in driving the Active E for just a couple of days I realize I have much to learn about electric motoring. In some ways, the car drives the same, or even better, than a gas-powered jalopy. In fact, in pulling onto the freeway for the first time, I zipped up to speed so quickly that I forgot I was driving something radically different from all the cars around me. The only sign of disparity, aside from the funky graphics on the outside, is the regenerative braking that kicks in and slows the car down when taking your foot off the accelerator (can't call it a "gas" pedal anymore).

In other ways, The Active E is very different. Such as in getting the most range out of the vehicle. While the car is capable of going 80 to 100 miles, or more, on a single charge, it takes the "right" kind of driving to reach those numbers. If you drive it like a gas-powered car, with quick acceleration and high speeds, then the range will be limited. For the first two days of driving I was averaging 2.8 miles per kilowatt-hour, which translates into about 75 mile range. On most days, a 75 mile range will be more than enough for me because my total commute is only 40 miles round trip. But on days when I need more range, I'll need to change my bad driving habits.

The harder question is just how do I change my driving habits? That's the learning curve part. I know what experienced EV drivers say to do, but doing it myself is another matter entirely. That's where experience comes into play. I tried exercising as much restraint as possible and was able to achieve an average of 3.8 miles per kilowatt-hour, which translates into a 96 mile range.
Restraint leads to 3.8 miles per kilowatt, but a bit more boring experience.

The secret is in soft, steady accelerations and allowing the regenerative braking to kick in earlier than you would normally brake in a gas-powered car.  In other words, you need to drive very, very defensively.  But in a car with such smooth acceleration and no shifting lags or pauses, driving defensively is the exact opposite of what my right foot wants to do.  I much prefer just mashing the pedal to the floor every time.  Well I always have that option, just don't expect to drive very far doing it.

There's also the "stealth" of the car. As you would imagine, EV's are quiet. I mean really quiet. They don't have four, or six, or eight little cylinders exploding with a mixture of gas and air every nanosecond. So it's takes some getting used to for those in the car. And it takes some pedestrians by surprise as well. In my case, I scared my father-in-law with the car unintentionally when we first took it to his house to show it off. He was walking on the street as we came by. Not a serious scare, but an obvious startled look. My teenage son commented that grandpa probably couldn't hear a diesel truck driving behind him, much less an EV (teenagers are so kind to older people). But this does present a problem/concern for us newly annointed EV'ers. We need to learn how to drive around people, especially in places like parking lots and parking garages. There are lessons to be learned. And I can't wait to learn them all.