“Chapel Hill and back without a drop of gas,” I exclaimed, walking through the door, after traveling from Asheville to Chapel Hill in the electric vehicle. With a “range” of only 85 miles, traversing 500 miles in two days was a significant good achievement. Gone were the days of “range anxiety” as I had mapped out the trip to the last mile.
Two days earlier, after dropping my child to school I headed to Black Mountain. Opposite the visitor center there are two J1772 chargers. Attached to one charger was a red Model S from Georgia. No doubt they were on a road trip. It looked like they had left it there overnight as the screen on the unit indicated “charge complete” with a charge time of 10 hours. I had a mind to pull out the charger from their car in case someone else needed to charge, but decided not to lest they were offended.
Knowing the car would require a few hours on the Level 2, I needed something to do. I strolled downtown Black Mountain and found a café where I grabbed a coffee and bagel while settling into The Martian, by Andy Weir. A friend recommended the story to me after hearing of my adventures on the trip to Atlanta!
After 1 hour and 50 minutes, I returned to the chargers. The red Tesla was gone. My car had 98% charge and 90 miles. I then headed to Ridgecrest – the top of the grade. Regenerative Braking is an aspect of EVs that is unparalleled in gas counterparts. At Ridgecrest the meter read 80% and 77 miles. By the time the car had wound down the 6% grade to Old Fort, the meter was at 83% and 85 miles – a gain of 3% in battery energy – more than 700 watt-hours of energy (about 2400 Btu). Tell me of a gas car that can gain fuel while driving!
The next stop was Hickory, 62 miles from Black Mountain.
One of the disadvantages of electric cars (or me) is that on long trips I tend to drive the speed limit or less, attempting to maximize the range. Thus, it seemed everyone on the highway was passing me. I drifted into strange thought patterns wondering why we were always in a hurry to get somewhere. I drifted to the past: The distance from Toronto to Montreal is about 550 km. In my college days I would boast: “It took me four and half hours” an average speed of 122 km/hour, way above the speed limit of 100km – and never a ticket!
Finally, I pulled into the Hickory dealership with 25% battery. I charged for 30 minutes (CHAdeMO) and left with 91% and 78 miles.
By noon, I was in Statesville with 47% charge and 50 miles. I could have tried to venture to Winston Salem without charging, but the distance from Hickory to Winston Salem is 78 miles, plus the dive to the chargers. I felt this might have been stretching it somewhat since one wrong turn it would be trouble!
The dealership in Statesville had only Level 2 chargers. A friendly sales girl told me where they were and tried to sell me a new Leaf as wellJ One hour later, Watney had almost destroyed the HAB and I left Statesville with the range meter read 77% SOC and 77 miles.
The Winston Salem dealership is far off I40 to the north of the city on University Drive. The CHAdeMO is located behind the service area. When I arrived a car was blocking the unit, but a nice worker noticed I wanted to charge and moved the car. Arriving with 25 miles and 27% charge, I left with 91% charge and 95 miles. NASA had discovered Watney was alive.
Burlington was 53 miles away, however I entered the dealership with 40 miles and 40% SOC. When I plugged into the CHAdemo, the unit showed an error. One of the employees tripped the unit off waited a few minutes and then put it back in. I re-attached the vacuum plug and hit start. It worked! However, I noticed the battery was hot – 1 bar away from the critical zone. Perhaps, the continuous draining and charging to over 80% SOC was heating it up. I hoped it would not hit the critical heat zone which could potentially damage the battery. I was tempted to take the vehicle through an underbody car wash to cool the pack, but luckily the “air cooled” system on the car worked keeping it below critical. I finally arrived at Chapel Hill with 50 miles and 59% SOC. Watney had found the Pathfinder!
The trip back was a retrace of the forward journey with the exception of climbing the mountain at Old Fort. I had planned to charge at a campsite there and had travelled with my Level 2 charger from home to do so.
But, after leaving Hickory, 9 miles out of Old Fort, the sign read “Black Mountain 19 miles”. The car had 37 miles. Sure, a no-brainer, I could make it up without charging. As I entered the grade the meter read 25 miles. Up and up, the car made the hill admirable, but every mile of the 6% grade took away 2 from the meter. By the time I reached the top of the 5 mile grade the meter read 14 miles. Yes, Hickory to Black Mountain was possible using this EV with energy to spare! Having left Chapel Hill at 8:30 am, I arrived home at 5:30 pm, travelling 240 miles with 5 stops and not a drop of gas! Did I mention that even the energy was free on this trip! Tell me gas car that can do as much?
So there you have it. Long distance travel is possible with limited range electric vehicles. All it takes is patience and thought. If anyone tells you about the range of electric cars, you know what to tell them as Watney would: “&* &%(+ & $%^&$#%^!”
The reason for narrating this otherwise routine trip as a story is to being attention to a function what we all take for granted – travelling. Our addiction to oil over the last century and a half, while bringing a lot of positive growth has not been without extreme negative environmental and political consequences. While politicians clamor about spending and national debt, they tap into the non-renewable oil bank at alarming rates. In fact, if the US were to use only its reserves for our consumption, we would run dry within 3 to 5 years! http://www.eia.gov/naturalgas/crudeoilreserves/
It seems that the advent of the electric car will revolutionize transportation and you all are all pioneers of this technology. I apologize to those of you who have not read or seen the Martian for some “spoiler” effect, but the novel seemed to fit well with this narrative.J