Category Archives: menlo park to redmond

Lessons Learned.

 

The trip was about 850 miles. We paid 95 dollars to charge, including 2 overnights where we paid full price for the RV spot. Typically you need their most expensive site to get the 50 amp breaker and its 60-80 feet long and you need less than a quarter of it. I think we used about 225 kWh of energy, worth about 25$.  The parks made 70 dollars off of us, hopefully in the future they will give better rates, but I am happy for them to make money rather than it going where the money for gasoline goes. If we had been in a 30 mpg car, we would have used about 28 gallons of gas, and that would have cost 144 dollars at 4 dollars a gallon.

At the end of the trip I have learned a bunch of lessons.

Questions to ask of the RV park:

Do you have 50 amp service? Do all of your sites have 50 amp service? How long have you had 50 amp service? ( sneaky way to find out if the breakers are really old )  How much will you charge for a 2 or 3 or 4 hour charging stop?

If the breaker looks really old, stick around a few minutes and make sure it will be ok… go back and re-read EV Noob Lesson #1.

Is there a restaurant within walking distance? A hotel/motel within walking distance? If you ask if one is close by, they might assume you are an RV and are towing a vehicle and you want to drive to it.

Is there something you want to spend time at within walking distance?

I think that driving cross country in an EV is the civilized way to drive. Get up early and drive a couple of hours, then stop for a relaxing breakfast while you charge for 1-2 hours. Drive another 2-3 hours and then stop for lunch and an afternoon seeing something you want to see, while you charge for another 3-4 hours. Drive a couple more hours then stop for dinner and charge again. Then after dinner you drive a little more to a final stop for the day where you charge overnight.

If you start with a nearly full battery and your total driving time is about 6-8 hours, your time for charging stops will be about 6-8 hours. I did almost no research on what to do while at the charging stops. Unfortunately at 100 degrees plus outside, it wasn’t compelling to do much of anything outside. The next time I do a long trip like this, I plan to do it up the coast. Roads with lower speed limits that make you ( let you! ) cruise at 50 mph or a little less will actually improve your total mph when you include the charging stops.

We recorded data by taking pictures of the data screens in the car with a digital camera, we forgot a couple of key data points and an unfortunate number of the pictures were impossible to read because of glare. Yes I know I should have planned a better way to take data but I only took a minute to pack and did almost no trip planning…

Driving and charging summary:
Menlo Park to Davis CA: 103.8 miles. Battery 250 to 141 kWhr used: 26.88
Charging in Davis: HPC70A for 1:10 hours. Charge: 141 to 211
Davis to Redding, CA: 155 miles. Battery 211 to 40 kWhr used: 39.93
Charging in Redding: 32A for 6.5 hours. Charge: 40 to 214
Redding to Yreka, CA: 98 miles. Battery 214 to 88
Charging in Yreka: 40A for 2.5 hours. Charge 88 to 168
Yreka to Grant’s Pass OR: 80.3 miles. Battery 168 to 42 kWhr used: 22.65
Charging in Grant’s Pass OR: 32A/24A overnight ~9hours 42 to 250
Grant’s Pass OR to Eugene ( Coburg ) OR: 141.7 miles. Battery 250 to 90 kWhr used: 38.37
Charging in Eugene: 40A for 3:40, Charge: 90 to 214
Eugene to Wilsonville: 88.1 miles Battery 214 to 98
Charging in Wilsonville: 40A for 2 hours Charge 98 to 155
Wilsonville to Portland: 25 miles Battery 155 to 127
Portland charging: 40A for ~3.5 hours. Charge: 127 to 245
Portland to Lacey: 118 miles. Battery 245 to 73
Lacey charging: 40A for 1.5 hours. Charge: 73 to 123
Lacey to Redmond: 70 miles. Battery 123 to 42 kWhr used: 19.11

Average miles / kWhr from available data: 3.78
Calculated kWhr for 850 mile trip: 225
( Charging overhead is unknown because I didnt gather any data )

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Eugene to Portland to home.

We left Eugene with the battery meter showing 214/250 at 11:36AM. We were ahead of schedule and knew we would be able to get a full charge over dinner, so we drove fast. Fast meaning at the speed limit of 65. We had mostly been doing high 50s or 60 during most of the trip, because that was more efficient overall.

Dad tested the passing power which we had used sparingly til then to maximize range:

dad

We stopped just south of Portland after 88.1 miles of aggressive driving with 98/250 left, and charged for about an hour and 45 minutes until we were back to 155/250. Then we headed into Portland. It was 25 miles to our next stop.

We were headed to meet John PlasmaBoy Wayland and his family for dinner. I had only met John the previous weekend at the Wayland Invitational event of the National Electric Drag Racing Association, but already knew that driving through Portland in an EV and missing John was like a kid going to North Pole and not getting to see Santa Claus. I was disappointed that my car arrived a week too late to make it to the Wayland Invitational, but I am sure glad I went and got to meet the NEDRA folks, it was a fantastic experience.

We got to John’s house with 127/250 left and plugged the Roadster in next to White Zombie, his record setting EV drag racer.  White Zombie has a 0-60 speed of about 2.9 seconds and has recorded an 11.466 second 1/4 mile. John explained the magic of White Zombie and we went to dinner and traded stories. Ours about the tragedy of the Redding circuit breaker and the rest of our trip so far, and John’s exploits of pioneering EV drag racing.

portland-whitezportland-explainportland-whitez2portland-john

After dinner, we got a tour of Blue Meanie, one of John’s earliest and most comfortable streetable EVs.  It seats 4, does 0-60 in 5.5 seconds, and has a range of about 40 miles at highway speeds.

 portland-meanie

When I first started my search for an EV a few years ago, I strongly considered a conversion. Seeing Blue Meanie on John’s website inspired me to believe a comfortable, practical and fun EV could really exist.  I wrestled with which path to choose for a long time. A couple of the reasons I eventually decided on Tesla was the fact that I had no expertise to perform my own conversion so I would be entirely reliant on someone else, and that the premium conversion parts were in short supply with long waiting lists. I read a bunch of books, did some research and analysis and asked a bunch of the wrong questions. If I had asked some of the right questions and met some people who had done their own conversions I may have thought differently. After considering that path, the Tesla almost feels like cheating because it is so easy, but since I have no aptitude with car mechanicals it was probably the right choice for me.

portland-blue

portland-blue2

portland-logo

portland-pull

 

We didnt leave Portland until 8pm, a little later than we planned, but John’s family and friends were so much fun that it was well worth it. We had an almost completely full charge.

We drove 118.4 miles to Lacey Washington and got there with 73/250 remaining. I guess we should have driven a little more conservatively at that point. A real big thank you to Dave who ran an EV parts shop and who met us and let us in to charge because we were there late in the evening. We charged for about an hour and a half at 40 amps and got back to 122/250 and then drove the last 70 miles to home, where we arrived with 41 / 250 range left.

The total trip was about 850 miles. Total driving time was 17 hours. Total daytime charging time excluding the morning in Redding that should have been overnight was about 13 hours.

Pushing the Limit

That night, I came up with a bold new plan. Grant’s Pass Oregon to Seattle in one day, about 440 miles, 8 hours of driving, 9 or 10 hours of charging. It would require getting up at 5AM. We decided to give it a shot.

The next morning we got to the car at 5AM and it was completely full charge. It was dark and a wonderful wonderful 60 degrees. We headed for Eugene, and the car was really really happy to be cruising in cool weather. There were a bunch more climbs and descents, but none as big as Siskiyous. We rolled into an RV park just on the north edge of Eugene at 7:39 AM with 90/250 range left. The trip was 2:28 hours, 141.7 miles, we used 38.37 kWh, for 271 Wh/mile.

The RV park owner charged us $10 to charge, we told him we would be there for no more than 5 hours. We ended up charging til 11:36am when we had 214/250 charge. By 11:36 it was 87 degrees ( at 7:39 it was 62 ). The 40 amp charging really paid off for us here, as we gained 124 ( ideal ) miles in less than 4 hours ( probably about 3:45 total time ). 30 amp charging would have taken at least an hour more.

eugene-chargingeugene-meeugene-dad

 

While we charged we walked across the highway to the truck stop and had a good breakfast. The waitress kept bringing dad fresh decaf because we told her we were in no hurry. The truck stop had an obsolete gas pump. Hopefully soon they will all be obsolete.

eugene-pump

We meandered back after breakfast and snoozed and read in the RV park lounge. This park had a pool and a hot tub and we thought about going for a swim ( they would have charged us a little more if we had used the facilities other than charging and lounging ). Yesterday it had been too hot and the sun was too brutal, today we felt like napping and reading instead.

We ended up fielding a bunch of questions from interested onlookers. They all loved hearing that the car used no gas and how it was made in the US ( and the body came from England ). There were no snide comments about being stuck charging, they were amazed that we could do this at all, even before we told them about our relaxing meals, peaceful walks and restful naps while we charged.

The Siskiyous!

We left Yreka at 6:14pm, planning to stop for the night in Grant’s Pass, only about 80 miles away. We had 168 miles of range left, which we figured would be plenty, even with some mountains coming. Thankfully it was down to 77 degrees outside because of the clouds and sprinkle.

Soon we reached the climb over Siskiyous ( we only knew this after the fact, we knew some mountainous terrain was coming, but we didn’t really have any details ). This extremely blurry picture ( complete with reflection of my knee ) is trying to show you that we climbed for over 5 miles using an average of 569 Wh/mile ( watt hours per mile ). At that rate the range of the car when completely full would have been around 80 miles. We were slightly under half, and the estimated range plummeted quickly and showed that we would not make it to Grant’s Pass.

sisky-climb

This extremely blurry picture shows what the descent on the other side were like, it was actually taken about a mile before the end of the downhill.  We regenerated energy at an average of 125 watt hours per mile with the cruise control stuck on 55 mph for the whole downhill ( used no friction brakes ). I tried to go about 55mph on the uphill so the speed of the climb and the descent should be about the same. It was amazing to go 7 miles and watch the real range of the car increase by about 3 miles or so and the estimated range went up by 40ish ( I don’t remember exactly ).

sisky-down

I don’t know the exact length and height of each side of the pass, but at the summit there was a sign that said 6% downgrade for 7 miles, if we assume that it’s symmetric we can do some really rough math. We averaged 569 Wh/mi consumed on the way up. We averaged 125 Wh/mi generated on the way down. If you add those up you get 444 Wh/mile total used for 14 miles. The 80.3 mile trip averaged 282 Wh/mile. If we remove a 14 mile section of 444 Wh/mile, the other 66.3 miles of the trip calculates out to 247 Wh/mile. Then the uphill was 322 more than the average ( 569 – 247 = 322 ) and the downhill was 372 less than the average ( 247 – -125  = 372 ) 

If I had known what was coming I would have reset the trip meter at the start of the climb, the summit, and the end of the descent, but I didn’t, and I wasn’t about to go back and do it again. We didn’t even think to try to record the data until we were almost at the summit so that’s the best we can do. 

We rolled into Grant’s Pass after going 80.3 miles, using 22.65 kWhr for an average of 282 Wh/mile – with 42 miles of ideal range left ( in standard mode, which means about 65 in range mode, for about 65 / 250ths of battery ).

grants-me

We set the car up to charge, and I set it at 32 amps, and went to eat dinner. There were a lot of choices within walking distance, and we had a really nice relaxed meal.  After dinner, I checked on the car, and since I knew it was going to have another 8 hours or so to charge at minimum, I turned it down to 24 amps. The hotel was right next to the RV park, so not a lot of walking was required.

grants-dad

Redding to Yreka

We left Redding with 214 miles of ideal range, and headed to Yreka California. It was hot, very very hot. Luckily it was only 98 miles to Yreka, so we were very comfortable with the A/C blasting, but we knew that was making the car work extra hard. There was some nice scenery:

redding-yreka-scene

 

When we got to Yreka, we only had 88 miles range left. We jacked in at 40 amps and had no problem. The RV park there was pretty barren, but big and every spot had a shiny new 50 amp breaker. We found out later that it was only 3 years old. I don’t remember what we paid to charge, it was either 10 or 20 bucks.

yreka-dad

 

yreka-charger

 

yreka-beauty

I attempted to explain the inner workings of the car to a few people who were very interested.

I later found out that this gentleman was the owner of the park.

yreka-explain

Some clouds rolled in and we got a light sprinkle, it cooled off by over 20 degrees, and I was so thankful.

yreka-wet

There is a hotel within walking distance of this RV park, but no restaurant, we ate a couple granola bars and lounged inside on some very comfortable couches. Dad took a nap and I watched some TV on a massive plasma. We threw our water bottles into the freezer and remembered them when we left.

Next… the Siskiyous!

EV Noob lesson #1

We woke up for 7AM and Bruce and Carol gave us a ride down to the car. This would be the last time we parked the car overnight in an RV park that wasn’t easy walking distance to a motel, as the rest of our stops would be better planned. We got to the car and I went to check on it to make sure it was full.

It was not.

The car said that charging had been interrupted, and I went to the pedestal that had the breaker box and the breaker had tripped. The car had 39 miles of range available, which basically meant that it had done nothing all night. The breaker must have tripped minutes after we left. We turned it back on and it tripped again in about 11 minutes. The breaker was very hot, too hot to touch. We turned the car down to 32 amps from 40 amps ( we double double checked, this was a 50 amp breaker ) and tried again. The breaker tripped again after 15 minutes.

redding-breaker

We moved the car to the next spot over and tried again at a full 40 amps. The breaker got hot and tripped after 15 minutes. So I dialed it down to 32 amps and then it held. At some point during this process, Bruce and Carol and dad had gone to pick us up some supplies, water, granola bars and snacks. We had brought very little with us. They came back from the brief shopping trip, and I caught them up on the situation. I decided to stay with the car while they went back to the air conditioned house and made some calls up the road to find us the next several places to charge and the next nights lodging. Dad also got a paper map to augment the handheld GPS, which put him back in his navigatory comfort zone.

For the next hour and a half, I watched the car, checking every few minutes for the first half hour, until gradually it was only once every 10 minutes or so. The breaker was warm at 32 amps but did not trip. I talked to the park manager and told her what had happened, and she said she’d have the breakers replaced. She didn’t charge us for the previous night and applied our money to today.

After the hour and a half, I talked with Bruce and Carol and dad on the cellphone, and they came to pick me up so I could enjoy the A/C of the house and we could go off and have lunch and see the famous Redding Sundial Bridge.

redding-bridge

In between each little thing we did: lunch, and visiting, and sightseeing, we stopped by the RV park and made sure the car was still charging ( luckily Redding is very small ).

By about 2 in the afternoon, the car had 85% charge or so ( 214 miles range in range mode ), so we could head to our next charging stop.

To summarize EV Noob lesson #1… circuit breakers can be bad. If they are bad, one common failure mode is to heat up and then trip. Whenever you use one, you should babysit it for a while and make sure it doesn’t heat up and fail. The higher the current you are trying to draw and the older the breaker is, the more likely this is. If you are going to leave and not come back for hours, you should be very sure that the breaker is going to be ok. I should have stuck around at least 5 minutes and checked the breaker to see if it was hot. Since this was my first time ever, I should have stuck around at least 10. After 10 or even 5 minutes, the thing was very hot. By the time it tripped ( when fiddling in the morning ), it was too hot to hold your hand on for more than a second. All old school EVers know this. Probably lots of old school RVers know this. Maybe even some people other than me knew this. I did not.

A follow up to EV Noob lesson #1, is lesson #2. Don’t pull more amps through the breaker than you need to. We were going to charge overnight for 8+ hours, we could have set it down to 32 amps. That actually wouldn’t have saved us in this instance, but it seems like a good idea.

Another follow up is that if you are worried about the breaker because it gets hot, you better stick around, switch breakers, crank down your amps, or something.  To alleviate suspense, I will let you know that this never happened to us again, we just got really unlucky this time.

Redding and about to learn EV Noob Lesson #1

We rolled into Redding very very late. We were several hours behind schedule out of SF. The trip was 154.8 miles over 2 hours 52 minutes, we used 39.93 kWh for an average of 258 Wh/mile. It was well over 100 degrees for the entire trip, we were extremely happy when the sun went down.

This was to be our first time charging in an RV park. I had hoped to arrive while they were open, but instead we arrived well after dark and had to do the after hours checkin. I had driven my own vehicle to an RV park, and had rarely been to a campground since I was a kid. Our family had a small trailer that we camped in, so dad was familiar with the procedure, but it had been many years for him.

redding-signin

This charging screen is a little more frightening than it really was, it is showing standard mode, not range mode, which hides the bottom 10% of the battery ( about 25 miles worth ).

redding-precharge

We picked a spot and drove over to it. I flipped open the breaker cover and found no 50 amp breaker. I freaked out a little and panicked. We plugged in the 120 volt charger and set it to 15 amps. This would take 2 full days to charge the car, so it was a pretty big disaster if this was all we had. But it was definitely the right decision to plug in and then figure out what to do. Our friends Bruce and Carol, who live in Redding had come to meet us and see the car and give us a ride to a motel. I had hoped to have time to spend a nice evening with them, instead of keeping them up late while I panicked about circuit breakers.

We went back to the office and checked the site map for the super duper premium sites, and wandered over to check those. I was so relieved when I flipped open the cover and found a 50 amp breaker and plug. We were saved! We moved the car to the new site and switched connectors to the 50 amp.

redding-pedestal-night

Relieved, I set the car to charge at 40 amps & 240V. That would get us charged by morning with tons of time to spare. We spent a few minutes while I tried my best to explain the car, but decided to save more for the morning. Bruce and Carol drove us to a nearby motel. It was a mile walk which we could have done, but it was much nicer to not have to. Even several hours after the sun went down it was hot.