Day 8 12/31/12 — Race to the Party!

Day 8 started easy enough with a simple goal, make it to a friends New Years Eve Party in Austin.


By day 8, we have really started to relax our charging planning. After getting nearly a full charge over night at the local RV park in Clovis NM, we headed out with a simple plan; Drive until we have only 30 or so miles left of range, find an RV park, and charge once more. That would take us to the mid-point of our drive, from there it’s just one more leg to Austin and we should just make it into town with time to freshen up, and start the party with everyone at about 10pm.


Everything was perfectly on plan, we drove we where down to 10′s of miles, found an RV Park, where we started charging up. We watched everything for some time, and with everything looking perfect we decided to take the three quarter mile walk to the local rest stop and sit down for a good meal while we waited for the car to charge. We checked what time the car would be finished, and timed our meal to finish just before the car was done. Of course you know what happened; About an hour and a half before we returned to the car, the circuit breaker on the outlet at the RV park had tripped (well below it’s rated current limit). Because of the use and exposure of these circuit breakers, this seems to be a semi-normal occurrence. Quick calculations were done and it looked like it would be close, but we might still be able to make it to the party before the stroke of midnight. The circuit was reset, and we watched the miles slowly add on. We carefully calculated out the amount of margin miles we wanted for the trip, and triple checked the distance and we concluded just what we originally had, we would need a full range charge for this leg. Finally the charge current slowed as we reached full, we disconnected, collected all of our cables, and we were off.


For those that have not driven and EV, and speak of “range anxiety”, I want to be clear that there never has been a point that we have been driving that any of us were concerned about getting stranded. Everywhere I go there are thousands of outlets everywhere, any of which I can plug into. Some are great, such as a 240V 14-50R at campgrounds, and some are slow like the lamp socket in your house, but all of them will work. Another thing that takes some getting use to when driving an EV, it’s generally very easy to stretch your mileage and go further than the “Rated Range” you have left, all you have to do is SLOW DOWN. This was clearly shown when another Tesla Model S was driven a good bit past 400 miles on a single charge, through not at highway speeds


What was left for us was an optimization problem (perfect for me!), go slow enough that our single charge would take us all the way to Austin without needing to stop and recharge, yet go fast enough to make it there before midnight.


As we rode along we closely watched out energy usage screens, the number of “Rated Miles” left in the battery (similar to a gas gauge on a car but much more precise), and the number of miles left till Austin. Every few minutes adjustments where made depending on terrain, rain, and time. Every time we we hit a patch of rain that slowed us down we began to doubt we would make it in time but then the shower would pass and then suddenly a large downhill would come where we made back the time and energy that the rain had taken from us. As the miles ticked down things really started looking up, we were going to make it! Makeup was applied, comments were made about the visors not being up to the task, and even though in the last few miles the rain really began to pour down, we had the margin to spare and we pushed on. 20 miles, 10 miles, 5 miles… Finally we cheered our own arrival just as the sky really opened up on us, with 15 minutes to spare, and 11 “Rated Miles” still in the tank we walked into the party and the Electric Road Trip S team celebrated the New Year with friends like we hadn’t done in almost a decade :)

Day 1 (12/24/12) – Welcome to Portland!

It’s now day three and the first time I’ve had time to sit and type so far.  It’s been a bit hectic and not everything has gone exactly to plan, especially the weather; however, things are looking up :) .  Here are my thoughts on the first few days:

I’m not sure why I thought that a 6 AM flight out of DC was a good idea at the time.  That lure of landing in Portland to pick-up my car overcame all rational thoughts which would have prevented me from waking up at 3 AM to make the Christmas eve flight. I was so excited that I only had a few hours of sleep!  A couple of restless hours of sleep later in addition to a great conversation with a guy from New Orleans about exploring off the beaten path en route back east, I had made it to the Tesla store in Portland.  Jared, the store manager took me through delivery of my new car (AKA, Sunrise).  He even managed to teach me a few things despite the fact that I have remained abreast on every Tesla-related topic since I put down my deposit three years and 273 days prior (but who’s counting!).

Originally, I had planned to head south directly from Portland, but as all perfect plans go, my initial schedule was erased less than an hour after I had picked up Sunrise.  From there, I was off to the airport where Tina was waiting; another great and adventuresome friend who managed to set aside the time to take this trip.  It was quickly decided that we should spend some time around town enjoying the sunshine of Portland; getting used to the new car; verifying charging stations; catching up on some sleep; and even getting some sightseeing in before heading out on the road.

The next couple of hours were spent visiting Portland classics such as Voodoo Donuts and Powells Books in the Pearl District.   A good bit of time was also spent talking with passersby who would stop and ask about the car.  Even though I had been warned by others, I’ve been amazed by the number of people who stop, stare, strike up a conversation or simply take pictures of us on the highway!  I was also pleasantly surprised that it only took one gentleman two seconds to look at my personalized license plate before pegging me as an engineer!

Day 2 (12/25/12) – Forest Park, Rain and an Unintentional Tank Circuit?

Some days just suck for traveling and Day 2 definitely was one of those days.  When we walked out of the hotel it was raining steadily and just above freezing.  It’s that wet cold that just chills you down to the bone.

We made the best of it and explored just a little bit more of Portland by taking a rainy hike in Forest Park before heading south out of Portland on our multi-day trek to San Francisco.

Just before heading out we decided to try out one more charging network with the S, this time ChargePoint. I expected that it, like the others, would just take a swipe of their card and plug into the S with the handy J1772 adapter; however, this we quickly received an error message informing us that we needed to call Chargepoint. Being Christmas Day, I didn’t expect anyone to answer the phone, but I was quickly proven wrong as my phone call was answered and a simple issue of a zip code miss match was cleared up. The issue turned out to have nothing to do with the S.

We headed south on I-5. Between the my driving after the mountainous terrain in Forest Park, we quickly found ourselves ready for a charge by the time we were at Corvallis. Fortunately, the rain stopped for a few moments as we pulled into the local RV park, and I decided it was the best time to test out my custom designed EVSE (Technical details in the Multi-Input EVSE blog post).

I started slowly as this was the first time attempting to plug my EVSE into a Model S. I had only a week before brought my system up to the point that it was ready to charge a car. I had a close friend who was willing to let me plug into their Leaf and therefore, only knew it worked with that model. I was very pleased to have the Model S immediately communicate with my EVSE and initiate a charge. I slowly increased the current eventually charging at 50 Amps and 240 Volts! :)

By this point the rain had started again and it was about 35 degrees out so we decided that we would take a break from the RV park. We ventured to Corvallis for a warm meal and according to Plugshare, a free J1772 system to plug into just a block away. My EVSE was quickly unplugged and off we went to dinner. Just as Plugshare had shown, a free J1772 (240V 30A) was available, and we walked a block to a Chinese restaurant for Christmas dinner.

After dinner, back to the RV park we went where I began phase two of my test plan by plugging into two 14-50R’s at the same time allowing for a charge up to 80A/240 Volts. This would essentially reduce an eight hour charge time at the RV parks down to four. I plugged the power in and nothing… Out came the tools and I quickly determined that power was entering my box just fine, but it wasn’t powering up. Just as I discovered that my fuse had blown, the rain started again and it was starting to get dark. It was quickly decided that retreat was the better part of valor in this case and we watched Dumb and Dumber in the car while waiting for to charge using the standard Tesla EVSE.

Once charged up enough to make it to our next planned destination in Ashland, OR, we headed south. The weather took a turn for the worse and reports showed that the mountain passes were experiencing blizzard conditions.  We quickly found (again, using Plugshare) a nearby hotel that had an AeroVironment charging station in its parking lot.  I was skeptical. It was Christmas night and my attempts to acquire a fob to use at the charging stations had been rejected because I do not live in OR. I was promised by AeroVironment that their 24/7 phone number really was 24/7.  Sure enough, at almost midnight on Christmas night they answered the phone and after a short discussion on why I would want to enable the L2 charger when there was a faster L3 sitting there ready, the free charge was started!

To bed we went as I began to ponder the problem that occurred when I unplugged my EVSE as well as its solution.


Day 3 — From Charger Woes to Charger Boon

My body still on East Coast time, I happened to wake up a bit before 6am today.  Remembering a story from Steve and Jesse, I decided that I should check in on the car to see how charging was going.  It was a good thing that I did, as it wasn’t.  Somewhere a few hours before the charger had decided to stop supplying power to the car :( .  A quick call to AeroVironment (who I must say was there to answer the phone again, this time the day after Christmas at 5 something AM) and they restarted a new charge session.  Perhaps there is a time limit on charge sessions?

In the end, the delay in charging was a secondary delay for the day.  A quick check of the weather ahead showed a snowstorm still raging in the mountain passes ahead and wouldn’t be lifting for a few hours, and with the Summer only performance tires still on the car, I decided it was time to go back to bed.

A number hours later, and a minor modification to my EVSE identified, which was easy to work through in the warmth of the hotel room, and we were packed and ready to go.  At this point we had been moving bags in and out of the S for three days, mostly in rain, and I have to give the designers of the rear hatch a shout out.  Every time I opened the hatch, the water covering it was perfectly funneled to the sides and off into channels below waiting to whisk it to the ground never onto my stuff below.

We made it through the passes easily, black pavement being cleared ahead of us by front loaders.  After making it through, and into California we found our next RV park, who were happy to have an EV charge there and didn’t mind us plugging into two 50A outlets.  This time the EVSE came up without issue and after a number of final checks I gave it the command to combine input sources and feed them to the S.  Almost instantly the relays clicked and the S ramped charging up to 80A at just over 240 Volts.  Charging was going by so quickly that we went ahead and charged all the way up to a full Range charge and determined that we should just be able to make it to the Superchargers at Folsom.  The drive was smooth, but as I’m still dialing in my ability to arrive at my destination with the margin I would like, the 10 miles margin I had calculated slowly slipped away.  I finally arrived at Folsom with 3 miles left, and somehow managed to bring it down to 1 as I slowly hunted for the Superchargers.

When we did find them, using them could not have been easier.  We pulled in similar to how you pull up to a gas pump, walk over to the cable is easier to handle than a gas pump handle, push the button on the handle which causes the battery door S to open, and you plug in the Supercharger cable to the S.  I took a video of this, but as it was taken in the middle of the night I’ll have to clean it up some before I post it.

Just about this time, the local security guard, who had apparently been watching a suspicious car slowly meander it’s way around the closed outlet center, came over to see why we were there.  He had never seen an S use the Superchargers before and by the time we finished showing him and with the follow-on discussion, the car had already charged up to 65 miles.  Charging progressed at almost 300 miles for quite a few minutes until it slowed it’s charge rate down (to protect the batteries).  We only charged to ~180 miles, as that was plenty to be able to make it over to Fremont, and onto Menlo Park.

Having filled up heartily we zipped over to a hotel that split the difference between Folsom and Fremont, and called it a night.

Today was quite a day.  We went from charging on the generally available J1772 Charger at 19 miles/hr to charging on my custom EVSE at 65 miles/hr to charging on a Supercharger at almost 300 miles/hr!  What a day!