Day 9 1/1/13

The first day of 2013 caught us oversleeping, but who can blame us, we did revisit our 20s last night. Although it was already later than we would have liked, we couldn’t leave Austin without having some BBQ. So our gracious hosts, Sarah and Chris, took us to Rudy’s. I’m not a huge meat eater, but that place was awesome! First they let us sample all their meats, from brisket to jalapeno sausage. When they give you our order it comes in a plastic basket with plastic silverware and top it all off on wax paper instead of plates. It was the best meal we had so far on this trip! And lunch for the three of us only cost around $20. With what little time we had left, we went up to Mount Bonnell for a great view an some pictures.


I think we all wished that we could stay in Austin, but alas the road beckoned and so did Houston. After a top off at a scenic RV park with plenty of deer around, our plan was to charge up at the Tesla store and we arrived to what we thought was near the location right around 6:30 (the store was closing at 7pm). And what followed then was one of the more annoying and looking back, kind of funny parts of the trip. The Tesla store was the Houston Galleria, a fancy shopping mall. We couldn’t find the Tesla store. Peter had called the store and was told that it was in the Green garage we kept circling around and seeing orange, yellow, but no green. Time kept ticking, the mileage kept decreasing and we still couldn’t find Green. We got our phones out in an effort to find a map of the mall but all the links seemed to be broken. I finally found one that showed that the Green garage is right next to Orange. So Peter thought that maybe the Tesla employee meant orange instead of red. But alas, orange was just another maze with no way out. By that point the situation was not looking good because it was past 7pm and mileage was down to about 6. I didn’t really want to be blogging about how after driving from Oregon to Houston in an electric car we ran out juice in a parking garage at at a mall, somewhere less than a mile from the Tesla charge. So I made Peter do the unthinkable, call the store and ask for directions.


The Tesla employee walked us through the directions (and yes there really was a Green garage) and we finally arrived at the charger. But alas it was past 7pm and the store was about to close and the employees were worried about leaving the charging cable overnight. But Peter did his magic and we were allowed to charge as long as we wanted (Thanks, Tesla!). We ate dinner at the sushi place at the mall, it was kind of nice to spend a couple of hours in civilization actually, even though it was between Forever 21 and the Gap.


The next leg of our journey took us to a magical McDonald’s in Lake Charles, LA. It’s not just magical because their McMuffin is only 300 calories and they have pretty good coffee but because this one had the only public EV charger in all of Lake Charles. The McDonald’s employee were actually excited to see up pull up and plug in, apparently they have never seen anyone use the charger before. Peter happily told them all about the car, like he already had many times on this trip and they said that they would keep an eye on it for us. And they did! We were ready to go the next day.


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.