No, I’m not talking about impeachment, though that’s in the works. I’m thinking about the demise of the earth. It’s a depressing question, is it inevitable? but one worth asking since it’s within our power to do something about it. Sort of. Though changing lightbulbs is not, apparently, enough.
We had a long drive home from NYC yesterday. Our Tesla’s GPS took us up via the Merritt Parkway and through Hartford. Initially, it seemed like a good idea to get off the worn path of I-95. But by the time we reached our fifth traffic jam, I was going out of my skin, and Carl’s tolerance for my too-vocal backseat braking was reaching its limit. We left the NYC parking lot at 1:30PM. We arrived at the Auburn Supercharging station at 5:01PM. (The distance is 172 miles.) Our car battery was at 10% which is lower than we’re supposed to let it go. We could have stopped sooner but we wanted to get the drive over with and it seemed logical to just get to Auburn, charge up and get home with a relatively full battery.
Gas or electricity, a car has to stop somewhere, right? The timing is just different. A gas combustion car takes about 5 minutes, if that, to fill up. Our Tesla, with 30 miles left on its battery, would take about an hour and a half to get a full charge, or 310 miles. Thus, we had an hour or more to occupy and we were at a mall.
That’s where a lot of these charging stations are located. Maybe because malls already have a power infrastructure, it’s cheaper to put in the superchargers near malls. (Assumption, not fact. However a 220-volt charger—what we have at home and what people would tend to put in for their EV charging convenience, rather than using their laundry machine’s 220 plug, or a regular 110 plug—costs about $500-$1,000 and the car takes about 8 hours to get to a full charge. A high-voltage DC for fast charging, a.k.a. a Supercharging station, costs about $100,000-$200,000. Currently, and no pun intended, there is a debate going on: is it best to install destination charging at places people want to go (restaurants, hotels) or “route charging”, bigger, faster chargers along interstates and main travel routes.
Since we bought our Tesla in March, Carl and I have spent more time at strip malls and mega-malls than we have spent in our entire 29 year marriage. As we made our third lap along the hallways of the Auburn mall, I commented to Carl how it was too bad there wasn’t a good restaurant around. Nor a museum or a nice park. We did get to go to Sears and look at refrigerators. Ours has taken to doing a loud bump, bump and rattle for minutes at a time, and is using nearly twice as much power as it is advertised as using. Even so, it uses less than any of the refrigerators at Sears.
I find malls depressing. They put in my face just how much stuff, and more stuff, exists and more being made every day in far away places, at I have no idea what cost to people and the environment. But it’s cheap. Cheap cost, cheaply made. I prefer my cheeps.
(Splotches is still on her nest. The two chicks are now officially adolescents, pushing their mother out of the nest so as to have more room for themselves, racing around and stressing her who clucks and moans and tells them to please be careful. Which they do not do and then come running, pursued by a larger-than-life hen who Toey then has to fight off. She is exhausted and must be counting the days until they graduate to big coop land.)
It took us an hour to juice up to 218 miles at which point it was after 6PM, we were hungry, and it was getting dark. We could have stayed for the extra 80 miles but agreed it was time to go home. Our conversation from Auburn to 4 Wind Farm in Peterborough, where we were to pick up our happy milk for our morning cafe latte, cycled around what to do for dinner (mashed potatoes, fried eggs, tomato/cucumber salad) and how to plan car trips going forward.
One thing we learned is to leave with a full charge. We did not bother to charge up the car during the three days we had it parked in the NYC parking lot. The lot has a charger but they charge $10 for charging. That irks our Yankee souls. So we left with “only” 220 miles on the battery, the equivalent of a 3/4 full tank of gas. Had we charged fully, we would have had an extra 80 miles to play with, and not had to spend so much time at the mall.
Two, we will stop more often. Twice, not once, for half an hour, not an hour. As Carl said, two half hours at a dull mall is better than one full hour. One lap, a bathroom pitstop and off you go.
All this to say, it takes planning. Most people, as mentioned in a previous post, will charge overnight at home. Also, as mentioned previously, Carl and I don’t have that luxury (sic) because we live off-grid and so make a point of charging only on sunny days. In either case, the EV infrastructure needs to be built. Plan away, there’s always that time you get stuck somewhere with only fumes to drive on, or the last volt of battery power. Thus, though I’d rather stay home tomorrow and play the part of broody hen, hunkering down deep in my nest and do not think of bothering me because I am in my space, go away, instead I will accompany Carl to Lebanon, New Hampshire where the Bi-state, Electric Vehicle Connector is being held.
What has any of this to do with inevitability? I guess I got distracted. Or I latched onto a positive aspect of the change that is inevitably coming: electric vehicles.
The sun is up. I’m going to go out and plug in the car, at least until the clouds. We have plenty of charge to get us to Lebanon, NH tomorrow. They have a charging station there. We will charge our car while learning about transportation electrification—the good, the bad, and the ugly; and the basics of how electric vehicles can be and will be a part of our future. How do I know this?
When Carl and I bought our Prius in 2004, it was cutting edge and everyone tsked at us. What if the battery blows up? What if, what if?
We bought our Leaf in 2012. It is a dinosaur relative to the Tesla. We love it for its zippy quality even if it only goes 75-80 miles on a charge; it charges at home in 3-4 hours. And still sounds like the Star Trek Enterprise’s shuttlepod.
And if ever you meet an EV owner, ask them what they think of it. Be ready for joy. Enthusiasm. Perhaps even an offer to test drive it. Because EV owners love their cars. They want to share them, promote them. It’s like a best kept secret and even automakers are starting to catch on to this wave of the future. Catch it if you can. Or wait for the used EV inventory to come up.