The Trials of First Adopters or Further Thoughts on Electric Vehicles

A few weeks ago I wrote a ditty on electric vehicles. Given our circumstances today—some of us, perhaps, waiting with baited breath for the next installment of Democracy at the Guillotine—I thought now would be a good time for an update. 

Background: on November 1, we disconnected our lead acid batteries that have served us since we turned them on in the summer of 2012. We disconnected them from the “old” solar panel system with the intention of replacing the lead acid with 12 new salt water batteries that arrived that same day of disconnection. Those new batteries were to join the 12 salt water batteries that we have on the “new” system, installed in 2017 when we put on the addition. 

Salt water batteries are cool because they are benign . . .  especially when they aren’t connected to anything. We have 12 salt water batteries in the basement just sitting there waiting for our really, really busy electrician to have time to come connect them to our front solar panels. 

Our electric water heater, as opposed to those nice, new salt water batteries, has been working overtime—12-14 hours a day. At least until the technician made it here last week, two weeks after his first visit. It now runs 3-5 hours a day-ish. (In the same way a pullet will have an egg a day-ish. It takes 39-ish hours to create an egg.) Much better. The generator almost doesn’t come on. Until it does. That propane fuel run generator has been roaring a lot of late because we have half the amount of power than we typically would have and the days are getting shorter and there’s not been a lot of sun around of late. 

We look longingly at the salt water batteries awaiting connection. 

The main consequence of this power shortage is our two electric vehicles require us to plan. In the past two weeks, we have had two and-how-did-this-happen? moments, both of them in the Tesla. On a full charge, that baby goes 308 miles. But we haven’t charged it fully of late because . . . yes! No sun. The main way we could get a charge is to drive to Brattleboro which is the closest and most convenient supercharger. The requires us to have 50 miles on the car and three extra hours in our day. 

We are in a charger desert. 

Fortunately, Carl has been busy fixing this problem. No, not lobbying at the State house, though that must come. There are more and more electric vehicles on the road and New Hampshire had better get busy building that infrastructure.  Carl is leading by example. He is building our infrastructure with the help of friends who want to be EV-friendly. Some day, they hope to buy an EV. In the meantime, they live vicariously through us and have volunteered their garage to be a charging station for us and our cars on cloudy days. 

We drove the Tesla there two days ago. I had tea with Edie while Carl and Jeff geeked-out. The plug didn’t work the way it was supposed to. Not 10 miles an hour but 2. No worries. We had planned to walk home anyway. 6.5 miles. A beautiful sleety day. When we got home, the sun peeked out. 

“Shall we plug in the Leaf?” I asked.

“. . . the cord is in the Tesla.”

So. The Leaf had 27 miles on it and the Tesla 50. We couldn’t make it to Brattleboro even if we did have the 3 hours.

I noted to Carl that I had a dentist appointment at 11AM in Peterborough the next morning. I couldn’t take the Leaf because then I wouldn’t have enough charge to get to Edie and Jeff’s to plug in. Fortunately, Carl had tweaking to do. He drove the Leaf to Edie and Jeff’s and brought back the Tesla that had been charged overnight to a rollicking 101 miles. Actually, 91 by the time he got back home. And, by the time, I had finished with my dentist it was down to 89, having lost 2 miles while parked. And, upon my return to Darwin’s View, the car was down to 73, and lost 12 miles over night.

Apparently, this happens in cold weather? 

We didn’t go to a meeting we had planned to go to last night so as to have sufficient juice in the Tesla to get us to Marlboro tonight where we will plug into a charge station that runs off a water fall. 

It’s like math, this calculation. What can we do, or not? 

I should note that all we have to do is turn on the generator. In theory, once the house (half) batteries are full, we can charge the cars. But remember from that last EV post? The cars have 5 times more capacity than the house. Even more, now we are on half a system.

From the on-grid side, we got a call from a friend who owns an EV and lives in a condominium.

Note bene: When Carl and I first met, I lived in a condominium with all its rules that I rebelled against. I got threatening letters from the association about the dire consequences of not watering my lawn, an act that I consider a grotesque waste of water. Thereby, I committed my first lawn-a-cide. So when we heard that our friend lives in a condominium, we understood what she was up against: Her condo association won’t let her plug in her car. They don’t think it is fair for her to use so much electricity. 

From afdc.energy.gov: If electricity costs $0.11 per kWh and the vehicle consumes 34 kWh to travel 100 miles, the cost per mile is about $0.04. If electricity costs $0.11 per kilowatt-hour, charging an all-electric vehicle with a 70-mile range (assuming a fully depleted 24 kWh battery) will cost about $2.64 to reach a full charge.

Do you think she might just connect a kill-o-watt to her plug in and pay the cost each month?

Back to us. No sun. Half our system down and, by now, we have sold the lead acid batteries. No sign of our electrician. It’s raining. And my deepening respect for the dedication and country-over-party patriotism of the career U.S. officials who have been testifying these past weeks is only barely overshadowed by my hallelujah gratitude for the sun when it burns through the fog of fall. We plan to be home all day tomorrow celebrating that event and charging our cars.