Asoka’s Blog

Asoka’s Blog

Preparing for stage 2

Tue, 02 Jul 2013 Asoka


I expect that this will be the most challenging stage for the vehicles. Distance, heat, and hills all combine to make for a lot of travel. The terrain is also sparsely populated, so although charging stations can be found, they won’t necessarily be within a mile when you need one. I have learned a fair bit from going up and down hills (we gained about 1000′ climbing up to Grants Pass, with more up and down beyond the net elevation gain). Even with that hill climbing, I can get close to the ideal miles on the Roadster, or at least I did for the run into Grants Pass.

I know that won’t be the case during stage 2, but it also gives me confidence that I’ve got a good ballpark estimate of what the extra elevation gain will take over the course of the day, and that I can plan for that from the beginning. The map says I’ve got 367 miles to cover, and I estimate the net effect of the elevation gain and loss will be about 30 additional miles of charge. I figure that means about 6-7 hours of driving (I’ve been setting cruise at 59), and an additional 3-4 hours of charging at ~50 miles of range/hour (I start with 233 miles of range and I will use 400 miles of range if my estimate is correct; I want a 50 mile buffer at the end). Others in the rally have been pulling in with 2-5 miles of estimated range – I’ve decided I’m on vacation and don’t need to cut things that fine.

The rubric I’ve read is to figure about 7 miles lost climbing 1000′, and 4 miles gained descending 1000′. It looks to me like we have about 10,000 feet of upping and downing (or more accurately, 10 climbs and descents of 1000′), with a net descent on the day of close to 1000′. The net at the end of the day will be nice, but the front end is going to cause some wild variations in estimated mileage.


Stage 2 BC2BC profile, with desirable charging stops marked

You will also see in the Glympse tracks we’ll be posting, that there will be some degree of scattering tomorrow. It looks like many participants are heading from Grants Pass to the coast for the run down to Santa Rosa. The advantage I see there is less up and down, less truly steep hills to climb, and along the coast – less heat (to cool via AC, and more comfortable period). The disadvantage is about 30 extra miles to drive and therefore, charge.

I’ll be taking the I-5 route. The advantage for me is I’ll be able to use Roadster specific chargers that will let me charge at 70A (about 12 kW each hour, or around 45-50 miles of range/hour). Alternative chargers would take me down to 20-30 miles of range per hour. Needing ~200 miles of charging over the day, that would be 6-10 hours of charging rather than 4 hours (and a really, really long day). I expect the other cars that can make good use of the higher charging rates to also be taking I-5. As there are 2 chargers with 2 plugs total between them, the three of us will need to share (or at least, one of us will end up sitting – we draw cards in the morning to determine departure order, and that will probably determine who sits).

One tip I got from somebody today that I expect to be trying tomorrow – when charging, get the car into shade. Alternatively, open the trunk in such a way that it shades the PEM (Power Electronics Module?) that handles the conversion of AC to DC, pushing power into the battery, and other power distribution stuff. The PEM is air cooled on the Roadster and the battery pack liquid cooled (and heated – not an issue this time of year). In the heat we’re seeing lately, it seems the PEM can get hot enough that it basically stops funneling power into the pack. Opening the trunk will help it breathe. Creating some shade, or draping it in light cloth will help. I might also wipe the top down with a damp cloth now and then to further cool it – all in an effort to keep the charge moving along.

One of my early takeaways is that this trip is actually quite doable, and is comfortably within the limits of at least the cars I am primarily contending with. The points that make this trip challenging are stuff that I would expect to make the trip challenging to anybody doing this in a small sports car – very little room for luggage, no cupholders, road noise from hours of driving. I’ll add a photo of my Roadster Center Console Insert (RCCI) that is working quite well – both cupholder and right side armrest.

I’ve also learned that the Roadster is surprisingly spacious in some odd ways. I’m about 6′ tall, but I can get my legs completely stretched out straight. I might use all of the cabin, but it’s pretty easy to stretch as I’m rolling along.

After tomorrow, we’ll see how close what I think is going to happen, is a reflection of what actually happens.

Stage 1

Tue, 02 Jul 2013 Asoka

For those not completely clear, the “race” component of the rally isn’t a big deal for me. This really is more about the journey and doing something new, as well as learning about the car.

In Stage 1, we departed from Blaine, WA in the early afternoon on our way to Grants Pass, OR. My plan was to make my way home in the Portland area, sleep the night, and then carry on to Grants Pass on Sunday the 30th. And that’s what actually happened – more than less.

We stopped at a couple of museums on Saturday after we started – a museum devoted to the history of electricity in Bellingham, and a car museum in Tacoma that had a display of electric cars (including one of the very few EV-1′s that wasn’t crushed). Though we did tend to bump into each other at these stops and at some of the public charging locations, we are each making our way from stage start to completion, at our own pace and using our own route. We had a bit of a crunch in Centralia as it seemed most everybody needed a charge about then. The end result for me was about 3 hours of charging when I had planned more like 90 minutes. That turned into a later arrival than I planned, but I still got home Saturday evening for the first half of stage 1.

On Sunday, I had originally planned to depart in time for the Portland gathering at noon. That fell through, but had already planned to do some morning errands (farmer’s market, that sort of thing), and didn’t end up leaving Portland until around 2. My only charging stop of the day was at the self described “coolest gas station in the world” – and I agree with their description. They sell biodiesel that, as best I can tell, they collect and make themselves. They also serve hot and cold organic food in their deli / convenience market, and they also provided wifi and somewhere to sit while my car charged; that let me get my homework complete that was due for week 1. I got into Grants Pass and stopped the clock on stage 1 about 9:55pm; I believe I sit firmly in last place for elapsed time.

Between Saturday and Sunday, I’ve covered around 550 miles now, and I am now highly confident in my ability to get actual miles that closely resembles the ideal miles, anytime I want. On a range charge, that means I could theoretically cover 230 miles. In practice, I don’t want to be in the car for 4-5 hours doing that distance, so 150ish is about the limit I’ll aim for between stops – for my own sanity and comfort, as well as to avoid pushing too deep into the battery, or spending too much time with a red energy bar glaring at me.

I learned Saturday night, in the last mile before arriving home, that if the charge level goes low enough (about 20-25 miles in range mode), that the Roadster will inform me that the charge is now so low that estimates are inaccurate and that the car can stop at any time. Though I know it usually doesn’t actually stop immediately in that situation, I won’t be targeting 20-30 remaining miles at my destination – I’ll aim for closer to 50. That translates directly to 20 more miles of charging during a travel day, but that’s as little as 10 minutes and as much as an hour, and coming up short is a whole lot more than that. I believe I was at 45 ideal miles when I arrived at Grants Pass, so my first attempt to target 50 remaining miles was pretty close.

On the Eve of BC2BC 2013

Friday, 28 Jun 2013 Asoka


Tesla Roadster charging at Burgerville; Centralia, WA

As I make my way to Blaine, WA for the start of BC2BC 2013, I am pausing for a moment (while the Roadster is charging, and an excellent Burgerville lunch is settling) to reflect on how I find myself here. I first started driving an electric car in March of this year, so I’m still pretty new at this. If I turned around right now and drove home, then I would match the longest previous electric trip that I’ve made. Instead, I am now about 100 miles into what I estimate will be 3500 electric miles over the next few weeks.

I’ve been following Tesla (primarily) and electric vehicles in general from afar for a few years. I think it was the video of the launch of Model S where the first few owners got their keys that really hooked me – that was about a year ago. Those people had enough faith in the company and the willingness to put down a deposit on an idea; and then wait 2+ years for the car. Wow. And it worked.

In August / September of last year I realized two things. The first was a financial one – yes I could drive one of these cars. The second realization was that there are all sorts of problems I would like to be able to fix in the world, but mostly they’re too big for me to fix or even do much about. But here was something I see going awry, and even if I couldn’t fix it myself, I could stop contributing to the problem. I could drive electric, and I could put up enough solar panels to offset the energy I consume in personal transportation. It’s the lowest rung of energy independence as I see it, but I could do that much.

It’s not like I was a major contributor before – the car we replaced with the Roadster gets about 35 MPG, and as much as I drive, it only sees a gas station every 3 weeks or so. Still, I could stop doing even that.

In February of this year, our solar panels got switched on (who puts up a solar panel system in the winter in Oregon anyway?). In March, a 6 month hunt for a Roadster ended when #969 showed up in the mail.

Why did it become so important that I drive electric? It seems to me that people drive electric for a mix of reasons, but the ones I see most often subdivide into 1) national security, 2) health of the national economy, 3) environment, and 4) fun (or drive an excellent car). I never really cared about #4 for myself – cars have always been necessary tools that I use to get myself from A to B. Turns out though, now that I’m driving the Roadster, that I like driving excellent cars too.

As with others, I’ve wanted to drive electric for a variety of reasons. I like the idea of being free of the oil and gas industry, at least for my personal transportation, because I want to stop transferring my wealth out of the country. I believe that in this small way, I will contribute to the security of our country. I also believe that our national economy is better off relying on local energy sources.

These contribute to my thinking, but my primary reason is that I want to stop contributing to pollution and CO2 emissions. People have commented that electric cars and solar panels go together well, and I agree. Ask me which is most important, and I would say the environment is. But attempting to separate them into “important” and “doesn’t matter” isn’t possible, at least for me.

Someday I’ll be looking to extend my personal energy independence. I would love to have a home that generates and stores its own energy – enough for the modern conveniences, and enough to keep the car charged. That’ll be for another day. I can’t do everything, all at once, but I can do something.

Why drive border to border, and back? Why participate in BC2BC – especially with so little experience at EV road tripping? Many reasons – I anticipate having an excellent vacation. I expect I’ll be meeting all sorts of new people. My family took annual road trips when I was growing up, and that has largely disappeared from my life. I don’t know that this will be an excellent trip, but I have high hopes. I would like to make the road trip part of my life again.

In addition, I don’t really experience range anxiety in the Roadster (181 miles of range when I leave the garage each morning), but after this trip, I’ll know that my world isn’t constrained by driving an EV. It might take me a bit longer to get there though, but that’s just a good excuse to slow down, and blog from the road.

On this trip, besides the events and experiences surrounding BC2BC itself, I am looking forward to cruising the ocean front highway for as much of the California and Oregon coast as is practical. That will be most of it. I’m looking forward to driving the Avenue of the Giants (and if I can get it working, make a video of that part of the trip – I’m told that driving that road in a car with little or no engine noise is magic). I’ll get to meet other Tesla and EV enthusiasts throughout the next few weeks, and that’ll be another good reason to be doing this.

The real reason is simple though – when you’re looking for an excuse to do something (drive the Roadster in my case), then most anything will do.

More to come as I wander up and down the coast!