End-of-year update

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It’s been 9 months now since I joined the ranks of EV drivers and I’d like to share some of my reflections. Before my end-of-year summary, I’d like to begin with…

An appreciation

My quest to drive an EV began with the idea of converting an ICE Miata to be electric. I once owned a Miata and loved the car. It has been a very popular conversion to electric and there modular kits available where the engineering work has been done. This seemed like a project within my grasp. I abandoned this plan when my insurance company was not interested in this project – from their perspective, I’d have a 15-year old car with a $25,000 radio and good luck to me. I later learned that other insurance companies were more open to this, but I had moved on in my quest.

In August 2012, I met Joe Justice at the Agile conference in Texas and was swept up by the energy and promise of the Wikispeed project that he leads. I spent an afternoon at the conference helping to assemble the car pictured above that was destined for the Boeing museum. Wikispeed is based in the Seattle area and they are working to revolutionize how cars are designed and manufactured, inspired by modular design and encapsulation, the open source movement, and agile development. I dreamed of building a Wikispeed car that was electric and featured a center driving position (see McLaren F1) – both are customizations that Joe said were very doable. I had a couple of Skype calls with Joe to discuss these possibilities and the idea of starting an east-coast branch of the project in my garage. This might have represented a financial commitment of $5K for tools and $25K+ for the car that I dreamed of building.

Then Hurricane Sandy happened and while the damage that we suffered was minor, it forced us to re-prioritize some house renovation projects that were on the back burner and my Wikispeed dream was out of reach for the time being. Before the dream was derailed, Joe suggested that there might be a NJ Electric Car club that could be a good resource for me.

Although our trajectories have diverged, I owe a large debt of gratitude to Joe Justice and the Wikispeed team for the inspiration they have provided. I did link up with the NJ Electric Automobile Association (NJEAA). Members of the club offered me very helpful advice that influenced my decision making. Although I have missed out (for now) on the thrill of building a Wikispeed car, I am driving an EV much sooner than if I had built it and have participated in many events with NJEAA to show the public that EVs are a real option in today’s market.

Highlights of my experience:

  • I acquired the Fit EV on 4/2/13 when the weather was getting warmer. From the very beginning until the cold weather this late fall, I was loving the experience with no complaints. In the summer, I had seen ranges above 120 miles at the start of the day and had actually driven 100+ miles on a charge.
  • During this time, I only experienced one problem where the car would not complete the start-up sequence and was undriveable. I had turned it on and off many times without driving it at a car meet and when it was time to leave, I was stuck. A flat-bed ride to the dealer and a few hours of rest were all it took for the problem to resolve itself. Note to self: feel free to disconnect the 12V battery to do a master reset.
  • Lately, the Bluetooth feature of the audio system stopped working and so the hands-free phone feature is unavailable. The dealer has ordered a replacement for the audio control system, which is taking several weeks – I am disappointed in the glacial speed of support.
  • Through the warm months, my average energy use was up to 4.8 miles per KwH, which translated to 2.3 cents per mile for energy and I was elated at this. As part of the Bluetooth troubleshooting, the battery was disconnected, which reset my average energy use meter. Now, I am averaging 3.8 miles per KwH – still pretty good.
  • In 9 months, I have only had to get a charge on the road once and was grateful to a fellow EVer who gave me a charge at his house while we went out for coffee.
  • With the cold weather, my range has dropped; on the coldest days so far, the range has been only 55 miles. My commute is 36 miles round trip, so I have been concerned about using energy to heat the cabin and risk not making it home. One day when I had some extra trips during the day, I made it home with 5 miles left in the battery!
  • I also discovered that the car lacks the advantages in snow or slush of most front-wheel drive cars because the weight of the batteries is distributed under the passenger compartment, not concentrated over the drive wheels. One day recently, I skidded through 2 intersections on my way to work and returned home to take our MINI, which did fine.
  • Overall, it has been a great experience. Although, as the weather has gotten colder, I have had to make some compromises in comfort in order to ensure I got to my destination. As electric charging stations become more available, this situation will improve. However, for the time being, it requires careful planning to incorporate charging away from home into your plans.
  • I am very aware that we EVers are not paying any road-use taxes when we fill up on electrons. There are several proposals floating around about correcting this. I believe we should pay our fair share and hope that an equitable model can be developed for electric and other alternative energy vehicles.
  • I am seeing many more EVs around – mostly Tesla S’s and also Volts. I don’t see many Leafs and I’ve only seen other Fit EVs and iMIEVs at our meet ups. I am very interested to see what choices are available in 27 months when my lease expires and I give the car back to Honda.

Best regards for a happy and healthy new year, bob

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