Taking an Extended EV Trip & Tempting Fate
I remember taking my mom to Ridge Winery in her EV1 oh so long ago. She lived in the residential area around Stanford University and Ridge wasn’t that far away. It wasn’t the distance that worried me, as the Mote Bello location is just above Cupertino, just south of where she lived. It was the elevation. Climbing up the hills the hairs on the back of my neck started to stand straight up as the range dropped like a stone as our elevation increased. I don’t think it even estimated enough range to get home! I was much relieved as we descended back to the flat lands and I-280 as the range came back. I think there were 60 miles of range left when we pulled into her driveway. It only had 88 miles range total when we started.
That was way back in the late ‘90s. While a lot has changed since then, range anxiety is still a real barrier to adoption. This despite the ever-increasing range that newer BEVs are capable of. Lack of good charging infrastructure is another oft-quoted barrier.
If you ask my wife, she’d agree that I’m much less risk averse than she is. She’d go farther, saying that sometimes I’m an idiot and do really stupid things. Normally, I’d argue, but there’s no point. She’s right. On both counts. Staying true to my nature, I decided to see how much better things have become by loading some 20 solar panels into my Mach-E and heading off to south of King City, CA, to deliver them to their next owner. But to both prove my wife’s assessment of my mental acuity and test how thing have changed from that drive to the winery, I decided to do no planning AT ALL and just load up and drive with my only protection being a fully charged battery and faith that I’d done dumber things and survived.
To cut to the chase, it all worked out fine. Two brief charging stops that could have just been one and I arrived home with a bit less than 15% battery remaining. On for some of the details.
The Mach-E’s navigation system is battery state aware and also knows something about charging station locations. When I put in the location I was going to for the panel hand-off (the south shore of Lake San Antonio), the nav system recommended a 10-minute charge at the north end of King City at an AM/PM gas station. Since I’m an idiot who doesn’t read manuals, I hadn’t told the nav system to only take me to an Electrify America charger where I can just plug and charge due to the free charging that came with my car. I ended up parked at a FreeWire charger that was almost blocked by two ICE vehicles. But I could squeeze my car in between them and hook up.
The good news was that the charger worked! It charged $0.35 per kilowatt-hour (kWh)–using very rough math–about a dime a mile. Gas at this station was $5.69 a gallon, so that’s cost equivalent of 57 mpg. The charger started out at a 107 kW charge rate (at about 50% charge) After about 20 min, the charge rate dropped to just over 40 kW, so I stopped and headed out.
With hindsight I didn’t need to stop there at all I could have made it to the hand-off by the lake and back to the charger just fine. So why this first stop? Well, the answer is pretty simple. The range estimator (aka the GOM or Guess-o-Meter) in the Mach-E sucks. It’s very conservative by nature and this is compounded by the fact that I live in the hills up above Woodside. It’s poor digital brain gets very confused and it thinks my Extended Range AWD (rated for 270 miles) will only go about 180. It’s so bad that I pretty much ignore it and just use 2.5 times percentage charge. But the nav system doesn’t know this and thought that going about 170 miles with only 180-mile range wasn’t a very smart idea, so it planned the stop.
After the drop-off, I repeated the charging back to about 80% because I was hungry and there was a KFC next to the AM/PM. The drive back on 101 was uneventful. I kept up a speed around 75 mph, and all was good.
I’ll be the first to admit that charging infrastructure still has a lot of build-out that needs to be done before the BEV life will be easy and worry free. But for this trip, with no planning at all, it all worked out fine. I think charging added about 20 minutes of waiting time compared to gassing an ICE vehicle. Total travel time was about 5 hours or 300 minutes. The extra time was real, but not a problem. I read some email and played one round of Blocks on the car’s touch screen. No hairs raised on the back of my neck–though no Ridge wines either. I guess, while a good trip, it could have been better.
More Road Tripping:
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Feature: The 3 Best EVs for Road Tripping
Road Trip: 2021 Volkswagen ID4