Friday, August 31, 2012

Musta Got Lost, Somewhere Down the Line

A Cautionary Tale of a Range Anxiety Cause
“I think I’ve finally got some material for writing that guest blog post we talked about me writing”, she said.  “Actually you don’t have any material, but I do,” as I uncorked a bottle of wine.  So went the conversation when a certain someone returned from a shopping trip recently.

Five Hours Earlier
One of her friends was in town for the weekend, and they wanted to do some shopping.  She told me of their intended stops (four of them, including a necessary stop for dog food as we were going out of town the next day and it would be good if the dog sitter [aka Mom] had some food to give the dog) and asked if I thought she could make it.  Even without calculating exactly how many miles her trip was going to be I knew it would be close – not for your average ActiveE driver, just for her or Don Louv.  Overall our ActiveE is averaging about 3.5 miles/kWh, and someone is bringing that number down despite significantly less than 50% of total seat time.  Once I determined the miles I concluded that with her normal driving habits she’d have somewhere between 2 and 6 miles remaining when she got home.  After warnings about not driving with her normal vigor, they set off.

One Hour Earlier
The phone rings.  “Hi”, she says.  “I’m near your mother’s house and am wondering if I can make it home or if I need to stop by and charge up a bit.”  “What?  You’re where?  None of your stops were within 20 miles of her house.  How did you get there?”  “Long story”, she says – “we’re in Norwich and just want to know if we can make it home – the range indicator shows fewer miles than it is to get home.”  “Its notoriously inaccurate, we’ll need to calculate it ourselves.” I say.  How much battery do you have left an what is your average miles/kWh?”, I ask.  “Where do I check those?” she asks.  Frustration level rises.  While she and her passenger struggle to find the info, I begin plotting a route home from their location to determine how much range they will need.  Eventually they are able to find the information and I calculate that they should be able to make it home with a few miles to spare.  Warnings are again given about driving style and we hang up.  I then ponder how my afternoon may be disrupted by the need to jump in the ICE to head off to some as of yet unknown location to pick them up and wait on BMW to rescue a stranded ActiveE.

Now (OK – actually last Saturday)
Car pulls into driveway, big smile on her face.  “I made it 114 miles!” she says.  “We even had enough range to make a stop at the package store to pick up some wine and sangria!” Good thing, because I’m going to need a glass. “I think I’ve finally got some material for writing that guest blog post we talked about me writing”, she said.  “Actually you don’t have any material, but I do,” as I uncorked a bottle of wine.  Her infamous Beaker frowny face ensues.  “I hate to break it to you, but the trip odometer wasn’t reset before you left – you only went about 98 miles.  On the upside, that’s fairly impressive considering you normally average about 2.9 miles/kWh.  It’s good, but not exactly guest blogger material.”

“So, was your last stop at Kelley’s Pace the only one you didn’t get to make?” I ask.  Long pause.  “No, we only made it to the Westbrook outlets.”  “No Clinton Outlets, no dog food?  Why didn’t you stop for dog food?  It’s right off the highway on the way home.” I say confused.  “We used the GPS to navigate around some traffic on the interstate and for some reason it took us back roads all the way to Norwich.” she says.  “Guess you didn’t realize the GPS won’t bring you back to a highway once you try to route around it. Afraid you’d get lost if you deviated from the GPS directions, I take it?” “Yes, and by the time I recognized where we were, I wasn’t sure I could make it home” she responded.

So there it was – a little more than five months after a bout of inverse range anxiety, it took getting ‘lost’ for somebody to finally develop a case of actual range anxiety.  

Sunday Morning
Fortunately the dog sitter was more than willing to stop at the pet store and pick up dog food on the way to our house for the aforementioned dog sitting stint.  Of course that’s probably because Amelia is her only grandchild.

With anything that doesn’t go as expected, it’s always good to look back and assess what you would do the same or differently so the next time things play out better.  Here are our (I really don’t mean ‘our’) learnings.

  • Don’t proclaim “You know we can’t get gas in this like we can in a ‘normal’ car.  When we run out, we run out.” to your car mates who don’t have much EV experience.  Especially before having any idea as to whether you’re going to make it home.  “I could never own an electric vehicle” is the likely retort just before they decide to take an in car nap.
  • Don’t ‘Count it as a Win’ when you thought you made it 114 miles (but didn’t) after an adventure like this shopping trip.  Good chance someone else views it as good blog fodder.
  • When you are lost, be sure to understand the equation (remaining battery capacity x 27 x average miles/kWh) and compare the result to the distance the iDrive Navigation System indicates to get you to your destination.  The likelihood of this information being useful is 100%.
  • Do stop at the package store – while not preventing a less than flattering blog post, a bottle of wine does make an excellent peace offering.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Almost everyone who was lucky enough to have received an ActiveE has opted to personalize it in some way.  Those personalizations have ranged from stripping the car of its circuit board styled vinyl stickers to adding EV related pin striping to the car.  Most have blogged about their personalizations, or at the very least, added a post or a photo to the BMW ActiveE Facebook Group page.  I’m a bit late to the party with showing off all of the things I’ve done to the car (although there have been photographic hints of a few things in this blog), mostly because it took FOREVER for my vanity plate to finally come in from the CT DMV – well, that and its summer so I’m not blogging as much as I might if it were the depths of winter.
After seeing some of the creative things that many others have done with their ActiveEs, I’ve come to the conclusion that my analytical nature stifles my creativity, or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.  Not that I don’t like what I’ve done, it just amazes me the level of creativity some of the folks with ActiveE's possess.
In my case, I picked up a couple of ‘Powered’ badges from, some chrome letters that spell ELECTRIC, a personalized license plate bracket and one vanity plate.  Not exactly creative genius type stuff.  Of all of these things I’ve done, the one I’m most happy about is where I opted to locate the ‘Powered’ badges.  By chance they fit perfectly inside some of the circuit graphics on the doors – I like them so much in that location that I find other ActiveE’s look naked to me because there’s just open space there.
The other modifications that I’ve made are all on the back of the car – that way anyone following me knows it’s an EV – which is important, because most folks I run across have no idea that BMW has produced an EV, albeit a limited edition field trial EV.  After peeling a few of the circuit board stickers, I added ‘ELECTRIC’ to the upper corner of the trunk lid, a license plate bracket directing people to this blog, and the pièce de résistance, my ‘Solar Power’ vanity plate.  Since CT only allows six characters on a license plate it actually came out SLR·PWR, but you get the point.   

If only it weren’t a lie.
You see, the car isn’t solar powered, at least not yet.  Living in a historic neighborhood threw a bit of a monkey wrench into getting a PV array.  In the end it wasn’t too difficult to get approval, but it did add two months to the process.  And once I got the approval, my roofer’s schedule was filled for most of the summer.  So here we are five and a half months after getting the ActiveE and six months after signing a contract for the solar install, wasting all this fabulous summer sunshine.  On the upside, at least my derriere is staying warm.