Archive for August 2010

Another Expensive Education

August 29, 2010

Yesterday, I learned more precisely how much range the Fastback has.  We had to take a no-notice trip to Beaverton, about 12 miles including a big uphill section.  Halfway up the hill, the controller went into “limp-home” mode and our speed dropped to about 20 mph.  A brief stop allowed the batteries to recover a little and we made it to our destination.  At that point, the car had been driven 72 miles, about half of it freeway driving, and there was essentially nothing left.  So – it’s official that the Fastback has a range of 72 miles with a mix of freeway, hill climbing and around-town driving.  I am pretty certain that it will do 100 miles+ of in-town driving.  This isn’t too bad really – the Nissan Leaf has similar capability and the Chevy Volt about half that.  It’s also better than my original expectation when I started the conversion.

My plan was to recharge in Beaverton for the drive home.  I was more than a little miffed to arrive at the much-ballyhooed charging station in downtown Beaverton, only to find that it is shut off!  So I then tried a battery store and two car dealers, but none of them had a 20 amp 115VAC outlet.  In the end, I had to call a tow truck, which took over three hours to arrive.  Not my favorite day last week.

The Beaverton charging station is on the street between the library and the farmer’s market.  It has a reserved parking space for electric cars to charge, which of course was occupied by an SUV when I arrived.  An angry-looking woman eventually got in the SUV and drove off – she struck me as the type who is always angry-looking, but maybe that was my bias.  In any case, I then parked and discovered that the station is shut off.  While I was pondering what to do, an old guy on a scooter came by and bitched at me that if the city was providing free electricity for me, they should give him free gas.  I explained that #1, the city wasn’t providing anything for me at that moment, and #2, the electric box has a credit-card swiper on it so is presumably not free, and #3, the box is operated by a private company (based in Beaverton), not by the city which had only provided a place for it.  He was unconvinced, but I sure felt unwelcome.  I once lived in Beaverton; it’s almost embarrassing when the residents are so obnoxious and ignorant.  There was one high point – the SUV got ticketed for illegal parking.

Enough ranting. The Fastback was towed home without incident and the batteries do not appear to have been damaged by discharging.  The controller has logic in it to prevent total battery discharge, and it works.   So that test has been passed.  In the future, I will try to keep a full charge on the pack all the time; going 25 on the freeway and being towed home is no fun.