We’ve now been home for two weeks, and things are starting to settle back to normal (not that we are very normal to begin with).  Deb has been gliding around town in The Sun Catcher, with nearly 200 more miles added to its total.  We haven’t purchased a Level 2 charger (240 volt) yet, but will do so within the next couple of weeks.  The 120 volt charger is more than adequate to charge overnight (usually, only a couple of hours with our current 10 to 15 miles per day average).

Here’s some information related to the Ford Focus performance:

The 1650 miles for our trip required 370kWh (kiloWatt-hour) of energy.  This is 4.4 miles per kWh, which is better than my estimated 3 to 4kWh, and almost all of this has been during hot weather with the air conditioner operating.

The cost for 370kWh is $46 based on our solar generated electricity costing 12.5 cents per kWh.  The average car in the US achieves 30 mpg, and would have used 55 gallons of gasoline at a cost of $165 to $220 assuming $3 to $4 per gallon gasoline.

The $46 spent for solar generated electricity is a cost that went to jobs for the labor to build the solar panels and associated components, and the local labor required to install the panels (see our website: BuildEquinox.com, and read about the cost and energy production of solar energy in our publications).

Of the $165 to $220 spent that would have been spent on gasoline, more than 60% of the cost went overseas, enriching a number of people who don’t like us very much.

Our current oil consumption of 20 million barrels per day is equal to a cost of $2 billion per day, with $1.2 billion leaving the US every day.  Annually, the money leaving our shores is nearly $450 billion.  As one thinks of deficits and trying to get our house back in order, it doesn’t take a lot of math to find that the premium we pay initially for electric vehicles is being spent on jobs with the additional dual benefit of keeping more of our money in the US and keeping it from reaching hands that would use it to hurt us.

As soon as you are able, join the EV revolution and renew our independence and freedom!


July 16 – Zero Charge, Boiler UP, Gang Activity, Grandbaby & Home!

After finding that we were unable to charge overnight in Rochester Indiana, I scanned internet EV charge station websites, and found that Plugshare.com showed one site that was 50 miles away in Kokomo Indiana at Delphi’s headquarters for electronics and safety.  And, we had 50 miles showing on our mileage gauge.  The Delphi EV charge station did not show up on my other charge station sites (ChargePoint, AAA and MyFordMobile).  So, did it really exist?  Anyone can list a charge site on Plugshare.  For example, if you check around Urbana Illinois, you will find our house listed as a site.

As we started driving, the mileage gauge made adjustments to our estimated distance, and to our unhappy surprise, we started seeing unfavorable adjustments that indicated that 50 miles was too far, and then 49 miles was too far, and then 48 miles was too far, and that this trend would continue without some adjustment on our part.  We turned the air conditioning off, and fortunately it was rather pleasant, but the sun was shining brightly and that wouldn’t last. The mileage gauge increased our distance back to 50 miles, but it started creeping down again as the car felt its way along.  Possibly the direction of the wind was against us?  Perhaps the road was a little bit rougher?  Or maybe we were increasing slightly in elevation?  Whatever the reason, we needed some additional corrective action.

A few years back when our four kids were small, we were driving home with a near empty tank in our minivan.  We were quite close to home, and I knew we could make it.  Deb told me it was not worth the risk and to stop for gas.  I shrugged the suggestion off.  My father would never allow a fuel gauge needle reading below empty to dictate a stop for gas, and as a Newell, I had this same sense of stupid determination genetically instilled in me.  Let me just say that we were so very, very close.  As we reached our interstate exit for Urbana, I remember how silent the car became as we glided to the interstate shoulder, quite similar to the sound of an EV.  It really is surprising that Deb agreed to marry me again.  I explained to the kids that I would be leaving them for a bit and clearly remember their quizzical looks as I stuck my thumb out, and climbed into the cab of a semi to head into town for a can of gas. The drive to Kokomo created the same level of tension in the car.

One of the electronic dash displays is a “cup” figure (think of a tall “U”), with a white horizontal bar that dances above and below the top edge of the cup figure.  The top opening of the cup indicates your predicted driving performance, and the horizontal bar shows your instantaneous performance.  When the bar is above the top opening of the cup, you are using more energy than expected, and when the bar is inside of the cup, you are doing better than predicted. This type of graphic display is called an “HMI” (Human-Machine Interface).  Most people respond best to graphic or “analog” displays, such as glancing at the hands of a clock rather than reading a digital number display, and a lot of effort is put into these displays by engineers and designers.  And in this case, the HMI display did an excellent job immediately conveying our dire situation.

Whatever the combination of reasons, we could see that the bar kept dancing above the top edge of the cup, indicating that our predicted range would keep being reduced.  We were driving 55mph on US 31, but gradually bumped the speed control down notch-by-notch until we saw that the dancing bar was within the cup at a speed somewhat greater than 45 mph.  While this may seem painfully slow, remember that we are only driving 50 miles, so it’s not a long time at any reasonable speed.

We were relieved to see that we were making a dent in the mileage, and our predicted excess reached a level of 3 to 4 miles beyond our goal.  You should know that the driving changes we made are not unique to EVs, but are true for any car.  If your gas tank is near empty, slowing to a lower speed will increase your range because aerodynamic losses decrease, and the internal (engine-drivetrain friction) and external (road roughness) losses decrease.  Speeding up to get to a service station faster is exactly the opposite of what you should do.  EVs have better technology for precisely indicating your driving range.

As we hit 10 miles of charge left in the battery, the calm, blue display of the dashboard turned bright yellow.  This was quite a startling change, and caught our attention as intended by the designers.  We still had 3 to 4 miles of excess showing, but one or two poor braking stops or too heavy of an acceleration as we exited the highway could wipe that out.  We made it to the Delphi driveway, and worked out way to the back parking lot where we were relieved to see two ChargePoint stations, but dismayed as we saw two Chevy Volts plugged into the stations.The ChargePoint stations indicated that both Volts were fully charged, so I hoped someone in the Delphi building would allow us to unplug one of the cars.  I went to the reception desk to inquire, and the security person told me it would be ok to unplug one of the cars.  I unplugged one of the Volts, plugged in our car, and proceeded to phone ChargePoint to initiate a charge as we had done so many times over the past week.  As the ChargePoint person looked up the station to start the charge process, he came back and told me it was a private station that was not open to the public, and that I would have to find the responsible person to approve our charge.

I went back to the security person at the front desk in the reception area to ask how the person responsible for the charge stations could be contacted.  Delphi’s reception area is an open space with a very nice cafeteria/coffee shop and spacious, comfortable seating.  Deb was making use of the space with her stack of books to review.  I knew that if the reception folks could find an engineer, I could engage them in some geek-speak, and hopefully get charge approval.

An engineer with Delphi’s EV development group was located after 3 or 4 contact iterations.  The engineer I met was very friendly, and as I mentioned how their station showed up on our EV charge station map, that we only had a couple miles left on our charge, and that there were no other nearby chargers, he agreed that we were in a pretty desperate situation.  I didn’t really need confirmation of that, but it was clear that he was very familiar with EVs, and knew we were screwed without a charge.  He didn’t make me sweat too long before saying it was no problem.  We went out to the charge station where he swiped his magnetic charge, allowing high energy electrons to move into the car.

Deb and I settled into the comfortable lounge, and a bit before noon, the engineer we met came over and asked if we would like to go to lunch with him and a couple other engineers from his group.  We had a very enjoyable lunch discussing EVs and many other topics.  It turns out that the folks we were eating with contributed to the development of GM’s “EV1“, a revolutionary electric car developed in the 1990s that demonstrated the capabilities of EVs.  These guys collectively had more EV1 driving experience than anyone, and to the EV world, they are rock stars….except, large corporations don’t tend to advertise the names and activities of engineers developing their new technologies.

After lunch we thanked the Delphi engineers for the charge and headed off to Lafayette Indiana for our final charge before home.The drive to Lafayette was an easy 60 miles on state highways.  The tension in our car was now gone, and we enjoyed the comfortable quiet of the our car.  We went to the Purdue campus to charge at an EV charge station site next to their union building where it would be comfortable to hang out.  The two charge stations in the parking garage both had small EVs that looked like university cars (I think they were “Thinks“…a small Norwegian EV I had seen in Trondheim 6 or 7 years ago).  Apparently a Think manufacturing plant was placed in Elkhart Indiana, but has hit some tough economic times.

Lafayette and West Lafayette Indiana has an abundance of EV charge stations, and so we headed to downtown Lafayette across the Wabash River for a charge at a municipal lot.  Deb and I are quite familiar with Purdue from our daughter Dana attending school there, and from a number of colleagues of mine from over the years.  As an Illini, I hate to admit they are a great school, but, they are.  In downtown Lafayette, we plugged into a free ChargePoint station, and head to LBC (Lafayette Brewing Company for dinner, and what else).

We left Lafayette after the charge and headed straight west on state highways to Paxton Illinois.  This is our most direct route to our grandbaby, Blaire, who we are worried had forgotten us over the past 13 days.  A large wind farm greeted us as we neared Paxton  The wind farm is located on a glacial moraine that gently lifts the region to an elevation where abundant winds exist.  You might interpret my gesture as a gang symbol to my homeys, but that would be wrong.  I’m showing the “right hand rule”, in celebration of James Clerk Maxwell and his conceptual breakthrough resulting in the basic understanding of electromagnetic waves.  May the force be with you!We enjoyed our grandbaby for a bit, and then headed to Urbana.  Our trip totaled 1650 miles with 300 miles from tooling around Long Island, and the rest accumulated from our trek home.


July 15 – July 5 NYC Trip Completion

Of course we made it home, but not in an easy manner.  In fact, it was a real nail biter, with quite a bit of drama (at least, we felt quite stressed).  I’ll tell you about it in the last segment of this blog, and about our amazing encounter with some special folks, but before doing so, I remembered that my New York City trip blog from July 5 wasn’t completed.

Upon our return home to Urbana, Deb and I were watching the “CBS This Morning” show, and of all things, they did a story on Willis Carrier, the “King of cool”, and the 110th birthday of the very first air conditioned building, located in Brooklyn.  Take a look at our July 5 blog to read about this milestone.  Barely a century ago, automobiles, airplanes, air conditioned buildings, light speed communication systems, power plants, electric motors, light bulbs…..breathtaking technological advancements were becoming reality in the lives of everyday people.

I’ll summarize the previous July 5 blog here so you don’t have to return to it…..Deb and Ty visit sites 99.9% of the population (which includes Deb) would only visit at gunpoint…..in Greenpoint/Maspeth area of Brooklyn we walk around the site of Peter Cooper’s glue factory, the first air conditioned building in the world, and the construction site of the iron Monitor ships.  From there, Ty forced Deb to continue this strange sight seeing venture with stops at a giant, inflated ketchup bottle located at the site where the Declaration of Independence was read to General Washington and his troops in New York City, a walk on the Brooklyn Bridge (Deb liked this), a search for the site of the first electric power plant, the address where the first utility bill was delivered (one block away from the power plant), and then a walk to the World Trade Center site.  And while this was going on, a bit of praying on our parts that our car would be charged up enough to reach home.

We left the World Trade Center site and walked through the financial district on our way to the subway.  On the way we stopped at the Trinity Church cemetery where we found the grave of Robert Fulton.  Robert Fulton, of “Fulton’s Folly” fame, developed one of the first steam ships in the US.  With his business partner, Robert Livingston (one of the “Committee of Five” Continental Congressional members that drafted the Declaration of Independence as well as a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and the person who negotiated the Louisiana Purchase deal), a very successful transport company was founded that cut the time from one week to one day for transit up the Hudson River from New York City to Albany.  The naysayers, pessimists and pundits of his day were silenced as it became clear that a new generation of transportation technology had arrived.Coincidently, adjacent to Fulton’s grave is Alexander Hamilton’s, of $10 bill and poor dueling skill fame.

Deb and I made it to the subway, and went uptown a bit to Astor Place where we could walk a brief distance to The Cooper Union, Peter Cooper’s remarkable educational institution.  Deb is telling me to quit taking pictures and to get on the train before the door closes.We reached The Cooper Union, which is a historical building for many reasons.  It has a large auditorium which was the largest at its time (built in the 1850’s) for many years.  Abraham Lincoln, Booker T Washington, Susan B Anthony, Mark Twain and many others including President Obama have spoken here.  A large, imposing sculpture of Peter Cooper is in the small park adjacent to the building where Peter gazes on a somewhat rough looking crowd in the park.I had previously described Peter Cooper’s business success in glue, and his associated developments of jello and the double boiler.  He’s most lasting fame, however, was for building the “Tom Thumb”, the first steam locomotive built in the US.  He also owned iron ore mines and steel making plants.  Overall, he was a very, very successful business person with an eye toward key technological solutions for the needs of those times.

The thing I find most remarkable about Peter Cooper was his drive to provide opportunity for others.  The Cooper Union, to this day, has no tuition.  It has also been open to all regardless of gender, culture, race, religion or whatever means used to discriminate.  If you are qualified and granted admission, there is no tuition.  Our great land grant institutions and many other schools were formed with similar intentions, but have lost their way and thereby limiting our ability to provide education and opportunity throughout our population.

Enough of this soap box.  Here’s where I’ll try to tie these things together.  At a young age, Peter Cooper had the opportunity to demonstrate a tidal power driven ferry to the mayor of New York City.  Robert Fulton was asked by the mayor to observe the demonstration, and in a haughty manner, denigrated Cooper’s ferry.  Regardless of whether or not Cooper’s device made economic and technical sense, Cooper felt insulted and vowed to never treat others in the manner he had been treated.  And so it seems, he stayed true to his word, forming The Cooper Union, an institution that embodies this ideal.  Remember our visit to Thomas Edison’s first power plant?  Thomas Edison, prior to any of his successes, attended lectures at the Cooper Union and also used its laboratories to conduct experiments on his first successful invention, a ticker tape machine.  And, of course, it was Thomas Edison’s kindly words of support to Henry Ford, an employee of Edison’s Detroit Illuminating Company, that helped encouraged Henry.  What would have happened if Fulton had responded in a kinder manner to Peter Cooper?  Or, if Peter Cooper’s reaction to Fulton’s diss would have been to act in a similar manner to others as Cooper’s fame and fortune increased?  Maybe the impact is not so earth shaking, but the air currents from a butterfly’s wings may be all it takes to set earth shaking events in motion, and a kind or disheartening word are every bit as powerful.

Nearby The Cooper Union is New York City’s oldest bar, McSorley’s Old Ale House, where our friend, Peter Cooper, and many others would frequent.  For those who have trouble ordering from multi-tap establishments, it’s very easy in McSorley’s.  You can order either light ale or dark ale.  Five bucks gets you two very cold 12 ounce mugs of ale (who says NY is expensive?), and another three bucks a large plate of cheese and crackers with a spicy mustard that will clear your nose for a decade.  Located above the bar is the chair used by Peter Cooper on his regular trips to McSorleys.  McSorleys is a great place to stop, with an atmosphere similar to English pubs with lots of people engaged in conversation, saw dust covered floor, and overall comfortable surroundings.  Next to Peter Cooper’s chair above the bar is the tavern’s motto: “Be good or be gone!”.

A short subway ride back to Chinatown to meet up with The Sun Catcher, and then back to Long Island.  We were happy to find the car had been fully charged at the parking lot, dispelling whatever notion we had that it wouldn’t be so.  And so our trip into the “City” ended, but was really the official start of our oil-free journey home.



July 15 – Homeward Bound!

We’re leaving Jackson Michigan with a full charge and an easy trek to Kalamazoo for a double charge…..some energy for the Sun Catcher and a nice brew for Deb and me at The Olde Peninsula.  I’m not sure why I have this look on my face.  Maybe it’s because I know our trip is coming to an end soon, and that means a lot of exercising to work off all the food I’ve been storing around my beltline.This is the final stretch on the way home.  Two simple EV stops at Kalamazoo and South Bend Indiana, and an overnight in Rochester Indiana.  And then, a simple drive home through Lafayette to home…..or would it be so simple?

Deb is really starting to get on my nerves after being in such close quarters over the past two weeks.  I know the opposite isn’t true.  Deb, as far as I know, hasn’t been reading the blog, and I would appreciate your not encouraging her to do so.

Kudos to the city of Kalamazoo for having more EV charging stations per capita of any city I know. Between the city and Western Michigan University, there are plenty of charge locations as seen in my charge map from the MyFordMobile site. And, what can you do in Kalamazoo?  If you are a beer aficionado, head to Bells Brewery to pick up something to take home, and have a nice meal at The Olde Peninsula Brewery.  The Waterhouse Coffee Shop is also a nice place to relax and use their wireless.The EV charge station in South Bend, a 65 mile drive from Kalamazoo, is located at a shopping mall.  Shopping malls are nice locations for EV chargers for people shopping, and make sense for the initial EV charge stations in a community. Placing EV stations around a community’s other assets such as historical sites, downtown areas, and parks will allow EVers passing through to charge up while enjoying a community’s interesting sites and while also leaving some money behind.

From South Bend, it was an easy drive on US highway 31 to Rochester Indiana where we were staying for the night. Our plan was to charge overnight on a 120 volt receptacle. Lafayette was only 65 miles away, and then home after charging at one of Lafayette’s EV stations.

Unfortunately, we had some receptacle/charge problems, preventing us from charging overnight.  So, on to Plan B.  But, we didn’t have a Plan B, and Indiana is a virtual EV charging station desert.  Our mileage gage showed that we had a nominal 50 miles of distance left, and that meant even with our Zenniest driving skills, Lafayette was too distant.  Well, I needed to go back to the motel room and do some EV charging station research to see if a reasonable alternative path was available….something within 50 miles.

July 14 – Southern Michigan Tour – EV Station Nirvana

Here’s a story that Ford’s media team put together on our visit to the Michigan Assembly Plant.  A nice picture of Roy Chapin in the car he drove to New York is included.  His trip inspired many others to go even further, with trips spanning North America shortly following his example.

We left the Dearborn Inn first thing in the morning on July 14, and headed to the nearby Meijer grocery store where an EV charger was located.  We were meeting our daughter, Dana, in Ann Arbor for dinner, and as her birthday was rapidly approaching, we did some gift shopping while charging.  As we left the Dearborn Inn, we passed by a historic marker that brought my Ford Tri-motor airplane ride full circle (see an earlier blog post of my flight on a 1929 Tri-motor).  You’re probably unable to read the sign due to my poor photographic skills.  Basically, it tells the story of William Stout who was behind the development of this fantastic plane built nearby.We drove along Michigan Avenue west out of Dearborn.  People lined the streets for several miles in what we thought was an additional celebration for our travel feat, however it turned out that a large automobile parade was scheduled to pass through later in the morning.  Lots of hot rods, classic autos, and antique cars were driving along Michigan Ave as well as parked along the street.  One of the cars driving ahead of us was this Pinto.  EVs have been described as dangerous because of the electrical energy, however, there are very few things scarier than driving behind a Pinto.  The actual energy content of an EV’s battery pack is much less than the energy in a tank of gas.Ypsilanti, which sounds like it’s spelled, is adjacent to Ann Arbor.  We went to the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum, which was originally a Hudson dealership.  Jack Miller is the museum curator and former Hudson dealer. Bill Chapin had recommended that I speak with Jack about any questions regarding my family’s Hudson history.  Jack is a real pleasure to meet, and he dug out some old brochures for the Hudson “Twenty” club, made up of employees with more than 20 years service.  My grandfather’s name was listed until his death in 1945.  Here’s a picture of Jack and me.Some really nice cars are in the museum.  A really cool feature is that the dealership office, parts counter, and repair shop are exactly as they were when the dealership closed.  I think they simply dropped what they were doing, and Jack hasn’t touched the items since.

Ann Arbor is just a few miles down the road.  The University of Michigan is my alma mater (I can already hear the booing from many of you!).  Regardless of our various sports rivalries, our universities are the best in the world, and they are essential for creating a sustainable future.  A stable future for our children, grandchildren and beyond rely on the continuing development of new technologies that utilize our resources more efficiently.  A sustainable future also depends on an education system that transmits knowledge to future generations.  And, while we’re accomplishing these things, yelling at each others’ schools in a maniacal manner during some sporting contest is a lot of fun.

We charged up at DTE’s free ChargePoint station, and for the first time, we had some company with a Chevy Volt parked in the other charge spot.We celebrated Dana’s birthday and gave her a birthday gift consisting of fishing gear she had requested, proving that she is indeed related to my side of the family.We had a full charge from the DTE station, and headed to a Super 8 motel Jackson Michigan, a quick 50 miles drive interstate 94.  For those of you contemplating EVing in the Michigan region, do it!  Southern Michigan from Detroit to Benton Harbor and beyond is EV charge station Nirvana.  St Clair, Detroit (and suburbs), Ann Arbor, Saline, Jackson, Marshall, Coldwater, Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Michigan City, Benton Harbor and many more locations within comfortable EV driving ranges have charge stations.  It will be great when the stations allow one to circumnavigate the Great Lakes magnificent coastlines!

July 13 – Part 3 – End of a Long Day

Although our driving distance and charging time was not very much today, it was an exciting and exhausting day.  We decided to stay at the historic Dearborn Inn, a hotel built by Henry Ford for visitors. The Inn is lovely with lots of automobile pictures, of course.  Our stay coincided with a large car festival being held in the area, and several luxurious Dusenbergs, Pierce Arrows, Packards and multitudes of other cars were parked around the hotel.We met a former graduate student of mine, Mark, and his son Eli, for dinner. Mark is the person who helped us on the engineering side of things to make contacts for our visit.  He’s been with Ford for 20 years…..it seems like yesterday we were working on his master’s research project.I didn’t explain how Bill Chapin learned about our trip, which is one of those coincidences that makes you wonder about how the world operates. When I contacted Mark a couple months ago to tell him about my idea for this trip, he contacted Bill Ford’s office with the information instead of calling up the local insane asylum. A senior adviser to Bill Ford received Mark’s note, and as it turns out, he is also a grandson of Roy Chapin, and a first cousin of Bill Chapin.  He passed the information on to Bill.

Our day ended with dinner with Mark and Eli.  Unfortunately, the Dearborn Inn did not have any outdoor receptacles as I scoured the grounds, which meant we would start the next day charging at a nearby Meijer grocery store that has an EV charge station.

July 13 – Part 2 – The Homecoming

We headed to the Ford MAP (Michigan Assembly Plant), which would mark the completion of our re-creation of Roy Chapin’s journey. The toils and tribulations of our trip were nothing compared to Roy’s. We had a gps that marked any and everything coming up. Our anxiety over charging stations only meant that if a “fast” charger was not available, we would need to “slow” charge for a few more hours at someone’s wall receptacle.  Roy was continually repairing tires, hand pumping them up every few miles (for four tires, that amounted to about 2000 tires he had to pump), and repairing his transmission  and suspension.  There were no road maps as there were no roads outside of the towns.  When he arrived in a nick of time at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel for the New York Auto Show, he wasn’t allowed in due to his mud-covered state.

So, as we worried that we might runout of energy on our way to the MAP, we also realized that we would be able to text our contacts if any problems were to occur.

Our energy gauge showed that we had no extra miles for reaching the plant.  We turned off the air conditioning which gave us a 6 mile margin for reaching our destination.  Construction delayed us for a half hour, but we finally made it, driving pass the immense 500kilowatt solar panel field Ford built at the plant’s entrance.

A number of surprises met us when we pulled up. First, our reception committee applauded us as we emerged from the car.  Ford MAP’s senior supervision greeted us. A television camera from Detroit’s WXYZ station (channel 7) started filming, and then……our biggest surprise….. we were introduced to Bill Chapin, President of the Automotive Hall of Fame and a grandson of Roy Chapin!

Bill and I spoke on camera as he interviewed me and asked about our trip.  I told him that my grandfather worked for his grandfather at Hudson, and that we were really pleased to re-create his grandfather’s journey.  Our journey now, as his was then, has been meant to be a demonstration of what is possible and necessary for the future of our country.

We thanked our Ford hosts for building a wonderful car, and I asked if I could get a commission for each one that I help sell. Ford gave us an excellent tour of their modern, clean, solar powered factory.  The Michigan Assembly Plant is an amazing factory for many reasons. Its production lines are flexible, allowing various car models (conventional gas, hybrid and electric) to be built on the same production line. This allows the plant to shift production as the market dictates to emphasize whichever model is in most demand without re-tooling.  We only caused three line shutdowns (just kidding…..anyone familiar with production lines knows this is a big,big no no). MAP is a clean, neat factory, as it needs to be. The mood was nice with a number of people saying hi while working hard at their stations.  The plant was humming with hustle and bustle, as it will for many years to come.

We were brought to the area where finished cars are ready to exit the plant, and The Sun Catcher was sitting there at a charging station. It looked cool seeing our car in the place of its origin. We couldn’t take pictures in the plant, but I thought I detected a look of satisfaction on our car, knowing it had done something very special.

We want to thank Colleen and Amanda for their efforts in coordinating all of these activities. Also, we want to thank the Ford personnel who greeted us and took us on the plant tour.  We appreciate your taking time out of your busy day!


July 13 – Part 1- Beautiful EV Charge Setting & Hostility

We left the Port Huron Comfort Inn and headed for St Clair Michigan, about 15 miles south of Port Huron on the St Clair River. Our goal today is Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant where The Sun Catcher was made, and for us, the completion of our re-creation of Roy Chapin’s journey.

Port Huron to Wayne Michigan where the factory is located, is a bit of a stretch on a single charge. As we loaded up the car, we also found out that the car did not get fully charged overnight.  It turns out that the parking lot electrical receptacle is only on when the parking lot lights are on.

We have now traveled over 1100 miles in The Sun Catcher.  The car’s information system is telling us we have achieved “Zen” driving status (the other end of the driver rating spectrum is “Zippy”).  We are using about 200 W-h (Watt-hours) per mile.  1000W-h (or 1 kWh…kiloWatt-hour) of energy costs about 12.5 cents with our solar energy system in Illinois that has already fed energy into the electric grid for our trip.  This is an energy cost of $28 for 1100 miles of travel, but remember, we have been mooching extensively along the way from Deb’s relatives on Long Island to several others who have allowed us to charge for free.  Before long, the novelty of EVing will wear off, and with it the gravy train of free charges.  But that’s ok, as 1100 miles of driving in a fossil fueled vehicle would be in the range of $80 to $160 (based on 25 to 50 miles per gallon with gas costing $3.50 per gallon).

St Clair has a few chargers around town as shown on the Plugshare map.  As we arrived, we pulled into a small city parking lot adjacent to a marina on an inlet connected to the St Clair River. This has to be on of the most beautiful charging sites anywhere.  I called Chargepoint, spoke with Steven (we are now on a first name basis), and got the charge started.

An older fella about my age, dressed in a Burger King uniform, walked by the car as I was setting up the charge.  He made a remark to the effect that electric vehicles were stupid, to which I replied quite strongly that I am finished sending money overseas for oil to people who hate us and use our money to kill us.  I also told him I would pay a lot more for any car that saves the life of one of our service personnel.  I think he was expecting a somewhat wimpier, green, liberal, vegan type of response, so he was somewhat taken aback.  Deb was busy texting Dana that Dad and The Sun Catcher might be on the receiving end of a few punches.  In a sudden turn of events, the man thought about my response, and apparently had a soft spot for our vets, too, and he told me he had been a longtime employee of Chrysler.  We talked cars for a while. His favorite was a 1957 Plymouth, which was a sharp car, and I told him about my 1962 Imperials.  We parted amicably with Deb in disbelief at the turnabout in conversation and mood. I understood his anger, as is the mood with so many.  Our elderly are fearful about the cost to maintain their health and angry that their longsought retirements are turning into shifts at Burger King, while our youth are rightfully worried about their future with a rapidly increasing debt, decreasing resources, and increasing wastes.

We’ll leave the heavy stuff behind for the time being, as Deb and I went to a nice riverside restaurant for lunch while charging.  For those of you who have not seen one of the rivers draining the Great Lakes like the St Clair River, the Detroit River, or the Niagara River, these are beautiful, blue, roiling rivers of immense size.  Our restaurant overlooked the river with large ships moving up and down.We received a call from media folks at Ford who were arranging a welcoming for us at the plant. We told them we would arrive at two, however, the lower than expected overnight charge at the motel put us in a pinch for fully charging in St Clair so that we could comfortably arrive on time at the plant.  Deb and I finished lunch, walked past the Burger King to the car lot without further incident, and disconnected The Sun Catcher with enough charge to make it to the plant…….or so we hoped!

July 12 – The Longest Day and the Canadian Wilderness

Originally, we planned to make it part way across southern Canada, a distance of about 200 miles from Niagara Falls to Port Huron Michigan.  Now that we are getting a feel for the car’s mileage capability, we decided to go the distance in a single day.  This would put us in reasonable proximity for an easy drive to Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant, The Sun Catcher’s birthplace, and the official end of our Roy Chapin journey.  We wanted to reach the plant on Friday so that we could tour and meet some of the Ford people involved in the production of this spectacular car.

Now, if you do a Google Maps distance from Niagara Falls, NY to Port Huron, MI, it will come out to about 190 miles.  EVing, similar to stepping on stones across a river, is not a straightline process of going from here to there.  Today’s journey, as dictated by potential EV stations listed on Plugshare.com, would take us to Burlington Ontario, Waterloo Ontario, and London Ontario for a record breaking 220 mile 3 charge day.

Our first stop was at the Mapleview Mall in Burlington ON.  We arrived about 9:15am after a short 50 mile drive from Niagara Falls.  One of the benefits of EVing is that we have had no arguments about bathroom stops.  My enjoyment of watching Deb squirm for an additional exit or two of driving has been reduced, however.

To use the EV charge station at Mapleview Mall, you have to get permission from the Guest Services office inside the mall, which opened at 9:30am, so our timing was just right.  The mall had me sign a waiver, releasing them of any liability associated with me whipping gasoline powered vehicles with the charging plug, and gave me their magnetic card for charging.  The photos below show the charging station and magnetic card.  ChargePoint seems to be in the lead as far as charge station placement along our trip’s path.The Mapleview Mall was very nice with a huge number of stores for you shopaholics, however, we needed to stretch and get some exercise, so we unfolded our bikes and ourselves, and rode to the Burlington waterfront.  Kudos to the city of Burlington for being a very bike friendly place.  Nice wide bike paths line the main drag to the water front.  Another nice feature is that the land is a gentle slope rather than a steep decline to the water, which meant riding back to the car would be a relaxing ride.

I have to admit to never hearing of Burlington, but it is a very attractive city with a wonderful Lake Ontario setting. The beautiful blue water of the great lakes mixed with a clean waterfront dotted with cafes and green space is something most of us miss on treks across this part of Canada.

After our Burlington charge, we hopped another 50 miles to Waterloo and the Conestoga Mall. Similar to Mapleview Mall, the Guest Services desk gives you a charge card for initiating the ChargePoint station.  No waiver signatures were needed here, so I proceeded to damage as many petrol fueled cars as I could within the reach of the charge plug cord.  We didn’t venture into Waterloo but I can tell you that it has an excellent university (Univ of Waterloo) that has long been a leader in solar and renewable energy technologies.  We ate lunch at the mall’s food court that was a carbon copy of every mall food court ever built.

Our third charge was 65 miles away in London Ontario on the Thames River.  We charged at London Hydro’s charge station. London Hydro is the local utility and has two large solar tracking systems at the site. They are adjacent to a large Labatts brewery which added the delicious aroma of malt and yeast to the air.  This location was a block from the main drag through London which has a nice, fairly large downtown that stretches along Richmond St.I had to call the ChargePoint phone number to initiate the charge, and since we didn’t arrange for international phone service, I tried to make the call quickly as international phone service charges are usually outrageous. As soon as I activated my cellphone, several dozen messages were pushed through.  We are now dreading a bizillion dollar phone bill.

We walked down the street looking for a place to eat, and as in other large cities, it is difficult to tell the respectable places from the not-so ones. Deb is better than me at determining potentially sane people to question on the street.  She zeroed in on one young couple approaching us. We were given directions to a place called the Church Key about two blocks down the street. The interesting thing was that after receiving their recommendation to go down the street a few blocks, they immediately went into the nice looking Bistro we were standing next to.

The Church Key is an excellent restaurant, so whatever their reason for guiding us far away from themselves, we had a wonderful dinner in their outdoor area adjacent to the cathedral.  I had a “Ploughman’s dinner” with cold slices of duck, pickled quail eggs, pâté, assorted cheeses, enough bread to stuff a turkey, and a nice Barking Squirrel ale.  We shared scallops wrapped in smoked salmon strips and an excellent chocolate-stout cake with cream cheese frosting. I apologize for describing our meal in such detail, but it really was a wonderful dinner in nice surroundings.  The only hitch was that in the cathedral grounds on the other side of the wood lattice fence against Deb’s back was a somewhat angry and delusional person.  He mostly slept on a bench, but would stir now and then. As he would stir, and begin increasing the volume of his rantings (which were similar to my daily solar energy rantings), the waitress would head toward the kitchen to alert the staff. She told us that he had come over to the fence earlier, yelled at a customer, and then punched her through the wood trellis fence.  Above Deb’s left shoulder was a fist sized hole in the fence, which I pointed out to her.  I assured Deb that I would try to give her sufficient warning to duck, because I’m that kind of guy.

We finished dinner as our last charge of the day was complete, and waddled back to the car for a 65 mile trek to Port Huron Michigan.

As much as I was hoping to be strip searched at the border crossing, the customs folks were very nice, and mainly asked about the car and how it performed.  With my usual zeal, I proceeded to provide much more information than they cared for, resulting in them telling us to pass through.

We made it to the local Comfort Inn as the Hampton Inn was booked with activities for the Port Huron to Mackinaw sailboat race.  The Comfort Inn also had electric receptacles on their parking lot light posts.  We pulled up to one and hooked up for the night after a long and interesting day!

Ahead of us tomorrow is one charge and then completion of Roy Chapin’s journey as we head to Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant.



July 11 FedEx’d, Rochester, Buffalo and The Honeymooners

This is the longest we have been away from our grandbaby, Blaire.  We asked Lauryl and Neal to FedEx her to us for the remainder of the trip.  We decided to send her 5 day ground rather overnight in order to save a few bucks.

The charge at the Hampton Inn was not crucial as we had more than enough “miles” shown on our dash indicator to make it back to the Penfield charger, but the overnight charging gave us an extra boost and reduced the charge time needed at the library.For any of you thinking of EVing, and I recommend that you do, I think most motels have some type of receptacle that can be used for overnight charging.  You can call ahead and ask, and simply state that other hotels provide receptacles if the desk person seems unsure.

Back at the Penfield library, we had a comfortable, relaxing place to work on blogs and reading (remember that Deb has 40 books to review).  From Penfield, our goal was to reach a AAA Car Care center on the north side of Buffalo.  This would be our last charge before diving into the unknown of the Canadian wilderness.

While Deb was driving to Buffalo, I was fiddling with the navigation system in the car.  There is a lot to learn.  There are three ways to activate the system (touch screen, steering wheel and voice).  As I punched, poked and spoked, a screen came up that tells us the local price of gasoline at nearby stations.  I guess that is just for our amusement.The AAA Car Care center is a nice EV charging  oasis that has an “internet cafe” with free coffee and tea, allowing us to further catch up on e-mail and blogging.  The calm pace of the center was broken when Deb knocked a 3 foot tall stack of plastic cups over the floor, sending her and a couple of the staff into a frenzy.  I was sitting in a nice lounge chair to the side, sipping my coffee, and enjoying their slapstick routine.

We finished charging and left for Niagara Falls.  After all, it is our “honeymoon”.  I made a reservation at a Hampton Inn at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side, and asked about plugging the car in.  They checked with the engineering staff, who said they would find some way to accommodate us.  We arrived in the late afternoon, and plugged in for the evening at a prime spot next to the building.We unloaded our things in the room, and went to the Rainbow Room restaurant on top of the Crowne Plaza for a gorgeous view of Niagara Falls. I informed our waitress, Lindsey, that this was our honeymoon.  I also told Lindsey it was the second marriage for both of us, to which Deb quickly corrected that we had renewed our vows.  It was a wonderful dinner as the sun went down with colored lights illuminating the falls, and the flashing glare of casinos lining the gorge.