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.