Charge It! – Great food near public chargers #6 in an ongoing series – Valley Road, Montclair, New Jersey – Nauna’s Bella Casa and ActiveE #1

I still owe you guys my first National Plug In Day experience.  However, to be a little more timely, I figure to update my Charge It! series.

As many of my readers know, I’ve been writing on a series of great restaurants to go to while you charge. Today’s post is a little different. It’s nowhere to be found in the Los Angeles area. It’s in Northern New Jersey, approximately 30 minutes (with no real traffic) from New York city – Nauna’s Bella Casa. No, I didn’t take several weeks to go from Los Angeles to New Jersey to go to lunch with my ActiveE. For this trip, I rented a Nissan Leaf from Hertz on Demand. Hertz car sharing subsidiary which allows members the opportunity to rent either a Nissan Leaf or SmartEV in the New York city area.

Nauna’s Bella Casa can be found at 148 Valley Road, Montclair, New Jersey, 07042.  (973) 744-3232.


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So, what takes me from New York City to Montclair, New Jersey. Frankly, I wanted to meet this guy, Tom Moloughney, aka Mini-E #250 and more importantly to me, Mr. ActiveE #1 and the top mileage leader that I foolishly challenged to try to “catch up” on top mileage use for all of the other ActiveE Electronuts.  As of the writing of this posting (in-flight from JFK to LAX) my ActiveE is waiting for me at LAX Lot 6 with 17,902 and Tom’s listed mileage on wotnogas.com is 27,795…  Needless to say, this is a TOUGH challenge.

Here’s a picture of Tom Moloughney and me in front of Tom’s New Jersey EF-OPEC (AKA Active E #1).

Had a good lunch and great company with fellow @BMWi evangelist @tommolog Nauna's Bella Casa in Montclair NJ

So, how’s the food. It was good, home-style Italian food at a great value. I had the lunch special which was Soup, Entree, soft drink, coffee (or tea, I believe) and dessert for $9.99. As opposed to other posts in this series, I have NO picture of the food. I was too busy enjoying the discussions between Tom and myself on the Active E, EVs, new BMWs, Teslas, Energy Independence, etc.

For my choice of soup, I picked the Pasta Fagioli. There were other choices, but I really like Pasta Fagioli so I had that. For my entree, I went with the Fusilli e Pollo which is the spiral pasta with grilled chicken & spinach. I really enjoyed the Fusilli e Pollo, but since I went out to Nauna’s in Day two of my trip to the East Coast, the meal was biologically breakfast for me, so the portion size was a little larger than I could finish, so I brought the rest to go. I skipped coffee and had ice cream for dessert (chocolate).  The meal was very good and felt home-cooked.

How about the chargers?  Nauna’s has two J1772 chargers, one on Chargepoint and the other on the Blink Network.  If you’re eating here, the charging is gratis, otherwise, the network fees would apply, I believe that the Chargepoint is free, but the Blink is based on your membership plan, so to get that charging at no cost, check in with the restaurant before you plug in.

How did I do getting to Nauna’s.  Well, I picked up the Nissan Leaf (was hoping for a SmartEV, but that will have to be a different post) from Hertz On Demand’s location at 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014.   This drive was approximately 20 miles away, but my consumption is closer to 35 miles from the range.  This was my first time driving a Leaf for ANY extended period and I must say that it was not as fun as my Active E, at least it seemed to perform better than the Coda that I test drove a few months ago.

So, if you find yourself anywhere near Montclair, NJ.  Even if it isn’t that near, give Tom a call and see if he’s available and you can enjoy a tasty lunch and have some fun “talking EV and stuff”.  I’ll probably get around to plug in day 2012 (Part 1, Part 2 to follow) and my Hertz on Demand SmartEV rental fiasco.

National Plug in Day… Pre-event planning.

If you were sent here by this month’s BMW Electronaut Newsletter, welcome to my blog.  I am STILL drafting my Real Goods post and need to come up with how to handle calculating cost per kWh over the solar array.  Since Sunday, September 23, 2012 is National Plug In Day, I figured to write about that first.  I was inspired to look into this event by a post on the Active E Forums by Keith Davidson and so I figured to participate.

One of the benefits in living in the southernmost city in Los Angeles County is that it is very efficient to go behind the Orange Curtain to Orange County for things.  When I used to drive my Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars more often, I would often fill up at the Costco in Cypress as it is often significantly cheaper in gasoline to buy my gas there than at a Costco in Los Angeles County and the location is somewhat convenient to home.

My gasoline border incursions have gotten to be fewer and farther in between as I don’t often have to purchase petrol as I have taken to carpooling with the better half on many days as I attempt to catch up to Tom Moloughney and his challenging 100 mile a day average (sadly still behind).

This Sunday, September 21, 2012, is National Plug In Day.  What can I say, I’m an Electronut and want to check out others cars and have the opportunity to be an EVangelist for electric vehicles, so I scheduled myself to visit BOTH the Los Angeles and Orange County Plug In Day festivities. (Recap of LA Plug In Day Experience here)

The one in Los Angeles will be held in El Segundo at 610 Lairport St, El Segundo, CA 90245 and this is approximately 25 miles away from home and the one in Orange County is at the Mitsubishi of North America’s Headquarters (a few blocks East of the aforementioned Costco at Cypress) at 6400 Katella Ave, Cypress CA 90630.

The Los Angeles County event goes from 11am to 3pm and the Orange County one goes from 1pm to 3pm.

So, if you wish to come down and say hi, come on over.  I will have sufficient charge to get around and home, so may take a few interested parties out for a spin.  Just leave me a comment and I’ll set that up.  I plan on being at the Los Angeles County event from 11am (the start) until approximately 12:30 pm and at the Orange County event from 1:30pm to 3pm.

See you there!

The Los Angeles County one at El Segundo –


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The Orange County one at Cypress –


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Space… the Final Frontier. The difference between built Electric and a converted ICE Electric

This weekend, I was challenged by my better half to fit everything we needed to haul up to my sister-in-law’s house for our niece’s Fourth Birthday party.  She thought that we needed to use our ever reliable X5 to do it’s hauling duty and I asserted that I thought we could take the ActiveE.  Figuring that after many years of marriage, the worst that could happen was that I would have to accept defeat, I decided to prove it.

So, as Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother would say, “Challenge Accepted.”  In retrospect, I should’ve taken pictures of all the items that I had to pack into the ActiveE, but we had a kid’s birthday party to help get set up, and didn’t really have the time to dawdle.  So the picturess are of the stuff IN the car…

To remind everyone… This is what I had to work with:

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I also have a backseat where the seats fold down to carry stuff with, which I used, but the electric motor hump really does take the space.  (that’s the section that has the ActiveE written on the carpet.)

These next three shots are what was packed behind the front seats with the passenger seats folded down.

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Here it is closed:

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Right side of the trunk:

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Close up –

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Left side of the trunk:

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Needless to say, we packed a lot of stuff.

Distributed throughout the back are 8 bottles of wine (for the adults, not the 4 year old kids, of course.) The rolled up dusty thing is a rug that we use to lay outdoors. You would’ve also noted a 3 course buffet server in the backseat.

So, not only was the challenge accepted, I was also able to accomplish the task.  Being an Electronut means being very motivated to try to stay away from driving any ICE, EVEN something as fun to drive as a BMW X5.

The balloons, were for a giant popcorn display that my better half made for the party (it was a Princess party with a movie at the end of the night, Beauty and the Beast, if you must know.)

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If you’re paying close attention, you may have noticed that we DID lose a couple of balloons, but these were lost AT the destination, and thus not in the transport or difference between traveling with the X5 vs. the ActiveE.

So, what did this exercise prove. The ActiveE can make a quick stand-in for the X5, in a pinch, but it’s definitely one of the reasons that my Costco trips have gotten cheaper. I really can’t carry much there. Just more than I initially thought.

Which leads me to the second part of the thesis. These challenges occurred because we’re using a converted 1 series BMW. The hump does not exist in the Coda or the Tesla Model S.

Here are two shots from the Coda’s cavernous trunk:

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or the Tesla Model S

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I am sure that neither one will haul as much as the X5, however, I would guess the upcoming Tesla Model X will.  I am sure that either the Coda or the Tesla Model S CAN haul more than the ActiveE.

I would think that the upcoming BMW i3 will ALSO have more hauling capacity than the ActiveE.

i3 Concept Trunk

More i3 Pictures here.

So, as much as I really enjoy the ActiveE, the only positive of having to give it back to BMW at the end of the two years is I have something to look forward to with the NEXT generation of EVs.

Just a few more pics from Lot 6… Finally got a charge…


Didn’t get a chance to post much (or drive much) this week as I’ve been on a business trip to Chicago…

Here are some pictures we took before the trip.  My sister and her family were over and my brother-in-law, who is a car guy, was daring enough to take apart parts of the car to take a look… mainly the plastic cover thing, so I snapped some pics of the “engine” area of the ActiveE.

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Additionally, it did provide me with the opportunity to get some updated pictures from my better half.  She had her first day with the ActiveE and was a trooper.

She found LAX Lot 6 and was able to get us plugged in for the recharge for the drive back home.

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and to verify that it was plugged in fine. She did a video of the blue blinking light of happiness!

Lastly, ’cause she thought it looked cool and teased me (I hope) with what she tells me she wants for her next car.

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Yes, a Fisker Karma, what can I say, the better half has great taste!

Checking out the lower end of the electric car range… Introducing the Coda


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A couple of weeks ago, I was walking the Century City Shopping Center –


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And ran across the Coda Experience Center… Having only driven my ActiveE, I wanted to have a frame of reference on what makes the ActiveE a fun electric car versus other electric cars. Granted this is like comparing a 328i with a Honda Civic…  But I thought what the heck.  I’d like to check it out.

Before I did the behind the wheel test.  One of the things that I noticed at Coda was the price – $37,500 USD without any incentives.  The other was the included battery pack – 31 KwH…  That’s 4 more than the ActiveE’s usable charge, this means a longer range…  They claim 125 miles on the current model whereas a previous model was 150 miles… Lastly, trunk space – it has it!

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So, I went out on a test drive with one of the Coda Associates and it drives ok.  The regenerative braking felt non-existent.  My Civic Hybrid felt stronger on the regen.  The power was akin to a Civic and it definitely does not fall into the “fun to drive” category that the ActiveE and other BMWs fall into.

Seeing that this vehicle really wasn’t targeted to the BMW or Tesla pricepoints, it took time to have to keep my biases from clouding my test.  One of the positives that was touted for this car was that it charges at 6.6kWh not 3.3kWh as the Leaf.  Of course, the AE goes at least as fast as this car, if not faster to charge, but the pricepoint is also much cheaper for the Coda.

The picture below shows why this car charges at twice the speed as the Leaf, it has two of these things vs 1 on the Leaf

IMGP6069One shortcoming of the demonstration vehicles that I tested was the GPS/Battery management system on the vehicles were non-functioning, and thus had to rely on testing it at the “experience center”.  Looks nice below, but couldn’t tell while I was driving the demo.

Needless to say, I wasn’t overly impressed.  The car has an old stlying, perhaps in the 80s, so as not to be so old as to be classic a la re-tooled Thunderbird or Mustang.  I like the range in the vehicle and the faster L2 charging than the Leaf, but it is just too plain for me to want.

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During my test drive, my sales associate mentioned that the batteries are a different chemical composition than other electric car manufacturers and that the company sells the cars with a 10 year warranty on the batteries.  This is impressive, but I can’t really see myself wanting to drive this car for 10 years, whereas the 2 year lease on my ActiveE just seems TOO SHORT.

The Coda seems very smart to target a more “affordable” electric car segment than Tesla or Fisker, so in that manner I feel that they are smart to target that segment.  However, the equivalent trim in an ICE vehicle would probably be less than half the $38k that Coda is asking for, so I don’t know how many folks would cough up the $38k for a utilitarian vehicle like the Coda.  Frankly if they styled the car to be less utilitarian and more stylish, folks might like it better.

Just my opinion.

If you find yourself near the Century City Shopping Mall and have the time to take your own test drive, I suggest you do.  It was definitely useful in reinforcing my love of my ActiveE and my continuing quest to figure out what my “next” electric will be.

For more pictures, click on the link to the Flickr photostream.

Link to Coda’s corporate website