A few more weeks left…


In flight and on my way home from a vacation in NYC and just figured That I have about eighteen days left to drive my ActiveE.  It’s a bit surreal. I drive too much to lease any vehicle and would have been crushed by the mileage penalty had the ActiveE not included the unlimited mileage option…

Still waiting on final word on what the i3 Electronaut Edition will look like, but just got the good news that my office move will give me the opportunity to install a NEMA 14-50 or NEMA 6-50 outlet in my parking spot.  I feel privileged that my CEO approved this expense, but note how silly certain locales are at thinking about workplace charging. Barring any local city ordinance, I should get the NEMA outlet installed before we move at the end of the month. As long as the electrician filing the paperwork specifies that it is just an outlet we should be good. The previous landlord (and location) had tried to install two Chargepoint EVSEs last year, but backed out when the city ordinance required a separate feed from the utility for the additional 60 Amps that EVSEs would have drawn (and thus cost prohibitive). To compare, this change in civic requirement increased the outlay from the landlord from around $10,000 to approximately $30,000. The NEMA outlet will cost around $1,000 because of the length of the cable run AND allow for 40A charging (for vehicles that support that).

Using my converted Model S MC that TonyWilliams converted for me (now called JESLA) I will be able to charge many J1772 EVs at the office In my own parking spot. I know for a fact that aside from either Tesla (Roadster and Model S), I have been able to use the JESLA with my ActiveE and my Mom’s Nissan Leaf. Additionally, TonyWilliams modified the Tesla Model S MC to work with the 2nd Gen RAV4EV.

Basically, having access to workplace charging (in my own spot) will free me up again to look at my commuting EV options. If I go i3, I’ll be able to go pure BEV. Though, the REX will probably add to the resale value of the vehicle. I can go Fiat 500e and not worry about it or perhaps babysit my mother’s Leaf when she takes a vacation. My EV friends in Europe often charge in what they call “dumb” outlets up to 32A and that’s basically the freedom I get with the JESLA and a NEMA socket. Having communicated with fellow ActiveE high miler Todd Crook, I am tempted by the unlimited mile lease he has on his 2nd Generation RAV4EV purely based on economics. The better half doesn’t like the car. If my number gets called for the Honda Fit EV unlimited mile deal, that would also be as tempting. Though my old brand loyalty to Honda can reassert itself. Decisions, decisions.

So, on the 24th of February, 2014, the day after my ActiveE is ripped from my hands, I start my new office location with an outlet that would’ve been a lot more convenient than my 3/4 of a mile walk to charge. That’s the kind of irony that is worthy of Beckett, in fact, I would label that closer to absurdity. Additionally if I decided to skip other EVs and stick with the Roadster for the better half and Model S for my commute. I really won’t need to plug in all the time… But, could keep the Model S on 50% daily charges so that I can maximize battery health. It’s a wild, wild concept.

Stay tuned, dear reader, ’cause I don’t know what I’m going to do…

End of year and EV tax credits…


So…

One of the negatives of the end of year is that a lot of folks who have procrastinated are trying to fit as much stuff in before the new year hits.

One of the things that affect Tesla owners during this time of year is the probability of being provided a nice P85 Tesla Model S for a loaner is less than at other times of the year.  Why is that?  Well.  Tesla has provided the top of the line Model S for its loaner fleet in the explanation that they did not want any Tesla customer to be deprived of a vehicle that is less capable than the vehicle that they bought from Tesla.  (of course the car they do provide is limited to 80 mph, but that’s a small point.)  As a result, when the Roadster or Model S is in service, I have gotten a P85 loaner vehicle from Tesla.

However, the last time I’ve had service done on my Model S, I was provided with an Enterprise Rental Car ICE Chrysler 200 or was it a Chrysler 300.  Either way, it was no Model S.  Now this was expected as we’re nearing the end of the year and Tesla makes its loaner fleet available for near immediate purchase from interested parties.  When we finalized our Model S order in the summer, we could’ve picked up something similar to our configuration a week out from the time we finalized.  I was, at the time, complaining about the increase in accessory prices and my contacts at the Tesla store in Costa Mesa could have provided a loaner purchase at a discount.  Additionally, to cover the mileage that the loaner vehicles would’ve endured, Tesla credits so many cents per mile from the sales price.

We decided against it, and thus I did not get the vehicle.

Surprisingly, since Tesla is the manufacturer of said vehicles and the loaner fleet have manufacturer tags, they are all eligible for the new purchase benefits.  These benefits are the Federal Tax Credit and whatever State incentives you may be eligible for.  (in California, this is a rebate for $2,500 for the purchase of a pure Battery Electric Vehicle of a certain kwh capacity.)

So, back to the procrastinators and Tesla’s loaner fleet.  People that want the full tax incentives and obviously won’t have their vehicles built and delivered by 12/31 still have an option to get into a Tesla and get the benefits due to a new EV purchaser.

On a different note, other tax credits are set to expire this year.  Namely the installation of an EV charging station.  In the past, it would seem that Congress would renew the $1,000 residential credit for installing an EV charging station in one’s home.  This year, apparently they did not extend this and as a result, if you, dear US based reader, are planning on purchasing an EV soon and need to install a charging station anyway, go ahead and do so prior to December 31, 2013.  You may be eligible to have up to $1,000 credited back to you.   If you’re a COMMERCIAL location, the credit is even more generous.  It is 30% of the costs up to $30,000.  However, it is now December 19, 2013 and seeing that commercial locations tend to get bogged down by such things as building permits, etc. I wonder how probable it would be to install these things by the end of 2013.

EV Thanks on Thanksgiving 2013… 50,000 all electric miles!


So, my favorite EV News site at transportevolved.com asked what do you have to be EV Thankful for… (Interestingly they’re based in the UK, but with a LARGE audience of the American EV Community)

After over 21 months of EV driving and meticulous postings of my electric mileage, it’s finally happened. Sometime in the past few weeks I’ve passed 50,000 all electric miles of driving!

I would have been more precise, however. Sharing EVs with my wife, I can’t tell which are her driving miles versus my driving miles. I do know that I drive 95-98% of the time, so I can claim most of the miles.

So… What does that mean… Well, I’ve calculated a cost of approximately $0.008 per mile since I’ve moved to Solar power on my roof. Well, let’s assume that with the addition of the Tesla Roadster and Model S to the fleet, my costs have gone up to $0.012 per mile. I’m using this figure because both the Roadster and Model S exhibits more Vampire Drain (defined as the energy consumed by the EV while idle) than the Active E has in its approximately 48,000 miles of service. So, using this figure, let’s say that we’ve spent approximately $600 during these 50,000 miles. Well, I’ve used paid EV Charging Networks as well. Not too often, but enough to approximate an additonal $50, let’s double this figure to be really conservative. So, we’re talking $700 for the 50,000 miles. Now, if we had driven all those miles in our least expensive ICE (Internal Combustion Engine (gasoline engine)) car was at $0.15 per mile. These same miles would have been $7,500 in energy costs.

So, I guess after 50,000 miles, I have at least $6,800 to be thankful for.

What else do I have to be EV Thankful for… Frankly, living in Southern California has given me the ability to choose amongst the widest selection of Electric and Plug-in Hybrid vehicles on the market. I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to drive this gallery of electric vehicles.

Ranging from failures like the Coda (which I reviewed early on the blog’s existence) and Fisker Karma.

Coda
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Fisker Karma
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To California Compliance limited production run EVs such as the Honda Fit EV and Fiat 500e.

Honda Fit EV
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Fiat 500E
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Is the Spark EV a compliance car or production?

Chevy Spark EV
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To hand converted beauties like the ZElectricbug.

ZElectric Bug #1
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To full production EVs, like the Mitsubishi iMiEV, Ford Focus EV, Nissan Leaf, Smart 3rd Gen ED, and my latest temptation the BMW i3. Not pictured are the Chevy Volt, 2nd Gen Toyota RAV4 EV, and the Plug-in Prius.

Mitsubishi iMiEV
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Ford Focus EV
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Nissan Leaf
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Smart 3rd Gen ED
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BMW i3
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And of course, our EV fleet… The Tesla Roadster, Tesla Model S, and the one that got me hooked on EVs our BMW Active E.

Our Tesla Roadster
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Our Model S
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Our BMW ActiveE
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So… EVeryone in the EV world. From rEVolutionaries and those that are curious (join us, the water is fine)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Announcing… The new blog title


Since I first started publishing my thoughts on this blog, I had chosen the title

My ActiveE made me Accidentally Environmental

The trials and tribulations of a BMW ActiveE driver in Southern California

Well…

As I indicated in a previous post, we’re adding to our focus…  I would have been happy to pursue more experiences with the Active E, solely, alas, I am finally letting go of the idea that I may be able to keep my Active E.  The i3 is launched and scheduled for delivery in the United States (if my source at one of the local LA dealerships is to be trusted) on March 18, 2014.  (Yes, the day after Saint Patrick’s Day.)

So…  Without further delay…

My ActiveE made me Accidentally Environmental

And Tesla made me a rEVolutionary!

It was either that or

And Tesla Model S is the vehicle that BMW should have made

The importance of Telematics…

After over twenty months of driving electric vehicles (EVs). I was thinking of advantages that EVs have over internal combustion engine (ICE) cars.

One of the things that I feel is critical to have in a production Electric Vehicle is proper telematics. Telematics is the intersection of telecommunications and information. The ability to monitor and get feedback as to the status of the vehicle is a feature that I think should be supported by all EVs.

What are some baseline features of Telematics that I would like to see from EV manufacturers.

1) Support for Multiple Mobile devices as well as the Web.

2) Near real-time status updates of the vehicle and its current state.
A) Battery Charge Level
B) Charging/Not Charging (Plugged/Not Plugged)
C) Estimate of how long charging will take

3) At least several years of access to the systems should be included with the price of the car.

Granted, this post is occurring before we’ve picked up our Tesla Model S, so I’ll have to provide an update with that one later.

As many of you know, I recently installed the Open Vehicle Monitoring System on my wife’s Roadster. So, I can now compare BMW’s My Remote with the OVMS system on a Tesla Roadster 1.5. Additionally, I have been experienced with the Nissan Leaf Carwings system as a function of being “tech support” for my 60+ mother in her 2013 Ocean Blue Nissan Leaf SV (OB-8).

First, I will be using the iOS version running on an iPod Touch and/or iPad, unless I specify otherwise.

So, how do they compare?

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First, the My BMW Remote Application and Active E.

1) BMW has an application for iOS and Android. No access via the web or Blackberry.

2) Near real-time status updates of the vehicle and its current state.
the My BMW Remote provides good feedback of this status on the iPod Touch version by giving the user the “Status from: Date and Time” on the upper right of the application. The iPad version only gives the “Status from: Date” on the same location. It makes the iPod Touch version an edge even between the same mobile OS.

As above, the iPod version

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and the iPad version [NOTE: I edited out the map on the left corner for the location]

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A) Battery Charge Level

BMW does provide this, but it’s been somewhat unreliable. For example, most recently, I was unable to get any of this status on the iOS application from October 23, 2013 to October 29, 2013. It finally started working again.

if the status is frozen, have to hit the refresh button to get a refresh. And it’s hit or miss whether that works.

B) Charging/Not Charging (Plugged/Not Plugged)

The My BMW Remote does show this status and enable one to change the scheduled time of charge as well as initiate a charge directly. It also monitors whether or not the car is plugged in at the location.

C) Estimate of how long charging will take

The My BMW Remote does a good job of providing this feedback in the same manner as the vehicle does as far as when it expects to complete the charge to 100%. It Actually provides the hour:minute estimate of how much time is left to complete the charge. However, this algorithm is actually toward 99% charge and not full stop as the slow down for the last few minutes can last a while if the user wants to unplug when the car is completely stopped its charge.

3) At least several years of access to the systems should be included with the price of the car.

This is not an issue on the Active E as the close end lease from BMW will run out before access to these systems are in place.

OTHER FEATURES AND OBSERVATIONS.

The My BMW Remote App requires the end user to enter a PIN code every time the application is launched. This can be annoying, but the more paranoid would enjoy the security of such a feature.

Additionally, the vehicle’s GPS coordinates will be provided ONLY if the vehicle and the mobile device are “close” to each other (

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Older versions of the application allowed the end user to unlock the vehicle, this has since been removed. [added 2013-11-07 The feature still shows up but directs users to CALL BMW Assist]

The end user can start preconditioning of the vehicle remotely, once again the challenge is the actual connection between App and vehicle can be unreliable. [added 2013-11-07 The end user can also SCHEDULE the preconditioning and charging behavior through the App, but it is somewhat unreliable, I personally set these before I leave the vehicle which is why I had an oversight.]

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It’s nice that the Application tells the end user the battery temperature, the outside temperature, and the inside temperature of the vehicle. In SoCal, this is used to COOL the cabin down before picking up the car, I’m sure in other parts of the country it is used to HEAT the cabin before getting to the car.

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[added 2013-11-07 The user can also link their vehicle to their Google account and send Map destinations to the vehicle via the registered email address of the car. I believe this is a capability of newer BMWs, not just Active Es. I use this feature sporadically, as the others which is why I had the oversight. The Address is received by the vehicle as a “Service Message”]

Lastly, the end user has the option of loading the office and home locations and the application automatically computes whether the end user has enough range to get to either location with the SOC of the vehicle.

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Second, the OVMS Application and the Tesla Roadster

The Open Vehicle Monitoring System was launched approximately two years ago (November 2011) and constant improvements have been occuring. In fact, there is a thread on Teslamotorsclub.com that discusses the Technical improvements to OVMS.

I recently chronicled my install of OVMS on the blog.

I installed the formerly current release I believe it was 2.3.2 (prior to the release of 2.5.5 on October 28, 2013) of OVMS firmware in our Roadster 1.5. The behavior and features available to each instance of OVMS is constrained by the vehicle that you connect it to and the firmware release of OVMS.

More information on OVMS can be found on openvehicles.com.

1) Support for Multiple Mobile devices as well as the Web.

OVMS has Apps for iOS and Android. Additionally, it can be configured, controlled, and monitored using SMS.

2) Near real-time status updates of the vehicle and its current state.

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OVMS tells you on the upper right hand the status of the data. Live means within a minute of looking at the app. The product updates to a server graciously donated by the teslamotorsclub.com for folks to host their OVMS status. When the antenna is green and lit up, it’s good.

A) Battery Charge Level
B) Charging/Not Charging (Plugged/Not Plugged)
C) Estimate of how long charging will take

OVMS does a great job on A) and B) but C) is constrained. This is probably a vehicle by vehicle challenge as I don’t remember seeing whether our Roadster tells us how long it will take to charge to “full” (i.e. based on the mode that you have the Roadster set to (Storage, Standard, Range, or Performance).)

3) At least several years of access to the systems should be included with the price of the car.

Nothing is free on OVMS except for the development effort (which one should really support AFTER purchasing the necessary pieces, etc.) Give what you can to the guys. They really made the Roadster a more modern EV with the Telematics that was added.

I’m still discovering what we can do with it and I do enjoy the difference in the interface between the iPod and iPad. In the iPod, the screens are paged to three different pages. On the iPad, it uses the whole screen.

iPod screens –

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and on the iPad

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Showing progress on the better half’s drive on the way home…

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Note that the car icon shows that her lights were on while she was driving in the evening (on the iPad version.)

OVMS also uses the feedback available on the connection to the vehicle to alert the user via text message or the app when the car stops charging unexpectedly. This is useful when one needs to ensure that one gets a full charge. The BMW My Remote does not do this and I often rely on Chargepoint or Blink’s networked EVSE to provide this intelligence rather than the vehicle’s feedback.

The support on teslamotorsclub.com by markwj is top notch. He single-handedly beats out BMW on the Telematics support. As I mentioned between October 23-29th the App was inoperative without a peep to the user community and Mark replies within several hours (the guy is in Hong Kong, so please be cognizant of when he “should” be sleeping.) Recently, we had a connectivity issue that was reported [starting with my post here and resolved in subsequent posts] on teslamotorsclub.com and the user community was able to give feedback to each other to ascertain that the problem was NOT to our individual instance, but something “in the cloud.”

Top notch product and service. Yay user community!

We still have not taken delivery of the Model S, so I’ll have to update on that when we do (coming soon…)

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Third, CarWings and Nissan Leaf.

1) Support for Multiple Mobile devices as well as the Web.

Carwings is deployed on iOS, Android, AND Blackberry. It’s kind of cool in that. However, the command structure seems to employ either SMS or a query/response system between the user App, a server, and finally the vehicle.

2) Near real-time status updates of the vehicle and its current state.

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As a result of this query system, one must be cognizant of the Updated field in the middle of the application to see when the status was polled from the vehicle.

If you do not set the Application for auto-poll at start up, you need to initiate one.

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Then wait for the response to get the update.

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A) Battery Charge Level
B) Charging/Not Charging (Plugged/Not Plugged)
C) Estimate of how long charging will take

Aside from the pause, stop, start, nature of a manually requested polling system, the Leaf and Carwings knock A – C out of the park. It gives a status on what speed the vehicle is charging at, an estimate of how long it will take to charge over differing conditions, it lets you know easily whether the car is plugged in or not, whether it is charging, or not, etc.

3) At least several years of access to the systems should be included with the price of the car.

At time of lease (this is my mom’s vehicle that we’re reviewing.) CarWings was included for three years. Nissan has announced that European ones will be free past their initial period, I have not really paid attention to the US Nissan program, so I really shouldn’t comment on that.

I really enjoy the configurations for Carwings to NOTIFY the user via email and text messaging of the charge status whether the charge was interrupted or not. Additionally, the user can configure the vehicle to recognize (via GPS) when the vehicle is near a preferred parking location that it should plug in at. For example, since my mother is >60 years old, we have it set to notify her (and me) when she’s home and forgot to plug in.

This particular feature combined with the stopped charging notifications that we set up on the car enabled me to remotely diagnose when my mother’s 2013 Nissan Leaf started to exhibit the 6.6kw charger problems that was reported with earlier batches of the vehicle. This then enabled her to take the time to get the vehicle back to Nissan for service.

My mother loves the ability to remotely engage the cooling (warming) features of CarWings so that she can initiate cabin control when she is a few minutes away from her vehicle.

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Telematics is an important part of the EV experience. It is this feedback experience that enables EV drivers to be more “in tune” with their vehicles than their ICE counterparts and allow EV drivers with a superior experience on the road.

[added 2013-11-07 In the interest of covering other EVs, here are links to Jamie Mueller’s Ford Focus EV blog for what Ford allows its EV drivers to do:

It’s refreshing to see such capabilities demonstrated on so many vehicles.]

DIWHFOC… Or… Welcome our Roadster to Telematics enabled EV driving.

So, DIWHFOC… (or Do It with help from online community) project for the Tesla Roadster is the implementation of the OVMS (Open Vehicle Monitoring System).

Had some challenges with the initial install, specifically in getting the SIM card to run on GPRS. Thanks to the folks that have created OVMS it was really quite straightforward.

So, what were my challenges.

First, I picked up a SIM card from AT&T and activated it on the Pay as You Go 10cent per minute plan. I tested on an original iPhone, which was a mistake because it defaults to try to connect as a smartphone, so that doesn’t work.

Second, I forgot to activate the 200 message plan (for configuration). Each command uses TWO text messages as you send a command and the box replies (using two messages), if you forget to buy the $4.99 200 message plan, you end up using $0.40 per command.

Third, the GPRS stops allowing access to the commands when you reach $5 or less. So, the combination of forgetting to activate the 200 text message plan AND finally trying GPRS after the balance fell below $5.00 meant I was stuck sending commands, but NOT being able to use GPRS.

After I recharged again (to go above $5.00), then it started to work.

Any useful hints… Instead of using a cell phone to text commands to the OVMS Module at setup, you might want to consider using Google Voice or some web based SMS program. The reason for this is this will allow you control of the module from your registered number via various devices easily rather than passing along the syntax of COMMAND PW in a text message. There are arguments both ways about whether this is secure or not, the most secure thing would be to unplug OVMS when you don’t want to use it. Then again anyone can text command your Roadster if they know your number and password.

So, a picture IS worth a thousand words.

Here is what it looks like before AND after the install (on the passenger side)

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Here is a picture of the box installed at the footwell of the Roadster.

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Here is the link to the full set.

I opted to follow the instructions to install the antenna behind the passenger seat. So, I did tuck the antenna wire around the door and up to behind the seat.

Here is where I plug in the DIAG port to the OVMS box.

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Tucking in the DIAG port and OVMS cable back in the trough between the driver and passenger.

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Ran the antenna cable as decribed in the guide. I installed the antenna behind the seat and ran the cable back to the box through the gasket and door panel. It is a little tough to pull the panels, but it does give way and come back.

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Tuck the slack around the space before you plug the antenna into the OVMS bug.

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Then tuck it all into place.

Test on the app, and it should all work.

National Plug in Day 2013… Over 200+ EVs in Long Beach

Been on a trip for a few weeks and finally had the time to do my homage to National Plug in Day… Apparently, this is the third year of the event, so I’ve attended three of these events over the past three years… However, I did TWO events last year, so not really the same, is it.

In 2012, I went to two events in two different locations in the same day. The El Segundo one and the Cypress one. This year, I had a flight to catch to Dubai later in the evening, so I could only attend one event.

So, I picked the one in Long Beach.

They did a really cool thing at this event and had a space in the front of the event to highlight one of each vehicle that came by for the event.

National Plug-in Day 2013 - Long Beach 2013-09-28

National Plug-in Day 2013 - Long Beach 2013-09-28

It was definitely much bigger than either event last year.

The event was well attended and well organized. Adopt-A-Charger was opening a new sponsored charger at the California State University Chancellor’s office in Long Beach. They were demonstrating the Tesla Roadster that was listed on eBay as a donation to Plug In America. It’s a pretty sweet little red Roadster.

National Plug-in Day 2013 - Long Beach 2013-09-28

National Plug-in Day 2013 - Long Beach 2013-09-28

There was also a Nissan Nismo Racing Leaf in attendance. Didn’t get to drive it, but got some cool pictures of it.

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There were speakers, including Plug In America’s Paul Scott (also known as the guy who was given his money back when he publicized what he would spend to speak to President Obama).

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and EV Advocate Chelsea Sexton

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and others (this year, I got to meet the “other” Lowenthal that represents me in Long Beach, Bonnie Lowenthal whose ex-husband, Alan Lowenthal, was at last year’s event in Cypress.)

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It’s reassuring to have representatives of my district both in State and Federal level be “EV” friendly. Here’s to hoping that more will represent us in other parts of the country.

The challenge with being in such an EV friendly location is that it skews ones perception of the “challenges” of EV adoption. I suppose, “act locally and think globally” is an appropriate slogan here. However, let’s contrast this once again to the EV situation in the Middle East. It would be foolish to think that we would convince folks in the Middle East to abandon oil. However, there is no reason for the middle of the United States to be as devoid of EVs as the Middle East. However, it is important to note that the challenge will become similar to the Middle East situation as the United States becomes one of the larger net producers of oil and gas with the discoveries of oil reserves throughout the Bakken, Barnett, Eagle Ford, Marcellus Shales and others.

Oh, and for the full flickr set… Click Here