Road Trip #7: Castle Rock

This week’s road trip was down to Castle Rock State Park. The park is located in the hills above Saratoga. While most of the journey is typical bay area freeway. the drive up to the parking lot along Highway 9 out of Saratoga is another “winding” road with a very smooth surface, and amazing twists and turns.

Aside from the rock that the park is named for, one of the main attractions at the park is a 75 foot waterfall. Given the current conditions in California, it was not a surprise to find that the waterfall was more of a trickle of water down the stone wall, but still offered some impressive views. After that, we continued around the trail to complete the 3 mile loop.

Mr Pickle’s Sandwich Shop

Blue jay

Before heading to the park, we stopped to pick up some sandwiches at Mr Pickle’s Sandwich Shop in Los Gatos. Sandwiches were good, and we were able to sit outside and eat them. The only slightly odd thing was that the specialty sandwiches do not include the common ingredients like lettuce, tomato unless you explicitly ask for them.

While we were eating, a relatively brave blue jay decided to sit on one of the chairs next to us, no doubt looking for an opportunity to get some breadcrumbs or other food scraps. Normally, these birds will hop or fly just out of range as soon as they see a camera, but this one just stayed and posed for photographs too.

At the Park

The park had chargers, but since we didn’t really need one we left the space open for somebody who might need it more. When we arrived, there were two Tesla vehicles on the Tesla destination chargers (two units mounted back to back on a post between the spaces), and there was a Polestar 2 on one side of the standard level 2 charger (again, two units on a single post). First time I’ve seen a Polestar 2 in the metal. It is a smart looking car, similar in size, and styling, to the Jaguar iPace.

The Hike

Heading out from the ticket office area, the hike to the waterfall observation deck is relatively easy, and almost entirely under the shade of the giant redwood trees. It is just over half a mile to deck, mostly downhill. From there, continuing on the 3 mile loop, the trail becomes more of a mix with sections that are entirely open, as well as some uphill climbs. There are also sections where you will need to scramble over rocks.

In the 96℉ (35.6℃) heat the park was reporting at the weekend, those open sections were hot, the uphill ones especially so. Take plenty of water. Watch out for the poison oak along the trails too, We did not see a lot of wildlife this time, mainly the painted lady butterflies floating around on the warm air in the shaded sections of the path. We did spot one relatively large lizard towards the end of the hike, but we were not quick enough to get a photograph before it darted out of sight. There were also large black raptors circling above the trees in the open sections of the trail (possibly turkey vultures based on this)

Treats in Saratoga

-5.1 mi/kWh ?

Back down the amazing winding road from the park into Saratoga, the car managed to use so little energy that the average consumption display was messed up, indicating negative miles per kWh. The photo shows the display when we parked in Saratoga – along the way it had been reading much smaller negative numbers, starting in the negative teens. (Looks like somewhere in the code they are using signed integers and not checking for overflow.)

The drive to this point though was almost all downhill, with tight bends, including some full 180º switchbacks. Despite its weight, the Taycan handled it perfectly, and we followed a gorgeous yellow vintage Porsche 911 down into town.

In town, we were looking for a place to get ice cream for the kids, and we ended up at Big Basin Cafe.

The kids had ice cream – both opted for strawberry as they were out of quite a few flavors. We had vegan pie (cherry and peach) served with whipped cream and cold drinks (an iced latte for myself, and an iced honey tea for my wife). Maybe a result of the long, hot hike, but everything tasted great, and we sat outside at a table on some artificial turf to enjoy it in the warmth of the late afternoon sun.

Home and Statistics

3.9 mi/kWh

The trip home was uneventful and traffic-free, unlike the trip down in the morning where we had been held up at one point by a multi-vehicle accident on a two lane section of the freeway. As we returned to more regular roads, the Taycan’s efficiency numbers jumped to a large positive number of miles per kWh, then fell slowly, ending at 3.9 mi/kWh for the return portion of the trip (we were at 4.0 mi/kWh when we pulled up to the charger in Alameda for a quick top up while we picked up some fruit in Target – a mere 22 minute stop over got us from 44% to 86%, and up to an estimated range of 227 miles).

The trip to the park in the morning was not so efficient, with the fast climb to the parking lot at around 3,000 ft above sea level reducing the final efficiency number to just 2.3 mi/kWh. (We had been around our more typical 3 mi/kWh before that climb.)

Averaging the two trips, gets us to 2.9 mi/kWh (65 miles at 2.3 mi/kWh is about 28 kWh of energy, and 65 miles at 3.9 kWh is another 17 kWh; that’s a total of 45 kWh for 130 miles, or 2.9 miles per kWh). For those used to the Tesla Wh/mile metric, that is about 345 Wh/mi; those who prefer kWh/100km, it is 21.4 kWh/100km.

I’m not sure which of those units makes the most sense for EVs. If you live in a country where kilometers are the standard, kWh/100km (apart from being difficult to write) produces numbers that are in a good range, and is similar to the L/100km used for ICE vehicles in those countries. It is, however, a metric where smaller is better The miles per kWh metric is familiar to those in countries where distance is measured in miles, matching the miles per gallon metric commonly used for ICE vehicles.

The problem is, unlike the iCE metric, the numbers are small – the difference in efficiency between 2.5 and 3.0 mi/kWh, while numerically small, is quite significant. Combined with relatively large capacity in the battery, a small change has a large impact on range – on the Taycan that 0.5 mi/kWh difference equates to ~45 miles in range, or about 18% of the total range. A difference of 0.5 mpg, for comparison, even in vehicle with a relatively large 18 gallon tank, is only about 9 miles of range. Tesla’s preferred Wh/mile does result in higher resolution numbers, but it is “smaller is better” metrics are not immediately familiar in the US (our 2.3 mi/kWh is ~435 Wh/mi and 3.9 mi/kWh equates to ~256 Wh/mi).

Electrify America Update

One quick comment about the Electrify America experience. The last few times we have charged in Alameda the software in the chargers has been different each day – they are clearly pushing updates out quickly.

The most obvious visible change was to move the charge rate out of the “progress bar” display and into two separate numbers lower down the screen – one for actual rate and one for the rate the car requested. They are typically 1kW different in my experience. There have been a few other changes (and at least one time I found a “mouse pointer” on the screen), but the one significant thing that has changed is they have become more reliable at making the connection with the car and initiating the charge. Kudos to Electrify America for improving this. You’ll remember back in our gold country trip we had to try three chargers in Davis before getting one that would connect with the car. We had been having similar issues at the chargers in Alameda. The last few weeks we have been able to start the charge on the first try, albeit using the Porsche charging app and not the “plug and charge” feature that is meant to be supported by the Taycan.

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