Car Conversion

Vintage Voltage TV Show

I’ve been aware of the team at Electric Classic Cars in Wales, as well as others around the world, who specialize in converting older vehicles, typically those considered to be classics, into EVs. While watching season one of Vintage Voltage, the TV show that follows some of ECC’s classic car conversions, I was wondering whether there would be a market for that kind of thing here in Alameda, and what it would take to set up such a business. This post is my thoughts on that idea.

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Plug and Charge

Charging at Electrify America

While I had tried this a few days ago at our local Electrify America location, today I had to charge at Gilroy on my way home from a quick (shopping) trip to Monterey. Had I charged the car to 100%, I might have been able to make the whole trip without a charging stop, in sport mode.

I pulled into the charger with 24% remaining, set up the camera (not easy given how short the cables are on these chargers) and plugged the car in…

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Snow Foam

Chemical Guys Extreme Bodywash + Wax

I have been wondering about the effectiveness of touchless washing for a while, but I finally decided to take the plunge and get some kit to be able to wash the cars without the sponges.

First thing I discovered is that it is not 100% touchless. For a start, there is drying – I guess I could invest in a car size blow dryer, but that doesn’t seem quite as practical, and, if the wash has done its job, there shouldn’t be any contaminants on the paint to damage it anyway.

Secondly, there are times that touchless washing might need a gentle touch. For that, I added a microfiber mitt to the order.

Finally, there are so many options for snow foam soap out there that choosing this took as long as choosing the rest of the kit combined. in the end, I picked up two. A gallon of the Chemical Guys Extreme Bodywash + Wax, and a smaller bottle of Chemical Guys HydroSuds, their ceramic coating snow foam soap.

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Electrify America Thoughts

Palm Desert Electrify America Chargers

When making long trips in an EV, plentiful, reliable, fast charging locations are essential. Electrify America has done a good job of installing fast (150KW and 350KW units) in lots of locations, but the reliability is simply not there today.

Before getting to my thoughts on the state of Electrify America, I will recount our recent experiences. Also, I am restricting this to Electrify America for now for two reasons: firstly, they are the network that provides the Taycan’s included charging service, and secondly, they are the network with the most 350 KW charging units. We have used ChargePoint for a long time with our previous EV, and once with the Taycan too, and while I have never experienced serious problems with their network, the DC chargers they have deployed in most locations seem to be 50 KW units.

I should also note that Electrify America did reach out to me on Twitter and arrange to call me to talk about the experiences we had on this trip. In general, Electrify America support personnel are great, and will do everything they can to make it work, but, much like the Porsche Connect support team, they have very limited tools at their disposal to diagnose issues or resolve problems. Most of the time, the best they have been able to offer is to pass the message on to maintenance to get the charger looked at.

Our recent trip down to SoCal and back highlighted just how much the reliability matters, and how far from achieving it we are. The round trip was just over 1,000 miles, so we needed several charging stops (we also had no charging facilities at our destination, so we needed a charge while there to prep for the return journey). We left Alameda with 100% state of charge; enough to make it to the charger at Walmart in Tulare, about 220 miles away.

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EV Shopping

No, not for myself (I’m happy with my recent EV purchase), but for somebody else. We went out to look at three specific models, and to ask about some upcoming ones. We ended up adding one more to the list while we were out.

The original plan was to check out the VW dealer in Oakland, then the Kia dealer nearby, and finally drive to one of the few Hyundai dealers (we ended up picking the Hilltop one). The cars we were interested in seeing and driving were the ID.4, the Kona EV, eNiro and to find out more about the Hyundai Ioniq 5 / Kia EV6.

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Electrify America

One of the included services the Taycan comes with is unlimited, free 30 minute sessions on Electrify America, the charging network that Volkswagen are building as part of their retribution for dieselgate. As early Tesla Model S and X owners will attest to, free rapid charging makes road trips even better. Half an hour on a 150kW charger should be enough to get the car back up to 80% in most cases. On a 350kW charger, if you can find one, it will be more than you need.

Sounds great doesn’t it? Finally, a network to rival Tesla’s awesome super=charger network, backed by vehicle manufacturers so the experience with their cars will be as seamless as Tesla owners are used to: pull up, plug in and charge. And, yes, that really is how simple it is. We’ve rented a Tesla Model X twice now, once in the UK and once here in California. In both countries the experience was that simple. The navigation took us to the charger location, we plugged in (after a short wait on a couple of occasions) and that was it. No cards, no apps. Just plug in & charge.

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Jaguar I-Pace Sales

One of the electric cars that I was eagerly awaiting was Jaguar’s I-Pace. I visited a local dealer one weekend when they had one on loan to show off; I went for a test drive in it at the San Francisco car show last year. And it was great. In fact, of the three cars I had been watching from the day their concepts were announced, the Jaguar was the only one that stayed true to the concept car in my mind.

Reviewers around the world also love it, and while its lower than expected range was a disappointment, it is still over 200 miles between charges, and it is capable of 100kW charging (if you can find a charger capable of delivering that).

Yet sales, even from the start, seem to be slow. When I first asked the dealer, they didn’t expect to have any available until early 2019 for those that had not pre-ordered. Just a few weeks after launch, they called to say they did have some in stock for immediate purchase, and that has been true every time I’ve checked their website. In fact, all the dealers here have them in stock. So what is wrong?

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Mercedes & Electric Vehicles

Mercedes-Benz B Class Electric Drive

Unlike Audi and Jaguar, Mercedes already has a full electric vehicle on the road (albeit one they discontinued last year). We happen to own one of those EVs, a 2014 model year B Class Electric Drive. From the very beginning, it has been somewhat eye opening as to how Mercedes dealers here feel about EVs.

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Public EV Spaces

One of the things about driving an EV that I noticed very quickly is that the ideal locations for “refueling” infrastructure are totally different to ICE cars. Gas stations are just not the best places for charging stations, and even with the very high speed chargers that some car manufacturers are talking about, I don’t think they ever will be. Instead, the best places are the places (apart from at home), seem to be public parking lots. These are places where EVs spend enough time to pick up meaningful charge, while their drivers are doing something else.

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App Idea: EV Charging Valet

As the owner of a relatively short range EV, being able to plug in and get a charge from public chargers can either be handy, or in some cases essential. There are places we go where taking the EV would be risky unless we could get a charge while we’re there (and some where we wouldn’t get home without a charge). At least here in the SF Bay Area, EVs and plug in hybrids are now common enough that finding a public charging space empty is rare. When a large shopping mall has only 2-4 EV spaces, the chances of finding one empty when you arrive is essentially nil.

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