Saturday, August 25, 2012

Risk-E-V Business: The Challenges in Long Range EV Travel

A lot of people have asked me why am I doing this trip? It's a lot easier just to fly, or drive a gas powered car to LA, and they are right, it is. But I wanted to experience the challenge to see how is the infrastructure growing and where it is not. I want to see how the infrastructure is adapting to this new mode of transportation and what challenges did I envision and which I did not and how would I work through them.
It wasn't too long ago that these challenges were also faced by internal combustion engine drivers. This trip may expose risks and challenges, but as said in one of my favorite quotes by John  W.Gardner "Every unsolvable problem is a brilliantly described opportunity". Entrepreneurs may soon see that they have a captive audience for a few hours Many casinos are now installing EVSE chargers for their patrons and have them stay a while.

As with any trip, there are the usual risks, schedules get changed, there may be weather issues, road construction, I may get involved in a traffic accident, fall ill, suffer a mechanical breakdown or there may be a natural disaster along the route (earthquake, land slides, wildfires). With each risk the possibility is the same whether I drive an electric car or an internal combustion engine automobile. However the impact of these common issues may have a greater impact in an EV rather than an ICE vehicle. My route to LA is pretty much has few alternatives and each alternative changes between charging locations. As part of my checklist I will be watching the weather,  Caltrans' quick map site  as well as the traffic indicators on my GPS. At the southern part of my trip, additional EVSEs are more plentiful and I may have other options to get to or charge at my destination, but the options at the beginning of my journey are probably the riskiest if there is an issue along the road.

Risks that are unique to EV drivers on trips are:

For availability, hours of operability and maintenance, I have contacted each location I plan on visiting giving them the time of day that I would be arriving and using the equipment, . So far, no one has reported an issue.I will also be calling ahead the day before my trip to verify everything is still available. and that any special instructions are still valid. For example, at the KOA Trailer site, I will need to leave my 'Dump Fee in an envelope and pick a space, In Coalinga, I will have to ask for the charger to be unlocked because curious people have played with the connector and charge cord and they are afraid the equipment will get damaged.
For ICEing conditions, where an Internal Combustion Engine vehicle is using the charging location as a parking space, I may have to wait are try to find the owner of the vehicle or EVSE to see if it can be moved if I cannot maneuver around it.

It should be rare that one of the chargers along the route should be taken by another EV. The only one with a risk is the Roadster charger in Coalinga, however I should be rolling through around 5 in the morning, so I think the chances are remote. Further down in the route, I can check on the Blink and ChargePoint sites to see if the chargers are currently in use. ChargePoint allows users to reserve a charger, but the chargers for my route do not support this feature. So here I will assume the risk is low, but will be a greater challenge in the future as EVs (and PHEVs) become more prevalent and necessity vs opportunity charging etiquette becomes more of an issue,

For issues during charging such as charging faults, hit and run as well as vandalism, I should be with the car most of the time, so I can watch how the car is progressing, some charging stations will also alert you if there is a charging problem. Sites like ChargePoint even text me if that car is not unplugged in the proper sequence.

The last risk, is always the greatest risk, the one I have not foreseen. If you can think of any risk that night be an issue for me, please let me know.

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