Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Plan B Route and Charging Options

OK, so King City may or my not happen in time, so I need to plan out some alternate routes. So to back up a little...When you drive an electric car and are planning a trip, you need to take several important points into consideration. What are the types of charging available on your route and do you have the correct adapters to charge the car? The BMW ActiveE uses something called an SAE J-1772 connector to charge the vehicle. This is a pistol like connector that is very intelligent. It uses a series of signals from the charging station to ensure a clean connection before it ever sends electricity, it communicates charge rate information  and can provide information regarding the level of capacity between the vehicle and the charging station. Most of the current day electric cars and plug in hybrids use the J-1772 standard.

Charging my car at home on my solar panel supported EVSE

When pulling up to a standard Level 2 EVSE, I can typically plug in directly to the charger with the connector provided. However, different charging situation require the use of different adapters. The car also came with an adapter to charge at a basic 110V wall socket, otherwise known as Level 1 charging. Level 1 charging is not ideal for a trip because it would take approximately a full day to charge the car if the battery was totally depleted. It is a good option for topping off at home or for plugging in at an airport where time is not of the essence. Being able to charge at a higher voltage and amperage allows the car to charge at a much faster rate. Not all cars use the same charging options. There is the new Level 3 DC Fast Charging that I cannot use. Fast Chargers can fully charge a Nissan Leaf in less than an hour, and although the ActiveE is wired for it, there is no connector on the ActiveE to accept it, so this is not an option. Tesla uses a higher rate of charge and have created their own proprietary connectors. There are a number of chargers at my employer, but they are setup for Tesla Roadsters, so I had a company called EVSE Upgrade, create an adapter so I could easily charge for free at work.Although a Tesla Roadster can handle as much as 70 amps, the signal from the J-1772 connector tells the Tesla charger to only deliver electricity to the car at 30 amps. I have also acquired a used Tesla Universal Mobile Connector (UMC) that will work with other NEMA outlets that deliver electricity at 20, 30 and 50 Amps. These are convenient when dealing with other public charging options, such as an RV Park. Most RVs connect using the NEMA 14-50 standard.

My car at Refuel2012 at Laguna Seca Raceway connecting a Nema 14-50 outlet to a Tesla UMC to my Tesla Roadster adapter (with an attached security cable) ultimately to my car. This looks crazy, but it is one of the more elegant solutions.

So now that I have my charging options, my next step is general planning. Along with the Charging network apps for Chargepoint and Blink Network that show chargers with their respective networks, there are other apps, such as Recargo which is a social networking site where users can add charging locations, rate them and give other information about the charging location to assist other EV drivers gain info about charging locations. Using the information on Recargo and Google Maps, I determined my Plan B route. Preference criteria was 24 hour availability, low to no-cost charging, approximately no more than 80-85 miles between charging locations and for the charger to be of a type that I could hook up directly to the car or through my adapters.

The new best option appears as though I will need to go inland to Santa Nella, then Coalinga and then back Atascadero on my original route. The first stop would be at a KOA RV Park in Santa Nella/Los Banos 68 miles away from my home. This will break my no-cost preference, but they are EV friendly and only charge a $10 dump fee to charge using my NEMA 14-50 adapter. They  are open 24 hours with advance notice. The next stop is Harris Ranch in Coalinga (that place where you roll up your windows on the I-5). This is 72 1/2 miles from the RV park. There is a Tesla Roadster charger available free 24 hours a day at the Shell station at Harris Ranch plus its a great place to catch a meal. From there, I would be stretching my range criteria a bit to 86 miles to get back to my original route at Atascadero charging at the Rabobank in that city, then to Solvang, Thousand Oaks and finally, L.A..

The new 'Plan B' route.

So now I have successfully set a new route and that also gives me an opportunity to use all my adapters. All well and good right? However, this has increased my stops to charge from four stops to five stops and 340 miles to 437 miles each way. Can I still make it to L.A. in 24 hours? Stay tuned....


  1. Good luck! One day the coastal route will open up for us.

  2. How much did the Tesla-to-SAE J-1772 adaptor cost?