Friday, August 23, 2019

Eagle Butte
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Part 2: Americans ride on the cusp of new norms as electric vehicles emerge from deep pockets and become more affordable


Continuation from last week’s edition:

What owners need is electricity and a place to plug it in, which is why John, a retired computer technician, installed a 240v outlet in his garage.

He said that with so many added electronics to his home, he is not sure exactly how much more his electric bill is with the Model-3, but he has noticed a $20 to $30 increase each month, which beats the potential $30 a week he would be paying in gas with his conventional, combustion engine vehicle.

The possibility of being stranded on long range trips seems to be one reason some people decide not to buy an electric vehicle.

According to John, his vehicle generates statistics on everything he does in it. He said his Model-3 gets 250 watts per mile, and he can get four miles out of a kilowatt.

On his utility bill, if he pays 10 cents a kilowatt, it costs him $1.00 to drive 40 miles. So, while most people are used to thinking about the cost of gas per gallon, electric vehicle owners are thinking in terms of costs per kilowatt.

Charging at home is one thing, but on the out of town or out of state trips, EV owners need to know where the charging stations are located.

“‘I think the biggest problem with charging stations is there is no one responsible for installing charging stations,’ says Nick Sifuentes, executive director at Tri-State Transportation Campaign. ‘So you see some automakers, like Tesla, installing charging stations. You see charging stations occasionally getting put out as part of a municipal planning process,’ he says, ‘but for the most part, there is no one entity or group that feels responsible for that duty’” wrote Jeremy Deaton in Fast Company.com.

Flashback to the curb-side pumps in front of hardware stores and pharmacies in the early 1900s, and you have a good idea of the evolving existence of EV charging stations installed in front of grocery stores like the one in Osage Beach.

In South Dakota, there are 11Tesla installed EV Supercharger locations where a Tesla owner can charge his or her vehicle: Oacoma, Rapid City, Custer, Pierre, Murdo, Mitchell, Keystone, Sioux Falls, Aberdeen, Spearfish, and Fort Yates.

When John and his wife travel to SD later this summer, they will charge their Model-3 at Tesla EV Supercharger stations for free as part of the incentive package for purchasing the vehicle.

They are able to use some non-Tesla EV stations or outlets in public places, or even charge their vehicle from a 110v outlet, but it takes longer for the vehicle to charge — adding only five miles an hour to the battery charge on a 110 volt outlet.

A supercharger, on the other hand, with a current of 400 volts, can add 200 miles an hour to the battery.

The trick is charging the battery enough to get from one charging station to the next, and when the battery is lower, it charges faster than when it has a higher charge. Most videos and articles say to keep the charge of the battery between 30% and 80% to preserve the life of the battery, which for John’s vehicle is guaranteed for 120,000 miles.

John said his upcoming 2,500-mile trip has been planned around the locations of the Tesla charging stations in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and South Dakota.

The wait time at a charger can last an hour, so John and his wife are planning to shop, use the restroom, eat or nap at each stop, which are anywhere from 80 to 120 miles apart.

The charging station the Wilson’s will use in Aberdeen is at a hotel with a voltage equivalent to what they have at home.

There are only a few issues that John and his wife have had with their Tesla so far. One, which seems to be common, are that the auto windshield wipers do not work properly, and John had to read the manual and watch Youtube tutorials from other owners to override them for manual use.

There’s a chance while on the road they could have an issue with a tires. Tesla’s use run-flat tires, which can run while flat, so the car’s do not come with a spare.

What they do come with is a four-year roadside assistance plan, but if it takes too long for Tesla to reach the vehicle, the owner can equip the car with a spare and purchase a kit that includes a centering ring for the spare.

Another option is to carry in the car a 12 volt air pump and a sealant kit that can be purchased from Tesla to help the driver get to a location to receive further service.

John said the breaks on a Tesla last longer than on a conventional vehicle. He explained that when you let off the accelerator, the motor turns into a generator, recharging the battery and the car slows down. So, when coasting downhill, the driver is recharging the battery; however, the Tesla does not coast for long even when going downhill, so one will need to press the acceleration.

The battery has to be kept in a certain temperature range for optimal use, and will use more energy to maintain that temperature in hotter or cooler environments.

If something goes wrong with the battery before it has reached its warranty lifetime, Tesla will replace it, John said.

In addition, the vehicle receives regular updates and adjustments or improvements electronically for things like correcting the windshield wiper sensitivity (which has not yet happened) and so many corrections do not require a visit to the shop.

John said that overall he is very happy with his new Tesla, sighting the high safety rating and his personal experiences, such as when they were nearly bumped off the road by a semi. The car’s the nine cameras act as sensors around the car which “see” the danger and send a message to the car’s central computer to automatically adjust the car’s direction to avoid a collision.   

John said in that case, the car reacted faster than he or his wife could.

There is one Tesla dealership in Minnesota and three in Colorado, but none in South Dakota. Two of the dealerships in CO are also service centers and the dealership in MN is a service center too.

Driving an EV rather than an ICE, or our conventional “internal combustion engine” vehicle, according to a forum on the Tesla website “saves the world 4.12 Tons of CO2 per year.” **

John said that owning the Tesla makes him feel that he is helping in some way to reduce his carbon footprint on the planet, but being a computer geek, he is also just excited to have such a high tech car to drive around.

He said that switching back to his ICE vehicle is rough once he has driven the Tesla for several weeks, and he has no regrets about his purchase thus far.

Although he wishes he had received more instruction on the breadth of capabilities and ways to use the Tesla programs and systems, he says there is the driver’s manual, the Tesla website, and there are a plethora of videos on Youtube of people who own their own Teslas and share their discoveries and hacks with other owners.

We will catch up with John and his wife in Aberdeen in mid-August to find out how their trip is going and to check out the EV charging station in Aberdeen.

Imagining the roadways of the future is exciting, especially when the possibilities shown us in movies such as Fifth Element or Blade Runner are coming to life before our eyes.

Along with the excitement comes the fear, also shown in stories like Ray Bradbury’s “The Pedestrian” with its automated police car and acquiescent main character, or the fear of George Orwell’s ever-present Big Brother.

John seemed more excited and safe about his Model-3 and its capabilities than worried about the potential invasion of his privacy, indicating that with all new technology there comes both the good and the bad, and how it is used depends on the operators.

Besides, he explained, what is Tesla, or anyone else, going to want to know about what a retired computer tech and his wife are doing on any given day. He said he was sure “they” had more important things to do than snoop on a retired couple in St. Louis.

For people considering purchasing a Tesla, there is good news. A Standard Range Model -3 with 570 miles and limited programming access can now be purchased for approximately $35,000 — and as more cars sell and more cars become used, the prices will be more affordable for those with more modest incomes. 

Below are links to the study about the evolution of EV stations and the forum on which the Tesla carbon impact formula and numbers are presented.

*http://www.umich.edu/~umtriswt/PDF/SWT-2017-9_Abstract_English.pdf

**https://forums.tesla.com/forum/forums/what-your-carbon-footprint-after-buying-model-3