Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Blink QC's Starting $5 Fees in Northwest

By now, anyone in the EV world has heard that Ecotality is on the skids. They have not honored their contractual obligations with the Feds (that is a HUGE understatement!)  and so the Feds stopped paying them.

So the much desired DCFCs slated for the Olympic Peninsula and other areas like South Pierce County are most likely on permanent hold which is a huge disappointment to me. The mention of a fast charger in DuPont put a smile on my face and would have been a perfect place to put one for my commute north and would really be helpful especially now that my LEAF is finally starting to lose some range.

So its a bit strange that yesterday I received an email advising that starting tomorrow, Ecotality will start the $5 per session fees for their fast charge stations. So despite a huge uproar over the injustice of such a thing, they went ahead and did it anyway.

Well, someone (from Ecotality I am fairly sure) said that the current software was unable to bill by time or the amount of charge taken.  Which really means the station does not have the ability to provide instant feedback as to the cost of the charge at the end of the session.  Well, if that is all that is standing in the way, then bring it on! If need be, I can log into the Blink website the next day and find out what the charges were. I am ok with that. They do tell you how much charge you took so charging by the Kwh is doable. And they also tell you the duration of the charge so charging by time is doable so all the tools to bill by time or charge is available but just not instantaneously.  So lets see just how easy it would be!

I went to my Blink link and logged in.  After a bit of wandering, I found what I was looking for...

here is copy of transaction I made. Got this info from

Topping Off Part 2

I mentioned that I started topping off the pack to see if it would help with my range and it has given me a few miles but I also noticed another thing; the topped off GIDs seem to last longer.  So I decided to measure it to see.

First I did the regular charging thing. Leave times ran usually 5:30-6 AM with finish charge times running 1-3 AM. So the "chart" below lists starting GID then miles driven on first 5 GID and total miles driven for first 10 GID


The next set of numbers is having charge complete (usually by 1-2 AM or at least 3 hours before estimated leave time. Purposely tried to finish charge earlier to account for any possible balancing)

Then I simply unplugged the car and plugged it back in. Did my normal morning routine then took off. My intention was to check before and after GIDs but had two 4 AM starts last week so that plan got derailed by the snooze button...)

250/1.5/3.1**  Late start no headlights but seems to have not made much of a difference.

As you can see, adding a tiny bit of "fresh" charge  seems to give me up to an extra ½ mile of range for the first 10 GID. As far as why its happening? dont know but does seem fairly repeatable.

Any thoughts?

Friday, August 9, 2013

How my Dad Raised an EV'er (My Dad's "Big Fish" Story)

Last Friday August 2nd, 2013 my Dad Neal passed away from complications of a stroke and Cancer. He was 85 and had lived a long and fruitful life.  Its funny in that when growing up, my Dad and I did not get along much and it really was a combination of my stubbornness,  his inability to show affection and the way he was raised.  But he did love me in his own way and it took decades for me to understand and realize the true depth of that love.  As much as I vowed to be a different kind of person growing up, I now realize that we are very much alike in both the good and the bad.

A few of the traits I acquired from him were being cheap (as others have noted, I call it being "financially reasonable")  and the drive to work a bit harder if need be to get a desired result rather than paying someone else to do it for me.  It is the latter part that made me realize that is why I got an EV. After all, EVs do require compromise. They require more planning, patience, and effort to incorporate it into my transportation lifestyle.  Without really knowing him or me, it would be really impossible to illustrate my point so I thought it best to simply relate some of the various memories I have that really show his ability to adapt and his tenacity in making things work.

He was always good with his hands and was the best at fixing things of anyone I ever knew.  Being raised during the Depression probably helped. In those days, you fixed things simply because buying another one was out of the question.  He told me once about a trip he made with my Grandmother and Aunt in Northern MI years before the Highway System was built. The trip was probably around 200 miles and during the trip that lasted several hours that included fixing flat tires. In those days, a flat meant removing the tire from the car, then popping it off the rim (a job that was NOT easier then as it is today) removing the inner tube. patching it, then putting it all back together and using a bicycle like pump to air it back up. During that single trip he had to do this TWENTY THREE TIMES!

We also became the first on our block to get a color TV back in the early 60's. He built one from a Heath Kit. Saved a ton of money (TVs were really spendy back then) doing it and gained valuable experience from it allowing him to get a part time job repairing TVs soon afterwards.

He graduated from high school in Cheboygan MI and was promptly drafted in 1946 and sent to Germany. He did his hitch and returned to MI bouncing around from job to job and finally re-enlisted to stay. He was sent to Ft Lewis WA in preparation for Korea but was held back due to his "abilities" and was put in the Army Corps of Engineers and sent to Okinawa to install Radar Stations.

(Like the movie "Big Fish" I also have proof! Here is my Dad with a record catch of the coast of Okinawa...for about 2 hours. Unfortunately his boat mate broke the record as well!  The caption states "near record weight" which is actually incorrect as both fish broke the previous record.  He did later receive a certificate recognizing his achievement)

There his electrical/mechanical aptitude allowed him to be selected for a special project installing Nike Missile sites (aimed at China).

This where he met my Mom, Mitsuko Akamine and they were married and my brother Ken and I were born there.
My dad's performance with the missile sites along with the additional training he received allowed him to apply and be accepted into the highly exclusive new Nuclear Power Generation Group and transferred him to Alexandria VA at Ft. Belvoir. (where my Sister was born) The main purpose of this group was investigating the viability of providing a portable nuclear-based power supply to troops in various conditions around the world when deployed in areas where power may not be available. Initially, 4 sites were chosen. Ft. Belvoir in VA; Camp Century, Greenland; Ft Greely, Alaska and the Panama Canal Zone. This would provide ample power to the troops without the worry of maintaining a fuel supply line.

After completing training (which many started but did not complete. His graduating class had more instructors than graduates!)

(There were only 7 graduates. the back two rows are instructors except the guy in the middle of the 2nd row.  The class started with over 30 people)

 He was stationed at Ft Belvoir, VA and then went TDY (term for short term duty at a remote station) to Camp Century Greenland.  Here the power plant sat on what was thought to be about a half mile of ice.  A group of scientists were also studying the area and wanted rock samples. So a pipe rigged to vent steam from the reactor was placed into the ice. The pipe melted a tunnel down into the ice.  It soon created a cavern of water under the ice.  Every day, they would add pipe to allow the pipe to burrow deeper into the ice. Deeper and deeper the pipe went venting super heated steam.  Eventually  they accepted the realization that they were sitting on more ice than they had originally thought.  (They never did hit the ground despite burrowing for the entire length of the 14 month project going beyond 6000 feet!) There was no Global Warming here!

     (Dad at PM-2A control Room. Camp Century, Greenland July 1963)

(Standing at "front door" of NCO Club Camp Century, Greenland July 1963)

(Main Hallway under the ice, Camp Century Greenland)

 (Entrance Camp Century, Greenland Summer 1963)

It was here that several new methods, tools, and processes were invented. My Dad among others received several commendations for their innovative work. After just over a year, he was stationed back at Ft. Belvoir. He was then sent to Foxboro (one of only a half dozen selected for this "civilian" School ) MA for additional instrumentation training. This training allowed him to be promoted to instructor in 1967.

Exclusivity has its privileges and drawbacks and one of them was rotating to remote sites. He had a choice of Panama for a year or Alaska for two. Thankfully he chose Alaska and we departed Virginia June 6th, 1968.  "D day!"  (D for drive and man oh man did we ever do some driving!)

For our trip to Alaska, my Dad bought a brand new 1967 Chrysler Van and converted it into a camper adding a propane powered fridge and stove. added a few racks for bunk beds and put in a convertible dining table and booth that converted into a Mom and he slept on.  To say the least, it was cramped and every inch was used including the front where I slept in a rack that hung over the front passenger area.  After a visit to MI which included my Grandmother getting married for the 2nd time after decades of widowship, We started into Canada on our way to Milepost #1 on the "Alcan Highway."

The Alcan Highway was built during WW2 by the Army Corps of Engineers to better defend to faraway borders of our territories like Alaska. It starts in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada and ended a the  Alaska state line. It was just a "bit" further to Ft. Greeley outside Delta Junction which was our destination. Everything was fine until  the pavement ended about 100 miles outside Dawson Creek. Before us, stretched over 1100 miles of gravel roads winding thru the Canadian Rockies!  (if you want to recreate this trip, dont bother.  the highway was later paved and straightened removing over 300 miles in length and sadly about 1000 breathtakingly awesome views...)

Naturally, it was July and hot (well hot most of the time. we did have brief bouts of snowfall at higher elevations) so most of the trip was frantically rolling up the windows when a vehicle approached from the North to prevent the huge clouds of dust from getting in the van. (No A/C here!)   It only took about 10 miles of gravel before a rock shattered the windshield.  a few more rocks soon made it difficult to see but my Dad drove on.  But then the fan belt broke.  So here we are high in the Rockies a million miles from anything with a disabled vehicle. But not all was lost. After using various items in place of a fanbelt which included his belt, rope, etc. he finally found something that worked; my sisters rubber stretch pants (she was only 2 at the time) that she wore occasionally (prevented leaking. Remember this was before Pampers were popular)

But the the thing I remember most about the incident was being high up in the Rockies, pulled over at a view area (which was really the ONLY place to pull over anyway...) several miles from anything resembling civilization fixing the van. After he was done, he went to take a dump in the bushes which was ok since there was no one for miles.  Two minutes after he disappeared a tour bus came around the corner and parked at the view area discharging a dozen sightseers.   Soon afterwards, my Dad, red-faced emerged from the bushes and we made a quick departure!

Naturally our two years in Alaska was full of adventure hunting and fishing. Other than an occasional Chicken and Turkey for Thanksgiving, all the meat we ate we caught or shot. Moose, Elk, Salmon, Trout, etc. Even some Buffalo (at the time the ENTIRE state of Alaska issued 100 permits to hunt Buffalo. But we did know someone who got a permit!)

(Notice the Oscilloscope on the bench? that was given to him by the Foxboro Company for outstanding performance in his class. He was in a class of 18 as the only Army person with 17 Foxboro Engineers. He spent many many hours fixing TVs for friends using that thing!  The screen reminded me of the opening to the  Twilight Zone! )

We returned from Alaska to our home in Stafford, Virginia where my Dad immediately starting building an addition to our small mobile home.  He had basically studied a few books on construction so he had the basics down and was ready to put them to work.  He was helped greatly in the fact that one our neighbors had moved out and a contractor had moved in. Everett Taylor and my Dad sat around drinking coffee and talking about best practices for construction and my Dad used that (plus an occasional helping hand from Everett) to add a bedroom and expand the living room.  This was his first major foray into residential construction.

Later my Dad retired from the Army and we made preparations to move to Michigan where all the relatives were.  Before retiring, he got another part time job working at Montgomery Wards in Fredericksburg VA. He got the job because the store had a 6 month backlog of TVs waiting to be repaired.  He started there working weekends in the Spring of 1973 as a bench technician and like most jobs he was hired for, his supervisor quickly realized he had a lot more to offer than the job he was doing. In a few months working part time, he had cleared out most of the backlog of TVs and they had him "tinkering with other departments that were behind including lawn and garden, appliances, etc.  Wards sent him to a small engine repair school and he was able to also get the lawn and garden dept cleared out as well.  He retired from the Army in Jan, 1974 but because we kids were still in school, we stayed in Virginia until June. He went to work full time at Wards and was promoted to Home Appliance/TV (or whatever else needed fixing) repair which paid a lot more but required a much higher level of skill.

Later he was offered a very lucrative "performance bonus" if he was willing to stay at Wards which according to his boss who had over 20 years experience at Wards was the first time he had seen or heard of such a thing. But the lure of home was too much to overcome. 

We bought 3 acres in Smith's Creek just outside Port Huron and set about building a house. As always my Dad was on the cheap and heard about a few loads of salvage lumber taken from dismantled boxcars. The lumber was tongue and groove hardwoods. They were riddled with nails, various lengths and torn up edges.  My dad paid Ken and I to pull the nails out and cut them to various lengths using a table saw that was rigged to run off the flywheel of a Toyota Corona Engine. (a car I later drove...)  The resulting lumber was used to roof the house, (sturdiest roof in town!) the walls of the house and our 2 car garage with attached shop.

After spending the Summer building the house, he was hired as an electrician for Morton Salt in Marysville, MI. In less than a year, he was promoted to lead electrician and shortly after that promoted to Foreman of the Maintenance Dept (which meant he still worked "in the mines")

Despite Port Huron being over 50 miles from the center of the Automobile Industry, the effects of the downturn in the mid to late 70's still permeated the area. The decision was made to bail out so in 1978 my Dad bought a fifth wheel camper, sold the house and went on a road trip to look for somewhere else to live.  Texas, California, Idaho and Montana were on the list.   Well each place turned out to have drawbacks. California was a great place but the cost of living was too high and my Dad was also looking for some place that had a major Military hospital and finally settled on Olympia WA (remember he went thru training at Ft. Lewis near by)

He got a job as a TV bench tech at Sears in Lacey but moved to appliance repair due to a much larger work load and again was immediately promoted to home appliance repair. During this time he was sent to school to fix several other things including HVAC and more lawn and garden equipment. Eventually Sears closed it home repair dept and my Dad was laid off. He took his training and opened his own Appliance repair business which did very well until he turned it over to my brother Ken and started working Civil Service at Ft. Lewis doing building construction and maintenance.

He retired (again! and this wouldn't be the last time) and then started buying undeveloped properties in the county and putting in utilities and setting up Mobile Homes to sell. He carried the loan contract on them. He did this dozens of times (sold properties to a lot of mine and my brother's friends in the process!)  doing very well.

After my Mother died in 2004, he met and married Mary, a retired schoolteacher from Texas and decided to live permanently at his vacation house in Mission, Texas.

All his life, he kept meticulous records of EVERYTHING! The cost of developing properties, anticipated income from mortgage payments on contracts he carried and so on. My many hours of watching him calculating costs at the kitchen table is the reason why diligently track every mile my LEAF drives.

 He met and kept many many friends and although very cheap with his money, he would work his butt off to help a friend.  His funeral is tomorrow August 10, 2013 at Forest Memorial Gardens on Pacific Ave in Olympia, WA.