Monday, July 7, 2014

Flat Tires, Cell Service, and Public Charging

An interesting discussion on MNL about the need for spare tires got me thinking.  One mentioned that he frequently took trips where there was no cellular service so roadside assistance would be of no use if he got a flat.  In the past 10 years, I have driven either Priuses, ZENN, or LEAFs; some of which came with a spare but the Prius and LEAF had TPMS.

Now during this time I was NOT lucky with tires. My 2006 Prius picked up a nail on 4 separate occasions, including two less than 10 days apart.  In all cases, I simply over inflated the tires until I got around to taking them to the tire store for repairs. On one occasion this went on for 3 weeks. So,  a spare tire or not? That was the question.  Twice I heard air leaking from the Prius and to slow the leak, I simply had to park on it.  But two other times, I was alerted by the TPMS.  Usually by the time the alert lights up the dash, I was in dire straits.  One time was coming home from dinner from the Lucky Eagle Casino in Rochester, WA where cell service used to be weak. My tire pressures on my Prius were set to 42 PSI front, 40 PSI rear but the right rear tire was at 25 PSI.  I carried around a portable jump box that was used for various things and it had a 12 volt compressor on it so airing the tire up to 50 PSI only took a few minutes.

Either way, I is strange to me that in this day and age, we are still hampered by ineffective communication. Historically, the government has stepped in to build nationwide infrastructure simply because private business either would not or could not.  The highway system and the national electrical grid are two prime examples. The other issue is that my LEAF had two issues with tires and in both cases, a spare would have done no good. Luckily, I was in an area that had cell service.

I think its time we started a push for two more networks;  Reliable Cellular service (no coverage holes, including degraded service greater than one mile) and a public charging network.  Now it took cars being on the road for over 40 years before we started the national highway system but we really can't and should not wait that long.

Cellular Service; This proves to be the biggest challenge. Simply too many non compatible protocols.  I have Verizon which is supposed to be the best or at least they seem to be at or near the top in most customer surveys but there are several areas in the Puget Sound Region where service is weak or non existent while still in the middle of town. Kent, WA is a  prime example. It is in a hole which explains the poor signal.  In my job, I rely on GPS daily. But cellular based GPS gets its route data from the cellular network. Now, it still only needs a clear view of the sky to navigate like any other GPS system so traveling through a dead zone is ok, its getting the route information is where the signal is needed. But in Kent, WA there are several areas where only text messaging works. Now, this is not a deserted country road or remote mountain highway we are talking about here, so why is this happening?

Regulations, territorial pissing matches, NIMBYisms,  etc. all play a part. Its time we wave some sort of wand and remove those barriers. Communication on the run has simply become too important including a threat to personal safety in some cases.

Public Charging;  Last month we added over 200,000 jobs.  The country is expanding and we need to keep that momentum going but it would only take one negative incident concerning the world oil supply to derail most of the progress we have made. Yes, we are making a lot of our own oil but to say that we can weather a major oil supply disruption overseas is still a bit optimistic.  One could argue that there is not enough EVs out there to justify the expense and they would be right but such a project would take several years and longer if we combine the public charging project with an upgrade and expansion of the national grid.  So the project should begin in the areas where EV adoption is well on its way to becoming mainstream.

Like all expansions, the fringe sees it last and least. So a reversal will hit them the hardest. This can be changed by a combination of limited range EVs and well placed charging stations. Grays Harbor County,  WA is a prime example. It has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state, least attractive job prospects and its largest city, Aberdeen, serves primarily as a junction  to other destinations.  Gas cars don't stop here. But EVs would have to and would WANT to if there was charging there.  One thing that applies to EVers and public charging. It does not matter where the chargers are. If one is there, the EVer will create a reason to go there! Most EVers would then spend money at the host location.  This builds income and eventually interest in the area. Aberdeen does have reasons to visit. After all there are at least a handful of people who live there because they want to.

The National Grid; There have been a few articles suggesting the next likely terrorist attack would be weak points in the electrical grid or a major pipeline.  Decentralizing the grid and creating more balanced distribution network  with super efficient transmission systems that can incorporate solar and wind more easily should be a top goal for both the security and economy of this country.

Now for those of you that know me and would make accusations that this was just a thinly disquised whine about the poor public charging system we have in place now,  you would be completely positively absolutely WWRRRIGGHT!


  1. Thanks Dave- please elaborate, what tire problem couldn't have been fixed by a spare?
    I've also taken a gasser to Aberdeen due to no DCFC en route from Oly and no EVSE at the destination. There's a kind soul halfway there on PlugShare, but my wife's idea of a vacation didn't include camping for hours each way in a carport. Go figure!

    1. Another thing is that there is small towns enroute like Montesano could have a great source of income if they had a charger. As an EVer, you know that as soon as we hear about a charger, we all want to rush out to use it, right? Well Montesano is 43 miles from my doorstep and would be a perfect stopping off point for the trip home. If it was there, I would buy something because that is how I am. I feel that any host nice enough to put in a charger deserves my business.

  2. Jay; I was entering I-5 at Martin Way and hit what I suspected was a truck tire tread and it literally shredded both tires on the drivers side. I was in a line turning left and it was dark and basically the cars in front of me skirted around it and I did not even see it coming. The other time was a BBQ at my sister's house, I parked in her side yard and nicked the post that held her old yard light and it cut the sidewall.

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