I keep hearing form people how much fun EVs are to drive. The woman who sold me my EV kept saying how it was so much fun to drive. She would talk about her experiences with the vehicle and then repeat again how much fun it was to drive. She would talk to me about how the brakes gave out and she smacked the front end and say, but it is so much fun to drive. She talked about needing a charge everywhere she went sometimes running out of electricity on the road and punctuating it with a, “but it is so much fun to drive.” Well, I am not sure if “FUN” is the exact word that I would use.
The word I would use is “adventure.” Driving an EV is more like an adventure to me. My EV is a Destiny2000 made/converted by Solar Electric Engineering in 1993 in Santa Barbara, California from a Pontiac Fiero. I call my baby the EV SOL. I use it to go to and from work as a daily commuter. My total commute is about 8 miles. For the commute my EV SOL does just fine.
Yet, every morning when I get in the vehicle, it makes this big
crack sound. The first time I heard it I thought someone had thrown a pebble against my window, it was just that sharp a noise. I looked around to see who had done this to my baby and soon realized that there was no one else there…. It happens almost every time I put the key into the ignition. The sound seems to be coming from where my charger’s 220 volt plug is. I look but I can’t see any arching or weld spots in the area. It doesn’t seem to affect the performance any, but I sure want to know what the heck that noise is so I can fix it. Just another part of the adventure I guess.
One day at work I accidentally hit the dome light button while pulling my coat out of the car. When I got back to the vehicle after work the auxiliary battery was not strong enough to run the lights. I had to drive at night without headlights or instrument panel lights. Lucky for me I live in a city where most of my way is lighted by street lights. I got home fine and wasn’t pulled over and given a ticket. Then the auxiliary battery wouldn’t charge up again through the regular charger. The next day, after having charged the regular batteries fully, the lights cut out again. I had just pulled away from where I park at work and again I had to drive back home in the dark. I put the car back on the charger thinking that the auxiliary battery should charge up this time. That wasn’t the case.
The next morning I was taking my son to school and on the way back, just as I hit my driveway, the motor controller complete quit. Now I know… the auxiliary battery powers the motor controller, and since it had absolutely no more juice in it the motor controller crapped out. I had a big piece of led at the bottom of my driveway and I struggled together with my wife and a couple walking by for an hour trying to push it up close enough to the extension cord so I could charge it up. I gave up trying to charge the auxiliary battery through the inboard charge controller and got out my 12 volt battery charger. I am happy to announce that my EV SOL is now back doing its daily job without any problems. I keep the twelve volt charger in the trunk as intimidation to EV SOL to not pull that stuff on me again. I look at it and say, “Do you want me to get out the 12 volt charger? Because I can do that you know.” I have had no problems with the auxiliary battery since.
I have had other adventures with range which can very wildly depending on the weather. I drove my baby into work a few nights ago and when I came home my wife had parked the car in the driveway near the end of my extension cord. No problem, I normally can get two or more days of driving from the car before it needs a charge again. I parked EV SOL on the street. It got very cold that night. The following morning I took my son to school. I went from 80% charge to less than 40% charge in just about 4 miles. I limped home. The “fuel gauge” showing 10% by the time I pulled in the driveway. Lucky me again I only had to climb one hill, which I did at about 5 miles an hour. I made it home once again. I hope I’m not taking this good luck from my Lottery luck. Cause if I win the Lotto, I’m buying a tZero. I wonder if tZero owners have “adventures” too?
The Best Story
Now EV SOL is operating pretty much where I can predict what it is going to do and it really is fun to drive, most times. It isn’t like driving a regular car at all. However, that isn’t how it always was.
When I first put in its new set of batteries it was doing something that pretty much unnerved me. For a period of time the car was running the motor all by itself with no instruction from me and the accelerator peddle. The first time I took the EV out to see if it really could go as fast as 70 miles an hour like the brochure said it could, the car began to run the motor as if it had a mind of its own, like it was possessed or something.
I remember the day like it was only a few months ago after heavy drinking. I took EV SOL to the George Washington Parkway near my house. There was a road with nice flat straightaways. I drove down to the first stop light at Old Town Alexandria and turned around. I moved the EV SOL into position. There were no more stop lights until the beltway so I would have plenty of room to test this baby out and see what she could do. It was me, EV SOL and the stop line for the next 5 miles or so. I imagined the light going from red to yellow to green, I hit the accelerator peddle and like a fast turtle it meandered forward, I put it into second gear at around 15 miles an hours and I could feel the speed and increasing G forces push me back into the seat, at 30 miles an hour I knew it was time to let go of another stage on this rocket and so I shifted into third gear, the motors noise seemed to stop and the wind noise rubbing against the vehicle became more pronounced. The quiet was calming so I took a look around. I could see the taillights of other cars on the parkway shrinking away as they passed. An old lady on a bicycle on the bike path couldn’t keep up with Mr. Speed demon. At 45 five mile an hour I hit the clutch and slammed this baby into 4th gear. Now the other cars on the parkway seemed to stand still with me. Some I think were checking out Mr. Studdley behind the wheel of the electric car. By this time I was passing the airport and one of my exits to get home. I hadn’t made it into 5th gear so I mashed the accelerator down to the floor to get some more speed. BAD IDEA, the Ammeter began to dance back and forth and the vehicle began to buck and shimmy. I let off the accelerator a bit and it stopped. Gently pushing the peddle and seeing slow increases in speed I passed one after another of my exits to return home, but as long as I was going faster I kept going. At around 60 miles an hour I put it in 5th. I managed to get the car up to 65 miles per hour but then it started slowing down. It began to refuse to take instruction from my foot. It would lurch forward suddenly on its own and then stop feeding the motor juice.
At that moment I felt like Tom Hanks in Apollo 13 when all the shimming and bangs meant something serious was wrong. “Huston we have a problem.” I now had a new mission. I had to improvise a return home. The Voltmeter was showing that I had nothing left, but just a few seconds before it was showing that I had something like 50% left. I went around the circle in front of National Cemetery headed over the cobblestone strip over the bridge and pulled around to route 1 to head for home. By that time the cars acceleration was completely out of control. I had to stop by the side of the road and pull the keys out of the ignition to get it to stop. Wondering what would happen next I remembered that batteries sometimes bounce back with a little rest. I thought to myself, maybe this is the problem. So I decided to give the batteries a break. After what had just happened I needed one too. I counted to 1000 to mark the time and also to get my heart to stop racing. Once calm I got back in the car and turned it on again. The motor revved up all by itself again. At one of the low points in its random cycle of acceleration I let out the clutch in 1st gear very slowly and the car traveled down the road without me hitting the accelerator peddle. I got it up to 40 miles an hour and the car decided that I could be put back in control. I pulled off of the parkway onto local streets, climbed a small hill near my house at 1 mile an hour, and slowly but surely I got home. Mission accomplished.
You might say that my attempt at going 75 miles an hour was a failed mission, but for me it was a successful failure. I learned a lot about myself and about EV SOL. I learned that there are times on GW parkway and route 1 when there is no traffic so you can pull on to the road without being afraid of being rear-ended. People say that when you look back at things like these they seem funny in retrospect. As for me, I am not looking back. I am too afraid that if I do, I’ll just slam EV SOL into a parked car or something. I could do an entire blog on the steering alone.
Driving this car might not be fun at times, but it certainly isn’t ever dull.