Saturday, November 7, 2015

All Together, Then...

Leaving Charleston.  Monday morning, 11/02/15, 10AM.

Said goodbye to my traveling friends, exited the hotel parking lot 10AM on the nose.  Thanks to Town and Country Inn & Suites for the overnight charge-up!

Headed for Jolly Acres RV Park, St. George, S.C., 44 miles away.
100 miles of range remaining!  Yay!  I reset the trip meter after I took this photo.

Decided to take a quick detour to check out a Level 2 charging station at MWV CDLM (  Don't know what MWV CDLM  means, but I found the station, and discovered that it requires an access card, restricted for employees only.  Hence, I changed the Plugshare entry.

I searched inside a nearby building for information about the station, and nobody knew much about it.  As I exited the building, I noticed a man taking pictures of my car, and I thought, "Uh-oh, now I'm in it", but it turned out to be Ed Fargo, an employee of said building/company and an EV enthusiast.  Ed and I talked for nearly 30 minutes.  He bracket races his Leaf and has built a few EV motorbikes.  He gave me his business card (Juiced Drag Racing).  Hi, Ed!

Ed tipped me off to a pair of Schneider charging stations literally across the street at the Mariott.  So, after we said our goodbyes, I hopped on over to those stations, plugged-in for about 30 min., used their restroom and refilled my water bottle, created a new Plugshare entry.  A hotel employee noticed me and stopped by to chat for a few minutes.  He knew Ed and was happy to see somebody using the charging stations.  There is no fee for the use of the stations at this time.

Yes, it is Half-ICED, but perhaps that's an employee's car.  Some businesses will allow an employee to park in the EV charging spots just to keep them from getting ICED.

Not sure how many miles of range I collected here.  Perhaps 7.  Didn't take photos of the DIC.  But anyway, onward!

Arrived at Jolly Acres with 52 miles range remaining:

The owner keeps two NEVs on the property and is a closet EV fan.  Perhaps he will install an EV charging station.

More data from Torque Pro.  Interesting:  nearly 240V and 3 kW. Notice, also, that the Cooling Pump is running.  That has to take some energy away from the batteries.
Chatted with Larry, the owner of Jolly Acres, for about 30 min.  He's a retired electrician and did most of the electrical work on the property.  He owns 2 NEVs and our conversation turned to electrical terms like single-phase, three-phase, transformers, etc.  Of course, he knows more about this than I, so I picked his brain about DC fast charging, and he expressed an interest in installing a unit on his property.  He's a bit far off the Interstate, so he may opt for a Level 2.  Still, an interesting chat!

Time to move on after 90 min of charging nets me 19 miles of range.  Next stop, Barnwell State Park, 50 miles away.

Arrival at Barnwell State Park.  17 miles of range remaining.  It's been raining off and on since I left Charleston, and we know that inclement weather like this will take away some range from the car.  The rain slowed me down quite a bit as it was heavy at times.  Charge here for a while...

The rain let up for a bit, allowing me to plug-in, make some tea, eat my Publix caesar salad dinner, and relax.  After about an hour of charging, a ginormous motorhome pulled-in to the campgrounds.  The driver gets out and approaches my car.  Turns out they had been assigned the spot I was occupying, so I had to unplug and move.  Fortunately, the hookup next door was also 50A.  No worries.  Funny, though.  The driver did not smile and was obviously unhappy, even though we were the only two occupants of the entire campgrounds, save for the Camp Host.  People are strange...

Since I'll be here for awhile, I thought I'd play with MyLink, GM's infotainment system.  It will allegedly play video files from a flash drive.  It does, although the audio was out-of-sync (that may have been the .avi file I uploaded to the flash drive).  Kinda cool.

After 3.5 hrs charging, I've netted 44 miles of range (!).  Time to move on.  Next stop, Augusta and DC fast charging!  Yay!

Arrival at Georgia Regents University Student Center with the car beginning to request turning off the stereo because the battery is low.  10 miles of range remaining is the lowest I've gone in this car yet.

The Greenlots/Signet charging stations don't put out as much power as the Georgia Power/Efacec units.  This one is showing 36 kW, whereas the GP/Efacec units will go up to 49 kW.

Nearly 39 minutes later, I've taken on 20.7 kWh of energy.  Time to move on.  Next stop, A.H. Stephens Historic Park, 62 miles away.

Arrived at A.H. Stephens Historic Park around 10PM.  It's dark (obviously), and it's been raining most of the night.  26 miles range remaining.  Charge here for about 2 - 3 hrs.

I forgot to take a picture of the DIC after charging at A.H. Stephens.  What can I say, it was late, I was tired, it was raining...

From memory, I think I allowed the GOM to reach 61 miles.  I also remember getting a bit over-confident after realizing that my "20-mile buffer rule" could be whittled down a bit.  I had to go 45 miles, so I shortened the buffer to 16 miles.  Roll the dice.

Next stop, Classic Center in Athens, DC fast charge (yay!), 45 miles away.  Made it with 9 miles range remaining ( a new low!).

This charging station was acting wonky.  At first, it wouldn't initiate a charge, then it would, then it would stop the charge at random.  I got fed up with it after 3 attempts, so I left with what I thought was enough range to make it home (84 GOM miles to go 62 actual miles).

It began to look like 84 miles wasn't going to be enough (DIC began to calculate 7 miles of range difference between GOM and SatNav...not enough to chance it in my book).  So, I made an unplanned stop at the GP DC fast charge station on Duluth Highway (  Didn't take any pictures, but Chargepoint says I was plugged-in for 00:13:22.  That was easily enough to make it home.

Arrived home with 42 miles of range remaining.  It was about 3 AM and I was bone tired, so I turned-in for the night.  Took this final picture the next morning:

Epilogue:  This was a fun trip!  There's no doubt in my mind that EV road trips are the future (our Tesla compadres already attest to that!).  Granted, this car was not designed for long road trips; however, with enough DC fast charging stations, inter-city travel is easily within its operating parameters.  Yes, it is small, yes it is a bit uncomfortable.  And yes, it's got 140 hp and 400 lbs ft of torque!  Woo-hoo!  More to the point, it can easily handle multiple DC fast charges in one day, a feature built-in to its design by its engineers.

This car is a bit of a blank slate to me.  With its powerful motor and reasonable range, it is a fun car to drive, and even more fun to "personalize".  I'll be posting my efforts to improve this car on this blog as I move forward with those plans.  Until then...

Thursday, November 5, 2015

All Together, Now...

Nov 1, 2015, my friends Suzanne and Sandra are getting married in Charleston, S.C.  I was invited, so I decided to drive my 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV on a road trip to Charleston from my home in Decatur, Ga.

Departure date:  Thurs 10/29/15.  1130AM.

The Spark can do a legitimate 90 miles on a full charge (90.4, to be precise, as I found on a recent test run to the Alabama border and back again to check out a DC fast charger at the Visitors Welcome Center on the Ga. side of I-75N).

Its weakness is its onboard 3.3 kW AC charger, which nets ~ 13 miles of range per hour of charging.  Fortunately, I will have two DC fast chargers available to me on this trip of ~309 miles one way, and my Spark EV has the CCS SAE Combo DC fast charge option.  Up to 50 kW of power transferred.  Able to fill a depleted battery in ~ 30 min.

Not only that, the Spark EV shares liquid-cooled/heated thermal management systems for its battery and charging hardware with its Chevy Volt cousin.  Much more robust and, IMO, better engineered than the Nissan Leaf, which has no thermal management system for its battery, thus limiting its ability to DC fast charge multiple times in a day.

I use various apps as tools to help me plan my route:  plugshare.commyscenicdrives.comchargepoint.comgreenlots.comDOE website.  These are all free and accounts with them are free, as well.  Most useful is Plugshare.

Here's my route, courtesy of
My route on

The picture below is a snapshot of the DIC (Driver Information Center, i.e., the dash).  Taken just prior to departure from my home in Decatur, Ga.  First stop, DC fast charge station in Athens, Ga., 61 miles away.
Depart my driveway 1130AM, 10/29/15.

Stopping at the Greenlots dual-standard DC fast charge unit at the Athens Classic Center near the campus of the University of Georgia - Athens.  65.5 miles.

Greenlots says I took on 16.6 kWh in 28.18 min.  Cost $0 (this unit is free until 2016).

Next stop, A.H. Stephens Historic Park in Crawfordville, Ga.  45 miles away.

Arrival at A.H. Stephens Historic Park.  Trip is going well; lovely weather.

During my stop at A.H. Stephens Historic Park, I chatted with 3 park rangers, asking permission to charge my EV.  They were courteous and respectful...and insisted that I pay the full $25 for the RV site + $5 to enter the park.  Well, I had no choice.  They were the only game in town, so to speak. Curiously, I called a few weeks ahead of my visit to request permission to charge, and whomever I talked with told me to "just pay the $5 to enter the park".  Hmph.
240V/50A RV hookup; the Spark EV is hobbled by its onboard 3.3 kW AC charger, netting a whopping 13 miles of range per hour (RPH).  I charged for two hours, collecting enough energy to make my next waypoint.

A.H. Stephens Historic Park puts on quite the Halloween Party.  Too bad I had to miss it!
After two hours, time to move on.

Next stop:  Georgia Regents Center University Student Center Parking Lot, where there is a Greenlots DC fast charging station.  62 miles away.  I try to maintain a 20 mile "range buffer" on my EV road trips, so 81 miles of range indicated is close enough, I reckon...

Arrived Augusta with 20 mi range remaining.  Had trouble finding the Greenlots charging station due to construction...

The Greenlots charging station was difficult to find due to construction on Laney-Walker Blvd.  My SatNav tried to get me there, but the construction made it seem that the parking lot where the charging station resided was blocked off, and so I went round and round attempting to find it.  Eventually, I gave up and went over to the Georgia Power/Chargepoint dual-standard DC fast charger on Walton was broken:

Called Chargepoint and they rebooted the unit, but to no avail.  Well, at least they refunded my money.

At this point, I am beginning to entertain the idea that I'll be staying the night in Augusta, seeing as how my battery is nearly depleted.  However, I decided to give Greenlots a call and inquire about the location/availability of their unit.  They assured me that the unit was operational and that the construction had been ongoing for months, so I should try again to find it.

To my great relief, I found the station after spotting its telltale blue LED lights from about 100 yards away.  Those units are so small that they're just not easy to see!  Plugged-in, took on 19.10 kWh in 34:35, cost $2.94.

Arrived at the Student Center with 19 miles range remaining and greatly relieved to find the charging station functional...

Whilst hanging out in the Student Center, a man dressed as a cook approached me carrying 4 or 5 styrofoam take-home containers.  He offered me two slices of pumpkin pie...and it wasn't even my birthday! :)

98 miles of range indicated.  Time to move on...

Next stop, Barnwell State Park in Blackville, S.C., 47 miles away.  240V/50A RV hookup, and I called ahead earlier in the week to request permission.  I talked to Eddie who at first wished to charge me the full price for an overnight stay ($16), but agreed to instead charge me $10 after I explained how long I would charge and the amount of energy I would consume.  He laughed because "ain't nobody ever asked me that before!".  I arrived after dark, and my SatNav insisted that the park was "on your left"; on my approach to the turn-in, I realized at the last minute that the park road was on the right, the park sign was on the left, and nearly drove into the ditch correcting my turn.  The state and federal highways are not exactly well lit after sundown! :)

Arrived Barnwell State Park with 43 miles range remaining.

The Camp Host.

Made some tea and relaxed for a bit.  The wafers...I'll explain later.
I'm using my way cool JESLA to charge from the RV hookup:

90 min of charging nets me 20 mile of range.  Enough to make my next waypoint...

Next stop:  America's Best Hotel, St. George, S.C., 45 miles away.  I booked a room for the night and requested permission to plug-in, which was granted.

Arrival at America's Best Hotel, St. George, S.C.  Time to plug-in, chill out and get some rest.

Hotel staff was very accommodating. :)

I'm using the Chevrolet/SPX EVSE that came with the Spark EV.  It can be set to pull 8A or 12A, but you can only change that setting using the car's 7" touchscreen.  4A can make a ton of difference in the amount of time it takes to charge...

Morning!  I think I forgot to set the EVSE to 12A.  Oh, well, time to get on the road...but first, a little nutrition...

Ten-fiddy... :)
Friday morning, 10/30/15.  Time to get moving.
Next stop, Tanger Outlet Mall in North Charleston, S.C., 46 miles away, where a bank of 4 Chargepoint charging stations reside for Mall shoppers, gratis.  This was an unplanned stop; as the trip unfolded, it became clear that I could easily make Tanger, so I skipped a stop at an RV park (Charleston KOA or Jolly Acres RV park).  Stop here for 2:25 and take on 8 kWh.  Do some shopping, chill at Starbucks with free WiFi.  My hotel in Charleston is only 10 miles from here, so I thought I'd fill up the battery since I had time to kill.

Arrival at Tanger Outlet Mall.

Screenshot of my old 7" Galaxy Tab model P1000...the original Galaxy Tab.  It displays Torque Pro which talks to the Spark EV via Bluetooth ELM327 OBDII adapter.  Showing my charging session at Tanger Outlet Mall.

Tanger Outlet Mall is smack dab in the middle of the landing pattern of Charleston Int'l Airport...and The Boeing Company has a facility right next door.  These jets are LOUD!  Way cool!

Tanger Outlet Mall

Brilliant idea!

Got enough juice to make my hotel in Charleston.  Motel 6.  They granted permission to plug-in overnight, gratis.

Next stop, Motel 6, Charleston, S.C., 10 miles away.  I had originally planned to stay at Evergreen Motel, but their electrical system was too outdated, so I sought refuge elsewhere.  That was a bummer, because I tend to be drawn to the smaller mom-and-pop style of motels that are single-level, older and have more character than the bigger, fancier chains.  Plan to stay here 3 nights, and the manager agreed to allow me to plug-in, gratis.

Time to meetup with my friends in Charleston and my fellow travelers from Georgia and elsewhere...

We're on a first name basis...

Isn't Charleston wonderful?

I'm expected at a rehearsal/bottle-sharing/Halloween party Sat. night...brought some excellent Georgia craft beer as my tithe.
The wedding is to be held Sun, Nov 1, 130pm.  However, that leaves Fri and Sat for lunacy.  And lunacy we shall.  I took some time to check out the area, especially the charging stations listed on

Hendrick BMW/Mini has two L2 charging stations.  All of the listed charging stations in Plugshare exist and function; all were occupied when I drove by.
Visited Coast Brewery.  A spectacularly delightful fall day in Charleston near the ship building facilities.  There was a bbq as well.  Very good beers and food.  Yay!

The brewery is kid-friendly, but not spelling-friendly.

The All Blacks are Champions!

My visit to Charleston was to attend a wedding.  A wedding for which I was requested to be the back-up officiant in case the contracted minister is AWOL.  This request was made of me by the brides-to-be at a bar some months prior to the wedding, so I had time to prepare.  Ten minutes later, I was fully qualified as an online ordained minister through the Universal Life Church (ULC).  Thus, the certificate.  And, since we were invited to a Halloween party, too...
Assistant to the Assistant Pastor
...I made sure to order the shirt, collar, certificates, clergy business cards...and oh, yes, the most important items, the clergy hangtag and press pass.  Must haves:

The communion wafers were supposed to be a part of the Halloween gig, but I totally forgot I had them with me.  I had condoms, too.  And totally forgot to hand them out, as well.  So much for being a responsible justice of the piece... :)

We also visited the H.L. Hunley museum (  Very cool:

The H.L. Hunley was "the first submarine to sink an enemy ship in world history".
The lovely brides, a wonderful celebration, forever memories:

Friday evening was spent having dinner at a local eatery (Rita's in Folly Beach), then attending a meet-and-greet at Jack of Cups, where we met the wedding party and various local "occupants".  The visit to Coast Brewery and the H.L. Hunley Museum were on Sat 10/31/15, as was the bottle swap/rehearsal/Halloween party.

During my stay in Charleston, the Spark EV's battery was never more than a few kWh from being full, as the distances traveled were short and I was able to charge overnight at my hotel(s).

Unfortunately, Motel 6 didn't work out for the 3 nights planned (and paid for).  My roommates of the six-legged variety sacrificed their lives for electric vehicle technology, and also drove me away to another hotel (Town and Country Inn & Suites).  My last night in Charleston was spent in a luxurious king-leisure suite and the hotel kindly allowed me to plug-in overnight:

End of Outbound Trip Report.