Tuesday, January 12, 2016

eL Blue Goes to Asheville or Maybe Gatlinburg...a fact-finding mission...

Of Course It Can Be Done...Can't It?

Day 3, Jan 2, 2016

I had no need to plug-in the car overnight at my hotel last night, since the presence of DC fast charging not far away gave me confidence that range anxiety would be a non-factor.   Well, that and the crazy exuberance of the GOM after the long downhills in the mountains.

The overnight temps dipped below freezing; I wasn't too concerned for the car, as the battery had plenty of charge.  However, notice the HV SOC in Torque Pro (bottom photo, upper left module) (50.0%).  Last night it was 50.4%.  And the GOM shows 53 miles; last night, it was 52.  Since the Spark EV uses an active thermal management system for its battery and charging hardware, some energy will be used for maintenance (or, as Chevy's engineers call it, "battery conditioning").  I haven't seen much of this happening in this car, so my experience with it is nil.  And there are screens in the in-dash display that allow one to view the percent of energy used for that function, as well as for climate and for motivation.

Well, now that it's Day 3, where next?  My hotel, Hampton Inn in Cherokee, N.C., is not far from the Cherokee Welcome Center, where two free Level 2 charging stations reside, along with a nearby solar "tree"and free WiFi:

I plugged-in and wandered inside.  There are some informative posters on the walls inside the building.  A very sad chapter in American history; The Trail of Tears.  I remember as a boy learning about this whilst living in Enid, Ok. in the 1970s.  I thought it was awful then, and I still do.  The posters talked about the different villages of Cherokee that were removed from their homes by the U.S. Govt and forced to march to "resettlement" camps.  Thousands died on the route.  The inhumanity.

The above pics show the car actively charging at the Cherokee Welcome Center.  Also, notice the change in modules displayed in Torque Pro.  I had some time to kill and I had discovered that an altimeter would be nice, so I added it to the middle right, along with a pitch indicator below it (that doesn't function...so it would be removed).

Torque Pro's display will change one more time before this trip ends.  I will add later ambient temp and GPS position.  I think I've finally settled on the display that I like that gives the most information at a glance.  Now, I'm down to learning the display so that I can glance at it and get what numbers I need.  The 7" tablet sits low in the console, covering the two cupholders and the sunglasses/loose change/stuff cavity forward of the gear selector.  Taking my eyes off the road to look that far away from the road is not something I want to have to do too often, so practice makes perfect.

The altimeter would add more data points collected going up and down the mountains.  My interest was to record the start, middle and end points of the mountains in terms of altitude, GOM, SOC and miles traveled.  The results will be rough estimates but will suffice to get a reading on the performance of the Spark EV in these conditions.

The Spark EV is the second most efficient EV, next to the i3, and it shows.  The little car is nimble, easy to maneuver in tight spaces with an excellent turning radius, and it has power to spare at 140 hp/400 ft lbs torque.  It's not the most aerodynamic vehicle (cd 0.326), but it is a city car, after all. 

Its efficiency lies in its drivetrain.  The Chevy engineers were allowed to represent, here, in my opinion (rumour has it that the Spark EV is the "testbed platform" for the upcoming Bolt).  It has legitimate 90 mile range in temperate climates and is fun to drive...and a bit dangerous.  The suspension does not take kindly to violent or erratic maneouvers and can easily throw off driver timing.  Further, torque steer is the beast in this little monster.  Nail the throttle from a standing start and the car's electronic traction control does it hairy best to f*ck with the driver, dragging the car literally from side to side.  Without a firm grip on the wheel, all bets are off which ditch will be the one into which you'll be ditching.

But hey, enough of my yakkin.  Let's boogie!

Above:  Stopped the L2 charging session after 84 minutes.  Way more than enough range to get me to the DC fast charger at Oconaluftee Visitor's Center, 3.2 miles away.  I will top up there prior to the assault on Clingman's Dome.

Above:  Arrival at Oconaluftee Visitor's center.    

Below are some pics snapped as the car charges.  Maxed out at ~ 32 kW (notice the difference in what the DIC shows (top pic, far right blue bubble) to what Torque Pro displays ("Inst P (kW)", left middle) and "AC Charger" (lower middle):

Below:  End of charging session.  This should be enough range to run my test route up to Clingman's Dome, then down to Gatlinburg.  Starting at an elevation of 1962 ft (far right middle, hard to see with the glare):

Below:  Reaching the entrance to Clingman's Dome.  Elevation 4957 ft.  Distance covered 16.1 miles:

I had not yet started recording ambient temps...it took me a while to slog through all the modules available in Torque Pro's pids to find that display.  I think temps were in the 40º F range.  Beautiful, sunshiny day.

Now we go down to Gatlinburg!

Above:  Dropped from 4957 ft to 1135 ft, traveling 32.6 miles...and the GOM has lost its little mind.  We gained 9.8% SOC (52.7% to 62.5%), but the GOM gets a little too excited with that and triumphantly displays added range of a whopping 44 miles!  W00-H00!!!

Below:  I drove through Gatlinburg another couple miles (at a snail's pace...the traffic is amazing) and holed up at Alamo Steakhouse.  This place has two Blink charging stations that actually work (imagine that!)...

Photo taken just before unplugging.  Chugging along at nearly 3 kW...the altimeter has lost 300 ft for some reason...must be in anti-reverse collusion with the GOM...

...so I plugged in and let my bartender Konstantin serve me his recommendation of a delicious starter of Horseradish-Parmesan Prime Rib Strips with a Caesar salad and a pint of English Pale Ale from local brew house Saw Works Brewing Co.  Tasty!

This actually made two meals. :)

Konstantin and I chatted about cars during lunch; he's from Russia (Moscow) and he was quite keen on my EV road trip.  He was well-informed about current EVs, so we had a delightful conversation.  He lamented that the availability of charging stations and repair shops and EVs in general was quite poor in Tennessee, which is somewhat true in the area of Gatlinburg.  However, my trip gave him lots to think about, and he had many questions.

Time to depart and head for Dillard.  I'm confident that I have enough range to make Cherokee, easy, but I wanted to check out the DC fast charging station at Sugarlands Visitor Center one more time, even though I wasn't going to charge.  Headed that way; dusk is setting in...

Farewell, Bink, but not Goodbye!

Below:  Arrival at Sugarlands.  Yes, it took 32 minutes to travel 5.7 miles:

So, we're starting at 78.9% SOC, elevation 1378 ft.  Now, we go up!

Below:  Clingman's Dome:

SOC drops to 33.6%; elevation 4774 ft., 25.6 miles traveled.  Ambient temps were hovering in the high 40º F range.

Below:  Down to Cherokee:

The GOM is just so enthusiastic; it adds great comedy to this routine.  Combined with magical scenery, good food and drink...I'll take it.  So, we added 23 miles of range indicated, added just under 5% SOC and traveled about 16 miles.  :)

I took the above photos at the Cherokee Welcome Center.  It was past closing time and after dark and their free WiFi signal reached the parking lot.  I uploaded a buttload of pics to my DropBox account in a short stop.  On to Oconaluftee:

Below:  charged-up, ready to head to Dillard, 46 miles away:

Above:  Here's the final Torque Pro display.  Now we have ambient temp (lower left), altimeter (right middle) and GPS position (prolly useless, but what the hell...).  Upper right, inboard of Pack Voltage is the Torque Pro tripmeter.  It's been in use all along, but I just moved it when rearranging the screen to accommodate the new modules.  Learning to read this thing...

Below:  Arrival at Mountain Valley Inn, Dillard, Ga.:

Above:  I forgot to snap the photo before I turned off the car; Torque Pro resets the tripmeter when power is removed from the tablet.  Grrr.  The car's ODO says we went 50 miles.  Ambient temp is 35.6º F., and elevation is only -19 ft. different.

Below:  Plugging-in to the hotel's 120V/15A service.  I snapped some photos of the energy screens in the dash to show the selector for amperage.  Bottom photo shows what Torque Pro says the car is receiving; Also, the difference in elevation from the above photos is because I took the above photos at the hotel office, which is 40 ft higher than where I parked overnight...

Below:  Charged up in the early AM, ready to go.  Skipping the "continental breakfast", and the young hotel clerk is the daughter of the owner and she thinks the Spark EV is "adorable" :) so she declined my $5 tithe for charging when I checked out!  Headed to Clayton, about 11 miles away. Want to check out the defunct Blinks...

I first did a drive-by of the CHAdeMO Blinks behind the Universal Joint in Clayton.  They have been decommissioned until further notice, whatever that means.  These were the only DC fast charge unit in n. Ga., and were notorious for being broken too often.  The Level 2 charging stations at this site mostly functioned, but again they were notorious for being down.

Fromage, an eatery/cheese shop a few blocks away, also had a Blink Level 2 charging station.  I've used it back in 2012 during a road trip to Clayton.  Worked just fine.  However, it had been vandalized and was out-of-action.  I decided on a whim to drive-by, anyway, because the owner, Franklin Wilson, an EV-advocate who is most responsible for getting EV charging stations installed in the Clayton area, had promised that a new Clipper Creek charging station would soon replace the broken Blink.

And it did!  Yay!:

So, I plugged-in to test it, even though I didn't need to charge.  Yay!  It's working!!!

Hibernating affineurs.  That's when they're the most dangerous!

The EV world of Clayton is picking up a bit of steam; the nearby B&B Beechwood Inn, another victim of non-functioning Blink charging stations, is due to install a Tesla destination station and the accompanying Level 2 charging station that Tesla so thoughtfully includes.  Good Stuff.  Now, if we can just get DC fast charging in the area...

Below:  Stopping in Cornelia, Ga., again to charge at the Train Depot and have breakfast at Natalie Jane's.  I'm told the sweet cream pancakes are to die for...

Below:  heading for Carriage Kia in Gainesville for my last charging stop before home.  This should be enough range to get me there easily:

Arriving at the Kia dealership and plugging-in...except it's ICED!  First ICEING I've seen this trip; usually, the Kia folks are instantly responsive in moving cars for EV charging, and they didn't disappoint.  In less than two minutes, an employee came out and moved the SUV:

Below:  Charged up and let's head for the barn:

 Above:  Notice that the air temp (lower left) is misreading actual temp.  This is prolly more a function of the proximity of the sensor to hot things in the motor bay.  As the car moves from parked, the temp display quickly recovers and shows a more realistic value.

Below:  Arriving home:

And so The End is Near.  Lack of DC fast charging on the way to the mountains is the only hurdle; once in the mountains, charging was not an issue.  A fun road trip and I will definitely go to the Smokeys again.  I think I've got some work to do on the car like better tires, perhaps a suspension upgrade or two and more comfortable seats.  The instruments (read, 7" tablet + Torque Pro + BringGo + Motorola Moto G) are welcome additions to the native displays; the infotainment system is ok; I'll definitely be doing a sound system upgrade.

When I was around 12 years old, my Dad and I took a trip to San Antonio, Tx. from our home at Vance AFB, Enid, Ok. in a 1960 VW Beetle.  That car had no fuel gauge.  AM radio.  No seat belts.  1200cc 34 hp gas engine.  Simple, reliable, easy to work on.  My memories of that trip include listening to baseball games through the static of lightning strikes, the car's generator and the distance between us and the radio towers.

Why bring that up?  Because on the final legs of this trip, I was listening to basketeball games through the static of lightning strikes, the car's electric motor and the distance between us and the radio towers. :)

No comments:

Post a Comment