Saturday, April 28, 2012

Free Electrons at Boston Logan Airport

I had my first experience with public charging this week at Boston Logan Airport.  Thanks to MassPort and ChargePoint for the free electrons.

I had to pick up my wife at the airport which is about 50 miles from my house. I didn't feel safe in the chilly weather that I could make it back so I planned to get up to the 6th floor Hybrid Parking area where several chargers are available.

When I arrived at the garage, the not-so-friendly worker directing garage traffic said I needed to park on the 3rd floor.  I tried to explain that my car was electric and I needed to get up to 6.  He was not very sympathetic, so I went with plan B. I drove around and found another worker in the garage and explained my predicament.  He directed me over to a back way and I zig-zagged my way up to the 6th floor.  As expected, I had my choice of 8 unoccupied charging stations. 

Another worker came over and asked me how these worked.  Seems that someone tried to connect through their credit card and he didn't know how to help them.  I told him next time to have the customer call the toll-free number on the charger and the nice ChargePoint folks will help out.

I then swiped my keycard and went to wait for my wife.  Her plan landed early so I bought her a drink while we waited for the car to juice up enough to get safely home.  Hey...does that count as a "date"? 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

It's a beautiful car....said the policeman

I tend to not put the car in eco-mode when driving around town.  It gives the ActiveE that extra punch when jumping into traffic and, in general, makes the car more fun to drive.  Earlier this week, while returning home from a late meeting at the local school, I got pulled over for going 48 in a 35.  It certainly didn't feel like 48!

I was crusing down RT111 near my house with no other traffic in sight.  I wanted to see how the high beams worked so I pushed them on with the left paddle.  I saw an oncoming car around the bend so I reached to flip off the high beams and somehow hit the cruise control.  I quickly adjusted and thought I was in the clear.  Well, that oncoming car was one of our local police cruisers.  The lights went on and the cop proceeded to find a driveway where he could turn around and chase me down.  I briefly thought about making a run for it, but I'm not 20 anymore and just hoped that maybe he had something more important to do than ticket me.  Not today! 

He approached the car, asked for the usual license and registration, asked where I lived (less than a mile away) and kindly let me know that the speed limit was 35 on this stretch of road.  He was even so nice as to point out the speed limit increased to 40 just ahead.  I fiddled around in the glove box, said it was a new car and I didn't know where everything was hiding.  Normal banter as I have been through this a few times over the years!

The officer went away for 2 minutes, came back, handed me my documents and said, "It's a beautiful car, slow down please."  "Absolutely!", I replied and then I glided back home.  No ticket, no written warning!

So, did the officer's computer show that the BMW ActiveE is a 100% electric car so he decided to cut me a break?  Was it my natural good looks and charm?  Or, was it just my lucky day?

Either way, I don't condone speeding, breaking the law or evading the police.  I am now more cognizant of the fact that the ActiveE is such a pleasure to drive that you have to check your speed every once in a while.  Thanks officer!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

She Likes It....

  This week I attended a training class in eastern NY, 180 miles from home.  I searched the ChargePoint network for a way to make the drive in the ActiveE through RT 84 in Connecticut.  What I found is a desert of public charging stations through the Connecticut region.  I thought that CT would have a better infrastructure being one of the the selected states for the ActiveE trial.  It's not until you get down to Fairfield County that you start to see some EVSE stations.

So I went with Plan B, our 2009 Civic Hybrid at 42 mpg.  This meant leaving the ActiveE with my wife for the week.  I took her out for another driving lesson the day before I left and she seemed to understand all of the nuances of the car.  Less than 30 minutes after I left, my cell phone buzzed and I was greeted with the shrill shout of "The car won't go into reverse!".  After several trial and error attempts, we figured out that she wasn't stepping on the brake when pressing the Start button.  Problem solved!  However, that didn't stop me from worrying about the car swap for the next 4 days.

By the time I returned on Friday night, she had the hang of driving the car.  After a few minutes she asked: "How about if we switch and I drive the ActiveE?"  That is the ultimate compliment coming from someone who doesn't really care at all about cars.  Of course, my answer was: "No, no, no way, never!"

Sunday, April 1, 2012

My short, petty wish list

After three weeks of daily driving, I still consider the ActiveE a fantastic overall experience.  In my last post, I listed my favorite aspects of daily driving on all electric power.  Here, I document my short wish list of mostly petty items that would never prevent me from buying a car like this, but, if changed, would make it near perfect.  Here we go:

#5 - The horn - Really?  Has anyone had to actually use the horn in everyday traffic?  Luckily I haven't, but when I tested it out with my teen-age daughter in the car, she started laughing uncontrollably.  It sounds like a bad computer error message is about to pop up.  Here's an idea:  Horn Tones.  The car is completely computerized, how about downloadable horn sounds so we can program in a more menacing noise.

#4 - Interior Storage- I have seen Chad Hogan's after market arm rest where the storage bin should go.  That's nice, but I need a place to store normal driving accessories like sunglasses, winter gloves, toll pass, spare change, those extra golf balls that always end up in my pocket.  The two little areas in the center console just don't cut it.  How about taking the space under the presets and putting a little door to another storage area?

#3 - HomeLink - I hate to bring up my 8 year-old Prius when talking about an electric BMW, but Toyota put three HomeLink buttons in the mirror that opened my garage doors.  Can't cost more than $5 in parts.

#2 - Keyless - One last time with the Prius comparison....In 8 years, I never put a key into the car.  The wireless key unlocked the doors when I got near the car and allowed me to push the Start button as long as the doors were closed.   It even prevented me from locking the car if the key was inside.  I understand the ActiveE matches personalized settings with the different keys.  That's great for cars with multiple drivers, but I would expect that even if those settings are stored on the physical key, they could be transferred wirelessly into the system.

#1 - Saved settings - Many other ActiveE drivers have documented these issues in more depth but add 1 more vote for, programmable EcoMode setting, scheduled, repeatable preconditioning times, scheduled, repeatable charging times and an option to automatically reset the trip computer after every trip.

Footnote: I considered adding "it's white" on this list, but I know that's just for this group of test cars.  I do get a kick out of Electragirl's carwash count (17 last I checked).  I'm up to 3 with only 850 miles!  Don't think I will ever buy a white car again, at least not one that attracts dirt like this one!