Open Road Buzz

April marks our 1-year anniversary with Buzz — and the half-way point of our 2-year field trial with our ActiveE. For the first year, Buzz has been a fantastic around-town car for us, but we’d never gone outside of San Diego County with him, so we decided a little road trip was in order to commemorate the one-year mark. But where should we go?

Well, a few months ago, The Beloved had some business in the Inland Empire and stayed at the beautiful Mission Inn in Riverside, which was interesting because I had stayed there nearly 20 years ago when I interviewed at UC-Riverside for a position in their biochemistry department. When she’d come back, we’d said we’d have to go back there together sometime. From our house, Riverside is just outside of Buzz’s normal range and the Mission Inn seemed like a good destination for a weekend.

Let's Go!

Let’s Go!

A mild Santa Ana was coming on Saturday when we left — clear skies and hot temperatures — and we drove without a ton of regard for saving battery usually going ~75 mph. From checking EV maps, we knew there were a couple of charging stations in the town of Temecula. At half-way between our house and Riverside, that seemed like a good place to stop, have lunch, and grab a charge. Pulling into town, we found two empty chargers at the top of the municipal parking garage. Sweet. Upon our return, the other was taken (Volt) and we had a note from a Leaf-owner asking us to plug her in when we left. No problem.

First Stop

First Stop

EV Brotherhood

EV Brotherhood

We got into Riverside with ~25% charge left on the battery and figured even with a slow 110V-charge overnight we’d have almost a full charge by morning. When I made the reservation I mentioned our car and charging needs, and while the hotel didn’t have an EV-charging station, they said that we could charge from a spot in their parking structure since we had our adapter. Sadly, the concierge that told us that was err — completely and utterly wrong. They had one outlet, about 50-feet away from one spot, and no extension cord that could support the charging power needs. So, no recharging for Buzz in the garage overnight.

Plan A Fails

Plan A Fails

But we figured that wouldn’t be too much of a problem because Plan B was to charge during the day at one of the Riverside Municipal garages — each of which we could see had a couple of EV charging stations — while we walked old-town Riverside and grabbed coffee/breakfast, etc. Well, guess what? All the Riverside municipal parking structures are CLOSED on weekends. Whoops — the ChargePoint app doesn’t mention that.

So — okay. For Plan C, we managed to drive around for a bit and find one open garage near the UC-Riverside Law Library that had a ChargePoint station. We swiped our card, plugged in, and got charging. Whew. Except that upon our return several hours later, we learned that the station inexplicably lost power 20 minutes into our session and that I never received the text from ChargePoint that I was supposed to about having my charging interrupted. ChargePoint fail on all levels.

Plan C Works For 20 Minutes and Then Fails

Plan C Works For 20 Minutes and Then Fails

Plan D? Well, I didn’t think we needed a Plan D, but since we were down to a pretty uncomfortable ~15 miles in the battery, we needed one, so we called over to the folks at BMW of Riverside (eight miles away), who were happy to give us a charge and a lift back over to town (not to mention a tour of an X1 that the Beloved might be starting to have an eye for). Let’s just say that I’m glad we didn’t need a plan E.

We headed back yesterday with no problem, stopping again in Temecula (though at a different lot) for lunch and getting the extra charge that we needed to make it home. Temecula clearly wins the I-15 prize for EV charging facilitation!

Temecula Wins

Temecula Wins

So, was the road trip experiment a success? I’d say a qualified one. Not being able to get a charge until late on our second day in Riverside kept us from being able to go see one of the things we wanted to, so that was a bit of a bummer (and it was closed on Monday). It seems to me that more precise information about where and when stations are available could have saved us some time and frustration.

Welcome Home

Welcome Home

And, of course, most importantly, it was just really fun to get Buzz out on the highway and go. No second guessing that!


27 thoughts on “Open Road Buzz

  1. Man, the car sure looks funky…I an see why you are so smitten with it.
    There will be more recharge stations once this catches on, I am sure.

    • LG — It’s been a lot of fun to drive. The car is built around the standard 1-series frame, though it has an extra hood bulge b/c of one of the battery sets. The rest is decaling. :)

    • Lynn — I guess as a scientist, we’re always running experiments to see what we can do. The garages were all city/county parking structures, so i guess there’s no chance anyone in government would ever work on the weekend!

  2. What an adventure!

    As you know, it’d be iffy if you could get from my house to WORK and then of course no charging stations around. I looked and it appears there are some in the STL area but those are few and an additional 45 minutes or so drive from where I work…

    I researched SmartCar (whatever it’s really called, I forget) and honestly, what crap for the price and what you get (or don’t — the specs left my head shaking). And for 38mpg hwy? I can get that hypermiling (not that I drive highway-highway; I have like 56 stops a day and rarely get to go through them without stopping — of course, I turn off my car and don’t idle!).

    • Lily — yeah, it’s not going to be an option for a lot of people/lifestyles. The battery takes ~4h with a standard charger, maybe 2x that with a 110V outlet and extension cord.

      I’ve never understood the appeal of a “smart” car. They look unsafe to me, there’s no storage, and if there’s no mileage benefit, then what’s the point?

      • I did the research: on that recliner of a car, ‘most’ of it is a roll cage! Srsly. And it has EIGHT airbags (full size, not fakes). It’s ‘safe’ as it were but the specs are SHITE and THIRTY EIGHT HWY? Eff off!

      • Yeah. That’s my deal. I test drove the first Prius and it was a POS or I’d have gotten it. I hear even the next year, they made massive improvements.

        • You should never buy the first model year of any car, no matter what it is. The later ones are always better. We’re only on our 2nd one because the first one sacrificed itself to protect us in a multi-car accident — we’d still be driving it otherwise.

          • Good point! I’m hyped now because I’ve always wanted a Subaru Forester and they’re releasing a hybrid THIS autumn…but it’s their 1st, so yeah. I better keep my eyes on the road and not at air castles!

          • No fooling! I would never buy anything that I hadn’t researched in full and test driven. When I buy a car, I bring in a folder full of crap.

      • I should say: if you drive around the block in a suburb, I’d probably still have gone with it.

        I spend about 15 hours a week in my car, so no. I couldn’t deal with its other ‘qualities.’ My Mazda sportwagon ain’t much but it was a dreamliner in comparison to that 1st year of P!

  3. 2 posts above this in my WP Reader is from CBS Philly and the headline is “The PA Turnpike Announces Plans For Electric Car Charging Stations”. We are a *tad* behind you California hippies. :-P

    • Peace and Love. Cranky! — Hopefully, they’re less than 100 miles apart! Just think, you could EV to Pittsburgh! Maybe to Scranton if you go NE Extension… :)

  4. Buzz can also run on gas, can’t he? (I feel funny using a human pronoun for a car, but so be it.) Given the sad state of charging stations even in CA, it would seem necessary to have a gas-powered engine as a backup.

    The little library where I volunteer has a charging station in its parking lot. I don’t think many people know what it is, however. I often see old-fashioned gas-powered cars parked in the spaces on days when the library is hosting big events. (Like the local Herpetologists’ Society show. Who knew snakes, tortoises, and lizards were so popular? :p)

    • HG — no, no gas back-up on Buzz, just all battery! Upcoming generations will have the option of a small gas tank that will power a little motor that doesn’t drive the car, but recharges the battery in situ if the battery level gets too low. That, of course, would change an EV from an “around town” car to a “go anywhere” car. Looking forward to that!

      There are a pretty good number of charging stations along the I-5 corridor between SD and LA (even up to Santa Barbara), then it gets a little thin until you reach the Bay Area.

      Funny that you should mention the parking problem. Washington State just yesterday approved a new law raising the fine for parking in an EV charging spot if you’re not charging.

    • GOM — Buzz is heavier than the comparable gas-powered car of the same frame: 4000 lbs vs. 3200 lbs. It really does an amazing of hugging the road, but yes, probably more than my back could take if it had to be pushed!

  5. I approve of the white color. Looks nice. We have one of those charging stations in town and it says something like 15 minute limit. It’s odd because we can’t figure out either if they charge money for it.

    • amelie — some charging stations (in municipalities) are free, as drawing even a FULL charge (which would be a few hours) would only be a couple of dollars. Cheaper than parking meters!

      I have a card for the ChargePoint stations that has a little RFID chip in it, so I only need to swipe it at the terminal to activate it.

  6. Pingback: Orange Getaway | Stevil

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