Extended test drive: part 2

As my guest and I approached Sansei Restaurant in Kihei, we secretly hoped that no one would be parked in the two designated EV parking spaces or charging their electric vehicles from the dual port Level 2 Better Place charging stations. Sure enough, I spotted a small Toyota gas car about to park into the only vacant EV spot. On the left was a black Volkswagen, a non-EV already parked.

What were they doing parking in EV parking spaces? I quickly got out of the Chevy Volt just as a petite mature lady came out of the driver’s side of her just-parked Toyota Yaris.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “This is for electric vehicles. We need to charge,” pointing to my borrowed white Chevy Volt.

“Darn,” she exclaimed under her breath and slid back into her little blue Toyota.

We were in luck. Had we not spotted the driver, we would have had to park the EV elsewhere and not benefit from the free charging of Better Place (free in 2012).

Next step: charging the car.

I clicked on the Volt key chain and the charger door flipped open. I then swiped the thin, light blue Better Place key FOB on the key chain over the top of the charging station pedestal. As if by magic, two tiny white lights came on. There was really nothing to it. I mildly recalled one of EV owners from the “Drive Electric Maui” event telling me that the real charger was on the car and not on the charging station. That said, the activity of taking the black cord and plugging the charger into car brought the attention of those customers queuing for Sansei.

We felt like celebrities as we walked into the restaurant to reserve a seat. We asked for the manager, who had appeared in the first episode of Maui EVA TV and embraced EVs wholeheartedly.

The 1+ hour of dining on exotic designer sushi at Sansei’s put 18 miles into the electric vehicle. It was enough for me to get home.

Once home and in the dark, I grappled with the task of finding the extension cord and level 1 charging kit in the back of the car and fixing it to the outside outlet.

A Chevy Volt being charged

A Chevy Volt being charged

Level 1 Charger: a 110 V 3-prong outlet and extension cord

Level 1 Charger: a 110 V 3-prong outlet and extension cord

The next morning I was relieved to see that the overnight charging on a 110-volt outlet had added 46 miles to the range. How would the car fare going uphill? The famous Iao Valley was a stone’s throw away. As expected, the range quickly fell during the steep incline. By the time my 3rd test driver and I reached the park entrance, it had gone to 29 miles. Fear not, I recalled that going down hill would “win” back the miles — a so-called “regenerative braking” process.

Throughout the day, I noticed an insatiable urge to share my EV experience with others. “Have you ever driven a Volt before?” I asked my colleagues. “Here, try it.”

In less than 24 hours, I had given 6 people test drives in the Volt: an IT specialist in Kihei, the manager of Sansei, three colleagues, and the transportation director of Maui Economic Opportunity (MEO). I can now understand why the owner of the Volt wanted me to try it for an extended test drive, beyond the usual spin around the corner. It’s viral. You just want to share it.

Resisting the urge, I found myself thinking — but they could easily go to the local auto dealer, why should I provide this test?

I suppose it’s like sharing good music, good food, and good wine. It’s human nature to want to share, just like it’s human nature to want to remember, and hence my blog.

Chevy Volt by Hawaiian Electric Vehicle Network (HEVN)

Chevy Volt by Hawaiian Electric Vehicle Network (HEVN)

At the end of March, the author was interviewed in the back seat of a Chevy Volt at the first Auto Festival at UH Maui College. The article appeared in Maui No Ka Oi, July/August 2012: Maui EVA and the Smart Grid.


About BLOGmaiden

As one of the earliest bloggers (since 1999), I enjoy meeting people who embrace "out-of-the-box" thinking and fear not the unknown. I believe in collaboration for sustainability because it increases stakeholder value.
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