American Culture

Two weeks of owning an electric car – Renewable Journal for 6/21/2014

NissanLeafBAFor more posts in this series, please click here.

Today I had what can only be described as an “electric car moment.” I was driving back home from my kung fu lesson and passed by a gas station that’s under construction. As I passed it, I thought was “hey, that’s getting close. I’ll be able to get gas there… wait a second….”

No. No, I won’t need to get gas at that station.

There have been other interesting moments over the last two weeks as well. I was out of town for some of the last couple of weeks, and I left my car at the airport while I was out. But the distance from my home to DIA is more than half a charge on my Leaf, especially with the AC running, so I needed to make sure I parked near a charger.

Thankfully, Canopy Parking on Tower Road has chargers in both valet and covered parking, and I was able to find a charger to plug in to. I did have a moment of panic, however, when I pulled up and found that the charger had only a single plug, and it was already plugged into another car. Thankfully, however, that car was done charging, so I unplugged it and plugged the charger into mine. Unfortunately, doing so triggered the alarm, which made me jump a bit.

And how do I know the charging was done? The charger was off, which means that the computer in the car turned the charger off. Had the charger been on still, I’m not sure what I would have done, since I forgot my own personal charger…. Never again.

For the record – if a Leaf is plugged in and all three blue lights are either solid on or off, the Leaf is fully charged. And if the Leaf’s owner is polite, he or she has set the car into “auto lock” mode, which means that the charger is locked into the charging port until the car is doing charging, at which point the charger unlocks and someone else can pull the charger out. That’s what I did. The only time I’d lock the charger completely is if I needed to use my own charger, and that’s to prevent someone from stealing my charger. Those things are expensive.

Since that scare, however, I’ll be taking my own personal charger to the airport from now on. Along with a nice long, 15+ amp rated extension cord.

One more electric car moment to share today – I was driving with my wife last weekend, and I was talking about how the Leaf can out accelerate most cars when I put my foot on the gas. She pointed out that it’s not the “gas” at all – it’s the “accelerator.”

The accelerator pedal needs a shorter name for electric cars. I’m open to suggestions.

9 replies »

  1. I think “throttle” makes as much sense as anything Brian. Technically I suppose it should be the ESC (electronic speed controller) but most people would just give that a blank stare.

    • I missed that you suggested throttle first. I also spotted ETC (electronic throttle controller) in the lingo somewhere but the acronym didn’t lend itself to anything clever Et cetera? Boring. ESC isn’t much friendlier, but escape might be more apt depending on what’s in the rear-view.

      • “Throttle” has only two syllables, so that’s good, but it’s still not definitionally right. A throttle restricts the flow of a gas or liquid, and there are competing terms for devices that do the same for electrons. And “varister” or “potentiometer” are worse than “accelerator.”

        For that matter, there is no way an electric car would use either a potentiometer or a varistor for this purpose – there are much more efficient ways to control the flow of power to a motor, but none of those name have mass appeal. Somehow “pulse-width modulated solid state switch” doesn’t sound to me like it’ll catch on.

        I was originally thinking the “zoom” pedal myself, but decided it was kind of lame.

        • Ultimately, your greater knowledge of engineering terms will lead the way. I looked up what happens when someone applies pressure to the accelerator. Apparently, that sends a signal to the Power Electronics Module, which is “interpreted” as a request for torque. All the way down, you request/get 100% of the available torque. Halfway, it’s a request for partial torque. Let off and the genies that live in the machine recharge the battery instead.

          Maybe something cool sounding with torque in it, since that’s penultimately what you desire when you step on the pedal? Zoom, go, or juice if you want to call it something based on what you ultimately desire of it. Or you could think strangely like me, “hey, this thing intercedes on my behalf to pass my request along…” Priest! That’ll just get you funny looks.

  2. My 2012 Leaf doesn’t have this auto lock feature – why would the alarm go off if the auto lock feature is intended to allow others to unplug the car when/if it is done charging?

    Have you tried the 500V, 100A CHAdeMO charging?

    • I’m not sure if the alarm goes off on my car when you pull the charger, only that it’s gone off on other cars.

      I haven’t needed to quick charge yet, no. Thus far the 120V trickle charging at my home has been plenty. I’m sure that there will come a point when I need more than that, but I haven’t yet.

    • It was probably a Volt. Early Volt’s had an alarm you could not turn off. Newer ones still have the alarm but drivers can enable or disable it. On my 2014, I’ve disabled it. It would be nice if instead of the alarm, there was a lock which could be set like what was described for the Leaf. Sounds pretty handy.