Sunday, November 11, 2012
Over hill, over dale, and it was a dusty trail
Well, I'm back. The advertised trip to Abilene required modification. We had to abort the final destination of Abilene and stop heading west in Manhattan. We also started a little late because I wanted a car wash and donuts before leaving Lenexa. The trip covered a total of 237.7 miles and approximately 18 hours.
The first stop was Lawrence, KS, the home of the University of Kansas. I took old K-10 because the speed limit was 55 mph which meant going 45-50 mph on what was essentially an abandoned road was not a problem. That early in the morning I passed exactly 1 car once I got outside the 'burbs and into the more rural area of the county.
It's really hard to see in the picture but that is KU in the far background. This is about 10 miles east of Lawrence. As you can see, yes Kansas is indeed flat. KU is on the top of Mt. Oread ( or ee add ) and you can see the dorms and Fraiser Hall from quite a distance away.
The first charge of the day was at the University of Kansas Center for Design. It's a standard public 240 volt Schneider EVSE. The parking around it was not what I expected. Gravel drive up to two concrete pads is not what you typically find. Off to the west of the building was a wind turbine spinning like crazy. This would be the second time that I know of where the electric supply to the EVSE was provided by a wind turbine. <<edit -I've been informed there are also solar panels on the actual Design Building to the west of the barn.>> During the trip the wind would blow almost exclusively from the south around 25 mph sustained and 40 mph gusts and yes, there were small dust storms created as we passed farms and construction areas. It was also about 68* that morning and the forecast was for a beautiful day.
We arrived in Lawrence after travelling 36.5 miles. The miles per Kilowatt hour were 5.0. The car said that a 100% charge would take 3 hours and our average speed for this leg of the trip was 45 mph. I have to say average because I didn't set the cruise control.
After we plugged in we started hiking from the far west side up campus up to the dorms. I regaled my co-pilot (youngest son) with my experiences as a student there in the late 80's and early 90's. We crossed campus and ended up at the student union. This killed about an hour and started a really nice set of blisters on the balls of my feet that would last all day. We headed back to the car and I estimated that we had enough charge to get to Topeka and beyond. But there was no Pepsi on campus. I guess Coke got a campus-wide concession and I wanted Pepsi. So on the way out we stopped at the Hy-Vee nearby and plugged in again and got some drinks. Even though it was only 10 minutes of charge, this would later prove to be fortuitous.
We headed out west again along US HWY 40 from Lawrence to Topeka. Again due to the lower maximum speed limit I was able to go slower than nearby I-70 which paralleled my route. I also saved the $.75 toll. Of course as fate would have it, we ran through a localized rain shower. It was so localized that it didn't rain on the interstate less than half a mile from where we were driving. Talk about a waste of car wash.
We arrived a short time later at the Kansas capitol. Westar Energy has EVSE's at their offices to charge their fleet Volts and they are mostly publicly available. In the case of this device they even worked with the city to provide unmetered parking.
If you look closely enough in the picture and get out your magnifying glass you can see my reflection in the windows.
Around the corner is the Kansas Capitol Building. You can clearly see our tax dollars at work. What you can't clearly see is the blue port-a-john at the top of the scaffolding where they're working on the dome.
Near the Capitol there was a sculpture of a Meadowlark, our state bird. There was also a sculpture dedicated to the pioneer women who helped shape our state.
The time spent charging here was about an hour and a half. We arrived after a trip of 26.2 miles and the miles/Kwh were 4.7. I drove at 50 mph with the cruise control and the car said it was a 3 hour time to charge to get to 100%. This is where the extra 10 minutes spend at Hy-Vee in Lawrence are going to come into play.
We left the middle of Topeka and headed out the north side of town. Down along the train tracks there is an industrial park. This park is near the US HWY 75 and I-70 interchanges. I decided to check the charging station here during the day to ensure I could find it later that night. I felt this was a better place to charge in the middle of the night than in the middle of town where there are bars and problems.
So it was about 12/1230pm and we're on our way to Manhattan. As before I avoided I-70 and it's 70 mph speed limit for US HWY 24 and it's 65 mph limit but limited traffic so going 50 mph wasn't a problem. Passing through St. Mary's was no problem. Passing through Wamego was no problem. Doing math and getting an actual % state of charge of the Leaf, now that was a bit of a problem. The stretch from Wamego to the Nissan dealer in Manhattan is 17 miles long. When we passed through Wamego the GOM registered 24 miles. When we got halfway between Wamego and Manhattan, 8 miles, the GOM registered 17 miles and 2 battery bars. Now I'm really starting to get worried. The wife chastised me for not having a back up plan in case I ran out of energy. I explained I had roadside assistance and that I was not silly enough to leave without enough energy to reach the destination. Well hubris had other ideas. I did some quick math and felt that my earlier calculations were inaccurate and I slowed from 50 mph to 40 mph and paid attention to what was going on behind me so I could put the emergency blinkers on to alert the drivers coming up behind me. However, due to silent running I didn't want them on all the time because the constant click click was already annoying me. As we got closer to the outskirts of Manhattan the anticipated Low Battery warning and light were activated. The GOM indicated 8 miles and the battery was down to one energy bar. I didn't have a perfect address for the Nissan dealer so I couldn't get the miles to go. I just knew where it was. Fortunately we got into Manhattan and I was able to slow down to 30 mph and no annoy too many other drivers and that also allowed me to hit the traffic lights green so there was limited start/stop. The GOM was now down to 4 miles and I was starting to get a whiff of the impending Very Low Battery warning. But, in the distance there was a large sign. NISSAN. Yeah, I was there....almost. I had to drive past the dealership to get to the turn off and pass under the road. At the end of the off ramp the Very Low Battery warning appeared and the GOM started flashing --- . This was the third Low Battery and the very first Very Low Battery warning I've experienced but I felt sure I could go the quarter mile to the dealership and you know what? I was right.
Remember that extra 10 minutes I spent at Hy-Vee? Those extra 2 miles were the difference between arriving or not arriving and calling roadside assistance.
Anyway, we made it. We were now 59.2 miles from Topeka and the car said it needed 6.5 hours to charge to full. I achieved 4.7 miles/Kwh and drove 50 mph most of the way there. It was now about 1:45. I introduced myself and my son to Cole Bachamp the Leaf salesman at Briggs Nissan in Manhattan. He assured me they would leave the power to the EVSE as long as I needed it and offered the hospitality of their waiting room complete with donuts, granola bars, and soda. I explained my son wanted to catch a movie and we needed a place to eat as well. He recommended Willie's bar and grill which was right next to the theater.
So we made it to the theater in time for all but the first minute of Hotel Transylvania. It was a really good movie. We both enjoyed it. That was followed with lunch/dinner at Willie's. I had the John Madden Burger and my son had the Muss Burger. We then went shopping at Home Depot and watched the Christmas displays. After that we went back to the dealership and killed time until 7pm at which point we left for Topeka.
I made sure we left Manhattan with more charge than we left Topeka with so arrival in Topeka was uneventful if with only two battery bars left and about 10 miles on the GOM. That leg was 52.4 miles long at 50 mph and 4.5 m/Kwh. We charged in the industrial park for 2.5 hours, watched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and took a nap. This was also the third wind powered charge. Ironically there is a nice sized wind turbine in the back yard of Governor Brownback who wants more coal electric plants in the state instead of more wind power.
The weather for the trip was beyond awesome. It was still 68*F at 1230am when we were in Lawrence. We also kept a family tradition of being chased across the plains by a severe weather front. In the rear view mirror I could see the lightning and when I woke up this morning I could see the freezing rain collect on the back deck. So I had 6 bars of battery heat at 0100 and it was 68* F. When I woke up at 0800 it was 40* and raining. When I got back from getting stuff for breakfast it was freezing rain.
The final numbers when we got home at 0130 this morning were a leg distance of 28.7 miles and another Low Battery Warning, 4.2 m/Kwh and I drove 55 mph. The CarWings telematics when we left in the morning my month-long miles/Kwh was 5.1. Upon our return it was 4.9. The whole trip made a small impact in my monthly statistics so I get a new high score of distance but I'll be lucky if I can get my m/Kwh up to my minimum desired results of 5.0+ m/Kwh.
It was a fun trip. I enjoyed spending time with my youngest son and we both enjoyed the movie. But I don't think I'll make a trip like this again. It was a very long day and a very long night.
Edit - 11/12
For those who may be interested this is a picture of the elevation changes between Lenexa and Abilene. There was one other thing I meant to include in this post and I keep remembering when I'm away from a pc but forget when I sit down. Sigh.....
Lenexa is on the left of the chart and Abilene is on the right. I used http://veloroutes.org/bikemaps/# to generate the information.
Signing off for today
Try reading a book, it's a novel experience.