It was dark and quiet in the Sam’s Club parking lot in Annapolis, Maryland. Not surprising, since it was 11pm on a Tuesday. I pulled in, desperate for enough electrons to get home and to bed just outside Washington D.C. I was tired. I had left the house a bit after 9 that morning. It was the end of an adventurous day driving an electric vehicle, an EV, with 320 miles range and a trip of a bit more than 380 miles to the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia.
You get it, right? The math doesn’t work.
Things I knew but experienced for the first time (may sound naïve to you EV owners):
-Not all chargers are created equal
-There aren’t enough chargers right now
-Home outlets with their 120 volts are really just trickle chargers
-“Range Anxiety” is a real thing
I was headed to NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility to watch the launch of the latest cargo mission to the International Space Station (the 7 folks on board ISS are enjoying fresh food right now). Knowing the math didn’t work, I wanted to start with a 100% charge in the loaner vehicle from Ford.
I took it up to the mall to one of those big charging stations. I took my morning walk while the electrons poured in, taking the charge from 50% to 93% in about an hour. That would have taken up to a couple days at home on the 120v plug. The home outlet did get me to 100% right before I headed out of the garage the next morning.
The big LCD screens in all these latest EVs provide plenty of information, including the closest charging stations. I saw a couple close to my destination. I left early, figuring I could stop for lunch and charge while I was eating. I hit Salisbury, Maryland at about lunchtime. The car’s computer directed me to the Harley Davidson store. It had a charging station. I don't have a charging account/plan for this station, neither did Ford. I called the customer service number and the charging company offered a complimentary charge. I plugged in and ate lunch. Not much of a charge afterwards. Turns out that station is mostly for electric motorcycles. Its output is about a fifth of what I got at the mall charging station.
I now know I have a problem. I don’t have enough energy to get back to the fast-charger in Annapolis.
I was about 10 miles from my destination when I saw Hertrich Ford in Pocomoke, Maryland. They sell these EVs, so they must have a way to charge them, right? I stopped and entered the showroom pointing at the car. They could not have been friendlier. I plugged in and we chatted for 15 minutes. Even on their 220v system, the charge level increased by about 2%. My power problem was becoming more of a concern, but I had a launch to go watch.
ANY OUTLET AT THIS POINT
At the NASA meeting point for media I looked for an outlet. I would have happily settled for a half hour charge with 120v (every percent charge counts). I find an exterior outlet but it wasn’t powered. We headed off to the launch viewing area. There was a NASA generator there with outlets. But, the folks from Virginia Space, which owns the launch pad, couldn’t give approval to plug in. So, I watched the launch (stunning) and the car sat unplugged.
It was time to head home. I had 100 miles of charge left. But, that first mega-charger was in Annapolis, Maryland, 123 miles away. Again, the math doesn’t work. So, I went back to the Harley store. I plugged in and had dinner at the mall across the street, hoping I would get enough charge to get all the way home. The meal was decent. The charge was not enough to get home. That’s how I found myself in the Sam’s Club parking lot at 11pm in Annapolis. Ten minutes on the fast-charger gave me enough juice to get home, barely.
If this trip had been around the city there wouldn’t have been a problem. There are plenty of those fast charge stations. Because only the first part of my trip (less than one quarter) was in an urban area, I should have adjusted my plans.
I should have stopped at the Annapolis Sam’s Club on the way out of town. I would have still been at about 80% charge. But, taking on additional power there, most likely, would have allowed me to get down the eastern shore and back to that Sam’s Club and its big charger.
More chargers are coming, some are included in the new $1 trillion infrastructure bill. But, will they be where you need them? We all may need to adjust our planning, and maybe take on some early charging to get from here to there.