The Electric Car
What is it like to drive an electric car, or more specifically, what is it like to drive Al Lococoís Electric Pickup Truck Two (EPT2, my second conversion)?† Because most people are familiar with a gasoline powered car, I will describe it in those terms.
First, think of it as having a two or three gallon gas tank.† This would be a big inconvenience except that you can get the gas while parked in your garage at night. †
Another problem is that it takes from three to twelve hours to fill the tank depending on how empty it is.† Fortunately the tank fills fastest at the beginning, so if you donít need a full tank, you can, if the tank is not empty when you start filling, you can get going with a two hour filling, if you donít have to go too far.
It sounds awful, but you quickly learn how to keep the tank full.† The routine is always to park in the garage when returning home and always plug in on arrival.† You donít have to think about how long it takes or how far it will go, just plug it in.
The great thing is when you start the day you always have a full tank.† For me, 40 miles is more than all the driving I need to do in the course of a day.† If I need to go to Miami or Orlando or Tampa, I take the gas car.
What about the cost per mile?† This is good news.† Each mile costs about half the price of a comparable gasoline powered car.† My† car was getting about 20 miles per gallon.† Now it takes less than 12 KWH to go 20 miles.† At 13 cents per KWH, it costs less than $1.56 to drive 20 miles.
After you unplug, get in and belt up.† Your sitting in a standard transmission car, but there is no clutch.† There is a red knob to the right of the hood release at the bottom of the dash board on the right side of the steering column.† This is the emergency shut off.† It has never been used, except to test it. Youíll know when to use it, hopefully never.† If the throttle sticks down, or you feel the car is not responding as you want it to, pull the emergency shut off.
At your left on the windshield pillar is a pod containing two instruments.† You can drive without worrying about these, but it will help if you learn how to use them.† The top one is the ammeter. †It shows how many† amps you are using.† You donít need to know any thing about amps, just think of it this way.† The higher the needle goes on this meter the more gas you are using.† So drive in a way that meets your requirements but uses as little gas as possible (amps).
The lower meter in the pod is the volt meter.† This shows the current voltage of the battery pack.† You can think of this as the gas gauge.†† When it hits 144 volts the tank is empty, you need to plug in.† This car has a trip odometer above the odometer.† Reset it to zero before you start.† Watch the trip odometer and make sure you donít get further from home or a place to charge than your total 40 mile range allows.
Quickly you will learn the distance to each place you visit.† If† I go to Loweís or Staples in Winter Haven, that is a seven mile round trip, no need to worry.† If I have lunch with my friends in Lakeland, that is a 26 mile trip, no problem.† If I go to Wal-Mart in Auburndale, that is a 10 mile round trip.† At some point it all becomes routine.
On the right side of the instrument panel is an oil pressure gauge.† Now this is the vacuum gauge.† Your power brakes run on a vacuum assist.† This car has a vacuum pump to keep the brakes working.† When the vacuum drops as you apply the brakes, the pump comes on and the needle drops.† When the vacuum is restored to max the needle rises.† During this process there is always enough vacuum to stop.† If you see the needle drop and you donít hear the pump running or the needle rising, you have limited power assisted braking remaining.
The Air Conditioner rotary switch should not be turned to off.† The air ducts are controlled by vacuum.† For some reason in the off position the system leaks vacuum.† Keep the rotary switch in Air, Max Air, Defrost or some position other than off.† The vacuum pump will cycle less.
Well here you are sitting in the drivers seat.† No clutch, Red knob Emergency Pull, Instrument pod.† Vacuum Meter.† Not so foreign.†
Now put the key in and turn it on, you will hear the vacuum pump and soon the needle will rise on the gauge to the right of the speedometer..†
Put your foot on the brake and turn the key one more step .†
At the bottom of the instrument panel to the left of the speedometer, you will see a little red icon of a battery illuminate.† This indicates that the throttle is enabled.† Put the shift lever in reverse and release the emergency brake.† You are ready to back out of the garage by pressing on the accelerator pedal.†
Now comes the hard part, you have no power steering.† The trick here is not to try to turn the wheel unless the car is rolling, now matter how slowly.† You donít need to be moving fast at all for the steering effort to be reduced significantly.† You may find that maneuvers that can be completed in one try with power steering will take more tries with this car.† However, as you get used to it, you will learn to anticipate and keep the car moving when turning and nobody will be aware that you donít have power steering, but you.† You will have very strong arms.† This is not a limitation of all electric cars, just mine.
Now you are ready to start forward.† There really is very little need to shift this car except to back up.† If you put the car in second gear, you will not need to shift as long as you are happy to stay under 55 miles an hour.† The car is very efficient in this gear, using very little gas (amps).
If you need to start quickly on a steep hill, you can use first gear.† You need to shift quickly to second at about 15 mph.† Lift your foot from the accelerator and shift.† You must shift at the right speed because you have no clutch.
If you need to go faster than 55mph, you can use third gear.† Again, you must shift at the right speed, about 37 mph.† As soon as you shift you will see the gas (amps) consumption go up.† While you can cruise nicely at 55 mph consuming 150 amps,† now you will see the meter swing up to 300 amps.† The car will go faster, but at a cost in range.† Once you stabilize at you new higher cruising speed the needle will drop a little.
I mention shifting because it can be done and is to some degree useful.† But, really, if you are using the car to do what it is intended for, you wonít need to shift out of second except to reverse.
There is a rocker switch to the left of the radio.† This switch is used to engage the air conditioner compressor clutch.† Prior to conversion this function was performed by the computer.† Although the computer is present and functional, it is not happy.† Because the Gasoline engine is not present and running, it wonít turn on the Air Conditioner compressor.† You have to do that.
With the exception of this switch, the Air Conditioner controls work as usual.† Just remember to make sure the rotary switch is never left in the off position as discussed in the break section.† I leave it in Max Air with the blower on low.
The inertia switch will never trip unless you hit something as in a minor fender bender.† If this happens, you wonít be able to drive unless you reset the inertia switch.† It is located on the firewall under the glove box on the passenger side.† Inspect the vehicle for damage.† If all electrical and mechanical systems are intact, push the red button on top of the switch to reset.
Enjoy pollution free driving.† Something you canít do in a gasoline car.† In the beginning, pay some attention to the ammeter so you learn how to drive the most efficiently.† Pay attention to your trip odometer and volt meter so you donít run out of gas (amps).† You will soon learn how much of your driving can be electric.† Only occasionally will you need to use your gasoline powered vehicle.
Finally, remember I have described the experience of driving my EPT2.† Production Electric vehicles like the Toyota RAV4.EV are very different.† The have far greater range due to superior battery technology and AC (alternating current) technology running at a much higher voltage.