December 24th, 2019 by Cynthia Shahan
The travel log of my trip from the Appalachians to Florida was quite different from my 3 day trip up. I again drove a 2015 BMW i3 REX with 71 miles of electric range. On the 3 day trip up to the Appalachians, I avoided using gas at all, going out of my way to find and use Level 2 chargers between the fast chargers. That is, until the last half hour to the mountain cabin.
Thank you, Electrify America, for the reliable fast charging
I decided I would do the trip back in a different style — and see if I could shorten the duration of the journey. I considered using shorter routes and highways, something I did not focus on using on the way up, instead focused on charging as much as possible.
I also decided to avoid anything but the fast chargers. I did not use any Level 2 chargers on the way home until my very last charge in Florida blocks from my house to revive an empty battery. Instead, I went from Electrify America fast charger to fast charger with a bit of gas from the REx (range extender) to save time. I was able to get to Tampa doing just that except for one fast charge at a BMW distribution center that kept me from using gas in between two Electrify America Fast Charges.
Sometimes I did not even dip into the gas at all by driving conservatively on the highway in the slow lane. I never had to use more than a $1.00 to $1.50 of gas between charger stops.
Seriously needed: Autopilot, for Everyone
The back roads were much safer, though longer. The way up, I did not experience much stress driving. The way back (no back roads) — what a different America I experienced. By the time I got to my destination, I was sure I survived death by a few seconds 3 times on the busy highways.
Too many areas reminded me of how incredibly dangerous driving is. I was forced to drive quite fast or be eaten up by the semi trucks all around me. Then I dipped a bit into the gas.
The irony of climate change denial is in your face on highways — especially if you are listening to debates.
I remember with the original talk of energy crisis, in the 1970s, driving speeds were lowered to conserve energy. I remember my father, a conservative Republican conservatively driving 55 mph. What happened? Now they are 10 to 20 miles faster. Why? So that we can damage the planet as fast as possible?
I listened to the latest Democratic presidential debates the last night of my trip, with all the politicians talking climate change, climate crisis. Many were expounding on plans of greater EV infrastructure. But out in the wild with the smell of gas all around, no one seems to care. They were driving 10 to 20 mph over the speed limit en masse on the highways, burning fossil fuels as fast as they could. I could not conserve charge by simply driving the speed limit at times unless I wanted to be struck from behind. I had to drive faster.
What I did realize, quite a bit, was that we are a country that seriously needs Autopilot — for everyone. Around the larger cities with many lanes of traffic forcefully flowing, not only was it impossible to maintain a lower speed, but it was impossible to drive the speed limit. Drivers literally appeared insane to me, taking risks that were stupid for just a little more speed. All lanes, driving at least 5 mph (often quite a bit more) over the speed limit were flowing continuously hard and full.
Let me remind everyone at this point, motor vehicle crashes caused the death of 4,074 children in 2016. That’s more than 80 kids per state. “Motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death for children and adolescents, representing 20% of all deaths; firearm-related injuries were the second leading cause of death, responsible for 15% of deaths.” That is not counting the hospitalization or deaths from air pollution.
Three times, a driver almost hit me. Once, a driver was literally driving into me from the other lane, with a semi on the other side of me. He caught himself just before hitting me and I stayed alive. It is as if people are seeing the distance in front of themselves as a goal and not seeing or staying on the road, and not driving legally in terms of speed limits. I realized by cutting my three-day trip from the meandering off-the-beaten-track roads to the highway that I was experiencing the manic side of America, the worst part of car culture — addiction to urgency (in the wrong direction), to speed. Of course, between the cities, the roads were emptier and safer. I felt I was saving range, using cruise control, and able to go a lower speed.
All in all, I made the trip in 2 days, not bad for this length of a drive, which is advisable anyway to break up with one night’s sleep in between.
Electric cars offer some notable safety benefits over other cars. The three safest cars tested by the NHTSA, according to detailed scores it doesn’t publicize, are the Tesla Model 3, Tesla Model S, and Tesla Model X. The extra-large crumple zones, the superb safety sensors and software, and the strong quality of Tesla designs go a long way to help create safer transport for their drivers and passengers. Other electric cars benefit from some of those features — to some degree or another — as well. Accident statistics and insurance claims back up the NHTSA safety ratings.
The high note of my travel once out of the mountains I love was finding a friendly Yerba Mate EV driver at an Electrify America charging station. Shout out to Yerba Mate for providing not only your wonderful tea to many consumers, but also for delivering it with the emissions-free delivery vehicles, the Chevy Bolt EV in this case.
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