Monday, March 20, 2017

North Carolina by Electric Vehicle

Welcome to the travel chronicles of my little 2013 Smart ForTwo Cabrio Electric Drive, affectionately called Gopher (named after a character in the Ghost Hunter series by Victoria Laurie).

Gopher has a unique story...

I have lived with a convertible in my life since since 2011. Prior to 2016, I was a devoted Volkswagen owner. However, dieselgate and the continuing quality concerns with the last three TDI models I owned led to a divorce from the brand. I won a lemon law buy back on my 2014 VW Beetle TDI convertible (6-speed manual) in March 2016, with a turn in date was April 1. Knowing I would be in the market for a new daily driver, and having been influenced by my best friend Brad's purchase of a used 2012 Nissan LEAF, I decided that I should go all-in on an all-electric vehicle.

My spouse, John, was supportive of an EV. He wasn't supportive of that EV being a LEAF. Wrong-wheel (ie, front wheel) drive aside, he thought the car was the epitome of dull. It was bad enough I was buying a literal appliance that plugged in, I was buying one that highlighted all the 'wrongs' of the auto industry in the past twenty years (in his eyes). Knowing I was going to buy a sub-$10k car, he got on AutoTrader and started looking for the elusive Smart ForTwo Cabriolet Electric Drive.

You see, we wanted to get a Smart Cabrio ED some time back. Orders with our local Smart Center were never filled for convertibles, only hard tops. I have speculated that Mercedes depended on the incentives from CARB-compliant states to cover much of the R&D cost for the vehicle. As such, sales (99% in the form of leases) went to CARB-states only. Our former Smart brand manager told us she didn't think the cabriolet electric launched in the US, because she couldn't order one for herself. However, John knew that the 2-year leases were coming due and he set out to Autotrader to find one. He found two -- one in Texas that was black/black and base radio, and Gopher in New Hampshire with premium radio and Grey/Black leather. Gopher was cheaper, and better equipped, so I called up the bank and got an approval, then called the dealer and put $500 down on a credit card and bought him sight unseen.

I did test drive an electric hard top and sat in a gasoline convertible prior to committing. But, I had no idea how the car would truly behave. I took a leap of faith. On April 4, 2016, two days after returning my dirty diesel to VW, I became electrified. I still remember the excitement of seeing Gopher on the truck.

Gopher ushered in the great electrical renovation of 2016 at my home, the Brentwood Solar House. We never used the included 120v "Level 1" charger that came with Gopher, because it was defective (and replaced under the warranty, then sold on eBay). I used a Nissan Level 1 charger, borrowed from Brad, until my Aerovironment TurboCord Dual came in. By July we had 12 solar panels installed on the house and a dedicated Level 2 ChargePoint Home charger installed on the property. To date, I have offset around 90% of Gopher's driving with solar power. Gopher also pushed us to replace my Mazda 5 with a BMW i3 w/ Range Extender. I'll probably post a little about it's adventures as well, but it's somewhat cheating with the on-board 2-gallon gasoline generator that makes electricity for the all-electric drive train.

It's been almost a year, and over 13,000 miles, since Gopher came home to me. We've made some pretty cool trips in that time -- with many more hundreds of mile trips planned for this summer -- and you can read about all of them right here!

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