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When Electric Vehicle charging stations feel unsafe

May 26, 2013

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What a difference 61 miles makes. Just one hour and 15 minutes out of the beachside play and of Santa Barbara, we have stopped to charge again on our return trip to Silicon Valley. This time we are in a bank parking lot, and a cold wind is making us rethink the summer wear we put on in SoCal. It also raising a security issue, which I will explore here.

Time we need to sit here to gain a full charge? Five hours and 20 minutes.

It could be worse , I suppose. We saved 20 miles of distance by taking Highway 154 instead of Highway 101 from Santa Barbara. We had to climb a 2,200 foot pass to do so, but it looks like this was a better plan than trying to go 82 miles (see Solvang blog entry). It also allowed us to go slower to save juice without having other drivers tailgate. My husband pulled over more than once to let those pass who wanted to drive faster than the speed limit of 55 mph.

It was a hot drive because we kept the Air Conditioner off and the windows open. However, blog reader Michael B. suggests that was all for naught. He claims that it is more efficient to put on the AC and keep the windows closed. This is an intriguing question. Does the drag caused by having the windows open counteract any energy savings gained by shutting off the AC? I would love to hear from readers who have links to research in this issue.

Ironically, now it is chilly with the window open, but every time I want to adjust the window I need to turn on the car and the vehicle does not charge when the car is on.

We are charging at the Rabobank at 1554 South Broadway in Santa Maria. This is the second charger we have used thanks to Rabobank, and it is free. The last one was in Atascadero, where we enjoyed a movie to pass the time.

No such luck this time. This is strip mall land. Unless you want to go shop at Home Depot or Walgreens a stretch down the road , there is not much to do. And, honestly, I have lost my energy to go out walking to find something cool to see. If we had kids with us to entertain, indeed we would be in trouble. We were just approached by someone looking for money. Since we only have only $3 in cash on us, we did not feel too guilty when we said no. The location here is a tad isolated in the back of a bank because it is a Sunday, and the bank is closed. A steady parade of apparently homeless people is passing by.

I don’t feel unsafe, but we do feel a bit on guard and this raises an issue I have been wanting to address since we arrived at our first stop on this trip in Salinas at sunset. I am with my husband and it is daylight. What if I was alone and it was nighttime? This question runs through my head often, like when we are charging in a parking garage. They can be creepy places for both men and women. Then, add the fact that you essentially do not have an operating vehicle, and the security issue gets tricky. Sure, you can lock the doors and hope that any creep goes away. If you can unplug, you can drive away, but if there is not another charging station nearby as we have illustrated over and over in this trip, you are stuck.

How many women want to go sit in a McDonalds or a cafe for four hours, and then, walk back alone in the dark in a strange town? That is the risk now for anyone who wants to drive a Nissan Leaf long distance, or make it their only vehicle.

I think this is a huge issue that the EV community and EV manufacturers are going to have to address. Don’t women make most of the buying decisions in American households? How are we going to assure that charging stations are located in places that feel safe? The very isolation that can prevent the spaces from being taken by other vehicles during the day will have a very different feel at night.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not to knock Santa Maria or any community, or homeless people ,who are generally just down on their luck, not criminals. Most of the charging stations we have been to on our road trip from San Jose to Malibu could take on a very different mood after dark, which comes much earlier during other times of the year.

A man with a grocery cart filled with his belongings just came up to chat. When I told him that not all cities are like Santa Maria, which has more than one charger station, he replied “Well, that’s no good. God bless you guys.”

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2 Comments
  1. Jose G permalink

    Windows open is definitely worse than a/c at 55mph. At very low speeds, windows open would be better, but don’t know at what speed that switches, easy enough to test though. I often turn the fan on with no a/c just outside air.

  2. This could be another blog write up; at what speed and ambient temperature is it most efficient to have the windows up or down? All the data on the LEAF range chart is with windows up and climate control off as a control. Unfortunately, there are a number of variables to how much energy is required to cool the cabin; how many occupants, solar cabin heating, how many times you open and close the doors, temperature set, etc.

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