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Not a great start in the charging desert...

Discussion in 'Model S: Battery & Charging' started by Todd Burch, Jul 15, 2013.

  1. Todd Burch

    Todd Burch Electron Pilot

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    So, today was my first road trip with my car (after over 10,000 miles of local driving!). It should have been really easy. My plan was good. But it's not going very well so far in this charging desert (eastern North Carolina has an extremely weak public charging infrastructure--you Californians don't know how great you have it!)

    I'm on a business trip in Kinston, NC (left Smithfield, VA this afternoon--157 miles away).

    My plan was to drive to Kinston, check into my hotel, then drive to the Neuseway RV Park (less than a mile away) to plug into a NEMA 14-50 circuit to charge overnight (after walking back to the hotel). I had called the RV park a few weeks ago and asked about charging there. They told me to talk to them when I arrived regarding leaving my car there overnight.

    My backup plan, while extremely inconvenient, was to drive to Hookerton, NC (about 14 miles north of here by road) to plug into a free 240V 30A J1772 (Chargepoint) charger.

    The drive down here was perfect. I averaged 282 Wh/mi for the 157 mile trip, beating rated range and arriving with a little more than 90 miles left (I didn't quite do a full range charge). I checked into the hotel, then drove up to the RV park. To my surprise, there were police barricades across the entrance. Whuh? So I look around, and finally I see why: The Neuse River, which is adjacent to some of the RV sites, has experienced heavy flooding. The RV sites are still dry, but the campground is flooded enough that they've closed the place down. Crap. I tried calling. No answer. They're closed for the evening.

    At first I thought about driving up to Hookerton--but Hookerton is an odd place. There's a free Chargepoint J1772 at the town hall (for some reason), but get this: there are NO hotels in the town. There is only ONE restaurant in the town--and it's only open on Saturday! Given that this is a weekday, I would have to kill over an hour twiddling my thumbs just to make up for the 28 mile round trip north to get to the charger--much less find a way to kill many more hours to top up my battery! Note to anyone installing slow-ass 30A charging stations: they're virtually useless without a hotel or restaurants nearby (unless you are the mayor, drive a plug-in Prius, and had a charging station installed right outside your town hall aka office...)

    So I decided against driving to Hookerton and parked back at the hotel with 90 miles of charge remaining. I then did a walk around my hotel to look for 120V outlets, although I acknowledge that charging at 2 MPH is painful. I found a few, but they would require me to park up on the sidewalk. Not a great proposition. So I asked the front desk clerk if there was an outlet outdoor where I could plug in. She looked at me strangely--like I was from another planet. She conferred with someone standing nearby (seemed to be a maintenance person), and they said sorry--there was nowhere I could plug in.

    Oh great. This is getting worse.

    I'm teaching a class at the local community college for the next few days. I walked over there, and on the way found a 120V outlet at the base of a strip mall sign. If I plugged in there, it would be without permission. I'd only do that in an emergency, and this is not an emergency (yet). I got to the community college, looked around, and found about 10 parking spaces way out in the boonies that have NEMA 14-30 and 120V outlets (perhaps for charging golf carts?!?). Since it was getting late in the evening, I couldn't find anyone to get permission to plug in. So I won't plug in there yet.

    So here's my plan:

    1. Leave the car parked in the hotel lot, unplugged, overnight. It should be fine with vampire losses given 90 miles range remaining...even if I have to drive a bit tomorrow before plugging in.

    2. Drive to the community college in the morning, and try to get permission to plug my car in there during the day (assuming those outlets are even active). Those 8 or 9 hours times 3 days at 120V will help at least. (I don't have the 14-30 adapter. Poop.)

    3. Call the campground tomorrow morning to see if I can arrange to get special permission to charge even though they're closed due to flooding (my fingers are crossed for this!)

    4. Failing 3, there's another RV park about 17 miles away with 50 A service. I can call them to see if I can charge there. Since it's so far away, again I'll have to twiddle my thumbs while I wait for the charge. I wouldn't be able to plug in until tomorrow evening--so I should still be good with my current state of charge.

    5. The next closest 50A service is 30 miles away, so failing 2, 3, and 4, the only other thing I can think of is to drive up to Hookerton, plug in, and kill a LOT of time. Like 8 or 9 hours...and trust me, there's NOTHING to do in Hookerton. What an awful place to put a charging station.

    So I learned a lesson here: When you're in a charging desert, call the RV park immediately before you leave to make sure they're still open. This is a complete freak of nature random thing that the campground is closed in the middle of summer due to river flooding--and it's unfortunate that it happened on my first road trip--but it's better to expect these sorts of things.

    Here's the lesson for the world in general: given how cheap chargers are, they should be freakin' everywhere. So please--put them everywhere.
     
  2. gg_got_a_tesla

    gg_got_a_tesla Model S: VIN P65513, Model 3 Res Holder

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    Todd, for a while there, your story read like the buildup to the bloody part of a slasher movie plot ;)
     
  3. SCW-Greg

    SCW-Greg Active Member

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    Yeah... I've bought the 14-30 and 10-30 adapters for this insurance. And plan on making a 30' extension cord with a couple of adapters to cover all my bases. Couple of good threads to be found on cords here, btw.

    Good luck with the RV location, and keep us posted!
     
  4. Doug_G

    Doug_G Lead Moderator

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    If desperate, there is a way for you to connect to the NEMA 14-30 (down, FlasherZ, down!!!).

    You might be able to find the parts to build an adapter cable in the local hardware store. You'd need a NEMA 14-30 plug, a very short length of suitable heavy gauge cable, an outlet box, and a NEMA 14-50 socket. Wire the pins across, being sure to also connect the safety ground (green wire) to the outlet box, make sure the strain reliefs are tight, and you're ready.

    IMPORTANT: After plugging in, immediately go to the touchscreen and dial the current back to 24A. That's the maximum allowed current for a 30A circuit.

    Emergency shortcut: The middle pin of the NEMA 14-50 connector - the one that's a different shape - isn't actually connected to the car. You could cut the pin off. Many Roadster owners have actually done this.

    If anyone asks I didn't recommend this.
     
  5. Todd Burch

    Todd Burch Electron Pilot

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    Oops, did I fail to mention the dead bodies? I noticed all the 14-50 sockets had outlines of human bodies drawn on the ground nearby. Heard someone say something about a hockey mask and some guy named "Jason" who has it out for EV drivers...

    - - - Updated - - -

    Thanks Doug--I could do this, but I'll save electrocuting myself, burning down the community college, and setting my car on fire for my second road trip :).
     
  6. Enadler

    Enadler Member

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    Todd one other option. If you are staying a few days you can ask Tesla to overnight the 14-30 adapter. I had a similar situation sat week and they were able to et me a 6-50. Luckily I was staying in the same place for 4 days.

    good luck.
     
  7. Doug_G

    Doug_G Lead Moderator

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    Maybe you can find someone local (community college?) who can help you with that.
     
  8. GlennAlanBerry

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    Todd,

    I totally feel for you, especially given my recent experience in Salida. Maybe the Tesla Store has some NEMA 14-30 adapters in stock that you can get express-shipped? Maybe your local Tesla Service Center has one that your wife could buy and send to you?

    Good luck, and please tell us what you end up doing!
     
  9. Cosmacelf

    Cosmacelf Active Member

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    It is for situations like yours that I never go on longish trips without my bevy of charging adapters. As you have so well demonstrated, you never know how or when Murphy's Law will rear its head. Here are instructions if you want to build your own adapters: http://cosmacelf.net/Home%20Made%20Adapters.pdf
     
  10. Todd Burch

    Todd Burch Electron Pilot

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    I think I'll be able to convince the RV park to let me past the barricades to charge. Can't see why they wouldn't. I'll play the pity card :). I'm feeling less helpless than I did earlier this evening. We'll see how it goes!
     
  11. Cosmacelf

    Cosmacelf Active Member

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    I'd recommend it. Doug is right, the middle pin of Tesla's 14-50 adapter, the one opposite from the round ground pin (and on a 14-50, it is the SAME shape as the other three blades, only on a 14-30 is it a different shape), is not connected to anything. Getting a hack saw to saw it off or a really big pair of metal snips will turn your 14-50 adapter into a universal 14-50/14-30 adapter. WITH ONE MAJOR CAVEAT. When plugging into a 14-30 receptacle, YOU MUST DIAL DOWN AMPS on the charging screen to 24. I would do it before plugging everything together, the car will remember the setting for that GPS location.

    There is very little that could go wrong with this. And the adapter will continue to work fine at home on a 14-50 afterwards.
     
  12. Lloyd

    Lloyd Active Member

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    Unless Tesla decides to prevent this action due to the possibility of overloading the 14-30 receptacle, and decides to monitor the neutral position and prevent charging if it is not present!
     
  13. araxara

    araxara S-P85#3,218 X-90D#3,299

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    As far as I know they don't have the neutral wire going back to the UMC. They have a resistor in the adapter that sets the current and a sense wire going back to the UMC.
     
  14. stevezzzz

    stevezzzz R;SigS;P85D;SigX

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    Many 14-50 plugs can be disassembled with just a screwdriver; then you can verify the middle pin isn't connected to anything and push it out of the housing, no hacksaw required.
     
  15. Cosmacelf

    Cosmacelf Active Member

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    Um, but they don't. I have built and tested many adapters that don't have neutral and they work fine. In fact if you look at any Tesla UMC adapter, it only has three high current pins - two hots and one ground, no pin for a neutral. Besides, there are many Tesla supported receptacles that don't have a neutral like a 10-30, 6-50, etc.
     
  16. deonb

    deonb Active Member

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    You have to dial the current back to 24A, but that's to prevent the breaker from tripping. It's not such a major deal as everybody is making it. It's just to avoid the inconvenience and embarrassment if you don't have access to the breaker.

    Similarly, your house will have several NEMA 5-15 outlets. You would be totally within code to plug something into any outlet into your house that draws up to 15A, right?

    However, there are typically several outlets in the house that run on the same piece of wire going to the same breaker that will trip at 16A. Let's say 5 - if you plug in something that draws 15A into each of them, you will attempt to draw 75A over a 12 AWG wire that's rated for 20A total! It is totally doable - and you won't even be breaking any codes by attempting to do so. It just won't actually work and the breaker will trip. But it's not a setup for some kind of catastrophe (if it was actually a real safety hazard, houses wouldn't be wired that way).

    The catastrophe happens the other way around - you put a 50A breaker on a circuit which have wiring that can't handle more than 30A. But that's not the case here.
     
  17. kendallpb

    kendallpb Model S: P 8061

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    Good luck, and this one actually seems promising--I mean, come on, you're teaching a class there--they should be accommodating. They may even have a 14-50 outlet somewhere you can use...just ask, never hurts to try. (Or a 6-50, if you have that outlet.)

    Good luck and report back!
     
  18. pgiralt

    pgiralt Active Member

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    I'm anxiously awaiting the ending of this story :) I hope you were able to charge successfully. You're right that eastern NC is lacking in charging infrastructure, so I hope to learn a thing or two from your experience because I've been trying to figure out how I will do road trips from Raleigh to the beach. I think for most destinations I should be okay without having to stop, but a drive to the outer banks will be pushing it. Let us know how it all worked out for you!
     
  19. HHHH

    HHHH Member

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    Good luck OP!
     
  20. Todd Burch

    Todd Burch Electron Pilot

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    So this story ends well.

    When I arrived at the community college, I found a 110V outlet in back, got permission to charge there, and charged all day @ 3 mph (almost pointless...but free miles nonetheless!) I'll continue to do this tomorrow and Thursday.

    I also called the RV park (my original charging destination), got ahold of the right person, and received permission to charge there despite the place being closed due to flooding. I was told there was a pole next to the campground sign that had a 50A outlet on it. When I arrived at the end of the day, I checked the pole--they were either 110V or 30A outlets! (I don't have a NEMA 14-30 adapter). The place was closing in 8 minutes, so I asked around and received permission to just drive past the barricades, pull into a spot, and hook up to a 50A spot. I did so, then walked to my hotel about a mile away, and now I'm happily gobbling down 32 mph. I'll head back in a few hours when full. Best part? The campground host said the electrons were free of charge! So now I have 3 sources of free charging around here. What other car can you drive where people give you free gas (other than a Roadster, Leaf, Volt, etc.)? Awesome.

    photo.JPG
     

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