There and Back Again, a Sparks on the Road Tale… ( My apology to Mr. Tolkien)

Well as I mentioned in my last post, I recently took a trip from Brighton, IL to Carlinville, IL. This was a trip of 60 miles round trip. Normally this would not have been a problem. I regularly go 70 plus miles on a charge with mixed highway – city driving. This trip though would be mostly highway. That and the temperature was going to be in the region of 10-12 degrees Fahrenheit. I left home with a full charge around 4 in the afternoon on February 12 with the temps at 17 degrees. I got on the highway and set my speed to 55mph. My Guess-O-Meter started at 81 miles and by the time I was at the first turn it was down to – 7 miles for the first 5 miles of journey. I made the turn for next stage of my journey and managed to get the deficit from -7 to -2 miles on the GOM. I again set the speed for 55mph and cruised on into Carlinville. I managed to get there with  42 miles on the GOM by 5PM and talked with the folks about recharging Sparks.

After some fiddling around I found an outlet and got ready to charge the car. The first outlets did not have any juice and so I went hunting for another one, the sun has gone down by now and it is getting dark in a big hurry. I found another outlet, this time with power and I proceeded to plug in my EVSE Upgrade Charger into the wall. The Charger lit up showing it was ready to go, but when I plugged it into the car everything went dark. I reset the GFCI breaker on the socket and plugged it back in. Again the breaker popped. Apparently this socket was rated at less the 15amps. I was in a pickle. I knew that the trip home would require more power than the trip out because of the use of lights and limited heat to keep the windows defrosted. Also the temperature had indeed dropped to 12 degrees. 42 miles on the GOM might have seemed enough but I didn’t want to get stranded if the silly thing was wrong. I went in search of another outlet and was unable to find one in the dark. I was in a bit of a problem, I could reset the EVSE Upgrade Charger to a lower amp setting but I did not have the tool or instructions needed to do this. For whatever reason though I had the Ford charger also in the Car. I guess I never took it out when I got the new EVSE Upgrade Charger.

I took out the Ford EVSE and plugged it in. Everything lit up like it was supposed to. Then I plugged it into the car. Again everything that was supposed to light up did on the EVSE and on the Car. I walked away and hoped that everything would function throughout the night. I was charging from 6:00 PM to 9:15 PM and managed to get a charge up to 75% or what showed on the GOM as 61 miles.

I hopped into the car and began the return trip during which nothing remarkable happened. I pulled into the house with 21 miles remaining on the GOM. The charge in Carlinville was almost certainly necessary for me to get home. I guess I could have nursed the trip home without a charge but I would have had to reduce my speed and not used the heater at all.

What then have I learned…

  1. Always check ahead to make sure there will be a place to charge, even if you think you won’t need it.
  2. Have all the necessary tools and or instructions needed for your EVSE equipment.
  3. Always have a Plan B (the Belt and Suspenders way of life) ( My Ford EVSE in this case.)

I have another trip to Carlinville in March. I will be going about 10 Miles further than the last trip and this time will be going to a convention hotel. I need to call them soon to see if they have a place I can charge. Otherwise I will need to rent a car to get there and back, or then again maybe I don’t need to go to this conference anyway…

All-in-all this was a great trip and I am very glad to have made it all electrically. I continue to be very happy with my Focus Electric and I look forward to pushing forward the boundaries of its use in the months- years to come.


Fr. Bill

Trying something interesting…

Battery Consumption per route


Tomorrow I will be taking a longer trip than I normally would especially because it will be almost all at highway speeds. Granted 30 miles is easily within the range going but I am not so sure that I will get 60 miles round trip at 55MPH. I called the retreat center that I am going to and asked for permission to plug in and was granted that, so I said what the heck lets give it a try. The temperature will be around 17 Fahrenheit, which is not exactly optimal operating temps for the Focus. I should be fully charged when I leave home (Depends on when I leave the High School and can get a supplemental charge at home.)

I am really looking forward to testing this out. I have a couple of trips in the coming weeks that will require more distance than I normally drive at one time. I hope to be able to report that I get there and back with no problems. More on that when I get back.


Fr. Bill

There is a first time for everything …

Well, a couple of days ago I had the very first Low Battery warning flash on my dash. I was driving my usual Friday errands but I used the Interstate as opposed to city roads. This meant were I normally would have 35-40 miles left on the GOM (Guess-O-Meter) I was down to the last 10 miles. The temps have really started to fall here in Southern IL with the average being in the low 40’s. Many days are starting as sub freezing temps. On those days pre-conditioning the cabin is a must. I still get about 90 miles on the GOM every day with the odd 100+ miles on warmer days. I am eager to see what will be the results during the winter months.

My first real test of the GOM and range of the car when I drive from home to Mascoutah IL. I will be attending a Wrestling Tournament there and it is about 45 miles away. I hope to charge up while I am there.  But I haven’t heard back yet from the fellow who has a EV Plug a couple of blocks from the HS. If I can’t charge there I will charge at a local Community College who recently installed Chargepoint Stations. More on this after I get back on Friday.




Fr. Bill

Electric Cars not as Green as you might think…

According to a story from the Associated Press driving an EV might not be as friendly to the environment as we think. Personally I purchased an EV because of the savings it would ultimately give me as opposed to a ICE car. Of course that was before the Oil Depression and Gas went from $4.oo plus per gallon to as little as $2.25 per gallon. My math does not work out as well with this dynamic. That being said I take exception to the results of the story. Even though I do get most of my electricity from coal fired plants, I have economized my life in so many ways that my overall energy consumption is less than before I purchased my EV.

“How is this?” you might ask. Well I have become an energy efficiency fanatic at my home. I keep my thermostat set at 62 degrees except when I am at home and then only to 70 for the couple hours I am awake after getting home from work. I have changed all my light bulbs from incandescents to LED bulbs and I am only using appliances that I really need.  This allows my Electric Bill to fall even with my EV charging at home.

My driving habits have also changed. I am very diligent in making only those trips which are absolutely necessary. And those trips which are necessary I make as many are possible on a single trip/charge. With all these modifications in behavior I have reduced my energy footprint across the board. Thus It is my assertion that I have a lower impact on the environment than when I drove an ICE.

If I ever get to install Solar Panels I will almost eliminate my impact on the environment. I have to be honest though, this is not a real high priority for me. Again I got the car to pay less per mile than I did in the ICE. Secondarily I got the car to free myself from foreign oil and its stranglehold on the American Economy. It is merely a side benefit that I have a lower impact on the environment.

Read the article and make up your own mind, but I think their argument is a bit overstated and not valid in my personal experience.



Fr. Bill

What a looker Sparks is…

I really like the looks of the Ford Focus Electric. It was one of the things that made me really want to get the car. It is a sporty looking vehicle with quite good handling. Well my admiration for the FFE today was vindicated with a poll on the Top Ten Best Looking EVs’. It rated #9 and was ahead of the unconventional BMW i3 which was 10th on the list. This reminds me that I really need to get some pictures of my FFE “Sparks” on this site. First he needs a bit of a cleaning, inside and out. If you want to see the rest of the Top 10 check out Inside EVs’ here.

National Drive Electric Week – Saint Louis

Sunday, 9-21-2014, at the Saint Louis Science Center for National Drive Electric Week.  Cars and other Electric Vehicles from Illinois and Missouri converged at the Planeterium Parking Lot. The vehicles included everything from and Electric Bikes to multiple Tesla Model Ses'(not sure what the plural of Model S would be, forgive me Sr. Geraldine if that was wrong.).


There were about 35 vehicles there from what I could tell. I actually got to the event about half way through so there might have been more. You can see in the above picture Volts, a Model S, a Zenn, and many converted vehicles(including 2 converted Ford Ranger pickups). It just so happened that I parked nearby a couple of vehicles that I knew about but had never seen. I bought my car in Alton, IL through Roberts Motors. My salesman Alan had been telling me a family that bought a Cmax Energi and a Ford Focus Electric. Well lookee here…


I had been hearing about them for about a year and finally got to meet them. They are very much into Solar Power, specifically by their home for its southern exposure. They have a sticker on both vehicles ” Solar Powered”. Thanks to Kevin and Peggy for sharing with me their info and experience with the Ford Focus Electric.


I was parked next to some really nice folks driving the Nissan Leaf. I got to talk with them of their experience with the Leaf. Found out that we all had our EV for less than a year. We all were equally enthusiastic for our EV experience.  One family even blogs about their experience, just like me.

Overall it was a great experience and I look forward to next year.

On the Road… Part Three, Home Again

9-16-2014 trip

Well I managed to successfully complete my trip. I got the mileage wrong in an earlier post, it was actually around 104 miles one way from Brighton to Effingham. The car got completely charged overnight using my L1 charger. At the conclusion of the charge it showed 112 miles of range. But as the range meter is better known as the “Guess -o- Meter” I knew I would need to charge again in Mulberry Grove. I was at my meeting until 9:30PM and left for home. I got to the RV park and it was all dark, but I had made an arrangement with the owners and they knew I would be charging last evening. I charged for about an hour and fifteen minutes and with 81 mile on the GOM I then hit the road again. It was well after midnight when I got home and I had 23 miles left on the GOM. I put the car on the charger and went to bed. I managed to keep my Wh/mi at around 200 for the entire trip.

My first analysis of the trip shows that I added about 3 hours to the round trip with charging stops. I paid 4 dollars for the Electricity at the RV park. This cost is as opposed to the 90 dollars for an ICE rental, not to mention fuel at 3.15 a gallon. So I see this a net gain on the financial front. Not to mention I got to use “My Car”, just another positive in my book.

The FFE is a great short roadtrip car, if you don’t mind making a stop to charge.  I am glad that I managed the trip, my little experiment a success.

Now onto further trips.

On the Road… Part Two

Well, I made it safely to Effingham and the car right now is L1 Charging. The drive was fairly easy and leisurely accomplished. I averaged 45-50 MPH as I drove through many little towns on the route I chose. The Hotel I am staying at has many outlets around their building and they are letting me charge overnight. I never got lower than 32 miles of range on the 95 mile drive.

Ford has a wonderful tool that gives information on Charge Status, Kwh per mile and other interesting tidbits. I use this on a daily basis to see how I am doing based on this info. Today as I was charging in Mulberry Grove, IL I pulled out my smartphone, pulled up the My Ford Mobile Application and logged on….. But no today is one of the many days that MFM (My Ford Mobile) is deciding to have a fit. I tried a couple of times on the phone, then using my phone as a hotspot tried on my laptop… Service Error… AARGH!

Well, I will trust that the car is charging O.K. overnight and will have more information in the morning. Now all I need to do is get through the conference tomorrow, then I get the joy of EVing all the way home.

More as I get it.

On the Road… Part One

I would have sang ” On the road again…” but today I began my very first roadtrip using the Focus Electric. Nothing monumental about 180 miles round trip. I initially thought I would have to rent a car to go to my Diocese annual Priest Convocation in Effingham, IL. I have had the Focus a little less than a month and really enjoy driving it, but 90 miles one way with no level 2 charging in Effingham made the journey seem out of “Sparks” range. I never really gave up on the idea of driving there in my Focus. I used a number of tools I have found online to see if there was anyway of driving the route using my EV.

Using the EV Distance Calulator (Thanks Jamie of the Some Spare Electrons blog)I figured I could just about make it from Brighton, IL where I live to Effingham, IL on a single charge. If only there was a place in the middle where I could get an “insurance charge”. That and a hotel willing to let me charge overnight and I might just be able to do it. Problem was though there are no L2 charging stations on that route. I just about gave up, and I even went about renting an ICE for the 2 days of the conference. Not willing to let the no charging station circumstance win I started to look for alternatives.

I first thought to bring a portable generator and charge at a rest area. This is prohibitively expensive and petroleum dependent so it was tabled immediately. I had read on some of the forums I frequent of RV parks that would be willing to let someone charge for a fee.  Indeed I found a RV park that was willing to let me charge and it was well within the range of the Focus. Most RV parks provide electricity to their clients using a 240v 50 amp service. Only problem was I did not have an EVSE (Car Charger) that could plug into such a source. My EVSE at home can plug into 240V 30 amp service and has the required plug for that. Well EVSE upgrade sells a specially modified Leaf EVSE that can support 110V and 240V charging. They also sell adapters that mate with the EVSE and RV power supply. So I took a leap of faith and ordered the EVSE and the adapter plugs.

I am sitting at the RV park charging as I write this post, currently the car is showing 66%. I will post again after I get plugged into at the hotel.

To Leaf or Not to Leaf that was the question.

As I mentioned in my earlier post I had reached the decision to move away from a Plug-in Hybrid to an all Electric Vehicle. I started looking around for examples of EV’s in my area. There were some deals to be had and I wanted to get the biggest bang for my buck. The first EV I drove was a Tesla S P85. Now I realize this was a bit of a stretch. To go from a Ford Fusion to a Model S would have required enourmous sums of money. But I just wanted to see what a pure EV was like. I have to say that the Model S is one incredible vehicle and a blast to drive, but way outside my price range . Well after the Tesla  joyride I settled down and started to look for something a little more economical. The only EV to be had in my local market was the Nissan Leaf. I decided to take a test drive. I must say that the Leaf is a technological marvel. It has a lot going for it but it just wasn’t what I was looking for. But the deals to be had were almost to irresistible. I heard from my Local Ford Dealer that they were getting in a Focus Electric around Christmas Time. I went to have a look but it was gone as soon as it hit the lot.

I was still on the fence about getting an EV. I really had driven the Leaf and done quite a bit of research and just couldn’t pull the trigger. I made due with the Fusion Energi and resolved to keep the pattern of behavior and just tough it out. But I kept looking and scheming and researching.

This August Ford came out with a deal for the Focus Electric that was for me impossible to pass up. $6000 cash back,and  0% financing for 60 Months. I was a bit upside down in my Fusion but this package would let me purchase the FFE (Ford Focus Electric). I set about trying to find one. I was a bit concerned as to whether I would fit in the Focus and I am a fairly large fellow, but alas there were no FFE’s in the area. I went to my Local Dealer and found a comparably equipped Focus and had a sit. I fit comfortably. With my research in hand and the incentives on my mind I went to the Dealer and said, “Can you find me an Electric Focus?” After a bit of searching he found one a bit away and arranged for it to be transported to the dealership.

I took ownership of it 1 week ago today and have already put 500 all electric miles on it. I am very please with the FFE and look forward to pushing it to the limits. I will speak more on the limits in the next post.

So in the end I decided not to go with the Leaf but the FFE and I am very happy with my Choice