Bumper Cars

Driving electric tends to always create a small dosage of “range anxiety” which varies from person to person. When I drive the BMW Active E, I tend to hope for the best and believe that the car will give me every last mile it claims it will… and maybe I sometimes hope it’ll give a little more too.

Now, my mother on the other hand has range anxiety the second she hops in the driver’s seat, even though she’ll drive the car all over Southern California.

I don’t know the exact locations she visited yesterday throughout the day, but she drove from Fullerton to Beverly Hills, and depending which freeway you may take, it ranges from 41-46 miles. When the Active E averages 83 miles a charge, having charging station apps on your cell phone is a must. Generally, if you’ll be traveling to any distance over 35 miles away, you’ll want to be locating a charging station at your destination. This is of course is for no other reason than making it home safely.

Now, my mother was able to charge the car in Beverly Hills before continuing on to other locations all over LA. And at some point the car was low-range and she had to stop at a Wal-Mart in La Palma to get an extra charge to make it home. However, the charger was taken. So after announcing over the PA system and asking who drove the Nissan Leaf parked out front, and nobody claiming it, she had to take matters into her own hands.

If you are not a patron of the store that is providing the Level 2 Charging Station free of charge, you really shouldn’t be charging longer than 30 minutes. Common courtesy. If electric vehicles are going to be a success, people need to be mindful of other electric vehicle drivers especially when charging.

So after 30 minutes of the mysterious Nissan Leaf owner, my mother unplugged the Leaf and plugged the Active E in so she could make it home safely. Apparently the owner of the Leaf was playing basketball at a near by gym and had his buddy pick him up and drop him off at his car which was charging at Wal-Mart where he was not a patron shopper.

I was not at the scene, so I don’t know what went down when he and my mother met at the charging station, but how ethical or unethical is it to leave your car charging and not use the store that is paying for your vehicle to charge?

Regardless, my mother now had enough “juice”/”charge”/”battery” to make it home, or so she thought.

Now our neighborhood is in the hills, and to get to our house you have to go up a hill, and when the car hits “0 miles” once you’ve exited the freeway, you are probably doomed at making it up the hill (knowing from past experiences). Well, just that happened; the Active E hit 0 miles when exiting the freeway, went an extra mile or two to get to the hill and died on the hill.

What happens next? Do you call AAA? Nope, AAA does not have any way of assisting you unless you want them to tow your car a pathetic 2 blocks home. So you hopefully pulled the car over to the far side of the road and walk to your house until you strategize your next move.

This is where I, the advocate to get the All-electric car, come into play. Yes, it is now my problem to deal with.

So at 10 PM I drive down to the car, and look around to see what houses might still be awake, and I knock on the nearby house that is celebrating a birthday party, and ask if they could kindly spare me an 110 outlet that I could plug my emergency charger and extension cords into. Luckily, they were very kind people who let me crash the family celebration and make small talk.

BumperCars2

Forty-five minutes have passed and I figured should’ve been enough time to charge the battery to last the two blocks up the hill.

Negative.

The car traveled up the hill, and then it stopped.

Now, we have 1 block to go, the hill is no longer steep, but we are out of “juice” and its 11 PM. Not only has the car shut down, but it is located on a very narrow path, and could get easily hit by any car speeding up the hill. I park our bright red Jetta behind it with emergency flashers on, and walk home.

Out of ideas, maybe we will need to call the tow truck.

Then, when I mention it’s location my family insists that maybe we can push it the remaining way up the hill. But my dad has a different idea, that is just a little bit out there.

“Let’s push the Beamer with the Jetta and put a pillow in-between the two” -dad

“Umm, you said, WHAT?”-me

Now, I was not okay with putting a giant dent in the back of the precious Active E, so I ran after him as he already made his move towards the two cars with pillows.

My father was determined that he had seen highway patrol do this before and it definitely will work, so I gave in and let him try.

We lined up the Jetta and put the stiffest pillow (one that looks like it used to be a seat on a sofa) between the two cars, shifted the Beamer to Neutral, and gave it a whirl.

One person in the driver’s seat steering the Active E, one person in the Jetta driving and moving the BMW forward, and two people using their legs and arm muscles to move the car along.

Around a curve, over a speed bump, and down the driveway, we successfully maneuvered the Active E into the garage without a scratch.

Two and a half hours later, the car is safely charging and getting ready for it’s next adventure.

The Active E is definitely “All the Range.”

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