In this post, I present a fictional idea for a race across California. Because I'm no community organizer, this is simply an interesting idea that's fun to think about. Imagine the early days of gas cars, instead they had today's EV. I can just picture silent movies with people charging using DCFC and sipping Starbucks coffee instead of carrying around gas cans if this actually happened 100 years ago.
Below is a picture from plugshare.com of all DCFC locations from San Diego to Sacramento.
While it would be nice to get to the Oregon border, there aren't enough chargers for 80 miles range EV to quite make it that far. For CCS cars like SparkEV, the only route is the western one with single station at King City ($0.39/kWh!) between Monterey and Pismo beach. For Chademo cars like Leaf, only route is the eastern one along interstate 5 with big gap between Bakersfield and Visalia.
Sticking to these charging points, it should be possible to make it from Mexican border in San Diego all the way to Sacramento, a distance of about 600 miles, ideally with 8 DCFC sessions. At average freeway speed of 65 MPH + 30 min for DCFC (43 MPH average), it should take 14 hours with 4 hours of breaks. Because of frequent breaks with EV (about every hour), driver is not likely to get fatigued. In fact, a short power nap while DCFC would be possible.
In contrast, if gas cars need 30 min break (eat, pee, nap) after about 2 hours of driving, they would need 9.5 hours drive + 2 hours = 11.5 hours. If EV can charge 160 miles in 20 minutes + 10 minutes to get off/on freeway, they'd be pretty much the same convenience as gas cars.
Because there is at least one "choke point" in the race, the charging plan would have to center around that. For CCS, that would be King City. Then two charging points around that at San Luis Obispo and Salinas will be needed. But outside of those three, the driver is free to choose charging spots. If the driver speeds too much, he'd lose range, and more charging sessions will be needed, resulting in lost time. If the driver is too slow, of course, he'd be slow. It will be a careful balance between speed and charging location selection.
People in NoCal might want to visit SoCal (and vice versa), so the race could be both ways simultaneously. Their drive back home could be at their leisure, or they may decide to drive to origin of the race at leisure and scope out the charging spots before hand.
First and foremost, this race is to strictly obey all laws. How to enforce this isn't clear; one can use GPS and/or OBD plug to keep track of vehicle speed / location and disqualify for any infraction. But given that many (most?) cars on the highway exceed the speed limit, this might make it more hazardous than keeping up with the flow of traffic.
One idea to prevent speeding might be to have gas motorcycle as "pace car" that precedes the leader by few car lengths (separate lane) and obeying traffic laws. All other cars would have to be slower than the gas motorcycle. Could this result in all EV having the same time? In CA, you get stuck in traffic, stuck in red light, stuck behind some dumb truck, select DCFC that happen to need waiting, any number of things could happen for different travel time.
But even without that, this is where the EV shines. If one speeds much, he will get far less range, and lose time, or worse, get a ticket (automatic disqualification), or even worse get stranded before reaching the next charger (also disqualification). As such, speeding much more than traffic flow may be counterproductive. It will have to be a balance of low speed, yet not too low.
Keeping up with this rule, any collision, regardless of fault or object (person, dog, car, UFO), is automatic disqualification. Basically, one has to drive carefully, or get disqualified. Yes, bad luck is a bitch, and could get you disqualified.
Second rule would be that EV would have to be stock except wheels/tires (more eco the better!) and mod to add DCFC. As of now, only mod available is Jdemo for Rav4EV by quick charge power. But they may have other mods soon, such as for Ford Focus Electric or even Fiat 500e. Absolutely not allowed is mod to increase battery capacity, like certain company is offering to add second battery, or completely different drive train.
Mod to make the EV more aerodynamic may be allowed provided that such mod is available to other people (paid or free) as well and at least one other unrelated party has such mod. First rule would say any such mod would have to be legal, so being legal is absolutely required.
Third and very obvious rule would be that it has to be driven only on electricity.
Because the route taken must be different for different charging standard, this makes determining the winner tricky.
One method could be to find the average speed over distance after at least one CCS and one Chademo car passed the finish line, and the winner is the one with highest average MPH.
Another could be separate categories for CCS and Chademo (two winners) using above method.
Another would be even more categories; due to different routes, winner of each category is based on average speed method described above.
- sub 70 miles range, such as iMiev
- 70-90 miles range, such as SparkEV, Leaf S, BMW i3, even Ford Focus Electric modified with Jdemo by quickchargepower.com
- 90 to 120 miles range, such as SoulEV, Leaf SV/SL, Rav4EV modified with Jdemo by quickchargepower.com
- DCFC capable hybrids only running on EV, such as BMW i3Rex, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (someone could import it, who knows?). This might get tricky as to how to determine that no gas was used. Maybe some penalty could be assessed for gas use.
Or it could be many categories with each category having separate CCS/Chademo winners. This is probably the best, combining all three ideas above.
In this day and age, this race can be on-going with the result posted on the internet. But there won't be any black and white newsreel coverage of the winner if not for an official sanctioned race day.
The winner will be proudly recognized as the first to win trans California EV race. Their faces will be featured in some silent film newsreel to be archived for later generations to admire and wonder at our primitive state of affairs in transportation. Their children will admire what kind of brave nut jobs their parents were to undertake such crazy adventure with the fear of getting stranded with so few DCFC chargers along the way, not to mention that they had to drive the car themselves and not sit behind self driving cars.
Of course, that will be superseded by the next great race, "The great trans USA EV race", that to be superseded by "The great trans North America EV race" and so on and so forth. But there will be nothing like the first one with so many obstacles to overcome as "The great trans California EV race" as that will likely be the last interesting EV race where humans must be the driver.