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Charge On!, Issue #004: Why I can't drive 35(mph)
September 22, 2007

Happy September!

A bit of news:

One: I can't drive 35 (mph).

This past summer, Washington state legislature increased the NEV speed limit to 35mph, so all we Miles and Zenn drivers can keep up with traffic on our chosen side-roads.

Having said that...

I have to tell you something Bill Williams (Zenn's VP of sales) said to me the other day regarding the new speed limit and the Zenn car coming from the factory in Toronto to your local dealership. Ready?

It won't GO 35 miles an hour. That is, not without a 3500 dollar upgrade!

I've always thought the only thing holding down the Zenn was the setting of the controller. (Many, many Zenn owners have asked me how to adjust the controller, too - law or no law; ) Anyway, now that we here in Washington state CAN legally go 35mph, there's no legal impediment to resetting the controller. But if you do, Bill said, you'll quickly overwhelm your motor and controller's capacity...and that's not good. The Zenns from the factory are designed to go 25 mph, because that's what the speed limit on NEVs has been, and continues to be, in most states. There was no point in installing a motor and controller that was capable of more than that, was there? The object was to keep costs as low as possible to keep them affordable.


Here in Seattle, the Zenn you buy will already be upgraded, because our dealership, MCEV, has all the capability they need to do that...

...but it'll cost you the 3500 extra. What can I say? It's SO worth it to be able to keep up with the flow of traffic; )

Two: Plug-in Olympia.

If you ask most people, the biggest obstacle to driving an electric car is the RANGE. The NEVs can go about 35 miles on one full charge, and that's it - then it's on the charger for 8 hours to fully charge up.

So in practice, this means your range is only 15 miles or so, because you've got to get home again! Right?

Well...maybe not. Your NEV might have a 35 mile range, yes, and it might take 6-8 hours to FULLY charge...but this is what happens when you plug in: the charger behaves just like one of those one-minute-rewind VCRs we all used to have...remember? It goes just as fast as it can until the last bit, then slows to a crawl so it doesn't yank the tape right off the spool.

Same with your charger; up to about 80% of full charge, it goes just as fast as it can, and then slows to a trickle for the last 20 percent. The truth is, Plug-in Olympia's Joe Lambrix (owner of a zap electric car) says, you could put your half-drained battery on a charger for 20 minutes and recover 4-5 miles of charge.

Zap calls it "opportunity charging".

Are you doing this? Do you want to? Would you use a "plug-in map" if Zap could get it together? Hit reply and tell me.

Three: Those rotten hybrids - and a few that don't stink

I know some of us are purists and don't approve of cars with tailpipes, but you have to admit Toyota knocked one out of the park when they came up with that famous hybrid electric car and their "hybrid synergy drive". So after my thirtieth consciousness-raising episode with a "hybrid" American SUV owner (I don't go looking for trouble. Honest!) I decided to draw a few lines in the sand when it comes to "hybrids". Read the fake hybrid report here and see what you think.

Batteries are a girl's best friend...

...electric car batteries, of course; )

I've been asking a lot of questions about batteries lately, like which ones real electric car owners are putting in their cars (golf cart batteries, mostly), and why can't you just put those cheap auto batteries from Walmart in your Zenn? I hope you enjoy the reports!

For those who've been asking about the forthcoming e-book, "Girl's Guide to Electric Cars"...

...I'm working on it. Turns out Stephen King makes that book-writing thing look a lot easier than it actually is, but it's coming. (I want to be good, or I'm not going to inflict it on anybody. Okay, does that make me a perfectionist?)

Thank you for your continued support - I couldn't do it without you!


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