scoopman

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On December 29th, the fam and I piled into Mach N Cheese and drove from Northern California down to Los Angeles. We’re planning to video our trip back up, but I thought I’d write up a quick trip report focusing on some of the efficiencies and infrastructure we encountered on our rainy, chilly trip to spend New Years with family.

FIRST LEG: SUNNYVALE TO FIREBAUGH, CA

We left our home at 8:30am and drove 115mi in rain (temperatures in the 50s F) down CA-85, CA-101, and CA-152 to make it South and East over to I-5, which you follow for the bulk of the trip down South. CA-152 has terrain that includes the Pacheco Pass. I decided on this trip to not be hobbled by reduced speed, and drove Mach-N-Cheese between 75-80mph keeping up with traffic in Whiisper mode.

One complaint I always have on road trips with the MME is the lack of a “custom” mode. It’s pretty lame that after all of this time, there’s no way for me to pick soft(er) ride in the suspension, but tight steering, throttle response, and high regen. Happy wife, happy life, so I optimize for the suspension setting at the expense of the other parameters being not to my liking.

Once merging onto I-5 South, it was another 36 miles to our first planned stop at Electrify America in Firebaugh, CA. We did so at 10:26am after driving 114.9 miles after using 53.2khw for an efficiency of 2.2mi/kwh.


EA FIREBAUGH: 3 FORD EVs, 3 OF 6 CHARGERS BROKEN

Ford Mustang Mach-E Mach-N-Cheese takes a trip: or overcoming our fears of Blippi and charger failure IMG_2704.JPG


We arrived to this scene at the Firebaugh station: a MME extended-battery premium, and a 3-day-old Lightning were juicing up. We pulled into the only remaining working stall, and charged from 37% to 76% in 26 minutes. Charging performance was not terrific, and our peak kw delivered never broke 100 kw.

This was not a problem, as Bluey was available for pitstop entertainment (via my latest Android Chinese gadget), paired with a morning snack and bathroom breaks.

Ford Mustang Mach-E Mach-N-Cheese takes a trip: or overcoming our fears of Blippi and charger failure IMG_2707.JPG


This was NOT a particularly heavy travel day over the holidays, yet EA had only 3 of 6 stalls working at this critical infrastructure point. Each one of the 3 broken stalls showed different symptoms:

  • One stall showed “!” with “Charger unavailable,” but of course you only can see this on the screen when you’re up-close, already parked, and you tap the screen to get past the latest EA marketing promotion screen.

  • The second stall had the screen completely off, but it still had the “green” lighting of EA which, if you ask most consumers, signifies to them that the charging stall is available and operational. I saw two cars during my charging session pull into the blank-screened one, and spend time trying to get it to work, despite the screen being off. I tried to help by telling both that I think it was out of order.

  • The third stall was perhaps the worst. It had it’s screen on and appeared to be completely normal, until you plugged in and found that the charger was sending no juice to the car. Several cars had this experience as well.
Not only is Electrify America’s reliability unacceptable, but their user experience is ridiculously poor. How tough is it to have some indicator on the charger that it is offline? Everyone understands when there’s a red light over a register at the supermarket, that that line is closed. It is unrecognized how frustrating it is for EV drivers to not only have such poor reliability from EA, but also, that EA makes them pull in precisely to a stall, and get out of their cars – and sometimes, requires them to plug in first – before discovering that a charger does not work.

The short conversation I had with the owner of the Rapid Red Lightning is probably most telling. He just took delivery of the truck three days before his road trip, and he is already soured from taking it on any trips again, and on it as being as useful to him as a result. He told me he is only getting 1.4mi/kwh, and that he feels he has to try stopping at every EA station along I-5, because he never knows when they will be working, or dead when he arrives, and he does not think he can rely on EA enough to arrive at a station with a low SOC. It’s a real problem if a new car owner isn’t completely happy with their car only 3 days after taking delivery – due to the inept charging infrastructure from EA.

SECOND LEG: ONWARDS TO IN-N-OUT

Traditionally, we always stop at In-N-Out for lunch in Kettleman City, CA, which is basically halfway on the journey. Usually, our downtime is 30-45 min of ordering and eating, without any ability to charge.

This time, we drove the 60 miles from our last stop with the anticipation of trying the newest EA hardware in a station conveniently located next to In-N-Out. We drove 63.1 miles (including sitting in the drive-thru line) to this brand-new charging stop with an efficiency of 2.5mi/kwh.

EA KETTLEMAN CITY: GREAT CARS, NEW CHARGERS, SAME POOR EXPERIENCE

Ford Mustang Mach-E Mach-N-Cheese takes a trip: or overcoming our fears of Blippi and charger failure IMG_2711 (1).JPG


We rolled up to this scene, burgers in hand, at 12:21pm with a 45% SOC, and charged for 39 minutes until 91%. We stayed this long because little kids eat slowly, and Bluey was playing, and we were in no hurry.

The Great: look at this lineup of cars, with owners optimistic about their future with them. Front left to right: a Bolt (well, ok, this was the only really meh car), then an Ioniq 5, then a Cyber Orange Premium (only there for a little bit – read on below!), then Mr. Cheesester, then another Ioniq 5 in Shooting Star Matte Grey (with all light grey trim blacked out 🤌), followed by a Rivian R1T in Rivian Blue. Next was a CA Rt 1 in Rapid Red, followed by a Rivian R1S with manufacturer plates in Rescue Red. Finally, at the end you can see an EV6 in Yacht Blue, followed by a black-with-gold teeth trim special rapper edition of the BMW iX M60.

The New: These chargers were EA’s newest units, and the UI responsiveness on them was noticeably much faster. The chargers were all under an overhang, so you are more protected from the elements. They’re also all positioned logically at the end of each of the parking spots, instead of on the side, making it easier to position your car.

The Same and Poor: This new EA installation – with capacity for 10 cars charging at 350kw – still had 20% of the stalls not working. Both of the stalls had no indications they malfunctioned, yet neither stall delivered electricity to anyone who tried them. This includes the Cyber Orange MME next to me in the photo. They pulled in, tried the only-available stall, then tried calling EA to help them. They then drove off, frustrated.

Moreover, this is a new installation, yet it does not appear that EA has learned too much. The site itself is wedged in between a gas station and a 24-hour Mexican restaurant in a separate parking area with only one driveway to get in and out. Yet there is no signage guiding EV customers on which driveway to enter. Almost every EV turned into the gas station then had to exit the station to then find the EA entrance. (What does the Kettleman Tesla Supercharger installation have? a HUGE Tesla sign at the height of the gas station signs so you can find where it is...)

Ford Mustang Mach-E Mach-N-Cheese takes a trip: or overcoming our fears of Blippi and charger failure IMG_2715.JPG


Aside from the overhang, the facility itself has no amenities. By amenities, I mean there still is no garbage pail, towels, window washer, or bathroom facilities. Both the gas station and the Mexican restaurant have signs saying that bathrooms are for customers only. The gas station did not enforce this policy, but the Mexican restaurant did, turning us away when we went in to use the restroom and then maybe patronize them. After that attitude from them, we didn't.

LEG THREE: CENTRAL VALLEY TO BAKERSFIELD

We then ran the car for a little over an hour and 56 miles to the Electrify America station in Bakersfield, CA, with an efficiency of 2.5mi/kwh. We decided to stop at Bakersfield, as we wanted a buffer of charge for the mountainous terrain ahead of us, and to forego needing a charge to get to our hotel in LA East of the downtown area.

EA BAKERSFIELD: A QUICK SPLASH

Ford Mustang Mach-E Mach-N-Cheese takes a trip: or overcoming our fears of Blippi and charger failure IMG_2720.JPG



Bakersfield is the last EA stop when traveling Southward before hitting the Tehachapi Mountains. I’ve not had the best of histories when conquering the Tejon Pass, and we did not want to have to charge in Los Angeles before making it to our hotel, so we decided to do a quick 15% splash at this station.

Bakersfield has only four charging stalls, and, true to form, 50% of them were out of service. Luckily for us, a new EQB just finished charging as we pulled up, so we had one of the two working stalls for our quick charge. We charged from 64% to 79% in 12 minutes.

While Bakersfield does not have a large number of chargers, it does have a Taco Bell and Pizza Hut Express and some other food options.

SUMMITING TEJON WITH BLIPPI

Ford Mustang Mach-E Mach-N-Cheese takes a trip: or overcoming our fears of Blippi and charger failure IMG_1995


From Bakersfield, we plowed on through driving rains over the mountain ranges to get into LA. What better sound track to this trek than the childrens’ favorite orange-bespeckled entertainer Blippi. With Apple Music playing a seemingly endless stream of his greatest hits, Mach-N-Cheese forged on and conquered the summit and kept regenerating electricity downhill past its nemesis of Castic, CA.

We had a huge amount of traffic in the unusual rains in LA, and, in the end, made it to our hotel with 19% SOC left after traveling 142.5 miles with 2.7mi/khw efficiency.

EPILOGUE

Ford Mustang Mach-E Mach-N-Cheese takes a trip: or overcoming our fears of Blippi and charger failure IMG_2726.JPG


Our hotel was only 5 minutes away from a newly-upgraded EVgo station, so I decided to try that out for the first time. Before leaving for my trip, I set up plug-n-charge in EVgo’s app (and plugged in to authenticate my car). Plug-n-charge worked on my first try, and was reasonably fast to connect to my vehicle and account. I found that their new 350kw charger (which I believe delivers 500amps) delivered great performance (I peaked at 165kw), had a really nice and useful UI, which was mimicked on their app as I charged. The only bummer was the cost, extremely high at $0.53/kwh. The price was listed as “unknown” while charging, so this seemed a bit unfair. EVgo seems to have pricing based on time-of-day, and for the rest of our stay, I am only charging there from 9pm to 12 midnight, when their rates are lowest.
 

GreaseMonkey

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Very helpful review. I wonder if you can post the charge curve for the 350kW EVgo and start/ end SoC for that session. Reason this is important is that EVgo still charges on a per minute basis in many parts of the country and the charge rate makes a big difference on the final per kW cost.

I recently charged on one of their new 100kW chargers in Chicago and got an average of ~65kW rate between 29% and 75% SoC (see below). At a price of $0.29/min, I ended up paying an equivalent of $0.27/kWh, which is way cheaper than EA at $0.43/kWh pay as you go.

Ford Mustang Mach-E Mach-N-Cheese takes a trip: or overcoming our fears of Blippi and charger failure E7C52A19-8600-4F78-A3ED-2CCA4224AA66
 

heisnuts

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As always, you did a great job of detailing the challenges of road tripping with an EV. In my 17,000 miles I have only DCFC about 10 times, but on almost every time I have run into the exact experience you describe. I believe there was only one time that I was able to pull in, plug in, and have an EA station charge with no problems.

I think this is unfortunate because I am really starting to believe we are headed for a train wreck when it comes to EVs. On the one hand we have the demand for EVs that did not exist before, we have the main stream manufactures going all in on producing EVs in quantity, and we even have state governments (like California) passing laws phasing out ICE by 2035 completely. Then on the other hand we have a charging infrastructure you just described and it doesn't seem to be getting any better.

Even if we somehow are able to improve the reliability of the DCFC, there is also the huge problem of availability. If you look at the Oregon coast on Plug Share you will see lots of options. However, as you look closer you will find that a lot of the options are hotels, camp sites, or EVCS chargers that mostly are level 2 chargers or the EVCS chargers (if they work) that max out at 50kwh. Once you filter out the 50kwh and less chargers, you are left with a grand total of TWO, yes, 2, chargers (both of which are EA stations). We take a lot of trips to the Oregon coast, but there have been several times I have not been able to take the MME because of very limited charging options for the trip.

I really hope we can turn things around. As most of you know, I have been a huge fan of the MME for daily use and have become addicted to spending a lot of time out in the country enjoying the car as well. However, I must admit with stories like this one, having the little annoying issues like the headlight switch turning on by itself and having to be reset, and then blowing my third HVBJB yesterday, my enthusiasm is starting to get knocked down little by little.
 
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GT_order_#1001

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Thank you for yet another detailed and entertaining trip write-up.
 

Kevin P

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I think this is unfortunate because I am really starting to believe we are headed for a train wreck when it comes to EVs. One the one hand we have the demand for EVs that did not exist before, we have the main stream manufactures going all in on producing EVs in quantity, and we even have state governments (like California) passing laws phasing out ICE by 2035 completely. Then on the other hand we have a charging infrastructure you just described and it doesn't seem to be getting any better.
I don't see it getting much better anytime soon either. DCFC stations are very expensive to install, and require infrastructure that doesn't even exist in many places. So to make them profitable, they would have to charge a LOT per kwh. At which point driving an ICE car is both much easier and potentially cheaper. Asking the government to fix this issue seems easy, except the government typically can't fix much of anything without tons of waste and failures.
I love the BEV driving experience, but it will be quite a while before I would willingly take one on a long trip.
 


Logal727

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Had my first annoying DCFC experience a few days ago at an EVGO of all places, which is a site that’s always been reliable for me.
I pull up and a Bolt EUV is hogging the 350kw Mario charger that I always use, even though there’s two 100kw chargers right next to it. (They were charging at a blazing 28kw)

I plug into Hailie to finally set up AutoCharge+ but the screen doesn’t update info or do the final step to enroll and the charger faults.

So I plug in again and bypass setting up AutoCharge+ and the charge starts but there’s no indication in the app or on the screen that it is charging, but the car is getting the juice. Ended up charging for 30 minutes for free. The charger showed available the whole time on the app, it was weird.

Then a brand new BMW iX M60 pulls up and plugs into a charger and they can’t get it to work and I tell them to move and try the adjacent charger so they do and I watch the guy driving it try 3 times to pull the car in the correct way to be able to hook up, lol. They plug in and it finally works and they get 230kw max speed which was nice.

Anyways, it seems like there’s still growing pains even at our reliable sites, this is also the busiest I had seen this particular site in a while. Also saw two Polestar 2s there charging, I think that Enterprise sends people here to fill up cause it’s right across from the airport.
 
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kltye

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It's always interesting to me how my DCFC experience differs so much from even those on the left coast - and I'm mostly in "flyover country". I've driven all over the midwest, and even into the dreaded blackhole of W. Va, but have very rarely encountered a situation that I couldn't charge. I've had to wait I think 2-3 times for a stall to open, and had one encounter where only a slower EVgo charger was working (50kW rather than the new 350kW), when I was under a tight time crunch. I've used plug-and-charge at EA probably a couple dozen times, and autocharge+ a half dozen times and had a success rate of about 95%.

Maybe it's because I don't have a family and my significant other is a remarkably patient person? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ We even drove through the extreme winter weather last week coming back from western Michigan to Chicago, with mostly 62.5kW chargers without any issues. Biggest slowdown was driving 45 in a 70 because of poor road conditions.
 

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Thanks for sharing your experience.

I predict there will be many used BEVs coming on the market in the next year or two, as disillusioned first time BEV owners trade them in for a ICEV or PHEV. I will be keeping mine for sure, but also not getting another one for my wife. Like most people, she doesn't want to deal with this pain when traveling. Taking long car trips isn't fun for her anyway, and BEV challenges don't make the experience better at all. Just the opposite.
 

Logal727

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It's always interesting to me how my DCFC experience differs so much from even those on the left coast - and I'm mostly in "flyover country". I've driven all over the midwest, and even into the dreaded blackhole of W. Va, but have very rarely encountered a situation that I couldn't charge. I've had to wait I think 2-3 times for a stall to open, and had one encounter where only a slower EVgo charger was working (50kW rather than the new 350kW), when I was under a tight time crunch. I've used plug-and-charge at EA probably a couple dozen times, and autocharge+ a half dozen times and had a success rate of about 95%.

Maybe it's because I don't have a family and my significant other is a remarkably patient person? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ We even drove through the extreme winter weather last week coming back from western Michigan to Chicago, with mostly 62.5kW chargers without any issues. Biggest slowdown was driving 45 in a 70 because of poor road conditions.
I’ve been the same way until very recently. Literally have never had a problem with EA on east coast yet.
 

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Then a brand new BMW iX M60 pulls up and plugs into a charger and they can’t get it to work and I tell them to move and try the adjacent charger so they do and I watch the guy driving it try 3 times to pull the car in the correct way to be able to hook up, lol. They plug in and it finally works and they get 230kw max speed which was nice.
Huh, I wonder if they didn’t get the Executive package on that car, which includes the parking assistant pro software? Or they didn’t think to use it? The port is on the right rear side I think.

Anyway, that charging speed 👍
 

Logal727

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Huh, I wonder if they didn’t get the Executive package on that car, which includes the parking assistant pro software? Or they didn’t think to use it? The port is on the right rear side I think.

Anyway, that charging speed 👍
The guy that was with the salesman just didn’t know what he was doing. I think they sell a lot of Teslas because he said he knew nothing about the CCS charging stuff and that he only worked with teslas and their chargers don’t have a screen. I would assume $120k would come with everything so just gonna chalk it up to ignorant dealer.
 

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Not only is Electrify America’s reliability unacceptable, but their user experience is ridiculously poor. How tough is it to have some indicator on the charger that it is offline?
Good write-up. I have no experience with EA as they have zero presence here (and never will), but I honestly don't think that their Customer Service is much different than other companies (sadly). I have Shell Recharge (formerly Greenlots) CS in my speed dial list. 🤷‍♂️
 

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I’ve been the same way until very recently. Literally have never had a problem with EA on east coast yet.
On I95 south of DC, every time I have stopped at the Fredericksburg EA station there have been broken chargers. The last time I stopped there all the working chargers were occupied so I skipped the charge and headed on to Winchester (my destination).

The EA chargers on I64 near Charlottesville are pretty new, but I spent an hour there waiting for an available charger, then trying to get chargers to work and finally getting the 10 minute charge I needed to make it home. That station used to be empty but not any more.

I have had good luck with the chargers off I81 in Staunton but it isn't a good place to stop for a meal. Walmart is there and there are some places across the busy street, but it isn't a walking friendly area at all. Also, I81 is a very congested interstate highway and I bet those chargers are full many times during the day.

The situation is rapidly deteriorating IMO.
 

Logal727

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On I95 south of DC, every time I have stopped at the Fredericksburg EA station there have been broken chargers. The last time I stopped there all the working chargers were occupied so I skipped the charge and headed on to Winchester (my destination).

The EA chargers on I64 near Charlottesville are pretty new, but I spent an hour there waiting for an available charger, then trying to get chargers to work and finally getting the 10 minute charge I needed to make it home. That station used to be empty but not any more.

I have had good luck with the chargers off I81 in Staunton but it isn't a good place to stop for a meal. Walmart is there and there are some places across the busy street, but it isn't a walking friendly area at all. Also, I81 is a very congested interstate highway and I bet those chargers are full many times during the day.

The situation is rapidly deteriorating IMO.
Yeah i should stay Florida Georgia east coast, I haven’t traveled further than Savannah yet. Also it’s so inconsistent that everyone’s experiences varies, I’ve probably just been lucky, I’ve seen issues on PlugShare at these chargers I just haven’t had to deal with them
 

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Well somebody has to start taking advantage of that 80% matching government money and start getting more stations installed! I know it will be 12 to 18 months though but something should soon start happening. Not an issue for me but it would be nice to see something done even halfway right for once!
Sponsored

 
 




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