Even an electric vehicle depends on the kindness of strangers now and then. Good thing there are always kind strangers. In this case it was Mike Carnett, a car salesman in Wytheville, Virginia, 90 miles from home when we only had 78 miles of battery life.
TC and I had enjoyed the glories of Pipestem State Park in West Virginia, which overlooks the ancient Bluestone Gorge. And it has a modern little free charger for both Tesla and our union-made Chevy Bolt. (I love to park next to Tesla’s who paid three times what I did for our 250 miles of range.)
We decided to take the long way home down the New River as my EV app told us about a charger in Blacksburg. From there we would have plenty of electrons to get home to Winston. We travel these days guided by clever iPhone Apps and the scattering of charging stations in in Walmarts, shopping malls, gas stations and the occasional city hall parking lot.
Even the cheapest EV (mine) has more than 200 miles of range, which is a lot more than I can go without stopping to pee. I’ve put just under 20,000 miles on my Bolt ranging from Atlanta to Cincinnati to DC with only flutters of anxiety.
But you still have to get the electricity into the battery. Our Bolt would not accept the charge at the EVGo charger in Blacksburg even after 45 minutes with a very helpful young man on the help line. No problem as we had plenty of juice to get down to Wytheville as a gas station where we had charged the day before. But, it wouldn’t charge there either, even after an hour on the phone with another delightful lady. We were now 12 miles short of the 90 to get home.
The Nissan Leaf was one of the first legit EV’s so every dealer has a free, but really slow, charger. We drifted slightly nervously across town to Dutch Miller Nissan. It almost worked. Out walked Michael Carnett, who poked and joked as salesman do. He noticed that the charge nozzle didn’t seem to be quite seating correctly. So I stuck my naked finger into the gizmo and dislodged a little chunk of plastic that was wedged in, probably broken off from an earlier session. A teeny-weeny trickle of electrons began to move. It was like watching a bucket of water heated by a match. So we went back to the fast Electrify America and ate ice cream as the big wire poured in 100 miles in 25 minutes. Home by dinner.
Electric vehicles are still vehicles with thousands of moving parts. There is no oil to change or engines to pour gas in. But EV’s are still complicated machinery built to ride up and down mountains at high speed. Stuff happens in the real world.
I can’t wait for the deluge of charging stations after Senator Coal Mine (a compliment in West Virginia) changed his mind and permitted the future to edge into our lives last week. I don’t know how our Nissan friend votes or what he thinks of global warming. I know I was grateful for his practical curiosity and kind spirit. It’s gonna take all us strangers showing a little kindness to get to the future.