On Tuesday, Greg Frenette, manager of Ford's Global Electrified Fleets, came to UCF with a prototype Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid Electic Vehicle (PHEV) to show off their new solar EV charging station. I had received an invitation via Facebook, and I planned to show up early and charge my home-built EV in the new spaces. I figured I'd be available if there was a problem, and Silent E would likely get a picture with Ford's prototype. I had even washed and waxed her for the event.
Unfortunately, one of my children got sick, and I had to take her to the doctor. I didn't have time to attend the photo-op, but I did go to the lecture.
And thus began the adventure.
To allow me to attend the lecture as long as possible, Eri was going to bring Kayla to the school, where I could pick her up and proceed to the doctor's office. To make it that far, I would plug in and charge during the lecture.
I arrived at the charging station at 8:45 or so. All four spaces were roped off. Luckily there was a guy there; when I asked if I could pretty-please charge my EV, he actually called his supervisor to find out. I was told the spaces were "not activated yet", and directed to a different parking lot.
They had some spaces roped off for the lecture, but no electrical plugs. They even walked around and looked. My plans had to change; I'd be leaving the lecture early to go home and use a gas car to take Kayla to the doctor.
I was wearing my "Electric Love" T-shirt (the blue one) with the same heart design that's on my rear windshield. I was the only one with a T-shirt in the whole room. I felt out-of-place, but nobody stopped me as I headed to the buffet for a scone and danish.
I made conversation with the folks seated nearby. It turned out that my neighbor was Angelo, from RubeLab! I had just accepted their invitation to the RubeLab Green Fair and Rube Rally, a 15-mile alternative energy scavenger hunt. We chatted while we waited for the presentation.
Mr. Frenette claimed that Ford was dedicated to alternative energy, and gave us a plan to back it up. He talked about Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) technologies (the prototype Escape uses wireless networking to talk with a smart meter); he explained that battery cost is the big problem, and that it can be alleviated if we take advantage of economies of scale and find a "secondary use" (a way to sell the used batteries) like stationary power systems (battery banks for home solar installation); he even addressed the problem with extra drain on the grid, showing us that the grid would need to handle between 17% and 25% more current than it dows now.
But the most interesting stuff, to me, was Ford's new BEVs. They're releasing the "Transit Connect", a "small van", later this year. It's actually a commercial van, good for florists and carpenters and such, with an 80-mile range. It looks to me like it could easily be a 7-passenger vehicle.
In 2012, they expect to release a new BEV. They're prototyping it on the Focus platform, but according to Mr. Frenette, it will look entirely different: "sexy" and "futuristic".
Between that and the Nissan Leaf, I may have to trade in Silent E. I once promised to buy the first commercial car that would carry my whole family 40 miles on electricity alone. I'm lucky I left "family" vague, since it's expanded to include Omi, for a total of 6 persons; otherwise, I'd have to buy the Leaf right away to keep my honor.
I have to modify the 40 miles a little, too. I really need to take my kids to school and back, twice. So here's the big promise: I will purchase the first commercially manufactured vehicle that will take my entire family to the farthest child's school and back twice.
I left before I could participate in the question-and-answer session. Eri was already bringing Kayla, so she had to turn around and meet me at home. I took a gas car to the doctor, and then drove my EV to work, arriving quite late.
So much for my attempt at party-crashing.