Monday, June 24, 2013

Retiring from the workforce, Retiring the 914, Retiring the Blog

Life rarely turns out the way you expect.  After battling her Huntington's Disease for 15 years, my wife passed away last September.  This made me rethink my life and what I was going to do with myself now.  With 35 years of work and 17 years of school under my belt, I started thinking about retirement.  After years of careful planning, I'm in the position to call it quits in the working world and move somewhere cheap and exotic.  I've been to 46 countries around the world, so I have experience to draw from as to where I would go.

In the end, I chose Thailand.  Specifically, Hua Hin.  Hua Hin is a small city about 2 hours south-west of Bangkok by train.  It's right on the ocean, has a long white sand beach, mountains, golfing and all of the infrastructure I'll need to survive.  I'm learning Thai and intend to blend in as best I can.  If I get tired of Hua Hin, I'll pack my one suitcase, grab my guitar and laptop and drive my scooter to another town, or even farther away to Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam or somewhere else exciting.

It's super cheap to live there, the food is great, the ocean is right there, the people are friendly, and did I mention it's super cheap?  I looked into the Retirement Visa process and luckily I meet all the criteria: Over 50 (14 days over as I type), enough money to sustain myself, and I don't have leprosy or syphilis   Bingo!  I'm putting the house on the market next week and have sold off or given away everything I own.  Except the 914.

The 914 is the big question in all of this.  I have a few choices:

- Ship it.  Shipping costs are actually reasonable; from my house to the dock in Bangkok for about $2000.  The problem is paying taxes and duties on arrival.  I've read that they can charge 3X the value of the car, and they get to pick whatever value they want.  So that is out.

- Sell it.  It's in great condition, but the range with the golf cart batteries is poor so nobody is going to pay me anywhere near the parts cost of the project, much less my time and blood and sweat.

- Store it.  This is my only realistic choice, but it just kicks the can down the road.  I will sell the batteries, likely to a golf cart shop in town, and then put the car in storage.  I don't want to pay the huge monthly fee at a mini-storage place, so I'm looking for someone who will let me put it in their locked garage for a small payment, potentially for years until I decide what to do next.  My classic car insurance requires it to be in a locked garage, so that's important.

So, this is likely the last blog entry, until something big happens in the world of the 914.  If I end up in an import-friendly country I can bring it in and fill it full of cheap lithium batteries.

I had a blast doing the conversion, driving the car, saving the world and spreading the word about electric vehicles.  I hope those who have found this blog have learned something that helped them with their own project.

I will trickle posts on my rarely-used Facebook account to let people know where I am in the world.  The welcome mat is always out for anyone who wants to come and visit.

Update: Everything is sold and I'm under 2 weeks left in California.  I haven't found an affordable place to store the 914 yet, so I'm working on solidifying the remaining leads.

Update #2: I have found a home for the 914 while I'm overseas, tucked under the wing of an airplane in a hanger at the Paso Robles airport.  Sleep well, Frau Geliebte.  I will try to bring you to me later, or collect you if I return to the US.

A Toyota RAV4 EV in the Wild

I was going to the post office in San Luis Obispo and noticed an SUV parked in the J1772 charging parking space.  I went over to check it out and found that it was one of the new Toyota RAV4 EVs!  The web site is full of information.  It's rated for 103 miles, which is a great jump over the Leaf and Volt.

They're still in limited distribution so this is still a rare car.  The cool thing is it has a Tesla battery pack and drive train.  This is the fruit of the Tesla / Toyota partnership.  Enjoy.

Atascadero Tesla Supercharger Station

I was driving down the main street of Atascadero last weekend and glanced over at the J1772 charging station at the RaboBank, as I always do, to see if anybody is charging up.  This time there was a beautiful green Tesla Model S parked there.  I pulled a U-turn and pulled in.  I talked with the owner Rita for a while.  She uses the car for work and does a lot of long-distance driving.

I then realized that the construction going on to the right of the charging station wasn't just a parking lot repair, it was a new Tesla Supercharger station!  I talked with the construction crew for a while.  They are the roving crew that installs the Supercharger stations and also worked on the electrical systems in the factory in Fremont.  Atascadero will be the only station between join the Hawthorne, Buellton and Gilroy stations as you go up the 101, so it will be a popular stopover for Model S owners.  The owner of the Subway shop across the street is going to see an upswing in business!'

This station will have 7 8 chargers, which is a good idea for what will be a very busy location.

Update:  I stopped by the location a week later and found that construction is almost complete, just the two at the end still need to be finished off.

These large enclosures hold the chargers that convert AC power from the grid to DC power to the cars.  Notice the numbering, this should tell us how many supercharger plugs are deployed so far, at 3 2 plugs per enclosure that's a maximum of 279 186 plugs but the last unit is not always fully populated.  The black plastic panel in the upper left corner I believe is to allow a radio signal to get in/out of the enclosure, allowing Tesla to talk with the chargers for remote diagnostics, software updates, etc.

This is the specification sticker on each enclosure.  It shows the unit can take almost every kind of AC grid power and convert it into lovely DC juice for the cars.  410 Volts DC at 210 Amps is 86,100 watts of power delivered directly to the battery pack.

And it goes in through this plug.  It's small, simple and elegant, not designed by committee like the original J1772 or its new big brother the J1772 Combo.

They've left stub-ups on the pad for two more enclosures or 6 4 outlets, good to spend a bit of money up front and plan for the future.

And finally this is the switchgear that connects the charger enclosures to the power grid.

Tesla Newport Beach Showroom

I had to go down to Los Angeles to pick up my Retirement Visa from the Thai embassy, and I stayed with a childhood friend in Newport Beach.  I looked up the Tesla showrooms in the area and found there was one just a few miles down the road, at the Fashion Island.

They had this gorgeous blue Model S in prominent display.  I walked around for a while when a salesman came up and we started talking about everything Tesla.  Turns out he had been in the job for 3 days!

They also had the rolling chassis, and a factory-perfect Roadster.

Dark metallic grey is my favourite color...

Tesla Supercharger at Harris Ranch

I was coming back from Sacramento on the I-5 and decided to stop in at the Harris Ranch exit to check out the new Tesla Supercharger station.  It looks like it's running, but awaiting the solar canopy.  Enjoy.

It gets stinking hot in this area in the summer, so they're smart to put a shade structure over the electrical gear.

And here is a Model S sucking up the free juice.

Here are the specs on the side of the charger enclosure.