This is the first of two tales and the moral is, we don’t have enough working switch stations yet: Better Place (and I) know this and that’s why there will be at least 30 more in a couple of months. Right now there is usually only one station on a route and this needs to and will change soon.
Saturday morning, on a mild spur of the moment thing I said yes to my brother in law and a trip to the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). I didn’t look at a map, I didn’t think about distance and my knowledge of the geography of Israel is not especially good. So after agreeing to the trip I packed the family into the Better Place car (obviously, I didn’t want to burn money and oil with the other car) and set off to meet my brother in law at the battery switch station in Elyakim. This is at the top of the Number 6 (Kvish 6) toll road.
I was driving a borrowed Better Place car because on Wednesday Renault had asked to have the car back to do a software upgrade to some part of the car that can’t be upgraded over the phone. They delivered another electric car to my office at 9am on a car transporter and took mine away. They weren’t finished by Thursday so over the weekend I still had the replacement. Better Place even assured me not to worry about the tolls (which are sent in the post to the registered owner of the car).
So we set off. As we did I noted that the switch station I was heading for was not in service. I called ahead and as ever they were wonderfully polite but they did try to deter me from the trip as it sounded like the problem at the station was not that it was off line for regular testing.
What I didn’t do, however, was note exactly where we were intending to go. That was a mistake. My brother in law just said the Kinneret and I didn’t really think about it.
We got to Elyakim station with more than 50% battery. But the station wasn’t working. By using Kvish 6 I beat my brother in law by more than 15 minutes but it still wasn’t working. It was only at this point that I thought to look where the Kinnert was! Well I could get there with a full battery but not back to this switch station unless I found a charge spot. As this was a typical Israeli road trip, we had no firm idea of destination!
And this is the moral: I am a detailed planning kind of guy. I always was. Even in the days before GPS I would plan a route, map it out and usually stick to it. My brother in law is not.
Eventually we went looking for a local attraction near the station but this turned into an aimless drive up a massive hill, never to actually reach a destination. I had to call this off eventually when I felt I had reached the BINGO point. Air force speak for the distance from home where you have to turn around to get back and land with remaining fuel.
By then the computer was telling me the switch station was working so we drove back. I got there with 6% battery remaining and had a trouble free switch.
On first arrival at the station I could have moved my kids to another Better Place car (they offered) and we could have set out for Tiberius. It’s a good thing I didn’t ‘cos then I really would have been stuck!
We ended up climbing (now with a full battery) to Dalyat Al Carmel and having a great lunch and then sitting on the terrace of the restaurant with a pleasant cooling breeze while the kids played. The trip back down the big hill and straight home on Kvish 6 was effortless and comfortable.
On Facebook I received a comment from Shai Agassi, founder of Better Place, stating that within the next couple of weeks two more switch station will open up on route to the Kinneret from Tel Aviv and this will certainly make the trip not only possible, but easy and tolerant of any given station being out of action for a little while.
But still that was a 200km road trip with an electric car and even with problems, it was fine.
My next story is the second half: Sunday’s work trip to the north of Israel where two perfect swaps and a handy hotel charging spot near my destination allowed an effortless 300km road trip day.