Electric Schemes

Mysterious affair, electricity. I only know this quote from Samuel Beckett because I’ve often plagiarised his pithy assertion “I am still alive, this may come in useful”  after short but painful kinetic experiences starting with bikes, and ending in trees. It’s part of a well worn reboot process triggered by a skills crisis manifesting a second or so before the point of impact.

Rebooting is something Carol’s new car probably does. It certainly hums into life without anything so traditional as a key. Displays flare to suggest a moon shot is your chosen destination. Rotate the big knurled drive dial to ‘D’ and soundless motion sends you on your way. After 35 years of cars with mostly controlled explosions firing off under the bonnet, it’s quite the thing.

But it’s not the thing we’re going to talk about here. Even if there is much to talk about, most of it good, some of it a bit meh and a couple of niggles best summarised as ‘whoever is responsible for THIS ABOMINATION report to the Scorpion Pit immediately’

Because first we need to deal with the EV nemesis – namely charging the bugger. Public charging in Herefordshire is unbelievably rubbish. While I accept electricity is still a bit of a new fangled novelty in these parts and ‘the candle party‘ polls strongly in local elections, the dearth of any kind of charging infrastructure is definitely something to consider if a) being stranded amp free many miles from your house isn’t in your daily schedule and/or b) you’re not desperate to drive to Bristol to find something useful to plug into.

Home charging then. Car comes with a three pin plug. Assume manufacturing such a useless unit is cheaper than – say – a chocolate teapot. Twelve hours at a couple of amps will get you maybe 50 miles. Assuming your house hasn’t burned down first. Rex – MTB mate, top chap and retained sparky – took one look at my dodgy extension based charging set up and immediately scrambled the fire brigade*

We needed to come up with a better plan and, due to a series of closely related events escalating from a ‘well that looks interesting‘ to a new car on the drive a week later, that plan required rapid enaction.

Fitting a ‘fast‘ charger** to the front of a house should not be a massive pain the arse. Because most houses have the important bits of the National Grid terminated somewhere close to where you park your car. Not our house. Not even close. Closer in fact to the road where parking is undesirable due to a traffic profile made up primarily of large farm vehicles who smash first and avoid questions later.

Additionally our house is essentially in the middle of a large terrace. A terrace that used to be one single structure. Look carefully and you’ll see bricked filled door openings, look anywhere and you’ll understand the direct consequences of the intersection between ‘splitting the utilities‘ and ‘lowest cost bidder’

Thankfully Rex has weathered this electrical storm, and dropped us down the local Fire Station watch list. Sadly our options for cabling appear to be a) run a cable all the way round the house, b) chuck it over the roof or c) compromise the structural integrity by drilling through about 20 joists.

a) is a hard no. Long route we’d need a cable thick enough to run a commercial cannabis farm b) is ugly, horrible and Rex, rightly, has no truck with it. c) is such a ball ache, but we catch a break with a right-sized cable running from the main fuse board to within 5m of the outside wall mooted for charger installation.

But because it’s our house, we’ve bricked the other end up about a month ago and spent quite a lot of money to make sure it’s entirely unaccessible. Instead, Rex and – coopted ex electrican and all round problem solver – Matt do stuff involving pulling cable, pushing cable, feeding cable, swearing at cable, terminating cable, you know general cable things on the hottest day of the year and often in the loft.

I sit watchfully in the garden and adopt a managerial stance. Activities include making coffee and asking stupid questions*** Eight hours after starting though, my narrow skills close the gap between switching on and plugging in. The charger is allegedly smart and so there must be an app. In fact two apps, the instructions for which appear to have been translated from Chinese to English by a person understanding neither.

Much of this configuration is to ensure firing up the dishwasher while the amp hungry charger is firing electrons into the car doesn’t plunge the terrace into darkness. Three days later I’m not absolutely sure this risk has been entirely mitigated. As we have new neighbours, I’m slightly worried our future relationship may be predicated on my sketchy interpretation of technically obtuse log files.

I’m sure it’ll be fine. Whatever, we’ve mitigated range anxiety with the commissioning of our very own domestic electrical petrol station. 4 hours on a cheap rate tariff stuffs 100+ miles into the car. For less than a fiver.

Electricity? Might just be the future.

* unroll the whole extension cable is the advice you need here. Otherwise you are creating first a heater and then, shortly after, the source of extensive crop destruction.

**It’s not a charger. it’s a bloody expensive posh socket that can supply 3x the power of a standard plug, with a close to zero chance of undesired electrical outcomes.

***We did make sure everyone ate their own bodyweight in dead pig later that evening. The BBQ is gas so I’m slightly less dangerous operating that.

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