Return to the Firing Range

It’s been close to two years since I exercised my 2nd Amendment rights. And during that time, two firing ranges (coincidentally the two closest to San Francisco) have closed. So the nearest range to San Francisco is in San Leandro. 90 minutes travel time during daylight. The price of ammunition has also spiked thanks to liberal slime in Sacramento, except for .22LR, which is still affordable. Soooo range time means practicing with a Walther P22 and a Henry Survival Rifle, both chambered in .22LR.

IMG 7394
First few magazines after two years. I’m still pulling to the left.
IMG 9429
Last target of the day. There was also a headshot, not pictured. Grouping could be better.

24 months of driving electric

1.13% of all cars are plug in hybrid/electric.  I was part of that 1.13% for the past two years.  Electrics are great in congested, traffic calmed cities.  However, once you leave and enter “America”, electrics are little smug mobiles that are hindered with short range (at least the affordable ones).

Where electrics make sense
I live in San Francisco, where the city government actively makes it difficult to drive a car.  From not fixing the potholes and cracks and diverting the money to bicycle lanes, speed humps and stop signs on every block to active Traffic Calming measures such as prohibiting turning, backwards diagonal parking, removing traffic lanes and timing traffic signals to turn red, thus creating congestion, San Francisco is the master of screwing up traffic.  Driving here, especially in the Downtown core, is an exercise in not moving.  If you’re in an electric, when you’re not moving, you’re not using energy.  And when the traffic does go and stop, you creep along eventually creating enough energy to regenerate your battery, a mile at a time.  In this environment, electrics win.

Aaaand where electrics don’t
Unfortunately for electrics and the liberals that like them (with taxpayer subsidy), most of America is not like San Francisco.  America is long distances between cities, moving at high speed and where there is copious free parking.  Its people cherish their freedom to drive untethered from range anxiety or lack of DC fast chargers.  In this environment, electrics are at a disadvantage because at freeway speed, range disappears quickly and regeneration does not increase range at the same rate you lose it.

Electrics are best for car unfriendly cities.  If you sit around a lot in traffic and drive short distances, electrics are for you.  If you do a combination of city and non city driving over longer distances, a (plug-in) hybrid works best.  And if you drive a lot on the freeway, get yourself a gas powered car.  A lot of the new cars get 35+ MPG which is pretty darn good.   I spent a week in Dallas and didn’t see one electric car on the freeways.  I did see a lot of practical sedans that got good highway MPG.  And this is the lesson I learned after two years with an E-Golf.

Read about the daily issues of driving electric here.

Adventures with Keyless Entry

Most new cars have keyless entry nowadays.  You keep the key fob in your pocket, the car detects it and allows you to unlock the doors and start the car.   Usually it works fine.  Unless the battery in the key fob goes flat.  Late at night.  In the cold.

So last night, a buddy and I went to the ballpark to watch the Giants beat the Nationals.  Seeing that the game was won, we left at the bottom of the 8th to beat the traffic and what not.  We get to the car.  Doors won’t open.  Pressed the buttons on the fob.  No flashing LED.  Flat battery!  It took us an hour to get into the car using the internet and go through the owner’s manual to find how to start the car.  Instead of having a chapter titled “In case of dead key fob”, where instructions on entering and starting the car could be, instructions for entering the car and starting the car were in two different places in the book.

Or we could have just found this video and gotten going in 10 minutes…

Ah well, learning moment.

I had one of these…

for 16 years and 170,000 miles.  It was the first car I got after college and was the definition of “sleeper”.  The car was made in Tennessee but the SR20DE engine and transmission was Made in Japan.  Drove it all over California.  Sold it with the original clutch.  Fun to drive!

Honda Clarity

Honda had an event in San Francisco where you could test drive the new Clarity.

The Clarity is a line of cars that are roomy inside like an Accord, full of tech and doo dads and looks retro like a 1970s Buick.  What sets each one apart is their drivetrains.  It comes in full electric (80 miles), plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell.

The fit and finish are superb as is the interior.  Nice because these cars are Made in Japan.

Like the iPhone holders on the back of the front seats.  Good detail.

But look at it on the side.  That rear wheel!  That’s a 1970s Buick!!

Driving Electric (car post)

For the past year and a half, I have been leasing a Volkswagen E-Golf.  It’s the 2016 base model with an average range of 80 miles/charge.

(representative photo, not my car)

There are many quirks that you will have to adapt to if you’re driving electric.

First off, the range can be wildly “optimistic” After a full L1 charge, my car has claimed a range of 104 miles.  Of course, after I drive for a bit, it loses range quickly until it’s back down to the 80s.

Second is that real issue, range anxiety Because of it’s stated 80 mile range, it’s great in San Francisco and the immediate area (north to Marin and south to the Airport).  Due to the City of San Francisco’s stupid policy of traffic calming, the car actually works fine in Eco+ mode getting around the City (because you’re not really moving due to bad congestion that’s created by the City, I mean “traffic calming”).  You don’t actually get 80 miles to drive, although the car may claim it has an 80 mile range.  When your range drops below 20, it automatically goes to Eco mode.  When it drops below 10, you’re in “Limp home mode” AKA Eco+.  On the freeway?  Forget about it.  There have been times when I was driving rideshare when the car would hit “limp home mode” coming off 280S at John Daly.  I would coast down the hill to Westlake, recharging the battery so I’d have enough power to get from the stoplight to the DC charger in the shopping center.  And speaking of DC charging…it charges the battery to 80%,  That’s enough to get you home in 60 mile chunks.  100% charge is achieved with either an L2 or L1 charger.  Cold?  The E-Golf has seat warmers that work well..  The heater works best in “Normal” mode and takes at least 10 miles off your range.  It doesn’t work in either Eco or Eco+.  The new generation of electrics have longer range (and hopefully better heaters).  The Chevrolet Bolt and the Tesla Type 3 (with it’s big booty) have 230 mile ranges which is practical for California driving.  The latest versions of the Nissan Leaf and the E-Golf have 120 mile ranges.  An improvement but not there yet.  What’s needed now with electrics having longer ranges is more DC charging stations.  And speaking of DC chargers…

Long trips require planning (and apps).  I’ve taken the E-Golf up to Sacramento several times and I can say that in the hinterlands between Vallejo and Sacramento, WalMart is your friend.  Besides having reasonably priced groceries and organics, the WalMarts in Fairfield, West Sacramento and Dixon have DC chargers.  There’s also a DC charger in the Vacaville Factory Outlets (along with an In & Out and Chick-Fil-A).  PlugShare is your friend.  Download the app so once you’re up in Sac, you can do things near the plethora of L2 chargers up there.

Conclusion:  Always lease, because electrics are hella expensive and the battery is expensive to replace when used up.  Technology is moving forward fast so you’ll want the latest out there (because it usually means a longer range) and since the car manufacturers need to have these cars on the road, there will usually be some nice deals out there.  Sometimes they pop up on Leasehackr.

4000 Pounds (car post)

4000 pounds is big and heavy. For anything, really. 4000 pounds of anything is pretty big.

I had a Ford C-Max Energi that weighed 4100 pounds. The Energi is a plug in hybrid that has a 20 mile battery in the boot and has a gas engine and tank. Despite being h-e-a-v-y and having the world’s largest turning circle, it had decent acceleration and was maneuverable enough to handle San Francisco traffic.  It was also one of the more practical cars I’ve owned.  It’s footprint is small so it fits into parking spaces.  It’s tall so there’s a lot of room inside.  What it doesn’t have is boot space because much of that is taken by the hybrid battery.  They can be purchased used for a good price, kitted out.  Mine had all options except the moonroof.   I was able to get 500 miles/tank driving in hilly, uber/lyft choked, traffic calmed San Francisco. The current owner in flat Sacramento gets 1000 miles/tank.  See?

Not bad for a 4100 pound car.  Now in comparison, I have been looking at other cars that weigh about 4000 pounds.  The Alfa Stelvio, for one.  It’s about 4000 pounds, but it’s a crossover SUV.  It’s built on the Giulia chassis so there’s some of that “fun to drive” element to it.  Or at least, as much fun as you can get driving an SUV fast.

It’s a good looking SUV and although I drove it in Monterey and was less than impressed (because I had just driven its really fast sister, the Giulia Quadrifoglio), on retrospect, it wasn’t bad.  Definitely better than all the other SUVs that aren’t made by a company that starts with “P”.  It’s just hard to compare race cars with people movers.

Another 4000 pound car that’s interesting is the Kia Stinger.  It’s front engine, rear wheel drive.  Its Kia’s first full blown performance car.  The car looks good.  The specs look good.  James May likes it.   Kia may run into the same problem that Volkswagen had with the Phaeton.  The Phaeton was a tour de force; it had every option and gadget cars were capable of having.  It has a W-12 engine.  It was the cousin to the Audi A8.  And when it was new, it went for over $100K with options.  And that was the problem.  “$100K for a VOLKSWAGEN???”  Kia has made its name with nice, inoffensive, affordable cars.  $52,300 for a Kia???  It’s tough going upmarket.