Charged Up

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A little note of apology to followers: Yesterday I hit the “publish” button on my entry before adding a title (“Saturday Inspection Tour”), so the entry arrived with a mysterious “655” instead. It’s some sort of WordPress numbering, and it had nothing to do with the entry. Sorry if you were trying to discern some top-secret meaning in that.

If “radio” and “electric” were more similar syllabically — yes, they each have three, but the inflection is all wrong — we could change up a Buggles song and make it today’s theme: “Henry Ford killed the electric car.” (Very long E: eeeee-lectric car)

Whether it works as a New Wave parody or not, it’s a sad but true statement: it’s all Henry Ford’s fault. Well, not entirely his: a guy named Charles Kettering helped, and so did every roughneck working the Texas oil fields in the 1920s. And King Money played a part as well.

Thanks to an article I read back in February, I can say all this with great authority. It turns out, to my surprise, that gasoline was hardly the favorite horse in the race to supplant horses: 40 percent of all early cars ran on electricity. Another 38 percent ran on steam, while only 22 percent were powered by gasoline, which, as messy as it was, was still an improvement over 2.5 million pounds of manure deposited daily on New York streets.

Women in particular favored electricity as the power source for horseless carriages, because it didn’t belch all over their clothing. In fact, Henry Ford, who early on endorsed gasoline as the way to go, had an electric-car-driving wife. But Hank ignored his wife’s preferences (typical man, I suppose), and mass-produced his Model T, selling them for what amounted to (in today’s dollars) a $30,000 discount over electric cars.

Mr. Kettering invented the electric starter for gas cars, ending the need for hand-cranking, and then an oil boom in Texas sealed the fate of both electric and steam-driven cars. Until now. Sort of.

While I was looking up solar panels the other day, I found a solar inverter for charging electric cars, and the company suggested installing one regardless of the fuel your car utilizes. “Because if you don’t already own an electric car,” this Company of the Future predicted with great confidence, “you will.”

So far, as fans of Babylon 5 know, “the future isn’t what it used to be,” and yesterday illustrated on a personal level all the hazards of technology.

Starting with my phone. I’m quite sure it’s entirely operator error, but it doesn’t stop me from getting greatly frustrated at this hand-held device. Why can’t it be more like a tri-corder?

All I wanted to do was take a picture of two geese sitting in a snowbank. When I finally got the camera called up, I needed to zoom in, but instead I was getting words like “auto” and “beauty” (what does that even mean?) and “stickers” (????). I finally managed two pictures, after the geese had stood up and moved into shadows, and I still haven’t inspected them to see if the geese are even visible.

Later in the day (to get ahead of my story), when I wanted to take the photo posted above, I couldn’t get my camera off selfie mode, and I finally gave up and made Lynn take it with her phone. Which she could, but only because we went to Almont to retrieve it.

Lynn came home from her job in Almont, 10 miles away, in the middle of the day, and then happily spent the next several hours buying a sink for her new bathroom. I don’t know exactly why it takes multiple hours to buy a sink, but it did, and she was using her iPad to make this purchase, up until she needed some sort of password, which was stored not on her iPad but her phone.

And it wasn’t until then — which is remarkable, really, that it took so long — that she realized she didn’t know where her phone was. She suspected she’d left it in Almont, to where she wouldn’t return until an interminable two days away, but she didn’t want to drive 20 miles round-trip only to discover she’d set it down somewhere in the house.

Initially she suggested I could call her phone, but then she remembered she didn’t have the ringer turned on, so then she replaced me with her more efficient iPad, which told her in no uncertain terms that yes, her phone was in Almont.

I abandoned my attempt at closet clean-up, where the help of two cats (Na Ki’o plunked himself down on everything on the closet floor and went to sleep, and Marrakesh sat on shirts as I was trying to put them in a garment bag) was perhaps impeding the process (I also probably killed off the last of my aloe plant when an entire pile of sweatshirts slid off the bed onto the last few fronds, snapping the tap root) to drive Lynn to Almont so she wouldn’t have to use up her precious gasoline.

I had fewer miles left on my electric Nissan Leaf than I thought, but I knew the Gunnison County Electric Association, of which we are proud new associates, has been zealously turning Gunnison County into an electric-car paradise. Recently they installed a charging station by the Almont Resort. I thought we could park at the charger and then walk up the road apiece (Lynn thinks it’s a mile) to the post office.

And this plan was working great until the charging station, which I don’t believe is actually charging (by charging I mean money, not electrons), wouldn’t function without a Chargepoint card.

GCEA recently e-mailed me an entreaty to sign up for two different charge (as in plastic money) cards, Sema Connect and Chargepoint, with the promise of a discount at the charging stations, which are still mostly free around the valley. (The stations in Crested Butte now charge — as in monetarily — between 5 and 10 p.m. but are free other hours.) I got my Sema Connect card in the mail last week, but I didn’t finish signing up for Chargepoint, because they wanted a credit card number and to charge me $20. I think they function like prepaid credit cards, but I didn’t study it because I never leave town, where the City of Gunnison’s charging station is free until the end of the year, no card required.

The Almont charging station, which was not as intuitive as it could have been, kept telling me it is “unrestricted” and “free,” but it didn’t seem to want to do anything without a ChargePoint card. Usefully on the kitchen table, I’m not sure my uncharged Sema Connect card would have helped. The stupid little box kept asking “No card?” but it didn’t matter what button I pushed: no answer was offered. On the plus side, I could have selected any number of languages, including Australian English, Canadian English, English English and U.S. English.

So we gave up, got back in the car, now showing a mere 16 miles left in my “tank,” drove to the post office, retrieved the phone, and headed for home. We left Gunnison with 29 e-miles showing on my dashboard, and used 13 of them going uphill to Almont. It was really impressive, though, how much slower they rolled off once I dropped below 50 mph (because deer are clogging every roadside in and out of Gunnison).

Coming back, downhill, still under 50 (I don’t know what makes the roadside plants so tasty) because of deer, we used up five e-miles. Once home I plugged into household electricity, no card required, thus putting an end to a rather technologically inept day.

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