Category Archives: Experiences

Snowzilla 2016 – The Great EV Charging Station Digout


The Columbia Association Supreme Sports Club in Howard County MD

This week’s record-breaking snow storm posed lots of challenges for those of us in the Washington, DC area. Roads were virtually impassable during the storm and then it took days to dig out all the local streets and cul-de-sacs.

There was so much snow, over 30 inches in some places, that the plow drivers had no place to push it. There are probably some EV charging stations buried under snow piles out there. If you know of any charging stations that are blocked by snow, please let the property manager know.

The Supreme Sports Club, run by the Columbia Association in Howard County Maryland, did a great job digging out the EV charging station on their property as shown in the photo above. Thanks, CA!

Happy Christmas – A 1912 Electric Vehicle Ad

Thank you for reading PlugInSites. I have enjoyed sharing my experiences, charging station news and insights into some of the more interesting places to charge an electric car around the DC, Maryland, Virginia area. I hope you have a happy holiday season and best wishes for the new year.

Please enjoy this 1912 advertisement that was published in the American Journal of Surgery.


An Electric for her very own – what more enjoyable surprise could your wife receive on Christmas morning? Every woman longs to own an Electric. Every woman knows the comfort, convenience and heightened social prestige it gives. Why not make this year the happiest Christmas?

Your wife would love to drive about in her own Electric – quiet, fashionable, simple and safe. She can pay her social calls; do her shopping; attend the theatre and receptions. You will enjoy the luxury and convenience of it, too, in paying your professional calls.

And Christmas is the season of seasons for an Electric. The cold, biting winds and snow flurries make you feel all the cosier within an Electric. There is such exhilarating pleasure in gliding noiselessly down the boulevard, through the park, threading in and out of congested traffic – quickly, easily, without bother or effort.

Driving an Electric is simplicity itself – no trouble whatever. Any woman – even a child – can operate an Electric efficiently. The first cost of an Electric is decidedly moderate when you consider its lasting, satisfactory service. Maintenance expense and cost of power is far lower than that for other types of cars.

Before you buy any car – consider the Electric.

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PlugInSites “Happy to Share” Dash Card

I confess. I did a bad thing. I didn’t mean any harm. But I caused an inconvenience for another EV driver and I feel terrible about it.

In my defense, I was new at the game of using public charging stations back in the spring of 2012. We all were.

Need to Charge? Card

We had taken our brand new THINK City EV to be in the Olney Days Parade. On the way home, we stopped to have lunch. I plugged in at a Walgreens store which had one of the few charging stations that existed at the time. We went to eat and returned about an hour later.

As we approached, we saw something incredible. There was another EV parked next to our car at the charging station. Not just any EV, but another black THINK City. Twins! There are only about 400 THINKs in the entire United States. What are the chances?


The owner of the other THINK was standing there. I introduced myself. His name was Tony. He had just gotten his car the previous day. He had found himself suddenly low on battery that afternoon and coaxed his new electric machine to the nearest charging station only to find it occupied by my car. He had been waiting 45 minutes for us to return. He was cool about it, but I was kind of embarrassed.

Tony had no way of knowing who the car belonged to or how to contact us. That’s the moment when I decided to use a dash card whenever I leave my vehicle at a public charging station. A dash card, sometimes called a courtesy card or EV charging protocol card, is placed on the dashboard to communicate with other EV drivers who may show up and need to charge. It may be as simple as text that reads, “OK to Unplug” or a mechanism to show what time you plan to finish charging.


The dash card helped this Nissan LEAF driver who needed to charge.

In my opinion, the most valuable information to leave is simply a phone number that you can be reached at. A number to call or text, along with an indication that you are willing to share, is all that is needed to set up a negotiation between two drivers. There can be factors at play that require a dialogue. For example, there may not be any open parking spots adjacent to the charging station and the two cars may have to switch parking.

There are files on the Internet that you can print out to display on your plug-in car’s dashboard. It’s a matter of personal preference which style you want to use. I’ve decided to create one that has a simple design, a bold typeface and a space to put a contact number.


Anyone is free to download the file and print it out for themselves. I’ve also linked to several other dash card files on the Dash Card page.


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Crossing Maryland in Record Time with an Electric Vehicle

Oakland to Ocean City in 6 Hours, 41 Minutes


November 11, 2015, my wife Vera and I took our 100% electric car across the state of Maryland as fast as we possibly could without breaking the speed limit. The goal was to see if we could do the drive in a time reasonably close to doing it in a gasoline car. Six hours is the normal benchmark.

I got the inspiration from watching “The Electric Road Trip,” a PBS documentary made by Jonathan Slade and Novia Campbell. The husband and wife team filmed their 2012 trek across the state in a Nissan LEAF. Their goal was to demonstrate the viability of an EV for everyday use. If they could drive an all-electric car from Oakland in western Maryland all the way to Ocean City, then viewers may realize that an electric car could easily serve as their daily commuter.

Across Maryland in Six Hours or Six Days?

In the film, the couple stop at a store near the beginning of their trip and ask the shopkeeper if she has ever driven from there to Ocean City. The woman said, “Yes I have, it’s normally a six-hour drive from one end of the state to the other.” Novia laughed and said, ”It’s probably going to take us six days.” Indeed, the couple took five days to reach the shore.

Three years ago, when they took their trip, Maryland was an EV charging infrastructure desert on the Eastern Shore and a wilderness west of Frederick. There were very few EV charging stations when venturing beyond the suburbs of Baltimore and DC. Often, the couple had to resort to “trickle charging” on a 120 volt outlet which slowed their pace and gave them time to explore and meet interesting people in the small towns where they stopped to charge.

Jonathan Slade and Novia Campbell holding their Emmy Award for "The Electric Road Trip."

Jonathan Slade and Novia Campbell holding the Emmy Award they won for “The Electric Road Trip.”

Vera and I have taken similar slow charging trips in our THINK City EV and it really does allow plenty of time to smell the roses. That slow pace makes for a nice vacation road trip. But what if a family wants to spend their vacation lounging at the beach, not driving to it. Has the charging infrastructure and EV technology advanced enough to drive an EV from Deep Creek Lake to the OC Boardwalk in a reasonable amount of time?

Bigger Batteries and Supercharging

There have been several advancements since the summer of 2012 to help bring forth a quicker electric journey across the state. The first is that Tesla started delivering their Model S with a range of over 250 miles on a charge. In January, 2014, Tesla opened a Supercharger station in Hagerstown, MD that can recharge the batteries on a Model S in under an hour. Another Supercharger opened in Salisbury last November. This summer, several Tesla “destination charging” stations popped up in western Maryland including at the Lake Pointe Inn in McHenry.

When the Holiday Inn Oceanfront in Ocean City switched on the power to their charging stations on November 3rd, the stage was finally set for a fast electric crossing. I figured the trip could be done with a Tesla 70D by charging up overnight at the Lake Pointe Inn, driving to Hagerstown for a quick boost and if the wind and temperature were right, go non-stop to Ocean City, bypassing the Salisbury Supercharger. I was ready and so was Vera.

Ready to Roll

The night of November 10th, Vera and I drove from our home in the DC-Baltimore area out to the Lake Pointe Inn. It rained most of the way out but the forecast was for partly sunny with a high in the upper 60’s for the following day. Importantly, a steady breeze was forecast to blow from the W and NW for the entire day – a perfect tailwind. It would also be a federal holiday, Veterans Day, and I expected lighter than normal traffic.

We awoke to a fully charged car and headed to the historic Oakland train station, 14 miles away. This is where Jonathan and Novia began their trip. On our way into town, we were astonished to see a white Nissan LEAF coming the other way. I flashed the lights and waved. Electric cars are showing up everywhere, even in the “EV wilderness” of Garrett County, MD.


In Oakland I snapped a few photos and Vera took the driver’s seat. At exactly 8:00 AM we rolled away from the train station heading directly to the Hagerstown Supercharger 115 miles away. I had plotted the route using EV Trip Planner and I carefully monitored the projected vs actual energy usage from my seat on the passenger side. Our car has the Tesla “Autopilot” feature which uses a combination of cameras, radar, ultrasonic sensors and data to adjust speed in response to traffic and automatically steer and change lanes on the highway.

Tesla Autopilot – Keeping Us Honest

We used the Traffic Aware Cruise Control (TACC) practically the entire way to make sure that we stayed at or below the posted speed limit. The car’s forward facing camera is able to read and recognize the speed limit signs and by pulling and holding the cruise control stalk for a few seconds, the TACC will set its cruising speed to match the speed limit and automatically slow down when it senses a slower vehicle ahead and accelerate when movement resumes.


We used a publicly displayed Glympse map so that people who were interested could track our progress. Glympse also displayed the current speed so others could verify that we were sticking to the speed limit. One viewer commented that we were going 70 MPH on I-68 and must be speeding. I reminded them that on October 1st, Maryland increased the posted speed limit on the Interstate in western Maryland from 65 to 70 MPH. So all was good.

The first 85 miles was on two lane highways. Once we merged onto Interstate 68, Vera engaged the Autosteer function to keep the car in the current lane. The Autopilot features are still in beta and Tesla requires drivers to remain engaged and aware when Autosteer is enabled and to keep hands on the wheel at all times.

Supercharger Pit Stop

Traffic was light on I-68 so the Autopilot kept us moving along steadily at 70 MPH except when the posted speed was lower. We reached the Hagerstown exit at 9:59 AM. We arrived to find two of our EV friends had decided to come out to greet us. They had been tracking us on the Glympse map and figured out when we would arrive to charge.


Rick and Dave with Vera at our Hagerstown Supercharger stop.

Rick Rohn drove his LEAF from Martinsburg, WV and Dave Glotfelty, who also has a LEAF, drove from Pennsylvania bearing donuts and drinks. It was great to see them! Our visit was brief. After 42 minutes of charging, we had enough to make it to Ocean City, even if the tailwind quit. At 10:51, we were back on the highway with Autopilot engaged and Vera still holding the wheel.

Bladder Management

After leaving Hagerstown with 215 miles of rated range and the wind literally at our back, I felt confident that we would make it to Salisbury with enough charge to keep going straight to Ocean City without stopping. Since we were trying to compare our total time from Oakland to OC vs a non-stop trip in a gas vehicle, we wanted to keep stops to a minimum. That included bathroom breaks. We were mindful of fluid consumption and it worked out well for the four-hour final leg.


Taking manual control of steering while passing through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge toll booth.

Traffic was relatively light as we passed south of Baltimore, onto Route 50 and over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to the Eastern Shore. We maintained the legal speed even when the limit dropped to 45 or 35 MPH. We got passed a lot.

At 2:41 PM, we crossed the entrance to the Hugh T. Cropper Inlet Parking Lot in Ocean City, exactly 6 hours and 41 minutes after leaving the train station in Oakland. If we were driving a gas car and didn’t have to stop to refuel, to use the restroom or to eat, we would have theoretically arrived 52 minutes earlier. In reality, it’s unlikely that people would drive a distance of 329 miles without stopping. Just a fast food stop and restroom break could easily add up to the same amount of time as our 42 minute Supercharging stop. And of course we eat and use the restroom while the car is charging.


Picking up some fresh Fisher’s Popcorn after arriving at the OC Boardwalk.

Despite the title of this article, I don’t really presume that there’s a “record” for crossing Maryland. However, I do hope to draw attention to the need for more CHAdeMO and SAE Combo fast charging stations, especially in the western part of the state.  Jonathan and Novia hoped that their documentary “would spark conversations about how transportation infrastructure needs to evolve in the 21st century.” I hope that our demonstration contributes to that conversation.

The former Maryland Attorney General promised a statewide fast charger network when he announced the $1,000,000 EVIP grant program. Three chargers funded by the program are under construction on the Eastern Shore. Unfortunately, there are no plans for building fast chargers west of Hagerstown in the EVIP awards. That Nissan LEAF that we spotted out in western Maryland should be able to drive to Ocean City by using a well-spaced network of fast chargers. I hope the infrastructure to support that trip won’t take another three years to develop.


Trip Statistics

Start: 8:00 AM Oakland, MD Train Station
Finish: 2:41 PM Ocean City, MD Hugh T. Cropper Inlet Parking Lot entrance gate
Elapsed Time: 6 Hours, 41 minutes
Total Charging Time: 42 minutes
Rated Miles Added by Charging: 118
Time Taken to Recharge – From Exit to Reentering Hwy: 52 minutes
Total Miles: 329
Total Energy Used: 80 kWh
Avg. Energy: 243 Wh/mi

Charging Across Maryland – Oakland to Ocean City

Drive completed in 6 hours, 41 minutes on Nov. 11, 2015
Details: Crossing Maryland in Record Time with an Electric Vehicle

In July 2012, Jonathan Slade and Novia Campbell drove their Nissan Leaf from the town of Oakland in western Maryland to Ocean City to become the first people to drive a fully electric vehicle across Maryland. They used what little existing EV charging infrastructure existed at the time supplemented by “trickle charging” on 120v outlets at Bed and Breakfasts and towns along the way. The leisurely trip took them nearly a week.

When I watched their Emmy-winning PBS documentary, The Electric Road Trip Across Maryland, I noted that one of the people interviewed at the start said that it normally takes about six hours to drive from Oakland to Ocean City.

It’s been three years since Jonathan and Novia’s adventure and the electric vehicle charging infrastructure is still concentrated in the center of the state. There are still not many charging options in Maryland west of Hagerstown. And the Eastern Shore is still largely an EV charging desert.

Earlier this year, several properties in western Maryland took advantage of the Tesla Destination Charging program and installed Level 2 charging stations for their guests. One of these is Lake Pointe Inn in far western Maryland close to Oakland. Last week, the Holiday Inn Oceanfront switched on the first real charging stations at the Maryland beaches. Now it’s time to take another electric road trip across Maryland. This time, closer to six hours than six days.

At 8:00 AM tomorrow, @verastamps and I plan to leave from in front of the train station in Oakland after charging overnight at the Lake Pointe Inn. If all goes to plan, we may only stop once to charge in Hagerstown. Around 3:30 tomorrow afternoon, we should roll into Ocean City to complete our #Oakland2OC electric road trip. We’ll pick up some Fishers Popcorn on the boardwalk before heading up to the Touch of Italy restaurant at the Holiday Inn for a late lunch and plug in to the brand new charging stations there.

We will be using the Tesla Autopilot extensively on the 325 mile trip tomorrow. Autopilot takes the EV experience from one pedal driving to no pedal driving.

Visit Wednesday starting around 8:00 AM for a live tracking map of our progress. [Drive completed in 6 hours, 41 minutes. Details.]


Tesla Autopilot “Cannonball Run” Record Attempt


photo: Carl Reese, @EVrecordattempt

Alex Roy, Carl Reese and Deena Mastracci, are apparently attempting to set a record for fastest Autopilot equipped Tesla to drive coast to coast. Alex Roy held the cross country “Cannonball Run” NY to LA driving record for a number of years with a BMW M5 that covered the distance at an average speed over 90 mph with top speeds reaching 160 MPH. Roy’s record was broken in October, 2013 by Ed Bolin who drove the distance in 28 hours, 50 minutes and 26 seconds.

Carl Reese, his fiancé Deena Mastracci, and Rodney Hawk drove Reese’s Model S P85D 3,011 miles from LA to New York in 58 hours and 55 minutes in April, 2015. They are listed in the Guinness World Records as having the least non-driving time to cross the United States in an electric vehicle at 12 hours, 48 minutes and 19 seconds. This beat the record set by a pair of Model S sent by Tesla Motors in early 2014 when the Supercharger network was established to the point that would enable cars to drive coast to coast exclusively using Supercharger stations.

I got a clue that something was up this morning when @AlexRoy144 tweeted, “What Is The Level 2 Autonomous Driving Record? Enquiring Minds Want to Know” #Tesla #Autopilot

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed classification system, a Level 2 automated vehicle system has at least two controls that can be automated in unison, such as adaptive cruise control and lane keeping.

Alex Roy put a video on Instagram from Richfield Utah with a red Model S with the alarm going off in the background asking, “Has Elon Musk bricked our Tesla Model S in the middle of our level 2 autonomous driving cross country road trip?

A photo posted by Alex Roy (@alexroy144) on

Another Instagram photo shows 90 MPH on a dim speedometer display with this note: I’m sorry, officer. I couldn’t read how fast the car was driving itself. #NotAllExcuses

This team is likely to be the first to cross the United States since Version 7.0 with Autopilot was released to the public. I’m excited to see Alex Roy in the car with the two experienced Tesla drivers. Roy recently shared his thoughts on the consequences for driving enthusiasts in an autonomous car future in an article, “How Science Fiction Failed Us: The Real Future Of Autonomous Cars.” Worth a read.


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Tesla Sales Location at Westfield Annapolis Mall


Tesla display in Annapolis Mall near J Crew

As a result of the Maryland legislature voting to pass and the governor signing HB-235, there can be up to four locations in the state where Tesla can engage in sales activity. One of those locations is the Montgomery Mall in Bethesda which opened a little over two years ago. A Tesla Sales and Service Center is coming to Owings Mills according to the Tesla Motors website.

Tesla has also announced that they will have an Experience Center at the Westfield Annapolis Mall beginning on Monday, October 19th. This location will only be open through December and will offer test drives and the ability to configure and place an order for a car.


The Tesla Experience Center is set up like a kiosk in the main hall of the mall across from the J Crew store in the vicinity of JCPenney.


Tesla Model S cars charging in the Red Garage

On October 13th, there were four Teslas parked on the ground level in the Red Garage with three of them plugged into the Level One outlets that are designated by the Mall for EV charging. These are presumably test drive cars. At the present time, there are no HPWCs or NEMA 14-50 outlets in the garage.

Howard County Police to Patrol on Electric Motorcycles


Two electric motorcycles added to HCPD fleet. photo: Howard County

Electric Motorcycles to Debut at National Night Out Event

Howard County, Maryland has just added two electric motorcycles to their fleet of Police vehicles. The two Zero Motorcycles made especially for police patrols will make their debut tonight, August 4, 2015 at the National Night Out kick-off event at Vantage Point Park in Columbia, MD at 6:00 PM.

Will be Used to Patrol Pathways

The motorcycles will be used in the new Pathway Patrol Section, which will have seven officers on mountain bikes or electric motorcycles, providing a highly visible police presence on pathways and residential areas. The bikes will allow officers to have maneuverability in areas not easily reached by police cruisers. The motorcycles will be charged at the district station. Howard County Government also provides public charging on County property including the Dorsey and Howard buildings.

The National Night Out will have 25 neighborhood block parties throughout Howard County. The kick-off event at Vantage Point Park is being hosted by the Town Center Community Association, and will include the electric motorcycles and mounted patrol, the HCPD command post, McGruff the Crime Dog, live music, ice cream and other activities.


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Baltimore City $0.15 per kWh Fees Begin June 15

The Baltimore City Department of Public Works, Office of Sustainable Energy posted letters at the EV charging stations in some of the parking garages owned by Baltimore City, informing  users that the fees announced for Level 2 charging on weekdays will begin on June 15, 2015.

Currently, there is more demand at the garage in which you typically park than chargers available. On many weekdays, both the level 1 and 2 EVSE are occupied by the same vehicles for the entire day. These vehicles remain parked long after the battery is charged. To increase access to charging stations for EV drivers needing to charge, we will be implementing a fee structure for charging in the most popular EV spaces in yours and other Baltimore City owned garages.

For now, we will only charge drivers for level 2 electricity use. Level 1 charging will remain free at all times. If you need a charge, and will likely be parked all day, we hope you’ll use the Level 1 outlet when available. Beginning on June 15, 2015, Level 2 charging in this garage will cost $0.15 per kWh between the hours of 7:00AM and 7:00PM on weekdays. All funds collected will be used to pay for equipment repairs or annual subscription fees of municipal EV chargers. Having financially sustainable chargers would also make installing more EV chargers more successful in the future.

The affected garages are:
Arena Garage – 99 S. Howard Street
Baltimore Street Garage – 15 Guilford Avenue
Caroline Street Garage – 805 S. Caroline Street
Lexington Street Garage – 510 E. Lexington Street
Penn Station Garage – 1151 N. Charles Street
Redwood Street Garage – 11 S. Eutaw Street
Water Street Garage – 414 Water Street

The Baltimore City Office of Sustainable Energy is also asking the drivers who use the EV charging stations in those garages for input, via a survey, to help in determining a pricing structure. The three options on question 9 in the survey all specify $0.15 per kWh used but with varying levels of additional fees for occupying the station after charging is complete. The fees given in the choices range from $1.50 per hour to $20 plus an additional $6 per hour after 4 hours if the vehicle is not removed.

Related posts on PlugInSites:
Baltimore City Adding More EV Charging Stations
Baltimore City to Implement a Fee for L2 Charging
Busted in Baltimore – Ticket for Blocking a Charging Station
Towing in Baltimore City Requires Legislation


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