46 miles in a GWiz

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So, excuse the slow posts, I’m blaming that partly on our internet connection which has turned to crap. When it rains, ironically, it now works better. I’m supposing that water makes a better connective material than whatever crappy bit of copper is currently running from our house out to BT’s exchange.

It is, however, something I need to sort out after xmas. Our connection, incidentally, has hit a new low – being the same speed as my old dial-up connection :(

Anyhow, yesterday I, along with Nikki replaced the batteries in the G-Wiz which has come to be my mother’s. This was a car which Going Green apparently quoted an exorbitant amount to ‘get it through it’s MOT’ and informed the owner that it needed new batteries. The latter was definately true, the former – not so much. An advisory for 1 tyre and a general advisory concerning the underside needing to be cleaned and painted as there’s lots of surface rust was it.

The run to the garage, however, did prove the statements about the sickly batteries to be true. That and the constant thirst of them when charged. With the old batteries we had a range of about 6 miles… maybe 7.

So on Thursday I made the long trip to Corby to collect a complete and entire set of Trojan T125s. 240kgs of battery loaded up into Chester and a new respect for CVT technology. I’d never considered it before but it gives you adaptive gearing. Unlike your conventional car where you’re limited to the set of 4, 5 or 6 ratios (or 3 in an older auto) and that’s it, the CVT means that the gearing is appropriate to the load and speed, meaning that the 12% gradient we went up, and the trip down the motorway was achieved effortlessly.

Unloading 240kg of battery from a Volvo, no so effortless.

Nikki turned up painfully early on Friday (well, reasonably early for me, but she’d been up a long time having driven from Bristol) and we set to on replacing the G-Wiz’s aged and it turned out shagged batteries. It’s a fairly simple process.

Seat out, disconnect BMS (4 plugs, in size order), Disconnect battery 4/5 connection, whip out the filling system (complete pig), disconnect the batteries and replace them*, reconnect the filling system (another complete pig), drill holes in two of them for the level sensors (scary, scary), reconnect the wiring, the BMS and you’re good to go.

It was complicated by the fact that the Reva software wouldn’t connect to the car beforehand. We tried, we coaxed, we cajoled, we rebooted windows 18,000 times, we cursed, we tried different versions of windows. It was not having it. In the end we just went for it, and a few hours later the object of our energies was equipped with new batteries, all of which were nearly charged, and the software? It miraculously worked.

Nikki and her two lovely dogs, Pepper and Eddie, piled into their Smart car; and I gingerly got in the G-Wiz.

As an introduction to EV motoring, the G-Wiz is…well… not exactly the best example of the concept. The Enfield, with it’s solidity and reasonable handling, and all-round 70s ness is pretty fun, it also has a lot of low-end go. The G-wiz also has that low-end-go, but lacks most everything else nice. It does have a heater though.

Only… I couldn’t use the heater, and that low-end-go was sacrificed to running in Economy mode such that we could extract the maximum range from it. New batteries have a settling in procedure, one which maximises their life and gives you the best range. Essentially, I’m told, you run the car ’til it’s flat, charge, rinse, repeat. About three or four times.

We couldn’t do that either. 46.2 miles, iirc, avoiding the motorway (on which the G-Wiz is not allowed, being as it’s not technically a car, and also can’t do the minimum speed limit for a motorway). The GPS told us it would take 2 hours. I mentally doubled that, and concerned about the soon to be fading light we set off.

The G-Wiz, well, it’s a town car. It looks and feels like a town car. It is not a belt-round country lanes at speed car. After about 10 miles, the battery meter was looking a bit pathetic, so we pulled into a very nice pub who were very excited to see a G-Wiz and who let us charge outside, while we ate a very nice scampy and chips. Horse and Groom, I think it was, just outside Maidenhead.

After about 40 minutes we went out, poked the car with the laptop and set forth again. My technique for driving was improving, and I got better at coasting, and remembering to come off the throttle earlier, and trying to use the regen on hills. Everyone else, no doubt, hated us. Crusing at a top speed of 32 (not the G-Wiz’s, but an acceptable maximum speed to give us more range) the queues behind us were becoming legendary, and I didn’t really want to pull over because stopping would destroy some of that precious momentum which we’d built up.

However, as towns gave way to villages, villages to hamlets, and hamlets to fields the charge meter, and the requirement that despite much forbearance with the fading light I actually did eventually have to acquiesce to the darkness and have headlamps on, started to beat the batteries into a much feared submission. The laptop, when I finally pulled up in some crappy little stuck up village (Upper Basildon, it turns out) outside of pangborne, was indicating about 5.8 volts. The inadequate nippyness I’d felt before was becoming a sluggishness; and hills were requiring more and more in terms of non-economy mode just to get up them.

Nikki, generously dealing with my phone-phobic nature, rang the Red Lion, who informed us that their electrical system was so dodgy that plugging in so much as an extra lamp would cause them to loose all power, and declined to allow us that much needed charge. We pondered, and decided to rock up anyway, and try our luck. They were but seconds away.

And so we entered into the strangest of places. The place was the Red Lion pub, the strangeness was that it wasn’t a pub. The SUVs in the carpark should have alerted us; nothing less ‘prestigious’ than a BMW to be seen. We walked in, and I was struck by what appeared to be the absence of taps from the bar. How would they serve beer?

At any rate, we popped in to use the toilet as the landlady was serving some customers, and were met by the most bizzare thing I’ve seen in a toilet. The toilet itself was decorated with a painting of a boat on a lake, a little rowing boat; in which the toilet was at one end. At the other, however, rather than a pleasing view over the lake (and it would have been fairly pleasant because it’s really well painted) was a Mr. Darcy type figure, letching and staring right at you.

It’s not right…

Letching git

Anyhow, we abandoned ship, as it were, after they declined a second time to let us charge.

We managed to make it to Hampstead Norreys – home of the very nice White Hart inn, who did indeed let us charge. They actually sport a 16A socket, such as is advisable for the G-Wiz, but sadly using this tripped the circuit breakers on their 16A circuit, which, they said has happened many times before. They were actually quite apologetic about the issue, and allowed us instead to charge off the 13A circuit while we munched down a tasty dinner.

After a pleasant period of relaxation we lied to the batteries again, and set off on what was to be the most difficult segment of the journey. Cold, it was, and dark, as we sallied forth. But we were hopeful, our chances of making our destination seemed reasonable. Neglecting, of course, the fact that we didn’t know how much of that time outside had been spent sat in isolation with a tripped fuse, rather than charging.

At any rate, we were about 7 miles from my mum’s when the little battery-state-of-charge meter flickered down into the lower reaches of amber and red, and about 5 miles when for the first time the lights flickered off, the power went and I made an uncivilised dash for the side of the road.

This was to be how the remainder of the journey would be conducted. Driven incredibly gently and slowly, peaking at around 15 miles an hour we nursed the poor tired G-Wiz to my mum’s house. Just over a mile away we called her and her husband out to give us a hand, a slight incline was proving too much for the battery, but by the time they’d arrived, and with a bit of a push to get going we cleared the hill and actually made the rest of that mile into her village with only a flickering service light. The little yellow cube actually made it into my mum’s garage under it’s own steam.

So auspicious it was not, but it is possible to take a G-Wiz with new batteries 46 miles through the countryside, and we met some very nice publicans and had some very nice food…

…and my mum, she has the G-Wiz for her allotment runs, and potentially shopping runs once the batteries are sorted…

* Every EV advocate neglects to mention this, although with modern battery technology it’s not an issue, but dealing with 30kg of plastic box filled with highly corrosive and unpleasant material is actually less fun that dealing with a butt-load of dirty old engine oil. That said, old oil is carcinogenic.

KateWE

Kate is lord and mistress of all she surveys at pyoor.org...