We made it!

14Today was the second half of the most challenging bit of this year’s WAVE, which we completed successfully. As you can see above, with our last bit of energy, we arrived in Anwil a little before 10 pm. After covering almost 600km yesterday, we added another 500 today.

02972473-956b-4aaa-b5d1-39934f5481bc_570In case you’re wondering, this is how we feel.

We are completely dead and ready to fall asleep, so here’s just a small update.

16At our first stop in the morning in Darmstadt, we got a chance to ride a Segway on a little “Segcross” parcours. It was kinda neat, I was riding (driving? moving?) a Segway for the first time. I’m not sure whether I like it but its interaction with your own balance is certainly impressive. Of course I was not alone there.

1513In any event, it was loads of fun! At the risk of repeating myself, please note that we posted pictures of our progress on our facebook wall as we went along. There will be more again tomorrow so stay tuned!

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Scenic, isn’t it?

Today was kind of special since we had a long drive ahead of us. Half of our group (the fast cars) is trying to cover the distance Berlin-Berne in 30 hours (Monday morning to Tuesday afternoon). The other half, the slow cars (like us), left Berlin on Sunday evening and will go as far as Lörrach until Tuesday evening.

tortoisebeatshareNo, it’s not what you think.

Note that in this case, “slow” and “fast” refer to the charging speed of your battery, not velocity.

We started the day with a short walk through Magdeburg from our hotel to the place where we parked the car – the hotel was near the fire station, which caught our attention.

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The first surprise we had was to find out that people were sleeping in or next to their vehicles. Some teams left Berlin rather late and arrived in the middle of the night. No bed? Who cares! Let’s just sleep where we are, as we are. Someone mentioned that this year’s WAVE was kind of an ironman WAVE and we have come to the point where I can do nothing but agree with that statement. That said, it would seem that I live a very protected life.

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Today’s task was to cover 400 km with stops in Wernigerode, Eschwege, Rosenthal and Wetzlar. Aside from the fact that sadly, CHAdeMO chargers are few and apart in Germany, there still were the Harz mountains in the way.

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Of course we used our best strategy, which includes “what goes up, must come down”.

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As you can see, we were really lucky with the weather. Just like last year, the ‘avoid motorways’ function of our Sat Nav system naturally picked some of the most beautiful and scenic drives, a thing we really enjoyed. We ended up on top of a mountain we forgot to look up the name of and enjoyed the scenery.

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Today’s various stops have been well documented on our facebook wall and I will freely admit that I am extremely tired and should probably go to sleep like ten minutes ago. Therefore, I’ll close here with a sunset. You’re welcome.

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Where’s Sunshine Kitty?

It’s amazing how similar this year’s WAVE is similar to last year’s, and yet it’s probably even more entertaining and challenging than the last one. At least I can guarantee you that we are busy all day long constantly calculating distances, range and battery charge.

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Thank God for technology.

We’re equally happy to report that today was rather easy. First off however, here’s the missing video from yesterday: my lap on (half of) the Sachsenring. As you can see, we are doing our best to support the rubber industry.

This will be a great memory – driving on the Sachsenring was a surprisingly unique experience. Anyway… the main task today consisted of driving from Leipzig to Magdeburg with stops in Lutherstadt Wittenberg and the Tesla Factory in Schönefeld.

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The whole drive was basically quiet and uneventful, which is good. The most noticeable waypoint was the quick charger at BER. A really amazing view – a whole airport, complete with parking lots, roads, fences and whatnot, just sitting there completely deserted and deteriorating. It does give you an eerie feeling to see this, it’s a really creepy place.

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In any event, things got serious today since I had a mission. Our friends from Anwil (our overnight stop next Tuesday) told us that their mascot, called Sunshine Kitty (SK) was on board on one of the WAVE cars and we ventured out to find it. All we had was this picture…

11Have you seen this kitty? (the young man pictured above is accounted for)

…and the information that SK was riding with team 38 in a BMW i3. Well, easy, let’s just ask them, right?

01“Nope”

According to Hermann from Team T-Systems, Sunshine Kitty was on board the T-Systems i3 for the World Record in Tempelhof three weeks ago but was returned to its (supposedly) rightful owner since. Well, what now? Easy! Just ask the boss. All I had to do is find Louis Palmer, which is easier said than done. Louis is the head and heart of the WAVE, which means he’s some kind of incarnation of Schroedinger’s Cat since he’s usually everywhere and nowhere to be found at the same time. In the end I managed to find him and ask about SK’s whereabouts.

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Pointing at our green electric support Tesla, he sais “it’s in Thomas’ car. I know where my stuff is!” Cool! So let’s find Thomas and get SK back now finally!

07“whaaaat?”

Thomas was positive he had never heard of someone or something called Sunshine Kitty and that there were definitely no cats inside his Tesla. Great, back to square one. Find Louis Palmer! Trying to catch a fly with chopsticks would probably have been easier but in the end I succeeded, again.

10“umm…. okkaay…”

After convincing Louis that I still hadn’t found SK and tediously explaining in great lengths that it would be paramount to the survival of western society that I find it, he suggested that SK would most probably be in the Renault Zoé of support Team 2 and that it probably would be a good idea to try and track down Chantal.

IMG_5653Meet Chantal.

several hours later, I finally managed to track Chantal down, only to find out that she was just as startled as everybody else before her when I asked about the whereabouts of Sunshine Kitty. Describing the physical appearance of SK and using the picture from the search warrant, she then admitted that that exact mascot was traveling in their support vehicle. But…. you guessed it. Since she did not have the key to the car, I would now have to track down her team mate Lisa!

IMG_5654Hello, Lisa!

We’ll interrupt our story at this point for a very important announcement – you’ll have to check our updates on our facebook wall tomorrow to find out if we have made any progress in our “Quest For Sunshine Kitty”.

In fact we would like to report fraudulent activity witnessed during the search for Sunshine Kitty. We happened to ask yet another team whether they would have an unregistered mascot on board and found out that the team’s car had actually been tampered with.

08The culprit

As a matter of fact, we found out that the ‘Electric Cruisers’ Tesla Model S 85 had been secretly modified to a PP85D+ by adding a custom front motor! And we have the pictures to prove it.

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Also, this act of ruthless violation of the WAVE rules and regulations wasn’t commited by just one person. We have reports that the driver of the vehicle pictured below was involved in these criminal activities and is currently trying to escape to the atlantic rain forest to avoid prosecution.

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Check back tomorrow on facebook to see if we managed to find Sunshine Kitty. In the meantime, please consider supporting Gordon’s and Leora’s efforts by donating to the Growing Air Foundation.

Smoke on the Water

Sometimes, even though you know you will get into trouble one way or another, you simply ignore that fact and pretend it’s not going to happen. Today was one of those days… But it wasn’t entirely our fault since the weather had its part in it.

twisterwe’ve all been there.

Innocently enough, though we were too early for the hotel staff to have breakfast ready, things were off to a good start. All teams met in Plauen on the Altmarkt for a group picture, then the official start took place. Every team got to drive over the Altmarkt and present their car. And then, first stop, good news! The Sachsenring. We had been looking forward to this for a very long time, and we will freely admit that we did prepare ourselves by watching lap videos and studying the track layout, motivated by a slight amount of competition but mostly for our own entertainment. Long story short, here’s our lap.

ddrHonestly, we have a video. We just need to get it online.

You can see we had lots of fun, even though we did not get to drive a full lap. we can thank Volkswagen for that since they were doing long distance tests on the lower part by driving back and forth over and over again. At this point I’d like to state that ‘test driver for a german automobile manufacturer’ falls into the same category as ‘CSI’: Great on TV but tedious and repetitive in real life.

HCHowever, there’s always a The Who song playing out of nowhere
when I put on my sunglasses, that part’s completely accurate.

In any event, we were lucky because large thunderstorms were pulling in and we actually got soaked on our way back. I probably would have deliberately driven the Leaf straight into a tree out of anger if I had ended up with a wet lap, so that’s that.

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We went back to Zwickau where we were guests at the local Trabant meeting. Just like any other old car, there’s a large community caring for these cars and having fun restoring and driving them. Here’s just a glimpse of what we saw, and some of you might already know that this requires a soundtrack.

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After that, we were supposed to go to Chemnitz, then Leipzig but the Sachsenring adventure had taken its toll and charge was nearly zero when we were there. Therefore, we had to decide that we’d stay there a bit longer and skip the next stop entirely or we wouldn’t make it for dinner; gotta set your priorities straight.

In the end however, things turned out to be completely different since we ended up completing a special mission. The thunderstorm we experienced on the road also had hit the Trabant meeting – and all our cars currently on site. Lightning struck and completely destroyed the electronics of one of the Renault Twizys. But the WAVE wouldn’t be the WAVE if we wouldn’t be able to fix this as a team. Erich from Team Amperechäfer organized a fast charge in Chemnitz, allowing us to cover the distance. At the same time, Max the Twizy driver was dropped off to board the only car still left on site – that would be us. We rushed to Chemnitz where Max was taken over by Team Kastner+Richter’s Tesla Model S and rushed to Dresden, where he took over a Smart ED – so Max is still with us! Now is this a great example of team work or what?Changs-Taekwondo-Teamworkwe didn’t have any colored suits, though.

After a bit of bad luck with the fast charger which, in the end turned out to be a simple overheating problem, we went on our way to Leipzig, where we met more thunderstorms and rain. After finding a spot to charge overnight, we’re now ready to crash….

03Hey, look how well we fit in!

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You have certainly been wondering why our blog remained silent the last two days, and rightly so. Hopefully you managed to follow our progress on facebook and got notice that basically everyone is now in town and the party can start.

Ferris_Buellers_Day_Off_353and when we say party, we mean it.

We have, however, been using the last three days wisely, mainly by taking it easy and being lazy (our core talents). Our trip from Switzerland to Plauen was uneventful in the sense that it came out as expected: we’d have been much faster if we hadn’t repeatedly run into broken chargers and be forced to fix them ourselves. Add to the fact that CHAdeMO fast chargers are rather scarce in this part of Europe and bada-bing, you get stranded for a few hours. Been there done that…

But in the end we made it to Plauen safely and are currently staying in the Schloss-Hotel Jössnitz. We had all morning off on Friday and decided we should clean and decorate the car.

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A thorough cleaning and polish helped upgrade the outer appearance; we did find some blue paint under a thick layer of – well, you don’t wanna know. In any event, with the car now shiny we proceeded to apply the various stickers we brought with us. Our car now proudly sports our team name and mascot on basically every flat panel, plus a few stickers of our new sponsor chargeMAXX. We’ll blow a cloud of artificial smoke around that one and will reveal later what the full context is.

At this point I assume you didn’t buy the “cleaned and polished” story but we have actual proof of our activities; note how efficient we were, given we finished the whole job in 23 seconds – including the application of all stickers.

I bet you found that fantasmagorically annoying…anyway, here’s the result.

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As you can see, we didn’t forget to bring our flags along again – we actually managed to bring along almost everything we intended to; a sure sign that we are getting old I guess.

That said, I hope you like our new look! We are looking forward to tomorrow, we’ll be visiting Zwickau, Chemnitz and Leipzig. The biggest, albeit also probably shortest event of the day will be a lap on the Sachsenring, something we have been looking forward to so much that we recently bought an X-Box and a Wii only to find out that none of the two carry games that contain that particular track. Live and learn I guess…

Tomorrow is the official start of the race which means we have a plan and will be moving; therefore, there’s hope that tomorrow’s post will be a tad more colorful and dramatic than this one, so make sure you come back and check it out!

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What’s another year…

“Nach dem Spiel ist vor dem Spiel” – this quite simplistic statement (nevertheless expressed by one of the most iconic figures in german soccer), which translates more or less into “after the game is before the game” all of a sudden applies to us. Not too long ago we finished second in the final ranking of the WAVE 2014; since then, we’ve enjoyed the summer, test drove a few vehicles and mostly ignored the fact that we had promised to write more frequently.

 

 

 

 

 

pictured above: a summary of our most recent efforts.

But all of a sudden it’s spring again and woops – how about the WAVE 2015? Well, we have a confession to make. As a matter of fact we did sign up for this year’s WAVE Trophy and things are about to get serious. In fact, we have just a few days before things go down and we are very excited.

Now since you all have been following every single one of our posts on facebook and all those fabulous blog entries we published since day 1, you will probably know that both David and I recently evolved from what things used to be not too long ago. Here is a quick overview of the latest developments:

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Yes, yes, indeed. While Alex replaced the Twizy with a more practical Renault Zoé, David tossed every last bit of reason overboard and just flat out bought a Tesla Model S 85D. We both enjoy our cars very very much and had an incredible amount of fun recently.

Now you will say ‘Ah well, but what’s the LEAF still doing there then?’ Well, it is currently on probation – David is currently working out whether it will replace their second car or not. And yes… (drumroll) we’ll be back on the road in the LEAF for this year’s WAVE!

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admit it: this is you, two seconds ago.

Why, you ask, this tomfoolery? Well, by now it might not be breaking news to most of you that we are both slightly crazy, and therefore we decided that instead of driving through Germany on a single charge (Model S) or at least having a comfortable range and decent charging opportunities (Renault Zoé), we would opt for the biggest challenge: Our slightly charging impaired and horribly-quick-to-dry-out LEAF, forcing us to make numerous stops and locate each CHAdeMO charging spot precisely (since they are not exactly common in Germany) while still trying to remain in competition with the other teams (and ourselves, to be quite honest). After all, for us the fun in the WAVE lies in the challenge, not the achievement.

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So, believe it or not, you’ll see more of Wattwurm in their blue Nissan – we’re back, and this time we mean business! And just in case you wonder what’s going on right now, we are collecting the last bits of equipment, pretending to study all the rules and prerogatives we’re supposed to comply with and generally just eager to leave. Stay tuned, we leave town next Wednesday and the WAVE will begin on Friday, June 12 in Plauen.

That said, for no further reason than your own personal entertainment, here’s footage of our efforts to prepare ourselves for this year’s WAVE:

Everything is awesome!

Yes, we’ve been quiet lately. Much like anyone else living north of the 45th parallel, we’ve been lingering somewhere between hibernation and winter depression.

depressed-polar-bear
is it spring yet?

Lots of things have happened in terms of electric cars, mobility and energy since we’ve last chimed in on something… Amongst other things, Toyota presented the Miyagi; Chevrolet wants to upgrade the Volt and introduce the Bolt (also, their naming department seriously needs to hire a new intern); the Model S 85D and P85D were launched, and while people talk about Tesla software updates and easter eggs while going crazy about incredibly dramatic footage of a Model X test mule, Elon Musk wants to start selling batteries to power our homes.

Now obviously, we have opinions on these topics (mostly strong ones, to be honest). But since we live in a time where everyone has an opinion and can voice it instantly on the internet, we’d rather shut our mouth than flood your screens with things you just read elsewhere 15 minutes ago.

Quality Or Quantity Directions On A Signpostultimately, it’s your call though

So now you’re thinking… hibernation? really? well, no. We’ve had lots of winter fun. We did have the opportunity for a quick test drive in a Twingo Kamoo and a Renault Kangoo Z.E., but we’re still working on getting the cynical bits right before publishing that. Also, our fleet is currently undergoing dramatic changes – we’ll be posting mostly about our cars during the next few weeks.

420875_241306969293138_236019136488588_500578_1214402216_nit’ll be mostly new information though, promise

more importantly, David has teamed up with Karl of Team Lightning Rods and Stephan Schwarz, president of the Swiss Tesla Owners’ club, to go shopping for a bottle of Whisky. In Scotland. In three days.

P5hidden object game: find 750 kWh in this picture.

Just in case there are people left on the internet who don’t like our facebook page yet and therefore miss out on a chance to follow us daily, here’s a quick visual recapitulation.

mapin other words/numbers: 3480 km in 70 hours

You can find pictures taken on the run on said facebook page. But to sum things up, three days and two nights on the road for a bottle of booze. Once back home, I assume a shower was in order. And to be serious for a moment, this kind of adventure is so silly that it would have been totally awesome to be part of it. But… we all make our choices.

hqdefaultsome good, some bad

In other news, we’re delighted to announce that we will be participating in this year’s WAVE again in our Nissan LEAF. The challenge is even bigger this time, since the total distance to cover will be around 2500 km just for the rally itself. We are sure that it’ll be a fantastic adventure again and we promise to post updates on facebook and this blog just like we did last year. More nonsense coming your way!

MagrittePipeyou’ve been warned.

Now before this post gets completely out of hand, I’ll stop here, avoid adding more vague promises about future posts and admit that this is all I have to say for tonight. stay tuned! oh and also, there’s this:

brought to our attention by an unnamed source. you know who you are.

Image credits: all images link to their original source.

Brammo Brammo Ding Dong

As you know, Team Wattwurm has always been ambivalent; we like electric cars and bikes just as much as we like loud and fast (and sometimes slightly obnoxious) modes of transportation relying on fossile fuels. Yes, this might come as a shock to our new readers but sorry, we’re no tree huggers.

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that’s not to say we can’t see an upside to physical contact with a tree

Now, while I have never been able to warm up to motorcycles, David has been an avid bike rider for years now. Some of you might be aware of the fact that electric motorcycles are slowly beginning to enter the market – even Harley Davidson has one in the making.

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we’re not sure it’ll target the same audience though

Therefore, David had been closely monitoring the latest developments for a while and soon picked up that the Brammo Empulse was ready to hit the european market. He quickly managed to trace down the first bike to enter Switzerland – and arranged for a test drive.

TestDrive_Animation2

which brought up fond memories

That is why, on a quiet and foggy saturday morning, I set off in our camera car (i.e. the Leaf) heading for Alpnach near Lucerne; David took a detour to clean his KTM since he wanted to have it evaluated as a possible trade-in. Total round trip distance was 136 km, right on the edge for the Leaf;  battery charge had to be managed. Usually, this means reduce cruising speed and, whenever possible, drag. In practice, this of course means tailgaiting a truck.

truck

if you meant to pick a company name that conveys your people skills, you failed

Even though it was planned that David would catch up at some point, I actually arrived first at our destination – the Triumph shop in Alpnach. By the time David had arrived, I already had found a power outlet to charge the Leaf as long as we’d be there.

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We found the Brammo waiting in the showroom, plugged in, charged and ready to go. We pulled it out and took a few basic parking lot shots to give you more of an idea.

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At first glance, it looks really nice. The design is contemporary, and those silver frames on the battery packs make it look unusual – we like it. There’s not much to complain about, save for the rear wheel fixation which in our opinion is a proper eyesore. That really needs to be changed.

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After being briefed properly by Carmen on how to operate the bike, we set off. Immediately, David started his trademark slalom sverve which he does every time he sits in or on a new vehicle – as demonstrated below.

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From my perspective, the bike seemed to have decent power – but even I did notice that gear changing was time consuming, a thing David later complained about. Even though the IET drivetrain supposedly was – at least partially – developed in collaboration with Brammo, it does not seem to fit the bike – more importantly, the gearbox is sticky and reluctant. Following David, I could literally tell that every gear change would take two to three seconds.

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minus the dancing, this is what it looked like

Also, We think that the gearbox eats up a lot of fun, the acceleration the Brammo offers really does not correspond to what we think it should be with that motor. For instance, while it looks like David is pulling away like you’re used to see it with motorcycles…

… it’s a different story once I try to keep up with the Leaf:

I did not have the opportunity to film it, but we did a similar experiment on our way home with David on his KTM 950 and believe me, I got dusted big time… No comparison to what you see above (even when taking into account that the KTM has much more power). So, considering the vastly different power to weight ratios between the Leaf and the Empulse, we dare say we’re not satisfied with its acceleration; we think that a two or three speed gearbox, designed specifically to fit the motor and drivetrain, would be an immense improvement. A quick fix would be to swap sprockets, because who needs a top speed of 177 kph anyway?

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We had chosen the nearby Glaubenberg road to have both a proper scenery and some genuine fun. That said, we had agreed that David would stay within viewing distance to take more pictures, static and moving.

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shoulda, coulda, woulda.

That idea however got lost as soon as there were more than two corners lined up. I did my best to keep up but he was gone almost instantly. Using that as an excuse, I flung the Leaf up that road as hard as I could… Once again, the Wattwurm Effect set in.

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yes, it was one of those days…

I stopped somewhere along the way with a completely empty battery; it slowly dawned upon me that I might not make it to the top and decided to wait for David to come back down. In the meantime, I managed to capture the local soundtrack for you:

Another, slightly more rational reason to not go any further up was that we were looking for a nice scenery for pics and videos, but the clouds were low and the upper part of the Glaubenberg was at least 50 shades of grey. David eventually came back with a big grin on his face, mostly positive about the bike save for the gearbox issue…

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We decided to head back down (not that I had much of a choice anyway) and find a spot in the sun to shoot a few more pics.

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Eventually, we did make it out of the clouds again and found a nice and sunny spot to take another closer look at the Brammo.

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We mostly could confirm our first impression; it has the appearance of a proper bike, if a bit massive due to that battery setup; but there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s good-looking and we think that particular color combination suits it well. in case you are wondering what it sounds like, here’s a drive-by, prominently featuring my index finger as supporting actor.

David reported great handling and agility, with excellent brakes. Throttle response is precise, but the transition between acceleration, soaring and regenerating could use some fine tuning. The seat is well shaped and offers good support during acceleration. It would seem that David is slightly too tall for the bike, since you have to flex your knees quite a bit and that might be an issue if you have, well, knee issues.

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we continued our way down, enjoying the scenery. I really think we are priviledged to live in such a nice part of the world. but I digress… We shot tons of further pictures, which, sadly, basically all look the same (in case you hadn’t noticed yet). We did have an entertaining moment though when we managed to startle a friendly local, who, by the look on his face, was definitely kind of surprised to see an almost silent motorcycle fly by, followed by an almost silent car.

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Howdy!

We returned just in time to have another chat with Carmen, discussing driving and handling. Also, we don’t want to deprive you of the technical details. A full charge takes about three hours, with a resulting range of about 150km, realistically. There is a Type 1 socket on top of what would be the fuel tank on an ICE bike, and the Brammo comes with a wall plug to Type 1 ICCB, more commonly known as a “charging brick” (here’s an example).

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Now the Brammo was designed for the american market; there are over 7000 Type 1 charging stations available in the US – this means there’ll barely ever be any need for you to carry the ICCB along and you’ll most likely just use it to charge at home, so no argument here. However… Those of you who travel electrically will know that in Europe, we typically have Type 2, ChaDeMo and CSS plugs available on our chargers, but Type 1 is nowhere to be found. This means that you’ll have to carry your ICCB with you at all times – it’s the same for our Leaf. But in a car, you don’t really care, you just toss it in the trunk. On the bike, however, you’ll have to carry it in your backpack, and that charger is several pounds, not to mention the space it takes up.

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granted… it could be worse.

One could argue that the problem is partially solved by taking along a passenger to carry your backpack and therefore, by proxy, the ICCB, but that’s kind of besides the point. We think you could combine the slow charge unit with the 3kW rapid charger already installed in the bike frame, and reduce your needs to an extension cord. At the risk of being a bit mundane, you could even imagine a setup with a rolled up cord, like a vacuum cleaner.

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I know what you’re thinking now; let’s not get carried away though

In any event, these are problems we currently face at the dawn of the electric age; hopefully, issues like that will be sorted out in a few years when more versatile charging points might be more common – and/or the plug type discussion has settled a bit. But back to the point… After our test drive, David concluded that the Brammo is a good start but still needs a few major improvements; he’ll stick to the KTM for now. But we’ll certainly come back to test drive the 2015 model.

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The net result at this point was that we had an hour of great fun but I was stranded with an empty battery…. again…. And there were no fast charge stations available anywhere near. Well, what now? LEMnet to the rescue, we picked a restaurant within range that claimed to have a charge point.

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When we arrived, indeed, we found a wall box and plugged the Leaf in. At ten amps, we had all the time in the world to have lunch and coffee – slow charge definitely is one of the few major drawbacks we currently still face in the electric world. In any event, the food was great, and we also learned how to label restrooms the italian way.

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Michelangelo would be proud

I mentioned slow charge – as you’ve already guessed, even though we took our time, range still wasn’t enough to get home. I picked the Tesla Supercharger in Egerkingen (it also has a ChaDeMo charger available, and, as opposed to most other charging points, a restaurant and coffee shop nearby), entered it into the sat nav and we took off. Soon, a friendly lady who, apparently, lives inside the dash of our Nissan, pointed out that the charger might actually be a tad out of reach. Well, thanks to the fact that we live in an area where ChaDeMo chargers are quite common, another one was found in a jiff and I managed to get there without trouble and 10km still on the clock – no coffee, but I got to keep going in return. And so, after another bit of quick charging, I made it home.

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Disclaimer: we use a camera support, a remote control and/or the assistance of a passenger to shoot pictures and videos out of a moving car, and we make sure the driver always has both hands on the wheel. We always follow speed limits and traffic laws. We do not take any chances , and neither should you.

Picture credits: the bear was photographed by Pat McKillen – for more great wildlife pictures see the full website; the bikers were featured in a Mirror article; Test Drive animated Gif found in the C64 Wikipedia; Charlie Chaplin was in a DVD review by Texas Public Radio; we found the goose ride in the DPC photo gallery, while the Moto-Crotte picture is featured on the hungarian Urbanista blog. Happy clicking!

Wattwurm goes ballistic

a jackleg review of the Model S

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Have you ever been in a situation where you’re talking about food, and a great restaurant comes to mind and you decide to go there? Well, that’s what happened to us. We were casually discussing desserts and I was pondering how I hadn’t had a good Black Forest cake in a while. David said “there’s that place near Titisee, they make the best I’ve ever had”, and you can all guess where this is going.

2Is this a good excuse for a day out or what?

Naturally, we decided to hop into our car and go there. But unfortunately, someone had borrowed the Leaf for the weekend, so we had to do with what we had gotten in return, which was a Tesla Model S P85+. Well, what can you do.

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As you can see, we had an early start on a foggy Sunday morning, since we wanted to take full advantage of what was of course a test drive weekend in Karl’s P85+. If you participated in, or followed the WAVE, you might recognize the car as being Team Lightning Rod‘s ride. Karl actually light-heartedly handed over the keys, having complete trust that we wouldn’t go wild, and would bring back the car in one piece.

Bullitt2…if you get my “drift”.

Our first stop was the brand new Tesla Supercharger in Egerkingen; the battery wasn’t full since David had already taken the car for a substantial spin the day before. Incidentally, this also meant that I’d be the one behind the wheel for most of the day (insert evil grin here).

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Since we were not only looking for fun, but also had in mind to provide you with a halfway decent review of the car, this would be our first “test”. (Note that since there must be a kazillion reviews out there already on the interwebs, we’re not going to do the classic “exterior, interior, driving experience, price and availability” kind of thing – we’ll just provide you with unstructured random blabbing containing a few facts and lots of misguided opinions, as always. We’ll also assume you know a little bit about the car already).

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Well, let’s just say nothing about charging is complicated. The first thing I appreciated was the reversing camera feed which appears on the giant display/touch screen on the center console when you put it in reverse. On top of it, it has proximity sensors, so in the end, if you back up into something it’s really your own fault. Then, open the charging port, and plug and play charge.

At a charging power of 120kW, our coffee break took longer than what was needed to top off the battery. At last, we were now heading north. After a quick stop in Basel to give my dad a ride, we crossed the border on the Autobahn… Which meant that we had to come to a full stop at the customs office before accelerating into Germany. Ha!

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Now I have driven that particular stretch of Autobahn countless times; speed is unlimited there so you can accelerate as much as you want and as far as it goes, which I do pretty much every time. It’s just that I have never hit 200 kph with the customs office still showing in the rearview mirror. The acceleration is just staggering.

Unfortunately, even though it was Sunday morning, there was a wee bit of traffic, and we couldn’t max out the car. Then again, at some point I was a bit inattentive for a moment and ended up tailgating a Benz. Then I realized, I was tailgating someone while going 200. hm…. In conclusion though, we think the Model S lacks rearview mirror impact; people don’t have the reflex to move over when you pull up from behind. (If you’ve ever had to make up time on the german Autobahn in a Mercedes or BMW, you’ll know what I’m talking about.) And while we’re at it, we’d like to encourage Tesla to make the car more discernable when it gets a facelift.

aquick: which one’s the Tesla?

At the risk of being dismissive, we think its front design looks too much like a Ford Focus… But then again, it also looks a bit like a DB9, so maybe we’re overreacting. I have, however, repeatedly mistaken a Model S for a Jaguar XF, and that needs to change.

bgo ahead and tell me there’s no similarity.

But… aren’t we told that beauty comes from the inside anyway. Moving on… We were now heading for the mountains. We used the map/satellite image display on the center screen and simply chose the most winding roads we could find while heading generally east. The Model S has a continous connection to the cellphone network and uses Google Maps (what a surprise).

7turn right at the next square

There is, however, the issue of insufficient coverage – just as we thought we should speed things up a bit and were relying on the sat nav to get us back to the main roads, the map went blank; see above. Breaking news, we think this is a huge disadvantage; lose 3G coverage and you’re just plain lost. (There seems to be a novel concept out there called “paper maps” but we haven’t seen it in operation yet.)

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This did not keep us from enjoying the scenery and winding roads. The picture above was taken through the open sliding roof, a feature we also enjoyed otherwise. It is simply huge and it’s great to have it open on a sunny and moderately hot day like we had.

The sliding roof is operated via the center console touch screen – much like everything else on the car. That’s why there are very few buttons otherwise – the hazard flasher switch, the glove box compartment opener and that’s pretty much it.

38-2012-tesla-model-s-fd-1347336823we didn’t manage to get a clean photo of the LCD touchscreen, so instead,
we stole one from the autoblog

While we’re at it, we’d like to add that we like the simple and modern interior design. That touch screen is nerd heaven, and the car offers all the luxury you can wish for. The only caveat is that we’ve heard of touch screens go blank, which means you’re royally screwed because you can’t even operate basic things like lighting or the ventilation any more. But this didn’t happen to us – we did however have to reset the sat nav because at some point it refused to zoom in and out of the map properly, and used the Tesla equivalent of Ctrl+Alt+Del to do so. We would in fact like to share with you how that is done but we can’t because it’s one of those secret handshake type of things.

simpsons_handshakeseriously. you have no idea

There are only a few things we’d like to nag about regarding the interior; for starters, there’s a definite lack of storage trays. Granted, there’s a rolltop tray in the center console, but it’s too small – you can barely fit a cellphone and a set of keys in there. On a side note, that rolltop’s appearance and build quality would fit a Dacia better – call us moaners, but remember we’re talking about a high end luxury car that tops out at six figures here.

What else? Well, the front center armrest is a bit weird; it slides back and forth to reveal cupholders. The fact that you bump your elbow into it on a regular basis while driving is slightly irritating – it also means that you’ll be soaking your elbow in hot coffee in every right turn. Also, as a passenger, I like to use the roof handle in tight corners to avoid being thrown around – only that the Model S doesn’t have any. So, I kid you not, in right turns I ended up with my window half down and my hand outside on the roof instead.

This however doesn’t diminish the fact that overall, we did like the interior very much.

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As for being the driver, the only thing we didn’t really like is that the cruise control and wiper/turn signal levers are on the same (left) side of the steering wheel and pretty close together. As a result, sometimes you end up setting a cruising speed when you want to signal a turn – which is not really helpful; or you unintentionally spray clean the windshield when you want to reset the cruise control – slightly more helpful, while still unwanted.

bb_1still… could be worse

That said, driving that thing is incredible. We’ve already mentioned the acceleration, speed and sheer power it has; it also corners like it’s running on tracks. It’s really impossible to even get the tires to squeal, and only if you blatantly enter a corner too fast and accelerate on top of it will it start to slightly understeer. There is no question that it would be incredibly tail happy if you’d turn off the traction control, a thing we didn’t do.

1997Because… being this is a Model S P85+, the most powerful electric sedan in the world, and will blow your head clean off, you’ve gotta ask yourself a question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk?

As such, with traction contol on, the car is nothing short of foolproof. While driving around, we were also playing with the controls, what a surprise. (We can’t help but keep stressing how cool that touchscreen is BTW). Our car had the optional air suspension, but fiddling with it did not really do much of a difference.

10difference between “high” and “low” settings

That was, however, before we came onto a stretch of really bad road, as you can see in the next picture. Suddently, High and Low did make a difference like night and day – while the ride would be stiff and hard just like most any other sporty sedan out there, the high setting really ate up most all of those bumps and shakes to make for an enjoyable ride no matter what. Well done.

9complementary New Beetle content included

In any event, we were slowly getting to the point where the Wattwurm Effect would set in. (As some of you will know, this particular effect describes the action of mindlessly racing an electric car up and down the hills until the remaining battery range will be vastly insufficient for the remaining travel distance).

14This.

We therefore chose a place for lunch in Titisee with a charging station nearby, only to be reminded that a) you always need an RFID card for charging stations in Germany, and b) most power companies have their own, proprietary RFID card. As a result, we had to try and find a card for that particular charging station. Calling the power company didn’t help since the person at the other end didn’t even know they had charging stations for electric cars (which definitely calls for a LOL); their web page indicated that you’re welcome to have your own card, as long as you order it at least one week in advance; and the local tourist office might have had one, but it was closed. Welcome to Germany.

21if we hadn’t told you, you totally wouldn’t know that we’re not actually charging here.

Well, Wattwurm wouldn’t be Wattwurm if something like this would stop us. We simply carried on, finally stopped for that cake that had initiated the whole thing, and started heading home while searching for opportunities to charge. Luckily, even though those opportunities were scarce, we were still up on the hills and as we all know, pretty much everything rolls downhill including Wattwurm, so at least we did get a few extra miles for free and even could regenerate a bit.

12saved by the bell

The entertaining bit about this is that Karl was able to check the car’s position and charge status via his iPhone App, so at some point during the afternoon we started getting slightly concerned texts asking whether we had noticed that we actually would get stranded if we didn’t charge pronto. We tried to yank his chain a bit about it but couldn’t break his cool. The statement we liked most was “I said I want the car back tonight, but tomorrow 8am is fine”.

We then located a charging station on a truckstop parking lot that was supposed to be unlocked and went for it. Guess what? Nope. It did in fact require an RFID card to charge; what a surprise. Should I mention that it would have been a different power company, and therefore a different RFID card, with respect to the station in Titisee or did you already come to that conclusion yourself?

16the electric equivalent of “you’re not going anywhere, dude”

In any event, what does Wattwurm do when we’re stranded with no charging station and 9km of remaining battery range? we get creative. We closely inspected every inch of the parking area to find power outlets, much to the amusement of the truck drivers that were present. We then found a proper outlet – in the showers. And at the risk of being prosecuted following the next statement, instead of using the coin operated outlet, the outlaws we are simply unplugged the heater and used that. (our excuse being that we were concerned the coin operated outlet would not deliver the full 16A available in Germany)

15in retrospect, we also could have taken a shower in the meantime.

 Since we stayed there for about twenty minutes, we probably ended up stealing no less than 1.5 kWh of power, which corresponds to something like 50 cents. If you’re the parking lot operator and you happen to read this, email me in case you want to sue us.

At least we had time to ponder our next move. We were only a few miles from the Swiss border, and a three phase outlet was available not too far away which meant slightly faster charging. So with just enough electrons in the battery and our best economical driving attitude, we crossed the Rhine and headed for the Thermalbad Zurzach where a three phase wall plug can be found. Even though they’re intended for small EV’s like Twikes and Twizies due to the lack of parking space, we didn’t have much of a choice and just parked on the street. Only a few people yelled at us while we were there so I guess it was OK. (Seriously, that stop was delightful because the plugs are right next to the restaurant and you can literally plug and/or unplug your car while you’re sipping coffee.)

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Even though we were now charging with three phases, this wasn’t going anywhere soon. This is, by the way, the only real drawback we think this car has. The battery capacity is huge, so range anxiety is pretty much non-existent, but if you happen to be low and don’t have a high power outlet available, charging takes literally forever. But we’re merely making a point here; there is no question that the battery range on the Model S is fantastic, and unless you’re Wattwurm, simple arithmetic will help you avoid ever getting stranded.

So I guess you know where this is going: Adding yet another couple miles to make it to the next outlet at my home; after charging there again, David left to return the car and stopped at the 20kW AMAG charging station in Schinznach-Bad (which, as usual, acted up…). In the end he managed to add enough to get the car back to Karl’s home.

The best part about it is that Tesla’s customer service literally phoned Karl to ask him if he was in trouble.

csaccording to Google, it was a smiling young lady with a headset, or at least a good-looking guy

Their system had logged several short-timed low-power attempts to charge and the fact we were driving on a completely empty battery. Incidentally, Team Wattwurm would like to credit Louis Palmer and his Wave Trophy for completely curing us from range anxiety!

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Now… what’s left to say? let’s see. Did we like the Model S? I guess you know by now that we’d both buy one in a heartbeat. Unless you want to drag a caravan halfway across Europe – without even stopping to take a whiz – or are otherwise running on a tight schedule, we are having a hard time thinking of an everyday situation where a Model S would not be appropriate; even more so once the Supercharger network has been expanded even more, as you undoubtedly know.

This car is roomy, it’s comfortable, handling is excellent, acceleration is staggering, and while we have been bitching about a few things, let’s not forget that after all, it’s the first attempt of a brand new car company to design and build a car from scratch (because, remember that the Tesla Roadster, while being a drop dead hot car, is nothing but the love child of a Lotus Elise and a Hewlett-Packard laptop).

11the disappearing door handles are one of the really cool features

If we’d really have to nag about something, besides the points named above (mostly the concept and build quality of parts of the interior and a wish for a slightly more distinctive exterior design), it’s difficult to criticize the car much further. A few more electronic helpers, both in terms of safety and comfort, will probably be necessary to attract more customers away from the S-Class; alternately, we could totally see the car remaining just the way it is and coming down price wise instead (because we’d like that very much. I’m not sure if it’ll be breaking news to you that neither David nor I can afford one at this point…).

At this point we’d like to extend our gratitude to Karl for letting us have so much fun putting mileage on his car. If you want to help him pay for the rubber we left on those german roads, why don’t you buy a few LED lamps from him.

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Hopefully we’ve been able to give you and idea about what we think of the Model S. Comment if you have questions, we’ll do our best to confuse you a bit further.

 

further picture credits: Bullitt screenshot from Monsieur Jack; the front and rear view conglomerates were pasted together from press photos found using Google; the Simpsons pic is from Reasonably Well; the Blues Brothers pic is a screenshot we made from a youtube video; the A-Class Moose Test is from the Hamburger Morgenpost, and we already mentioned the autoblog where the dashboard pic comes from

Three Things You Didn’t Want To Know About Logworms

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Over the last few posts, you’ve learned lots and lots of useless facts about the two of us but we haven’t talked much about our mascot, James “Wattwurm” the logworm. In an honest attempt to resolve this mistery, we sent off one half of our team on an special mission to the north german coast to gather intelligence.

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transportation wasn’t emissions free, but we’ll admit it’s still environmentally friendly

While imagery worked out just fine (as you can see throughout this post), we’re not so sure about the fact finding part. The more information we came across, the less we liked it; in any event, we’ve decided to share it with you anyway.

Disclaimer: You’ve been warned. Proceed at your own risk

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For starters, we’ve discovered that James is lazy and slightly antisocial; he digs holes in the sand for a living, and will then sit head first in said hole for weeks on end without moving much at all. His main activities are drinking seawater and eating sand, which we assume is the maritime equivalent of beer and pizza. Gross fact #1: Did I mention his sandhole is lined with mucus?

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By the way: you shouldn’t mess with him, either.

Next, you’ll never see him on the surface. Gross fact #2: The only way to tell whether a logworm is present is… because he poops a lot. Yes, there it is, it’s out, we said it. We apologize but it would seem that’s just how things are. Large piles of poop indicate that a logworm just had lunch down in his sandhole; or dinner, or a snack, for that matter, since a new pile is produced every 30 to 40 minutes. Isn’t that quite a performance?

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Now does this picture have “party” written all over it or what?

Somewhere above, we said logworms are antisocial; it turns out they also have Al Bundy’s sex life: Simply put, lugworms don’t have sex. Still, apparently, they do get horny – exactly once a year during the full moon of October.

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hmm… sunset… is it October yet?

At this point, you might be thinking the same thing we are: Even though it’s only once a year, if everyone gets randy at the same time, at least hooking up and having fun should not be much of an issue and the whole dating thing would be much less of a nuisance, right?

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(awesome dancefloor, too!)

Gross fact #3: that’s not how it works. Instead, all parties involved prefer to, well, umm, “relieve” themselves in the water where somehow reproduction is left alone to take place or not. Since logworms are still around, we’re inclined to conclude that it works – even though it sounds completely disappointing.

We’re not gonna elaborate this topic any further, just remember not to go swimming in the sea in October. Ever.

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Here’s an innocent landscape to take your mind off, well, “that other thing”

On the other hand, beyond the slightly questionable facts presented above, we can also report that a logworm filters about 25 kg of sand per year, and since there are typically 30 to 40 worms per square meter, they pretty much manage to filter the top 20 cm of the entire north sea tidal zone within a year which, again, sounds like quite a performance. (We apologize if you’re not familiar with metric units; a simple google search will allow you to find a conversion website for you to work out how many scruples or furlongs this corresponds to).

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We think this is enough fact finding for today, so we’ll leave it at that. We’ll only add one completely unrelated piece of information we somehow came across while doing a bit of research. Did you know there is a bird called fluffy-backed tit-babbler? We’ll let you work out for yourself what kind of person comes up with such a name, or perhaps what kind of company he was with when he did.

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yes, that would be it. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the fluffy-backed tit-babbler.

Sources: The bird pic and the poop pic were stolen from Wikipedia.