My New Love for Electric Car Racing

Recently I’ve fallen in love with a new favorite competition sport: Formula E racing.

Sure, Netflex made F1 popular again, but you know I always like to focus on the next thing coming, and that’s electric vehicle racing. Since Nissan released the Nissan Leaf, I’ve been a huge fan of electric vehicles, now owning Volvo’s XC40 Recharge (remember the one Starbucks was giving away?)

What’s incredible about Formula E racing vs. its ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) counterpart, is the notion of energy management. While ICE vehicles can only expend energy by burning fossil fuels, EVs both expend and generate energy through a process called regenerative braking. That means when the driver pumps the breaks, the motors are actually harnessing that potential energy and topping off the batteries. This makes braking decisions, turns, and acceleration very strategic maneuvers as drivers’ need to maximize their energy potential throughout the race.

While EVs are growing in popularity, there is still a ton of work to do on building infrastructure to support them, and especially to enable that family road trip. That’s why I’m proud of Marriott International and the hard work through a project led by my colleague Annie Ray, to build out charging infrastructure and EV charging standards for our hotels around the world.

Are you an EV driver? What car do you drive or aspire to own?

Jump Starting My Electric Car

Just like your conventional internal combustion engine (ICE), my electric car has a standard 12V car battery that powers electronics when the main power supply is deactivated. Also like your car, this battery is susceptible to failure, as it proved to me on a cold Sunday morning.

As I was getting ready to run an errand on Superbowl Sunday, I was stunned when I went to unlock the door on my Nissan LEAF and nothing happened. I tried pressing the buttons on the key fob as well as the proximity sensor on the on the door handle. Nothing.

I pulled the conventional key out of the key fob and assumed that the key fob had a low battery. After sitting down in the driver’s seat, I pressed the power button. Nothing. No startup sound, no flutter of lights, no “No Key” warning light flashing on the dash. Complete silence.

I wondered if the car may have somehow discharged in the one day that I didn’t drive it, so I tried to release the charge port lid and realized that there was no way to release the lid without power to the vehicle. Sounds crazy, right?

After researching multiple web forums, I came to an alarming solution: I needed to jump start my electric car.

How a car with 24kWh of power packed under its chasis could not power its own on-board computer was beyond me. That 12V “accessory” battery under the hood was the only thing preventing me from getting on my way. After a short call to the roadside assistance, a technician was able to come and give me a “jump” to provide enough power to the 12V battery to initiate the on-board computer and bring the car “online.”

After the jump, I drove the car around to recharge the 12V battery for twenty minutes or so, hoping that the drive would put enough energy back onto the 12V to allow for an easy departure to work the next morning. Luckily, this morning when I left the house the car started with absolutely no problem.

I brought the car to the dealership after work and learned that the only certified LEAF technician that they have had called off for the day, so right now I am waiting for one of their ICE technicians to check the 12V battery, which I explained to to the service adviser, is no different from any other conventional car battery.

Even with the most sophisticated technology, there is always an Achilles’s heel. For your 4G smartphone, it might be the strength of your cell signal, or for your tablet it might be the absence of a WiFi connection. In my case, a completely battery powered car, fully charged with 24kWh of electricity couldn’t start, simply because of a failed 12V battery…