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Day2/3: 15°, 0°, 22°, -2° & No.4, Take II

Welcome back! After driving to the highest point in Europe yesterday, our trip today will take us above 2200m three times, one of the passes will be the famous Passo di Stelvio at 2758m, just a few meters below Europe’s highest point reachable by road…All this using electric energy only 🙂

This entry will be longer than usual – many very nice experiences to write about.

Day2

Day2

It rained all night. Sleeping right beneath a skylight helped me be acutely aware of this. Whilst lying awake, I visualize a brilliant day without rain and us having a very nice day.

The rain stops at 7.30am, just as we Oliver and I meet for breakfast. Although the distance for today is just 188km we will be busy all day climbing and descending over 9900m of altitude!

Timmelsjoch: far, far away.

Timmelsjoch: far, far away.

As a first task for today, we have to drive to the end of the Ötztal, past interestingly named places such as Gurgl and Twieselsteintajen.

The weather is getting better by the minute and all the menacing gray clouds above us dissolve into a nice blue sky. It seems me visualizing good weather helps after all!

Gray clouds: on their way out

Gray clouds: on their way out

The higher we get, the better the views. After a certain point, we’re away from all civilization, just nature and us…

The Ötztal

The Ötztal

Again, something is missing in this picture 🙂

Ötztal with TW560

Ötztal with TW560

At the end of the valley, we’re greeted by a series of hair-pin bends which are a lot of fun with TW560 – have a look for yourself!

As yesterday, access to the highest point of the Timmelsjoch is not free – we even have to negotiate to be recognized as a motorbike and still pay 14 Euros for just a few kilometres – the Austrians know how to make money!

The alps are known for tricky weather – in our case it was us driving without the roof on and within just 500m go from blue sky to 30 metres visibility, 15°C less and a freezing drizzle. This is where it pays off that Oliver is a fellow TWIKE pilot: We get out and have the roof back on within a few seconds!

Back in the TWIKE, we’re glad to be dry – we drive past many motorbikes parked at the side of the road with owners donning their rain gear in a hurry.

After just a few kilometers, we arrive at the top and take the obligatory pictures. We had hoped to cross through the clouds and get some sun…not this time.

Clouds, snow & the Timmelsjoch @ 2509m

Clouds, snow & the Timmelsjoch @ 2509m

Timmelsjoch pass: Questionable architecture, snow, clouds & 2°C

Timmelsjoch pass: Questionable architecture, snow, clouds & 2°C

At least TW560 will be getting another sticker – every vehicle crossing the Timmelsjoch gets one:

Another "been there, done that" sticker

Another “been there, done that” sticker

Driving downhill is the usual treat for us: Wh after Wh of energy flows back into our battery, extending our range and…just feeling damn good! Our views, however, weren’t so exiting:

200 shades of grey

200 shades of grey

Just a few minutes later we leave the clouds behind us and are greeted by sunshine, warm weather and a very inviting Southern Tyrol valley around the city of Merano.

We stop at a place selling wine, apples, sausages and cheese…

How can we not stop here?

How can we not stop here?

We first engage the usual interest in TW560 whilst ordering some wine from the hills just above us (the farm selling their produce here is also a winery) and a small platter of cut meats and cheeses.

Ahhh. Life's grand!

Ahhh. Life’s grand!

Three good things in life: Sun, wine & a TWIKE!

Three good things in life: Sun, wine & a TWIKE!

I’m very happy that Oliver shares my passion for the finer pleasures of life – we start discussing wines, cheeses and nice places worth travelling to. You can expect to read more stories of us both going places! 🙂

A very compatible TWIKE crew :)

A very compatible TWIKE crew 🙂

Before we leave, I buy some of the extremely tasty sausages we sampled on our platter – I love tasting the same things I enjoyed during my trips when back home!

My loot for the loved ones back home!

My loot for the loved ones back home!

We cross the city of Merano – Not much to report other than a nice old city centre and a hospital at which TW560 was allowed to charge last year.

Merano theatre

Merano theatre

Heading towards Passo di Stelvio, I knew that we had two options to get there. Either drive along the SuperStrada – a very busy main road or take the alternate, single-lane option JC and I chose last year.

When we met in the past, Oliver always told me that he really wanted to join me and JC on one of our trips because of all the picturesque single-lane roads we chose to drive along. This is why I offered Oliver to drive along the same road as last year and relax TD*-Style!

Southern Tyrol valley

Southern Tyrol valley

As last year – it’s 51 weeks ago to be exact – we drive along mile after mile of apple trees weighed-down by ripe and juicy apples.

One year later - same tasty applesA year later - same tasty apples

One year later – same tasty apples

Yet again, after about 10 kms of driving, we decide to stop and pick one each (this, after me raving about the apple I ate here last year for about 10 minutes 🙂 )

Apple tree drive-in

Apple tree drive-in

I am happy to report that the apples are still very, very good!

An apple a day...

An apple a day…

There aren’t many official charging stations along the valley. Since I know the local geography somewhat, I know that we will not make it to Gomagoi, a charging station Oliver used for charging this year during the WAVE event.

This is why I start to search for a suitable place to attempt a charge at about 15kms range left. Charging on a Sunday in Italy is all about strategy:
– No official charging stations
– No live plugs available outside buildings, since this is against building regulations
– Private households in Italy usually get only 3.7kW > we need 3 times that for a quick charge

Best bet for today: Fire stations, Hospitals, loco-mode creative charging… and 4S & 5* Hotels!

At such a hotel one can just pull up and ask the concierge to take care of things whilst one is busy ordering a drink from the hotel bar … and under normal circumstances, he will make it happen, somehow.

I choose the 4-Jahreszeiten Hotel in Silandro, a 4*S(uperior) Hotel along our route @ 5km range left. I liked the pictures on their website 🙂

4 Jahreszeiten Lobby

4 Jahreszeiten Lobby

We pull up at the hotel and I put my strategy to the test again: After arriving at the main entrance I’m directed to the front desk by the bellboy. I tell the front-desk that I want to sample some of their fine offerings whilst charging my electric car.

Their answer?

Certainly, Sir! Please drive to our underground garage and park your car on the parking field we’ve reserved for electric cars. Should you require assistance connecting your car to the plug, we are more than happy to assist you! (WOW! Don’t forget we’re in Italy!)

We drive TW560 to the garage just to find a common annoyance for an EV driver waiting for us: An ICE-car parking on our parking spot! (I could start ranting about this at length *right now* but it would completely ruin the positive vibe of this entry. I’m sure there will be an entry about this soon!)

Cayenne Turbo S with a sense of entitlement!

Cayenne Turbo S with a sense of entitlement!

Click the image to see a higher-resolution image. This will give you an idea how clearly this parking spot is marked as being a parking space for EV’s only!

The EV-plug is rated at a meagre 16A. OK for overnight charges, this is when i can show Oliver what “creative charging” is all about: I ask him to source an additional plug to raise our maximum total charging bandwidth by one plug. I, on the other hand – yet again – am using my extension cord way beyond and outside its specifications: at 190% – 19A. (Our charge was at 29A: P1:10A+P2:(10A+9A) – since most 16A plugs are connected to a 20A circuit breaker, we were fine! Did I mention how much I love being able to charge anywhere (@ maximum throughput, creativity and combination) thanks to Dreifels’ TWIKE-controller?)

At this point I’d like to re-iterate my stern warning of last year:

KIDS DON’T DO THIS AT HOME. KEEP TO THE MARKED RATINGS OF ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES AND CABLES AT ALL TIMES OR ***DIE***!!! (…or go up in flames and/or be seriously injured – whatever you’re more comfortable with)

Death warnings in a blog are such a downer, aren’t they? Let’s go back to the nicer things in life, shall we?

Having set up the charge, Oliver and I settle-in at the lobby bar and have a drink. In my case it was – unsurprisingly – a G&T with a locally sourced gin (Pergola Gin).

What would Jesus do?

What would Jesus do?

…order a G&T!

Whilst we enjoy the exquisite surroundings and outstanding service I reserve our rooms for the night. According to my projections, we’ll be able to make it to Livigno today. Thanks to my hand-held gadget, I’m able to reserve a nice hotel at a flick of a finger. The application makes me aware of some seriously important information before I’m able to complete my reservation. See for yourself!

This is very important information!

This is very important information!

Using the complimentary WiFi access usually provided to paying hotel guests, I upload some pictures to my server at home and check a webcam for the Passo di Stelvio just out of curiosity:

Uh-oh. This is going to be less fun than anticipated.

Uh-oh. This is going to be less fun than anticipated.

It looks like my visualization isn’t helping after all. This looks like serious snow – driving up to nearly 2800m and not seeing anything isn’t much fun at all!

After a 75 minute charge, we’re ready to drive towards our next charging station at around 1/4 of the climb to top-up our charge and have enough energy until Livigno.

Right now, however, we have different, more pressing interests: With current weather we can just hope that the pass remains open!

Our first indicators are still promising:

We're all set!

We’re all set!

The valley leading to the Passo di Stelvio, left hand

The valley leading to the Passo di Stelvio, left hand

Although we had some drops of rain for about 10 minutes, overall, we’ve been driving with the sun following us since we left the clouds behind us at the Timmelsjoch.

The sun greets us for our ascent to the Passo di Stelvio

The sun greets us for our ascent to the Passo di Stelvio

We start climbing the Passo di Stelvio and with our current charge will not be able to make it to the top. This is why we’re really happy to see that there is a charging station just along the main road which is free to use for all. Any RFID will work – comments suggest that even regular credit cards (which are RFID-cards themselves) work – and it offers a cool 22kW maximum power rating. This is perfect and we have all required plugs with us for a quick 15min recharge in order to make it to the top of the pass. With the energy we get back from the descent it should be very easy to reach Livigno…or so we thought!)

Arriving at the charging station we’re greeted by something very common: Technology created by entities who should not be trusted with the creation of such systems: Or: An overly complicated IT-based system layered around a very simple and reliable technology. To keep the story short: we were unable to activate the charging station.

WTF?! We can't charge because of a SD-card access-rights error for the screen saver?

WTF?!?!We can’t charge because of an access-rights error for the screen saver on the SD-card?

Why? This time it’s some kind of embedded WindowsCE (double FAIL) having problems with access rights (FAIL) to a SD-card (FAIL) or block device for …a screen saver! (FAIL FAIL FAIL FAIL!)

I immediately called the service number on the charging station – surely they would have some person from IT be able to remotely access the charging station and reset it. But alas, no. The situation was, yet again, as usual: Some lone guy from the local village’s organization was the recipient of my call. He was on his well-deserved week-end and told me that he was around 45-60 minutes away and that the technology provider didn’t allow him any remote access to the charging station. This is why his only option was to power-cycle the charging station on-site. I politely declined his offer to do so – partly because I felt sorry for the guy and his week-end and because waiting without charging is close to the worst thing you can be doing as an EV-owner when you want to make some distance.

We drive about 700m to the next hotel along the road. It’s closed but there seem to be people working within today. After explaining our situation, the elderly owner gladly allows us to charge and tells us how much money the village has invested in this charging station, just to find out that no-one is charging there. After hearing our story he tells us that he will be pushing for a fully open charging model where the plugs are accessible without any computer technology at all! YAY!

This is how charging should be - simple & free!

This is how charging should be – simple & free!

Whilst we’re charging, the weather above us has decided to show us its best behaviour: Within 10 minutes most remaining clouds are gone, leaving a beautiful deep blue sky waiting for us.

We're being treated to the best possible weather!

We’re being treated to the best possible weather!

Only thing worrying me right now is the clearly visible plumes of snow being blown far off the ridge indicating strong winds and potentially snowdrifts on the way up.

We say thank you to the hotel owner and with 92% in our battery start our ascent.

That's where we're going!

Halfway – Up there is where we’re going!

It’s really steep. Very steep. Our consumption uphill is about 213Wh/km at this rate, we can drive only 20km before depleting our battery.

Climbing, climbing, climbing

Climbing, climbing, climbing

Temperatures are dropping dramatically and quite strong winds start blowing, forcing us put the roof back on TW560.

100% icy road, -2°C, beautiful views

100% icy road, -2°C, beautiful views

This side of the pass seems to have been in the sun this afternoon. With the sun gone and snow being blown on the tarmac it melts and instantly freezes, leaving the road covered in pure ice.

The following video demonstrates just how slippery the road was at that point:

We all know that a TWIKE excels in such situations: We had to stop to help a driver get his car back on the road after him losing all traction, sliding towards a stone wall and getting stuck there. Oliver and I both had a vigorous workout pushing and pulling whilst the driver was torturing his clutch!

The car’s driver abandoned his plan to get to the top and and asked us if he should help push TW560 on its first meters uphill to get it going. We kindly declined. We had to be careful whilst getting back into our TWIKE: The road was even more slippery and very steep at the same time. I started the TWIKE and thanks to its controller was able to get us on our way without any wheel spin – even with my summer-slicks! (A post at a later time will go into the specifics as to why this works without bending physics)

Wind & snow - winter!

Wind & snow – winter!

A few hair-pin bends later, we finally make it up to the top. Brilliant weather, just a few minutes too late to have direct sunlight, gale-force winds at -2°C (wind chill factor felt temperature about -15°C brr.). There is a lot of snow here already and where the snow has been cleared… pure ice: see the reflection in the picture below.

We made it! (Pure ice to drive on - see the reflection of our front tire!)

We made it! (Pure ice to drive on – see the reflection of our front tire!)

It’s interesting to be just a few metres below the altitude we were yesterday … nicer views from here!

Passo di Stelvio - just a few meters below the highest point in Europe

Passo di Stelvio – just a few meters below the highest point in Europe

Given the weather we expected to have here, our views from the Passo di Stelvio are just stunning!

Southern Tyrol valley and Tyrolean Alps

Southern Tyrol valley and Tyrolean Alps

We park the TWIKE and walk around for a few minutes – just to take in the views on both sides of the pass and have some fun in the fresh snow 🙂

Wintertime!

Wintertime!

Lots of snow & cotton candy clouds creeping up from Switzerland

Lots of snow & cotton candy clouds creeping up from Switzerland

We don’t last for long outside – we get back into our vehicle to shelter from the winds and fine snow being blown into our faces. Our next waypoint is Bormio at 1225m altitude – 1500m downhill.

Bormio, here we come!

Bormio, here we come! (Back down through the clouds)

Night falls during our descent and we arrive in Bormio just after dark and start our last ascent towards Livigno: Passo Foscagno. At 2290m altitude, we are at 9% charge left.

Our last pass for today: Passo Foscagno

Our last pass for today: Passo Foscagno

we're done for today, or so we thought...

we’re done for today, or so we thought…

Entering the duty-free region of Livigno we encounter a strange situation: we drive from Italy to Italy but still have to cross an active border crossing!

Not being able to see the topography we assume the road towards Livigno is flat or even downhill. We couldn’t be more wrong. After the border we have a slight descent for about 4 kilometers, just to be confronted with another ascent to 2230m. We make it to the top…just! We we’re at 0% charge and for the last 500m Oliver gets out and walks alongside TW560.

From there it’s only 3 km downhill to Livigno – we arrive at 2030h, tired but very happy.