Grounding our Development: CityPlug Team Takes Trip to Prove Models’ Accuracy
CityPlug strives to deliver the best product to our customers, to achieve this, it is integral that we validate our models. To this end, our team took a road trip through the Central Valley to validate the results of our model. The Central Valley holds a special place for our team, as it was where we first began development on our model. Seeing the fruits of our years of labour finally pay off was a truly rewarding experience that juxtaposed well with our high spirits and bonding of the day.
Starting out, we met up in Palo Alto at around 8 in the morning, excited and ready for an adventure. Setting off later than expected, though still in good spirits, We made our way south down the peninsula, catching eachother up from a considerable break since we had last met in person. South of San Jose, in the small community of San Martin, we made our first stop at a point recommended by our model. Several points in the area were suggested, however the one shown greatest was located along the town’s main road adjacent to the train station. We fully agreed with our model, seeing as the point had not only good proximity to highways, but was centrally located in the town. This first success was a great relief, lifting the weight that had been on our shoulders since we started our development: “How would the model actually perform.” Finally answering this question, we proceeded in good spirits, and made good time towards the first test of our spirits, the climb over Pacheco Pass.
From the verdant silicon valley, the Diablo Range rises, towering high above and dominating the landscape. Passage through this formidable obstacle is only possible by the twisting, steep Pacheco Pass, crossed by Highway 152. As our altitude began to climb, so too did our anxiety, as, while going up hills, the range of electric vehicles is severely diminished, and we could watch each change on the car’s display, nervously watching as consumption spiked while miles whittled away. With relief, we found respite at the renowned Casa de Fruta, which provided nourishment and replenishment both for our team members and for our car. Proceeding in better spirits, we completed the climb and settled into a state of heightened calm as we passed the summit, from there, we gently drifted downgrade towards our second site, situated near the base of the dam that retains the San Luis reservoir, this site, while offering great proximity to the highway, lacked amenities, and revealed problems in our land use data that could lead to incorrect recommendations.
Turning south, we headed to our 3rd site, which provided good amenities, and was another example of our model’s success. From here, we proceeded towards Hanford, stopping intermittently to charge and see the quality of existing charging stations. Through this, we noted the potential to expand facilities available at existing facilities, where demand necessitated. This was evidenced at Harris Ranch, a site which, through conversations with several regular EV users prior to this trip, we had been informed was often busy and difficult to find a spot at. While this did not end up occurring on our visit, it is an important consideration nonetheless.
After about 4 hours of driving and charging, we arrived in Hanford, California, a growing town in the heart of the San Joaquin valley. Here, at a restaurant nestled just off the town’s charming main street and historic centre, we met with Coach Juan, an area native and ACF coach. Settling into our quesadillas, we caught up with eachother before discussing life in Hanford and our project. After lunch, we took a stroll around Hanford’s pleasant lanes, taking in its historic town center, including its Carnegie-funded library and historic courthouse. We found chargers at the cities municipal center, and went on to finish our tour by returning to our car.
As we returned home, we checked a final few points and reflected on the success of our trip, as well as the things we must make changes to, including identifying improved data sources and tuning several parameters. But, as we headed back up highway 152, we began to experience our first moment of real range anxiety. We watched with anxiety as the graph depicting available range plunged inversely to the ever-increasing slope of the pass. This showed what owning an EV was truly like, even with our cautious driving and overabundance of charging, we were still suffering from range anxiety. This was worsened as the mountains opened the sky to driving rain and the lights of the Valley lingered behind, plunging the scene into darkness. At last, relief seemed in sight, as the road appeared to crest shortly ahead; this, however, was but a feeble hope, as the road beyond rose with increased intensity. Finally reaching the summit, our nerves frayed, we were finally able to relax, as the graph began to trend down, and as we rode the brakes, into the regenerative power zone.
Overall, this is a quintessential ACF startup trip as ACF tagline is “learn, build, apply”. CityPlug team started about 2 years ago and went through typical startup struggles(member exit or drop, pivoting and hitting the startup team’s peaks and lows). After all these dynamic startup team phase experiences, it was high time for our CityPlug team to practice or rather embrace the “apply” part despite many hindrances(ex: the product is for EV drivers and infrastructure builders and all members are students without driver license let alone EV ownership yet). What’s amazing about this idea(testing the product the team built over the 2years) was looking at from this challenge from “can do prism” by eliminating one by one from the list so we can execute and hit the road with EV car and test our two key models(City Modeling and Long Range Modeling)
Range Anxiety: Rain, Uphill drive, and low battery
These are the 3 deadly triggers at least for me during our testing trip when we were desperately trying to reach our final charging station before we head home on the uphill drive with volatile stock market(gamestop trade) graphs looking at battery graphs on the monitor.
It was raining hard and we were driving up the last hill to reach the other side where the Tesla charging station is at. The problem was we were losing the battery even faster due to uphill driving and the rain was worsening which made us really feel the true “range anxiety” directly.
The day before the trip, the team selected 14 sample points along the projected route to verify the decisions made by our model. For each location, the team would record the amount of traffic(low, mid, high), the estimate of the number of vehicles in the area, and the time of the day along with other variables. The team would manually discuss the suitability of a charging station at the location on a scale of 1 to 10, then compare the recorded data with the output from the model.
This trip can be a great story to include in our pitch. Now we can say that, “we didn’t just create our product. We tested it.” Testing the product to ensure quality is a sign that a company cares about its customers. So, mentioning this business trip in our website and videos will show our passion and effort put into this project. When choosing pictures from the trip for our website, I made sure to maintain the professional feeling of our website. This was an exciting moment for our team, but we also needed to make sure we use this trip as an opportunity to improve our project and promote our product to the public.
Connect With Us: