Nina is on the road! Here's the full story...

I’ve finally obtained my plates and have an official Electric Vehicle registration. I'm a bit speechless, but I think a real blog post is in order, as I’ve been biting my tongue for quite some time.

In short, there were a number of mishaps that made my registration process take an extremely long time. Additionally, there are a number of areas where the DMV in CT are ill equipped to handle Electric Vehicles. It all really boils down to the following:

1: The Requirements for Electric Vehicles are not properly distributed, communicated or trained to DMV staff.
2: The personnel responsible for handling Electric Vehicles is limited to ONE person, Lieutenant Frank Baio of the Bureau of Vehicle and Business Regulation, Commercial Vehicle Safety Division.
3: The State really has NO qualified inspectors, period.

(Disclaimer: do your own research, until you get a definitive answer from a authoritative source, someone more informed than your DMV Manager. I take no responsibility, whatsoever.)

Here is the story as I’ve been telling it face-to-face, and holding off on posting till after my registration was complete...

A while back, shortly after I started building the car, I figured I should have an idea of what requirements I needed to meet in order to register the car in CT. So, I did some research online, found some documents pertaining to Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, and that was about it! So, I drove myself down to the local DMV branch (Bridgeport) and inquired in person. The information desk had no idea, and sent me over to the manager. The manager, had no confident idea, and went on her PC, looked it up on their website, and 5 minutes later, she came back and said it should be registered as a "Composite."

For those who don't know, Composite cars in CT, is a rather large group of vehicle. Really anything that isn't what it originally was: Kit cars, Hot Rods, Custom Cars, Modified Bodies, whatever. So, it made sense enough, and I went on building.

One of the unfortunate, mishaps in all this, is that between the time that I started and the time I finished, the DMV stopped requiring appointments for inspection, they actually disconnected the published line! So, when it came time, I towed my car up to Wethersfield, as I was directed (10/21). Upon my arrival, the conversation went something like this:

Inspector 1 (i1): Hey, what do you think that is?
Inspector 2 (i2): Think it’s a Composite?
i1: No, must be a Salvage.
ME: Nope, Electric.
i1: ELECTRIC! Oh, I can't inspect that! Harry used to inspect those. Can you look at that?
i2: NO! You need a Federally Certified Automotive Engineer! Harry was, but he retired. Frank will have to look at that now I guess.
i1: Yea, I guess, but, uh Frank is in a meeting. You'll have to come back....

Needless to say, I didn't leave just yet. I waited 2 hours for "Frank” AKA Lieutenant Baio, and happened to catch him in the Cafeteria finishing his lunch. LT Baio did apologize, and quickly offered to make the situation a bit more right, and offered to send a qualified inspector to my house to complete the inspection.

While I was waiting for LT Baio, Inspector 1 found a document, dated 1994, which was written by Harry, pertaining to the "Requirements for Electric and Hybrid-Electric Vehicles." Attached to the Requirements was a Memo and Inspection Points.

The Memo: Essentially, in 1994, a similar situation occurred, and the EV owner must not have been as understanding as I was. Regardless, Harry sent out this memo, attaching the Requirements and suggested full distribution of the document to prevent the situation from happening again. (I have re-requested this distribution).

The Requirements: Fortunately the requirements are not all that far fetched and I simply needed to make some minor adjustment to meet their demands. This, however, could have been a much greater issue if my plans were not so close, and I built the car under false direction from the DMV.

Anyways, I spent the next 7 days at work in the garage, my day job, and calling LT Baio’s “Direct Line.” Funny, that he used those words. This actually translates to: Direct line to the receptionist/secretary in the Communications Department. There used to be 2 receptionists, but due to recent budget cuts, they’re down to 1. More so, this direct line, I first thought no one answered. I tried calling at all hours and it would ring and ring. Eventually, I gave up and sent LT Baio a fax (10/28). In trying to follow up on the fax, I kept making calls, until on time, I forgot the phone was ringing, and I let it ring and ring and ring while I was working and eventually, someone picked up! I was caught a bit off guard but learned that the trick is to just let it ring.

So, I got through, and was sent to LT Baio’s Voicemail, however the receptionist did confirm receiving my fax and putting it on his desk. Painful, I know, but the process was long. I had gotten no response from the LT, and only to come to find out that he got the Flu. So, I asked for the next person in line, and I was transferred to Sergeant Franson. Franson didn’t have much he could do for me. First he told me to call back next week, and I did. The following week, I called back and he told me to call back, around this time next week!!! I say, NO WAY. Who’s LT Baio’s boss! I need to speak with him. He gave me the truly direct line of Chief Rio.

Chief Rio, although our conversations were brief, they were very productive. He couldn’t send out an inspector, but he was communicating with Frank while he was sick, and at the very least expedited the situation. Once Frank returned to work, a week and a half later, I had 1 conversation, where we clarified some inspection issues and he gave me 3 options:
A: I wait 2 or more weeks for him to send me an inspector
B: I higher an Automotive Engineer to do the inspection
C: I tow the car back up at an agreed upon time.

Now, yea, I could do any of these, great, but I couldn’t pick one that second. Would you believe it took another 7 days to get him on the phone? Finally, I got so tired of getting no response, I left a frustrated message with Chief Rio, and within an hour, LT Baio called me, and about 3 days after that, I had an inspector at my house (11/20).

The inspection was stupid simple, but practical. The inspector, Doug, was most interested in making sure my High Voltage was electrically isolated from the chassis. I showed him this by measuring voltage from the controller’s B+ and B- connection. According to Baio, it must read less than 12V. This was all by the direction of LT Baio. The inspector was not an Automotive Engineer, nor was he versed or trained in Electric Vehicles.

Now, to step back a second, back in October, I faxed a letter to LT Baio, in which I express concern of my Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). Did he press the issue, no! Was it an issue to finish the registration, yes. Very frustrating.

Anyways, because my GVW was 250lbs over the chassis GVWR, I had to lighten up and schedule a re-weighing in Wethersfield. At this point I’m communicating directly with Doug, who is a very nice man and continuously returns my calls.

Upon my second arrival at the DMV (12/4), it was pretty simple. I rolled over the scale, weighed in under weight, and went to LT Baio’s office area. He took the paper, signed off, and I proceeded to registration.

Now as far as the registration went, they had quite the hard time properly entering the information in the computer. More accurately, they couldn’t. Something to do with Number of Cylinders. No, but seriously, a computer issue pertaining to Class code or Subclass code, Fuel Type, and Number of Cylinders. So, my paperwork didn’t process immediately, as most registrations do, but will have to be filed in a more manual fashion.

And off I went…


Ms. Freeman said...

Congratulations!!!! I saw you on GMA and think what you have done is incredible. Are there plans in the works to sell the plans to major manufacturers?

As far as the CT DMV they are notorious for dropping the ball and dragging their feet. Being from CT and now in the Southwest there is a drastic difference in the way the DMVs are organized and run. But in the end you prevailed and should by all accounts go down in the History Books along side Edison and Franklin.

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