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Plug Bug: The bug is squished… I was rear ended!


It’s a sad day in electric-ville. I was driving the electric bug to work at about 6:45 am on Highway 85, trying to enjoy my morning commute by working on learning some Japanese words for an upcoming trip. Listing to to language stuff on audio is awesome, and I really enjoy learning new things. Now at this time there was already quite a bit of traffic, which I consider the plague of silicon valley, and it slowly came to a stop in the #2 lane. Yeah, that is CHP speak for the second lane from the left.

Then I saw it happening. I always look in my rear view mirror when traffic slows down or stops, as I like to be prepared for the unexpected, and this time it actually happened. The car behind me, a 2001 Ford Escape XLT, didn’t slow down and rammed into the bug’s rear end at quite a fantastic speed. I was holding my foot on the brake, and in hindsight I probably could have softened my blow by letting the car move forward and whacking the guy in front of me. Instead, my neck took the brute of the force with some strong whiplash.

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The woman’s air bag went off, and she was disoriented with a cut lip. My neck was sore, but I otherwise was fine. At least so far, as this just happened this morning, and my body might take some time to feel the effects of the accident. The woman’s car doesn’t have too much damage, but the bug didn’t fare so well in the impact.

The bug wouldn’t move; the ignition was disabled and the throttle wasn’t working. I also couldn’t move the shifter — something was really messed up with the transmission. It is actually good that the car’s power source was disabled on impact. I have one of the main contactors to the controller hooked up to an inertia switch. The inertia switch is a simple little device that on impact will provide a hole in the 12v circuit to cut power. I discovered it works a few years ago when I hit a major pothole on Highway 17 and got stuck on the side of the road for a few minutes before I realized what happened and reset it. It worked great in this case; it immediately cut power to one of the two main contactors and starved the controller from having high voltage power. It requires a physical reset by pushing in on a button, but it is located in the rear trunk motor compartment and I couldn’t get it open. I also wouldn’t want to reset it until I made sure that the electrical paths were all sane and not shorting out on anything like the body frame. Conversions usually keep the high voltage pack isolated from the chassis. Normally a car’s 12v system will have the 12v ground hooked up to the body of a car, but that isn’t safe to do with the high voltage pack.

At first I couldn’t push the car off the freeway and thought the transmission was locked completely, but I realized I had put the e-brake on before I got out of the car to see how the lady behind me was doing.

Of course, I called 911, and the cops came within minutes. They were very friendly and I was happy to have them around to help make things feel a little safer. Luckily the traffic was bad, and not moving too fast to present an extra dangerous situation.

I had AAA tow the car to my house, and now I’ll have to deal with the other person’s insurance to get the car fixed. What happens depends on the extent of the damage, and I’m not planning on doing the work myself. The transmission is spewing out oil on the ground…so that means something bad happened inside it. The motor was probably impacted and pushed the tranny forward and broke stuff inside it. I have a feeling that the tranny and motor are damaged, and possibly the controller. I won’t know until I take the bumper off, and I am not going to touch the car until a claims adjuster first takes a look at it.

The rear engine deck lid is destroyed; there is a hole it from pushing the release hatch through the metal. I’ll need a “new” one from a salvage vehicle…which might be hard to come by. Matching the paint is going to be impossible, since I did a custom job on it…which means the car probably will need to be repainted. The bumper is wrecked…the rear panels are damaged and need straightening, and the light is destroyed. 

The car managed to remain whole and without major damage until today. That is from 1969 until 2016. Forty-seven years. Almost half a century, and then this happens to me. I blame distracted drivers looking on their cell phones. Don’t do it!

I’m quite sad. I have a strong attachment to this car, as I know every little part on it.

PS: I’m okay.

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(c) 2008-2017 Corbin Dunn

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