Wednesday, February 3, 2016

$150 EV Registration Fee?? AWESOME!!

A lot of crying going on about Washington States Electric Vehicle registration fee and I don't blame WA from wa-wa-ing... What?? What do you mean its not the state crying? it the drivers?  No way! Can't be!

We EVers are getting over BIG TIME!! We should be celebrating!  After all, only $100 goes towards the highway fund. The other $50 will go towards putting in more chargers that will allow us to go to places like the Washington Coast or the Olympics or other currently ignored areas. It will also allow us to double up on the plugs in the most congested areas.  Sure its great to meet other EVers but if its a party of 5 at a single plug, it could be and usually is a problem!

But $100 bucks is $100 bucks so why am I so happy? Well because I know the alternatives and they aint pretty! Gas maybe cheap where you are but its never really that cheap here and taxes is why. Every gallon of gas sold in WA comes with a 62.9 cents tax bill.  44.5 cents from Wa, 18.4 cent from Uncle Sam.

So on the one hand we have $100 that ALL GOES TO WA verses $100 for gasoline tax of which WA gets only $70.74 with Uncle Sam getting the rest. Well you say  "Well ok, the more Uncle Sam gets from us, the more we get from him, so that $29.26 is a good thing, right?"

wrong Wrong, WRONG!!!  No matter how much we give Uncle Sam, we will get the same back.  If you think what the state puts in matters, look at Alaska or Montana and you will quickly realize some states put in very very very little and get a lot back...

Now some say the flat tax penalizes them and I say sure it does if you NEVER LEAVE TOWN!  Let me give you an example. My Corolla is driven for work only.  Last year, I drove it just 6700 miles... ya, 6700 miles, averaged 38 MPG and still paid $115.10 in gas taxes (well would have if the rate had been the same all year)

So if you drove your LEAF less than 6700 miles last year while your 38+ MPG gasser sat in the driveway, then and ONLY THEN you have something to say!

Sooooo, who has something to say!!!

Ya...yep.... that's what I thought.

So the next time you want to complain about the EV registration fee, take my advice and CLAM UP!!! Your words might actually get someone at the State to investigate the fees and you gotta know by now the results of that investigation is likely fees going up!

So yeah, I am very happy to pay my $150 EV registration fee!!

**Edit**  Ok apparently the original bill was supposed to earmark $50 of the fee for building up the infrastructure but that part was nixed.  What we ended up getting is funding for a "public-private" pilot program. Guessing its some sort of organized method to get businesses to host charging stations...

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Jan 2016 Drive Report

Another month, another $70 down the gas tank!  Well, actually it was $71.92 burnt up in the Corolla in January going a record (for gas) 1403.1 miles averaging over 38 mpg @ 5.12 cents per mile.  This marks the first time (I think...) that the gasser out did the LEAF's 927.5 miles @ 2.27 cents per mile or a total cost of $21.12.

But there is a bit of a silver lining. With a mere 31,900 on the odometer at the end of the month,  I am nearly back to my 15,000 annual lease pace, well nearly...

But I have to admit part of the reason the Corolla got the lion's share is that I was experimenting a bit to see how out of balance I could get my pack. If you remember, I was seeing near new battery stats at the beginning of the month which I have to think was partially due to a well balanced pack.  A few times during this stint of high numbers, I was seeing as little as 55-60 mV range with SOC under 15%.  My numbers had dropped considerably going as low as 60.99 ahr, 93.78 Hx and 20.4 kwh available.  This was accomplished by basically keeping the LEAF in town.  Over 10 days, I did not drive more than 12 miles at any one stretch with one charge up lasting 6 days!

So today, it was time to see how bad the balance was and I saw this at 10 GIDs

Pretty wild swing especially considering I wasn't even driving when I took this pix. Just parked in the garage.  Guessing under power, it was probably worse. For at least a week or so, I plan to go back to regular LEAF usage and should have 3 (including today's) deep discharges. We shall see what the balance is a bit later!

In other news; Oil companies claim a 91% drop in profits from 2 years ago which basically means their profits went from insane to merely ridiculous.  They may cry a lot but no one on the board is going hungry. This reminds me of an article I read about how the US Economy has not reacted as some expected due to low energy prices. The economic uptick has not happened and I can tell you why it hasn't for me.

Last year, I gassed it 6212 miles putting out $498.54.  This year, it was 6677 miles for $409.34.  Yeah, less than $100.  Not really a watershed event at my house!

But habits of gassers has changed. Guessing they are not realizing how little they saved but its hard to tell. This morning, I was unloading equipment from my car making two trips back and forth and the whole time, there was a car idling next to me. So, I snapped a pix.  Well cell service inside the building sucked and got a call from my district manager and went outside so I could hear her and that car was still there smoking away

Can I have him arrested for attempted "Autocide?"

I posted this online and immediately got stories about similar situations including a soccer practice where one parent idled inside their car the entire time; 90 MINUTES!!  Which reminds me!

2015 is now the all time hottest year on record breaking the long standing (a whole 12 months!) record held by 2014.  

Michael E. Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, calculated that if the global climate were not warming, the odds of setting two back-to-back record years would be remote, about one chance in every 1,500 pairs of years. Given the reality that the planet is warming, the odds become far higher, about one chance in 10, according to Dr. Mann’s calculations.

One in 10 chance of back to back records eh?? well, we kinda blew that out of the water. Add in 2015 and its like 3 out of 4 years setting records...

Back to the article the quote came from

Scientists started predicting a global temperature record months ago, in part because an El Niño weather pattern, one of the largest in a century, is releasing an immense amount of heat from the Pacific Ocean into the atmosphere. But the bulk of the record-setting heat, they say, is a consequence of the long-term planetary warming caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases.

Well, you know scientists. They are hesitant to make blanket statements so they say they have to look at the next few years before they can say for sure that the World is in a warming trend.

Well, I ain't no scientist but I do know Human Behavior enough to know that cheap gas might as well put next to Devil's temptations and Republican Presidents for things that seem too good to be true...

Monday, January 18, 2016

Are We Blowing Our Chance To Take Advantage of Cheap Fuel?

FINALLY, I have purchased gas for under $2 a gallon!  Ok, I know what you are thinking; Why is that news? I have been paying under $2 a gallon all year!.  Well, I live on the West Coast where cheap gas is an oxymoron, at least normally.  I paid $1.969 for gas two days ago marking a few weeks under a year since the $2 mark was achieved.  (Feb 3, 2015, I got gas for $1.939)

OPEC has pretty much announced that they will openly fight any transportation option that is does not further the World's addiction to oil and that has allowed us to become complacent. I don't have the specifics of what cheap gas has done to our purchasing habits but can only guess that Full size Diesel Trucks are flying off the lots with their $50,000+ price tags.

This truck is "rated" up to 18 MPG on the highway per the dealership  but get it off the dynamometer and a more realistic number is closer to 12 MPG.  A recent post by a Dieseler crows about paying $1.88 a gallon just a few days ago...

Again without looking, Full size SUVs are probably enjoying a renewed popularity with people blinded by the extra cash in their wallets from fuel savings as well.  I would provide real data but the thought of seeing the sales numbers is quite frankly, very depressing.  

As always, we are essentially making knee jerk purchases based on the highly volatile price of gasoline.  Sure its cheap now and unlike previous dips, it has actually been cheap for quite a while. Ignoring a short period this past Summer, gas has not been close to  $3 a gallon here since October 2014 which may not sound like a big deal to most but remember, our pricing scales are inflated here.  Before dropping into the upper 2's during early Winter 2014, We have been over $3 a gallon (including several forays into $4 gas) for years.  It was then that gas was painful. A significant budget consideration that could not be ignored.

But that was less than 1½ years ago.  How quickly we have become conditioned to again being able to ignore the pittance we now pay for fuel.  So, I guess the real question becomes "At what point does the gas bill no longer becomes a major budgetary consideration?"

Well, now we are talking money. Cold hard cash for the most part.  Like lottery tickets, gasoline is pretty much a "cash in hand" expense. I use credit cards for gasoline purchases (mostly for cash back, points or whatever) but always pay off the balance every month to avoid interest costs so its still essentially cash.   So the threshold of pain runs the gamut from "still painful" to "not sure what it was last month, but it wasn't much" response when asked how much we pay for gas.  Notice when gas is over a certain point that we become acutely aware of how much we pay at the pump but when I ask that question now I get "Oh, its not much... maybe about $10-15 to fill up"  verses high priced gas of  "I paid $36.73 just the other day!"

But herein lies the problem. When gas gets too cheap, we gorge. Now not all gorging is bad.  Taking more trips out of town is actually a good thing that I am in favor of.  Sightseeing or simply "roadtripping" helps to stimulate the economy. You are essentially spreading the wealth around the country which tends to help maintain businesses that rely on travel and this is the segment of the economy that has been hurt the most in the recent past. After all, road tripping pretty much requires stopping to eat somewhere new, right?

But gorging also means making poor choices on vehicle purchases. Unlike family vacations or spur of the moment road trips,  vehicle purchases commits you to several years of living with that decision. This creates a situation I have seen time and time again where people buy a vehicle, the price of fuel hiccups and all of a sudden paying both the car loan and the gas bill becomes very challenging.

What is really needed is ways of making sure that gas does not get too cheap and that can easily be done by simply creating a flexible gas tax structure that changes based on the going market price of gas.  Washington State does it with their minimum wage laws. Every year, they base any minimum wage increase. (Thankfully, its a one way street) on the cost of  living.  Cost of living goes up 3%, our State minimum wage goes up 3%. That way we can at least "tread water."   OBTW; Thank you fuel prices for insuring the cost of living actually went DOWN last year meaning no raise for Washingtonians... first time in YEARS!!)

Fuel taxes should be managed the same way but raising fuel taxes is something that is more difficult that we think. The federal gas tax has not been raised since 1993 while the cost of everything related to transportation has skyrocketed.   Having tire issues with your Nissan LEAF?  Well, before we place all the blame on Nissan for its vendor choices, maybe we should take another look at the deteriorating conditions of  the roads we drive on?

Now when gas when I paid $3.419 for gas on September 28, 2014 it was pretty easy to understand how gas a gas tax increase would have been a monumental achievement, but now that gas is approaching half that coupled with the failing road system coupled with the reduced gas tax revenue??  I mean how obvious does it have to get?

But our legislative body does not work like that. It would be great but it does not. Congress does do "right" or "reasonable" or "smart".   For them its "perfect" or "covers all bases" and if they can't do that, then its do nothing which is what we currently... no, not currently but have been putting up with for decades.  Constantly we get a bill that most can get behind but a single voice of concern can completely stop it in its tracks which means a lot of time and money spent to get nowhere or at best a half step towards a solution that barely visible on the horizon.

So maintaining the price of gas to at least a reasonable level means stabilizing our budget which means that spur of the moment splurges are tempered by the fact that that 450 Horsepower Mustang will always cost at least $100 a month in gas and also aids us when making the family vehicle purchase since we no longer have to worry as much about what we will pay for gas will be 3 years from now.  Now we do need to realize a variable gas tax rate only prevents gas from getting too low and there will always be the specter of  $5 gas that we may not be able to avoid.

So chime in folks!  What is your balance point?  At what point does the price of gas start to affect your life?  Is it $3? 4?  or is it still causing you to go without even now when its just a notch over chump change?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Why Electric Vehicles are a bad idea

There is no such thing as a perfect vehicle for everyone and that is ok. With millions of vehicles sold in the US annually that leaves more than enough room for some pretty healthy niches. But poor choices are out there for the uninformed and this posting will hopefully warn an unsuspecting buyer before its too late.

On paper, electric vehicles seem like a good idea. Great for the environment, uses the most prolific power source built by Man, 2nd only in accessibility to the Sun, and its economical.  But the drawbacks are many and severe and worse of all; unadvertised!!  I will expose the secrets the electric car manufacturers do not want you to know!  But the key thing is that you need to read this ASAP!  The industry is powerful and as soon as they see this, this post will likely disappear from the Earth forever! So don't blow your opportunity to find out what the World doesn't even realize it needs to know!!

Electric Vehicles are quiet and that is true but I cannot believe the industry has the World believing that quiet is a good thing!!  After all, would you prefer to hear nothing?? Be deaf?? I think not!

** Quiet means leaving home at the crack of dawn without waking up the family. Hard for them to appreciate how hard you work for them if they don't even know you left the house!

** Quiet means the inability to strike fear into the heart of your drag racing opponent. What good is all that torque if you cannot psyche your opponent by increasing his stress level and maybe causing him to choke?  For the effects of stress; google "Minnesota field goal attempts."

Electric vehicles require nearly no maintenance and again, that is supposed to be a good thing?? WOW!! Unreal!!

** No maintenance means no more free car wash coupons when you get your oil changed. Right now my LEAF is so dirty I sometimes have trouble remembering what color it is!

** No maintenance means drifting apart from your local dealer's service advisor.  Think of all the time and money you spent in the past to build that relationship and gain that valued friend. But no more! All gone!!

Electric Vehicles recharge with electricity and the most common source is the home tap. Sounds good, right? Well...depends on how you look at it.

** Charging up at home means not having to go out to get fuel.  A "shut in's" delight! We don't even want to go into how bad that is for them to have another excuse to not venture from their home.

** Charging up at home means not supporting the local economy. Gas stations maybe corporate franchisees but still employ locally. By gassing up, you are helping to reduce unemployment.  Electric companies are public utilities and your charging will not hire a single person.   For example; I have both a gasser and an EV. My Nissan LEAF went nearly 14,000 miles for under $300 while the gasser when just over 6500 miles for over $400.  As you can see; the EV contributes little to economy while the gasser can potentially pour hundreds of dollars into the local economy every month!

** In extreme cases, people install Solar panels to generate their own electricity. This means no money at all put into the local economy and a huge reduction in surplus Solar energy! Sure it seems like we have a lot of leftover Sun now but what would happen if there were tens of millions of people charging their EVs with Solar??

Now there are more hidden pitfalls to driving an electric vehicle and I would love to spend the time to tell you about it but time is of the essence!  Remember as soon as the EV auto manufacturers see this, it will most certainly disappear to don't delay!  Share this with as many people as you can before its too late!!

Friday, January 1, 2016

December 2015 Drive Report; Happy New Year!

End of the month, end of the year and the new year starts out by being 17º this morning! brrrr. Ended with paying an extra 11 cents a gallon for gas as well. Won't miss 2015 let me tell ya!  Yeah, definitely have had better years (like most of them) but it was at least partially memorable.  Going back to Michigan to see relatives I have not seen in decades was great!

As far as the LEAF goes?  Well I can claim my batteries have not aged a bit! and whats even better is that I have proof!

Not too bad for a old car now is it!

Now as much as I like to brag, I have to admit reality comes crashing down hard sometimes.  I took this reading before the charge cycle was complete. The lights were still blinking and all that and with these numbers, the car was obviously in the balancing stage.  I found that occasionally taking readings too soon after the end of the charge caused higher than normal readings.

This was pretty much verified when I went out a few hours later, drove 6 miles with dash reading of 4.0 miles/kwh and was left with  19.9 kwh and 257 GIDs left.  So why wasn't I at 20.5 kwh?  would make sense. I only had seat and steering wheel heaters on and total drive duration of probably less than 20 minutes for trip to store and back.

Actually I have to think my more realistic battery stats should be giving me just over 21 kwh available which is still pretty fabulous.  I did do a blast at the Oly Nissan Dealership a few days ago mostly to test my Chargepoint FOB (remember my other one failed to work at Puyallup and Oly Nissan so it was retired) I am glad they overdid it by sending me 3 of them.  Down to two so not sure why the first one stopped working although it being on my keychain means it goes thru a lot of abuse. Despite never taking my keys out of my pocket for the LEAF, I take them out a lot for other things like flashlights, box openers (ya, using keys not a good idea but at least I can't accidentally cut myself with them!) But the new tier of numbers basically happened after that fast charge. Before the charge, my ahr had been bouncing around the mid 65's. But after a 20 minute charge gaining 9.3 kwh I left and checked LEAF Spy and it was slightly higher but continued to rise pushing my Hx over 100% for first time in a long time.  That was on Wednesday. We shall see how long these numbers last.

Another thing I was checking on is charging speed. I had planned to hold on until the charge rate dropped to 6 kwh but lost patience with sitting there. This time no one came to charge so there was no pressure to leave early but

I don't have any idea what the max power output is at Oly but suspect its not near 48 kwh. The rate did start around 40-42 KW but dropped rapidly. As you can see it was approaching 30 KW before it was even ¼ charged.  Either way, glad newer 30 kwh packs charge at the fuller rate much deeper into the SOC curve.  Bodes well for us, not so well for station host especially this one which bills at the rate of 25 cents per minute. (my charge here is free)

Anyway for the month I did not do too well on transferring miles to the Corolla because I did not work very much. The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is traditionally slow and I took the time to catch up on lying around... As the Corolla was purchased for those trips that simply could not be made with the time constraints of work, it is pretty much never driven for any other purpose and this was the case in December as the LEAF went 1277.3 miles for a cost of $30.77 or 2.4 cents per mile. The cost does include a few stops at Puyallup Nissan (16.67 cents a minute and yes, I do have to pay there) and random Blinks but mostly due to 3 trips running over 100 miles.  For the year, LEAF went 13,535.9 miles (down from over 17,000 miles last year) costing $279.82 or just under 2.1 cents per mile.

The Corolla traveled 464.7 miles costing $32.97 or 7.1 cents per mile. For the year it traveled 6723 miles costing $409.34 or 6.1 cents per mile.  Nearly all its miles happen during Winter which makes sense since it has heat to burn literally. During 2015, the Corolla failed to gas up in two months while 4 other months had fuel costs under $20.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Breaking Bad; The Corruption of the Autonomous Driving Vehicle

Autonomous driving cars are just around the corner and I can't wait! The option to snooze, work, or just snap pix to post on Facebook during my commute is something... I would love to be able to do "safely."   Studies claim a 50% increase in commuting time for the average worker in the Puget Sound Region has happened in just the last 4 years and I have to say I concur. (although I feel the number is a bit low)

Traffic being the issue it is means something has to be done but the traditional options of pushing everyone to mass transit options, building more roads or raising taxes or providing breaks to encourage car pooling has not worked or is simply way too expensive.  The one transportation obstacle that was hurdled (after years of debate over who was going to pay for it) the downtown Seattle Tunnel has been derailed due to the digging machine not performing as expected.  FYI; many experts see a slight easing of congestion issues at best since most of the traffic will simply be moved from another traffic corridor that is going away.

Autonomous cars can go a long way towards reducing congestion. They can safely drive at a much higher density which means a higher rate of thru-put despite only driving at or below the speed limit.  Software can easily create "Car trains" where its determined that several cars will be traveling in the same direction for several miles. Drafting each other, automatically adjusting following distances to account for weight, braking distances, etc. Even putting the vehicle with the largest "frontage" in the lead to help "break wind" could be an option.  A successful car train would save tons of fuel even for the lead car.

Autonomous cars will be safer because driver fatigue, physical limitations and poor driving conditions due to weather, time of day, etc. are eliminated.

Networking Autonomous cars will greatly increase efficiency and safety by greatly reducing the interactions with rogue drivers.  Imagine a setting "Remain in area surrounded by other ADVs"(Autonomous Driving Vehicles)

But there remains a huge psychological road block to ADV's.  It is fear of the unknown and putting the your life on the line to rely on a computer to get you around safely on a crowded freeway is going to be a major hit on anyone's comfort zone.  BSOD visions aside; have computers really advanced that far??

Well, yes. Yes, they have! In fact they have advanced more than far enough to take over a relatively simple task of driving...or is it that simple?? Well, COMPLETELY remove the Human Element and it would be!  In this article the word "safe" and its variants have been used several times and ADV's are, right?....right?

A recent article illustrates how much we do not belong behind the wheel.  It appears that ADV's has suffered from an accident rate higher than normal. This is shocking and will no doubt be used out of context with neighsayers later at least until we delve further and find

The self-driving car, that cutting-edge creation that’s supposed to lead to a world without accidents, is achieving the exact opposite right now: The vehicles have racked up a crash rate double that of those with human drivers.
The glitch?
They obey the law all the time, as in, without exception. This may sound like the right way to program a robot to drive a car, but good luck trying to merge onto a chaotic, jam-packed highway with traffic flying along well above the speed limit. It tends not to work out well.

Yeah... thats right. Most of the accidents are happening because of a flagrant violation of the written law resulting in people rear ending ADV's because they are obeying the traffic laws!  But not surprising!  Despite spending a bankroll large enough that make Bill Gates jealous; Auto makers have not been able to significantly reduce highway deaths.  Now, we have made progress and highway deaths are down 50% despite more miles driven and worse accidents (as a result of excessive speed mind you...) but cars still kill over 30,000 people every year. Ya, that is more than ten times the rate of mass shootings in this country.  So why is a handful of deaths by firearms from people primarily ignoring the law generating so much passion when thousands of deaths are attributed to people ignoring the speed limit (which is a law as well... shocking I know, but its true!! Snopes confirmed) in a car? Well, obviously I cannot out argue the gun or automotive lobbyists so what are our options?

 As the accidents have piled up -- all minor scrape-ups for now -- the arguments among programmers at places like Google Inc. and Carnegie Mellon University are heating up: Should they teach the cars how to commit infractions from time to time to stay out of trouble? 

say WHAT!! Google; I am SHOCKED!! Of all the companies in the World, you were the last (besides Apple) that would take "Lemming over the Cliff" option!  What is the upside to arriving at your destination 10 minutes earlier?  Keep in mind; more autonomous cars could very well lessen that gap but on the flipside...

Excessive speed has so many downsides that listing half of them will cause me to miss the kickoff of the Seahawks game which as we all know is not an option.

Accidents, driver stress,  higher insurance rates and death.  Good luck finding specifics on how many deaths are solely the result of excessive speeds but even low ball figures puts it at 35,000 a year. Wait a second! How can it be 35,000 when there will be just over 30,000 killed this year?(estimate only)   Well the first figure is Highway deaths only.  It does not include deaths on the city and county roads where its open season on pedestrians. I am not going there simply because of the number of incidents involving the number of children under age 6.  It really would ruin my day.

So Google, Apple and whoever, do not cave under the moniker of the all mighty dollar.  Resist the temptation from the dark side.  Stick to your guns.  Add the ability to immediately upload videos of all traffic incidents seen to the proper law enforcement authority and insurance agency.  Do this and eventually the gap between insurance for an ADV  (over 10,000,000 miles without causing an accident) and people who refuse to give up the wheel.

So how much are you willing to pay for that 10 minutes?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Inconvenience of Public Charging

This picture may not be too clear but as I was walking (padding my Fitbit numbers!) the other day at Marathon Park in Oly, I came upon this guy who had his cellphone plugged into the light pole.  Now a scene like this at the airport is pretty common and accepted but here?  Well at least it wasn't raining!

It is kinda funny how some types of "recharging" is much more acceptable than others. When you compare what we are willing to pay for that convenience (or not in the case above) its even funnier... in an odd sort of way.

Now since this is an Electric Vehicle Blog the title is bound to suggest its about my LEAF but "recharging" comes in several different forms and cars and cellphones only scratch the surface.

We recharge on the road all the time.  Be it fast food, Starbucks, the ultrarich indulgence of Dairy Queen, or power napping at a rest area; we do it simply because we demand satisfaction right now, simply don't want to cook, (that be me) we don't have time to go home,  or its a safety thing.

What I think really needs to happen is a reevaluation of the concept of public "charging" and what we are willing to pay in both time and money for that convenience or privilege (Ok, "I" think its a privilege to drive EV...)

So speed is essential, right?  Well, yeah... most of the time. But is it that essential when you don't have to be in attendance?  We all hate going to a restaurant and having to sit in the lobby for 15 minutes before being seated. Then its 3-5 mins for water, another 3-7 mins to put in the order then 8 to 21 mins waiting on the food and no, I did not pull those numbers off the top of my head.  But those are sit down restaurants that generally fall into two categories but the largest by far is the "destination" category. IOW, we are not out just driving around and suddenly got the munchies. It is something planned and frequently is the only thing we are doing on our journeys  away from home.  So time is not essential as much as the realization that we cannot do anything during those various wait times. It is the very reason why those times are so segmented that dictates we not "lose" our place in line.

Now fast food is much faster but it does have drawbacks anyone who has spilled something on their clothes (like is there anyone out there that hasn't?) will confirm.  The menu options alone require some compromise. I love Big Macs but sometimes I want spaghetti, pasta, meatballs and sauce!  Try eating that on I-5!  Of course, this can be avoided by eating the food at the establishment. Since I work on the road, I do fast food a lot, way more than I should.  In nearly all cases, I have 30 mins to eat from the time I leave work to when I return so fast has to be fast.  So sometimes its a question of finding fast food row, doing a quick browse into which drive thru line is reasonable and moving and so on.  Not always a good indication.  More than once I have gotten into a short line only to find out a short while later that it was short because people simply got tired of waiting and left the time for the establishment next door.

Now after driving EV for more than 8 years, I long since came to the realization that the "speed is essential" part mostly because its unplanned. We did not block out time in our day for that detour. Be it gas, recharging, food, etc.  So it falls into the category of "squeezing it in."

Recently I took a trip with my Son (8 years old with roughly 8 seconds of patience) that was 140 miles round trip in which 2 charging stops were incorporated.  Both were planned, neither felt like a delay, and in both cases, we waited almost no time at all.  Now, to be fair; the first charge was at a DCFC and I wanted to charge longer than the time I was there but another car came in so I decided to cut short my plan.  Our stop consisted of plugging in, using the bathroom and grabbing Hot Chocolate to go which we had done and returned to the car as the other LEAF arrived.  Despite 3 EV parking spaces and only one charging,  he had to wait a bit to park.

Luckily, it was a Walgreens with cars moving in and out rather quickly so he only had to wait a few minutes.  Either way, I left with a GID count of  215. (target was 240)

Now the "A" Plan was to plug in at our destination (Snoqualmie Falls) but that was not to be. It was a gorgeous day in the mid 40's without a cloud in the sky which means the place was PACKED!  So we parked in the overflow lot roughly 3 blocks from the nearest plug.

We spent about 90 minutes there enjoying the raging water and the mist (not so much) which was basically rain falling up which made the mid 40's temps feel like the mid 20's!  But the roughly 600 foot elevation change down and back up did a great job of building an appetite so we created plan B which was to head to town and find a place to recharge both us and the car!

There were 3 L2's in town and one just happened to be around the corner from a place to eat so we parked, walked roughly 1½ blocks, ate and returned 55 minutes later. Jumped in and drove home.  The key takeaway here is that we did not have to use extra time to do any recharging of the car due to our ability to

1) Walk away from the car

2) Use the time to address other needs

Which brings me back to the guy charging his phone.  Now this area does have benches because its quite normal and common for people who just want to sit and enjoy the scenery and the people... in Summer.  The day I took the pix it was December, temps in the low 40's and we two were the only ones there, so guessing his charging was not a "destination" event.

Finally, I do feel that Public charging is an extreme inconvenience when its not planned and because of my job, I do a lot of driving but frequently encounter situations where my 88 mile roundtrip completed successfully several times is not going to work due to weather, rain, traffic, etc... IOW; I have to make an unplanned stop which means finding a charger convenient to that stop which is difficult especially when traffic issues means that any detour (even one of just a few miles) is at least another 30 minutes added to my day which is why I drive at a pace that allows me to get to where I need to go without stopping. This is how much I hate "unplanned" public charging.  Planned Public Charging is simply a part of life no less important that spending time with my Son eating Ice Cream.

So next time you ask "How can you stand to drive 55?"  read this post.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

November 2015 Driving Stats

If you have been following my blogs or Facebook rants, you know that I have been seeing over 21 Kwh available on my LEAF! And the best part is all of this has happened without the normal tools we employ to boost our numbers!

No, I have not been camping out at the local Fast Charger (despite the fact that its free...) In fact, I have only had one fast charge event in the past 2 months and the event was not even long enough to get me to 5 temperature bars from 4!

No, I have not been driving my LEAF a lot. Right now, its slow at work which is pretty typical during the Christmas rush along with two 4 day vacations mixed in as well all adds up to me driving much less than normal.

But despite all this I saw

Now for some firsts;  This is the first time I have seen as much as 21.2 kwh available since July 2nd. This the first time I have seen as much as 274 GIDs since July 1st. Now mind you; This was near the end of a stretch where I averaged over 80 miles a day driving for 10 days.

Previous to this jump (which is still being maintained a week later...) I was seeing GIDs in the 260-264 range with kwh available bouncing between 20.2 and 20.5

Highest Hx since May 1st (97.71)  Highest ahr since May 5th (63.27)

So we have no QCs to speak of, lots of days under 25 miles driven, and MUCH colder weather. All of which had tended to depress my numbers so whats going on??  I was already convinced long ago that my 2013 battery pack was improved over my 2011 pack but this is just weird!

For November the Corolla trudged 687.6 miles draining me for $34.71 resulting in a staggering 5.05 cents per mile managing to completely destroy the notion that we are currently experiencing cheap gas. And yes, the Corolla was driven 400 miles on trips that the LEAF could have done but I am still in "lease mileage reduction" mode at least thru the end of January.

The LEAF zipped for 893.8 miles at a nearly invisible cost of  $23.53 or a miniscule 2.63 cents per mile. This includes $4.55 cents in Blink fees (ya, Blink worked TWICE!)

Unlike last year, Winter has decided to make an appearance this year. We already have significant snowfall, tons of snowboarding pix from my nephew Thomas and it looks like the weather will be around for a while so likely not going to see another record breaking February but one can hope!


Ok, ignore everything I said above!! While writing this I plugged in the car and just went out to get a reading and this!!

Ok garage temp 53.2º,  battery temps nearly the same. I am beginning to form a different opinion on the ideal temperature range for LEAF batteries for some reason...

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Free Mass Transit For Everyone!

Maybe not for New York City where that is the accepted (and best) way to get around but what about cities that are currently struggling with useless mass transit suffering from very low acceptance rates and monumental traffic jams?  Seattle now has the 7th worst traffic in nation nearly doubling time spent sitting in traffic since 2012.  In my job which started in 2012 and requires daily travel thru out the Puget Sound Region, I can concur. The difference in slowdowns has AT LEAST doubled for me.

My Sister recently moved to Graham from her house in Lacey because her 14 mile commute to her job in Lakewood was frequently taking nearly an hour in the evenings. Now this has always happened but previously it was maybe a few times a month. But this year, it was the case a few times a week.

Problem is with Seattle's tech industry booming, it is expected to get much worse and soon. Some studies predict an additional 600,000 residents moving into the eastern county area in the next 20 years Since the rate of our expansion of the freeway system in the area is a far cry from being as "speedy" as a Snail's pace, we are basically in big trouble.

It cost each commuter roughly $1137 to travel the Seattle area which makes me think that maybe we need to reshuffle the money a bit here and there?  Mass transit in Seattle which is seeing a huge ridership boom still runs far below capacity on many runs. Costing 1.2 Billion a year to fund, it brought in 150 Million in fares for 2014.  Well, maybe we need to double road tax revenues with higher gas taxes, City entry fees (Like London for example) where the cost of driving your personal car becomes an expense that must be balanced with convenience.  Add to the mix; making all mass transit options in the Seattle Metro area completely free.

Seattle recently added an "HOT" (High Occupancy Toll) lane which essentially allows single drivers to use high occupancy lanes for a fee.  Drivers pay anywhere from 75 cents to $10 to drive in one of the HOV lanes. This 17 mile stretch generally saves at least 30 minutes for the single driver willing to pay the toll but frequently that savings can exceed one hour. During the worst of times, the average commute time can exceed 70 minutes for normal traffic.  Another twist is that for  free "HOV" access (High Occupancy Vehicle) during peak times, 3 occupants instead of the normal two must be in the vehicle even further reducing traffic in the HOT lanes which also reducing commuting times.

As much as we want to think the HOT idea was invented by the very well to do (The Seattle tech industry has created one of the highest concentrations of millionaires in the country) its actual purpose was to encourage others to use public transportation or carpooling to reduce congestion.  What I like about the program is that a portion of the tolls collected will be earmarked for I-405 projects.

According to a study in 2013, drivers only fund roughly 51% of the road maintenance costs while the other 49% comes from the general fund. IOW; non-drivers pay a goodly amount so we can drive cheaper. Now I could kinda sorta grudgingly accept that if the subsidization of  mass transit was the reason for the imbalance but that is not the case. Mass transit is generally subsidized thru its own funding separate from the highway fund  Nationwide, mass transit fares (Amtrak excepted) cover 21% of its expenses.  Off the 155 Billion spent on the roads, state and local governments ponied up 37 Billion. Obviously each state provides a different percentage of that and one can assume that sparsely populated areas pay a much smaller percentage than a heavily populated Puget Sound Region would but there is no getting around the fact that we drivers are directly responsible for a 77 Billion dollar shortage in our basic costs to drive our cars and since this is 2010 dollars (from the study) today's cost is actually much higher.

From another study, the imbalance is actually much worse.  Despite our subsidizing 79% of public transit's cost, its only dinging us $50 per household (in 2008 dollars) while road costs per household (which includes NON DRIVERS) is averaging $779 dollars.. (current estimates are now running near $1000)

All this makes me think that the reason we drive solo is because we cannot afford to drive any other way! Are we simply pawns in a grand scheme orchestrated by Big Oil to insure our continuing dependence on oil?  Someone had to create the atmosphere that has so successfully masked the true cost of owning and driving a car.

But too much of a "good thing" is always going to bite us in the butt. Yes, I am addicted to the convenience of my car.  No,  our mass transit system does not even come close to covering my needs in order to do my job but what if I had to find a job based on not having a car? Would I be so much worse off?  That is a good question because my job is hardly a prize!

Either way, I am not comfortable with the way the money is going. I value the convenience my car brings me but I also know first hand the struggles of people who don't have a car. We need to investigate other options. I would gladly pay more to drive and why not? My transportation expenses are only about 25% as much as most people. I will gladly go 50%!  :)  (ok, just kidding about that last comment... oh the 25% cost is correct though!)

Again, national averages will vary but what if we subsidized 100% of public transportation. Eliminated fares for everyone all the time.  This would likely take the per household cost to somewhere around $200-$250 and with the increase in ridership, that could balloon to $300-$400 per household. Oh ya, more taxes?? No way you say!! But at the same time, lets make drivers pay their "fare" share. This would reduce household taxes up to $1000.  So looks like a gain for the people who need it most.

A "mass transition" (hehehe...couldn't resist!) to mass transit will bring money, focus and more routes! What would seem like an insurmountable inconvenience making mass transit work for you would melt away like a glacier fighting global warming.  During the recession when gas prices were high, a lot of people were forced to mass transit because they could not afford to buy gas and guess what?? Many who initially complained that mass transit added 2 hours to their work day found that they were actually able to get work done making their jobs more manageable instead of less so. Others took naps making them more alert for the day ahead.  If anyone should be helping out with mass transit costs, it should be Kindle especially when considering how many people got caught up on their reading!

But what about us drivers?? We would be paying a TON more in costs. A huge gas tax increase would be the obvious first step. More HOT lanes and likely an addition of "congestion tax" a pay per day or mile tax for driving in the busier areas of the region. This will take a lot of drivers off the roads. The alternatives?

**Pay more in gas taxes probably adding up to over $1000 extra per year and fees to sit in traffic for hours . Estimated to be 67 hours per person in the Puget Sound Region last year and that delay is escalating fast!

**Pay a LOT more for the privilege of  driving the HOT lanes without showering.  This should keep the rich happy anyway since they won't give up their cars.

Sure it will be spendy but lets face it; we have been building up a debt to society for decades and its time to pay it back!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Amtrak, What Are You Waiting For???

Recently I blogged about long term battery storage options to help preserve the pathetic longevity of the Nissan LEAF 12 volt battery.  Being a resident of the farthest Northern State Capital in the Contiguous United States means I do know a lot of "Snowbirds!"  Snowbirds are people who abandon their Northern homes when the cold weather hits for sunny southern abodes.  Sadly, this means leaving the beloved LEAF behind... My only question;  WHY???

This makes no sense. Its like leaving your dog at home. Sure people do it for 10 days in Hawaii but no one does it for 4 months while in Arizona! Ok, I know what you are thinking; No one looks at their car like they look at their pet. I say "SPEAK FOR YOURSELF!!"

 Now in the early days of EVdom, the number of Snowbirds who were also LEAFers was minimal.  But that has changed and just monitoring the EV related Facebook groups for suggestions on how to store a LEAF long term is all one needs to know that a need is rapidly emerging.

My parents were also Snowbirds. Besides their primary home in Olympia, they also had a house in Mission, Texas located about 5 miles from the Rio Grande and Mexico.  It was located in a retirement community which was somewhat self sufficient so they had an EV (a golf cart; which was the primary source of transportation for nearly everyone in the park. In fact, they were so plentiful that no one there secured their cart. They would just pull up to the Pool, jump out leaving the keys in the ignition. This way keys did not get lost. And no one ever "intentionally" stole a cart and Yes, there were cases of "mistaken identity")  Now when my Dad was in his early 70's, they simply drove to Texas and back in the family car.

But as he got older, driving became more of a hassle than it was worth.  So one Winter, they simply relied on friends, relatives and an occasional taxi for rides. This did not work out well. Mind you; this was a retirement community which basically means "7 day weekend, every weekend."  This meant the social calendar was very active. There was always something going on at the community center. Someone having a party or BBQ, etc.  So it was easy to survive without a car most of the time but it still was a hassle.  Eventually,  they bought a car that was shared with my Dad's Sister among others. How well this worked out was not very clear. It was a bit of an expensive option and later when my Aunt and Uncle moved back to Michigan, its value became questionable.

Now before we get to a solution. Lets talk about Amtrak.  Now, their reputation is a bit tarnished after that horrific accident Philidelphia but a few interesting facts;

In total, long-distance routes carry about 14.6 percent of Amtrak’s passengers but soak up about 41 percent of the costs.
Read more at Reuters
Well, that is a very interesting statistic.  Here we have Amtrak using its very crowded popular Eastern Seaboard routes to support their routes covering the wide open West.  IOW; Amtrak is simply not a preferred route for travel if one has to go aways BUT... What about my LEAF? I be willing to bet she would not care especially if it meant being ignored for several months in a cold garage verses cruising The Winter Texas Sun (which is about the only time of year its pleasant!)

I think Amtrak is missing out on a great business opportunity by not offering car transport service. But wait!! They do offer it!! well as long as you want to go from Lorton Virginia to Sanford Florida since this is the ONLY car transport route they offer.   Now the route is 811 miles by car and they are charging $244 for the car or  30 cents per mile soooo, hmmmm?

At the same rate per mile we are looking at roughly  $600 for Texas but have to think a farther distance would be cheaper per mile because there would be only one load unload cost to consider.  A passenger ticket for the Florida route is $263 while a ticket from Olympia to San Antonio is $651 hence the $600 estimate.
I guess it all really depends on how long you will be down South. My Parents usually left right after Christmas and returned in April so were gone 4 months. Others I know leave right after Thanksgiving with various return times some as early as March so 4 months seems to be the average. So we are looking at roughly $1200 for the roundtrip carfare over a 4 month period which means a base cost of $300.  Well that could buy a lot of taxi fares.  Also need to realize that many people are only down south for 3 months which drives the cost to $400 a month.  Maybe not such a great deal, or is it?

To realistically evaluate the cost we need to look at acceptable alternatives and there are few.  Granted its about what you are willing to accept.  The community my parents lived in was pretty active. There was something at the Senior Center every night. Be it Bingo, A movie, pot luck or just an excuse for one of the residents to have a party (No one held parties at their house. The Center had several rooms that could be reserved at no charge) so there was a lesser need for many to venture to town less than 5 miles away.  So an occasional taxi could be very manageable financially. But my parents either ate out or with friends for nearly every meal. It was vacation for them (several residents lived there all year long) and that is how they lived it when there so having a car was essential.

The Center did have a shuttle that would go to the Mall during the week and also to any destination that was agreed upon by the passengers so it was workable but my parents hated it. There would be pick up times for the return from the mall that they would be on time for but usually it was up to an hour wait for stragglers. So the only real option was a car.  Ignoring the purchase price, Insurance would have to cover the entire year. Now I can get "storage" insurance on my car which is like $150 for 6 months so I would like do that when not down there and regular insurance while there.  So the cost would vary depending on the person but by far the cheapest option but then again there is the issue of having a car sit for 8 months which introduced a whole new set of problems.

So shipping the LEAF is likely the most expensive option if not buying a 2nd car but remember Amtrak Diesels are 30-40% more efficient than any other transportation option. Electric locomotives are even more efficient.  Amtrak is struggling to make long western routes profitable. This looks like an easy way to generate some more coin. Unlike passenger cars which often run at much less than 50% capacity. Car trains can add or remove as demand sees fit.

So Amtrak??? What are you waiting for???