Saturday, December 13, 2014

Trailblazing

I can't even begin to thank Nissan enough for having the guts to be first to market with a viable EV that fits my needs and guess what? After 4 years, the Nissan LEAF is still the best fit for my needs.

Now, there is competition but you have to live in specific areas of the country for that.  I am (like 90% of the country) not lucky enough to have the correct zip code. So, again I am thankful that Nissan has fully committed to the LEAF and not half-as... well you know what I am saying.

But like the first place car in a race, setting the pace uses more fuel and can cause a situation where additional fuel stops are needed. Plus, cars behind can use the leader's slipstream to keep up while conserving fuel.  So is Nissan making a mistake? Right now, the biggest draw to EVs is their relative cheapness that combines a reasonable sticker price (after incentives) along with ridiculously low cost of operation.  But those federal incentives are limited. Its up to $7500 for the first 200,000 units from any manufacturer then it drops from there each quarter until zero.

Which makes me wonder if other manufacturers dragging their feet has more to do with getting a price advantage on Nissan than waiting for better technology?   Cause I have to think if there was not a "ticking" clock, then everyone would be in the market right now trying to establish a niche in the market.

Nissan should be rewarded for pushing the envelope and allowing us to enjoy, learn and incorporate electric vehicles into our lives today! We have over ONE BILLION kilometers of EV driving under out belts and that number is growing exponentially!

But incentives can't or shouldn't go on forever. Unlike the Oil industry, the incentives should have a finite period. So, this is where you guys come in. We need to start petitioning our legislators to make the incentives time based and not unit based.  This puts all manufacturers on equal footing and the best part is it rewards the manufacturers who take the risk and brings products to market sooner rather than later.


And I am betting this will meet with huge resistance from manufacturers who currently have little or nothing to offer in the EV arena currently. They will say its unfair because Nissan has been enjoying the benefits of the incentives for over 4 years and several thousand more units than them. But whose fault is that?

Compliance cars are simply an answer to other manufacturers taking advantage of loopholes in the system. Lets close some of those holes! Contact your legislator today!!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

**UPDATE** The Saga of VIN #222; RESOLVED!!

A while back I wrote about a neighbor, Jennifer who purchased a used LEAF last Summer. It has 12 capacity bars and was a good deal. Not a great deal, mind you. Just a good deal.   She soon lost her first bar which we told her was likely to happen in the first year. Now keeping in mind the first bar represents a capacity nearly three times larger than the next several bars, it would not be extremely unusual for only a short period of time to pass before losing bar #2.

But the Pacific Northwest's weather is nearly tailor-made for battery health. Our climate is tempered by Puget Sound so its rarely very cold or very hot.  My first LEAF, VIN 258 built nearly the same time but having the advantage of living in the Pacific Northwest went 44,958 miles with all 12 capacity bars intact. At 57.11 ahr, it probably would have lasted all Winter before losing its first bar in mid Spring. So it had at least a few thousand miles to go.

But Jennifer's bars continued to disappear at the rate of nearly one per month! Something was not right.  Further digging found that this EXACT same car was reported as a 3 bar loser by its original owner in Southern CA back in November of 2013.

Obviously, someone was trying to pull a fast one here. She posted her dilemma on Facebook and we encouraged her to get the car inspected and research its history.  When the history of the car was reviewed it was immediately obvious that all was not as it was represented to be.

She was able to get it tested and guess what?? During the test, she LOST ANOTHER BAR!!


As a result, a new battery pack is on its way. It will  be a "Lizard" pack so it will be coming from Tennessee but the adapter kit is on back order and will take several weeks. She is in a loaner until then so looks like everything will work out for her and she will soon be driving a better car than she thought she was purchasing!

There still remains a question of how all of this even happened. How the depleted capacity bars were restored. Why she was not advised they had been restored. Who knew what and when?

Having been in the car business, car dealers have no more protection at auctions than we do, so its very much buyer beware. But in this case, the dealer, Tacoma Nissan should have been able to access the car's warranty history just like the dealer who is helping to get the warranty pack.  But auctions frequently have time limits, limited information in advance, etc. So it can be conceivable that Tacoma Nissan would have known very little in advance before bidding.

But they would have had ample time to have discovered the true nature of the car well before it was sold. The price they sold it for does not suggest they were open about the battery's degradation level. Either way, it is pretty obvious that laws need to be written that REQUIRES the true nature of the battery pack to be documented and accepted by the buyer.

Because this is such a new concept and still very much under the radar in most areas, we REALLY need to rely on you people to get the word out to your legislators.  The first post concerning this issue has links from Facebook and www.mynissanleaf.com detailing the history of the car.

Finally, this issue would have never come to life if not for the actions of several people.

Kudos to Jennifer, the Washingtonian who bought the car from Tacoma Nissan and alerted our Facebook group to her plight and also for completing the escalation process!

Kudos to Aaron (The Tech) for investigating the history and testing the car AND being insistent with Nissan who first stuck with the claim that the car had 12 capacity bars in Jan, 2013!

Kudos to Nissan Motor Corporation for having the insight to create the paper trail that allows us to know the true nature of the battery's health. It was the warranty history on the car that provided the proof to warrant the test needed to complete the escalation process.

and finally....

Kudos to Nissan of the Eastside  in Bellevue, WA for giving Jennifer the "proper" loaner while she waits for her new batteries


***EDIT***

Edited to update that it appears Jennifer will be getting the Lizard pack after all.  Normally, it would be OEM for the 2011/12 model year but as expected, the packs from Japan have apparently run out so she will be getting a better pack than the car was originally equipped.  As mentioned above, the Lizard pack requires a adapter kit to make it work. Some components of the 2011 pack were moved to the front of the car so the adapter is required.

Also want to make it clearer that the information surrounding this situation is still coming in. There is some details of the story that some parties to the story want to keep under wraps for the time being, so stay tuned. We will have more updates as they come in.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What I Want For Christmas Along With The Nov 2014 Drive Report

A Billion Kilometers! Wow, what an achievement but that is only the beginning! Nissan is really starting to move away from the pack and recent revelations from the top promises to widen the gap.

hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving but its now time to fill out the Christmas Wishlist.

RANGE
Carlos Ghosn mentioned that much better batteries at a much cheaper price are just around the corner.  This is not surprising since the technology curve is always steepest in the beginning.  If press releases earlier this year are to be believed, then can we expect a 2017 LEAF with a 185 mile range in the low Thirties by Summer 2016?

That has been my hope which is part of the reason I did a 3 year lease a year ago.  Other than "stretching" the lease miles a bit, everything has worked out much better than I had hoped!

Today in my area, the LEAF is the ONLY viable option for me.  Yes, a RAV 4 EV would work because of its longer range or the Kia Soul EV would work because it has Chademo fast charging... but neither is available.

What I do have is the Mitsubishi MiEV with range that is too short and the Ford Focus without fast charging. Both are deal breakers for me. But Nissan's success will spur other car makers into action. I fully expect to have at least 3-4 cars to ponder over in two years. So Nissan; you have had a great start but no time to rest!!

 EDUCATION Right now, the biggest drawback to EVs is still education. Thankfully, EVs have such a high owner satisfaction rating, word of mouth is helping in that area but even among owners, there is still a lot of misconceptions and features your EV may have that are not being used properly.

With Winter well under way, the major topic has been the range hit we have all been seeing.  Still tons of misinformation being passed about or simply info being relayed that many are simply misunderstanding.

An example is knowing how efficiently you drive. There is a miles/kwh meter I recommend resetting daily because its a gauge that can illustrate day to day differences you are not aware of.  I posted a pix in August of a commute where I averaged 5 miles per kilowatt-hour (kwh) and several were amazed stating they only drove at "3.8 in the Winter to 4.0 in the Summer."

Well that was an immediate red flag in this area.  The differences should have been much greater. Further questions revealed the person really had no clue how efficiently they drove because they were unaware that the number could be reset.  If that was all there was to it, then not really a big deal but a surprising number of LEAFers knew about it but didn't do it thinking it wasn't all that necessary.

That could not be further from the truth! Even routes repeated often like a work commute can have huge variances in performances in seemingly similar situations.  What it boils down to is a car that is highly efficient, any variance can greatly affect its performance.  I found that resetting my odometer and efficiency meter daily does give me great insight on my driving performance AND bragging rights!


Another reason to do this is this also allows one a head's up to possible upcoming issues. A big drop in performance minus any obvious causes (track your weather! a change in wind direction will play havoc on your range!) is a red flag to investigate.  The other day, I started up my car to see my tire pressures ranging from 3940 PSI. I normally keep them at 44 but the cold weather reduced tire pressures a ton and the car's TPMS does not alert you until the pressures hit a ridiculously low number in the twenties!

AWARENESS  Nissan; its no longer a secret that you wish to corner the electric vehicle mainstream market. So, lets hear about it!!  Tell us what you are working on! What is your goal for 2016 or 2017? Give us something to look forward to!

SUPPORT Lets face it; other than Oregon (color me GREEN with envy) public infrastructure support has failed.  In a state that is one of the leaders in EV adoption, it really saddens me that I am experiencing some of the "best" we have to offer.  There has been some reports that more support is at least desired but I think the targets need to be changed.  As a 3rd time EVer, I am not likely to change my preferences the 4th time around, but many first timers are having a hard time adjusting.  More public charging does bring a great sense of security to EVers even if there are no plans to use the system.  Just knowing its there in case its needed goes a long long way. 

Now this by no means means the chargers will lie unused. Too many times we are seeing this



This is the scene at the Burlington WA fast charger. What we have is one fast charger and 4 LEAFs waiting to use it. It is literally an oasis and in Winter it is a must stop. This needs to be changed.  There are too many holes in the infrastructure. The Washington Coast is pretty much been ignored. Grays Harbor County has ZERO public charging of any kind. Sure there are plugs for the imaginative. After all, its electricity and we pretty much all have it EVERYWHERE but I think its far past time the States take a lead role in this. One need look to the South to see how effective this can be in encouraging EV adoption!

But anyway, the stats for Nov, 2014 and FINALLY as promised, the LEAF has seen a reduced roll primarily due to very cold weather and lease mileage limitations.  But still managed to go 813.3 miles at at cost of $15.75 in electricity or just under 2 cents per mile. Work reimbursement was only $105 so with insurance added, it was a "break even" month.

The Corolla drove 954.7 miles using about $75.11 in gas on 3 fillups for the month costing 8 cents per mile.  The last fillup consisted of driving with temps primarily in the 20's but still managed 37.3 MPG which is pretty good considering one morning last week, I had to warm the car up about 10 mins because it took me that long to scrape ice and pry the trunk open due to a frozen latch.  That was no fun! (especially without gloves!)

Since I am just now hitting 17,000 miles with an anniversary date of Dec 23 and a lease limit of 15,000 miles per, I will continue to drive the Corolla for my longer commute options. The LEAF has been doing mostly the shorter errand type of things which helps to preserve my outstanding gas mileage.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

TCO Equals ZERO!!!

On Wednesday, I booked 78 miles of personal transportation for work which they will reimburse me at the rate of probably 39 cents per mile. This brings my total reimbursement in the LEAF for 2014 to roughly $4352.

So what does that mean?  Well in 2014,  my expenses were

Lease @ $245.75 a month or $2949
Insurance   $837  (5 months at $68 and probably 7 months at $71)
electricity/public charging fees estimated;  $375  (YTD $342.71)
Tabs; $179.75 which does include a $100 EV penalty fee (I call it like it is!!) and a $30 Seattle Seahawk custom plate fee (wouldn't leave home without it!)  other than that, WA State tabs are fairly cheap if you don't live in the rapid transit district up north :)

But all that adds up to... oh wait!  Maintenance was about $10 for windshield wipers although they have not been installed yet.  so "that" adds up to $4,350.75

which means my total cost of ownership for the rest of the year is PAID OFF!!

Now, in all fairness, I should mention this has not been without repercussions since I am nearly 17,000 miles on my LEAF with 5 weeks left in my first year of my 15,000 mile annual lease.  So I should probably add  $300 to the cost of TCO for a lease mileage penalty... BUT I AM NOT!!! (Mostly because I don't want to delete this post...)

Actually, I will likely just break even this year and considered removing items that were not required for the car like the Seahawks tab costs but then again, would that be a true TCO?  I guess it could be a true CO... or FCO (false cost of ownership?)  or maybe I am putting too much into it. I did spend $10.87 on wiper blades that I have yet to install. I could wait till January.  But anyway, on the break even comment; if anyone remembers, I did break my passenger side view mirror mount and it was $239 to replace that piece of plastic so that will probably push my true TCO nearer to Christmas than Thanksgiving but I still have plenty to be thankful for!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Buyers BEWARE!!! This is a MUST READ!!

This concerns a purchase of a used 2011 Nissan LEAF VIN 222 from Tacoma Nissan in July of this year.  The car came with 34,000+ miles and 12 capacity bars on it. This is not unusual for the Pacific Northwest as I turned in my 2011 LEAF VIN 258 with nearly 45,000  miles and all 12 capacity bars intact.  I was at 57.11 ahr so still had a few thousand miles to go on bar 12. ( most report losing first capacity bar in the mid to low 54's)

But the honeymoon did not last as she recently lost bar #10 (3 bars gone) a few days ago. How could this have happened.  She posted on Facebook about her dilemma and a 2011 is a rather rare model and the interest of such a model was great so my first thought; "What is your VIN?"  and as luck would have it; it was a very well known VIN.

It took a bit of searching (and help) but found this posted Jan 15, 2014

I had a SoCal 3 bar loser:

Car 222 omkar Irvine, CA
3 bars lost at 35 months (11/19/2013) / 33,700 miles
2 bars lost at 29 months (5/25/2013) / 29,500 miles
1 bar lost at 20 months (9/5/2012) / 19,000 miles

This is a major problem and no less heinous as rolling back an odometer to increase a car's resale value. But that is really the only clear part here. Who is to blame? The car came from out of state so it was likely a auction purchase. What did Tacoma Nissan know about the car's history? It is conceivable that they were as much in the dark as anyone else. The owner said there does appear to be several entries in CARFAX but was unable to get details of the report without paying for it.

The VIN in question is JN1AZ0CP6BT000222.  Knowing the details of that report might shed some light on how duplicitous  Tacoma Nissan's role is in this scenario.

Either way, this is an issue that needs to be resolved ASAP and I encourage everyone who reads this to pass it around as much as you can. We need to get the word out! This is something that cannot go unnoticed!!

I will be posting MUCH more about this as it comes in!!


**Update; We shall soon have the warranty history and carfax info which hopefully will tell us what was known, when it was known and who knew what was known.


Here is a pix of her car taken Aug 3, 2014 after a few days of ownership. Notice all 12 bars are showing??


Stay tuned!!


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Are My LEAFs Ecopias Really That Bad?

Just the other day I was wandering up I-5 just south of Highway 167 when suddenly the car in front of me spun out of control. I then saw a truck tire tread in the roadway and swerved out of its path by violently jerking the wheel in the pouring rain.   I did realize about halfway thru my maneuver that it was simply too severe and let off on the wheel a bit correcting back so I essentially ended up altering my path of travel by only a few feet at the most. To my surprise, I did not break traction even slightly.

Now I do drive a bit slower than most and because of my neutral driving habits, I tend to maintain a larger than normal following distance mixed in with shorter than normal following distances especially if I was caught shifting back to drive a bit late.  But all this happens at pretty low speeds and there have been times where vigorous braking was needed to keep the peace (and pieces) together. In all those situations, my LEAF handled well. I attribute it mostly to a very low center of gravity and the extra traction a heavy battery pack can give.

Now as mentioned several times, my plan had always been to drive the Corolla much more than this past Summer and so far the plan is working somewhat.  Yesterday while running errands for work in Tukwila, I could not help but notice a few times I braked that the Corolla breaks traction MUCH easier than the LEAF.  Ok, so its lighter but I was not going faster... or was I?

The LEAF's super smooth ride and stability in cornering has lulled me a bit I think.  It only took one time for me to realize that the Corolla has to be at least 10-15 MPH slower thru the roundabouts in the neighborhood.  I do admit to not touching the brakes entering the roundabouts in the LEAF. It is part of the fun of EVing; zipping and dashing at 35 MPH or less!  The car is perfect for congested, in-town driving. Its responsive acceleration at low speeds are perfect for squeezing into that momentary opening before it vanishes!

Well, that extra weight has seemingly helped with low speed braking.  Now, the Corolla is a 2000 and does not have anti lock brakes which really makes a lot of difference; much more difference than I had imagined.  All these modern advances has essentially degraded our ability to drive. No wonder we suck on the road!

But what I really would like is feedback from anyone who drives the LEAF and a newer gasser enough to be able to compare them. Now, not looking for Porsche comments. I want someone who has a run of the mill passenger car with ABS at the very least to chime in.  Does the LEAFs added stability and low center of gravity overcome the shortcomings of its tires as compared to a passenger car with better tires?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

October 2014 Driving Stats

OK, I know I said I was parking the LEAF more and using the Corolla and that is the plan (although, I didn't really start using the Corolla until this week) although it was a bit slow in being implemented. Now we just had a all time record warm October so the "Winter Range hit" was more "dirty look" category than "hit."

The LEAF still managed to go 1622 miles for a cost of $39.82 which includes $8.82 in public charging fees. The bit hit was Blink and its new pay per Kwh pricing. I had to use them to show my support and once it was vital as I was in a major time crunch (perfect time to switch to the Corolla but the weather was gorgeous and... well, you know!) so fast charging was the only option. $435.24 has been reimbursed from work so far with another $80 or so pending.  There was a glitch in last month's paycheck so some of what I got this month by rights should have been received last month but whatever. As long as I get it, that is all that matters.

The Corolla paid off some of its ROI debt driving 411 miles at cost of roughly $33.70. The huge drop in gas prices was a big help lowering per mile fuel costs to 7.7 cents per mile. Work payout so far $102.96 with nearly $100 pending (remember, I just started driving the car this week...)

This month both cars received additional charges. The LEAF has decent wiper blades since I use RainX extensively so the wipers don't do as much duty as you might think living in the rainy Pacific Northwest but Costco had sales on wiper inserts at $4.50 each so to be cheap like I am, I got two of the 22" blades (driver's side....don't care if passenger can see where I am going) that I will need one day. Cost $9.09.

Which brings me to the Corolla. EVing has created some pretty bad habits for me and that is not caring about maintenance. What can I say? its hard to care about next to nothing! Well, the Corolla was neglected. This week when driving it for the first time in 3 weeks, I noticed the temp gauge riding a notch higher than normal. So I checked water; ok. Checked oil and it was 2  quarts low! OH NO! That gasser POS is gonna cost me a fortune! So went back to Costco, got a case of oil for $27.23.

Oh well. FYI; I am about 600 miles away from being due for an oil change! another month of no ROI gains coming up, but then again, since I am now 1,000 miles past my lease mileage with almost 2 months to go this year, i might have to drive the Corolla a bit more this month


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

80% Charging; Why I Don't Miss It And Why You Shouldn't Either

Guess what? Unless you want to do the math EVERY NIGHT and mess with the timer on your LEAF, you can't do 80% charging any more.  So why did Nissan decide to remove "long life charging" mode?  Well, maybe they figured out what I did.

Some background for the two people not familiar with my story. I work for an Marketing/Audit/Inventory company.  We do our work at our client's location and my district's territory covers Western WA from Seatac, WA South to Centrailia and West including the entirety of the Olympic Peninsula and South to Long Beach WA on the coast.  That is a LOT of territory!

We generally only have a choice of company vehicles when the one way commute is greater than 100 miles. After that its our POV so my driving need is beyond the norm.  FYI; my 15,000 mile annual lease limit is now been exceeded by 890 miles and I still have almost 2 months to prepare for my LEAF's Birthday...

So needless to say, even if I had 80% charging, I would never use it. Had it on my 2011 and never used it there either but there are other benefits to fully charging your LEAF such as conditioning your LEAF to better address your driving needs.  Sounds confusing? let me explain.

Based on my lease mileage issues and the start of the rainy season, I have to drive the Corolla more.  It sits outside under a tree and if I don't drive it regularly (unlike the once every 4-6 weeks this past Summer) it will become a haven for mold, mildew and other things I am guessing I won't appreciate. So the LEAF has spent the last 6 days mostly sitting the nice dry garage unplugged.

I actually went 3 days not plugging it in at all with the rest of the time just plugging it in for an hour or so here and there never getting past 11 charge bars. So what happened?

Well, as expected, my battery stats plummeted. I have blogged previously about how battery stats can be manipulated which was really more of a curiosity than anything else but the results did suggest that top end balancing was a good thing that should be done on a regular basis.

ahr went from 66.37 to 63.56
kwh available from 22.0 to 21.4
GIDs from 284 to 276
Hx from 102.58 to 97.58

So what does all this mean? probably not a whole lot.  There is NO evidence whatsoever that top end balancing or lack thereof causes any permanent damage.  So whether you do it every day like I do or once a month, you are probably ok.

But this does bring up some interesting observations.  I have contended from day one that my 2013 LEAF has more range than my 2011 and it was not a popular idea at first. Now that a lot of people have claimed the same thing, its now "somewhat" accepted to be true. And to be fair; its only a few miles more like about 4 or 5 so easy to miss, ESPECIALLY if you have not properly "trained" your battery to do a range test.

Tony Williams does a great job of testing ranges of various EVs by going thru great lengths to insure the testing conditions are as similar as possible but the one thing he has not done is conditioned the LEAF by charging it to full for several days in advance of the test and this is likely why his tests show only 21ish kwh (FYI; My LEAF when new showed 22.7 kwh available... wondering just how big my LEAF's pack is nowadays?) available and that is EXACTLY what mine shows as available when I don't do any top end charging.  In Tony's defense, he is testing cars that are not his so he has no control over the charging habits of the tester car and realistically, its a few miles; not really that important in the overall picture.

But the question remains; Should you charge to 80% (or any level below full) or 100% and what is the best thing to do?

Well, a few things to think about.  Pack balance is important. Only a well balanced pack can give you the chance to get the full range from your LEAF and sometimes every little bit can help. I am pretty certain this fact kept me from walking one day!  Now batteries are pretty flexible so they can take a lot but there is a breaking point and that happens when you charge too much or discharge too deeply. Now, Nissan has taken care of the "charge too much" thing limiting us to no more than a 97% SOC on the top end but the bottom end is a bit of a different story and the reason is an unbalanced pack means its possible a single cell could be overly stressed leading to a premature end.

Now a well designed BMS is supposed to protect against that and I have no doubt Nissan has addressed this issue but the delta in an unbalanced pack is greatest at lower SOC.  Normally my voltage delta is 20 mV or less.  10 or 11 mV is normal but when the SOC gets low...

 
So the potential for damage is MUCH greater.  So its 328 mV variance or  this.  You decide.



The other thing to think about is... well getting there! We all know the LEAF's range is limited but then again is it? Despite my "slightly" greater than normal need, I have only been forced to gas it 6 times in 10 months.  I have actually driven the gasser more times just to keep it active.  But is it better to run the SOC from 80% to 15% or  100% (or whatever) to 35%?

I think its the latter and not because of the screen shots above.  "Experts" say we drive 38 miles a day but do we really?  We may commute that much but some of us have lives! My "unexpertise" analysis says Life adds another 20 miles to the equation making "want" needs to be more like 60 miles.

So charging to 100% really just allows you more options, less stress, more ready to EV it! So how can that be bad?

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Road to Hell Just Got MUCH Shorter

Gas prices are plummeting and many people are now looking at bigger SUVs and sedans at the car lots again.

The US is now the #1 producer of oil in the World passing Saudi Arabia and Russia. They have been #1 in Natural Gas production since 2010 despite reports that a Billion dollars of NG is flared off EVERY DAY on the Bakken Reserve.

But there is a conundrum. If oil prices drop too much, oil recovery could become too expensive and that would slow the roll in North Dakota which recently surpassed a million barrels of oil a day.  To keep that in perspective. In 2008, the most productive fields were producing barely half of that. With new fracking techniques, The Bakken becomes the 4th US field to surpass the million barrel mark.  But rejuvenating old fields and tripling their production rates takes a lot of money AND resources. Money is not a roadblock. The oil companies have plenty of that. The resources, namely water, well that is a different story.

North Dakota has now become the most expensive place to live due to the Oil boom there. Some places boast rent levels more than double the poshest Manhattan address.  The area's ability to support the huge influx of workers has been strained beyond the breaking point.  "Experts" say the boom could last as long as 5 years while others predict 25 years. So much for "expertise."

A couple I used to work with live in Rochester, WA a town of roughly 2,000 people just south of Olympia.  3 years ago, Kevin got fed up with the low pay at his job and signed up with a temp agency that was promising him an annual salary of more than 75,000 a year.  It did require travel and he eventually ended up working for an Drilling company near Dickinson, ND. He got a job as a truck driver hauling water from one drilling site to another which in itself sounded pretty easy except for the fact that the volume of water required was enormous and the area is generally pretty dry.  What water that was there was either already taken or not for sale.

Although he was paid based loosely on an hourly wage (his paycheck was so confusing even he did not know what it was) his potential to earn bonuses easily tripled his take home pay. But bonuses were awarded on how well he was able to meet his schedule of deliveries.  Each week it seemed, he had to drive farther and farther to new sources of water.  During a trip to a farm in Montana he had a rare chance to talk with the property owner (most were VERY hostile to him and kept their distance)  who said that the payment he received for selling water was enough to erase 25 years of debt, pay off his mortgage, buy a new truck and car for the wife and send them to Hawaii for their first vacation in 15 years. But the farmer was now expressing regret. He simply had no idea how much water they would take since he only allowed access to the property with no mention of volumes.

Within a week, they came in, built temporary roads and drilled a dozen wells onto his property. Each filling a large tank servicing 4-10 water trucks daily.  Kevin did not find out exactly what the drilling company paid for the water but estimated there was probably at least 3-4 million dollars worth of equipment there.

Three months later, Kevin came home with cash, a LOT of it.  Towards the end, he was working 80 hours a week because the bonuses just got crazier and crazier. The other reason was he could not find a permanent place to live.  As it was, he was staying at a hotel in Montana over 50 miles from the truck yard renting a room by the hour. Depending on where it was or which room, it was costing him $100 a day.  the company he was working for was offering 12 week contracts but would not allow him to work consecutive contracts. He was required to take a break between them but there were new contracts offered every week. Committing to a contract in advance was a $200 bonus, so he had 3 weeks before he had to be back.

Kevin talked Sherry, his wife into quitting and going with him. They went out and bought an RV and a brand new truck. Then they set out leaving their 3 kids with the grandparents promising they would be back in 3 months for good.

Fast forward to Spring of 2013. I was working when I ran into Sherry shopping. (not their real names although I doubt they care) She said they were still doing the oil thing although they do take 2 months off during the worst of Winter.  Kevin has changed jobs a few times because he was getting ripped off on his paychecks or so he thought.  She had gone there, got a job in a diner eventually moving up to manager, bookkeeper, supply runner.  She did that for a year then had to quit because of issues with her kids. The grandparents were getting older and managing the kids in their small mobile home got to be too much.

They now had a big house they bought that included a guest house where the grandparents live on 2 acres in Rochester.  Kevin was now delivering supplies and pipe and general what not to drilling sites, some as much as 200 miles away.  They still had their RV and was paying $1800 a month for lot rent in a converted farmer's field. There was no power or water hookups. A water truck came twice a week to fill the portable showers (it cost extra for that) and the RV was powered by the onboard generator which meant the "park" was always noisy with the sound of idling engines droning on all night.  

Because the water truck rarely provided enough water for the site's showers, Once a week, they drove up to 100 miles to dump the waste tank and to fill up every container they could get their hands on with water.  Finding a place to dump their "brown" water was a challenge and expensive costing as much as $100. Illegal dumping was commonplace as was illegal camping.  She only went out for a few days to visit every few weeks or so and bring fresh bedding, clothes food and etc.

Last year, Kevin made over $100,000 and they figure to have the house paid off by the end of the year.  Kevin wanted to start applying for jobs in the Olympia area soon. They figured they would have the house paid off sometime early in 2014.

I guess the most shocking part of seeing Sherry is that she looked like she had aged 10 years. I am not sure how old she was but guessing she had to be in her early to mid 20's when we first started working together in 2006.  I jokingly said she should have bought a house in ND but she gave me a look that definitely said that was not an option. She then hinted another reason she was no longer working there was that is was starting to get scary there. She had seen way too many bad things go on in the diner.  Fights over food, showers, etc.  Even while staying there, she might go 2-3 days without seeing Kevin because of his working hours and it was just too much time alone dealing with customers that were getting meaner and meaner.

I got the impression in North Dakota's case, money is not the answer to everything.

P.S.
I was hoping to get an update from them but I really don't know where they live. What the heck? I saw them every day at work for 6 years... Hope to have an update about their story some day.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What Do We Want in LEAF II?

A discussion has been fueled by comments from Nissan that the redesigned LEAF coming in a few years will be have a look of less "EVness."  We take that to mean that it will be less distinctive and more mainstream looking. So, what do we want?

** Driver Seating Position; Getting into and out of my LEAF is by far the easiest of any car I have used in years. Maybe I am getting old but I feel like I am climbing out of a hole in my other cars. No so with the LEAF.  Frequently, I am spending up to 90 minutes on a commute home which makes me rather stiff so an easy exit is much desired.

Maybe this is another benefit to a limited range EV. Less driver fatigue. I will admit to stopping in Fife for a quick boost and coffee to clear  the cobwebs from my head when Blink was still free  more than a few times at the end of a long day. Sometimes, just getting out of the car and taking a brisk walk of a few blocks during a cold Winter's day was enough. This resulted in the many times I stopped and charged for 10 minutes or less.

** At least 4 doors.  The hatchback design is awesome but can be inconvenient but not as bad as a trunk can be. Easier loading plus fold down seats makes the storage options in the current LEAF very flexible so definitely would love to have that again but not opposed to a great sedan design either!

** Another price cut. Nissan released the S trim in 2013 and I have to guess they wished they had done it sooner. Cutting a few thousand off the price really brought in a large group of new buyers who shied away from the near mid 30's price sticker.  But then again that is the Human Psyche when it comes to buying. That "starts under $30,000" is what got them in the door to buy. After the commit to buy is done, the salesman should NEVER again mention the purchase price. After that is all about "for an extra $21 a month (without mentioning what the monthly payment is) you can get "this" and "that".  No matter that the average S selling price was actually closer to $32,000, it was still that "less than $30,000" that did it.

Now, cutting the price before now was probably not doable but it has to be now. Higher volumes,  Production experience, and advancing technology should be making the LEAF cheaper to build. The next S needs to come in at $25,000 before incentives which btw, ain't gonna be around forever.

** Connectivity.  AKA; get rid of 2G!  Built in wi-fi that can be billed thru your cellular provider after a interim trial period, internet SW updates, etc.  This would allow a real ability to search for and determine the status of charging stations in the area.  Remember the story about someone who was told to take their LEAF in for a checkup and mentioned oddities about the car and the response was Ya, we know. Carwings alerted us and that is why we told you to come in? or some such.  That was great. Some of these features could become an additional revenue stream for Nissan to help offset the loss of service revenue.

Ok, so a lot of you will say "Bill me for wi-fi? forget it!"  well, its better than paying for XM Radio! Verizon used to offer this service and once upon a time you could even bill your OnStar services thru them.  This is an option that could easily be brought back.  Yes a multi-platform system would be required but keep in mind; the hardware is pretty cheap. The service is where the money's at.

** OPTIONS!! We need choices. Nissan needs to take a page from Tesla and offer a MINIMUM of 3 battery pack sizes.  Keep the 24 kwh pack (that is all most of us need anyway)  but add two more sizes as options available across all trims.

As competition builds, Nissan will see pressure to lower prices. Again, this can be circumvented by offering low and piling on options.  Multiple battery pack sizes is the easiest way. The new breed of EV'ers will be the less adventurous, mostly wanting to save money on the gas bill. They will have multiple cars, be attracted to the new lower sticker prices and "thinking" their existing gasser will still be the main source of transportation with the LEAF being a valuable niche player. We all know better.

Soon, the LEAF will be the main driver and the real thought process begins on getting the "loaded S" with the big battery, fast charger, etc.  This will be Nissan's bread and butter.