Saturday, May 2, 2015

April 2015 Driving Stats Along With ANOTHER Reason Why Gas Does Not Work!

Ok, it my fault. I do not lock my car when its sitting at home which it has been doing a lot of lately but then again, pretty sure that this did not happen at home. So what did happen?

Well, it could be

1) My gas tank is leaking

2) Evaporation was greater than expected in the 7 week time frame between fill ups

3) I was ROBBED!!!

Recently a fellow EVer/Earth lover ran his Tesla dead unexpectedly. He surmised that it was likely vampire drain of leaving his key fob sitting in his cupholder (thought I was trusting??) that did him in.  I say to him; at least you only have vampire drains to worry about!

So based on my MPG actual verses what I would normally expect to get, I guess I "donated" roughly 4 gallons of gasoline to some deserving soul...

I do take solace in the fact that the theft did not likely take place while parked in my driveway but anyway, moving on!!

So, the Corolla traveled 253 miles in April (barely since it drove April 1st and the 27th) for a cost of about $27.80 or just under 11 cents per mile. non theft estimate drops it to roughly 7 cents per mile. Again these are estimates based on fill ups March 1st and April 27th, but close enough!

The LEAF went 1199.8 miles for total cost of $28.15 averaging 2.34 cents per mile. There was $8.54 in public charging costs. Roughly without public charging, it would have been closer to 1.8 cents per mile but ah well! Its all good.

Recent reports out of the Middle East claims that Big Oil will be manipulating supplies to keep prices low. This is disappointing. There will be people lulled into thinking that its ok to burn a bunch since its nearly "pain free." But, lets face it. Some people have really weird thought processes.  Sanctions against Iran are expected to be lifted creating an even greater oversupply of oil on the market while the US achieves record volumes of oil pumped within its own boundaries.  Prices this Summer should be the lowest in 11 years with the average household expected to pay $700 less for fuel annually.

WA State and the Federal Government should be taking this opportunity to raise gas taxes. The need for the additional revenue is a constant long with gasoline's many detrimental side effects, its past time for a more balanced sheet.

Finally; Batt Stat Watch.   Low water mark for the month; Ahr, 60.89, Hx, 93.59%,  GIDs. 264, kwh Available, 20.5.   Last full charge of the month (yesterday) 62.91/96.73%/273/21.2

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Death of Fuel Cells; Al-Air

new range extender break thru

how heavy.

what are issues with opening system to add water or Al?

8 kwh per Kg of Al.   half heat, half electricity

chemical ratio 1 kg Al,  1 Liter water.

What if you could get a range extender like the Rx on the BMW but with one key difference? This one runs on stored electricity.  What if you wanted a fuel cell like the Toyota Murai but did not live a reasonable distance from the Hydrogen refueling station (assuming your state has one that is)

That day might be less than two years away.  Last Summer Nissan announced they were partnering with a small Israeli tech company for battery technology that they hoped to start manufacturing in 2017. Phinergy had developed the Al-Air battery which uses stored electricity of refined Aluminum and water to produce electricity and heat. Later that year they successfully tested a prototype that was able to go 330 km on a battery pack weighing just 55 kgs (121 lbs) . They also tested a car with an 1800 mile range using a pack that weighs "as much as" 440 lbs.

Now, I say as much as because half the "battery weight" is actually water that can be added at any time by the user.  The formula is one kg of Al plus one kg of water makes 8.1 Kwh of energy.  Half electricity, half heat. With 4 kwh of power for every 4.4 lbs of "fuel" we are now seeing a power output of nearly one kwh per pound.  Needless to say, this is a "bit" of an improvement over the 90 miles we can get out of the 660 lb 24 kwh LEAF traction pack.

So with this truly slack jawed performance, why isn't everyone running head on into this? Well, that is actually a very good question that I don't really have an answer for.  So, what do we know?

Al-Air is not new technology. In fact,  it was "the best hope for energy storage for the future." Now that statement was made in the 1970's!   So why isn't it?  Well the big problem was maintaining the environment within the battery which is difficult to do because... Oh wait! forgot to mention that there is a 3rd component to the technology and that is Oxygen. It also needs a Kg of O2 to work and Phinergy's Al-Air battery will simply suck that out of the air. Sounds convenient? well, in the previous 50 years, no one has been able to figure out how to get the O2 out of air and only the O2.

Now, our atmosphere is basically 80% nitrogen and 20% oxygen, so there is plenty of O2 there but the problem is there is also other junk (that we put there) that messes everything up.  CO2 completely screws up the chemical reaction of Al-Air reducing its effectiveness and reliability but Phinergy has figured out a way to suck up the O2 without getting any of the CO2.  So its possible that the science is still in question.  Prototypes are one thing but mass manufacturing will not work if the we cannot reproduce the performance in bulk reliably at a reasonable cost.  Phinergy estimates a manufacture-able  production ready pack by 2017-2018.

The other thing is the end user adding water.  Any time the customer is involved, that opens up the possibility of messing things up.  Even something as simple as adding distilled water.  We still don't know how sensitive this new technology will be to outside contaminants so adding water carelessly could leave you stranded unexpectedly.  The same goes with the Aluminum.  Phinergy's solution would be having service stations where packs can be swapped out. Now, we already know that Better Place did not work but would people do it for 500 miles of range instead of 80? Definitely something to think about.

There is also the 50% efficiency factor.  Aluminum is very energy intensive to produce and some might not be too happy with a 50% return on the energy invested.  Due to its very high power demands, Aluminum plants can only be placed near very large power sources.

Finally, there is a cost of infrastructure that needs to be investigated. Phinergy only says it will "be much cheaper than current options" which could mean just about anything.

But there is also an up side; a very big one!

**Aluminum is the most abundant metal on the planet. Unlike lithium which is common but not nearly so,  there is a nearly endless supply and no worries about dealing with resistant countries with unstable governments or countries with weird World views. We and our allies have plenty Aluminum right here.

**Yes, it takes a lot of power to make Aluminum out of Bauxite (the rock that mined to make the Aluminum)  but Aluminum is one of the most recyclable metals on the planet and unlike plastics or paper, it can be recycled endlessly and the recycling process uses 95% less power than Bauxite.

**Did I mention weight?  Imagine a sealed unit light enough to carry that would add 50 miles of range. Phinergy does not mention any scale-ability but what if they could package them in 50 mile units? What if Nissan could create a "plug and play" interface that could allow one, two or more of these 50 mile cells to be plugged in?  Range customization as easy as stopping at 7-Eleven to drop off the spent cell for a new one. Simply add water and drive.  Besides its exactly this kind of supply side marketing that will get the big money behind it.   The thought of getting your electricity from the Sun was never in "their" wheelhouse.  But this is an easy way to sell marked up convenience for a fee. But the real benefit is nearly no infrastructure build up required.  Very large packs would need to be done professionally but those could be done several days in advance of a big trip, which all means...

**Flexibility is unparalleled here. Al-Air has no time sensitive storage issues. Unlike Hydrogen, it will not leak a single electron over time. Unlike Lithium, it can remain at full charge for years without losing a single foot of range.  It is simply there when you need it and only when you need it. A smart move would have the LEAF bump the range to no more than 120 miles or so. Add an expandable Al-Air pack that can add up to 300 miles of range. Remember half the expected weight is water. Something you can pick up at any store (guessing Al-Air will mean a LOT more distilled water purchase options) so a 300 mile range extender could be as little as 150 lbs. No more weight than an extra passenger. Sitting there, perhaps for years waiting for that occasional need to arise.  This could mean a single 300 mile range extender could last some people years. Others might have to get replacements a few times a month.

**PUDs. If this does not make their wallet tingle, nothing will!  Here would be nearly unlimited power storage in the form of pure Aluminum. This insures that there will never be a single electron wasted because it had nowhere to go.  Super Sun? No problem, just crank out a few Al ingots and put them in the vault for a cloudy day.  Power outage?  Truck mounted Al-Air cells would be enough to light up the neighborhoods until the power was restored.   With the ability to queue up power in the form of these Al-Air cells, the utility could greatly maximize its efficiency. Power plants would be scheduled to run at peak efficiency only with the extra power diverted.

**Finally, its truly a major major break thru in power storage technology. Right now, its a 50% efficiency keeping in mind its 50% plus heat in Winter.  Right now, its not reversible but in the future it very well could be.  Phinergy is also working on Zinc-Air batteries which basically work the same as the Al-Air batteries except they are rechargeable. If they make some break thrus in that arena, I think they have a pretty good chance of passing Apple to become the first Trillion Dollar company.

Oh!! almost forgot about fuel cells, but then again... oh, never mind, they are NO LONGER IMPORTANT!!

Friday, April 24, 2015

NRG EVgo and Pricing Discussions

In the span of less than a month, EVgo has installed the 4 promised fast chargers. All are in very needed locations and I am excited at where they will expand next.  The Tacoma Mall charger is barely a mile from my office so that will be very convenient but I really need at least 2 more good locations before I would be convinced to get a $14.95 per month subscription. This drops my charging cost to 10 cents a minute. This would be perfect since I rarely have the time (or patience) to sit somewhere for 30 minutes.  The fast charge sessions I have used have almost always been based on what I needed to do while waiting for the charge and not so much the amount of charge I needed since it was rarely more than a few Kwh.

But I am in a job that requires a lot of travel. FYI; There is roughly 3-4 hours of work I can only do in the office on a monthly average. The rest can be done at home which adds up to 4-8 hours a week. The rest is done at the client's location which means a lot of driving around. So far, this has meant very little public charging has been needed on my part but there is also the question of roughly 3,000-4,000miles a year where the LEAF is not viable.  I am hoping new public charging blood will change that.

But many of you don't have such a need so the "use it as needed" pricing EVgo has offered has come under great scrutiny and most of it is misguided.

The biggest complaint centers on a few things.  The one year subscription with early termination fees. Now AV has an "$19.95 per month, all you can eat" program that can literally be started and stopped on a dime.  This allows people to subscribe for a trip, then unsubscribe when they return home.

The 2nd issue comes with the high cost if you choose the pay as you go feature which doubles the per minute rate to 20 cents which is ok but adds a $4.95 connect fee. Now we are talking $10 for a typical charge up.

Now, I have issues with the reactions on both ends.  On the subscription model, it all really depends on where EVgo puts their chargers.  As mentioned above, I would gladly pay more for convenience which means more chargers in places I need them. So the validity of the deal hinges upon where EVgo goes with new installs.  Also, its a time based charging system which is critical for a station that is in such high demand.

On the pay as you go model, $10 for a charge may seem high at first but we accept that kind of billing on a daily basis without complaint.  What is cost of a soda at 7-Eleven verses Costco? or water or just about anything else. Its buy a dozen at 49 cents each or buy one for $1.59 (This is a real example using cupcakes...)  But we accept these seemingly outrageous prices based on convenience and the fact that normally our food bill is much lower so we can afford the occasional cost.  Well the LEAF is no different. I can afford to pay 20 cents a mile for a quick charge on the road because the other 90% of my miles cost me under 2 cents per mile.

 But there are valid complaints. EVgo's website fails in many areas. There is no way to create an account to monitor your usage between billing cycles. That is a huge issue. The station locator does not work but then again, considering the newness of the WA locations, I am willing to wait to see if that part improves. There is also no smartphone app, another glaring oversight.

But new blood means more options, more competition and possibly lower prices from everyone because of it. EVgo's pay as you go  L2 is $1.50 an hour, a very decent deal!  But what it really boils down to is the same old adage; is it a good deal if I have to drive across town to get it?   I love AV's option but their locations simply are too slim for me. I simply do not go South from Olympia to justify the use of the two stations less than 30 miles from my home.  So its all back to EVgo and phase two of their station rollout plans for Western WA.

Add more critical locations which includes redundancy in areas where current stations are overrun and get current with technology. Put out a smartphone app that tells you what your up to date billing is or at the very least, provide that info online.

Friday, April 10, 2015

On the Outside Looking In. EDITED!!

As an EVangelist, I meet all kinds of people who have a curiosity about my LEAF.   I have presented my various EVs at shows and some of the responses people have to my presentations are true head scratchers!

I really marveled at how someone could have the point of view that I have encountered. A conversation while showing my LEAF a few years back at the Lacey Alternative Fuel Fair and Electric Car Rally conveniently located in my hometown of Lacey, WA.

A couple came by to ask questions and the lady started to doubt the math on one of the many displays I had attached to the windshield and windows of the car.  You see, I have constantly encountered people who were truly clueless as to what their real transportation costs were.   Most used advertising  to estimate how much they spent for gas without actually tracking the amount of money leaving their wallets. (guessing the truth was simply too scary)

But one chart compared my REAL costs between my 2010 Prius and my 2011 LEAF.  The best part of the analysis is the near match in mileage where my LEAF had driven  14,181 miles for less than $300. The Prius had driven  13,879 miles for just over $900.  now this was fuel only and did not include the $70 synthetic oil changes the Prius required for 10,000 mile intervals.   Some of you would do it yourself but anyone who owned a 2010 might not feel as you did. To change the oil, there were several plastic under panels that had to be removed first. Not even close to worth my time!! But in fairness, my maintenance costs were not mentioned.  Both cars were new so there wasn't any to speak of anyway other than the oil changes.

***disclaimer***  To be fair, I should mention we did drive the Prius to Disneyland and suffered thru gas prices that were much higher than we would have paid here in WA especially when driving thru Central CA where we paid $4.29 for gas at a time when Lacey Costco (my normal station) was selling it for a "mere" $3.40

Anyway, the couple (she drove a Camry, he drove an Escape so neither were "Prius worthy" claimed they paid slightly more I did for transportation without really saying how far they drove simply because they didn't know.

Now before I continue, let me say that my display included my electric bill, monthly distance and cost (which was being tracked by a utility grade meter) along with all public charging fees (which were minor)  along with my Prius costs.

But the lady, after pondering over my charts for several minutes stated "Glad to see you are doing well, but it wouldn't work in our situation. Not sure what our electrical rates are but pretty sure, we are paying over $1 per kwh"

Ok, now the tier one rates at the time were 8.8 cents per kwh and tier 2 rates were 11.1 cents.  When calculating the LEAF's cost, I took all of the tier 2 cost first then added in the applicable amount of tier 1 cost.

When I pointed that out, she said they lived in different area from me (about 4 miles away) and their rates were "different"

So I did a quick analysis of their fuel costs using their commutes plus 30 miles on one car for each weekend day (their estimates worked out to about $150 a month) and came up with roughly $350.  When I said that, they looked at each other, rolled their eyes and thanked me for my time and moved on.

Now, that was a few years ago and I have actually seen a bit of a change in perspective but not sure its a better one or not.

Recently, I am seeing more people discounting EVs as an option for two major reasons; price and recharge time. All of them were completely unimpressed that as Tesla could gain 150 miles of range in under 45 minutes. IOW; it was not a 100% solution. A compromise was required but nearly all of them said that if the price was right, they would be willing to look into deeper into the thought.

Another  way to look at it was people with money and people without  money.   One couple who normally spends ungodly amounts of money on their cars were one of the people I was talking to. The car they are thinking of replacing was a 4 year old Lincoln that had cost them about $50,000 so a Tesla was not a reach for them. Again, it was the recharge time that they were not able to accept. A driving analysis of their habits showed a dozen trips a year that might tax a Tesla's range (complicated by the fact that their most common destination,  Detroit Lakes Oregon meant passing an SC station in Centralia when still nearly full) and my suggestion of "careful" driving would allow them to make the trip without stopping was immediately dismissed as unacceptable. (FYI; telling them they would pass other SC stations on the way did not help)   Now despite both having active lives, they almost always did things together during their off times (which they seemingly have a lot of!) so two cars was a must. In fact, it was not unusual for both of them to drive separately to OR for a day. (ya, the humanity!!)

But the real market is the people on a budget. (plus there is a whole lot more of us!) Now, I am not talking about low income people, I am talking about people like me. We work, have two incomes but don't really have any money to speak of.  So saving a buck is important.  Now, I found it pretty easy to understand that a car with a ¼ of the parts under the hood that goes for 2 cents a mile can only benefit me but others have not.

You see, its the sticker price that gets people. Equating a $100 a month reduction in fuel and maintenance costs to an $80 increase in monthly car payments wasn't working. BUT the lure of huge savings was still keeping people's interest. What I am hearing is there is a lot of interest among the budget conscious to drive EV but most have never paid more than $15,000 for a car so a $30,000 sticker is simply too scary for them.  But the lure of incentives is attracting a lot of interest where if the price in low enough, then a bit of compromise was not out of the picture especially when it wouldn't be an everyday thing but saving money on fuel would!

If EVs really want to succeed, they need to meet the needs of a larger segment of the consumer market. Now most of us think that all our problems would be solved by simply having bigger battery packs that can cycle a few thousand times before starting to get tired and more range for those who can afford it is "one" thing but really only covers "existing" EVers especially when we must face the fact that the remaining holdouts require a "full day of driving" range. That is likely at least a decade away.

The real need is better pricing for those who cannot afford to not afford it.   Allowing the tax credit to roll over from year to year is an easy one and might even help even up the balance between leasers and buyers.  I think if we can make this happen, millions more will experience firsthand how insanely cheap EVs are to drive. It is this source of first time, low cost, under 100 mile EV owners that will become the main source of EV buyers on longer range vehicles.


I almost am never happy with how my blogs turn out but its my fault. I don't plan these things, I generally just type off the top of my bare head. What comes out is usually disjointed, unorganized and frequently ends up with loose ends and incomplete thoughts.  The 2nd part of this the "Budget" buyer qualifies.  But sometimes, feedback works MUCH better than the article and this no different. The following is excerpted from a single Facebook thread

 Yea, my wife's Leaf has saved us money when compared to her previous car (2011 VW Routan), but compared to my Mazda 5? Not very much. I spend about $30-80 a month on gas and can go as far as I want without charging, whereas she has to charge up when going to Seattle. However, she's environmental-conscious whereas I actually drive as a therapeutic release and make enough money to afford to do so -- not everyone can. And you can get a very economical Mazda 3 that gets 40MPG for around $20k and have plenty of cash for gas before it'd catch up to the cost of the Leaf. It's also a nicer car overall, inside and out.
Me; Pay $20K or $22.8K after taxes for Mazda then $1000 a year for gas, or a LEAF for $31K minus $7500 tax credit or $22.5K and less than $300 a year in gas so what is cheaper????   above scenario assume 12,000 miles per year driving and electricity estimate is a bit on the high side. gas estimate is at $3 a gallon

But which one has a manual transmission and is more dynamic to drive? Ultimately, regardless of tax credit, I still have a car payment for a $32k car, not many people can front $7500 and wait for the tax rebate. Do I like her Leaf? Sure. Do I think everyone should drive one and spread the word like the next coming of Jesus? Nope.
Me; Actually many people simply do not qualify for the full tax rebate at all. Due to the marriage penalty, its more profitable for me to file single and her file head of household with dependent. So I would not have qualified for full credit which is why that needs to be changed. But in my situation; I pay waaaaay less than half for transportation simply because I leased. You don't mention what your car payments are for your Mazda, but I pay $245.75 a month with Zero Down. Granted, I got credit as returning customer but if I hadn't gotten that, It would have been roughly $277 a month with Zero down. along with $324 to drive 17,151 miles and no that is not an estimate from my auto manufacturer. That is REAL life data

My Mazda payment is $353, my Leaf payment is $567, with zero down on a 5 year, no interest loan. But these were purchases.
Me; ok so LEAF is "really" $567 minus the $125 a month (7500 credit over 60 payments) or $442 a month. So LEAF is "starting" at $89 a month more than Mazda. That is a pretty easy number to whittle down.  Either way; I am glad we are having this conversation because it does a MUCH better job of making the point I tried to make in my blog!

 Yes, so ultimately cost to run is about the same, but I can drive my Mazda down to Portland and back in half the time it's take my Leaf whenever I want. Or leave for a trip to CA without having to plan ahead. EVs are great, but they are not for everyone.
Me;  So. two cars is needed but are you not a 2 car household by necessity? And do you not normally drive significantly less than say 60 miles per day? At least one of you anyway? Sorry but not hearing a single good reason why LEAF won't work for you

This poster is a near perfect example of what I am talking about. Again its his perception of the situation and like most point of views, there are more than one.

**His first complaint is the sticker price.  But he fails to consider the roughly $2800 sales tax on the Mazda or the $7500 tax credit on the LEAF which means (as I explained) that S with Charge package is cheaper.

** Monthly payments.  He is only seeing the $214 increase. What is fails to mention is the term on the Mazda which is likely longer with interest or the fact that the $7500 tax credit reduces that effective monthly payment.  I venture to say that when both notes are paid off, the difference will be very little and likely in favor of the LEAF.

**TCO.  He does admit the LEAF is cheap to drive and because the average savings is better than 3 to 1, you don't have to track it to realize the LEAF is VERY cheap to drive, but his opinion is clouded by manufacturer's specs.  He states he gets 40 MPG, but EPA says that the best Mazda 3 gets 29/41 MPG so guessing he is closer to 35 MPG (which is the figure I used to estimate his annual fuel costs). Besides; if he is really having that much fun banging gears, he is definitely not getting 40 MPG.

I tried to determine his transportation needs and only got this

 I work from home so I don't commute at all. I live in Graham, when I do need to go anywhere it's up to Bellevue/Redmond for meetings or multiple locations up north that would require multiple QC stops or Portland. I can do one QC but with kids, multiple stops are not viable. That and the lack of a manual transmission / third pedal, makes it less desirable for me, the Mazda is therapeutic, the Leaf is a soul-less commuter.
He did not mention what his wife does or how often he must make these trips he mentions alone. Guessing that business meetings pretty much means not taking the kids anyway so its pretty much a 2 car household by necessity.


Friday, April 3, 2015

March 2015 Drive Report Along With LEAF Data Conditioning!

Winter is pretty much gone and has been for several weeks and this is not boding well for irrigation this Summer.  The snow pack is nearly non-existent and Governor Inslee has already issued a state of emergency for 5 of the 6 water management areas of the state.  Hopefully, Summer rains will be higher than normal to help but it is not looking good.

For the month of March, the LEAF traveled 1216.6 miles using $22.58 from the meter for a cost of  1.86 cents per mile. This did include a few sessions at various public charging stations, none of which charged a fee.  Again, my work reimbursement has not gone up despite an increase in local gas prices so still driving for paupers wages...

The Corolla skipped a trip to the gas station this month and as luck would have it, gas actually went down a bit averaging 20 cents per gallon less than late February which is the way my luck has been going lately. Also went to the Casino last week and for 2nd time in 4 trips, lost money, about $100.  This is after about 14 or 15 straight profitable trips. Oh well, maybe my luck will change when the 150 mile LEAF comes out.  The Corolla drove 171.5 miles with calculated cost of 8.1 cents per mile. Hard to have an exact figure without a fill up but that will be close I think. I am just under half a tank so thinking of maybe filling up to see what my MPGs are but guessing its around 38-40 mpg...

Other than that, my LEAF's numbers have been all over the map this month. Have talked about this a lot and now that the weather is getting nicer by the minute, more people are planning trips which means range an,  I mean "charging anxiety" (This is term used when planning to use a charger with a questionable service record) so planning is still the most important part of taking a trip. And as always, I recommend conditioning your battery before the trip to insure that you get the maximum range your LEAF has to offer.

During March, my LEAF's ahr has run between 60.80 and 65.13.  My Hx has varied between 93.01 to 100.09%.  What am I to expect? These variances represent significant differences in range.  But as always, the more I drive the LEAF, the farther it takes me and to truly understand this statement, some data is needed.
Every morning, I reset my Trip A and miles per kwh before I take off for the day.  Its all logged into a spreadsheet along with GIDs, ahr, etc. This allows to monitor changes to battery and compare it to my 2011's stats. It also allows me to compare costs between the LEAF and my Corolla.  For those who wish to know, My cents per mile is calculated using the LEAF dash data with an 87% efficiency from the wall.  The 87% was my true efficiency as measured with a utility grade meter in line with the circuit my EVSE is using. Problem is that when I moved, the garage is much tighter and having the meter sticking out from the wall proved to be a bit painful on more than one occasion, so I took it out after a few months.  Anyway,

Columns shown left to right
miles/ miles per kwh/calc kwh used/cost per kwh/ est cost for that day/ 4 blank columns used for GIDs/ahr available/ 2 for public charging calcs/ ahr/ Hx

In the chart, not counting the 11.3 mile day, I averaged just over 54 miles per day. Full charges indicated by GIDs and kwh remaining (according to LEAF Spy).   IMM, the key indicator of range is kwh available. When my LEAF was new, it was 22.7 kwh.  It has dropped to where I don't seem to be able to get over 22.2 any more but then again, I have not really driven it a lot in the past 4 months. So we shall see what the busy season at work will bring.  Hard to not notice the last entry has my LEAF almost back to "new" status.

This shot is same chart just a few days later. Not counting the 65.3 mile day, I am averaging just under 22 miles per day.  Now, maybe this is a chart design mistake on my part, but only one full charge is shown here but there is likely to be some short charging sessions in addition to the small public charge sessions shown. Generally speaking charge sessions not to 100% on L2 have little if any effect on the numbers.  The 5.3 kwh public charge was at Dept of Revenue and an L2 and I only plugged in there just to check on its status. There are like 3-4 stations there but two have been out of order for a while now.  Since this was after 5 pm, the place was abandoned but guessing those broken stations are causing a backup there.  Its normally a VERY busy place.

But as you can see, I went from 21.9 kwh available to 20.4 kwh. That could be 8-9 miles of lost range. Now that is a LOT of pushing involved if one is not careful!

Now, a couple things to take away from all this and keeping in mind; no official data just my personal thoughts on the subject.

First of all; manufacturing extra unneeded driving for a week leading up to a trip out of town is unrealistic and not what I am suggesting here by all this.  I think the key here is maintaining a tight top end balance so this is really for people who usually do not fully charge their LEAFs due to modest needs.  

So if you are planning a trip that will challenge your hypermiling skills,  Just fully charge your LEAF every day for 4-5 days before the trip. Granted not a habit you want to take up full time but just make sure you drive it every day even if its only for a short distance. This is what I did even on days when I drove as little as 11 miles.

After your adventure, go back to your normal 80% or whatever you feel comfortable doing and most of all; ENJOY THE WEATHER!!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The High Cost of Fast Charging Verses TDI's; IOW, Someone is Smoking Something!

Recently it was announced on the Seattle area LEAF owner's Facebook page that NRG EVgo  will be putting in 4 very badly needed fast chargers located at malls in Marysville, Tacoma, North Bend and Northgate.  The locations will go a long way towards making gaps smaller or doubling up on some of the busiest stations in the area.  So, it would seem that this would be a good thing, right??

Well, apparently not all good things are good.  Complaints on the higher pricing the EVgo will be using was immediate and I thought a bit misleading.  One poster provided an example of a single use fast charge that would be $4.95 connect fee and 20 cents a minute. A 30 minute charge would run the user $10.95.  Comments that a TDI would be cheaper (guess the Prius is not in vogue any more?) immediately came up.

Wow! this is a bit of a one sided comment.  I expect (and see) those types of comments from oil companies but on a EV site?? What?? wait a second, lets look at this again!

First of all, we are looking at a worst case scenario for transportation expense in the LEAF. It really can't get any worse so using a single event to determine anything is way off base from jump street.  So is it really that expensive? But then again; the right question should be "Is this what we really want?"

First of all, how much should a fast charge cost?  Well, we currently have two basic choices. Blink (maybe they should only be considered ½ a choice to match their reliability?) and Aeroenvironment or AV.   Blink charges 49 cents per kwh so only the deadest of LEAFs with time to kill would run the tab to $10.   AV has two options; a single unlimited session for $7.50 or the dreaded subscription model of $19.99 a month for all you can eat.  Both are definitely cheaper than EVGo but to answer the question;  No, neither Blink or AV is what I want.

Both Blink and AV encourage users to "slow roll" the stations. Slow rolling is a term used to describe a LEAFer taking on more charge than they really need because it does not cost them any more money.  Now, you might say "If Blink charges 49 cents for each kwh, how can they be slow rolling?"

The answer is that the higher the SOC, the longer it takes for the LEAF to absorb a kwh.  The difference at SOCs above 90% can be nearly 10 minutes per kwh!  Only a billing model based on time will encourage people to get only what they need and move on allowing more people to charge at any given station and reducing wait times for people unlucky enough to be the 2nd or even 3rd person in line.  So in this scenario, the answer to the question is "Yes, EVgo is the only fast charge provider providing me the time based billing I want.

The other thing is apathy. Ok, well maybe that word is a bit over the top but in my last post I lamented that despite WA State's great start out of the gates, we have, by all appearances, dropped out of the race!   EVgo represents more options which might help create better billing between AV and Blink while maybe even driving down EVgo pricing. So EVgo is providing cnoices, so in answering the question "Is this what we want?" the answer is Yes, EVgo is providing competition.

But they are still spendy right?  Let me ask you; Who has paid $1.29 for a bottle of water at 7-Eleven knowing full well, you can buy a single bottle of water at the Trader Joe's across the street at the case price or about 29 cents?  Why did you do it?  Own stock in 7-Eleven? or was it simply convenience, less hassle and a better location?  Lets face it; the better option is to buy the case and carry a few in your car. I actually go a step further. Although, I admit to not liking plastic (I actually use Plastic Coke bottles, refilled with water but only because they freeze much better) I work in random areas where sometimes water is not easily accessible or simply tastes horrible. So I generally carry 2-3 bottles with me just in case. I do store then in my Seahawks cooler so they are not in direct sunlight and what not...

But the point is you pay for speed and convenience at 7-Eleven, not because they are cheap or have better water.  So now EVgo has only plans for locations and we have seen AV and Blink with plans that did not materialize or were MUCH slower to materialize than stated so its a bit premature to think EVgo has it going on but preliminary locations  are nearly exactly where they need to be.

Not sure I like the mall concepts especially Tacoma Mall since it is legendary (my office is just down the street from them) for being very time consuming getting in and out of there during rush hour traffic. Simply way too much stuff going on in too small a place complicated by the fact that the mall is bordered on one side by what is now a 30+ year construction project.  But the locations are convenient. I think I am not alone in saying that a fast charge network in the right places with high reliability could easily demand a 50% higher premium and still have people flocking to their sites. So to answer the question rating EVgo;  Not sure yet although I can say that the current providers AV and Blink rate no better than a "C" for convenience and that is VERY generous.

Ok so now we seem to have EVgo filling a lot of needs but again that cost.  Well, as I see it, you have a few options.  A subscription fee now drops the cost to $14.95 a month with 10 cents per minute.  This could drop the charging rate $4 per 30 minute session if you used it every other day. Keeping in mind on a longer trip, a well placed network could be sipped from 4-6 times in one day.  But lets make it more reasonable.  Back when everyone was free, the most I used the fast chargers was 7 times in one month for a total of 101 minutes.   So using the EVgo plan that would have cost $14.95 plus $10.10 or a total of $25.05. Now that makes it cheaper than Blink since I gathered roughly 73 kwh or  $35.77.  But keep in mind; I rarely got much more than I needed and even more rarely made anyone wait more than 5 minutes. Now, I am not saying this to be viewed as a nice guy or anything because if I need it, to Hell with anyone else but I do admit to a lot of sessions being very late at night.

So what it boils down is a single use fee is expensive, 7-Eleven taught us that, or a subscription fee which makes it a bit better.  But neither addresses the "TDI dilemma"  So if a TDI gets 45 miles per gallon on the highway, is that a fair comparison?  Using the best case fossil fuel figures against the worst case EV figures? Well, oil companies seem to think so and I thought we were beyond that but looks like even that subject should be reviewed.... AGAIN!

I made a comment on line that a TDI making a run to the corner grocery and back in December, would cost more than the EVgo single fill up.  Remember short trips in Winter can reduce the most efficient car into full sized SUV numbers.  My Prius averaged 15-25 MPG on those short 3 mile roundtrippers. I have talked previously about my Corolla getting 4-5 MPG above EPA but not because of my stellar driving, its because my Corolla is only used for optimum driving trips.  So back to the cost scenario.  MY lifetime "fuel" cost over two LEAFs is running 2.1 cents per mile. this includes home utility rates at just under 1.9 cents per mile along with any and all public charging costs.  Now, I don't pay for a charge currently on a regular basis with anyone but if using last years figures, I drove 16,957.8 miles for a total cost of $346.95  or 2.04 cents per mile.  Add a $20 a month sub cost to say AV and its now 3.46 cents per mile. In the examples above, the AV subscription would be cheaper than EVgo while EVgo is cheaper than Blink, so an EVgo subscription would be slightly higher. Ok, lets say it doubled our EV costs, so we would be looking at nearly 7 cents per mile.  So all of a sudden, we see that EVs even with "exorbitant" fast charge costs, is NOT more expensive than a TDI.  In reality, a subscription would not have doubled my per mile cost and either I would have driven more miles or had less home cost due to the additional charging done on the road. I suspect reality will be a bit of both.  So again; with more places to charge, even on a cost basis; EVgo still seems to answer our question favorably.

But there is still the "Just take the Prius" crowd and I do fall into that category by definition only in that I also have a gasser to go along with my LEAF.  So my Corolla drove 5912 miles for a cost of $512.44 in gas or 8.66 cents per mile, keeping in mind, I averaged 39.77 MPG. IOW; again a nearly best case fossil fuel comparison since the only time I did anything remotely resembling in town driving was trips to the gas station and there were a LOT of them; 18 with 8 of them coming after gas dropped below $3 a gallon making the numbers even better.   BUT even if ignoring maintenance costs, I still have to add insurance which was basic liability, no collision (obviously not something someone would do to their precious TDI) added another $372 a year which now pushes the cost to 15 cents per mile but as mentioned, cheapest possible insurance so again best case presented for Big Oil (as if they would have it any other way!)

But "HOLD ON!" you say.  And yes, I did not include insurance costs in the LEAF numbers and why? Well, insurance cost varies greatly AND we all have to have it so why include it in the 2nd car but not the first? Because having a second car is optional so is all the expenses tied to that option.  I could throw in insurance on the LEAF but in a LEAF verses TDI in a single car household, its a wash.

In summary; EVgo entrance to the Pacific Northwest brings us new stations, new options, new competition and the correct way to bill for fast charging.  It would be difficult to get too excited over all this until they announce their 2nd round of stations will I be able to determine if they will fit my needs. There is already reports of construction on one of the locations EVgo will be so its looking like they are getting things done quickly. I can only guess we shall see several more stations going up this year.

So to anyone who thinks the Prius is cheaper; please enlighten me because I had 3 Priuses in which I tracked every single penny that went into driving them. And yes, I had months where my fuel costs only were below 6 cents per mile! I was proud... well, at least until I got my ZENN EV and began to truly realize what the real definition of economic driving meant.

Now if you are a two car household (I actually consider myself to be a 1½ car household) post your costs and lets compare them with the TDI. This should be fun! ;)


EVgo has finally posted a Seattle page complete with typo's and pricing!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Oh Where Oh Where Has Washington Gone?

Recently Bellevue Nissan opened its new facilities with great fanfare and they should be proud. Several WA State dignitaries including Governor Jay Inslee were on hand to unveil a  SIX station DCFC network for public that will be accessible 24/7!

Picture courtesy of Greg Kunz!

This is great news and the new stations will be one of the first for a newcomer to the NW, NRG EvGo. During the ceremony, Gov. Inslee brought up what has to be on the minds of every LEAFer in attendance and that is "Why have you forgotten about us?"

You see, Washington State and Oregon led the US charge for fast charger deployment. The West Coast Green Highway promised an EV corridor that would allow travel in a Nissan LEAF from Canada to Mexico. The first stations started going in early in 2012 and there was a lot of excitement that many more would be coming soon. But the hype has not lived up to even the most modest of expectations. Fast forward 3 years and we still have huge areas of the state that are inaccessible while Oregon has covered nearly every inch of the Western portion of their state while other portions of the country have taken notice. 

Now, I expected places like California to take the lead in fast charger deployment due to weight of massive Humanity if anything else but  Kansas City (of all places) will soon have one of the most comprehensive fast charge networks in the country. Kansas City??? When did they become the hotbed of EV adoption??  But electric vehicles are here to stay and although we all know this, others have taken the initiative that we are seeming to lack.

 The "other" Washington area Fast Charge Map

Governer Inslee introduced WA State's planned roadmap that would bring over 50,000 EVs to the state in the next few years. In support of this plan, he outlined plans on how and where public charging support should happen. 

The plan was likely a result of the study done by the state and published last June concerning the lack of public charging support in the state.  A few of the findings

Despite having one of the most extensive Level
2 charging networks in the United States,
Washington’s Level 2 charging network may
not be enough to accommodate its current
EV fleet. Studies have suggested one Level 2
charging port is needed for every 2.5 EVs.
Washington has 11 EVs for every Level 2
charging port.

This is just the beginning. Although the report mentions it, the figures above do not take into account, how many of the stations are operational. Blink chargers lead the pack in unreliability and although the new owners CarCharging  has shown more initiative in keeping stations up and running, they have also been slow to react to new repair requests, sometimes taking weeks to respond.

Of the ZIP codes in Washington with an EV registered,
59 percent do not have a Level 2 charging station.
In fact, there are eight ZIP codes in the Seattle area with
more than 50 EVs registered and no Level 2 charging

A bit of a caveat for this stat. Yes, Seattle does have some very high end neighborhoods that simply do not have viable locations for public charging facilities, but that is not the case, especially not THAT often!

Now, we are talking! Its nice to know that at least they are aware of the challenges we face. I have mentioned several times how the Olympic Peninsula is out of reach for a day trip despite having some of the most compelling "touristy" areas of the state!  Combined with Grays Harbor County and its economic woes, it just makes sense to provide a lure for out of area dollars to support local businesses and generally speaking; EVers have more dollars than most (me excepted of course) and are nearly always VERY grateful to any charging station host.


There were a few scary parts including the role they feel that fast chargers should play

On the other hand, the number of DC
fast charging stations in a county does not need to match
its EV registration level. This is because DC fast charging
is often used for traveling long distances, so drivers are
more likely to plug into a DC fast charging station on the
way to a distant destination, not close to home.
Like say what??  In an 85 mile range EV, public charging is most definitely an issue especially since the average county is about 35 to 50 miles from one end to the other.  So their idea of "long distance" is scaring me just a bit.   But at least they do recognize that time is the most important factor.

So the State started looking at traffic densities as a guideline and this is where the light at the end of the tunnel became visible and it does make sense that if the objective is getting current non-Ev'ers to convert, we need to know where they are going and BOOM!! First thing they noticed is Highway 12 from I-5 at Grand Mound to Highway 8 in Elma has a lot of traffic for a two lane country road.

In the map above, Highway 8 is the main road to the coast from Olympia while Highway 12 is the road heading Northwest from Centralia.  This is a great start but what is missing is coverage of the Olympic Peninsula on the Highway 101 Loop.  The Western part of the loop shown North of  Hoquiam is not a very heavily traveled area but the Eastern half especially to Shelton is and Shelton is an ideal location for another charger along with Gig Harbor and Port Orchard.

Going South on 101 from Aberdeen is Long Beach, WA a town of World Renown for well, being windy and I mean REAL windy, so much so that Washington State International Kite Festival is held there annually but the only real way to get there is to loop down and around thru Oregon using their fast chargers!  Is that pathetic or is it just me??  But another fast charge station (keep in mind, there is currently ZERO PUBLIC CHARGING STATIONS OF ANY LEVEL in Grays Harbor County) in Raymond, WA would be very welcomed and despite the relatively low levels of travel, would definitely be used!

But as always, money is the issue.  Fast charge stations cost a bundle compared to level 2 stations especially when most require a utility upgrade first. This is where public utilities can help.

Granted, the info on this graphic is a bit dated especially on the actual station equipment costs but as you can see, its the connection fees that really push the price up.  But its hard to expect the public utilities to play along unless we show them how it benefits them right?

Well actually that is the easy part. Notice which entity gets the most check marks below?

Who Benefits From Increased Public Charging Coverage? 

Ya, that's right, it the electric company that will ultimately be one of the big winners here so why shouldn't they pitch in? 

All in all, WA State residents continue to be leaders in the EV adoption field using their wallets to buy a lot of cars! Its time that the State and local businesses start opening their wallets. A Cleaner transportation system benefits every resident and business in the state!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Feb 2015 Drive Report; Fill It Up While You Can Still Afford It!

Well, not unexpectedly, gas is on the rise. On Feb 3, I paid $193.9 for gas. I should have brought gas cans with me.  It wasn't bad enough that gas eventually went up 44 cents for the short month of February but its already gone up 30 cent for the month of March and its only 2nd.  Ya, that means my fill up today was at $2.679!  In December, I predicted gas would be back at $3.50 a gallon by the 4th. Now thinking I should have said Memorial Day...

Well, the benefits of a new car really manifested itself this month when my Corolla did something with the piston on the front driver's wheel which caused me to have to get that fixed along with the bearings that cost me $728.95. This probably adds another year on to my TCO payback time. But at least it pushes back the time at which my fuel costs adds up to 50% of my total TCO for the car which I had predicted would be the end of 2016 at just under 10,000 miles a year.  On the LEAF?? a few round trips to the Moon would be shorter...

Either way, the Corolla went 919.1 miles for a cost of $60.82 in fuel or 6.6 cents per mile.  FYI; today's fill up was over 8 cents. Yep, cheap fuel is fading fast!   The LEAF went a bit further at 977.5 miles for a cost of $18.61 or 1.93 cents per mile.  I did do two short L3 charge ups at Oly Nissan so for first time in a few months, used public charging.  But did so mostly so I could drive 70 mph since it I already knew it would be both a late night and very early morning for work and any additional drive time simply did not sound inviting.

Other than that, a lot of excitement has been generated over the thought of 200 mile EVs from several manufacturers including rumblings of possible new blood aka Apple in the mix. Competition is a good thing and the more the merrier although I see little direct head to head and more filling out the niches a bit better. (especially since currently most are being ignored) Another good thing is the emergence of the used EV market. Several online buds have gotten used 2011 and 2012 LEAFs and are enjoying them immensely. A few are seeing battery issues but also several have replaced them under warranty nearly hassle free so all is good for that 85 mile trip.

But a few have gotten used LEAFs at deeply discounted prices hoping that Nissan or someone will offer backwards compatible packs with more range. I think that will happen but the packs will still be limited by the physical size so not expecting a very large increase. Maybe 25% over the original range at least for now. What I also don't expect is for Nissan to be leading this charge.  Apple's role as a new player in the game, is still as yet undetermined. The only thing we know is that Apple has grabbed a bunch of engineers from Tesla for "something." Speculation is for the "i-Car" but that might not be where they are headed.  There are several areas Apple could integrate themselves in the EV World without actually building a car including BMS,  self navigation, etc.

But time will tell since Apple is currently silent on the topic. But as an innovator who does not actually build a lot of their hardware, if they do do a car, who will make it? China?  That is why I think they will simply build something related to cars we simply cannot live without

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Longer Range EVs and the Fate of Public Charging

My 2013 LEAF has transformed my driving habits! No, its not because its electric since my primary source of transportation has been electric since 2007. In fact, I turned in my 2011 LEAF to get the 2013 so what did cause the transformation?

Range! My 2013 having an extra handful of miles has allowed me to use public charging a lot less than in my 2011.  I do this by simply driving a bit slower, using neutral driving, and monitoring my progress using LEAF Spy. This has allowed me to squeeze that extra 4-5 miles out of my LEAF without doing the 15 minute pitstop I did so frequently in my 2011.

Now, to be fair, I have to say that the early days in my 2011, I had much less driving needs and I also was "driving blind." Without a battery monitoring device, it was nearly impossible for me to tell just how far my LEAF could go! So it was a crap shoot wondering just how long I had to sit charging somewhere to make it home. By the time I did change driving habits, degradation had set in albeit to a very modest degree, but degradation all the same.

So the real question is if a small increase in range has lessened my dependence on public charging, what will a big jump in range do? Are public charging companies about to fade away? Is their future doubtful?  Well to answer that question, I have to say for me I would use public charging more because trips that would take 3-5 charging stops or more could be reduced to 1-2 charging stops and if the chargers were placed well, could only slightly impact my total road time.

In my 2011, I did a road trip from Olympia, WA to Salem OR once.  I would have been ok with doing it more often but my passengers were not. It was "only" 7 charging stops for the 405 mile round trip which did include some local driving while in Salem but one charging stop (which was actually multiple sessions) was at the Salem destination on 120 volts at the home we were staying.

Now this trip has been done in the Prius several times (With a ZENN and its 35 mph limitations, road trips were not an option) and we always stopped at least once (or twice about half the times) for a meal which means a fast charge would  be applicable there.  With double the LEAF's range, only one stop would be needed to get to Salem. This makes the "Just leave the Prius at home and take the EV" argument a much more popular choice!  FYI; a few times it was predetermined that we would not be making any stops on the way since it is barely a 3 hour drive to the point where we had coolers with snacks, food, drink, etc and every time, we changed our plans and stopped somewhere anyways...

With the launch date probably 18 months or more away, its anyone's guess how much LEAF II and its near 200 mile range will cost but there have been hints it maybe just a little bit more than the current price range. This keeps it in the affordable range but the real question is how much more can be charged while keeping it in the range of the masses?  Well, I am guessing not too much. We already saw evidence with the Volt and Ford Focus EV that even with incentives, prices over $40,000 scare a lot of people away.

Where there is a lot of room is cutting costs to provide a cheaper EV option. There has always been rampant speculation as to how much it really costs to manufacture EVs and if you listen to Nissan, Chevy or what have you, they make it sound like they are really sacrificing to bring you the car at the prices currently offered.   Sorry but I couldn't swallow that line with the help of $300 Champagne!

The price of goods has always been determined by how much we are willing to pay for that item. No one does it for free or even close to free. Nissan has nowhere near the cash to support EVs or subsidized pricing so there is little doubt in my mind that they can come up with a version of the LEAF and a price that would compete directly with the gasoline car in the $20,000 price range before incentives. Sure Nissan had help with a generous loan from Uncle Sam to kick start their US operations but they would not have done it without a clear timeline for paying the loan back.

But an EV that competes directly with gasoline versions price wise is surely to make huge waves among the buying public. This forces the focus away from the sticker price to the huge differences in maintenance/fuel  TCO and I think this will be the main profit engine thru sheer volumes of sales. I also think this will be the main driver for future, longer range (and higher profit margin) EV purchases!

The only thing missing is a well placed public charging network. Hope someone is listening here!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Jan 2015 Drive Report

WOW!! Just paid $1.939 for gas yesterday.  Did not think it would be that low but recent news reports suggest issues at the refineries on the West Coast may drive gas prices up soon so enjoy it while you can!!

In January, the Corolla went 1050.5 miles at a cost of $55.54 or 5.29 cents per mile.  As always, this cost is an estimate due to the fact that I do not fill up right at the beginning of the month but its close enough.  My 3 fill ups for the month averaged 36.1 MPG which is my lowest figure ever. (previous low was December 2014 which was 37.7 MPG) I will be keeping an eye on this and hoping its not an early warning of major upcoming repairs!

Now there has been some noise hinting that these low gas prices has made getting an EV a mistake? Well, not quite.  Ya, 5 cents a mile is cheap (and yes, I am ignoring that extra ½ cent + per mile in oil changes!) but my LEAF still came in UNDER TWO CENTS PER MILE! so gasoline prices still have a long way to go and keep in mind, its looking like the prices are about to make a u-turn but hopefully not too soon.  We should be raising gas taxes now to get the badly needed extra revenue while prices are so low then reducing them as prices go back up but...

Either way, the LEAF did manage to go 654.0 miles on $11.68 of PSE juice (which includes a few freebies...) or 1.8 cents per mile.

**Sidenote** Yesterday, I went to the garage to grab something out of the freezer and one of the charge lights on the dash was blinking. Unfortunately, I had forgotten what it might mean but a quick query on Facebook helped me determine it was likely a 12 volt battery boost in progress.  Now, not that I constantly check this kind of stuff but it was the first time I had seen this in 4+ years of LEAFing.

This was a bit of a concern so got up this morning and checked the voltage and it was 12.18 volts at 7:35 AM. This was a concern!  My blog about others having 12 volt battery issues in Oct, 2014 showed my average voltages being in the 12.4ish range.  Now, it is colder now (which hurts the battery) and the LEAF sits a lot more (which also hurts) so the 12 volt battery is not getting the constant boosts now.   So I decided that since I have most of the day at home, I would check it every hour or so to see what it did.  My 8:30 check made me feel MUCH better

7:35   12.18 volts
8:30   12.30 volts
9:36   12.29 volts
10:53  12.28 volts
11:58  12.27 volts

Ok so now I am thinking I checked the voltage at 7:35AM when something else was going on in the LEAF that was causing a voltage drop. Whatever it was apparently was only on a brief moment. If I should ever run across this again, I will check the voltage every 5 mins or so to see how long this event lasts.

Ok, its been a week since I started writing this. Got sidelined onto something else so FYI; gas has gone up about 20 cents a gallon so I expect to pay a lot more at the pump but then again, been LEAFing it mostly this week to see if I can drive my batt stat numbers back up to the range they were in when I switched to driving the Corolla mostly. I will let you know how things turn out!