Tuesday, July 5, 2016

June 2016 Drive Report; Gas Tax Goes Up, EV Registration Fees Go Up, Commuting Time Goes Up

As mentioned several times, my lease mileage is not going to survive til the end of my lease (Dec 2016) so I made the painful decision to gas it a bit more this month... a BIG bit more.

The Corolla drove 1108.2 miles at a cost of $67.81 or 6.1 cents per mile.  It gathered no other expenses other than few top offs of the oil here and there.  My previous long term plan was to drive the Corolla until it needed tires then dump it but the additional load its taking on might force my hand on the tire thing. Sucks...

The LEAF went 1248.9 miles costing $30.09 or 2.4 cents per mile. This includes $8.10 in public charging fees as my free settlement juicing has sadly expired. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted and it was nice to see how the other 90% lives (me being one of the very very few to have driven two new LEAFs without NCTC...) At just under 39,000 miles, I have 6,000 lease miles and just under 6 months to go... *sigh*

Anyway, enough of this; on to life!!  Its July and its supposed to be getting hotter (week long forecast for the mid to upper 60's here) eventually so the concern here is fast charging during the heat of Summer.  Now, I haven't had a lot of chances to test this since my charging times tend to be as far from the heat of the day as one can get when a lot of them happening before 6 AM but did have one this week.

On Monday after a very long day, we had to stop and charge at the Blink in Fife with temps hovering in the mid 80's all day.  I started the charge and the battery temp (have to think its an anomaly) jumped from 77 to 89º within 20 seconds (LEAF Spy had only been running a few seconds before the charge started)  I charged for 24 mins gathering 12.48 kwh. Temps started at 89/90/90.1, finished at  97/98.6/96.6. Took off and continued upwards to 99.6/100.6/96.4.  This heat up after charging was complete did happen in stop and go traffic with ambients in the upper 70's (it was 8:24 PM) and only lasted a few minutes, roughly 3 minutes and 12 seconds.

Now the ambient pack temps being in the high 80's is very believable as we had been crawling along I-5 with the pavement probably very close to 90º even at that late hour (Sun was still up)

In other news; this month signals the cost of driving going up.  The WA State gas tax goes up 4.9 cents per gallon moving us to 2nd place in that race.  The EV registration tax goes up to $150.  The extra $50 will be partly used to fund a pilot program encouraging private businesses to host charging stations in the form of grants and favorable pricing.  The fund will be capped at one million dollars and before you ask; no, the fee will not drop back down to its previous $100 level when the money has been collected. As far as the gas tax hike; it apparently isn't enough. My local gas stop's prices did not budge an inch after the increase.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

To Tax Or Not To Tax?

Recently a Seattle LEAFer posted a comment urging support for lesser vehicle tab renewal fees.  In some areas, EVers are faced with a $150 EV tab fee along with a Mass transit support tax which can push the annual renewal fees on their LEAFs to over $300.

Well his suggestion did not go over well with the forum and there was a lot of valid reasons why although I am disturbed that we are seeing great programs slighted or simply getting lost in the big picture.  I can understand whining about a $150 EV tax fee (I can understand the dissention but I FULLY support the fee) but then sacrificing the parks system by saying no to $5?? Yeah, that's right; FIVE BUCKS!

So what is the real issue here? overtaxed EVers? Not quite.  Its gasoline withdrawals.  We have been spoiled by the subsidized cost of driving our gasoline cars which has been underfunded for decades.  This allowed us to become addicted to super cheap transportation. So how did this happen?

Loss of Free Choice

Think back to all the old car commercials you remembered seeing as a kid. What is the one theme that you remember most?  Being stuck in traffic? Sucking up someone else's exhaust?  Avoiding other careless drivers?

No, of course not.  How can anyone sell cars with those kinds of messages? What we saw was a single car driving into the Sunset alone on a highway fading into a picturesque horizon, usually a beach or mountain getaway.

Remember the Jeep ads with the car sitting on a mountain top that would challenge any Mountain Goat?  Ever wonder how that car got there? Well, no of course not because your brain was too busy absorbing the subliminal message that with a car, anything was possible!

During our brainwashing, the Oil companies were secretly insuring that our "free will" to choose the car as the primary mode of transportation had no competition. Slowly, support for the train system eroded.  Intercity transit funding faded away as Oil company lobbyists made sure every available dollar was earmarked for the support of cars, gas stations and parking lots. In fact; what little we were paying was also being minimized. The last federal gas tax increase was in 1992. Now its currently 18.4 cents per gallon. Had it been raised based on inflation it would now be 32 cents per gallon or roughly 14 more cents.

14 cents doesn't seem like much and it really isn't but it would have put billions into the support of the highway fund. Now would that 14 cents saved any lives on a Minnesota bridge? Who knows but the fact is that it hasn't been raised so the money to maintain the roads is either siphoned from another program or people die...

But the key takeaway here is that Big Oil got away with destroying public transportation because they created the illusion of free choice. We accepted what Big Oil did because in our own minds, we "chose" cars. Because of that, Big Oil was let off the hook because we were lead to believe we didn't care about mass transit.

Fast forward to today.  Most people still don't care about mass transit because they are too busy bitching about traffic and driver's with minimals skills they have to share the road with.   What is shocking to me is the ONLY reason they are there is because mass transit has been crippled to the point where it CAN'T meet the needs of a large portion of the population who would rather not drive.

Thurston County runs a shuttle service that you must qualify for based on need, income,  etc. Its primarily for the handicapped, elderly, infirmed, etc.  This program is a great idea but is hampered by overwhelming need.  I had a neighbor who drove and by every measure, her license should have been taken away YEARS ago.  We lived on a cul de sac off a main road and too many times I was stuck behind her for several minutes while she waited for a week long opening to make a right turn onto the road. Thank God she almost never turned left!   But that was the start of it. She never drove faster than 20-25 mph but was at least alert enough to pull over to allow us to pass her, something she did several times per mile!

Now some people do have a leg to stand on when complaining about taxes, especially the RTA tax levied for people in a select area to pay for a light rail system that will service the entire region.  The funds are collected by increased sales tax and vehicle registration fees for select areas of Western Washington.

Now, this may come as a shock to those who have declined to pay FIVE BUCKS to the State Parks but I am opposed to the collection of the tax because it is unfairly applied to people in the immediate area while I, who has to drive that region nearly every day, pay nothing.

This means a MUCH slower payoff, a MUCH less effective system when it is built and worst of all; a traffic situation that is getting worse and worse every day.  I posted a link on an earlier post here that stated commuting times have increased nearly 40% since 2012. That is ONLY 4 years ago!

Now, we all know that gas tax, vehicle tab renewals, etc. don't come close to paying for the roads around here. So where does the extra money come from?  Well, in some cases, it comes from the general fund, in other cases, its simply maintenance not done.  I often marvel at the differences in location around the State.  I live in the state capital of Washington and yes, that does mean something.  Right now as we speak, Highway 101 entering Olympia is being resurfaced including parts of I-5.  This part of the freeway was pretty much rut free before the resurfacing mostly because it was just resurfaced about 3-4 years ago and yes, a major portion of the resurfacing was done because of a landslide.  But the fact remains we are spending big bucks to fix a road that didn't need fixing while I-5 around Southcenter looks like ground zero of a bombing run!

So we have two issues; an inequitable spending of funds and an inequitable collection of funds. So why am I not paying my fair share! Who determined I did not want light rail to extend to Thurston County or is it simply the law makers living in Olympia have insured we have ample smooth roads to drive on?  Well, I hate to burst your bubble but the drive home which used to clear up at DuPont is now sucking ALL THE WAY TO OLYMPIA!!!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Why Dealer Loyalty Is More Important Than Brand Loyalty

I spent time in the car business working for 4 different car dealerships. Granted they were jobs that were more than 30 years apart but the one thing that was obvious is that there is a huge difference from one dealership to the next even if selling the same brand of car.  Now some dealerships are much more proactive about building a good name than others and they do it by having raffles, charity events,  autograph sessions with local sports heroes, etc.  Its all about getting their name in front of the customer's eyes and guess what? The brand of car really doesn't matter.

The great predominance of car purchases are emotional ones. Most shoppers go in with only a vague idea of what they want and what they are willing to pay for it. Car Salesmen know this and the average consumer walks away with a car they had no intention of buying that morning when they set out.  What happens is the salesman creates a relationship with the buyer and eventually the buyer makes the purchase to help out the salesman.  Now this isn't always how the deal works but if there is a question of 2 cars being nearly equal in price and condition, it is this reason that usually controls the decision to buy.

The EV community is different. In most cases, the buyer knows more about the car than the salesman so dealerships need to set themselves apart in different ways.  We don't care about sports star being there to sign autographs, what we care about is price, range and charging.

In 6 months, I will be in the market for my 3rd EV. Not sure what it will be or whether I will buy or lease.  One thing that seems certain and that is the best lease deals seem to come from Nissan but now that other manufacturers are offering more range, this maybe my "conversion" from leasing to buying.

BUT

As good as all that sounds, I am in a time crunch for several reasons. I have more than 7 months left on the lease but less than 7,000 lease miles which means a lot of gassing or a lot of overage charges. This gives the advantage to Nissan because right now they are offering $1000 loyalty cash or lease/purchase of a LEAF and will forgive up to 2 months of lease payments on your current lease. This means 7,000 miles in 5 months!...

BUT

Offers like that is usually in preparation of something that is about to happen which I am guessing means that their 2017 plans will be public within the next 3-4 months. So predicting even more range (Time for the 48 kwh battery?) and better pricing (larger pack on the S trim) which means waiting could be a huge benefit to me

BUT

There were people who literally stole 2015's on year end deals and I now have to struggle with whether I want to try to cope with 30 kwh on another 3 year lease?  But if the price is right and all that needs to happen is another range jump!

SO

Despite all the noise from Chevy, Tesla, BMW and VW,  the LEAF still seems to be the best fit for me.  The Bolt is interesting but I have to say I would be surprised to see any significant deliveries in this area before mid 2017. As far as in time for my lease end?  Not a chance.  If I lived in California or Michigan, maybe but here?  Washington has been in the Chevy Doghouse for decades and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

SO

Now to start my dealer selection.  This will be my 3rd LEAF and most likely my 3rd dealer.  Price is still the #1 consideration so anything is possible but one thing is for sure. If there is a tie, there will be a 3rd dealer.

BECAUSE

Rairdon's Nissan has had at best a shaky reputation. My 2011 came from them and I paid an exorbitant fee for the car.  This resulted in the much questioned $10,000 downpayment I made to reduce my "rental" fee to somewhat normal levels.  As it stands, I "escaped" with my decision and in retrospect; could have parlayed it into a great deal if I had taken the offer to extend the lease longer since $162 a month payments was a "pretty good" price.  Granted; I have not kept up with what they have been doing lately but at the same time, I have not heard anything resembling their trying to be more EV friendly.

Olympia Nissan is where I got my 2013. There was actually a tie between them and another dealer but I chose them because I had had my 2011 serviced there and they had THE FIRST  24/7 fast charger which meant they had to change their policy of locking up the lot at night.  Before they had an L2 in the spot currently occupied by the fast charger and no, you could not charge after hours until they changed their policy.  

But what was a great beginning has soured.  On Jan 11, I reported the fast charger was broken. It remains broken today. "Waiting on parts" is the official response... Not even going to comment on that.

PLUS

I recently took my car in for some recall work.  An hour after I dropped it off, I got a call. On the multipoint inspection I was told that my rear tires were in the "near replacement" stage but my front tires were basically illegal.  2/32nds was the measurement and it was recommended that the tires be replaced immediately.  The first thought that came to mind "Why does he think I am an elderly female from Pasadena?"  and I politely declined the offer of $232 per tire.  This did make me wonder though if my experiment had gone too wrong.

My brother was the manager for the Les Schwabs in downtown Bremerton and always said if you want to be cheap (he knew me well) rotate your tires at a minimum of every 5,000 miles.  Front tires wear the fastest but at the same time you want your best tread on the back for Winter (assuming you did not take his first recommendation of snow tires!) to prevent oversteer.   So I thought; lets change the rotation to 10,000 miles just the one time and see what happens.  Before with the 5,000 mile rotation, I never had more than a 1/32nd variation in tread depth. I have to say my showing off in roundabouts probably was not the best idea...  Well the report said  2/32nds on the front,  5/32nds on the rears.  The only correct thing on the report was the differences in tread measurements.


Either way, I had already decided I was not replacing tires before my lease turn in and I am sticking to that plan

My "bald" tire

I did realize that getting a decent pix of tread depth is VERY tough. Notice the middle tread depth seems much shallower?  I actually made several measurements on both front tires and there was essentially little or no variation.

So I did the coin test on the middle tread


So if the report is correct, Lincoln needs to shave his head!

The back tires were better of course.


The tape measure was a lame attempt at providing some sort of scale...

ANYWAY

I am hearing a lot of people who are swearing off Nissan's based on dealer experiences. Luckily there is not too much of that in my area but let us not make the mistake of blaming Nissan for shaky dealer experiences.

BUT

I will be contacting 4-5 dealers by email by mid Fall.  I now feel that to get the best option, I will need to expand my radius to about 85 miles.

CLARIFICATION

The service visit at Olympia Nissan is not the reason for the change.  In reality, the service advisor did his job to a T so have no complaints with that. This may come as a surprise but let me explain.

The service advisor did not do the inspection. They only read the inspection and then makes the determination on what recommendations to make to me.  First off; they will look at my history and notice I am not a frequent visitor.  Unlike some who bring their car in several times a year for very small issues, I don't.  In the 2½ years of my lease; this was my 2nd trip to the dealership, both for recall notices.  So the early recommendation for tire service is understandable. He realizes I don't want to be there so its very well possible that I would want to get everything done in one shot and on that ideology, he was right. He had no idea the tire measurements were way off.

FINALLY

Anyone who spends anytime on LEAF Facebook groups knows there is a huge divide covering the spectrum of dealer experiences. From the ease of getting in and out, great deals, etc.  It all matters but what matters most to me is the support I get from the dealer after the deal is done. This is what separates the good, the bad and the pretenders.  Public charging is still woefully inadequate for many areas of Puget Sound.  5 months for a repair??

There is a reason I waited until June 11, to write this. The service visit was just a side note really.  I do remember sitting at the dealership on the phone trying to get the station to work on Jan, 11. I remember being confident that the station would be fixed quickly. Now I wasn't expecting a few days, more like a week, maybe two at the most...

HELP

So I need to ask for help. Anyone who is familiar with the breakdowns that happen and what is the turnaround on a parts order? Because I think the delay has to do with simply providing the funds to get the station fixed. Who pays for the fix? The dealership or Nissan?


Thursday, June 2, 2016

May 2016 Drive Report; Running Backs Need It, Gymnasts Rely On It. Balance Is The Key

Another month down and only 17 days left of my 90 days of free fast charging which means I need to get busy to make sure I get my $50 worth!

First off, the price of gas is skyrocketing! I filled up last week for $2.389! which was 27 cents higher than my last fillup on April 13th...Not a good trend but somehow I will survive. Thank god I was barely under half a tank on the fill up so it only cost me $14.72

Either way, the Corolla went 261.8 miles in May costing the $14.72 or 5.61 cents per mile up from 5.1 cents per mile in April. There were no other costs associated with the car.

The LEAF went slightly farther at 1491.1 miles costing $24.19 in home juice or 1.62 cents per mile. I did manage to squeak out roughly 379 minutes of fast charging at various locations which amounted to about 87.98 kwh.  That doesn't add up to $50 if I use the right kind of math so will have to make a final push before my time runs out on the 17th of June...


As we all know, battery stats via LEAF Spy or other apps that are available can be quite variable.  Part of the reason very well could be balance.  The LEAF BMS charges based on the highest voltage reading of the pack's cells.  This makes sense since overcharging will quickly degrade the cell's ability.  But when the pack has a large delta between the highest cell and the rest of the pack, range suffers.  The range ends when the lowest cell reaches the cutoff stage. The voltage of rest of the pack doesn't matter. This is why we have reports of people with bad cells who will be driving along with a range of 50 miles on the GOM and suddenly shut down, out of power.


I snapped this pix of my LEAF Spy the other day. Notice the SOC at 57.4% with voltage delta a mere 7 mV.    Earlier in the month when my ahr was dipping into the 58's, I was averaging 20-30 mV deltas. Now to be honest, I had not paid an extreme amount of attention to such things until I read a post where a few people were seeing lower than pack averages with specific cell pairs so I started paying attention to this.  Well as you can see, nothing was really sticking out. So I continued to monitor the situation waiting for a runaway cell to appear.  Even my "out of balance" readings were pretty even. But it was this looking back and forth where I noticed the differences.


Which kinda got me thinking... Is my true pack condition based on a well balanced pack or should I go with the "normal" condition?  To be honest, I rarely have the opportunity to let the pack get out of balance but that might be changing soon.  I have just under 7 months left on the lease and just over 7,000 miles on the lease mileage which means the LEAF is going to see the inside of the garage a lot more in the near future.  

Problem with that is it only takes a day or two of driving the Corolla for me to tire of gas and go back to the LEAF... first world problems, I guess.

SCE has announced they will be installing 1500 charging stations in their service area. The chargers will be concentrated on work places, condo's, and apartment complexes where the likelihood of home charging simply isn't.  I have always said the public utilities should be taking the lead on providing a public charging network.  Now SCE is only providing infrastructure management and support coupled with grants to defray installation costs.  A charging network provider will handle the billing. My suggestion says the PUDs should handle it all. Issue me a card or code or whatever and bill it to my home bill. But its a start, right?  Besides if all goes well, SCE wants to eventually install 30,000 plugs! Now would that not be cool!!

Finally, Tesla has finally admitted that free access to the SC network would not be happening with the T3. Not much of a surprise to me (since I predicted it a few months ago...) but hinted that the option is likely to be available at the right price. Pay per use was also mentioned although no price was revealed. My guess?  Elon is hoping for a gas price spike between now and launch day. :)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Benefits of Guilt-Free Driving

Saturday, my little white microwave died.  It lasted thru 3 moves, 2 garage (maybe 3) sales,  4-5 years of neglect in the garage... It had a tough life. But it was a long life.

I got the microwave as a Christmas present roughly 15-18 years ago. I have literally had it forever  but it was a small one. 1.0 cubic feet I think and have no idea what the power level was... 600 watts I think.  It was put in storage when we moved because there was one of those hanging built in ones in the house.  Later I moved again and we got a bigger microwave from the in-laws I think so the little white one remained in the garage.  Unfortunately, it wasn't worth much so it garnered no interest when we tried to sell it. I think it was a bit too small for most people. Now that I think of it, I am beginning to have doubts that it was as big as 1.0 cubic feet...

But nevertheless, life without a microwave was not an option so I went down and got another one. This one was bigger. Big enough for me to be able to use my Chicken Roaster again. The little white microwave did not even come close to being able to handle the Chicken Roaster.

But when I got the new larger (1.8 cubic feet) Silver Microwave home, I realized that the smallness of the white microwave was the reason it fit so well on the kitchen counter.  The new one was way too big.  The white one was small enough that I could store my microwave plate cover,  plastic wrap, hot thing grabber and all the other stuff a microwave needs to function on top with plenty of room to open the cupboard doors above it. After all, it was the cupboard above that contained most of the microwave safe dishes and bowls I had. Blocking the cupboard was simply not an option.  I resigned myself to the fact that a microwave cart would be needed.

Well, normally I would bounce around online to determine what a good price to pay would be but I decided I had the time to do some comparison shopping and since I would be taking the LEAF, it would be nearly guilt-free shopping.

So I went to Shopko, then Target, then Goodwill, then Best Buy then another Goodwill, a Furniture Outlet place, Big Lots, Fred Meyer and Walmart.  It was after all this driving around town of 23.1 miles at 5.1 miles per kwh that I realized that Shopko (the first place I went to) had the best deal so I went back and picked up a nice roll around stand big enough for my Silver 1.8 cubic foot Microwave and my toaster oven.  I spent an hour putting it together which was pretty easy after unloading it from the car and bringing it in, which was not easy (It has a real granite top which didn't look heavy in the store  but...)  

So sum total was roughly 45 cents in electricity and for my efforts...



Not too bad I think!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

50 Fast Chargers Or 200 Miles?

My introspective analysis of my not too distant  (lease end, Dec 2016) future plans, I have been struggling with the question of need verses practicality (AKA affordability!) and came to the realization that I would much rather have a shorter range EV and use the savings on public charging as I need it and due to my job, my need is generally much larger than most.  Even with NRG's high prices, I could charge for years on the savings with  the possible price difference. Granted, I won't have the 200 mile convenience that would come in handy a few times a month in my job, but without public charging, no range is acceptable for me.

Now a lot of people will argue that time is money and spending time charging on the road is adding to the TCO of the EV experience which is as always, data spin.  Charging publicly can be a waste of your personal time but the key here is its "YOUR" personal time; time that if you looked at it closely, you already waste a ton of it anyway.  Driving is a unique experience in our World because of its singular ability to quantify how well our time was spent, hence the data sleight of hand commonly used in the anti EV argument.

"I made it to XX in 2½ hours" is one of the common themes at the annual far flung family gathering especially when it comes time to show your worth.  It is memories of this testosterone-based ritual that rears its ugly head when people are contemplating an electric vehicle in their future.   I can remember in the early days of Priusdom when my BiL lived in Salem, OR a 2½ hour drive of 164 miles.  The common topic was how long it took, where was the traffic, etc.  The conversation always went the same way.

They say "How was the drive down?"

I say "It took us just over 4½ hours"

 and they say  "Oh...ok. I have done it in 2 hours, which way did you go?"

and I say "Yeah but we stopped for breakfast (less than an hour from leaving home) and had a diaper change in Vancouver and bathroom break in Portland..."

and they say "Oh ya, I always stop at XX because we can eat, pee and change all in one place, and the service is fast!!"  With logic like that, I realize a stalemate is my best hope.

In all this, I never mention the fact that to maintain my 54 MPG lifetime average in my Prius my cruise control is set to 63 mph even in the 70 mph zone of SW Washington...

But the fact remains; if you are "wasting" time while publicly charging it is because this is what you have chosen to do. I have spent a lot of time charging on the road but very little of it has been wasted time and that is despite dealing with a very limited public charging system that is literally shrinking in parts of my local area!

But it was this conversation that made me realize that we Humans were not designed to do long drives in a car.  I only need to point out the existence of various products for "waste elimination without the inconvenience of unbuckling your seatbelt"  I also wondered if the huge variety of car cleaning products were inspired by a diaper change on a bumpy freeway...

But the one thing that is missing from the equation above is the fast charge network. In my previous entry, I closed with a question;

What would you rather have?  An EV that does a real 100 miles on the freeway and 50 well placed fast chargers added to your region or a 200 mile EV with your current fast charge network?

Well the first thing is defining "well placed"  I hear way too much about the "25-40 miles apart" model which is fine for a limited view, initial startup.  But that is not the definition of well placed. Maybe "good start" but not well placed.  


Now this would be a great Charging net.... OH WAIT!!! this is a map of rest stops for those 400 mile range gassers!! Some less than 35 miles apart!... Hmmm?? interesting,  veeerrrrry interesting! Now what would they be stopping for? there is no gas at most of these places...

I am looking at something that looks more like chargers 10 miles apart radiating out in all directions. Granted, unless you live in the Midwest where townships created the lay of the land, the roads are simply not that geometric.   But in reality, such a network easily changes your 100 mile EV to something approaching...oh my!! 200 miles?? Can that be?

Now some might argue that 25 locations 20 miles apart with 2 plugs each is a better deal and that would be a great argument.  Obviously when these 50 chargers would be incorporated into the area's existing network, doubling up would make a lot of sense in some areas, not so much in others so we kinds already got that covered.

So the real objective is getting a basket for the eggs before the Chickens are sent to the slaughterhouse.  But then again, it kinda reminds me of climate change and the soon to be attained 400 ppm of CO2 before we started to talk seriously about an action plan to reduce emissions.

Just like climate change, we are headed to an explosion of EVs on the road and have yet to do much of anything to support them. The thought process is moving towards "With 200 miles, I don't need public charging" and that is about as wrong as you can get!  WSDOT (after years!) has recognized that many EVers are being left out in the cold and has started a program to encourage private businesses to host charging sites but I am afraid the plan is too limited and will likely be slow to develop. I hope I am wrong.  

But the above map shows land and locations that require no owner agreements, etc. Its state land already developed to be easy access from the freeway for cars.  Putting in charging stations as a start has two hurdles; possible infrastructure improvements (some of these rest stops are bare bones) and changing some archaic law concerning vendor rights issues...

So whats the plan?  wait till we start dumping 200,000 new EVs on the road annually or taking action now?

Nissan + Mitsubishi = Synergy!

Recently Nissan announced they will purchase a large chunk of Mitsubishi which should generate some excitement in the EV World.

The subject of "What else, Nissan?" has crossed my mind several times, especially now 5+ years into the EV game. Its been way past time for a line expansion but its not happened nor has anything been announced.

The infiniti LE was a brief detour that resulted in a dead end, at least for now.  Guessing better battery tech would be required for the higher end tastes infiniti courts.

The e-NV200 is in Europe for a year now but still not a single word of it coming to the United States, so what gives?

Can it possibly be that after 5+ years and 3 battery plants, they are still struggling with meeting demand?

Not sure I can accept any of those reasons.  Depressed sales could be one reason but its easy to boost those. Put in more batteries!  The newer packs have definitely improved in reliability, longevity and heat tolerance. Granted, not there yet but progress is being made.

Now Nissan did bump the pack to 30 kwh but forced everyone to upgrade trim levels. Monumental mistake and hoping they have realized that by now. The popularity of the S trim with QC should have been enough hint that the low end market is still looking for a car to buy!  Put a 30 kwh (or larger) on the S trim for 2017 and start chanting now because a sales revival will happen!

But bringing Mitsubishi into the fold opens up new avenues. The MiEV is a smaller, cheaper EV that has been out a bit longer than anyone except the T Roadster.  But its initial pricing was too high for a car with shorter range and an overall impression of "entry level" to catch on.

But a small, very dedicated group of MiEVers are very happy with the purchase and with Nissan battery resources and guidance, the line could be reborn with a super cheap EV option.

The Outlander plug in has been delayed and some feel its due to a battery shortage. This is something Nissan and its worldwide manufacturing capacity can really address and it enters a market that is all but empty.

Now understanding the super cheap EV market is not that easy when you have to filter it thru the din created by the "I want 200 miles of range starting $35,000-$38,500" hoard, but rest assured we are here and wanting!

I am happy that so many can afford Tesla's, Bolts, and BMW's but I am not one of them.  $35,000 (to start mind you) is nowhere near my "cheap" category.  So give me an EV in the upper 20's that gives me 125-150 miles and I will be happy.  I have said it many times in the past and I will continue to say it; The 100 mile EV market will be here for several years to come.

A recent online discussion talked about "affordability" and one commenter stated that Tesla and GM's mid $30,000 price point was not that far removed from what we are paying now. That maybe true (its not) but that surely does not imply that is what we want to pay, because its not. The other point was that the link provided also mentioned that many cars will be sold in the low to mid 20's. Sure they were smaller cars or "student" cars some PC people like to call them but call it what you will, it is still a huge market.

All of this doesn't even address the used car market which (if only counting sales from licensed dealers) is more than three times larger than the new car market. All of this points to the fact that cars are too expensive and people are making compromises.  The EV industry has a golden opportunity to flood EVs into the lower price ranges and add in a perk for free charging for a few years and it becomes much easier to attract the lower income market.

But "cheapening" the LEAF line might be a deterrent that Nissan does not want to risk. They have spent billions to develop the line and the battery pack decision for the 2016 S trim might be an indication of that.  Its easy to understand not wanting to rush an infiniti to market because of the higher expectations of the brand so using the Mitsubishi nameplate for the low end market simply makes sense.



**Public Charging Rant Warning**

What would you rather have?

a 100 mile EV (100 miles on the freeway at 65 mph) and 50 DC Fast Chargers ideally placed in your region

or

a 200 mile EV with your current charging infrastructure?


Well, you already know my answer and I leave you with this; a gasoline car with a 1000 mile range is useless without a public refueling infrastructure.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to the kindest, selfless, most giving person I will likely ever know.  She may have only had 4 children in her life but there are far more than 4 people on this planet who feel the way I do about this woman.


Now some would say that she was a typical Okinawan (Not Japanese mind you!) woman where the culture was simply different. Family and children were simply much more important part of life than what is the American accepted norm. It was this ideology that so endeared my Mother to so many people...American people that is.

It is interesting how different nations react in times of great tragedy.

In the aftermath of Fukushima; many Japanese volunteered to turn off the lights to save power for the good of the country. Japan realized there was a problem so all nuclear plants were shutdown immediately to address the issue. Despite the obvious enormous financial impact to the country; this lasted OVER four years!   In America, we have to use the threat of fines for people to stop washing their cars in the driveway during catastrophic drought conditions; a situation that grows drastically more severe every day but still remains at best no more than an inconvenience in the minds of most Americans.

To contrast;
In the aftermath of Deepwater Horizon, Americans did...well, nothing.  To do so would upset the stream of money to a destination that I have to say could probably afford a few lean days... Now I would never accept the job of determining which tragedy was greater but then again; Fukushima had a much more direct impact on people than Deepwater Horizon. Unlike Oil where the damage stops immediately after the oil stops burning, radiation is a done deal.  We can only wait it out.  So its easier for us Americans to sluff it off as just a "bummer day" despite the fact that long term destruction will likely outpace radiation due to Oil Pollution's Worldwide scope.  But that is how we Humans choose to view life in general.  We remember and believe what we are able to accept.

Now a lot also depends on how the issue is presented in the media.  How many people died from the Fukushima tragedy verses Deepwater Horizon? I can pretty much guarantee the answer will surprise most of you so you will have to read it yourself. Granted the 20,000 people killed during the Earthquake/Tsunami likely did a great job of bending our memories since we can blame something other than ourselves (Mother Nature did it! We had nothing to do with it)  for the deaths but the fact remains that some cultures simply view life differently.

But going back to the Japanese response to Fukushima is even more shocking considering the financial impact to the country. Such a money play in the United States wouldn't have had a chance.  As it stands now; Big Business determines where it will operate based on the highest bidder, in many cases paying little or nothing to locate to an area citing the salaries of workers who would pay taxes. IOW; making the little people support them while they bank many millions in effect siphoning money out of the local area instead of putting it in.

But not paying taxes is only the beginning. Oh course tens of millions in additional payroll will help the tax base but does it help enough?  Does it pay for the burden the new business has on the infrastructure? Can the area's roads and utilities handle the additional workers without major upgrades?  I was in the 2nd group hired at the new intel plant in DuPont, WA in 1996. Since intel was looking at two different sites a few miles apart, Pierce County, hedging its bets built a new freeway off ramp to serve one proposed site before the site was selected. In doing so, they bypassed all environmental studies, etc. to put up the ramp taking less than a year from proposal to completion.  In contrast; the Highway 16 interchange on I-5 has taken over 25 years.

Recently a Facebooker in a discussion or car tab fees and whether they should go up to better address the real cost of driving or stay the same very low price and his response was "not with my money!" but what seems like a self-centered response may really be the result of watching large companies making money hand over fist as the worker's share shrinks daily, but the real meat of the discussion is the reason why taxes were so low in the first place.

Unlike Uncle Sam; city, local and state governments have to balance their budget. They don't have an unlimited ability to print money as needed.  But instead of raising taxes to pay for desperately needed services and infrastructure maintenance, they keep taxes low and we suffer and we accept this because the threshold of pain is low.  It only means tires every 3 years instead of every 4 due to worsening road conditions or 45 minutes to get home verses 35 minutes because of a combination of roads not built along with mass transit cutbacks forcing more cars on the road.

So why does this happen?  Well, if taxes were too high, it forces a closer examination of who isn't paying their fair share; a situation that Big Business will do anything to avoid.  So next time a major company comes to town wanting a 50 million dollar tax waiver in exchange for a 200 million dollar annual payroll (and its added congestion) think twice about who is getting the good deal.


Sunday, May 1, 2016

April 2016 Drive Report; After 36,000 miles, My LEAF Battery Can Still Be Revived??

I have proof that a gasser can be cheaper than an EV because my Corolla only used $24.20 in gas last month while my LEAF cost me $24.43!!! Moral of the story; Spin goes both ways...

For the month, the Corolla traveled 468.2 mile for the above mentioned $24.20 in gas or 5.2 cents per mile and that is all there is to that.

The LEAF using twenty three more of my hard earned cents traveled 1489.3 miles with its costs escalating due to $2.02 in public charging fees along with PUD charges totaling $24.43 or 1.6 cents per mile. Thankfully, I was saved by the 90 day free fast charging Nissan gave us for putting up with the borderline battery chemistry in the 2011 LEAF and got over 100 kwh on that program.

Since I am nearing the halfway point of my free 90 day charging, I am still working on getting the $50 worth that I declined in exchange for the fast charge sessions. But at least 2 of the chargers I might use are out of order including AV's Tumwater location and this definitely qualifies as the longest downtime stretch for that location by far. The location has been out of order several times but frequently was back up and running within a few days. Its been over 2 weeks now... :(

Now this is not being debated nearly as much as a year ago simply because there are too many people out there proving it on a daily basis but just some more evidence that the 2013 pack is a definite improvement of the 2011-12s.  We have known for quite some time that battery stats reported by the LEAF  and logged with devices such as LEAF Spy can have some pretty wide swings based on recent driving and charging habits.  Put simply; Drive your LEAF a lot and charge it fully every day and your battery stats will probably reflect a status better than reality.  Drive it modestly,  partially charge it or go several days between full charges, etc. and you see just the opposite. Numbers lower than the true state of health in your battery pack.

Well this is what I just did and yes I purposely did not charge it for high numbers which meant a lot of shorter duration charges that did not complete AKA Nissan 80% long life charging mode. ;)  As expected my numbers took a dive from the 61-62ish range to 58.44 ahr, 88.62% Hx, and 19.6 kwh available on April 25th. On that day, I drove 58.7 miles which is really far enough to keep your battery fully balanced with daily full charges.

But from the 26th to yesterday, I had a large client (they do this on last week of the month for most of the year Tues-Sat) and decided I would LEAF it every day. This required fully charging at home every night, A fast charge in the morning at work before picking up my crew and a fast charge in the afternoon after dropping off the crew.  Now the morning charge was only needed 3 of the 5 days since Renton and Tukwila are close enough but on the other 3 days for the Seattle Stores, I averaged collecting 4½ kwh which doesn't seem like much but my degradation needed it.  In the 5 days, I traveled 626.2 miles, publicly charged for 93 kwh and ended up yesterday afternoon with this

 

As impressive as this looks... I pretty much rely on 265 GIDs, 61 ahr and 94% Hx.... but still VERY nice to look at.


Fast Charge Notes;  Twice I saw a better than 100% efficiency based on kwh remaining delta / Wh
Using the pix above it would be 21.5 - whatever the charge session started at/ 12.572 (which i always reset to zero for the charge session)  Now this did not happen during the past 5 days but earlier in the month and I have not been able to reproduce this phenomena so am writing it off as user error or LEAF Spy strangeness...or something.  Other than those two times; Fast charge efficiency seems to be running between 91.4 and 94.7% efficient and no brand of charger seems to be consistently outperforming any other but as always, I will track it to see if any vendor emerges or falls from the pack.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Tesla 3 Is A Good Thing Despite Not Ordering One

I am guessing Tesla will be pushing a half million Tesla 3 orders by the time I publish this so why did I not get on the band wagon?

After all; its a near no risk venture. I can always get my $1000 deposit back at any time right? The only thing I would be missing is the .18% interest my checking account is currently paying me for my average daily balance. It would be a "struggle" but I would find another way to replace that "income."

Well first off; I love Tesla and I want one but its not likely in the cards for me in the foreseeable future.  But Tesla is raising the bar of EV expectation which means a huge vacuum will be created in the 150ish mile range space pricewise as long as Tesla can pull off half the reservations within a reasonable time period and no I still don't believe they will have any significant deliveries of the T3 before Summer 2018.

The more significant reason is that the entire foundation holding up the T3 hype; an affordable electric vehicle with a range of over 200 miles will not be unique when it hits the streets.  Tesla has already said that the higher end trims will be built first so expect to see the first $35,000 Tesla no earlier than 2020. This gives me plenty of time to do another 3 year lease. This is the most optimistic prediction I can muster.

Depending on the source (all of which is speculation if you want to be technical) ; the average price of the T3 in preorder is between $42,000 and $44,000. Which means a chunk of T3's are probably near $50,000 when you mix in the small amount of $35,000 orders so "not a high priority" right?  Kinda like the S 40 or the S 60?  I personally think the $35,000 T3 will NEVER hit the streets. This is my expectation.  Tesla will realize there is more than enough work for higher trim T3's that lower trim is no longer needed and just like the S 40 fans, we will acquiesce...

Now I expect this comment to go over like a lead balloon.  In any "hype verses expectation" discussion, hype always wins since its based on a best case scenario but the best part of all this is that Tesla hyping the car two full years before it hits the streets means that other manufacturers are already making moves to thwart Tesla.

Ford announced they are not going toe to toe with Tesla and will likely come out with a Ford Focus EV at 100 miles in the low 30's which means mid to low 20's effective price after the various perks like fed taxes, etc (of which Ford still has a ton left)

Nissan will likely come out with LEAF II starting around 150 miles of range but I expect them to offer multiple battery sizes (as options this time) for ones who just won't feel comfortable on their 30 mile commute with less than 200 miles of range.  Expect the 150 mile version to be in the low 30's as well (Nissan will quickly exhaust their fed credits when this happens)

So yeah; love the T3 hype but only because it didn't kick everyone off the couch, it sent it off to Goodwill!!