Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring Cleaning, EV Maintenance, and "Adjustable" Degradation!

Its been over a week since I attained the 5,000 mile mark so it was past time for tire rotations. My Brother, bless his soul, was a tire store manager and recommended tire rotations every 5,000 miles for longest life. Since he worked for Les Schwabs and they gave free rotations for life, it was not a money making ploy on his part.  So this is how I have managed to actually get the OEM rated mileage from tires on various cars that have a reputation of having cheap tires.

Both my 2006 and 2010 Prius exceeded their 50,000 mile ratings including the dreaded Ecopias on the 2010 (replaced at 54,000 miles)  and this was done with the regular 5,000 mile rotations and keeping the pressures at or near the max tire pressure listed on the tire.  The Ecopias are rated at 44 PSI on a cold tire so on the Prius I ran 42 PSI front, and 40 rear.  On my 2011 LEAF, I ran them about 42 PSI and have decided to run 44 PSI on the 2013.

Now there is trade offs to consider.  Higher pressures are supposed to lead to a rougher ride. Problems with that is the roads around here fall into two categories; the freeways around Olympia (the state capital) that are well maintained and nearly rut free to everywhere else in the state that are not and very rough at any tire pressure.   I actually experimented in the Prius with tire pressures finding the difference in the ride to be minimal. So I elected higher pressures based on personal observations by others stating a higher pressure reduces sidewall flex which makes the car more stable on turns and "may" make the tire less prone to sidewall damage on ruts and potholes.

But one thing is clear; the higher the pressure, the lower the rolling resistance which means the longer the range.

Anyway, if you have multiple cars (we have 3) rotating every 5,000 miles can get pretty hectic.  So rotating at the tire shop was out. Even if it was free, it wasn't. It was still time out of the day that needed to be blocked out and sometimes, it was ok but it only took a few times of picking the wrong day and being stuck there forever for me to think there has to be a better way.  Now, I am not a highly mechanical guy or anything like that but rotating tires is something I could handle. But working hard is not something I am into either, so to streamline the process, I use two floor jacks and an impact wrench.  I have actually gotten the process down pretty good to where I have actually done the 4 tire rotation and tire pressure adjustment in as little as 23 minutes.

So, I park the car in the yard.  (driveway is too steep, the garage too small...)  I dragged out all the stuff, I needed and started and on bolt # 3 of the first tire, my impact wrench died on me.   The compressor died a few years ago. So, I am also writing to recommend that anyone doing this not buy McCullough. The kit I bought didn't even last 10 years but then again, the kit was on sale for $39.95 so maybe it wasn't so bad



Either way, any thoughts of setting any new speed records were now out of the question.  So I had to use my cross wrench to loosen which was used for final torquing anyway so at least I did not have to do a 2nd rummage thru the garage. Now, keep in mind this was first time removing tires from the factory install and I was more than a bit shocked at how easily they broke free. Now, all my rotation training came from my Dad.  First you tighten the bolts snug then a pull on each in rotation and continuing until they would not tighten anymore. Now,  this was within reason but me being not strong or anything like that, was still able to get it reasonably tight.   This started me wondering if my LEAF tires were torqued properly or was I overdoing it?  Having used the impact wrench to take lug nuts off for the past 9 years made me realized I had no clue how tight they normally were, So I went to the Yaris which had new tires put on by Costco last Winter and they were tight. About as tight as I expected them to be. So, check your torque!

On other matters; 

As mentioned previously, at just over 5100 miles, my battery numbers started to decline, RAPIDLY.  I went from way over 100% to 96%  losing 1-2% per day. It was a bit shocking to say the least.  On the first day when I was at 99% SOH, I thought "one percent every 5,000 miles" was just about right.  Some were doing better like Steve Marsh. He just passed 110,000 miles and pretty sure his degradation is less than 22% so does lend fuel to the rate of degradation slowing down...eventually.

But watching my ahr drop from 67.36 to 63.06 in 5 days was disturbing. Now, several things had happened and I was more than willing to blame them for my battery's rapid decline.  LEAF Spy updated its software,  the weather turned warmer and my Son's Birthday meant taking a few days off work so my driving patterns changed as well.  But then I went back to work, resumed my driving and no improvement!  After playing with the LEAF Spy settings and realizing whether a GID was 77.5 ahr (don't know how I got that setting) or 80 ahr (which I changed it to) my numbers were not going to rise.

So finally, I used my last option to boost my battery and that was.... Quick Charging, and

IT WORKED!!

Yesterday; Batt readings

ahr 63.04 SOH 96%  Hx  96.74  GID 273

Last night, I swung by Oly Nissan, paid my $ 3 since I still haven't received my complimentary Chargepoint card from them yet,  charged up from 8 to 83% increasing the batt temps from 59ºF to an eventual 78ºF and got up this morning and now I am at

ahr 66.37,  SOH 99%  Hx 99.97  (GIDs not checked because did not have a full charge)

Now, I wish I could tell you why this is happening but I can't and pretty sure daily fast charging will not be how I finally get my 150 mile battery...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

S.T.E.M and Electrathon America Lacey Grand Prix

Held in my hometown of Lacey, Washington on the first Saturday in May, it was previously known as the "Lacey Alternative Fuel Fair and Electric Car Rally."  This outdoor event held at Huntamer Park off College Street showcases solutions in all areas of energy savings, alternative fuels and conservation efforts. Yes! its very much a "Green thing!" What is S.T.E.M?  It is Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics but EVs will still rule the day!


I became a presenter the first time in 2005 with my Prius when hybrids were still a new concept to most people. This gave me the opportunity to talk to a lot of people who were interested in living a more sustainable lifestyle.  Then in 2008, I started showing my ZENN, an NEV (neighborhood Electric Vehicle. these by WA State law are restricted to a maximum speed of 35 mph) and now its naturally its my LEAF.  Every year, the fair has grown and grown to the point where I probably talked with 100-150 people at the 2013 event.

But as nice as the solar demos, EVs, Puget Sound Energy's "Green Power" programs are, the real draw is the Electric Car Rally.

The rally is not a race of speed, its range. (after all, they are EVs and as EV drivers; what is our main concern?)  So the race starts and it has a time limit (which only a few can make) so its who finishes the most laps in a certain time frame or if no one can run the allotted time, its who finishes the most laps.

Its really nothing more than "Soap Box Derby" electrified.  about 75% of the cars are completely hand built by father/son teams and these are VERY complex projects.  One must have welding, fabrication, design and electrical skills to be able to complete one of these as it is but the level of knowledge increases exponentially when we add in the competition factor and the egos of your young child.

This is where the community comes in. Yes, there were teams that did not discuss their secrets with each other but then there were others that freely gave advice to the newer racers in the group. The synergy from the shared knowledge of the racers was a great thing to see. It was the feeling of witnessing the camaraderie that solidified my decision to get an EV which led to the ZENN (not such a good idea...)

So, if you are ever cruising thru Lacey WA about the first Saturday of May and you have a few hours, stop by and check it out. The Fair itself is free, its a great thing for the kids, and a wonderful way to see some of the new things just around the corner!

Unfortunately, I will miss it for the first time in Several years. (The last time was when my Son was less than a month old) I will be at Disneyland!

http://www.ci.lacey.wa.us/living-in-lacey/the-community/arts-and-events/stem-fair

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Fighting Father Time

Well it took 5,000 miles before the declined started and its dropping like a rock.  Remember just a week ago I was bragging about my battery health?  had an Hx of 107.15% and SOH pegged at 100 %?


Remember, this was after a quick charge at Puyallup Nissan and I have always gotten a boost in Hx after a quick charge event which made me think that my battery simply liked warmer weather.

Well, the weather has been warmer especially Monday, two days ago when we had our warmest day of the year.  But my Hx went down.  I admit I did not quick charge.  Then, I had a day off,  a short drive day, a local job and now I get in the car and see this



So now  its 8 days and 300 miles later and what a difference!  I guess I have to say that after 5,000 plus miles, I should have lost something but wondering if this is a permanent thing?

Stay tuned; I may be swinging by a quick charge station more to see what happens than a need to extend my range.

Friday, April 4, 2014

March 2014 Drive Report.

WOW!! for the first time I am really seeing a benefit of the LEDs installed almost 2 months ago on my electric bill. My usage has really gone down. Now part of that was my yard light getting damaged in a storm early last month which I still have not replaced yet along with time change meaning more daylight in the evening.   But my total usage was only 604 Kwh which is a good 80 kwh below my average.

The Corolla drove 854.7 miles burning about $74 in gas for a cost of 8.7 cents per mile.  Sticking with as little in town driving as possible with minimal short trips, I was still able to average 39.5 MPG Work reimbursement amounted to $232.57 which lowers my lifetime TCO on the car to 89 cents per mile over the 2800 miles driven since purchase.   Gas prices are really starting to jump here going up over 25 cents a gallon during the month so might be parking the Corolla a lot more this month.

The LEAF drove 1324.6 miles using $28.54 in electricity costing 2.15 cents per mile.  I did not charge publicly during the month (Something that only lasted till April 1st) and did drive the Corolla a few times for work to destinations well within the LEAF's range, once because the Corolla had sat for over two weeks and wanted to drive it to keep it from decaying away. (cars that sit too long around here uncovered in Winter tend to get pretty musty and moldy after a while)  I actually went so far as to drive to a job wearing shorts and a t-shirt with the heat blasting away, changing clothes in the bathroom. I was there 45 mins early so it was an easy thing to do.  The other reason is that I am on pace to go way over my lease mileage limit so thought I should spread the wealth a little.  Work reimbursement amounted to $283.25 bringing TCO to 14.46 cents per mile.

Other than that, no other expenses to report other than the basic lease payment on the LEAF and insurance on both cars.  As far as health goes, there is still no sign of degradation at all according to LEAF Spy at 41 miles shy of 5,000 miles.

For the next two months, I will be going on Vacation 3 times including Disney at the end of April and my Son's High School graduation at the end of May so less driving probably.  Until next month!

Nissan's 135 Mile LEAF

Before we get too excited about it, let me clarify this is just a rumor started by someone (not me this time!) somewhere but it has gained a lot of steam.

Naturally more range means more options so its a good thing and as long as it is not the only thing, we will benefit.  Range choices gives peace of mind to those are are able and willing to pay for it while at the same time still allowing the  EV market to expand to the more budget conscious consumer with lesser transportation needs.

A lot has been said about the slow adoption rate of EVs but wondering if its really that slow or that the market is still not fully focused on volume sales?  There are really only two manufacturers even attempting anything remotely resembling volume and that is Tesla and Nissan and neither have an overabundance of units languishing on lots around the country.  Last month, Nissan posted 2nd best ever numbers at 2500+ which could be good if looking at plug in sales only but would be pathetic if looking at cars overall so has the EV launch been pathetic so far? Well ya. Only two pure EV manufacturers with volume.  One could put Chevy and Ford in the mix. They both have respectable ER EV  programs but even that puts participation well below 50%.  Sure we have new players coming in, at least according to the press releases but there has always been pending promises and that started years before the first of the new wave EVs hit the streets.

Its my opinion that its really the auto industry's attempt to minimize the impact that EVs are having.  I am too close to the EV industry as most of you are which makes it difficult to truly understand how little the general public knows about EVs but the evidence is plentiful and shocking.  Most people hesitate to look at the LEAF due to its limited range and high price.  For them; I say lease. Its a great way to be exposed to both the benefits and compromises of driving EV.  I only put it that way to sound balanced. We all know that EV Addiction is a powerful thing!

So, I decided on an experiment to not use public charging for the month of March.  I also lifted my 75 mile limit I imposed on my LEAF to see how much of an imposition it would be to rely on the LEAF.  Now, I did drive the gasser a few times in March but primarily to balance the mileage a bit. I am on pace to go way over my 45,000 mile lease so did pick a few trips to gas it that were well within the LEAF's range and also did have the LEAF "borrowed" for a day here and there (stolen actually!) unexpectedly...

Now since getting the 2013 and its new batteries, my driving style has gone back to normal with many trips averaging over 55 mph (which includes surface streets, etc) when previously in the 2011 the same trips were in the 44-45 mph range due to driving slower to extend the degraded range.  So first thing I wanted to do was find out about how far I could go if I elected to not stop to charge. So off I went on a Sunday afternoon with no time crunches to lunch with my Son. My freeway target speed was 60 mph and other than a few minor slowdowns, that was achieved as was a drive of 93.5 miles getting home with 11 GIDs to spare.  Conditions were dry and Sunny which meant no climate control was needed for the trip (actually had air on face for the return as it was getting warmer than I was comfortable with)  The lunch destination at South Center Mall was chosen as this was one place I worked at often and was out of the range of a single charge on the 2011.

But the weather was good.  A few days later during a heavy rain (most of the area set all time rain records for the month. Unfortunately that partially resulted in the Oso Disaster) my commute to the far side of Puyallup (includes a BIG hill in the middle) of 85.6 miles required me to reduce speeds to 50 mph (that and a very heavy rain which slowed all the traffic on I-5 to under 50 mph) getting home with just 7 GIDs.

Finally, another trip to Tukwila totaling 96.4 miles and averaging 60-62 mph going and a target  speed of 55 mph coming home and arriving with 17 GIDs.  I could have made 100 miles easily but had other errands to run later that day so plugged in at home to get the boost I needed before uploading the day's job, changing clothes and heading back out again.

Now what you actually get from your LEAF will vary. My conditions are different, my tires are pumped to 44 PSI, I drive in the slow lane, and I am hampered by a pathetically overwhelmed highway system  which simply makes driving slower acceptable and necessary.  But public charging is still a LONG way from being convenient and reliable so the big question here is what will be the most popular?  the 80 LEAF or the 135 mile LEAF?

That question will be answered by price.  The people I have talked to who are currently gassing it but thinking about an EV fall into mostly the category known as "budget conscious."  They currently have car payments that will be ending soon, multiple car households, short commutes, etc.  So a near perfect EV household for the most part.  Now, getting them beyond the leasing issue has been difficult but I stand by my statement that Nissan needs a car that gets a real 105 miles (which means 65 mph on the freeway in average conditions with a buffer) to account for the degradation that will start setting in after 2 years. (less if you don't live in my neighborhood)  This also takes out the complication of figuring your tax liability for the EV credit.  Let Nissan worry about that.  When I do end up buying a LEAF, it will be a lease/purchase.  I will have had 2-3 years to rethink the purchase issue and of course all that depends on the interest rates of the lease, etc...

Now if Nissan released 3 pack options say change the current pack option to 110 miles with an option to  135 miles. Then add a bargain priced LEAF with the standard 84 mile pack, I believe that fewer will take the 135 mile pack verses the 110 mile or 84 mile pack.  Nissan's cost to market has to be going down as it needs to be to repay their loan for the TN Battery plant but volumes have increased which should allow them to cut the price further. So if Nissan kept the 110 mile version at current prices with a $2500 bump for the longer pack, a $1500 cut for the shorter pack; I still think that more than half will take the cheaper option.  The 110 mile pack will be a close 2nd.

But every time I suggest this, there is howls of protest.  "Everyone" wants more range people say but what I am seeing is a handful that do (including me) consisting of the majority of the input while LEAFers who are happy with their range are simply not saying anything.

Now part of my stance is based on where I live. It took over 2 years before degradation was enough to really hamper my driving needs but my needs are beyond average, WAY beyond. But if I did not have a job that required travel, my 2011 LEAF would have lasted me about 11 years even with a commute 50% greater than the average distance driven in the US.  So even for my extreme needs,  a 105 mile LEAF would have lasted me long enough to get my "money's worth" before doing the trade in, buy new thing again.  But several areas of the country did see degradation up to triple my rate which amounted to about 12 % after 3 years and 45,000 miles.  There is some speculation (yet unseen) that degradation rates slow after a time.  Since the older LEAFs are barely 3, we have yet to see whether that is true or not.  Steve Marsh (our long distance litmus test) has expressed concerns about his upcoming Winter commute, so more on that in about 7 months.  Now we still have not had the time to see whether any new wrinkles to the battery chemistry have changed that at all.  I hope to see nothing after this Summer which would be good but all depends on whether we are warm like 2013 or cool like 2012.  Here's hoping for hot!

I ran into a LEAFer who is thinking about trading in his LEAF (despite the fact that he could drive another 7-8 years on his 45 mile commute)  for a Volt because he was talked into believing it was some sort of wise financial move when factoring in depreciated values.  I hope I had changed his mind.  For one thing; there are few (if any) cars that are immune to precipitous drops in value.  Be it they were simply overpriced to begin with or not built to last, the bottom line is changing cars means you WILL lose and lose a lot.   The actual difference between the LEAF and Volt is small to begin with  with trade in values being 38.8 and 41.6% respectively  (don't cry. the "leader" category was small compacts at 54% so no real winners here)   So if generalizing that LEAF was $33,000 and the Volt $36,000 that equates to $10,140 and $14,976  or a $4836 price difference. take off the original $3,000 price difference (waay favoring the Volt on these hypothetical numbers btw)  and now  its $1836.   For a 3 year period, this only leaves him room to average 2 gallons of gas a week after higher maintenance costs.  A tough proposition since work place charging is not likely to be an option for him.



Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Spring Break and My Battery Is More Excited Than I Am!

 Its no secret that batteries are very much like people. Get them too cold and they don't want to work hard.  Too much heat saps their strength.  Just like us, they prefer a relatively moderate middle ground and the pack on my LEAF has made it no secret that temps in the upper 60's to low 70's is just about perfect.

Now, my 2013 LEAF will be much different than my first one in that I have monitored just about every parameter since mile one... I mean mile 44 from the minute it came into my possession.

So naturally it was less than 30 seconds after I got into the car for the first time that LEAF Spy was up and running and I was very pleased to see that I had more than 100% capacity (as if that was possible) including an Hx of 102.54%.  But after a week, the number started to drop. Not fast, just a fraction of one percent daily.  It was down to 100.42% when I did the first fast charge on the LEAF. The next day (this is when I was only checking LEAF Spy readings first thing in the morning) I noticed I had bumped back up and higher than before at 103.04%! This came as a big relief as I was concerned just how far and fast my Hx would continue to drop.

Then came a logistical challenge from work coupled with VERY cold weather where more range for peace of mind and comfort made multiple fast charges desirable. After one day where 3 stints of fast charging in one day (none longer than 17 minutes) I noticed that I was at 105.12% Hx! This was an all time high and it was then that I realized that the bumps in Hx happened when my batt temps were getting into the upper 50's and more. Keep in mind with a December delivery they were running in the mid to upper 40's º F.

Now this trend continued and eventually the Hx balanced out to a range running from 101.5 to 102.5.

Now, it only took a few trips for me to enjoy and take advantage of my LEAF's renewed range. I was back up to driving mostly in the 60-65 mph range (if not 70...) without a worry as most of my trips were well within the range my LEAF had to give. It was then that I decided to go cold turkey on public charging for the month of March (which I was able to do with one day to spare)

So today, April 1, was my first fast charge in over 6 weeks  and after getting 12 Kwh in 22 mins 12 seconds, I was off and glancing at LEAF Spy and saw this


ok so it was one of the if not the warmest day of the year at 60º and  batt temps did get up to 78, 75 and 72 º  but like WOW!

now has this translated to more range? probably not. I did drive 96 miles on Monday on a single charge (remember it was still no charge March!) but did drive VERY conservatively along with getting stuck in a few traffic jams to make it although I ended up with 17 GIDs making 100 miles probably an easy goal.  But range records are no longer that interesting to me. Its more like how to do it 2 years from now when I have 48,000 miles on the ticker instead of 4800. Now my previous LEAF I would not dare approach driving that far out of town. my 100 mile trips I did back then was predominately in town driving averaging 25-40 mph.  Monday's drive had probably 50% of the miles over 60 mph so don't know if its more range, more monitoring or simply more public chargers to fall back on if I "bite off more than I can drive"

either way, its still fun to me!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Nissan Dealer Charger Updates

Yesterday on my way to a job in Montesano, I swung by Oly Nissan to check out the changers to their DC
Fast Charger.  They had installed a Chargepoint Interface and according to it the cost to charge was $3 minimum or $10 a day!

$10 a day??? Can that really be their decision?  Since it was 6 AM,  the business was closed and a lot LEAF was plugged into the station with an "Out of Order" sign attached.  Now wondering if the sign is hung every night when they close to discourage after hour charging?

Now the 180 º turnaround is not without some explanation.  Ray from Magic Nissan in Everett  states Nissan gave them the option now that the "One Year" Pilot program was ending (Oly actually only participated a few months...)

of

1) Taking over the charger along with maintenance, cost, etc.

2) Allowing EvGo to manage it with a 4 year maintenance program.  This probably requires (no one knows for sure since I am unaware of any dealer anywhere taking this option) an Evgo subscription which costs (in some areas) $4.95 to connect and 20 cents per kwh

3) Allowing Chargepoint to manage it with a one year maintenance program and allowing the dealership to set pricing

Now Magic Nissan is offering free charging to its customers and I have reached out to Oly Nissan to see if they will be doing the same. I wont charge there if they are not simply because they are so close to my house, I would only charge to grab a boost enough to make it home.  So probably wont pay to get a few kwh.

**UPDATE** did some email with Steve at Oly Nissan and its still free for customers to charge and the service dept will be issuing special cards for us.  better to use the card I already have but if it works, I guess I cant complain!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

TCO; Feb 2014 Drive Report

Take out the last week of  February and I would not have done gas at all but a week of North Seattle jobs along with Redmond, Everett and Bellevue mixed in and the LEAF enjoyed a mini vacation.  I did manage to gas it for 404 miles at roughly $37.00. My last fill up (and ONLY fill up for the month) was for $26.50 and went 197 miles on the tank so will carry over $13.50 in cost to March.  My cost per mile in fuel was 9.2 cents per mile. TCO for the month was 16.9 cents per mile with the only additional cost for the month being insurance. Again the primarily freeway driving with minimal urban stop and go allowed me to excel in efficiency averaging just a hair under 39 MPG.

Now previously I was adding my mileage reimbursement from work as I got it but have decided to actually add it in when it actually happened so its more applicable to the running TCO I am tracking. That and the Feb statement from Puget Sound Energy did not come out as quickly as anticipated making the delay between all the pertinent info coming in to just a few days unlike previous months when is more like a week.

The LEAF drove 1248.3 miles using 340 KWH of which just over 19 kwh was courtesy of AV making my financial responsibility covering the final 321 Kwh.  Cost of LEAF at tier 2 rates (80 Kwh) was 10.0889 cents/kwh or $8.07  leaving the balance of 241 kwh at tier one @8.2067 for $27.85.  Home charging cost was $27.85 working out to 2.23 cents per mile and there was no public charging cost. The bill statement ended Mar 3, but will still calculate all of March's driving with the next statement as always since its a few days and fractions of a penny we are talking about.

From work; The LEAF was reimbursed $57.91 from work at either 34 or 35 cents per mile (tied to local gas prices) and billed $68 for insurance, $245.75 for monthly lease and $71.75 for Seattle Seahawk custom license plate (but may have been applied last month)  and this brings lifetime TCO to 23.49 cents per mile driven.

The Corolla received $166.77 and was billed $31.25 in car insurance making its lifetime TCO 109.47 cents per mile

Next Month will be a drastic change with the ongoing new client launch that will increase our regional business by a third (still not sure how the logistics will work with this!) I just spent a week working in the Seattle District (I am in the Tacoma District) and after a week, have already exceeded Feb's gasser mileage. But we are starting the Tacoma District Monday of which 80% of it is well within the LEAF's reach.

My LEAF's charging almost accounted for half my household's electrical use but a short month along with a few trips out of town helped along with the battery in my programmable thermostat dying while we were gone. I had it set to 55º but came home and it was in the mid 40's cause the battery died during the heaters off cycle. (guess it better than coming home to the house being 90 º)  That was fun. Funny thing is that my gas bill did not change more than $2 which I thought would be less  since its gas heat but then again... its hydrocarbon based fuel which means SCREWED AGAIN!!

Until next month!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

State of the Charge Report

2014 looks to be an active year for EVs with setbacks coming from all directions. But, its not all bad news!

First of all, WA State wanted to hamper Tesla's ability to open more showrooms despite having one of the largest market shares in the country.  This is strange. Yes, there is no sales tax but there must still be B&O taxes Tesla pays so more showrooms means more sales, more taxes paid to the state and more of our homegrown electricity put to use to benefit us right?!!

So that was headed off somewhat but looks like any new upstart will have a much tougher time of it.

But the source of most of the news is the various charging network providers. Seems they all want a part of the headlines!

Car Charging (aka Blink)

The Blink saga is ongoing. Car Charging Group seems to have no more money or ability to handle the mess left behind than Blink did on its way out. I will say that Blink seemed to be improving during its last few months but all that stopped the day CCG took over and the system is literally comatose.  Now, homeowners are having support issues with their home based Blinks. Add to that, reports that CCG wants to stabilize the network before working on expansion and it looks like the delays will be extending far into the Summer. But that is making a lot of assumptions.  But that is all we have right now. They could very well being putting together an action plan that could be implemented with results in a few weeks instead of months.  At least, that is what I am hoping for.

Aeroenvironment (aka AV aka West Coast Green Highway)

At first there was 3 but then there was 2.  The plan was to have a charging network to do the Baja to BC drive.  Washington, Oregon and California had an agreement to put in stations every 20 to 50 miles so a LEAFer could travel the West Coast.  Well, OR and WA finished their end and CA got derailed.  The first stations went in OR in Spring of 2012 with WA following a few months later.  Billing was supposed to have started that Fall and on the AV portal, each of my fast charges did have a $2.50 next to it. I thought that was fair... actually MORE than fair.

But despite getting notices about a billing start, it did not happen.  That made us owners happy and created resentment among hosts expecting a new revenue stream.  But the day we have all been expecting has finally come.  Soon, billing at AV stations will happen with a subscription price of $19.99 (possibly a promo price??) a month for unlimited or $7.50 for fast charge, $4.00 for L2 charge per session.  Not quite sure if these are finalized prices since as a FOB carrying member of the AV Network, I have yet to receive my official email... (yes, that is a hint!)

Well, this was a bit of a shock.  Several of us had wanted a billing scheme LONG ago. There is simply too many people using the fast chargers who have little need to do so. Some are local and simply charge because it fast, convenient and FREE. This makes the true traveler who has to charge wait longer than they need to. Check the AV Network and Burlington is almost ALWAYS in use. Tumwater frequently as well. Keep in mind; these are the two stations bordering the area I commonly term as the Blink Blight (Bling Blight is the area aka Seattle that was scheduled to have as many as 22 fast charge stations provided by Blink but 11 were installed and currently less than half are working. This is also the most densely populated area of the state where probably 90% of EV owners live) so the need to charge there is VITAL to many.  But too many times, people living in the area of these stations are charging too.  A "reasonable" fee will cut that traffic down so the stations can start being used as intended.

Now, the response to the announcement was as immediate as it was predictable. I have used the Tumwater station frequently despite living less than 10 miles from it but due to time constraints that would not allow me to get the charge I needed at home. So, my sessions frequently were in the 10-15 minute range. I either had ONLY that much time or simply got what I needed and moved on.   So, a time based fee system is what I really wanted but apparently that is not a feature the AV Network can currently offer. Ok then, if the hardware can't do it, it cant do it. But that is only the beginning of the problems.

Now, AV states that ALL per session charges, we must call in to AV to provide a credit card # over the phone! Which means another delay getting the charge we need. Now, is this a true limitation of their network? A cost cutting move? or simply them wanting everyone to subscribe to the monthly fee schedule?

I suspect the latter and that really does not work for me. Being on the edge of Blink Blight,  I simply don't have the need to use the network unless headed South. Yes, south is in my district and yes, we do have a regular commute headed South but the LEAF is no longer doing that.  So, the need to head that direction is very infrequent for me.  In fact, the last time in that direction was back in Sept.  I will say, I have taken on a new client at work and this promises to add a lot of work South of Tumwater but that remains to be seen.  But anyway; a subscription is not likely to work for me unless the network is expanded to go West towards Aberdeen, East towards Tacoma or North towards Seattle.  But, either way, their official response is software limitations.

Chargepoint

Saving the best for last! Unlike the others, Chargepoint only administers the network after the host purchases the stations. They have been both the most expensive, cheapest, most widespread, and up until recently the least convenient.

WOW!! make sense of that statement!! Its not easy, but Chargepoint Stations have the billing set by the host and that makes sense. The host, as the owner, does not have to answer to anyone right?  So, they maybe free like Sunset Air in Lacey, or a per session fee of $3.00 like Tacoma Transit,  or Super Cheap like the one I stumbled upon in Gig Harbor charging a mere 50 cents an hour! FYI; that is cheaper than I can charge at home with my 6 KW charger. LOVE THAT STATION!! But up till now, they have only been the dual headed L1/L2 stations. I love them, there are a ton of free ones located at State facilities all around me but I simply don't have the time usually to use them.

Talon Portfolio Services and Urban Renaissance Property Company announced the addition of four level two electric vehicle (EV) charging ports and one DC Fast Charger manufactured by Eaton, to the Bellefield Office Park, located at 1150 114th Ave SE in Bellevue, WA. All five charging locations will run on ChargePoint’s network, the largest and most open EV charging network in the nation with over 15,000 charging locations.

WOW!! the first Chademo Chargepoint in WA with promises of more already in the works!! This is HUGE!!  Now, we have Chargepoint billing flexibility along with Chargepoint Network status reports which seems to work better than most.  With the announcement just coming down yesterday, details are sketchy and who knows?? The billing scheme could be worse than AV's but this charger is nearly dead center in Blink Blight so even a bad billing scenario could be overlooked if it provides fast chargers in vitally needed areas that Blink could not service and AV won't!!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Metering the EV

A few years ago, I blogged this on MNL, but due to some sort of something or another, the blogs were removed and I missed the chance to migrate them so I am recreating this one since I have had a lot of interest in this subject lately.

3 years ago when I first got my 2011, I charged at 120 volts for 2 months or so because I was getting ready to move (move was required due to owner wanting to sell) and did not want to put anything in there.

So I was using the Kill a Watt meter and found that I was averaging right around 75% "well to wheels" efficiency using the miles/ kwh meter on the dash of  the LEAF for my "battery to wheels" numbers.  This in essence measures charging losses only since there is loss in every step of energy transfer process and yes, this banks on the dash calculation being accurate and that in itself is dicey but at least its not Carwings!  :)

After the move and getting settled in, I was investigating 240 volt meters and found nothing in the range I was willing to pay for until Tom Saxton a Pacific Northwest EV enthusiast turned me onto his method which was to simply to install my own meter!

I started by going online to http://www.hialeahmeter.com/   then mousing over "products" at the top of the page and clicking on single phase remanufactured meters in the drop down menu.   There I selected the "EZ Read FM2S 200A 240V 3W Meter"  which was $17.50.  This meter requires a base plate which was another $10.50.  Shipping/taxes, etc.  added another $15 so $$ invested; $43.45

Went to store to purchase some random parts for another $11 and  simply disconnected my plug, installed the meter, and then ran wire from the meter to a new plug box.





Now I did get Phil's EVSE upgrade so it took my 120 volt, 12 amp EVSE to 12 amps, 240 volts. This was the only option at the time I got it. Later, I got another upgrade which was MUCH better.  

Charging at 12 amps kicked my efficiency up to about 83%. The biggest reason for this is the static load used for water circulation, monitoring, etc. that runs during charging. It varies little between 120 volt charging and 240 volt charging. 
For 2011/12 LEAF users charging at 240 volts, 16 amps, most were reporting efficiencies in the 86-87% range.

Now the meter is not highly accurate for single trips and I only entered in whole digits but over time its accurate enough. It is a "utility grade" meter and guaranteed 99.95% accurate (as if I could tell the difference?)

When I got my 2013 LEAF, I did the EVSE upgrade again but this time, my EVSE was programmable so I set it to run at 20 amps @ 240 volts moving my efficiency to 90%  and reducing my full charge time from about 8 hours to 3½. 

I also ran several experiments trying to determine my fast charge efficiency and have gathered some numbers but all have been during Winter so will hold judgement until I can run some numbers during Summer but so far its looking like 95+% is a probably a pretty close guess.

So if you are not satisfied with estimating your electrical usage with the efficiencies I mentioned above and you want a reasonably cheap, easy way to do it that is accurate. Here is your $54 solution.