Friday, October 17, 2014

The Road to Hell Just Got MUCH Shorter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What Do We Want in LEAF II?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 11, 2014

New Battery Observations!! (No, not that one, the "other" one!)

Once again, another report of a dead 12 volt battery on the LEAF.  Why is this happening?  A computer also needs a battery supply to start up. The battery retains basic knowledge about the computer, its hardware and configuration settings so its BIOS can tell the processor how to talk to its various peripherals.

The LEAF battery fills pretty much the same role including a check of the system before it connects the traction battery. So its essential to the operation of the LEAF. Without it, its like having a gasser with a dead 12 volt battery; its simply no go.

With nearly 60,000 LEAF Miles under my belt, I have yet to experience this issue. This includes a time on my 2011 when a door was not closed correctly. I realized the error a few hours later when I went to start up the LEAF to do an errand and noticed the dome light was dimmer than normal. Luckily the car started ok and the dash alerted me to the door ajar issue. My short trip (added a 15 minute cruise around for good measure) was enough to get the battery back on track.

Now this was also about the time when the first reports of people having a dead battery surfaced. Initially, the user was blamed. Left lights on, left car on (ya, this one never made sense) or left door ajar, etc.

Then there was dead batteries after being plugged in while away on extended trips. We found that the 12 volt battery gets a boost every few days if NOT LEFT PLUGGED IN.  So we then decided if gone more than say 3-4 days, charge the LEAF to 50% SOC more or less and leave it unplugged and we should be good right?

Then Casey, A Seattle LEAFer left his car unplugged at 50% SOC for only 2½ days and his  12 volt battery was dead. What the hey!! He did what he was supposed to do and it did not work.  Obviously there was more to this than we realized. This is when I started monitoring my 12 volt battery on the 2011.  What was readily apparent is the car was simply not maintaining a healthy voltage for the battery.

Unlike other battery's chemistry, Lead acid should remain at the upper end of the SOC range as much as possible. extended periods at lower voltages dramatically shortens its life.  So the voltage target should be around 12.7-12.8 volts more or less.  My LEAF's 12 volt battery frequently read in the 12.1-12.3 range.  The longer it sat, the lower it would go. Yes, after a few days, the traction battery would kick in and give it a boost.  How much of a boost, I do not know. I never had an opportunity to monitor this while not driving the LEAF for that long a period.

Now, all this would make more sense if the issues were uniform but they were not. Some people were seeing dead batteries after a few days, some after overnight periods sandwiched between daily use and others were just fine after several weeks of inactivity.  So the conclusion might have been that Nissan needed to find a better 12 volt battery supplier.  But getting them replaced at the dealership was surprising pain free leading me to believe that Nissan had discovered something with the quality of the batteries or their own programming.

Fast forward to now and the recent reports of another battery failure. So it was get the meter back out and start measuring again.  After nearly 10 months and 15,000 miles, I have not had an issue so was not really expecting to get much insight to checking battery voltages but that never stopped me before, so

Like the 2011, my 2013's 12 volt battery seems to settle into a uncomfortably low resting voltage around 12.45 volts give or take.  A bit higher than the 2011 but far from the 12.7ish I would prefer.  I plugged in the car which had an SOC of about 30%, and charged it 90 minutes then checked voltage and it was 12.99 volts.  I unplugged the car, waited 15 minutes, checked voltage, it was 12.65 volts and plugged car back in. Voltage immediate rose to 13.00.

I unplugged car. Let it sit for an hour and voltage dropped back to 12.46 volts.  I plugged car back in and voltage immediately rose to 14.40 volts. So the battery was getting a boost now. So there is a cut in voltage level that initiates a battery boost.

I repeated the process this morning and saw the same results.  So, I did learn a few things about how the LEAF "manages" its 12 volt system but this did not really explain why others still continue to have issues including Tyrel who also has a 2013 and has been DIG (dead in garage) 3 times!

First thought (the fact that they are so easy to blame was a factor!) was Carwings. Carwings uses stone age tech to communicate with Nissan HQ thru the AT&T 2G network. This is a power drain on the 12 volt battery and whether its a little or a lot, its ongoing and also something I do not have.

The other factor is the very nature of wireless communication itself. The stronger the signal, the less power needed to manage it.  We have all been there when you see the roam or the dreaded slashed phone symbol which means you are experiencing poor cellular signals in the area. It could be a blind spot in the network or simply being in the wrong kind of building.  What happens? a MUCH faster than normal declining battery SOC on your phone.  Well, the LEAF system is not a whole lot different.

In a previous life, I pondered over the quality of phones and their ability to function on the network and there were frequently no reasons why they did not do what they were designed to do. The more complicated the phone, the larger the issue.  Environmental factors combined with end users was the general culprit blamed and frequently for lack of a better reason.  But this does make sense. Your phone is a sensitive electronic instrument not unlike your TV or computer, but unlike your TV which spends its life stationary in a climate controlled room, your phone is abused. Its hot, its cold, it takes soda baths, salsa facials, and copes unwanted falls on a regular basis.

So back to the LEAF's failed battery issues. Well, it would seem based on my observations that the 12 volt management system seems ok. It boosts it when its below a certain voltage when you plug it in. So driving and charging regularly would imply a regular boost to the system.  So maybe we need to look at environmental factors here as well.  Cars do go thru rapid and frequent temperature fluctuations and vibration (ya, some of the roads around here really suck!)  and all of that could be a factor as well.

My LEAF does not work correctly in all things. My climate controls are possessed. They change air direction functions on their own. When I first noticed this, I thought it might be a sticky button or something because I noticed a change in air direction (face to foot/windshield is most common)  when doing various things like shifting (ya, do a LOT of that) or even changing radio stations. This got me to paying attention to what I was doing when this "spooky" stuff was happening right? (Halloween is coming so trying to stay in the season!) This is when I noticed it also happened when I was doing nothing at all but steering.  Well, I have a bug. No question about that and one day, I guess I will have it looked into when its convenient and as long as the bug does not have children who might create other issues.

In conclusion, I have no definitive conclusion. I am thinking that further data collection on my 12 volt battery will yield nothing so probably need input from you. If you have a 2013 with Carwings, try some measurements like I did to see what your charging system is doing.  I will probably try to find where the cut in voltage for a battery boost will be. Its apparently above 12.46 volts and below 12.65 volts so we shall see soon enough.

FYI's; I have never used any special charge settings. No 80%, no timers, etc.  when I had Carwings. Now, I did do charge stop, finish alerts, remote A/C on a few dozen times, etc.  Also monitored charge levels a lot on the 2011. So maybe looking at timer settings might be an option as well?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

September 2014 Drive Report

Another month is down and I am just now seeing a slight slowdown at work (Fear not. I am just getting "down" to averaging 40 hours a week!) which is good.  It has been a long Summer and I was thinking that September has flown by but realized its because most of the month had "July-like" weather.

The Corolla drove 213 miles for an estimated cost of $19.20.  The tank consisted of one trip with gasoline at $3.819 a gallon and a longer trip with gas at $3.419 a gallon. The last tank still managed 38.11 MPG (2nd lowest figure) despite having 3 passengers for nearly all the mileage due to work.  Because of the change in gas prices, part of the work reimbursement was 42 cents per mile, the other will be at 39 cents per mile. Final figures not to be known until pay stub comes in but it will be roughly $85.77 which means its still a small contribution to my ROI return since there were no additional maintenance costs.  This still however projects to a 4 year zero balance even with the small insurance ($31 a month) and fuel costs.  But this will soon change and for two reasons.

Its getting colder which means shorter range on LEAF and the LEAF is now over 14,000 miles so I need to reduce the amount of driving in it to prevent very large mileage penalties.  I had originally planned to limit LEAF to only 80 mile commutes in Winter but now thinking that 70 or 75 miles would be better.  We shall see how it goes.

The LEAF went 2032 miles in September (all time high and only 3rd time over 2,000 miles in nearly 4 years) for an estimated cost of $36.09 which does include 55 kwh at tier two pricing.  Mileage reimbursement was $546.39.   ROI looks good but my 15,000 mile annual lease mileage does not. My anniversary date is Dec 23rd and estimated date I will hit 15,000 miles is next week...

I guess its a good thing that gas is cheap right now

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Turtle Mode!!

Since getting my first LEAF on Jan 18, 2011 I had only seen turtle mode one time and that was on purpose. I actually was doing my 100 mile trip on a cold February day when it happened but had to circle my neighborhood for the last 3 or 4 miles to make it happen.

This was ok. But Tuesday I had 6 job assignments that had me running all over Puget Sound that ran from Puyallup to Kent to Shelton. Needless to say, charging as much as I could was a priority . Now, most of the jobs were short and actually was able to make it home 3 times to charge for short stints before I had to hit the road to head to my next assignment.

This is actually a rare treat for me because most of jobs lie North of my Lacey, WA home.  But it was about 9:30 PM when going from job #5 to job #6 that I realized that I had made a critical mistake.  I had been MUCH more interested in listening to a baseball game on the radio than I was in monitoring my speed and found myself driving way too fast (smooth ride of the LEAF be damned!!) for the distance I needed to cover and immediately started plotting a route to Olympia Nissan for a quick boost.

As I came off the Highway 8 interchange to Hwy 101, I saw I had 14 GIDs but almost 5 miles to go. A quick calculation told me I would be at least 1.5 miles short. This was not looking good. I immediately cut my speed to 50 mph. There was very little traffic and the speed limit would soon drop to 45 MPH for the 101 to I-5 Interchange.   I babied it as much as I could shifting to neutral for the descent to Mud Bay. I gained speed getting up near 58 MPH but every benefit has a price.

The ascent was looming in front of me and I started up still at 14 GIDs but started losing a GID every 4 to 5 seconds.  I was SCREWED!!

Now there have been many reports that the new turtle has a lot more range than the 2011's but THAT much more?  My only turtle event, I ended up with 3 power circles left losing each circle in .1-.3 miles. So Turtle really means stop NOW and plug in. There simply is not enough left to go anywhere!

As I eased up the hill, I approached the Black Lake Blvd exit and my GIDs were now at 6, my lowest ever in LEAF II!  Then the dreaded event; Turtle made its debut upon my dash! I was still nearly 2 miles away!

I slowed to 40 MPH (speed limit here is 45 MPH) It was still a mile to the Auto Mall exit. There is a slight downslope and I shifted to neutral hoping to maintain momentum but started losing speed immediately. I did not have enough speed to begin with so reluctantly, I shifted back to drive and eased onto the pedal. I looked down and was shocked to see that I had gone from 8 power circles to 2 in about 15 seconds!

I now started running scenarios thru my head of what I was going to tell my DM when I called to tell her I would be several hours late to the jobsite.  I also began to work out how I would be able to make my 6 AM Pharmacy audit in Kent the next day which was now less than 8 hours away! I can't really call in sick. I am the boss, I have all the downloads, equipment, etc. It would VERY inconvenient to get a replacement at this late hour!  I thought about calling roadside now to get a tow truck on the way early to reduce the amount of time, I would have to wait on the side of the freeway... Oh man I was SCREWED!!!

Not wanting to feel any worse, I reluctantly glanced at the dash to see only one power circle lit and still two tenths of a mile from the Auto Mall exit, I shifted to neutral and at least I was maintaining my 40 MPH speed. As I exited the freeway, I shifted back to drive and regen gained me TWO CIRCLES!!! I was stoked but still had a mile to go.  As I approached the light to turn onto the road to the Auto Mall, I debated just running the light, maintaining a bit of momentum thus saving power but decided against it. As always, there was no traffic to speak of and it took FOREVER for the light to change. I wanted to turn off my headlights while waiting but didn't. I did turn off the radio thinking it would help (it doesn't)

Finally the light changed, I eased onto the road and immediately shifted to neutral to take advantage of the downslope of the overpass but as luck would have it, the light at the bottom of the slope changed and I had to stop for a single car (probably the only one at the intersection in the past 10 minutes!) to go thru.

As the light turned green, I took off and saw I still had 3 power circles lit. Could I actually make it??But something must have been monitoring my thoughts because one circle disappeared immediately.  With my two power circles left, I tootled down the road that last .6 of a mile to the dealership. I was only 2 blocks away!! I was going to make it!!.

I was in front of the dealership and turned to pull in having had only one power circle left for the last 4-5 blocks. The turn in to the dealership is a short but rather steep slope and I as was about halfway up, my car slowed dramatically! OH CRAP! Don't tell me I was gonna die 50 feet away from the charger with no chance of pushing the car myself.  I literally slowed to about 4 MPH but made it to the charger!!

FYI: I was never worried for a second!~

Friday, October 3, 2014

Battery Stats Part Two

September 2014 saw a record 2032 miles on my LEAF so to put it mildly, it was a busy month at work!  Lot of info written by others when taking road trips in their LEAFs and what they saw on their LEAF Spy.  Here is more evidence that your numbers should be looked at as estimates and anything but long term observation should be taken with a small grain of Salt.

Every day, I reset my "miles/kwh" and Trip A on my LEAF.  Here is a record of the week just finished. If kwh available and GID is blank, that only means I did not complete a charge. Reasons why I would not is slow driving days or in one case, simply not enough time to complete a charge before my next work assignment

headers in order from left to right

miles driven
miles/kwh
GIDs
kwh available from LEAF Spy
ahr from LEAF Spy
Hx from LEAF Spy

36.9   5.9   276   21.4   63.52   97.92
99.9   4.3   281   21.8   64.71   99.09
52.3   4.5   283   21.9   65.34   99.93
140.1                            66.39   101.86
69.3   5.0   284   22.0   66.19   101.49
47.3   4.4   284   22.0   65.90   100.93
101.1  4.7   284   22.0  65.96  101.04
58.0   4.7   284   22.0   65.72   100.61
150.2  4.4                     65.90   100.94
   ***24 hour lay over***
20.0   5.4   280    21.7  64.38   98.66

Notice the big drop when I gave the LEAF the day off along with a slow driving day the next day?

Good/Bad

Bad; Recently Russell Wilson, quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks commenting on his "too good to be believable" image he has gained.  He admits to being a bully when growing up and beating up other kids in school.

Good; If I was judged by what I did as a kid, I would not be looked at as a very good person either. Now, I am hardly Father of the year or anything like that but I have made a lot of progress as a person as most of us do so don't judge Wilson on his exploits as a kid but how he was able to learn, change and adjust to be the person he is today.

Bad; Steve Marsh, the undisputed LEAF mileage king lost his 4th capacity bar this week. He is now querying dealers in the area for a battery replacement.

Good; Steve lost his bar at 129,400 miles.  If the cost is $5499 but install (remember there is no sales tax for EV's or their related parts in WA)  that works out to about 4.4 cents per mile.  Add to that the low (or non existent for some) maintenance costs and the LEAF is still cheaper to drive than a Prius!


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Nissan Doing the "Shimmy Shimmy Shake!"

With the recent rumor that Nissan was talking to LG Chem about a battery deal combined with a several members of the top executive team leaving the company, it has left many people concerned over the future of the Nissan EV lineup.  The massive battery plant in Smyrna, TN has been open less than a year and already its future seems in doubt??

Add to that another disappointment when Nissan dropped several hints that a longer range LEAF would not be coming until 2017 after so many had figured 2015/2016 and we all have to wonder has Nissan come to a realization that they have bitten off more than they can chew?

As a member of the LEAF Advisory Board, I was able to meet Billy Hayes and Andy Palmer and witness first hand their faith, enthusiasm and commitment to making the LEAF the car that people wanted to buy.  It was this experience that further bolstered my conviction that I had made the right decision in 2010 and 2013 to go LEAF.

But as mentioned before, the LEAF was not a "purchase-ready" car for me just yet. My driving needs being beyond the norm made a long term commitment to a specific LEAF a bad idea. So, for the 2nd time in my life, I leased my 2nd LEAF.  But Nissan seemed to be listening. They changed their warranty to add a battery capacity clause. They then addressed issues many with longer commutes had when they started offering enhanced new pack replacements at the great price of $5499 after exchange admitting this price was being offered at a loss.

All of this while looking like proactive moves on Nissan's part to help the early LEAF adopters could also be looked at as losing faith with its battery partner NEC.   Since Nissan's partner Renault has gone with LG Chem batteries, CEO Carlos Ghosn, should have some inside knowledge concerning the technology behind the two battery options. So does this mean that Nissan is dropping NEC in favor of a better battery?

Since Nissan had denied all of this, we can only speculate and I choose to speculate on the brighter possibilities (as if that was a surprise)

Besides, it would be more than a bit difficult for me to think that Nissan is just going to let both battery plants in England and the US be left idle.  I personally think that Nissan is simply making moves based on long term success and realizing that multiple battery suppliers especially ones based in different countries is simply insurance against any possible hiccup in the supply chain.  This allows them two battery suppliers and does this create confusion or better yet, a clearer path towards adding more EVs to its lineup?

Up till now, we had all assumed that the coming infiniti would have Nissan/NEC batteries in them and the optimal capacities of Nissan's 3 plants in Japan, England and the US would imply that there is capacity to let that happen. But as I predicted, LEAF sales are starting to take off and I predict monthly sales approaching 4,000 units by the end of the year.  A longer range LEAF along with the resulting downward pricing pressure on the current range LEAFs will be the factor that will finally move EVs into the mainstream.  That is just around the corner, so lining up vendors now is simply business as usual.

But all of this does not explain the big shakeup at the top. But Palmer leaving Nissan to be a CEO can easily be seen as a promotion. After all, why work under someone when you could be at the top? Aston-Martin is a much smaller company but it is also located in his hometown. Had to be a big consideration for him.

Either way, many in the online community are viewing these latest actions as a precursor to bad news. I think its Nissan reacting to escalating sales of the LEAF.  Post your thoughts below!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Fall Is Coming, Time To Adjust Your Tires!

Being a Military Brat meant living in a lot of different areas of the country which meant experiencing just about every kind of weather, so I can say with certainty that Late Summer/Early Fall is the best time to be a resident of the Great Pacific Northwest. Unlike Spring when the area passes thru the same general temperature swing, this time of year is fairly dry which means less cloud cover so warmer days and colder nights.  Cloud cover acts as a blanket to keep the nights mild and the days cool but we have had a wondrous string of near perfect sunny days.  Typical highs in the upper 70's occasionally touching 80 but no warmer.  The nights are getting colder though with a prelude to the coming change in the seasons. 

This means we need to adjust our EVs!  We all know that proper tire pressures helps us get more range. How much more? Good question but I am betting you are not willing to find during your 80 mile family outing next weekend!  Your tires maximum pressure, generally 44 PSI does allow for pressures to go higher but even going a little lower can have ramifications on range and longevity.  The general rule of thumb is that every 10º change in temperature results in a 1 PSI change in pressure.  Your tires should be set at "cold tire pressure." So "what temperature is that?" you ask. Well, it depends. Its actually means the coldest your tire is likely to see.  So its the first thing in the morning reading. Now, here that has been in the mid 40's lately. For Phoenix, probably closer to the mid 70's. So you get the picture.  

 Now some background. My tires are running 1 to 1¼ lbs higher in the front generally speaking.  Now on the front one tire is good, one should be reduced about ¼ and on the back, one should have 1½ PSI added while the other gets about 1 PSI.  But yesterday, I got up and it was about 45º and saw this. 


Sure sign Fall is almost here!  Below is the picture taken while driving between morning job and afternoon job. It was 75º.  Definitely a difference!



Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Manipulating Battery Stats

I have mentioned this several times so we are pretty familiar with my ahr rising when I cycle deeply or use a Quick Charger and we really don't know why, or at least I am clueless.  I don't have the lizard battery but I am confident I do have a battery that is better than what I had in LEAF I so I decided to see if I could manipulate my battery's numbers and then restore them to their former glory.

Part One;

Way back in the beginning, I noticed a big jump in ahr and SOH when I quick charged but it never lasted more than a few days.  This was winter so I thought, its the warmth that did it. But then Summer arrived and my pack was in the 80's all the time. Then I noticed that driving 80+ miles and recharging to full more than 3-4 days straight also increased my numbers although not quite as astronomically as the quick chargers did. And as expected when the weekend came or a few local jobs in a row happened, my battery stats dropped just like my driving need.


So to test this, first I decided to not fully charge a while by only using LEAF for shorter commute days and timed this in a week where I had 4 local jobs.  Plus it was a good time to exercise the Corolla anyway, right!

As expected, my battery stats dropped from the mid 65's to the low 63's.  For kicks, I fully charged the pack and checked my stats; 63.84 ahr, then let it sit roughly 29 hours before driving and checking stats again and it had dropped to 63.20 without moving an inch!

The 2nd part of the experiment was to just do as much fast charging to see if that would raise the numbers like it did last Winter but this proved to be a tough one and mostly due to lack of charging locations. Here in the South Sound, fast charging locations are still sparse and I was not willing to pay astronomical rates to use AV although, I was kicking around the idea of paying $20 for a monthly subscription to try it but it did not take long to realize even AV's locations were just not convenient in my day to day driving needs most of the time. I need something going North!!

Going North, the nearest DCFC is the Blink at Fife. Now that Blink as gone to a $.49/kwh rate, this is doable. Not cheap but doable and I feel obligated to use them to show support for the new pricing model although I would prefer a time based rate to maximize the time the DCFC is available for others to use. You see, the longer you stay plugged in at a DCFC, the slower it charges as the battery pack fills up. Eventually the per kwh cost will be pretty high if there is a reasonable per minute rate of say? 20 cents or so?  But anyway...

Charging using nothing but fast charging for 4 days really did not do much. My ahr did improve to the low 64's but that was as good as it got.  I was now beginning to think I had real and permanent degradation.  The accepted high water mark for ahr is 67.36, a figure i obtained several times. If my new level is 64 ahr, then degradation would be 5% at this point and not too far off what is expected in this area.  The one thing to mention during the fast charge period was the light driving need.  42, 28, 51 and 39 miles.  Each fast charge was roughly 15-23 minutes and only once did I receive over 10 kwh.

Part 3 of the experiment involves driving the 85+ miles per day.  The best I could muster was at least 76 miles a day for 3 days in a row which brought me up to 64.68 or 4% degradation in just under 13,000 miles. In some ways I wanted to go another 1-2 days but the work schedule did not work out and my mileage lease limitations has made me hesitant to drive around for the purposes of this experiment.  The other reason is these measurements are very much an approximation so only trends collected over time should be taken seriously. Since my data is collected daily, I will as always report my findings. I have little doubt that my work schedule will provide me ample opportunities to continuously test this phenomena.

**UPDATE**

Guess I needed the combination of unseasonably warm weather and longer commutes!

After seeing all time low of 62.83/96.54/20.8  on my ahr/Hx/kwh available, the weather got hot! including a day in the 90's along with drives of 94.9/87.4/96.7 and 111.3 miles I got up this morning and saw this



So the moral of the story?  YMMV!!

Don't forget to attend your local Drive Electric Event this week!  I will be in Stelicoom, WA this Saturday the 20th. Come on down!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

August 2014 Drive Report

August was a banner month for the Corolla driving 400.9 miles at an estimated cost @ 9 cents a mile (probably higher but won't know for sure until I fill up) for a total of $36.09 in gasoline.  Work reimbursement was $158.11 at 41 cents per mile which was tax free so it all comes back to me minus the gas bill of course.

The LEAF drove a bit less due to an experiment I am currently running which I will tell you about soon but basically I was trying to see what effect the battery numbers would have if I let the LEAF sit around more than it normally did.  Results to follow. But the LEAF did manage to go 1536.6 miles in August costing a total of  $28.53.  That was from $26.69 in electricity and $1.84 in public charging fees.  That puts me below 2 cents per mile which was no doubt due to 2 Hospital runs for work and taking advantage of the freebie juice available at a few of those locations.  :)

The drawback to using more gas is the slower payback from work so my reimbursement from work this month did not meet my expenses setting my ROI back  $17,  Monthly expenses (lease payment, insurance, electricity and public charging fees) were $342.28 but work reimbursement was a "paltry"  $315.10.   But I am ok with it.  I will just have to figure out how to make it up somehow.


Last paystub. I get paid every two weeks but Auto reimbursement is listed only once (notice phone reimbursement is "phone reimburse 2?"  that means its for week 2 of the 2 week pay period.  

So, despite the set back, I am still on pace for "free miles" about the first week of November.  Free miles is the point where work reimbursement will cover all my expenses for driving the LEAF in  2014 for both work and play.  Now that is a true ROI.

Once again; I LOVE MY LEAF!!!