Saturday, November 10, 2018

Is Volkswagen's Punishment For DieselGate Suddenly Become An Advantage?

Green Car Reports on VW expected pricing.
https://www.greencarreports.com/news/1119827_base-price-of-vws-electric-cars-could-be-as-low-as-21000


In 2015, The US Government brought suit against Volkswagen for intentionally defeating the required emission testing for its "clean diesel" fleet.  For years, VW had confounded the auto industry in its ability to provide a powerful, high MPG car that easily met an increasingly strict diesel emission standard set by the United States.

Faced with indisputable evidence of tampering, VW admitted it had installed special software that would greatly reduce emissions (and power) during testing. Since the car was not actually moving, the reduced power levels went unnoticed.  As soon as the testing was done, the software was disabled and the VW with its power restored was passed.  But now its emissions were as much as 300% over the limits that other manufacturers were being held to.

Over half a million vehicles were involved having been sold and driven for years in the US.  If you were ever stuck behind one of them with the vents open, your "clean diesel" thoughts were right. They were far from clean.

Eventually courts levied up to 25 Billion in fines (the figure is inexact due to cost variances in the choices offered current VW owners) which included 2 Billion to be invested in public charging infrastructure evenly divided in 4 phases covering 10 years.  Phase one concentrating on completing a major highway network with stations ideally 80ish miles apart is slated to be completed by Summer 2019.

  EA Network Phase One

As of this writing, 30 locations are now open for business; many in key areas where other charging options are minimal or non existent. But one thing has become quite clear; The network is becoming less punitive and more advantageous to VW's future EV plans with every station opening up and it seems like we are all but accepting of that fact. 

The SC Advantage

Tesla knew that their high priced cars would be much more attractive if they were able to be used well beyond their stated range. The Supercharger network exclusive to Tesla's allows exactly that to happen. Being an EV only manufacturer, it was easy for Tesla to make this mulimillion dollar decision but other EV manufacturers still rely very heavily on their carbon fueled products making an EV only investment of that magnitude that much harder to justify.  But the benefits of public charging are undeniable and most EV manufacturers have spent some money to that end. But a network that fails to cover the country end to end is exactly that; a failure.  A reason to keep gassing.

Electrify America

EA was created by VW to install and manage the network independent of VW... Well, at least that is what was stated on paper. 

VW set up a new subsidiary called Electrify America to build the network independently from the company. The chargers will not be proprietary to VW and use Combined Charging System (CCS), CHAdeMO and open protocols like Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP).

So its a win-win for all, right!!

WRONG!!

So far every station built has been using the same pattern.  They are advertised as having "at least" 4 high powered stations to be used by CCS and Chademo compatible EVs.   This implies equal access when the fact is EVERY site so far has ZERO exclusive access for Chademo compatible EVs.



Dual Format Charger; EA Site Albany OR Walmart
CCS Only Chargers; EA Site Albany OR Walmart

During my Oregon Coast trip, I took I-5 on the return so had a chance to see the Albany OR EA site at the Walmart there.  This site is advertised as having 4 CCS stations and one Chademo station implying that if you are the only Chademo compatible EV there, you are guaranteed a plug. This couldn't be farther from the truth. 

In the top picture we see that the chademo plug is actually part of a dual format machine that anyone who has used EVGO would be very familiar with. Unfortunately (despite the additional power available) only one side can be used at a time.  These stations won't even queue a 2nd car despite rumors stating they do have the capability.  

This means its possible a LEAFer or Souler could pull in with only ONE EV charging and not be able to charge if the ONE CCS compatible EV chose the dual format station.  Sounds ridiculous? It doesn't to me.  I have encountered a ton of clueless EVers out there including plug ins with only J1772 spending way more than a few minutes trying to figure out how to make the fast charger work. 

Another thing to consider is Tesla's (except the 3) can use Chademo but not CCS which means even less likely to have access to the single chademo plug. 

CCS Advantage

Ok so CCS is not a proprietary VW thing so how can they work it to their advantage?  How about pricing Chademo's out of the market.  EA announced pricing that includes a modest connect fee of a buck but an outrageous per minute fee.  Chademo is currently restricted to 50 KW (with no plans to upgrade) while CCS is slated to be at least 150 KW with 350 KW options for the upcoming 800 volt systems that will be hitting the streets next year. 

The outrageously high per minute cost will all but guarantee that older LEAFs (ramp down happens around 40%) won't be taking up any space here.  Even the 30 kwh LEAFs and Souls (full speed charging to near 80%) will be cutting their visits short. With an 80 mile distance between chargers, they will likely not visit at all. 

Finally (not really) don't be surprised when VW or Audi (VW in disguise) starts offering special sweetheart deals to EA's network. They have already delayed their big EV push so they won't be in direct competition price wise with Tesla or Chevy and their reduced fed perks.  

All in all, a great way to minimize the pain of their penalty, right?  Too bad the government did not demand cash and hand it over to EVGO or someone else to spend on the network instead. 


EA Report Card

At this point, I would struggle to give them a C.  Many feel that they are doing a great job of rolling out the network since several have opened all in the last 6 months but EA is behind on its timetable having promised to have 200 plugs by the end of Q4 2018. That does not seem very likely especially considering the very slow progress being made in California.  

Now if missing the timetable was all there was to it (Tesla's planned urban SC rollout has been MUCH worse) they would have scored better but the placement has been horrific. 

Its quite obvious that EA is scrambling to play catch up desperate for host sites.  In my area when the entire Olympic Peninsula remains uncovered, they have placed two sites literally within 2 miles of each other in Everett WA. Why? mostly because that is how Walmart is. They swoop in and dominate the retail landscape and Everett was big enough to warrant more than one Walmart but 2 miles apart??? 

But that isn't even the worst example.  North Bend Outlets has been host to EVGO for years and soon, less than 200 feet away, EA will also be there!

Access is another story.  EVGO has dual format stations and although you can't queue your EV like Blink does, at least you have a parking space while you wait. Doesn't sound like much but its INVALUABLE on a busy weekend when the station is located at a mall or something.  

But EA doesn't seem to understand that.  I am sure you noticed the EA Albany site that has 4 stations and only 4 parking spots. Design oversight? Nope. 

Hope Arkansas EA Site. No queuing here!

Now is this simply piss poor planning from EA? Or is it site host restrictions? If the locations were up front, I could see Walmart having an issue with giving up too many prime parking spaces but every site I have seen so far is located far away from the front parking spaces (A lesson EVGO needs to learn!!)  In fact; the placement of the stations is the ONLY reason why EA didn't get an F.   In all the pictures and site visits so far, the thought of stretching a cord from an adjoining parking space in the next row is not an option either. It almost seems as if to ensure cheap and easy access to feeder lines, green space was selected over blacktop.  

Now, this is only phase one of four so holding out hope that things will improve with both location, access and balance but then again, the adage; "Its so bad, we can't possibly get worse" applies quite well here. 









Friday, November 9, 2018

2018 LEAF Drive Computer

Recently involved in conversation with 2018 LEAFer who was complaining that his LEAF was no longer able to make a weekly trip comfortably as it had done so many times before in the recent past.

His issue was quite obvious in that its now November,  Winter is just around the corner, and EV ranges tend to go... well, you know.  So I started asking questions and

1) He did not have LEAF Spy but that was not a game ender.

2) He did give a bare bones description of his drive (no distance mentioned)

3) He posted a screen shot of Trip A distance (which was reset) and the Battery SOC meter.

4) After asking him to post his trip computer a few times, he finally did but also said it had not been reset for the trip.

WHAT???

I get that he was probably new but at the same time, he was completely unprepared to make a trip that taxes the range of the LEAF.  Having LEAF Spy makes it all much easier but if you don't have it,  don't fret. You still have the car and despite its  instrument's huge drawbacks, you can still find out just about all you need to know anyway.

Details are still sketchy despite an extensive back and forth conversation on Facebook, but it would appear that he arrived at his destination with 1% then QC'd to 90% and then posted his dilemma online.  As a new EVer, he was simply unaware of how the changing seasons affected his range. But even seasoned EVers get caught short when underestimating the range loss caused by the weather that day.  Wind, water on the road, temperatures, climate control needs, etc. They all make a difference.

Normally, this is where I say "Get LEAF Spy!"  but if you don't have it or you ordered the parts and chose the free Amazon shipping option and their "5 to 8 day" window balloons to 3 weeks,  here is what you can do in the meantime.


Drive Computer



This is my Drive Computer screen available on the 2018 LEAF. When cruising around, this screen occupies the dash 95% of the time.  This displays the 4 parameters shown above and each parameter can be reset individually thru the menu but in my case, I simply press and hold the OK button (center button on 4 way nav panel, left side steering wheel) a few seconds to reset the entire computer.

All this is part of my logging process that has existed with minor changes since getting my 2004 Prius June 30, 2004.  I logged daily driving stats along with fuel/maintenance costs to determine my overall TCO.  I reset Trip A daily, Trip B on the first of every month.

Doing this daily made it easy for me to customize my LEAF Spy settings. I use 5 basic settings for estimated ranges. One for Summer (4.7 miles per kwh) and 4 for Winter.  This gives me an estimated range based on my selected miles/kwh setting.  As I drive, I monitor the Drive Computer to see how well my prediction is working out. Sometimes I have to adjust my driving and speed to make my goal but that also means that sometimes I have extra which means 70 mph instead of 60... :)

2018 LEAF Sheet One

Here is page one of my 2018 LEAF. I have other pages in the same file for maintenance,  monthly summaries, graphed battery trends, etc.  

Now a lot of you probably think I am crazy but to me its a hobby, one that involves not much of my time. In my case, LEAF Spy data plays a huge part in helping me evaluate and understand what my LEAF can do but using the Drive Computer can go a long way towards helping others do the same. 

Lets go back to the person I was talking about earlier.  Its my guess, he did not stop to charge until he got to his destination. He may not have had any other viable choice but if he had options, he could have noticed his miles per kwh was significantly lower than normal and realized that he would be short.  So instead of charging from very low to nearly full (which will generate a TON of heat and time) he could have made a much shorter stop enroute for a quick 20-30 min bump. Realize that the LEAF will charge at full speed up to 60% SOC with "not hot" batteries.   After that it slows and that slowing is dramatic with SOC exceeds 80%.  This would have allowed him to get to his destination, visit (while his pack cools off a bit) then start back home with maybe enough to stop at the same station for a charge but this time being closer to home with a higher remaining SOC.  Overall, his charge time would probably have been a bit shorter but his level of anxiety definitely would have been much lower. 

Even if there are no convenient fast chargers on his route, he could have noticed his less than expected performance and made small adjustments to his driving. Most are shocked at how much extra range they add by reducing their speed as little as 5 kph.  The sooner he realizes this, the greater the additional range. 

To summarize;  GET LEAF SPY!!! but if your Amazon delivery date is 3 weeks away, that Drive Computer can go a long way towards understanding how well your LEAF is coping with the change in weather.  Take my advice; reset it EVERY day and especially before any long trips you make on a regular basis.  This will also give you a handle on your eventual degradation when you compare your miles/kwh against the remaining SOC.  So, no the LEAF instrumentation is not very helpful, but it is consistent and understanding the changes of the numbers provided over time will help you. 



Thursday, November 8, 2018

October 2018 Drive Report; The Holiday Season Begins!

The Stats

As expected, my driving slows down a lot in Winter. Simply more into comfort food and Netflix I guess so only drove 935 miles. Since my needs were low, public charging becomes more of an inconvenience for the most part. I actually only charged due to need once, the rest simply because its free!

Because I only got 85.66 free kwh, my cost per mile "ballooned" to 1.38 cents (LT average is .63 cents BTW)  Had I not used any freebie juice, I would have still remained tier one with cost of 2.13 cents per mile which is actually lowest rate yet in my 2018 (average 2.2-2.3 cents per mile) probably from the lack of 70 mph highway jogs...

The Battery

If you have not already heard, I had some HUGE hits to battery health all surrounding the two full charge events I had last month.  I lost 1.17% in health.  I went from an estimated 85% health @ 100,000 miles to less than 70% health (if using extrapolation from Day One)

Note; Keep in mind that battery stats are logged the day recorded but mileage is actually from the day before.  This simplifies the process for me as I can simply "write down everything I see"... Yeah, being lazy.   This is also the reason why you see a lot of entries where a lot of miles are driven the day after a full charge or an active public charging day.

Notice the same GIDs and kwh available on both charges? 

But since that fateful first week of October, I have only lost .04%...or practically nothing. My Hx has also ballooned to 116.46% as well. Still kinda wondering what its measuring??

As mentioned above, I am relying a lot more on home charging but have been keeping my SOC between 20-50% for the most part. I plug in for 90 mins every morning before taking off for work saving QCs for my days off primarily.  This when my Hx started its rise.



 So what does this all mean? Well, its well established that 90% SOC is better than 100% and 70% is better than 80% for reducing the rate of degradation and this goes for ALL Lithium batteries.  So does the above mean that the 2018 is super susceptible to degradation at high SOC even in cool temps (both days, temps were in mid 50's to low 60's)

Probably not. As we all know, Nissan has had missteps with their BMS and LBC. I think what I saw was a pack recalibration by the BMS due to the very long period of time between full charges.  Remember the September and August drive reports? You know, the ones where I was bragging about how well my pack stood up? Well, I am thinking I saw 2 months of adjustment in 2 days is what happened.   Again, this means an SOH somewhere around 70% or less @ 100,000 miles.  Its more than enough range but to have it be that close to warranty exchange and not getting it would be very disappointing. 

As always, the real takeaway here is its simply way too early to make any definitive statements as I have yet to notice any actual loss of range but as you can see, I have not been challenging the range lately either. I did do 117 miles the other day quite comfortably...

Incentives

WA State realized the impact of being oil dependent decades ago so instituted a series of perks designed to reduce our fossil fuel addictions.  Most of us are only aware of the sales tax waiver for fully electric vehicles but that has not always been true. WA's awareness started with hybrids and the emergence of the Prius.  I purchased a 2010 Prius on May 19, 2009 that was also sales tax free.   FYI; No, Priuses were not going that cheaply especially the IVs. I received a special discount from Toyota (along with special early delivery.  The salesmen were much more interested in the car than I was! Remember the 2010 was the first major face lift after the Iconic version.)

2010 Prius purchase contract May 19, 2009

Our legislators essentially passed a bill to extend EV sales tax credits but it failed to pass simply because they ran out of time. It was a short session by design and there simply wasn't enough momentum to push the bill higher up the agenda.  I can only hope that it will give time for the legislators to reexamine the bill and modify it to be more conducive to lower income households. As the bill stood, there were a lot of well to do households taking advantage simply because they could. 

But now the state is investigating ways to increase revenue and one of the worst is RUC (Road Usage Charge). They came up with a cockananny formula of using the statewide fleet average of 20 MPG (thank you trucks and SUVs!) and the current gas tax to come up with a usage fee of 2.4 cents per mile.  

IOW; someone somehow thought it was OK to penalize all the EVers and Hybriders who did what the State asked them to do and pay an equivalent of 100 to 200% higher tax to drive!  That is only half the problem since a usage tax does not take into consideration consumption which means there is no longer a disincentive to keep gas guzzlers of the road!

This is basically a "bait and switch" by the state.  We were "lured" into getting a highly efficient vehicle to help save the environment and reduce the hemorrhaging of cash taken by oil companies out of state and this is how we are treated?? 

I signed up and was accepted into the RUC trial program being run by the state. If you think that $150 EV tab fee is expensive, how about a bill equaling that EVERY 3 MONTHS?? 

 Quarterly Billing under proposed RUC program. 

Here is a sample bill for 3 months driving only 4513 miles. Notice the chart? The average WA driver drives much farther than that and that is going up. Why you say?  The rising (its actually going down right now but its not like Seattle is suddenly affordable) cost of real estate has forced us to move farther and farther from work. Commutes are getting longer and more painful and there is no end in sight. 

Know of anyone who would be hurt under this bill?  Definitely makes becoming a Uberite a much tougher decision doesn't it?  I personally don't understand the draw, but it seems like I know dozens of people doing Uber for extra money....    

As always comment below.  My next blog concerns Electrify America or EA, the company put together to handle the public charging system the Feds mandated as part of VW's "dieselgate" scandal.  Sounded great, but VW is turning this "penalty" into an unfair advantage for its electric vehicles that will be on the road just about the same time Phase one of the penalty is completed, so stay tuned. 



Thursday, October 11, 2018

Fenix Power Soon to Offer LEAF Battery Leases!



The dilemma; The range started as "acceptable" but is now fading. There never was any extra so each mile lost is an ever greater degree of compromise.  But now Winter is approaching and the situation is now dire so what are your options?

Hybrid Industries

There has always been a few. Well, maybe...  Hybrid Industries offers a 24 kwh "add on" pack.  The theory is that it mounts in hatch area and connects directly to existing pack essentially doubling the capacity. It will share the charger, BMS, etc as the LEAF pack.  The cost; $4500.

Problem; I say "theory" because these guys have been around for a while and I have yet to hear of ONE person doing this and I have a LOT of ears in the EV public space.  Another issue is the added weight and the loss of the "not so ample" storage space.  If I wanted more range in a smaller space, it would be cheaper to just get a Bolt.

Nissan

The other more "official" option is simply get a new pack from Nissan. Here you have a full warranty, Nissan backing, unquestioned compatibility and (sadly) dealer pricing to match.  Recently Nissan announced that pack replacement prices would now be about $8500 which is actually $7000 for the pack plus labor.   Reports coming in are still seeing better pricing in some areas over others with some dealers simply refusing to do it. In all cases however, the cost is significantly more than the previous $5500 price tag. (which in this day and age is overpriced) What wasn't missed is the big jump in labor costs. Looks like Nissan figured out how to scratch the back of its dealers.

Problem; cost aside, doing this requires interacting with dealerships and few are "happy" to provide this option to customers. They make money by selling new cars, not extending the life of old cars so their willingness to "go the extra inch" is demonstrably lacking.

Nissan also made its motives transparent when they kicked up the capacity to 40 kwh AND kept pricing the same or even lower in some cases.  But realize that many 2011/2012 owners are still making payments or very recently finished payments so the thought of getting into another car payment was not an attractive one causing many to lose interest and revert back to the dark (and stinky) side.

Nissan is also providing another option in Japan where they are selling refurbished packs but details are lacking.  No actual information on what level of power these packs will have or what warranty would come with them. Pricing "seems" to be decent but again, that option currently does not exist here and there is only "general" speculation of when (if ever) it will be an option in North America.

Fenix Power

But news of the price jump did not go unnoticed.  Fenix Power is in the process of finalizing its product for EV conversions and as luck would have it, one of the main movers in this new startup is a Seattle area LEAFer very familiar with the 24 kwh issues.

Initially, Fenix Power wanted to wait until they were closer to having a shelf ready product but felt it was necessary to let people know what they were planning so they have started taking deposits now for a product that will be available by Fall 2019.  Initially they will provide a full range of options

1) Purchase; The pricing here won't be much of a savings according to John of Fenix Power but is offered in recognition of the fact that is simply how some people roll.  Along with a purchase would be an option to get discounted pack monitoring.   There will be finance options provided as well at a very reasonable monthly rate.

2) Leasing; Leasing will have an installation fee (estimated to be $1500) with monthly monitoring targeted at $99 a month.  Your current LEAF pack will be exchanged as well. Customers do have the option to keep their old LEAF pack for a fee.  Should you decide to turn in your pack, Fenix Power will evaluate the pack and if you decide to end the lease, it will be returned. (with equal or better capacity of course)

The Technology

Fenix Power claims their monitoring process combined with new technology will guarantee full or near full range for the entire leasing period with no time or mileage limitations. The pack will consist of Lithium polymer cells similar to Tesla tech so promises to be very robust.

Their main product push will be a battery pack leasing program but with a twist.  Each pack and module will be able to communicate its status back to Fenix Power when any issues might arise. This will allow Fenix Power to reset the module or schedule a replacement of the module with a local (to the customer) contractor to maintain capacity and range.  If needed, a module can isolate the bad cell while still maintaining the correct voltage.

I was able to talk with John about Fenix Power's vision and a lot of it is currently NDA as one would expect.  It is a very different approach from other battery leasing programs offered by Nissan and its partners in that the capacity is maintained. Now I know the first statement is "how can that be done?" since a well balanced pack will degrade evenly requiring all the cells to be replaced to regain any lost capacity and yeah, that is true in the current LEAF (and other EV) packs but Fenix Power will employ a pack with a module design where each individual module can self regulate to ensure it provides the proper level of support to overall pack demands.

Disadvantages

I will start with the bad since it is a much shorter list.  The logic of leasing needs to have the realization that you will want to stay with your car for an extended period of time and be happy with the range it has.  Like all leases, there is a startup cost and a termination cost.  Without any time limits we need to understand that monthly rates can and will rise. This is the normal way of things. Normal leases guarantees you a monthly rate for the 2 or 3 years of the lease, a luxury that is not present here.  As time goes on, maybe a renewable lease term will be instituted that at least has price stability for 1 or more years.

This also means that if you got your LEAF simply because it was one of the first EVs (first affordable) and want more range, than this is not the solution...yet.


Advantages

First off; People who bought 24 kwh LEAFs did so because the advertised ranges were what they felt would be acceptable. Yes, many bought under the misguided thought they would get 100 miles of range and that did not happen but those were generally the very early adopters. We made sure it was well known (as much as we could) that 100 miles was simply not something to bank on. 

But the rate of degradation is something no one was prepared for. We all knew batteries don't last forever since we all have cellphones but we simply did not connect the two. We also thought public charging buildout would be MUCH better than it turned out to be. IOW, our plan to mitigate our shrinking range was derailed from several fronts.  Fenix Power solves this issue and its cost is MUCH cheaper than

1) Reverting back to gas

2) Buying a new EV (with a pack that will still degrade)

3) Replacing the pack which will also degrade within a year or two.

Synergy

Fenix Power's goals are ambitious. VERY ambitious and if they can pull this off, they will at the forefront of a revolution in the EV movement. From Day One, the big knock on EVs is the lack of aftermarket revenue.  The success of their self regulated module will open up HUGE new markets for EVers allowing a flexibility we haven't even dreamed of.   Its not surprising that I actually wrote a very idyllic blog about a very similar scenario years ago. (Have fun looking!)

For more information, visit their website;  https://fenix.systems/leafbattery 

Make sure you click on the FAQ link. This will provide a lot more insight to the company's long term goals. If you are seriously thinking about doing this, right now Fenix Power is taking modest deposits that would cover initial installation costs. 

As always add your question below!


Thursday, October 4, 2018

Sept 2018 Drive Report; Dreams Of A New Warranty Pack Fading Fast!

Fall has arrived which means PUMP UP YOUR TIRE PRESSURES! Remember, they should be set during  the coldest part of the day.  First thing in the morning is best and if you haven't figured it out yet, the TPMS readings on the 2018 LEAF are very accurate.  Realize that as the day warms and you drive, etc. tire pressures will rise and that is OK.  Thinking its OK cause you hit your tire pressure goal after a 75 mile sprint in full Sun IS NOT OK!!

Fall also means cooler weather and a close to the "public charging season" at least for me.  TBH, I kinda like public charging! but only when the weather is good.  I "need" to get out and move around so taking a walk while charging is something I look forward to. Now, I don't lose much weight since its usually a walk to get food but at least the blood is circulating, right! 

All this means my "recent" charging pattern has changed a bit.  Now, I am averaging  2QCs and 2-3 L2 charging sessions a week.  Most of my L2 sessions are still short ones generally done first thing in the morning when I get up on days I work.  My commute is short enough that the 90 mins of charging I get in is enough. The best part is I was able to maintain a reasonable charge level even with heat, Defrost and everything else going since the weather has changed dramatically the past week.

And so far, my LEAF is loving it.  My pack lost .13% SOH in September over 933 miles.  At that rate I will be right at 85% SOC.  Sadly this means no new warranty pack in my future. But September was an easy month all the way around. Only hit 100º battery temps a few times.  Didn't drive to the Gorge as planned as I ended up doing the Triple Whammy.  Drove a SUV which was a diesel which was a Chevy instead. It was painful!

For the month, LEAF went 933.0 miles costing $3.39 in electricity and public charging fees which equates to very little per mile.  Had I charged at home, my cost would have been $18.36 or 1.97 cents per mile.  This figure is low due to still Summer rates and might have to be adjusted. I am still paying 8.5 cents per kwh.  Next month, the cost will be higher since my power usage will be higher. I only missed hitting a theoretically tier 2 rates by 9 kwh!  Won't be so lucky next month.  Oh course my savings was made possible by NCTC allowing me to get 176.24 kwh free!

The Battery
Ok, so lets talk about why everyone is here.  Its all about whether the 40 kwh pack is going to be like the 24 kwh Lizard pack or the pre SW update 30 kwh pack, right? Well above I mentioned that last month, I lost very little as far as capacity and alluded to the fact it might be due to cooler temps but in reality, this is the 2nd month in a row.

In September, I lost .15 ahr and .13 SOH over 933 miles or roughly 14% over 100,000 miles.  But I still have those two days where I saw big drops totaling nearly 2%.  But if we lump September and "not so cold" August together, we have  2413.9 miles and a loss of .4 ahr and .37% SOH which extrapolates to 15% over 100,000 miles.   This very well means I stand a very good chance of rolling 100,000 miles with 12 bars still intact. That is going to be a tough sell for a new pack.

At this point, I am glad I have 3 years and 45,000 miles to evaluate the pack. So far so good.

Fenix Power
By now many of you have heard that a new company will be introducing a LEAF battery leasing program. Details are light so I reached out to John who is one the main components of the company for details. Blog to follow as soon as we sort out the NDAs, etc. so if you have any specific questions, now is the time to ask.  Hope to have the blog out in a few days so don't delay!

https://fenix.systems/leafbattery





Sunday, September 2, 2018

August 2018 Drive Report; What A Long Hot Trip It's Been!

Another month down and no real surprises. My battery stats are continuing their rather predictable trend. The LEAF is still rock solid reliable and yeah, in a fit of impatience, I spun the tires twice in the past 30 days for the first time in my 2018.  I quickly found out, its quite an easy thing to do!

For the month, I traveled 1480.3 miles at a personal cost of $4.45 supported with 296.145 kwh from NCTC.  Without that benefit, my cost would have ballooned to $31.91 pushing the last few kwh into tier 2 rates or about 2.1 cents per mile.  This is an increase in efficiency probably brought on by a few trips where I challenged the range of the LEAF which meant driving conservatively AKA "24 kwh LEAF mode."

This month, my rates were a bit cheaper at 8.5 cents per kwh over the more normal 8.9 cents per kwh.  This will change soon as we get into the more expensive Winter rates but should go no higher than 9.3 or so.

As always, I minimized full charges only doing two for the month adding only 3 L2 sessions.  Charge count is currently 94 L2's and 121 L3 sessions.   Ahr is 110.97, SOH; 96.13 and Hx is 114.59 with total miles at 10,703. This a loss of 4.08 ahr,  3.53% SOH. Extrapolated to 100,000 miles I am on pace to be down about 33% (the difference between loss of ahr and SOH is less than .03%) which means I would just miss a warranty claim.

Now as the pack degrades, its rate of degradation should increase if all else remains equal. This makes sense as degraded pack means more cycling to travel the same distances. I am on a lease which means in 2½ years, I need to make the decision to buy it or give it back.  I did lease the car with the intent of buying it "if" everything worked out. Based on my experience with my 2016 S30, I was expecting a degradation rate that would be no more than 10% over 100,000 miles.  My 2016 had degradation of 1-3% over nearly 30,000 miles.  Granted its a guess since the 30 kwh LEAF battery stats bounced all over the place so nailing down specifics was impossible.  Only looking at long term trends was I able to get any kind of picture and normally, I would have gone with the low water mark recorded but a week to the day of my accident,  I did drive over 116 miles on a charge in January which pretty much told me that my LEAF hadn't lost much.

The other thing to consider is that I blog about the LEAF in order to show people how cheap a LEAF  "can" be.  So yeah that means using what resources I have and that means taking as much advantage of the free charging period as I can. I can say with HIGH certainty that when my free 2 year NCTC ends, my public charging rates will drop.  They will drop simply because charging at home will become the cheapest option.  How this affects my rate of degradation? I guess I will find out.

Greenlots Announces DCFC Rates for Central WA

Starting Sept 1st, the new Greenlots stations (partially paid for with $50 of our EV tab fees) in Central WA will begin billing at the rate of 35 cents per minute for DCFCs and $1.50 an hour for AC.  TBH, when I first read the email received, I thought it was 35 cents per kwh which is ok pricing considering the Central WA stations in question enjoy power at half the cost we Puget Sounders pay. But it was not to be.  This equates to $21 an hour but because its a per minute cost, the speed of charging is also a major concern.

Using a recent example (from last night) I received 21.4 kwh in a 30 min charging session. This is near the best I can do in my LEAF. The charger only ran at 118 amps which is a bit lower than some but close enough for this comparison.   This pencils out to 49 cents per kwh which matches what Blink charges.   But that is a best case scenario which would get me no more than 60% SOC.

A warm pack would yield even worse results.  Charging at the "common" rate of 30 KW would yield 70 cents per kwh. For anyone wanting or needing a charge over 60% SOC in a 2018 LEAF, the costs become astronomical.

Webasto the new owner of the AV stations is still maintaining the $20 per month unlimited charging plan and does cover a bit of Central WA (mostly along Highway 2 and a bit of I-90) but is lacking presence in the Southern part of the region.  Also as new owners, I am not sure I would want to count on the $20 plan remaining especially if the greatly needed expansion hopes come to fruition.

EVGO is expanding and offers a decent plan which is also per minute based but at a much lower cost.  Their best deal would even be good for a moderate user. Its 9.99 a month with a per minute rate of 18 cents per minute so half the cost of Central WA.  The best part is the $9.99 month subscription cost covers the first $9.99 of per minute billing. So basically charge twice for 30 minutes and you have covered your minimum monthly cost.   Even at 30 KW, EVGO runs to 36 cents per kwh, a VERY good deal!

Because of all this, I see the brand new stations in Central WA getting minimal use and that would be a shame. Greenlots; Maybe you should consider a subscription plan to at least give locals a reasonable option for use?


Electrify America

EA is expanding rapidly now mostly because they have to. The settlement requires them to complete phase 1 of 5 by July 2019 so they have 10 months left.  New ground broken in Albany, OR and Vancouver, WA plus new announcements for TWO in Everett, WA (a place that is pretty thin for QC options)  but strangely just down the street from each other??  Oh well, better than nothing.  The two Everett stations along with both Albany and Vancouver will continue the trend with a Walmart Supercenter host.  Pricing is currently 30 cents a minute so not cheap but still cheaper than Central WA  and they do promise higher charging speeds sometime in the distant future.



Saturday, September 1, 2018

Camping In A LEAF

The current topic has been camping in the LEAF and since this is something that I have done, I thought I would share my experience.  This was a bit thrown together so don't have the picture coverage I normally have for these types of things so if there is a specific item or question you have after reading this, comment!

Well, calling it camping is stretching the term a bit but recently I had a chance to test the theory of whether sleeping in the LEAF is a doable thing. I mean real sleep. I have dozed at charging stations several times in the front seat and it was almost always VERY refreshing but what about those times when a good 3-4 hours is what you are looking for and you want to wake up without a sore neck or back?

 IOW, the challenge of getting a mattress in the back was the first thing to deal with.  Now as we know, the 2018 LEAF back seats do not fold flat or even anything close actually.  The well created by folding the back seats forward was 30" x 36" by 12". So first order of business is making this area the same level as the the back seats when folded.

I have a bunch of metal boxes that were used to store magnetic data tape from the 80's and 90's.  I used two of them which was handy as I used both to store stuff.  But the real discovery came when I realized the height needed was a near perfect match to my laptop stand I had. Now the stand worked great on the coach but when I got my chair years ago, the stand was too cumbersome so it has literally sat in the corner of my living room the past 5 years doing nothing.

So I folded the seats down and found the length was a bit too short so had to remove the head rests and fold the front seats back. It was a perfect matchup. 


This also required sliding the front seats as far forward as they would go. The picture does not show it but its actually quite flat and more importantly, sturdy.   Notice the cubby holes created between the seats on the floor. I found that they were the perfect storage places for things that we might need in the middle of the night that would have been stored in the well "under" the mattress...

Now my mattress comes with a 12 volt air pump which I don't use. The first time putting a double mattress measuring 54" by 75" in thru a "single mattress" hatch opening makes the issue of partial inflation quite intuitive. 

So I inflated the mattress to about 50% or so or just enough to take shape using the manual pump that came with my canoe which I prefer anyway.  Its also much faster.

After I got the mattress in the back, I finished the inflation only going to around 80-90%. This allowed the mattress to settle into the space which in reality is not nearly as big as the car so I inflated it until it was a snug fit in the car and the there was no possibility of "bottoming out" by any one person.

For one person, it would be a dream but even with the 2 of us, (My Son is only 11 so maybe  1½?) we were still very comfortable.

Before completing final inflation

All in all, it was a very comfortable setup. There is minimal headroom so no option to sit up but a few extra pillows allowed me to prop myself up enough that I could have watched a video or something.  Now that Summer is nearly over, I am guessing the super smoky days are mostly behind us.  It was this reason why I decided to head out to the sound to find a place to sleep that I was hoping had slightly better air to breathe. 

After a night parked near the  boat launch at Arcadia Point, the realization that shades to cover the windows would be a great idea as the Sun is still a VERY early riser!


Pros

I actually went and re did all this at home to time how long it would take from parking to bed and was able to replicate the setup in under 10 minutes quite easily.  Key points are determining ahead of time anything you might need in the middle of the night. There is ample room in the front seats to put something that will be accessible without opening the doors.  

I also packed what I would normally take for a 3 day trip with my Son and for this, you want to balance small with convenience. I used 2 backpacks and 2 gym bags along with 2 coolers, a small 6 pack cooler and a 24 Qt Coleman cooler.   What wasn't packed was the 2 blankets (My Son is not a good sharer...) 3 pillows.   The metal cases held basics like TP, extra towels, utensils, most of the food, etc. 


Cons

Because of the length of the bed, folding the front seats "back" was required to make it fit. I tried folding them forward but that only made the bed to uneven at the top and sleeping comfortably like that just wasn't going to happen.  So driving in this setup is out of the question. Granted it would be illegal to move without everyone being belted but sometimes, repositioning is needed. 

**Make sure you know where the Sun will rise.  I would have been ok had I parked in a different spot where the trees would have blocked the Sun. 

The other thing was storage. Next time I will be prepared with one of those collapsible bins that will hold everything I might need in the middle of the night. This will be easier than reaching blindly to grab a bag to open only to find out its the wrong one "or" I could try using different color bags...

The large Coleman Cooler was also a bit too much. Its great for keeping things cold but due to the fact it has 3" thick walls.  But the cooler would only fit on the front passenger seat. I will look at ones that will fit in the cubby hole between the seats as a better solution.  There is actually a decently large space there.  Below I put the 6 pack cooler there as a reference. When camping I was easily able to put both backpacks on one side. 


Another thing that I hesitate to label as a "con" is that all the headrests have to be removed. Now, the backseat headrests are off nearly all the time since my Son is generally the only backseat passenger I have at least until he gains a "few" more lbs and can legally ride in front.  But they do only take a second to remove.


Saturday, August 18, 2018

Is Costco Missing Out?

Electrify America added several more stations to the queue for phase one of the 5 phase project as part of the Dieselgate settlement against Volkswagen.   This includes 3 in the State of Washington and all are located at Walmart Supercenters

Not only is Walmart playing the very willing host to EA, but also EVGO and The WCEH have also charging stations located at Walmart Supercenters as well.

In Oregon, Fred Meyer leads the way as host to Oregon's extended WCEH.  Besides Walmart, EVGO has partnered with Simon, a company that manages shopping malls around the country for installation of charging stations as well.

Going to EA's  website,  we see an overview of the planned network that will be phase one.  Listed there are the 9 sites that are up and running along with 55 sites that are beyond the siting process and have likely broken ground or at the very least, has a concrete agreement with the host for the station installs.  Its been my experience that construction has started well before the sites make it to the "Coming Soon" list.

Of the 64 sites listed;

Walmart Supercenters; 35

Shopping Malls; 9

Outposts; 9. These are random locations, mostly gas stations, fast food row, a truck stop, a few hotels, etc. I call them outposts because they are essentially oases for  travelers out in the middle of nowhere.

Gas Stations; 4

Not mentioned in the list above are random shopping centers with generally one major host in a strip mall type of setup.  Mostly grocery stores like Food Lion, Safeway, Ralph's and Albertsons.

So looks like everyone is getting into the game but.... Where is Costco?

Costco was one of the first to offer plug's for EV's dating back to the early part of this century.  The Tumwater Costco had nothing but a sign and a 120 volt outlet but in my ZENN, that is all I needed! But the great gesture was not well thought out. The outlet was attached to the building which meant it was prime spot for ICEing.  Nearly every time I went there, I had to wait for someone to move before I could park and charge.   A few times when a time crunch was involved, I would park in the walkway (Easy to do with my super small ZENN) and plug in anyway. I had a 25 ft charging cord with 50 ft extension if needed so only had to be "in the neighborhood." although I never failed to get the charge I needed (in the ZENN, not charging meant a lot of pushing) it was obvious the location was not a place I could rely on.

So now the question becomes is Costco giving away an advantage? Today,  brick and mortar stores are mostly fighting a losing battle against the likes of Amazon and Groupon for survival.  Every day, more and more fail.  The stores that are surviving now are doing so from pinpoint inventory control to reduce costs (Walmart, Target) or from over the top loyalty like Costco

Of the 3, Costco is doing the best.  Walmart is not. Walmart (and Target) recently copied a page from the  Amazon playbook  by starting their own delivery service but with more of a "drive thru" twist where you can go to a store (there are millions of them out there) and a Walmart Associate will bring your order out to the car. 

Now, don't get me wrong, none of the 3 are in trouble. In fact, far from it. Unlike other retailers, they have survived and prospered by tightly controlling costs but are now realizing that any advantage over the other 2, no matter how small, can make the difference in their cut throat world. While Target and Walmart are in a virtual lockstep with each other,  Costco is in a unique space increasing memberships despite an increase in the annual fee  that is sure to go up again within the next two years. If you recall; Walmart's answer to Costco; Sam's Club has not come close to seeing the success of the paid membership model. Maybe its because I live in Costco's backyard but most of the Sam's Clubs here are no more.

So the question becomes? Is Costco giving away a competitive advantage by allowing Walmart and others to swoop up the charging stations?  Right now, a mere raising of the hand ensures stations in the lot at a minimal cost to the host due to VW's miscues.

Maybe Costco feels they can overcome the advantage Walmart or Target hosting stations?  Despite near identical numbers between Costco and Target, Costco is in a MUCH better position

2017 Forbes Report

At first glance, it would seem both are in a near dead heat but pay attention to the two bottom categories.  Target has 12½ Billion in debt while Costco actually has a half Billion in cash on hand.  Now we could get into why Costco is doing so well and for me the reasons are obvious. I am pro labor and Costco is one the leaders in employee pay and benefits in the retail sector. They also have one of the lowest CEO to employee pay ratios. Both I support vehemently. 

So does that mean I avoid the other 2? Well, no, not really. Walmart is open 24/7 here and has literally everything. So yeah, I go there once in a while simply because there are very few viable 5 AM options out there.   Costco also has a rather limited selection but generally high quality. Unlike the other 2, they have no clearance or dollar bins although the do have random price cuts which can make for a pretty decent deal. I do tend to "experiment" a bit when something I have never tried before has a price reduction. 

Maybe, part of the Costco allure is the much easier job of spotting bargains.  Both Target and Walmart literally wallpaper the store with sales ads, price cuts, etc. The reality is there is so much to look at, its quite easy to ignore ALL of it.  The pessimistic me generally writes these off as the "embellished" regular sale price. 

Another question is with so many hosts willing to put charging stations on their site, is it really necessary to have Costco in the mix as well? Well, that is one of the easiest answers ever!

Of course Costco is needed! Whether it happens in a few decades or a few years, there will come a time when fast chargers are every 2-3 blocks.  That day is inevitable. I am hoping for the latter but am expecting something in the middle of two time frames above. 

The other thing is being barely 60 miles from Costco's World Headquarters means that only California has more than the 31 Costco locations located here.  (count as of Sept 3, 2017)

Now the reason Walmart is anxious to host charging stations should be quite obvious.  Their drive thru pickup service is effortless, easy and at no extra charge. The reason Walmart has survived has been pinpoint inventory control which can and does frequently backfire. IOW, they have a huge selection but frequently may have only half the sizes available. It doesn't take many of these experiences to turn customers off. 

Recently I tested this Walmart service and I will say it did work exactly as they described.  I first went to the store in Lacey to verify they did not have said product on shelf, then ordered it thru their online service and selected store pickup.  Less than 10 mins later, I received an email specifying a day (5 day wait) to pick up said item.  I was simply to advise them when I arrived at the store which of the designated spaces I would be in.  I did so and less than 5 mins later, an associate delivered my order. VERY convenient.   

Now, Walmart is ONLY providing this service in an attempt to cut into Amazon's business of super convenience.  Now its not home delivery, but its completely free without any minimum purchase requirement and is essentially just as easy as stopping at the drive thru at McDonalds. 

This is completely against their business model of generating foot traffic thru the store. I never left my car. I was parked on the side of the building so somewhat away from the mass hysteria of the front of the store. From entry into the parking lot to exiting was barely 10 minutes.  By doing this, Walmart is killing one its largest profit models AKA impulse buying. 

This makes Walmart's willingness to host charging stations (and sequester potential customers for 20-45 minutes) quite transparent.   I love Costco but can they really afford to ignore one of the fastest growing segments of the population AKA the EV driving public?

Within my own reality (which is very active BTW) I see Costco hosting queueable stations where membership does have privileges with rates based on membership level and perhaps the amount spent at Costco the previous month or quarter... Yeah, NOW WE ARE TALKING!!





Thursday, August 16, 2018

2018 LEAF 6 Month Review

Happy Anniversary!  Today marks 6 months of 2018 LEAFness and it has been wonderful ride!

Now, don't get me wrong, like ALL cars, there are compromises and the 2018 version did come with more than a few surprises. But first, the basics.

The Numbers;

Miles driven; 10,315.4

Projected Cost; $230.72  or 2.23 cents per mile

Real Cost;  $67.86 or  .7 cents per mile

Public Charging;  1817.78 kwh

Public Charging Fees;  $7.92

93 Level 2,  116 Level 3 charges.

Ok, so saying that driving an EV "can be" economical goes without saying.  Now you can argue that in areas with high utility rates, I couldn't do this but you might want to notice that despite living in one of the lowest utility rate areas (WA is the lowest by mostly because we have areas of the state that bill LESS THAN 3 cents per kwh. My rates are in the "lower" range) I don't charge that much at home.  This is made possible by a job change (Even when I was driving 30,000 miles a year, I was charging publicly ¾ of the time anyway due to the shorter range of my 30 kwh LEAF) and a commute that is so short, I can do a weeks worth on 70%!  Over 70% of my home electrons happened in the early days before the job change.

So yeah, I an taking advantage...or am I?  NCTC is simply part of driving a LEAF. Its two years that is baked into what I paid for the car.  Not using it is like.... like paying for an extended service agreement; A TOTAL waste of money!  Now I will admit that the recent past has mostly been exploring new stations or verifying new compatibility with old stations.  EVGO has a decent and growing presence in the region but I have not visited them in over 3 weeks. I should "share the load" since they do now have new stations at the Tacoma Dome/ LeMay Car Museum.   

The Battery;

Day One;  ahr; 115.05, SOH; 99.66, Hx; 99.86,  491 GID   38.1 kwh available.

6 Months; Ahr; 111.05, SOH; 96.20, Hx; 114.29 (8/9/18) 483 GID   37.4 kwh available.

Unlike previous LEAF versions, all the stats except Hx continuously dropped (or stayed the same) without a single uptick event. Not one.   My LEAF's brief life has actually gone thru several changes in driving patterns.  The first two months before the job change was driving 60-200 miles a day for work. Fully charging every night at home, then grabbing a QC or two on the road.

I then changed jobs and before the weather changed, I would charge to 50% more or less and sometimes grabbed a 80 minute boost in the morning before leaving for work with maybe a QC once a week.  I also did several roadtrips where 3 to 7 QCs per day was done.  Thru all of that the numbers continued their slow decline.

But the decline is slow. Usually the drop is .01 to .03 with many days staying the same BUT there were two major exceptions when I lost a LOT all at once.  The first event happened April 12, at 4499.5 miles when my ahr went from 114.31 to 113.55 and SOH went from 99.02 to 98.36.  Now if we look at the degradation rate before that one day drop, we are looking at roughly being at 85% SOC after 100,000 miles. I was VERY pleased at that.  Now, I am not really that upset over the drop since its still rather small but I am somewhat confused as to why it happened? Examining the period of time surrounding the event (which was easy back then when it was fresh in my mind) revealed nothing unusual or out of the ordinary.

The 2nd time it happened, the drop was much larger.  I went on vacation leaving July 6th parking my car in an open lot near Seatac returning the afternoon of July 17th for a day before starting the 3rd leg of my vacation.  At 8467.1 miles my ahr went from 112.89 to 111.45 and SOH dropped from 97.80 to 96.54.   I have to think the pack sitting for that length of time is what did it but I parked it with 41% SOC so thought that would be ok but apparently open asphalt and 90º temps were enough to make a permanent impression on the pack.  FYI; On the 18th full charge was 485 GID, 37.4 kwh available.

The other thing that crossed my mind is the BMS doing some sort of recalibration occasionally which accounted for the drop.

So I have lost 5 ahr or 4.34% and 3.46% on SOH.  Now my 100,000 mile stats are looking like 66% SOH which means I will "just" miss a warranty pack replacement. I would be under 60% ahr so very close for sure.   Now, this assumes a continuing random "recalibration" at the same rate. Take out the 2nd drop and I am looking at 80% left at 100,000 miles. Still very ok with that!

Despite only doing full charges for "most" road trips which means only 4 full charges since March 29th, the cells have done a remarkable job of balancing.  Maybe this accounts for the very predictable LEAF Spy stats?



At any rate, I am simply not going to worry about this until say... 35,000- 40,000 miles when I have 6 months left on my lease.

Range

Yes, I have had 2 "100 mile" LEAFs and actually did over 100 miles in both of them but it was TOUGH to do!  Nissan learned and so overestimating range is something they decided not to do in their 30 kwh LEAF and that continues with the 40 kwh LEAF.  The official 151 mile range is quite easy to do in the 2018 LEAF.  In reality, I "count" on 165 miles in Summer with 135 miles in Winter.  I continue to minimize heat mostly using defrost only as needed with seat heaters and heated steering wheel more than giving me what I need most of the time.  I will say I had a day where my estimated range was 128 miles (drove 90) but that was with full car (4 adults) and constant rain. The passengers were picked up at the office and from there to the job site, it was constant defrost the entire time to keep the windows clear. For Heaven's sake People, its Washington! Get a garage!

A good example of Summer range; Last Thursday, I decided to attend the grand opening of the Yakima QC which is about 149 miles away from the QC in Centralia.  After the event where I charged up to 99% or so, we went downtown for a quick trip which added 8 miles to my trip back West which in itself would have been doable despite now being well over the 151 EPA "suggestion"  but there was an obstacle... a BIG one.

White Pass outside Mt. Rainier (Elevation data courtesy of Plugshare's New Trip Planner!) 

But the drive was a GORGEOUS one and what else is the LEAF for but roadtripping! So even with the elevation change and AC (it was well over 90º in Yakima) blasting away until the pass, I made the 157 miles quite easily with a good 6-7 miles to spare. 


One thing about the GOM (LEAF range estimator) is that it slowly hides a reserve which is actually quite significant adding at least 10-15 miles of range well after the low battery warnings start.  Even when the SOC meter goes to "_ _ _"  you have the same range left that you had in earlier LEAF models with the GOM went to "_ _ _"  or about 5-7 miles of careful driving.  FYI; On the 40 kwh model, the GOM goes to "_ _ _" about 10 miles before the SOC meter does. 

Driving

Well, as we all know by now, the murder of my 30 kwh LEAF put me in a time crunch for a replacement vehicle which meant my first choice of an SV with Pro Pilot Assist was as much as a 30 day wait AFTER I had already waited nearly that long already so I took the S simply because it was already available.   So my planned evaluation of Pro Pilot, Adaptive Cruise, etc.  has been dashed and thought about just skipping this segment altogether but I do have to mention Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) as it most likely saved me from an embarrassing situation.  

Automatic Emergency Braking

What AEB does is automatically starts the braking process if the car senses a collision is imminent.  First though, it will provide a warning beep. It is this beep that alerted me in time for me to apply the brakes.  I am not sure I would have noticed the car in front of me in time since I had only glanced away for less than 3 seconds but as it was, the situation was way too close for my rather risky comfort zone.  But what it also did was really gave me a renewed sense of security knowing how conservative the AEB is (yes, that means sometimes it beeps at relatively mundane situations like diverging lanes,  etc) and how well and quickly I reacted to the beeps which are not loud or alarming at all.  It just worked. 

E Pedal

Maximum regen at last!  I did a few experiments and saw 67 KW regen which is simply awesome.  I would go into great lengths to explain how nice E Pedal is but it simply would not be effective. I would only be parroting the same thing I was told before my test drive in Las Vegas last September and trust me; words simply don't do justice to how nice E Pedal really is.  

What it does do is simply allows you to do one pedal driving nearly all of the time.  The hassle of switching from gas to brake to gas to brake is no longer! It is such a small thing in words but such a HUGE change in the driving experience. 

BMS/TMS/ Charging

TMS??? Say what? This is a LEAF a TMSless LEAF, right?  Well, technically yes, but changes in the quick charge profile have been made to help control the heat buildup in the battery pack hence TMS! Well, sort of...

What I am referring to AKA  "Rapidgate" is the ramp down when quick charging.  The charge rate slows based on two criteria; SOC and starting battery temperatures.  The ramp down from full power starts between 58 to 62% and is rather gradual.  


Here is a good example of how the change in charging curve helps to control temperature. The Green line represents the charging speed, the red line, SOC and the black line is the temperature.  I started this charge at a high SOC to limit the very fast part of the charge to better illustrate how the curve controls the heat build up. As you can see, the black line is relatively flat due to the short time 45 KW charging speed happened before the ramp down in charging speed takes place.  If you click on the picture, you will get a larger version which will show a change in the temperature slope as charge rate drops. 

Now if this was all there was to it, no problemo! But Rapidgate is the 2nd controlling parameter of charging speed and that starts to happen when battery temps hits the 90's F. 


Here is one of the most extreme cases (My only 16 KW charging session) where I started with a low SOC in the 20's and charging speed of 16 KW from a station that charged me at 46 KW earlier the same day.  But I started the charge with a battery temperature exceeding 120º. Now this was at the end of a 400 mile trip to Central Washington with temps in the mid 90's crossing over Snoqualmie Pass, etc etc so all the things that creates a hot pack were abundantly present.   FYI; I did this charge at an EVGO machine which only runs 30 minutes as part of my free NCTC program.  I gained about 20% or about 32 miles in range.  But part of the heat buildup was a lot of elevation gain and it was all down hill from there to home so 20% was enough but definitely something that needs to be known and prepared for. 

Truth be told; The above resulted from a trip done purposely with ZERO prep. I got up, decided to do a 350 mile road trip to the hot side of the state and left... with 25% SOC.  I did it but not without a bit of charging.


Hindsight

So this is when I do the "if I knew then what I know now" game.  Well, the wreck really limited my options A LOT! My real plan was to have not been in the way of the car that totaled my 2016, finished the lease, probably bought it to sell (due to over mileage penalties...)  so I could get the new 2020 LEAF or perhaps a LR CPO T3.  (my 2016 lease would have ended Nov 2019) 

I missed the chance at the really good Bolt deals and kinda glad I did. The car is smaller and not sure it would have been good for me and right now, a lot of the new fast charger installs I roadtripped to in my LEAF are not working for the Bolt.  A temporary thing I am sure but still... 

But truth be told, if I had to do it all over again, I still would have picked the LEAF.  The T3 I still think is the only EV worth the MSRP is not going to come with the full tax credit or the WA State sales tax waiver (although that has a good chance of returning next year) so its simply out of my budget. Changing jobs also meant a pretty significant pay cut as well. More and much better benefits in new job but that doesn't help out my bank account so stretching the budget for a car isn't going to be nearly as easy as it was. 

But the LEAF despite it being a half step in many ways, does add some essential functionality and all at a price that is cheaper than the previous versions.  Again, I leased and payments are $137 more per month than my 2016 but residual is nearly the same at $9600. Whether that is a good price all depends on what the battery pack does but right now, its more range than I need 90% of the time and that is very liberating. But the real benefit of the range is a better ability to pick and choose charging stops. I now skip over several on trips. In the past, I could only dream of driving from my home to Ellensburg before stopping to charge or from my home to Astoria (past FIVE stations) before stopping to charge.  Now if I can get my bladder to understand I don't have to stop as often... 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Casual Observational Differences in the 40 Kwh Battery Pack

Have had to address a lot of speculation over the 40 kwh battery pack with many automatically assuming (VERY applicable word here) that the new pack is the same old cells in a somewhat fatter configuration.  This I have found to be far from the truth.  In fact, other than the nameplate, nothing seems to be the same. 

GOM Part 1

After all this time, people still take the GOM (Estimated remaining range on the dash) as some sort of "official" word on range.  That is far from the truth and the 2018 strays even farther from it.  The GOM estimates the remaining range by using your performance over the recent past to extrapolate that performance to the remaining charge in the pack.  Unless you live "on the freeway",  you can't use the estimated range for a mostly freeway trip as it will bring you well short.  Same thing if the last few miles to your home is at a lower elevation which results in a very high GOM estimate or if your trip is uphill to home with its resulting low estimate. In previous LEAFs you could monitor the GOM while it was still blinking and make a mental note of the odometer so you had an idea of how far you could go with a margin of safety.   The 2018 removed that option as well (see below) IOW,  ignore it!

GOM part 2

Another common complaint is the GOM loses 20% of its full range as the car is driven to low SOC.  That isn't completely true either.  For one thing (see above) because most people live in areas where the speed limit is low and LEAF effieciency is high, the GOM will always overestimate the range slightly anyway. So how does those 20% claims come about? 

Apparently Nissan has decided to do what it can to encourage us to plug in at 20% so much so that they have realigned their low SOC alerts and even added another one.  But despite the car implying its now running on static electricity, LEAF Spy tells a completely different story.  Lets compare alerts from the 2018 LEAF to previous models. 

LBW (Low Battery Alert; GOM estimate starts blinking SOC 9%)  So this is the first alert so Nissan has done what every car manufacturer has done and that is provided the first alert well before action is needed. I give them a pass here. 

2011-2017  LEAFs--------- 2018 LEAF
--------48 GID -----------------87 GID

VLB (Very Low Battery;  GOM goes to "_ _ _" SOC 4%)  No more passes here. The range estimate is now gone so no way to even guess at how far you can go unless you notate odometer readings and knew what the GOM said before it started this...

2011-2017 LEAFs--------------2018  LEAF
------24 GID-----------------------62 GID---

Below we have to make up stuff in order to have easier references to them in the future. Granted they will likely only be valid on this blog unless for some crazy reason, people decide to adopt them.  All these ONLY apply to 2018 LEAFs with the exception of Turtle since nothing from nothing still equals nothing. 

SLB (Super Low Battery?? GOM "_ _ _"  SOC 1%)  This happens "around" 50 GID.  **See LBW reference above**  I only mention this because it is the MOST robust 1% of the entire pack. 

SEW (Static Electricity Warning  GOM "_ _ _" SOC "_ _ _" )  This happens around 40 GID (See VLB reference above.  I posted this info several months ago and had someone say that Turtle happened MUCH sooner.  I retested "only" to prove him wrong.  Key takeaway here is that 24 GIDs is roughly 2 kwh with as much as 1.5 kwh useable. 

TP ( "Trashed Pack" AKA "Turtle Power"  mode)  GID level varies.  On the energy screen of the 2018, we have segments;  32 power segments, 16 regen segments.  These provide the same function the power/regen circles did on earlier LEAFs.  As they disappear, they become unavailable.  Unlike the above warnings, Turtle is "voltage controlled."  Turtle should be avoided at all costs. 

Lithium cells can be permanently damaged if they drop below a voltage threshold. A "single" bad cell will take the ENTIRE pack down to its level which WILL result in a huge loss of functionality.  For this reason, cell balance is VERY important and your cells are balancing ALL the time. This voltage protection is job #1 for the BMS. 

Now we have all had flashlights with weak batteries where the light slowly fades but we can turn the flashlight off a minute or two and turn it back on and the light is bright!!... for 10 seconds anyway. 

Your LEAF battery pack works the same way. If you feel like you are in danger of being stranded, then DON'T KEEP GOING!  Driving until the car stops is VERY bad and will almost always cause "some" permanent damage to one or more cells.   If you feel like you have no choice but to keep going, then slow down... A LOT.   Take breaks to let your pack balance. I know all this sounds inconvenient (as if sitting on the side of road waiting for a tow isn't!) but too many times I read about people who were 500 feet short of a charger.  There is no doubt in my mind that if they had stopped 10 minutes before that point. Turned the car off, took a 10 minute walk and returned to the car, they would have made it. 

So back to the GOM (since that is what we are talking about) The GOM on a full charge is actually relatively accurate minus the recent driving history issues discussed above. It does not lose 20% simply because most of that range is transferred to the reserve.  Not that I recommend doing this to your LEAF but getting LEAF Spy will allow you do this. 


Turtle Mode. 14  power segments. FYI; I shut off car with only 6 power
segments to talk with someone interested in my car. It popped up to 14
in about 4-5 minutes. 

Turtle Mode. 12 (of 32)  power segments. FYI; I shut off car with only 6 power
segments to talk with someone interested in my car. It popped up to 14
in about 4-5 minutes.  In the pix above you can see meter behind warning
and how many power segments are gone. 

Rapidgate

There is no longer a question that Nissan has GREATLY hampered DCFC sessions.  Charging slowdowns start about 86º, getting significant by the mid 100's at any starting SOC. But that is only part of the problem.  As mentioned in earlier blogs, the BMS is using two criteria to control charge rates; starting battery temps and  ongoing SOC.  So even in the event of cooler battery temps, the slowdown can happen anyway because the SOC is over 58-65%.   Remember the 86º comment above? That is starting temperature.  Look at what happens when its the ending temperature combined with high starting SOC.  




On the flipside, I did notice when pack was colder, the knee started at a lower SOC of 58%.  But this is rather easy to fix. Simply charge long enough to heat the pack into the 70's or so, unplug and plug back in to resume at full speed with a knee near the mid 60's % SOC.  Below is an example except in reverse. (What can I say? Its Summer time)   I started a charge with temps at 80º at full speed. Then unplugged and immediately restarted the charge with temps at 88º. Look at how the drop in the charge rate.  I immediately dropped from 46 KW to 42 KW.  

Note;  Notice that a slower charging rate is not all bad. The slower the charge, the higher the knee.  THIS IS HUGE.  In this case, there isn't a big enough change in charging speed to see this but I did the same thing unplugging at 100º and the charge rate dropped from 46 KW to 35 KW but the knee moved up to 72%.  So yeah, the charging speed is slower but the additional charging time isn't as bad as we might think.  



The same thing happens when starting a charge at an SOC  that is near or above the normal knee range of 58-63%.   Below, we still have the good temperature range in the low 80's but a high SOC which means no full speed charging but notice where the knee is? 

Charging speed 35.8-37.1 KW, SOC 58.3%, knee 71.2%

Now maybe we shouldn't complain about slowing down at 63%.  A lot of EVs do the same thing. The Bolt slows down MUCH earlier to a much slower rate BUT, it will still charge quickly from low SOC into the 55% range.  But here we have a LEAF that can still charge at near full speed (will gain some temperature from driving) despite it being the 2nd QC of the day.  Keep in mind; high ambient temps and spirited driving can add 15º dropping the charging speed from 45 KW to 33 KW. Not a huge drop but you have to think "How much time did I save driving 70 mph while I spend an extra 15 minutes charging?"  Keep in mind that higher temperatures AND a shorter range makes driving faster a double whammy.  

Takeaways;

Well, its hard to deny the fact that despite a nice Spring day and batteries at ambient. We have gained 32% SOC with a 10º temperature rise. This makes it hard to argue that Nissan was too conservative here. Notice the lack of temperature spread on the temperature sensors?  This is not an anomaly.  Previous LEAFs I have had were normally 10+º difference and the hotter the pack, the greater the  spread.   Looks like temp sensors are better placed?  Better indication of true state of the batteries, maybe?   


20º spread was not all that unusual on my 2016 S 30

Jennifer from Arizona claims to have had success accessing the quick disconnect port located between the back seats on the floor and dumping ice there to cool the sensors to allow a faster QC. Realize she was seeing less than half speed charging on her first charge of the day!  

Now, we all know that the ice is only cooling the sensors and not the pack. How dangerous is this? Would this allow the pack to get to "runaway thermal" danger?  Well, probably not.  Nissan's lowering the charge rate of the pack has made it difficult for me to hit 11 temperature bars due to the slowdown.  I could probably do it by heating up the pack to the mid 120's and sprinting up the Cascades or something stupid, but simply not into nonsensical pack degradation.  After all, its all about how to make the LEAF work for me, right? 

Power In

Ever be in a hurry but still needed to stop for a fast QC?  Well, I generally go for a walk to stretch the legs most of the time but there were a few times I had conference calls or "something" that made leaving the car inconvenient. I NEVER used heat in those situations but A/C on a sunny day with temps in the mid 60's was almost always a given due to solar loading.  So I tried it and yeah. It will affect your charging speed.  With charging rates as low as 20 KW, this could add a significant amount of time to the charge.  What is significant when you are in a hurry?  Luckily,  the power draw for AC generally drops into the 300-500 watt range within 10 minutes on all but the hottest of days.  

On the chart below, its not that easy to see but power draw was near 2500 watts initially but dropped to 700 watts during the short period it was on.  Normally, it settles at 300-500 watts. 

AC effect on charge rate.


Just happened to see this when it was at 363 GIDs which also happens to be the new pack GIDs on the 30 kwh LEAF and also 28.1 kwh available is same as what I saw so... just had to capture it but lost a GID while getting camera ready.... Oh well, you get the idea! 

40 kwh pack matching 30 kwh pack stats

DegradationGate

Previously, LEAF Spy stats on battery packs were difficult to interpret.  The numbers bounced around from season to season, charge to charge and sometimes for no discernible reason at all.  Gaining or losing 5% capacity was commonplace.  The ability to manipulate the battery numbers by changing driving habits or charging habits became well known.  This was largely overcome by recording and reviewing stats over a long period of time. I record mine every day before the first drive of the day (if I go somewhere...) and I recommend you do the same. If every day is too much, then pick a specific time and circumstance like every Friday evening when you get home from work or every Monday morning before you go to work, etc.  

The flakiness of LEAF instrumentation came into the spotlight when Nissan announced they had made an error on how the LBC (Lithium Battery Controller) calculated the capacity of the 30 kwh battery packs which meant the BMS (Battery Management System) needlessly restricted full access to the usable capacity of the pack which resulted in apparent rapid degradation.   The error was apparently discovered when Nissan started to examine the degraded packs that were replaced under warranty only to find out the remaining capacity was well above the replacement level. 

A software update was issued and so far, the results have been positive. Nearly everyone has reported increased capacity and no one yet has noticed any change in the fast charge profile. All is good!...for them. 

Since I track my battery stats EVERY day (I drive it or am in town to check it) I have NEVER seen the ahr or SOC go up. Not even a tiny bit.  Now, they don't always go down. In fact, probably 50% of the time or more, the numbers stay the same.  But its been a steady decline from day one.  But the decline has been slow. a few hundredths usually.  In just under 10,000 miles and 110 QCs, I have lost a pinch over 3%.  At that pace, I will get a replacement pack should I decide to keep the LEAF, but there were two very large drops that happened in one day.   One happened for no apparent reason while the 2nd happened the day I returned from a 2 week vacation where my LEAF sat in uncovered storage during that time.   

But if I take out those two big drops, I will fall just short of the required loss to qualify for a pack replacement.  Granted, its all conjecture based on the rate of degradation being the same thru out.  Keep in mind, a shorter range means more cycling which could mean quicker degradation as well. 

The other battery stat is the Hx; the mysterious metric several have speculated on and although I hesitate to say its this or that, the largest vote seems to center on it being a reverse measure of internal resistance where higher the number, the lower the resistance. Lower resistance means less loss to heat so its a good thing.  My Hx peaked 116.46 and is currently at 114.14 but it follows the "old school" flakiness of bouncing around although I do see a general downwards trend that has been relatively consistent over the past few weeks. This could also be a result of the higher than normal Summer temps we are suffering thru as well. 

**Yesterday on Facebook, someone reported they have not had "any" change to their battery stats over the last 1000 km spanning several days. This is the first I have heard of this from anyone.  If you have seen this as well on your LEAF Spy stats. Please chime in! We need to know why you are special!!**

Regrets and the Future;

I can only speak for myself when evaluating how well the 2018 decision works for me.  I will say, I am not completely happy with the lower knee on the QCs, the drastic charge rate slowdowns, etc.  but I do see a possible benefit if it will give my pack an extra several thousand miles of useful life. 

I will say, I am different in that pitstops for charging don't bother me all that much.  Its partially due to the area I live in where most of the time, it simply takes forever to get anywhere which frequently means I have to stop for personal reasons so timing those stops with a charging location is simply a no brainer.  My most robust abuse of free public charging happened on my Oregon Coast trip  where my first 4 stops to charge perfectly coincided with personal needs. In a few cases, it was almost a race to the charging station due to an overwhelming need.  

The other reason is simply me getting old. Fighting traffic is very tiring mentally so stopping to charge allows me to get out, walk around, recharge my personal batteries, etc. So, again, its all about opportunity charging. 

But the bottom line becomes should "you" wait for a more expensive, more capable EV that might be here in 6 months or less?  That is a decision that each of us has to make. Due to my accident, I was forced to pick and in that sense, I don't regret my choice. I  missed the window to grab a Bolt super cheap but I don't think I would have been very happy with the decision. Range is not everything and right now, the new CCS stations that are popping up all over the place are not treating Bolters very kindly.  That will change soon. FYI; "All" the road trips I have blogged about well exceeded the range of "any" EV on the road today. 

The other thing is I will be hitting Central WA AGAIN! tomorrow with my Son to watch the Perseids at th 3500 ft elevation of Wild Horse Renewable Energy Complex.  We will be camping in the car and pretty sure my air mattress would not have come even close to fitting in a Bolt (it barely fits in the LEAF!) 

But just around the corner is the 2019 LEAF; 60 kwh, 100 KW charging and TMS!! but for a higher price. The fed credit will still be there (assuming its not done away with altogether) but the rumored $5000 higher price is sure to be a challenge for me financially.  A challenge my new job is not likely to allow me to take on. 

Bottom Line

I am in my lease until Feb 2021 so I can either cry about my situation or figure out the best way to make my LEAF work.  This means

More planning for road trips;  This is something I have never had an issue with. Plugshare makes it easy and their new trip planner option even provides an elevation profile to help with your range estimations. 

More and longer charging stops;  Sometimes this can be a bear, but so far, I have IMMENSELY enjoyed my time exploring the areas during my stops.  I guess this will eventually get old as the rate of new station openings slows down but that is not likely to happen any time soon!

More time on the road; Yep, driving slower to keep range high and batt temps low is something that I need to schedule now.  But that is what I got, so I deal with it. With the traffic issues I have here, extra time on the road a given so the driving slow part is frequently unavoidable anyway.  The other day, I was coming home from highway 18 to I-5 and my estimated get home time was 7:47 PM with 72 mins of traffic slowdown with a 30 min stop in Tacoma to charge.  I was already hungry so I opted to stop in North Bend instead and SLOWLY  charge my hot pack and grab food there instead. Because of the extra range 40 kwh provides, even with the slow 18 KW charging, I still gained enough range to skip the Tacoma charge stop and still got home 23 minutes earlier than projected!

So this blog is not intended to persuade or change anyone's mind about anything. But if you have a 2018 in a lease or purchase agreement and you want to get all you can from it, hopefully this blog will help you a bit.