Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Why Nissan's Battery Purchase is a Win Win

Recently Nissan announced that 24 kwh battery packs will be available for purchase to any existing LEAF owner for $5499 after exchange.  This was welcomed by the EV community both for its very reasonable pricing and the fact that all replacement packs would be with the latest chemistry and technology available; IOW, the "Lizard" pack.

The Lizard pack is the new tweak from Nissan to combat excessive degradation due to heat.  Too many people in Arizona were seeing 2-3 lost bars in the same time frames we Northwesterners were seeing a 5% loss (the first capacity bar represents about 15%) making a long term commitment to EVs a tough thing to rationalize.

Nissan then later mentioned that the pack price was less than it cost them to replace the packs.  One might wonder why Nissan would want to lose money on this option but this was a very smart move in that it was a way of saying thank you to the early EVers who accepted that leap of faith aka as the LEAF. Plus, now a long term financial plan was possible now that one knew how much money to set aside for a replacement pack.

What we saw was people who absolutely needed the price of the pack right away, then finding out what that price was and realizing they would not need a pack replaced for at least 2 years!  Funny how much that tiny piece of the puzzle created so much calm within EV Land!  Never mind the fact that the price is likely to be different when the time comes to purchase, it was information that completed the puzzle and provided a great sense of relief for people who needs to have all the i's dotted and the t's crossed.

But that is only the beginning of the benefits.  In my EVangelical pursuits, the biggest obstacle I am seeing is still price. Range is obviously a concern but nearly everyone I talk to who is interested has a "short commuter" in the house but the price is still the big stopper.  To them I say "Well, lease then!"

And you guessed it; the next biggest stopper is the idea of leasing. It was an alien concept to me 3 years ago but now, I have to say its the way to go until the range of the LEAF goes up.  Right now there is about a 10 cent per mile difference in transportation costs between our two daily drivers the LEAF and the Yaris.  My 15,000 mile per year lease costs me $245.75 a month but I am saving roughly $125 a month in fuel (15,000 miles divided by 12 months times 10 cents)  so that brings my cost down to $120.75 a month. I am just over 11,000 miles and my total cost including the random public charging fee is running me 2.1 cents per mile. Yes, that does include some free charging sessions but why should it not? I don't go out of my way to charge for free, never do it if I don't need it, and its THERE! If there was a promotion for free gas and you could go there without 10,000 of your neighbors in the way, would you do it? Well of course you would!

Now, my lease deal is probably better than most could get because of returning loyalty cash and whatnot but its not inconceivable that one could be driving a brand new car for under $200 a month AFTER fuel costs are considered. In a gas car, you are looking at an additional $100 a month just for fuel!

But the ignorance continues. But now that batteries are available, I think the used LEAF market is set to explode. Right now they are going for a pretty cheap price in the $13,000-$14,000 range.   This allows one to get into a LEAF relatively cheap and drive it.  As we all know, this is when EV Fever hits.  We soon realize that the convenience of not going to the gas station is just the beginning.  Driving an EV is cool, smooth, quiet and just downright addicting!  Soon the car purchased for errands and short jaunts becomes the car we want to take EVERYWHERE!  This is likely to lead to a sale of a new EV or another common option; the 2 EV household!

Knowing that batteries can be purchased to replace aging packs will open up EVs to a whole new segment of the population. People attracted to the low selling prices of used LEAFs but concerned about degraded batteries now have options!  So can we call the LEAF a "gateway drug to EVness?"  I think the battery purchase program is just the "pusher" we need!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

July 2014 Drive and Degradation Report

Ok, I thru in the "D" word to attract higher readership!  But then again, I am now only seeing a maximum 22 kwh available on a full charge even with the full 284 GIDs and 67.36 ahr so if every other number is max'd out why am I seeing less available capacity?

Well back in the "old" days I was seeing 22.7 kwh available. Then it settled on 22.5  then 22.2 and now its been at 22.0 since the first week of July.  The decline does roughly correlate with the rise of the temperature as Summer approached which when considering the appearance of adjustments made on the 2011's by the BMS, I have to think that is a possibility here as well.  And warm it has been. the big drop did happen the same week we hit the 90's for the first time this year as well.  One thing that did happen on Tuesday. This happened after a 26 min QC (needed all of it!) which also saw just over 3 hours on two different L2's that day along with 90º.  

8 Temperature Bars!! First time I have seen this in 3½ years of LEAFing.  In fact, the only time I ever saw 7 bars was after my 3rd QC of the day in my 2011 on a near 100º day. I now strongly suspect the TB scale has changed or the 2013 packs heat up faster

Now up until this past week (which included only one  QC but commutes of 174.3,  121.0 and 124.5 miles) I thought it was degradation until I saw this.

Like say what?? How am I back to the maximum 67.36 ahr and the maximum 284 GIDs but not the maximum available kwh ?  Something is up here! So the "final" word on degradation is... Stay tuned!

Anyway for the month of July, the Corolla drove 113.1 miles for an estimated cost of  $10.18.  This is an estimate since the last time gas was purchased was June 28th and the Corolla still registers more than 3/4th of that fill up.  Haven't gotten my pay stubs yet but the current rate is 40 cents a mile so if its the same I will get roughly $43 or so since all of the mileage I drove for the month is reimbursed I dont think. Remove the $31.25 for insurance and the car did pay off some of its ROI last month.  This does mean the Corolla wins the cheapest transportation of the month award!


The LEAF drove 1969.4 miles (nearly half of that in the last 9  days of the month!) for an estimated total cost of $40.95 or 2 cents a mile. This includes $6.75 in public charging fees.  Work reimbursement to be determined but definitely getting caught up.  Not sure if I mentioned this or not but its looking like I will  break even on ROI (IOW, no cost to drive the LEAF after work reimbursement) about the Middle of November!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How Big Is My Battery?

I am a day away from 10,000 miles on my LEAF and so far, it has exceeded my expectations by a good sum. The extra 7-10ish miles of range I have has really made a difference in the car's usability. But like all good things, it will not last. Degradation will happen and I might be seeing the first signs of it now.  The past 2 days in a row, I have had the full 284 GIDs but only seeing 22.0 Kwh available. This is a drop from the 22.7 kwh I was seeing before.  Now as a refresher, my highs from LEAF Spy.  Other monitoring devices might be slightly different

GIDs;  284   (up from 281 on the 2011/12's)_

Kwh available; 22.7  This number widely reported from other users as well

Ahr;   67.36  Again, widely reported by others.

SOH; 106.65%  This number has the greatest variance from other LEAFers. I have seen reports as high as the 109's.  I did see a reading of 107.10% on my LEAF once but I only record readings first thing in the morning so I will stick with that.

Ok, so a GID was thought to be 80 watt hours more or less. The values do seem to change at different SOC's although I suspect its partly accuracy issues with Nissan instrumentation along with the irregularities associated with measuring electrical charges in general.  So 300 GIDs would make a 24,000 watt hour battery right?  So the LEAF leaves roughly 16 GID or about 1280 watt hours unaccessible at the top end which means that all of the battery at the bottom end is accessible??

Well, of course that cannot be true, right?  After all, its generally accepted that the deeper the discharge, the worst it is for the battery.  So we have Turtle mode that warns us when we are getting to the danger point.

Ok, so yesterday, I drove 89.3 miles and due to the late hour returning home, I was driving much faster than I normally would be but monitoring my progress with LEAF Spy to insure I did not speed my way into a tow.  The last 20ish miles (traffic does not permit me to drive faster sooner even at 8 PM!)  was done at 70+ MPH and I realized something.

Despite having exceeded 95+ miles over a dozen times, I have never really come close to turtle. The other day, I drove 99.3 miles and still had 12 miles left on GOM (traffic was HORRIFIC) In fact, I just realized that besides not getting close to turtle, I have just barely hit VLB territory.

I had been under the impression that my "22.7 Kwh available" was not all available and that some of that at the lower end would be in turtle mode. Well, yesterday, I went all the way to .7 kwh and no turtle.  I then went to grab food and come home, down to .4 kwh and still no turtle.

I mean, what is the deal here? Nissan are you seriously allowing us to go to ZERO percent SOC? or is the instrumentation that far off, or...

Did you give me a bit extra and decided to not mention it?

I guess, the one thing that is possible is that my "22.0" available was actually still 22.7 and the BMS is making adjustments due to heat. It has been a lot hotter here (just now cooling off the past two days but at night only) and yesterday was a full Sun day so the car was VERY warm...

Either way, I hesitate to make any claims on capacity, degradation or longevity. With the readings I am getting, I simply can only say;

I will keep you posted!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Flat Tires, Cell Service, and Public Charging

An interesting discussion on MNL about the need for spare tires got me thinking.  One mentioned that he frequently took trips where there was no cellular service so roadside assistance would be of no use if he got a flat.  In the past 10 years, I have driven either Priuses, ZENN, or LEAFs; some of which came with a spare but the Prius and LEAF had TPMS.

Now during this time I was NOT lucky with tires. My 2006 Prius picked up a nail on 4 separate occasions, including two less than 10 days apart.  In all cases, I simply over inflated the tires until I got around to taking them to the tire store for repairs. On one occasion this went on for 3 weeks. So,  a spare tire or not? That was the question.  Twice I heard air leaking from the Prius and to slow the leak, I simply had to park on it.  But two other times, I was alerted by the TPMS.  Usually by the time the alert lights up the dash, I was in dire straits.  One time was coming home from dinner from the Lucky Eagle Casino in Rochester, WA where cell service used to be weak. My tire pressures on my Prius were set to 42 PSI front, 40 PSI rear but the right rear tire was at 25 PSI.  I carried around a portable jump box that was used for various things and it had a 12 volt compressor on it so airing the tire up to 50 PSI only took a few minutes.

Either way, I is strange to me that in this day and age, we are still hampered by ineffective communication. Historically, the government has stepped in to build nationwide infrastructure simply because private business either would not or could not.  The highway system and the national electrical grid are two prime examples. The other issue is that my LEAF had two issues with tires and in both cases, a spare would have done no good. Luckily, I was in an area that had cell service.

I think its time we started a push for two more networks;  Reliable Cellular service (no coverage holes, including degraded service greater than one mile) and a public charging network.  Now it took cars being on the road for over 40 years before we started the national highway system but we really can't and should not wait that long.

Cellular Service; This proves to be the biggest challenge. Simply too many non compatible protocols.  I have Verizon which is supposed to be the best or at least they seem to be at or near the top in most customer surveys but there are several areas in the Puget Sound Region where service is weak or non existent while still in the middle of town. Kent, WA is a  prime example. It is in a hole which explains the poor signal.  In my job, I rely on GPS daily. But cellular based GPS gets its route data from the cellular network. Now, it still only needs a clear view of the sky to navigate like any other GPS system so traveling through a dead zone is ok, its getting the route information is where the signal is needed. But in Kent, WA there are several areas where only text messaging works. Now, this is not a deserted country road or remote mountain highway we are talking about here, so why is this happening?

Regulations, territorial pissing matches, NIMBYisms,  etc. all play a part. Its time we wave some sort of wand and remove those barriers. Communication on the run has simply become too important including a threat to personal safety in some cases.

Public Charging;  Last month we added over 200,000 jobs.  The country is expanding and we need to keep that momentum going but it would only take one negative incident concerning the world oil supply to derail most of the progress we have made. Yes, we are making a lot of our own oil but to say that we can weather a major oil supply disruption overseas is still a bit optimistic.  One could argue that there is not enough EVs out there to justify the expense and they would be right but such a project would take several years and longer if we combine the public charging project with an upgrade and expansion of the national grid.  So the project should begin in the areas where EV adoption is well on its way to becoming mainstream.

Like all expansions, the fringe sees it last and least. So a reversal will hit them the hardest. This can be changed by a combination of limited range EVs and well placed charging stations. Grays Harbor County,  WA is a prime example. It has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state, least attractive job prospects and its largest city, Aberdeen, serves primarily as a junction  to other destinations.  Gas cars don't stop here. But EVs would have to and would WANT to if there was charging there.  One thing that applies to EVers and public charging. It does not matter where the chargers are. If one is there, the EVer will create a reason to go there! Most EVers would then spend money at the host location.  This builds income and eventually interest in the area. Aberdeen does have reasons to visit. After all there are at least a handful of people who live there because they want to.

The National Grid; There have been a few articles suggesting the next likely terrorist attack would be weak points in the electrical grid or a major pipeline.  Decentralizing the grid and creating more balanced distribution network  with super efficient transmission systems that can incorporate solar and wind more easily should be a top goal for both the security and economy of this country.

Now for those of you that know me and would make accusations that this was just a thinly disquised whine about the poor public charging system we have in place now,  you would be completely positively absolutely WWRRRIGGHT!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

June Drive Report and Unofficial Range Results In My 2013 LEAF

With no vacations in June, the mileage went up. (Well we did do an overnighter but that was it. Just a single day away from the LEAF since we did not drive) The Corolla was used for 4 trips, 3 of which were simply to drive it.  The trips were well within the LEAF's range but the car had just simply been sitting too much so I took it out.  Naturally a schedule change happened which required the Corolla (185 miles) so at least one trip was taken on gas needlessly. Its been two weeks now...time to stop beating myself up over that.

Moving on, The Corolla drove 489.5 miles at a cost of$46.97 or 9.6 cents per mile. There seems to be a lot of confusion over the actual financial benefits of EV over gas so this month we are adding some "reference" statistics.  I fueled up June 11 th (first time in a month and a day) @41.98 MPG and again on June 28th @ 38.87 MPG. The latter tank is showing the results of A/C which was used several times including nearly all of the 185 mile trip which was a 7 hospital run so a lot of stopping and starting. Twice we had the luxury of indoor parking but the rest was out in full sun and it was a VERY warm day.  Because the Corolla is never used in a day to day manner, I estimate I am getting 5-8 MPG more than if I took the Corolla out for 3 mile errands that the LEAF does.  Based on the EPA rating of 27/30/34, I am reducing my gas cost by at least 25% and usually more.  Using that as a reference, if the Corolla was my only car, it would be more in the range of 12-13 cents per mile. My gas cost using 12 cents per mile for all driving totaling over 2000 miles would have been about $246.  Reimbursement for work will be added next week when my pay stub arrives. It should be over $100 for the Corolla.

The LEAF drove 1567.4 miles costing me $30.33 or 1.94 cents per mile.  Another fact that seems to be "disputable" is my true cost for electricity. In June, I paid 7.8 cents per Kwh and that figure seems to be GREATLY disputed by people who want to do nothing but quote rates. Well, that is fine but that is NOT my cost.  This in no way proves the bill is actually mine but I hesitate to post my street address. Not sure why so feedback on pros and cons would be nice

Either way, I figured my electric costs on the bill being $49.05 with kwh usage of 531 and connect charge of $7.87 making my per kwh charge bill minus connect charge divided by kwh used or 7.8 cents per kwh.

I know this may come as a shock to some (Charlie) but to the LEAFer's in the Pacific NW who actually do the calculations, it is pretty common knowledge...

So "my" EV benefit is what I could have paid in gas minus what I actually paid in gas/electricity or $246 - 46.97 - 30.33 = $168.70.

This would not include the reimbursement from work of course since most of you do not have that option.  As mentioned above, will have to wait on that but LEAF should getting $300+ which will take care of my lease and insurance payments quite nicely putting my overall transportation cost at a still astronomical "my time" (What can I say? traffic is a Beeyatch!)

Last week, in a jealous fit, I vowed to not use the Corolla (still seething over driving it for nothing...) so managing 3 90+ mile commutes would be a challenge.  The worst day was Tuesday where it was a  96 mile commute that ran from Lacey to Tacoma to Kent to Tacoma to Lacey. The Tacoma to Tacoma part included 2 co-workers. Lucky for me that neither was overweight!

Knowing the challenge and possible problems ahead, I started out at a steady 58-60 mph to the office in Tacoma, picking up passengers and did the same until hitting traffic at the Tacoma Dome a few miles down the road. Speeds dropped to 20-40ish for 4-5 miles then picked up until the Highway 18 interchange where there was another brief slowdown (by now we were in HOV lane) to 50 mph that again lasted only a few miles. We got to the jobsite in Kent, did the deed and piled back in to return. It was hot so A/C was on and set to 75º.  Keeping in mind; the morning trip started at 4:30 AM, the afternoon trip experienced MUCH more traffic. This time, it was slow (we were stuck behind a school bus... like its nearly July, when do they park for the Summer??)  in the HOV lanes at 20-40 mph for roughly 8-10 miles coming back to the office. The slowdown at the Tacoma Dome, 705 Freeway/ Highway 18 freeway was minimal at 50ish MPH. My passengers were dropped off, I did about 20 minutes of paperwork and home for the day and it wasn't even Noon yet!

Was hoping to have some miles to show you but just missed it by about a half mile. Pulled in with 23 GIDs left. Not even close!

Now there has been a general consensus that the 2013 LEAF did not have a range increase but testing on the Japan cycle showed a 14% improvement.  While my unofficial observations have not been as optimistic, others have done various "constant" speed tests and showed no or minimal improvement.  In my 2011, I had attempted the Kent drive before (Its a pharmacy and we do jobs there once a month on the first of every month) and failed. Twice I even tried Highway 99, a road that parallels I-5 and is a hypermilers dream if you can manage the lights which are far enough apart and viewable from a good distance so can be easy to time, or not...

But there was a distinctive line drawn on where I could and could not go in my 2011 LEAF. Auburn yes, Federal Way, yes. Southcenter, no, Covington, no,  Kent yes and no (depending on which end of town!)

All the above are now reachable in my LEAF. So you can do set course testing and use those results for baseline testing if you like but my life is simply not that predictable.

One final note; the Corolla day of 185 miles ended with a 95 minute commute from St. Francis in Federal Way to my home. Unfortunately a car fire (yea, pretty common around here!) caused a HUGE traffic jam right at rush hour.  Normally its about 45 minutes home.  OBTW, it was a gasser on fire, not a Tesla.

Finally; a Kansas LEAFer sent me a link of a tent camper that was pulled by a motorcycle he saw on a trip out West!  Gotta be "LEAFable!"

Sunday, June 29, 2014

For Sale; 24 Kwh Battery Packs!!

On Friday, June 27th, 2014, Nissan announced that replacement battery packs for the Nissan LEAF will be available for sale at $5499.  There are no required degradation levels for replacement of the battery pack and this is "exchange" price ONLY. IOW, you must return your existing pack. The start of this program has yet to be announced but suspect it won't be a long wait. A month or two is my guess.

There are other conditions including

* The replacement will be done at a Nissan dealership.  Although not specifically stated, I fully expect the fine print to state that 3rd party installation will not be available.

* The $5499 price will provide you a 2015 model battery replacement pack with greater heat tolerance or the long  awaited "Lizard" battery.

* Cost of installation is not included and will be set locally by the dealer doing the work.  It is expected to take 3 hours and typical shop costs run  $110 hour. (local shop rates referenced by Lakewood Ford) so with tax, total out of pocket is probably around $6,000.

* Due to the configuration differences for 2013+ MY's a bracket kit for about $225 will be required for 2011/2012's (remember some components was moved from the pack to under the hood in 2013, thus removal of the "hump" in the rear hatch storage area.)

A few people might not be happy that an outright purchase is not an option but I personally feel that Nissan is providing this as a thank you to existing LEAF owners who have chosen to support Nissan and their EV program.  The start was rocky to say the least. Range was less than most expected and degradation was much more than people had imagined.  The purchase price was high, lease terms were extreme so there had to be a LOT of math, rationalizations, and compromises for early adopters to make that "LEAP to LEAF."

But degradation happened. Some were stuck with cars that would no longer make their intended commutes and the public charging promises were under delivered or failed to materialize at all.  We then went to Nissan to ask for a battery pack cost. We got no response. Then they proposed a battery lease program but there were degradation requirements that were simply too much for people who had the longer commutes.  But the lease proposal left a lot of questions unanswered and many current LEAFers were affluent enough that leasing was a much less desirable option that outright ownership.  They added a battery degradation warranty that did help a large percentage of the affected LEAFers who mostly lived in the Southwest but again the degradation requirements were too steep for some and there were others that simply out drove the warranty limits, in some cases by a LOT.

But finally, Nissan has the right solution. The price alone makes a huge statement. It is rewarding current owners by requiring the exchange of the existing LEAF pack and charging a price for the pack that is well below market costs.  It is really pathetic that after 3½ years, we can only look at one other example of what a part from a manufacturer might cost and keep in mind, the Ford Focus battery pack has a bit more complication with its associated heating and cooling system interfaces and what not and there is no mention of an exchange price so even if we used a value of $3,000 is it still nearly three times higher than Nissan's price. I would mention how much the Ford Focus EV pack costs here but the price is obscene in every sense of the word and this is a family blog. ;)  If you must know, click on the link.   Ford does allow you to buy only half the pack but both of those options are nearly double the the Nissan price, so not much comfort there either. Many panned Nissan for not providing a price but after seeing Ford's price, I applaud Nissan for not providing a price before it was ready.  Ford gets NOTHING from me...

The other reason I think is simply business need. Unlike Tesla (ya, they did not do everything right) Nissan knew that a battery supply was crucial and they built their own factory but it still has limitations so providing only exchanges to LEAF customers will prevent (to a certain degree) non LEAFers from using the packs for home solar, etc.  Now, as we all know, someone will figure out a way to do it but at least it won't be easy. This now gives Nissan exclusivity in the market. Tesla has it with their Supercharger Network. Now, Nissan will have it with a battery replacement program that has no peers. (Yes, I am aware of the Tesla program but as mentioned before, I look at Tesla as a luxury car first, EV 2nd... a DISTANT 2nd. As their portfolio expands, I will re-evaluate) And it will maintain a supply to new LEAFs.

My 2011 LEAF went 44,598 miles before being exchanged for my current 2013. If I was to have kept the 2011 and done the battery exchange, I likely would have done it before 45,000 due to my driving need (which is quite a bit higher than normal) along with the lack of public charging (which is actually one of the best in the country, sad as that is to say) where I need it to be but even if replaced at 40,000 miles for work purposes and a total OTD cost of $6,000 (there is NO SALES TAX for "new" EV parts currently)  that is still 15 cents per mile.  add say 3 cents a mile for "fuel" and we have 18 cents per mile. My 40 mpg Corolla cost me nearly that much in fuel/maintenance and the LEAF has no maintenance to speak of and I do not expect to see any additional requirements in the fine print for battery inspections and such for the purchase option so I would be losing a little money, maybe. Since I have a gasser I use occasionally for longer commutes, I could have continued with the 2011, using it only for the commutes that were within its diminishing range. That would still account for over 2/3rds of my needs.

Now, how much better the Lizard Battery is for cycling, remains to be seen but guessing there is probably a little improvement but this program really helps the people who fell into the cracks of the warranty program.  Steve Marsh (see link above on 100,000 Mile LEAF) would have seen a cost of 6 cents per mile if he waited until 100,000 miles to replace his LEAF (he is approaching 120,000 miles now and is now a TWO LEAF owner but the new one is for the wife...)

Nissan made a small splash mostly in the EV community when they broke the 3,000 sales barrier in May, but Friday's announcement sets the groundwork for what I expect to be a wholesale shift in word of mouth advertising from current LEAF owners.  It is another exciting footnote for EVs. This is starting to get fun again!

**Note** The picture has nothing to do with the blog...just bragging!

**edit**  filled up the Corolla and despite getting over 38 mpg (A/C really took a hit!) I was over 11 cents per mile in fuel only.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Tides Have Turned

Recognizing emerging trends is THE most sought after trait in the corporate world.  The ability to see trends in their infancy and determining how best to capitalize on them has become the best way to become a billionaire before one's 30th birthday.

Television was long panned for its lack of quality programming and for years, TV did not care and the reason is because they did not have to. People watched anyway. Well, then came the internet, Androids, Netflix, etc. and all of a sudden, TV had to get better or perish and they did, BIG TIME.

Today, there is more quality programming on TV than ever. But is it too little too late? No not really, at least not yet because I am fairly convinced that the large influx of "must watch" shows has resulted in reducing the hemorrhage of viewers canceling cable to a slow bleed. It is still happening, but at least TV has bought themselves a few more good years.

But their inaction cost them. They simply did not think that people would abandon their precious cable boxes for streaming, 6 month old, TV.  But the movement is afoot. Cable companies kept raising the rates (mostly because TV in desperation had raised theirs) and soon, the TV bill became a bill that was not longer "too important to fail."

The automobile industry is also trending away from traditional cars towards EVs.  But again, automotive manufacturers appear to be missing the real trend here.  Last month, Nissan sold more than 3,000 LEAFs nationally for the first time ever. The automotive industry is hoping that this was the results of a year end push. Incentives to move out the previous models to make room for the 2015's that are currently being built for delivery soon.

Their response is to provide cars that got better mileage thinking that reducing the disparity in transportation costs would slow the EV roll.

I think they are wrong. Incentives have been around since day one, but up until now, sales have been lacking. Nissan has the bulk of the EV market with only Tesla providing any volumes but is not a threat to Nissan's market segment. I have always felt that 3,000 a month is the minimum level at which a product is officially "out there."   Granted EVs have nearly no presence in many areas of the country, including the Central West, Midwest,  Northern tier states, etc.  but after 3+ years, the real push for sales has shifted from incentives to word of mouth.  So for me; May was the "coming out" party for the LEAF.

Because you are reading this blog, you probably already plug something in every night but let me ask you; How many of you now have neighbors plugging in?  How many of you have only had these types of neighbors in the past say?  3 months? or even less?

Remember when it was a big deal to spot another LEAF?  As recently as this past Winter, I only really saw the same 4-5 LEAFs that have been bouncing around my town over the past year or two. In the last few months, that has changed and dramatically.  I live on a looped like cul de sac in the middle of the woods about 1.6 miles from town.   There are now two LEAFs that drive by my house on a regular basis. Now, keep in mind, I have no windows open on the front of the house so I do not see traffic of any kind drive by unless I happen to be coming or going. Trees obscure the road so even if outside, I generally don't see a lot of traffic driving by either.

Everywhere I go in town, I am seeing more than a handful of fellow LEAFers.  This is a trend I have previously lived thru. I was an early adopter of the Classic Prius with VIN # 1534 on the 2004 Prius.  The pattern of emerging Priuses matches up well with the pattern of emerging LEAFs.

Just as TV will be profitable for several more years despite their shrinking base, Automobile manufacturers will be too. They could simply sit on their thumbs and wait for Nissan, Tesla, Kia and VW to develop battery tech, then jump in with something then.  This is a huge gamble but one the automotive industry seems to take time and time again.

The only thing left is checking LEAF sales thru out the rest of the Summer. Is the 3,000 level a record that will stand for at least a few more months or a prelude to bigger and better things for Nissan and EVs in general?

I think its the latter, so lets see what June Sales says!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly aka "My Day Off"

Driving EVs for me started because of my concern for the environment and continues because they are fun and very cheap to drive.  But driving efficiently is not that much fun but it is still important to pick your battles. Yes, you will frequently find me rolling up to a red light at 10 mph in neutral or negotiating left turns at 30 mph because I don't want to waste energy on braking and all that but there is a limit to being frugal.  I can also guarantee that if I am first at the light, I will be two blocks down the street before anyone else gets more than 100 feet from the intersection. If you have an EV, you know why.

Yesterday when finishing my last job of the day,  I spied a LEAF from the Olympia Fire Department sitting at the light on Martin Way and Lily Road.  This is not the first foray into "cleaner" living for the eco minded city organization. They were also owners of the first Prius I had ever seen over 10 years ago. It was a 2001 Prius. They later got a few Iconic Priuses and a Ford Escape Hybrid to add to the fleet.

Speaking of Priuses, an MNL'er posted a chart comparing the sales ramp of the Prius against the LEAF. The LEAF is winning with the exception of 2010 which really shouldn't count but then again, its just a chart right?  But we are talking about the original Prius which looks more like a Corolla than anything else and lets face it, it was a relatively weak introduction for the poster child of hybrids but then again, who is to say that LEAF 2 won't match the same level of improvement as the Prius did in 2004? Well, count me as hoping the LEAF 2 does it!

July 1st, Thurston County institutes their plastic bag ban to the chagrin of the Island nation of "Baggyland" out in the Pacific. Although we expect the move to have little impact on the growth of the plastic nation, the move has gained a lot of steam among several communities in the West.  To help with the change, they are allowing retailers to charge for paper bags.  Now, that is kind of a bummer because Winco already has paper bags as an option (one I ALWAYS take) and they were free. Oh well, I guess maybe I should use my cloth bags since they do ride around with me in the car...unused.

At 55, age is beginning to get the best of me along with my waning interest in stationary exercise options.  My new house is not bike friendly. To get anywhere, I have to negotiate a hill which is really not that steep or long but then the street my neighborhood feeds is Bike Hell. It has no shoulders and although I pass by bikers crazy enough to ride on the street, I am simply not feeling that lucky. Either way, I decided to start jogging instead. Well, it took a week of going up to a mile and half or so (2/3rds of it walking) to now going over 2 miles regularly (now up to half running, albeit slowly but still running)  Anyway, I was beebopping down the Chehalis Western Trail and came up on this

It was a maintenance truck. Now the trail is the old railroad tracks that used to run thru town so its relatively straight and flat so I saw this truck with its flashing lights a good 3 minutes before getting there and it took about the same for it to fade away out of sight. As I passed, I saw a guy off the trail doing general trail maintenance and picking up garbage (guessing that is where the shopping cart came from) and the whole time, the truck WAS IDLING AWAY!!.  Now, I pick this trail because its quiet, out of the way but also easy to access at several points thru out town and its away from traffic so I do not have to huff and puff exhaust.  This kinda ruined it for me along with the fact my sales tax was paying for the gas that was idling away into thin (but getting thicker by the second) air.

Finally when heading to work (on my day off) to drop off timecards and pick up next week's work assignments, I came across this on I-5

This cute little trailer was being hauled by a truck with an EPA markings on it "for official EPA use" it said. Could not help but wonder what kind of range I could get on my LEAF while pulling it. It was no more than about 6 feet long so it couldn't have been that heavy. It was like a backyard toy camper you get for the kids to park next to the plastic play house.  Anyway, it was cute so...

Finally, my sister who has a good heart sent me this.

Its the dash of her 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid. She was so proud so I just didn't have the heart to tell her that there are not enough digits in the World to correctly "display" the MPG of my LEAF. Either way, if she is happy, I am happy.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Has Nissan Secretly Improved Their Batteries?

Heat related degradation in early LEAFs has been the largest of the few complaints owners have had with Nissan's LEAF.  People in Arizona had lost as much as a third of their range in just 2 years making a purchase of the LEAF out of the question. Nissan responded by adding a battery degradation warranty which states if you lose your 3 battery capacity bar within 5 years/60,000 miles, you get a replacement.  This roughly means you have to lose about 30% capacity. Well, there is a huge area of the country that has seen degradation but not quite that bad, namely Southern California.  Being one of the hotbeds for EV adoption makes this a much larger issue since many will just miss the level of degradation needed for a new pack.  So the warranty is not enough.

Nissan did say it was developing and testing a more heat tolerant battery that would be available soon or is already being put into production cars which is likely.  Already there is one car that is beating the degradation curve and beating it by a lot but that is only one car. So I am looking for feedback here.  Lets hear from people who have a 2013 or newer LEAF and a battery monitoring app like LEAF Spy to report their numbers ok?

Report date of purchase/lease
charging habits
daily driving needs
general location
how often the car sits out in the Sun.


Having received a few responses many of which mirror my own experiences, I have to add this

This trip I did the other day was all in town. It did not start as a range test but after 70ish miles or so, I was at 6.6 miles per Kwh mostly due to a lot of Saturday afternoon traffic which meant driving around at 10-20 mph.  It was the day before Father's Day so the shopping crowds were a bit heavier than normal I think.  As you can see, I blew up 100 miles and had plenty more to spare.  In my 2011, I purposely set out to go as far as I could which included driving around town, no freeways and no speeds above 35 mph. I ended up at just over 105 miles with no more than a few miles left in the pack.

I am not the only one. A response from someone who has 2 2011's and and 2014 and recently drove 105 miles in his 2014 with most of the trip at freeway speeds near 60 mph. He said neither of his 2011's could even come close to that performance. I concur. In my 2013, I have done several trips in the 90-95 mile range that was predominately freeway at speeds no more than 60 mph. My 2011 could not do much more than about 88 miles on its better days. And yes, my speeds range in the mid 50's and less due to traffic conditions but that is true for everyone in my area. Unlike several areas of the country, EVs are not allowed in HOV lanes unless they have 2+ occupants.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Ending Compliance

After the last two posts on the subject,  you probably already know my views about compliance EVs,  complacent car manufacturers and inert governments but there seems to be a lot of confusion as to why this is a good idea.  Feedback from the two posts range from outrage that I would require a car company to do something it did not want to do which would destroy our concept of free market enterprise to a sort of "come what may" attitude that expects the company with the best product will rise up from the ashes and dominate like Mater from Cars. 

Well, that is how we want it to work but that is not what is going to happen.  we have all heard the rumors over the 150 MPG carburetor and how the technology was buried to protect the oil industry and the revelation that large format NiMH battery chemistry patents were held by Big Oil simply fueled the notion that big business had to power and money to bury any invention that was revolutionary enough to destroy existing industries.  Well, as most stories tend to do, the numbers have probably grown over the years but the basic premise of the rumors might not be as far from fact as we like to think. All rumors have some factual aspects of them to make them believable. This allows us to rationalize the holes in the stories and then perpetuate the myths.

On Facebook, some of the opposing views also had some basis in fact to work with. Some either used current facts or extrapolated current trends to predict what was coming down the road. Well, as we all know, we can think we know what is going to happen but no one really knows what is ahead around the bend.

forcing the car makers to build and sell in certain states is backfiring. notice how Toyota is backing out of the ev market, towards fuel cell?"

They are only getting out because we let them. What they are essentially doing is taking our money and running. By getting into fuel cells very early, they are maximizing subsidies from the government. Which is the reason they were resistant to the EV game. They missed the early payouts... Its not like they will go broke making EVs. They can put out a quality product if they want to. We simply need to create that want in them.

 "I don't want to buy a car from someone who was forced to do it and slapped together something that is going to fall apart on the road in 18 months" 

I can't agree more on this statement, BUT... this is only true if the vehicle remains in a compliance state.  It is easy to understand Toyota biting the bullet and losing ten thousand (or whatever it is) on each RAV 4 EV it sells but that only adds up to 26 million for the 2600 or so units they plan to make.  They probably saved 4 times that much by not developing their own program even after the money to Tesla was paid out.  But how many would they have to manufacture if they had to put it out to 30 or 40 states?  What if they had to manufacture 20,000 vehicles over the next 3 years? All of a sudden, its now a significant number of cars.  Slapping together something that will cost a fortune in support and service down the road is not really an option. Not with those numbers. IOW, larger volumes will force Toyota to put their best foot forward. They can't afford to push that much under the rug

"Take the oil subsidies away and that will force automakers to sell EV's and the ones that don't will perish"

Even if that were true, it would take too long to get going. Automakers are really stuck on themselves...and a 5 year development cycle. What would happen is that they would put out product, find out after a year that it wasn't working? they would put out something running on gas that got better mileage before they would do EVs.  In the best scenario, that is a few years away.  My scenario would have already put EVs on the road by then.  Besides, the premise of this post is ending compliance EVs. I NEVER said I would force others to create an EV if they did not already have one.  There are some places in this country that do not want EVs and I am in no way suggesting that we make them buy them. I am only saying that States who want them should get them.

"I won't drive a compliance car because its a hunk of junk..." 

A rising tide lifts all boats equally.  We have garbage because of compliance. Remove compliance, require a sufficient volume of cars and then they will be forced to make a good product.

 This is NOTHING new here.  Toyota did it with the Prius in the 2000's.  Japanese imports did it to the Big three with compacts in the 80's.  It is really the same cycle.  But instead of waiting a decade, I say start the process now.  Nissan has been slow to respond to our needs and why? I say why not? Its not like they have ANYONE breathing down their neck. Who is stealing sales from them? NO ONE, thats who!  Would you be afraid of the RAV if you could already see the last one being made before the first one was sold? Nissan wrote those losses off 3 years ago! Why? because they can!

But what if they had to account for X number of sales per year per region, INDEFINITELY?  Bet they would be more concerned then.  I was fairly certain that the 2015 LEAF on its 4th anniversary would be the year of the bigger battery and I am willing to bet, Nissan did to. But then again, Nissan looked back and back and back and saw.... NOTHING! No footsteps, no threats, no nothing!

So, now we wait another year because no one has stepped up to challenge them. Question; why did Nissan sell 3,000 LEAFs last month?  Because the desire to own an EV is there and there is no one else feeding it.

And the more EVs there are, the better all of them will become. Sure, it will be a bit of reverse engineering, partnership forming, and "patent shaving" (is that a real term?) going on but all of them will encourage each other to build a better car.

**warning!! petition link below**

The petition states in part ;

As Toyota invests in hybrid vehicles and cleans up its larger vehicles to stay competitive, it must also invest in the emerging plug-in electric vehicle (EV) market. Recent marketing and investment decisions by Toyota indicate a lack of commitment to these types of vehicles, but now is the time for automakers to double down, not back out, on this critical piece of the clean vehicle puzzle.

***EDIT*** Rumors floating around that the Chevy Spark and the Kia Soul will be expanding their sales area. We might soon see both in WA Showrooms!