Friday, July 3, 2015

Why Washington's $35,000 EV Incentive Cap Is The Right Thing

Recently WA passed their state budget in a midnight session beating the deadline by less than 30 minutes. This was they typically generated political drama in which we all knew the budget would pass but in reality there was actually last minute finagling of the terms and one thing the legislators made clear is that the state was unwilling to support higher income residents buying premium EVs.

So the new law puts a "hard cap" on the previous sales tax waiver on Electric vehicle purchases of $35,000. IOW; if the car cost more than that, the tax credit is ZERO.  EV proponents argued that only the first $35,000 of the purchase price should be tax free which means other cars that just miss the limit like the BMW i3 or the upcoming top trim options for the longer range Nissan LEAF.

The $35,000 limit will likely (I am not sure since this is a new ruling so this is the general consensus)  be the  negotiated sale price before down payments or trade ins are considered  but it is a significant hit on the incentives of purchasing an EV. Since WA does not have income tax, its sales tax ranks as one of the highest in the nation where some residents would pay near 10% of the purchase price of a car depending on their location. I think the lowest rate is about 8.5% or so. I would pay 9.0 % but I am also lucky enough that I do not live in the area that is supporting the mass transit rail system.

But I still like the law.  Granted there is a real risk that the LEAF I get in Dec 2016 will exceed the limit since I am looking for more range and the tax hit would really hurt me but the financial benefit of driving EVs would still trump gasoline by a long shot. And there are other great benefits of the transportation bill that I greatly support such as;

** EV registration jumps from $100 annually to $150. Why is this good? Because the extra $50 will be earmarked strictly to maintain and expand the public charging network. WA was fast out of the gates for public charging but has essentially not finished a single lap in the race. The well publicized "West Coast Green Highway" is incomplete and has HUGE holes in it caused by the Federal program that was never completed.

** Gas taxes will jump nearly 12 cents per gallon with 5 cents this year and about 6.7 cents next year so gassers will be paying about the same $150 as well so that is a wash and the results is a good thing. Keep in mind that gas prices are low and the Middle East seems bent on keeping them low for the foreseeable future as a move to derail the U.S's increased domestic production.

** EVs are getting cheaper because of higher sales equaling higher production numbers along with advancing technology of the batteries which will yield cheaper, lighter and more powerful cells.  This should result in many more EVs priced competitively with their gasoline counterparts which will remove the "EV premium" and boost current range. I have said it a MILLION times and its worth repeating. Yes, I want (and need) longer range because of the unique job requirements I have but the most popular EV will be the one that does 100 "real" miles with a sticker in the mid to upper 20's which is well below the cap.

** The loss of the sales tax waiver is not going to stop one single owner from purchasing a Tesla. I only know of one Tesla owner is remotely qualifies as "normal" income and he is unique. He is a homeowner, solar panels for decades now and retired with a great pension.  He literally has no bills and basically he bought his Tesla by simply foregoing a few of the vacations he normally takes (he is literally gone nearly all Winter, every Winter) to get the purchase price of which he paid cash.

** The Chevy Volt now qualifies for the tax break or any plug in that can squeak out at least 30 miles on battery only. This I don't like. Its a way of maintaining oil flow but...

** I am sure there are Tesla S owners out there right now who don't have solar but I don't know one so again, one of the likely characteristic of people looking at high end EVs is the fact they would be charging their car with nearly free electricity and ya, I know those solar panels were not donated but they already bought them so way too last for buyers remorse! Besides, WA has one of the best solar power benefit programs in the country.

So its all good right?  Well, ya but... Right now its hard for many to believe this because most are assuming that longer range EVs will exceed the cap like the "affordable" Tesla 3 which starts at $35,000 but keep in mind; the longer the range, the greater the percentage of driving the EV would do which increases the savings which means a short payback on the ROI.   So if doing the math on say a $40,000 EV (which is about where I expect most Tesla 3 and Chevy Bolt purchases to be) that would come with a tax bill between $3600 and $4,000 for most of us and a fuel only savings of 5 cents per mile (assuming you don't have solar that is...)  we are looking at a complete recovery of the tax in 72,000 miles or less than 5 years typically.

Add in the required additional cost of maintenance of gasoline vehicles and the pay back could be reduced to just over 3 years.

Finally; as a member of the "working poor" I talk with people every day in my situation. As an auditor where 75% of my work involves physical inventory of retail establishments, I work with people in the service industry daily. Many people have taken a lot of interest in my LEAF and I am "generally" willing to share my experiences ;).

But it has always come down to the sticker price. I say lease! but that is such a strange concept to many (like it was to me 5 years ago!) so the tax break is a must. It is simply another great incentive to get fence sitters into the EV game. This allows them to see firsthand how cheap an EV can be since nearly all will still have a gasser in garage for direct comparisons.

Now I don't know how close we came to not having any tax waiver at all but it does seem like this law was not a sure fire thing so I am grateful we still have something so all in all, I am very much in favor of the new EV incentive rules because the alternative was just too scary to think about!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

June 2015 Driving Stats; The Pitfalls of Budget Transportation

Ok, first off; the front end woes of my Corolla continued resulting in 3 more trips to the shop resulting in a final repair bill of $532.66.  Added to the previous trip (when my wheel almost fell off) of $728.94 essentially makes my $2300 car a $3500 car but at least the front end does not make any noise anymore, at least not yet anyway...

As far as the Corolla goes, it went 323.1 miles (about half was trips to the repair shops along with random test drives)  for nothing!~!   well, not really but did not purchase gas in June so using the last purchase in May, It cost $23.86 or roughly 7.4 cents per mile. There is just over a quarter tank left but will probably fill it before its next use for easy math purposes for lack of a better reason.

The LEAF went 1375.2 miles at a cost of $24.22 soaking me at the rate of 1.76 cents per mile. Included in that cost was a pitstop at Tahoma Market for a buck 66 of electrons.  I did use the "free bucket" network 5 times.

Today I proved our crappy freeway system makes Nissan good on their 100 mile claim.  One would think at 4:45 AM there would be no traffic slowdown but noooo... still had roughly 10-12 miles of reduced speeds including the typical Tacoma Dome stretch and Southcenter stretch where the speeds average 20 mph on good days.  All in all, drove 98.5 miles with a kwh to spare


I had actually planned to do a pit stop in Tacoma after dropping off paperwork at the office and get a TB test (required every year...) at the same time but found that my remaining range was enough to get home so I got TB test in Lacey after lunch instead!

And for those of you who think the above was mostly in town driving, not the case. Granted there were stretches of the freeway that were slow but it still was about 75-80% at 60 mph. Besides, 5.2 miles per kwh around town is definitely nothing to brag about.

This is in town driving!

June was warm, in fact the warmest on record. It was so warm that it would have been the 8th hottest August on record (August is our hottest month with average highs of 78º. Average highs in June is 73°) and today its 92º with promises of 90's for 7 of the next 12 days (we average 5 days in the 90's each Summer)  so looks like we are quickly losing our "climate" advantage for battery degradation.

As always, I will keep you posted!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Nissan's 338 Mile LEAF Is Real And This Is How It Will Be Done!

Recently Nissan posted a very short video showing a LEAF with a seemingly 338 mile range. The video was nothing more than a fluff piece with no words, no info, etc. Just someone happily cruising the country side without a range concern in mind.

 Now we see prototypes at car shows all the time so seeing something a bit unreal or "way out there" is kinda normal. Remember the "Bladeglider?"  The three wheeled super cool sports car?  Now that was a pretty awesome car. I had a chance to see it up close at the Toyko Motor Show and it is MUCH cooler in person than any excitement a picture could hope to convey.

But a 338 mile LEAF? Even under the very modest Japanese testing parameters, that still equates to 250 miles in America a 300% jump from the current LEAF.  How is it we went up that far that fast?
That is a good question and I am pretty sure I have a pretty good answer.

First of all, what would it take to get that much range?  We all know the LEAF is more efficient that the Tesla and the Tesla needs 85 Kwh to get a similar distance so lets start about there. If this was the case, then where does the battery go?  Did Nissan follow Tesla's lead and create a flat battery profile that would cover the entire underside of the car?  Some have reported the prototype did have less ground clearance so it is a possibility.  But how would that extra weight work with the LEAF?

Well, it wouldn't. Batteries have advanced a ton in the 5 years the LEAF has been out and about but not that much.  This means a drastic weight reduction measure would have to be implemented and to be fair, the video does flash to a part of the LEAF that "seems" like it could be carbon fiber. Hopefully that is not the case. This would drive the price of the LEAF out of my (and probably yours) price range. Now, even if this did happen, I am sure we would still have a super cheap trim option but it will be hard to accept that when so much better is out there.

So how will Nissan provide us all the range we could ever want?  Well, before we get to that (Am I a tease or what!!) People complain that Nissan is not doing enough to advance EVs. They are too closed mouth, too secretive.  I have to think that that opinion is mostly the result of Elon Musk rewriting the rules of auto manufacturing financing. It is estimated that even under the best of circumstances, Tesla will not generate a profit for at least another 4-5 years and that is a prediction made with great optimism, instead Musk basically makes money by creating hype.

So what "seems" like Nissan playing close to the vest is really them being normal and Tesla being "out there."  Now, don't get me wrong; I love Tesla. How can one not love Tesla? Here is a company losing millions but still willing to build a charging infrastructure for the customers, fre... ah, umm,  well for a reasonable cost.

But then again, maybe Nissan is telling us more than enough and we simply need to know how to process the information. For those of you who were good at  "Scavenger Hunt"  you have probably already figured it out.  But for those of you who simply gave up and got drunk instead (like me) lets walk this thru.

2012
Hint #1;  Nissan's battery supplier NEC announces break thru in capacity and cycling back in 2012.  Testing has generally gone on quietly but there is also evidence that the product is now in use and doing very well at least under simulated cycling.

2014
Hint #2;  Nissan partnership with Phinergy. Phinergy developed Al-Air battery technology. Its kinda hard to classify this as a battery in the regular sense when equating it with EVs because the battery is not rechargeable but so I liken it more to the Fuel Cell only MUCH better. In fact; Al-Air is Hydrogen's worst enemy!   unlike a lot of "battery breakthru" announcements, proof of concept has already been acomplished. Several successful prototype runs have been done which is probably why Nissan jumped into this partnership so fast. They predicted production ready cars in "2 perhaps 3 years"

2015
Hint #3.  Ok, I lied, the video does have some words and the video is loaded with clues.  If you have not done so, go back to the link at the beginning and watch it a few more times. Did you see them??
First of all; the normal. Guy starts LEAF, GOM shows 544 km.  Great number and so far, what we know and expect (other than the awesome range speculation!)  But then we see another display that runs a count up to 544 km? Well that is something new, right?  What is that for? My guess is that is how you check your secondary power pack, the Al-Air pack.

Hint # 4; Then the video flashes bullet points;

"Increasing Battery Capacity." Check. see Hint #1.

"Reducing Weight"  Check. remember the carbon fiber mention? I guess a little here and there is ok.

"Improving Aerodynamics"  Check. Remember we mentioned it appeared the LEAF rode lower to the ground? Reduced ground clearance lowers drag.

"Technology That Takes You Further"  Now this is the final bullet point so it could be a summary of the previous points but do we really need a summary of a segment that took about 5 seconds? I think not. The emphasis on the word "Technology" is the clue. Its Nissan's way of introducing Al-Air.

Check my previous post about Al-Air  and its many advantages.  So what do you think about Nissan's 300 mile LEAF? Well, I don't have to, I know!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Nissan's Discounted Lease Purchase Program

Recently Nissan has announced huge discounts off the lease buyout of the 2011-2013 Nissan LEAFs. The amounts range from a few thousand to several thousand.

This is great news but I have to say I am a bit surprised at some of the reaction from the EV community. Now, I do realize that no matter what the subject is, there will always be a complete spectrum of reactions to that subject but it seems everyone has missed the biggest one.

A lot of comments were aimed at Nissan trying to scramble to cover the anticipated large number of lease returns. With a longer range LEAF just around the corner, the motivation to keep the older LEAFs will be affected as one would expect. So they threw out this seemingly desperation move to help stem the tide of returns.  Not sure I see it that way.

Would it play better if Nissan pitched it as "Buy your leased vehicle and receive a free replacement battery!"

I, for one would not like it at all.  For me, I would say "Give me the CASH! I will decide when and from whom, I will buy that battery from"

 Remember; Nissan tried to do a battery leasing program that was completely destroyed in the online community. It was not a bad plan at all. It was a way to have a range guarantee without a large output of cash. I did the math. Most people would be paying about the same money either way. Whether it was plop down $5400 now, or pay $100 a month. The costs after financing were nearly identical. But because of the reaction, we never did get any details of how Nissan planned to handle the extremes of drivers; the lightly used LEAFs and the road warriors. I am guessing both of these would have made out even better.

What I do see is Nissan giving the owner another option. Take the savings now, then decide when you want to pay for the replacement battery. I speculated in a previous blog that I anticipate a $1500 reduction in battery pack costs along with increased range by 2017. Take the cash discount, bank it and use it to buy your battery. I am guessing that you might find you have to contribute very little to that fund when you do purchase.



Saturday, June 6, 2015

Will Nissan's New 30 KWh Battery Be Compatible with 2011-2015 LEAFs?

Next to the price, this has become one the most popular and debated subjects. I say yes because..

First off, according to this article , The idea of a 30 KWh pack is nearly 3 years old. Based on the article, we can assume that the 30 Kwh pack will be nearly the same in size and weight with the existing 24 kwh pack which means no significant design changes required.

Now, the other thing to think about is batteries are created in batches and I am guessing they are very large ones at that. So there is an issue of using up what is already in the supply line along with a question of shelf life.  As I understand it (which is little) unactivated battery packs can lie dormant for a relatively long time like over a year or more. Now, how much more? Good question! and if anyone knows, please chime in.

The way I see it is that Nissan will stop (if they haven't already) creating the 24 kwh packs altogether. It will simply be a question of guesstimating how many they will need to cover the 2016 S trims plus a few for warranty purposes. It will be this demand plus people simply replacing battery packs long after their warranty that will mean Nissan will have to provide a workable solution PLUS

US Law states manufacturers must supply parts for the "full warranty period." Which means that Nissan must supply a 24 kwh battery pack or substitute at least up to the year 2025, right? After all, what happens if you have a battery pack failure in your 2015 LEAF?

 Now, I tried to get some definitive answers about this law from various people in the biz but most were pretty evasive about it stating "they knew" some less popular models had no real parts supply when they were discontinued. But even whole companies that have disappeared like Oldsmobile and others, parts are still available for the cars. Just not very cheap ones!

Since the 30 Kwh pack is the same size and weight, its pretty much a no brainer!!

**Just a reminder** Remember in a previous blog, I predicted a replacement battery pack of 30 kwh will be going for $3999 by the end of 2018 and "that is my words and I am sticking to it!!"

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Will We Ever See A 500 Mile Electric Vehicle?

There are few guarantees in life these days.  It seems like all the old rules are being rewritten daily but there is one given; an undeniable segway  when a new electric vehicle is announced that has longer range than its predecessor or previous version and the 30 Kwh 2016 LEAF SV/SL is no different.

The argument always lines up the same. There is the "Wow, awesome! This is perfect!" group which is generally small but knowledgeable.  Then comes the "sounds great if its the same price" group. They love EVs, probably already have one and rarely use the range they already have.  And finally, you have the "Well, "XX" has failed us again and I won't be interested. I will save my money for the "blah blah" when it comes out"

Now, it would not take too much imagination for us to figure out that the 30 kwh 2016 LEAF 1.5 is not what we are talking about here, its the 2017 LEAF II with its "double range" capacity verses the much talked about mystery car aka the Tesla 3. So what do we know?  Well, nothing actually about either one so best we can do is what we have been told which as we all know is subject to change.

Musk promises the Tesla 3 will have a 200 mile range and start at $35,000. Now due to the extreme inequities of the federal tax benefit for EVs, The Tesla 3 will see the $7500 tax credit for probably a few years... but then again, that all depends on when the car shows up. I generally add a year to any Musk prediction which means I am only slightly antsy when the car does finally show up.   Keep in mind; the fed tax max only applies to the first 200,000 units from each manufacturer.  How many S's and X's will go before the 3 arrives is anyone's guess.

Now, the 2017 LEAF II will have what I am guessing to be 135-160 miles of range and will retail for something close to what they are selling for now. Middle ground says $32,000. So for an extra $3,000 or so, you can get 40-65 more miles of range. Sounds like a good deal right?

Well, I am predicting that the average selling price for LEAF II will be no more than $2,000 above my $32,000 estimate but more than $5,000 above Musk's $35,000 estimate for the average selling price of the Tesla 3 which now puts it over $40,000.

So, does this make the Tesla a significantly more expensive car when their is simply more pages in the accessories catalog? Do we base the cost of the car on the "stripped down" price of the no frills option in each line? Well, some might but I have to go with what is selling.

The actual reality is probably going to be "Musk being Musk"  He has always excelled at promotion and hype and this is no different. the $35,000 price tag is just the bait and like all Fish, the biters will realize that there is much more to it. Either way; Nissan does not have to worry about the Tesla 3.  infiniti, BMW and Mercedes? well, that is a different story.

As mentioned above, every new EV announcement is immediately followed with what everyone "really" wants and rarely does anyone really want something that correlates to their needs.  There was a guy who was basically a traveling salesman delivering medical equipment all over the State of Florida. He put several hundred miles on his Prius every day eventually getting to nearly a half million miles (in less than FOUR years!) Ok, so he might need a 500 mile EV but for the rest of us?

But I hear this every day. "I won't buy an EV until it has the range to do everything I need it for so it will have to have at least 500 miles of range."  Well, guess what? That will NEVER HAPPEN EVER.

No matter how much better the batteries get; a chemistry based battery solution will never go that far on a single charge and the main reason is we simply don't need it to.  There will be no car manufacturer willing to design a car for the few dozen people who actually may need that much range on a fairly regular basis. The other reason is there is simply too many reasons not to

Battery Swapping;
Now the need to drive 500 miles will arise but before we start hauling around more than twice the battery we need (along with paying for it!) other solutions will cover our needs.  Battery swapping will come back. Yea, Better Place had a great idea but was about 10 years too early.

Public Charging;
A build out of the public charging network will also help to cover our more extreme needs as well. Score one for Musk, he really nailed that one.  But this benefit won't happen until the Oil Companies accept the fact that electric vehicles have gained enough of a foothold in the market to warrant the consideration. Look for BIG movement in that arena within 2 years. Look for 2017 to be the banner year for public charging. Yea, our future is likely shifting from paying oil companies for gasoline to paying them for charging...

Chemistry;  There was a lot of noise made just before this decade started with Ultra capacitors and electronic charge storage from a company called eestor.  They claimed to have found a way to hold electrons with the ability to control the discharge. IOW, an electronic battery of sorts.  But their claims of a working prototype being just months away has been proven false.  Other companies have come out with random claims of new super capacitor  benchmarks but none appear to be near production ready at this point. But another company has taken old technology, conquered a key drawback and promises a "production ready" product in less than two years. Phinergy has already demonstrated a working prototype with great success which I wrote about in a blog a while back.

Now, this option has great potential. It has huge weight/charge performance gains, very low weight, and a supposedly no shelf limit. IOW, you could order the range extender on your new EV, drive on the rechargeable batteries for years all the while knowing you can switch over the range extender any time as often as you wish without any creating any detrimental effects to range within.  Sounds like a dream come true?  Well, Nissan thinks its their dream come true. They have invested into the technology so don't be surprised to see this in the 2018 model year and an option.  My take?  Well, Hydrogen; It was nice knowing you...          

Finally; need is not the real question here. Its desire. Who really wants to drive for 10+ hours in a day?  I am a military brat who joined the military so all day driving marathons is something I have gone thru way too many times. Ignoring things I did before the age of one, I was 18 (flying to basic training) when I took my first airplane ride. So it was drive and ya, its like drive to Virginia from California. Virginia to Alaska (and back!), etc. so who needs it??

Well, we do. I predict the occurrence of marathon driving sessions will jump up within 10 years but we won't be doing the driving. I will leave that up to Google.                      

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

May 2015 Driving Stats; Time To Boost My Battery Numbers!

Well another month is in the can and another issue for the gasser. Had wheel bearing go out which needed to be fixed. With some favors owed, it cost me $89.43 to get that straightened out but now the car drifts to the right so taking it back in tomorrow to check that out.

The Corolla did make two long trips this month so it was  busy month for it going 720.1 miles at a cost of  $77.42 or 10.75 cents per mile (fuel only)  510 miles of that was in a 2 day period for work. Normally trips that long, I have a company car but there was too many other things going on so I didn't push the issue.  

The LEAF traveled 1095.8 miles for a cost of $19.20 or 1.75 cents per mile. I did do 3 short public charges, all free during the month.   With the odometer sitting just over 22,700 miles on month 17 of my 45,000 mile 36 month lease, I think I am doing ok although I will have to shift more driving to the Corolla this coming Winter again.  

Now, with the two days of gassing plus some local jobs, scheduled days off, etc. I went thru a period of  8 days when I averaged 16 miles of driving per day. Twice I went 2 days without plugging in and when I did plug in, I did not charge over about 70% SOC. This resulted in my lowest battery stat readings including a below 60 ahr reading.

My numbers bottomed out at 59.63 ahr, 91.09% Hx,  259 GIDs and 20.1 kwh available.  Now, these numbers could mean that my theory of a better 2013 battery than what my 2011 had is wrong.  Don't get me wrong. These are not bad numbers at all after nearly 23,000 miles but they are really about the same as my 2011.

So, I guess my challenge will be to boost my numbers to see what I got "left in the tank."  I am not sure I will make 100% Hx, but pretty sure I can at least do 63-64 ahr.  I will have a decent drive (roughly 130 miles) on Saturday that will likely include fast charging (as we all know, fast charging always seems to boost the numbers) so we shall see.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Used LEAFs For Cheap. So What's Wrong With That?

Recently an article was published at HybridCars.com  about the low prices we are seeing for used Nissan LEAFs.  Now some viewed the article as a statement of how poor an investment the Nissan LEAF with the low "value retention" is without even mentioning the huge differences in maintenance and fuel against a gasoline based car or the value of incentives, both financial and personal,  for driving an EV.

To me this article is great news especially for the budget minded household that is looking for insurance against the possible rise in fuel prices. To further the cause, WA State is proposing to make used EV purchases tax free as well as long as they are less than 5 years old. There is a spate of EVs coming off leases and the price difference can be small after all incentives are applied making the used LEAFs a very tough sell.

Annual improvements complicates the matter further. Many feel that Nissan has been sitting on its heels in EV development but that is not really the case. The LEAF's basic platform has remained the same but several things around it have been modified or changed to better suit the wants of the current EVer.  MY 2013 had several major changes including more efficient heating, faster charging, Model S trim, and likely better battery chemistry. This has caused the 2012 MY LEAFs to be offered at bargain basement prices. A dealer in OR has 5 under $10,000.   (Oops, he sold one. Only 4 left at that great price!)

But 2013's can be had for a great price as well so its very much a buyers market!

Now several states have great incentives but all are focused on the new car market. The problem with that is the biggest area of improvement for both efficiency and emissions is likely to come from the middle income bracket and down.  It is this segment of the car buying public that is usually buying used, older cars which almost always means less maintained (likely more emissions per mile in states without regular smog checks)  higher miles (increasing maintenance costs) and simply less efficient (lower MPGs which results in higher per mile costs)

But Nissan has realized that cheap used LEAFs have tilted the market so has started offering $5,000 incentives to purchase at lease end. Now, this becomes a no brainer to the person on a budget with modest driving needs especially when a replacement battery a few years down the line might be as low as a 4 year gas bill even when considering the currently depressed gas prices. But even that might not be enough.

There have always been rumors of when Nissan would start bumping up the battery capacities but none as specific as the ones that started circulating this week.  Several unverified sources have come out to announce that in a few months the 2016 LEAF will come out in 30 kwh sizes for the SV and SL trim with the S keeping the 24 kwh pack.  Prices have not been mentioned but I am guessing SV/SL prices will see no more than the usual year to year price increase of a few hundred or even less.

But that means the S will have to come in at a lower price to remain competitive which will really make the used LEAF market very attractive. All of a sudden, the only "no brainer" decision is what EV to buy?  

Many feel that the 30 kwh bump is not enough (its the 2 percenters doing most of that talking) but in my World, its huge!  This adds roughly 2 dozen different destinations to my work itinerary including the dreaded "Grays Harbor EV charging desert"  (FYI; the Chevy dealership in Aberdeen now has the lone charging station for the area meaning it is no longer hopeless but since its an L2, it does not work for my time stressed employment purposes)  Also keep in mind that a larger capacity pack makes one time at a fast charger that much more productive. With the rate of charge slowing down as the SOC increases, this potentially could mean only charging the lower part of the pack to maximize the time on the road.

But the real story here is what price will the S trim come in at?  My prediction is just about the same or maybe a few hundred less BUT fast charging and upgraded L2 now will be standard, effectively taking that extra cost of the equation.  The S with the charge package has been a huge hit especially among the bargain hunter crowd and Nissan wants to make sure that continues.

So where does that leave the thousands of used LEAFs that will be hitting the market very soon?  Now, Nissan has not said a word about the 2016 so in reality, its all rumors but it all makes sense. Nissan starts the $5,000 incentive on lease buyouts knowing that the higher capacity LEAFs will sway fence sitters to turn in their current vehicles.  They probably are not very happy about someone spilling the beans before the lease incentive had time to gain traction  so the next step I am guessing is a price cut on replacement batteries.

So now back to the used LEAF dilemma.   Recently,  2013's with under 30,000 miles are popping up in the $10-12,000 range. The 2016 LEAF will probably drive that price down, so if one could get one for say $9,000 how does that compare to a used car?

Well, I did some shopping this week (mostly due to random slack times at work which means I was on the clock but still waiting on clients or something) and I found a few things.

Despite very low gas prices, economy cars are EXPENSIVE.  It did not take me long to realize I had to lower my expectations to find a reasonable comparison. I was looking for economy cars that averaged at least 30 mpg, 2013 or newer under 30,000 miles.  Other than the bottom of the line sh** boxes, there was very little in the "under $10,000" range.

So for comparison purposes, I will use a compilation of  a 4 door sedan compact with 30 mpg and 30,000 miles on the odometer. Prices ranged from $11,000- $13,900.  To drive 15,000 miles a year that would run $1500 a year with gas at $3.00 (its $2.88 here)

If getting the LEAF at the same $11,000  fuel prices if charging strictly at home would be no more than 3 cents a mile here (I average under 2 cents for home charging only)  or $450 a year which means an annual "cash back" of $1000 from the Oil Company!!

So the only missing part from this "no brainer" calculation is how much will replacement packs cost in the future?

OK, so remember you heard it here first!

vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv

$3999 for 30 kwh replacement by 3rd Q, 2016.   What does that mean? That means that after 4 years, you will have broken even in "fuel cost" verses and somewhat equivalent economy car and likely to still have what current LEAFers have with 80 miles of range!!

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Just a prediction!. No verifiable info

Saturday, May 2, 2015

April 2015 Driving Stats Along With ANOTHER Reason Why Gas Does Not Work!

Ok, it my fault. I do not lock my car when its sitting at home which it has been doing a lot of lately but then again, pretty sure that this did not happen at home. So what did happen?

Well, it could be

1) My gas tank is leaking

2) Evaporation was greater than expected in the 7 week time frame between fill ups

3) I was ROBBED!!!

Recently a fellow EVer/Earth lover ran his Tesla dead unexpectedly. He surmised that it was likely vampire drain of leaving his key fob sitting in his cupholder (thought I was trusting??) that did him in.  I say to him; at least you only have vampire drains to worry about!

So based on my MPG actual verses what I would normally expect to get, I guess I "donated" roughly 4 gallons of gasoline to some deserving soul...

I do take solace in the fact that the theft did not likely take place while parked in my driveway but anyway, moving on!!


So, the Corolla traveled 253 miles in April (barely since it drove April 1st and the 27th) for a cost of about $27.80 or just under 11 cents per mile. non theft estimate drops it to roughly 7 cents per mile. Again these are estimates based on fill ups March 1st and April 27th, but close enough!

The LEAF went 1199.8 miles for total cost of $28.15 averaging 2.34 cents per mile. There was $8.54 in public charging costs. Roughly without public charging, it would have been closer to 1.8 cents per mile but ah well! Its all good.

Recent reports out of the Middle East claims that Big Oil will be manipulating supplies to keep prices low. This is disappointing. There will be people lulled into thinking that its ok to burn a bunch since its nearly "pain free." But, lets face it. Some people have really weird thought processes.  Sanctions against Iran are expected to be lifted creating an even greater oversupply of oil on the market while the US achieves record volumes of oil pumped within its own boundaries.  Prices this Summer should be the lowest in 11 years with the average household expected to pay $700 less for fuel annually.

WA State and the Federal Government should be taking this opportunity to raise gas taxes. The need for the additional revenue is a constant long with gasoline's many detrimental side effects, its past time for a more balanced sheet.

Finally; Batt Stat Watch.   Low water mark for the month; Ahr, 60.89, Hx, 93.59%,  GIDs. 264, kwh Available, 20.5.   Last full charge of the month (yesterday) 62.91/96.73%/273/21.2

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Death of Fuel Cells; Al-Air



What if you could get a range extender like the Rx on the BMW but with one key difference? This one runs on stored electricity.  What if you wanted a fuel cell like the Toyota Murai but did not live a reasonable distance from the Hydrogen refueling station (assuming your state has one that is)

That day might be less than two years away.  Last Summer Nissan announced they were partnering with a small Israeli tech company for battery technology that they hoped to start manufacturing in 2017. Phinergy had developed the Al-Air battery which uses stored electricity of refined Aluminum and water to produce electricity and heat. Later that year they successfully tested a prototype that was able to go 330 km on a battery pack weighing just 55 kgs (121 lbs) . They also tested a car with an 1800 mile range using a pack that weighs "as much as" 440 lbs.

Now, I say as much as because half the "battery weight" is actually water that can be added at any time by the user.  The formula is one kg of Al plus one kg of water makes 8.1 Kwh of energy.  Half electricity, half heat. With 4 kwh of power for every 4.4 lbs of "fuel" we are now seeing a power output of nearly one kwh per pound.  Needless to say, this is a "bit" of an improvement over the 90 miles we can get out of the 660 lb 24 kwh LEAF traction pack.

So with this truly slack jawed performance, why isn't everyone running head on into this? Well, that is actually a very good question that I don't really have an answer for.  So, what do we know?

Al-Air is not new technology. In fact,  it was "the best hope for energy storage for the future." Now that statement was made in the 1970's!   So why isn't it?  Well the big problem was maintaining the environment within the battery which is difficult to do because... Oh wait! forgot to mention that there is a 3rd component to the technology and that is Oxygen. It also needs a Kg of O2 to work and Phinergy's Al-Air battery will simply suck that out of the air. Sounds convenient? well, in the previous 50 years, no one has been able to figure out how to get the O2 out of air and only the O2.

Now, our atmosphere is basically 80% nitrogen and 20% oxygen, so there is plenty of O2 there but the problem is there is also other junk (that we put there) that messes everything up.  CO2 completely screws up the chemical reaction of Al-Air reducing its effectiveness and reliability but Phinergy has figured out a way to suck up the O2 without getting any of the CO2.  So its possible that the science is still in question.  Prototypes are one thing but mass manufacturing will not work if the we cannot reproduce the performance in bulk reliably at a reasonable cost.  Phinergy estimates a manufacture-able  production ready pack by 2017-2018.

The other thing is the end user adding water.  Any time the customer is involved, that opens up the possibility of messing things up.  Even something as simple as adding distilled water.  We still don't know how sensitive this new technology will be to outside contaminants so adding water carelessly could leave you stranded unexpectedly.  The same goes with the Aluminum.  Phinergy's solution would be having service stations where packs can be swapped out. Now, we already know that Better Place did not work but would people do it for 500 miles of range instead of 80? Definitely something to think about.

There is also the 50% efficiency factor.  Aluminum is very energy intensive to produce and some might not be too happy with a 50% return on the energy invested.  Due to its very high power demands, Aluminum plants can only be placed near very large power sources.

Finally, there is a cost of infrastructure that needs to be investigated. Phinergy only says it will "be much cheaper than current options" which could mean just about anything.

But there is also an up side; a very big one!

**Aluminum is the most abundant metal on the planet. Unlike lithium which is common but not nearly so,  there is a nearly endless supply and no worries about dealing with resistant countries with unstable governments or countries with weird World views. We and our allies have plenty Aluminum right here.

**Yes, it takes a lot of power to make Aluminum out of Bauxite (the rock that mined to make the Aluminum)  but Aluminum is one of the most recyclable metals on the planet and unlike plastics or paper, it can be recycled endlessly and the recycling process uses 95% less power than Bauxite.

**Did I mention weight?  Imagine a sealed unit light enough to carry that would add 50 miles of range. Phinergy does not mention any scale-ability but what if they could package them in 50 mile units? What if Nissan could create a "plug and play" interface that could allow one, two or more of these 50 mile cells to be plugged in?  Range customization as easy as stopping at 7-Eleven to drop off the spent cell for a new one. Simply add water and drive.  Besides its exactly this kind of supply side marketing that will get the big money behind it.   The thought of getting your electricity from the Sun was never in "their" wheelhouse.  But this is an easy way to sell marked up convenience for a fee. But the real benefit is nearly no infrastructure build up required.  Very large packs would need to be done professionally but those could be done several days in advance of a big trip, which all means...

**Flexibility is unparalleled here. Al-Air has no time sensitive storage issues. Unlike Hydrogen, it will not leak a single electron over time. Unlike Lithium, it can remain at full charge for years without losing a single foot of range.  It is simply there when you need it and only when you need it. A smart move would have the LEAF bump the range to no more than 120 miles or so. Add an expandable Al-Air pack that can add up to 300 miles of range. Remember half the expected weight is water. Something you can pick up at any store (guessing Al-Air will mean a LOT more distilled water purchase options) so a 300 mile range extender could be as little as 150 lbs. No more weight than an extra passenger. Sitting there, perhaps for years waiting for that occasional need to arise.  This could mean a single 300 mile range extender could last some people years. Others might have to get replacements a few times a month.

**PUDs. If this does not make their wallet tingle, nothing will!  Here would be nearly unlimited power storage in the form of pure Aluminum. This insures that there will never be a single electron wasted because it had nowhere to go.  Super Sun? No problem, just crank out a few Al ingots and put them in the vault for a cloudy day.  Power outage?  Truck mounted Al-Air cells would be enough to light up the neighborhoods until the power was restored.   With the ability to queue up power in the form of these Al-Air cells, the utility could greatly maximize its efficiency. Power plants would be scheduled to run at peak efficiency only with the extra power diverted.

**Finally, its truly a major major break thru in power storage technology. Right now, its a 50% efficiency keeping in mind its 50% plus heat in Winter.  Right now, its not reversible but in the future it very well could be.  Phinergy is also working on Zinc-Air batteries which basically work the same as the Al-Air batteries except they are rechargeable. If they make some break thrus in that arena, I think they have a pretty good chance of passing Apple to become the first Trillion Dollar company.

Oh!! almost forgot about fuel cells, but then again... oh, never mind, they are NO LONGER IMPORTANT!!