Thursday, September 18, 2014

Nissan Doing the "Shimmy Shimmy Shake!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Fall Is Coming, Time To Adjust Your Tires!

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Manipulating Battery Stats

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

Part One;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

So the moral of the story?  YMMV!!

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

Saturday, September 6, 2014

August 2014 Drive Report

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

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

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

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

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

Once again; I LOVE MY LEAF!!!

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.