Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Chevy Bolt Test Drive

Yesterday, I had the privilege of doing a test drive of a 2017 Chevy Bolt LT equipped with QC and Comfort package. Thank you Bob @ Chevy of Everett for hosting my drive!

So, before we get into the details, first off; I don't really care about the acceleration. Any EV has more than enough AFAIC, so didn't really check that out despite nearly EVERYONE saying that testing "Sports Mode" was a required part of the test.  My EVing is all about getting range and before you say "238 miles is more than enough" let me just mention that I approached or exceeded that 21 times in the past year in my LEAF and by large, did it without any stoplight drag races!

After reviewing some numbers, colors and availability, I was sent off with the keys to go "warm" up the Bolt. This gave me a chance to spend more time in the seat,  play with the controls, grab some screen shots, etc. Here are a few in no real order

 Efficiency Chart in 5 min increments. Seems like the Prius started
this and everyone is following suit. Liked it then and like it now!

 Super cool! I can concur with the climate settings. Car was much too warm for me!
Knowing the efficiency impact of wearing a hat and coat will be awesome!

 Ok, I admit I changed the amperage to 12 from 8 and hoping that the pop up resulting from 
that change  is gone for good. Any current Bolters? Please assure me I don't 
have to change this every time I start the car!

 Another Prius Throwback Screen.  Nice I guess since it can be toggled to
 the other much more informative screens above. :) 

 Driver Display.  Didn't find a dedicated one, but the power meter  is the teeny
 tiny display on the right currently displaying 1 KW. The white line is actually the indicator and moves up and down while driving. The swing is very small though.   A bigger display accurately 
showing regen, power and friction braking is what we need here. But it does 
have the digital readout, So half a point! 

 Easy to see this is not my car. 30 PSI?? That is insane!!

 Sorry for the size of the pix but its all but unreadable unless displayed at original size.  Priced at $38,800. (Dealer dropped price about $3800 if purchased today) 

This was the one I drove and it was one of SEVERAL Black ones on the lot!

Ok, to address another big issue; The seats were not uncomfortable in any way.  Yes, there is a lack of padding which a seat cushion would easily fix but unlike other Bolts I have sat in, the side bar on the seatback did not jab me in the ribs.  I am not sure why. This is not a newer 2017 (delivered to dealer in May) so unlikely to have been tweaked by Chevy in response to the multitude of complaints over social media. Bob also confirmed Chevy made no changes.  My only thought was maybe it was the leather seats that I had the issue with. To be honest with you, I sat in so many Bolts during NDEW events (I went to THREE of them!) I lost track.  

I have to say, I simply got lucky. I am not a big guy 5'8" (and shrinking... in one direction anyway) or extremely overweight.  I do feel myself settling into a distinct position held rather snugly in place. It is easy to see that someone bigger might  not fit as well as me. 

On the drive, One pedal is of course a must and somewhat disappointed that the Bolt uses the old LEAF method of shift twice to get into "Low" for one pedal operation.  The Bolt shifter also requires you to squeeze a button on the side to shift. I guess it prevents accidental shifting. Didn't like that part. They should have instituted a delay for bad shifts like going from Forward to Reverse at higher speeds, etc.  I do a lot of shifting from neutral to B mode in the LEAF to take advantage of various levels of deceleration, slopes, etc.  Didn't try it on the test drive, but venture to say the Bolt won't shift to neutral like the LEAF did when an "illegal" shift was done.  In the grand scheme of things, it might not matter as much with the one pedal driving option that my current LEAF does not have.   I do like the 2018 LEAF's button selector option for one pedal though. 

As expected, the drive was quiet and smooth. Absent is the high pitched sound of the LEAF motor (of course that also went bye bye in the LEAF for 2018).  I didn't really push the limits on corners but the Bolt seemed very rooted and stable also expected, compliments of a well placed heavy battery pack. There was the nice high seating position with good views and a much lesser obstruction of the A Pillars when making left turns as compared to the LEAF as well. 

Also a few mentioned higher road and wind noise on the Bolt verses the LEAF which I did not notice.  Our freeway stint was short, only a few miles but the ride was smooth without any wind noise I could detect. The weather was windy but dry during the test drive on a day that saw small bursts of rain with mild wind gusts. 

So there you have it! The Bolt is a great option and again, I think anyone having seat comfort issues can fix them relatively easily with a seat back cushion although I doubt I will do that.  During the ride, I felt no discomfort at all. 

The cargo space is limited and could be an issue hauling what I need for work but it would only be an issue when there will be 4 occupants which only happened 12 times this year.  Most of the time, I would be fine with using the back seat for storage and having a 2 passenger car (or 3) and the key thing to remember, A Bolt in the house would be under completely different circumstances than a LEAF upgrade since both the LEAF and Bolt would be there. I could always switch to the LEAF for those 12 occasions if needed. 

So the Bolt has the range, acceptable comfort, and is available right now.  It is definitely a go for me. 


One thing to mention; It will not be easy to cover 2 destinations I have for work due to lack of CCS charging infrastructure in Winter.  That will change but when? Summer is doable. Its actually 238 miles RT to the farthest of the two (the other is 228 miles)  but this I have full confidence I can do. I simply need to avoid Sports mode :).  Since both these locations (Ilwaco and Long Beach) are in SW Washington,  public infrastructure enhancements cannot be relied on to happen in the near future. Both locations are easily reachable in my 30 kwh LEAF. 

But what price would the extra 80-90 miles of range come at?   Chevy is not passing any of the fed tax credit on leases so lease terms are horrendous.  The Bolt as configured would lease for $489.67 a month with Money Factor of .00188 or 4.512% effective interest rate. That calculates to over $4000 in interest on a 39 month lease with a residual of  $22,504.  total payout would be $41,601.13 assuming a cash out residual payment at the end of the lease without the  inevitable sales tax considered. With tax, we are talking $44,000.   So leasing is out.  

Purchasing would have to be the only option. But that brings on a whole new set of issues. Normally I wouldn't come close to qualifying for the full $7500 tax credit and this year is no different.  Add to that, I have already contributed to a previous employer's 401 K so my tax liability is even lower making a 2017 purchase out of the question. 

But using the Bolt above for reference, we ran the numbers with $6500 down payment with the numbers including the "buy it now $1000 bonus" of  $34,917 with random fees bringing it to $36,108 (sales tax starts after $32,500).  With 2.99% financing (Which I qualified for last year when getting LEAF. Not sure where the rates are now) on a 60 month term, I was looking at $532.34 a month that included 2344.40 in finance charges. That pencils out to a $37,908.06 payout. 

 Now, none of this includes the federal tax credit which "should" be still in place (I have faith that trump will be thwarted as usual) and again, won't qualify for the full credit but I would likely look to increase my tax burden likely by converting a portion of my 401K to a Roth. Not sure what that would cost, but again, that is for a later blog. 

So faced with a lot to think about. The Bolt would be a long term car for me. Its range guarantees viability for many years down the road but its lack of tech concerns me. The price concerns me as well especially since the LEAF promises to be a much easier finance due to favorable lease terms along with the strong likelihood of being over $10,000 cheaper but all that could change.  Possible changes to the federal tax code along with the limited time left for the Washington EV sales tax credit (valued at over $3,000) could easily make the LEAF only slightly cheaper than the Bolt. 

In the grand scheme of things, I really just want the two EV option but at the same time, I want the best cost/benefit option available and am willing to put forth the effort to make it work. 

In conclusion; If not for THE best lease terms bar none and expected loyalty discounts from Nissan, I would be driving a Bolt right now.  It is a great EV option and yes, its expensive but realize that the average person would save about $1000 per year driving it over gas.  I however, am far from average.  I logged over 35,000 miles on my job in the past 12 months and that is my normal. Unlike previous years,  a greater percentage of those miles were logged on my personal vehicles, mostly the LEAF due to its small bump in range  (resulting in a huge increase in convenience of making extended trips) over the my 24 kwh LEAF.  Logging miles on an EV using rates designed to mitigate the cost of a gasser is a win win for me. 2 years ago, I ran the numbers on my 2013 LEAF and determined that my reimbursement from work paid EVERYTHING on my LEAF and still put money in my pocket. That means all my charging, all my personal driving, all my insurance, all my everything related to the cost of driving my LEAF.  The Bolt with its additional range will do just as good. Now it would do better if Chevy provided a program similar to NCTC but alas, we already knew that range does come with a price. 

Ty Social Media!!

Some updates; Lease terms I mentioned above would likely be MUCH better for me in that the money factor I got on my worksheet can (and should) be MUCH lower.  So the $4000 in finance charges would be more than halved for my situation.

Also; the Disclaimer screen for changing to 12 Amp charging is apparently a cousin of the CARWINGS "I accept" screen and sadly, just as stubborn!!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

What Happens When All Your Stuff Looks Alike? The Oops Of The Decade!

A lot of words about interchangeability of  LEAF packs from small to bigger and how difficult it "could" be but apparently if you have the right equipment and applicable authorizations it can be so easy that it could be done nearly effortlessly. In fact so easily that it could (and was) done without any intent to do so. At least in one direction!

Recently a LEAFer in Phoenix, Sam having lost the 4 bars needed for a warranty exchange, received his LEAF back and guess what??  Are you sitting down?  I would take a few deep breaths first before continuing...

His 30 kwh battery pack was accidentally replaced with a 24 kwh pack! 

LEAF Spy of Sam's 2016 SL after pack switch

The above is not a typo.  A 2016 LEAF SL with a 30 kwh pack had a 24 kwh pack installed as a warranty replacement and apparently the process is so similar that the tech never realized it was the wrong size pack!

This very well could mean that a lot of the excuses used for not being able to do this swap are simply ONLY due to Nissan's unwillingness to grant permission to do this and nothing more.

In 2015 a Nissan Engineer attending a European Car Show admitted an upgrade from 24 kwh to 30 kwh was technically possible but would not elaborate.

Now there is a question of direction here. Since packs degrade, accepting a smaller pack than what the BMS was designed for is a given.  The BMS simply adjusts for the lesser capacity so this in no way guarantees that the same thing would happen when putting a bigger pack in place of a smaller pack, right?

So before we all start calling our lawyers crying about wanting the bigger pack, this needs to be examined first. But its becoming apparent that the connections at least between the 24 kwh packs and 30 kwh packs are pretty close! :)

FYI; It was only after being armed with data collected from others that Sam was able to convince the dealership to look into a possible mix up and sure enough, he now has an appointment to get a 30 kwh pack  A MONTH LATER!

I have heard of loaner programs before but this is a new one on me!


The benefits of Social Media!

Apparently DIYers in Russia did the downsize and found it to be a pretty easy thing to do but the upsize was fraught with problem after problem and could only be done by swapping VCM from 30 kwh LEAF into the 24 kwh LEAF.

FYI; Nissan sells the VCM for the Nismo package that provides stronger power profile for $1385. Wondering if it also recognizes longer range. There is a mention of that in a very roundabout way but simply could mean just a stronger regen profile...

More to follow!

Here is the Youtube video that shows the ease of "downsizing" and the issues with "upsizing"

**edit #2**

Ok, apparently the 30 kwh pack WILL NOT work in any way in 24 kwh LEAF without a matching VCM swap.  A bit of lost in translation or something I guess. So I did a search at LEAF parts site and did not find a "VCM" but did find this

Part Code: 23740N
Part Number: 237404NP0B
Year range 11/2016 to Present
Quantity per vehicle: 1
*MSRP: $476.66
Fits vehicle filters:
( BODY = 'HB' and GRADE = 'S' )

Now, have no idea if this is the part that is needed and guessing even if it was, it still needs to be programmed so likely other equipment and codes are still needed to do a swap.  Still looking to be an expensive DIY project but also can see it being a viable Aftermarket Product although not sure that 30 kwh will warrant the price needed to make a profit. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Degradation Theories Part 2; A 6 month Experiment

**Editor's Note**  Several times I will say "full" or "100%" but am referring to the accessible charge level controlled by LEAF BMS.

Always wanted to do that! :) 

A while back I posted a pictorial representation of the effects of temperature and SOC on battery degradation. The Pix did not have a time line but I did as much as I could to emphasize that time at these conditions is what should be avoided. That did not go over well.  So I am back to try again. Plus I have a confession to make. 

First off; my contention was a major portion of degradation we were seeing has more to do with time at high SOC rather than just heat.  There are simply too many people in areas that see little in the way of oppressive climates including one guy with very modest transportation needs with a 2016 LEAF 2015 build who has lost more than 10% capacity in less than a year but the real shocker is that he lives in Northwest Oregon!  It became apparent to me that the general conception of "degradation hot" needed an adjustment.  I began to see a pattern where even temps as mild as the 80's seemed to matter but I see that all Summer and more so why was I not affected? 

Now if we go to Battery U, there are some interesting insights and with the now infamous LEAF Degradation uproar, they naturally wanted to nose into this as well.  But the real shocker for me was this statement

Batteries chosen for an electric powertrain go through strenuous life cycle testing and Nissan selected a manganese-based Li-ion for the Leaf EV because of solid performance. To beat the clock, the test protocol mandated a rapid charge of 1.5C (less than 1 hour) and a discharge of 2.5C (20 minutes) under a temperature of 60°C (140°F). Under these harsh conditions, a heavy-duty battery is expected to lose 10 percent after 500 cycles, which represents 1–2 years of driving. This emulates driving an EV through the heat of a biblical hell, leaving rubber marks from aggressive driving, and still coming out with a battery that boasts 90 percent capacity.
Its no wonder Nissan was so confident in their pack. They put the pack in an oven for a month and it came out in fairly good shape! But what happened?  The cycle test obviously failed to resemble reality but this much off? 

So a few labs dissected the degraded LEAF packs to find out what the major malfunction was and determined that there are several types of degradation and they were detectable. The LEAF packs suffered from extended time at a high SOC COMBINED with high temps. 
The cathode (positive electrode) develops a similar restrictive layer known as electrolyte oxidation. Dr. Dahn stresses that a voltage above 4.10V/cell at elevated temperature causes this, a demise that can be more harmful than cycling a battery. The longer the battery stays in a high voltage, the faster the degradation occurs.
By now, I was beginning to realize that although heat is a major player, its not as significant,  per the general consensus, by itself. Its heat AND high SOC AND time that is the real killer. What does the bolded statement above mean? The obvious; the higher the heat and the longer the time at high SOC the more we need to avoid this.  But the statement implies the rate of degradation increases in heat.  To compare; the stress test using a fairly wide range of SOC probably running between 15-100% SOC (a search of the site provided no specifics)  and lasted roughly a month with losses of less than 5% per "rated" year.  Most manufacturers recommend a long term storage @ 15ºC (59ºF) and 40% SOC. In a year at the same temp and SOC, the cell loses about 25% capacity. A pack sitting on the shelf at the same temperature at full charge  losses roughly 40% of its capacity in 3 months or over 18% per month.

  Well, avoiding heat is not possible. The climate is what its going to be and by and large its getting warmer so we need to look at the other two factors we can control.  The reason the cycle test yielded favorable results is because it was discharged to a lower, less critical, SOC immediately in 20 mins! So there was high SOC, high temps but minimal time at high SOC making the temperature a lesser factor due to the transient nature of the fast cycle testing.  This also implies that temperature alone is not the major factor since the oven was at 140ºF the entire month! (Actually a 500 cycle test would run just over 28 days) 

In the previous blog, One of the statements I made that caused the greatest uproar was when I posited that a major cause of degradation was free workplace charging. Likely done  during the hottest part of the day, sometimes uncovered and its an extended time at high SOC.  Extended you say?  Yes, if using level 2 charging; even if you are lucky enough to time your exit just as the charge completes, level 2 is so slow that you are still spending as much as two hours in the heat if you recharged to full.  Back to the bolded statement above.  Can we say for certain that two hours at high temps/high SOC is twice as bad as one hour...or is it more? 

Now all of this is something I have suspected for years mostly because of people in areas like San Diego and in other areas where anything above the mid 80's was not common, 
 were seeing heavy degradation. But what is common is Sunny days and asphalt; an apparently lethal combination.

Ok; so I mentioned that I had a confession to make and by now most of you know that I have used a LOT of the free charging compliments of Nissan's 2 year free charging program NCTC.  What you don't know is that when weather turned in mid May, I stopped fully charging on level 2 resorting to almost all fast charging publicly frequently during the hottest part of the day . Crazy you say? Well, maybe, but...

But another experiment started in Feb was seeing how bad multi QCs heating up the pack really was.  I can't change my climate but generating heat was easy and so I started on many multi fast charge days hitting 9, 10, 11 TBs on a regular basis.  During this time, I only encountered one time where I think my charge speed was limited due to heat when I started a fast charge on an AV that should have run at 50 KW but it only ran at 30 KW and I was only at 9 TBs when I started.  I have started several fast charges at 10 TBs and didn't see any slow downs so maybe a station glitch? 

As luck would have it; Summer came early to Western WA and ended up being the longest Summer in my 32 years here by a long long long shot. The general consensus is maybe a week of Summer like weather by the 4th of July so having it start in mid May was a pleasant surprise!  The 9ish Holidays (3 day Memorial and Labor Day weekends plus the 4th)  were all hot, sunny and gorgeous! There might have been one time when Memorial Day had 3 good days in 32 years but I  mostly remember wishing there was one "decent" day most years!

This meant no more charging on level 2 to full and we had 6 months of warm!  In reality, I did charge to full 12 times but each time my leave time from home was before 3 AM. I did leave garage door open at night until bedtime to help cool it more and only a few times did the garage temp remain in the 80's sooo...not too bad.  This was great on the electric bill since the only time I plugged in was when I got home if below blinking bar but only for an hour. 

Since my experiment is based on time at high SOC as a main cause of degradation and not heat, it was essential to;

1) Heat up the pack A LOT and keep it hot which I did a fairly good job of. 

2) but still have enough range to average over 2500 miles a month and I did (obviously since there were no rides of shame to report!) 

3) Never let the car sit at high SOC which I did accomplish for the most part. 

4) Keep LEAF at lowest SOC possible as much as possible.  I will admit a bit of concern plugging into QC needing at least 75 miles of range while already at 10 TBs during the hottest part of a very warm Summer day but all in the name of Science!!

On most days, I parked my LEAF for the day at SOC ranging from 30 to 70% with battery temps at 9-11 bars. Unlike my previous LEAFs which NEVER got that hot (mostly due to pathetically slow fast charge rates), my 30 kwh pack cooled off faster it seems especially when battery was over 110º. Several times I would leave a QC in the mid to upper 120's and be in the mid to low 100 teens within a half hour while driving home during hottest part of the day.  Naturally on the hottest days, dissipation was much slower. I did manage to maintain minimum pack temps in the 90's for a pretty good stretch of the Summer mostly due to very early morning charging and 60 hour work weeks!

At least twice, I parked LEAF with greater than 90% SOC and batt temps over 110º due to last minute work cancellations. I resisted the strong urge to drive around town to reduce the SOC. I am thinking being 10,000+ miles over my lease miles played a part in that decision... 

When the weather got cold the last week of October, I ended the experiment, started charging at home again and as expected, the reduced usage allowed battery stats to drop.

New;  363 GIDs,  28.1 Kwh Available, 82.34 ahr, 100% SOH,  102ish Hx
Lowest; 363 GIDs, 28.1 kwh Available,   79.55 ahr,    100% SOH,   95.35 Hx. 

Work has also slowed down combined with several other personal days scheduled weeks in advance but did see a bump in numbers almost back to new levels with just a 2 day flurry of driving that included several QCs  so I venture to say my real loss is probably around 4% give or take. 

Now the debate becomes;

**Its only 4% solely because of where I live

** Despite my experiment, heat was still not a factor for me

** The high number of QCs  bolstered my numbers which is why my degradation despite more than double the miles is nearly 3X less than another LEAF driver living 100 miles south of me in a similar climate? 

**What is the definition of hot? 

In retrospect, there is other data I should have collected including recording battery temps several times a day. This would have been difficult to do at any set time but would have given an idea of the lowest temps the pack obtained daily.  

To summarize;

YMMV.  This is my car, my experiment, my situational driving.  My weird hours means large portions of my driving consists of higher speed driving VERY early in the morning before traffic buildup,  a TON of crawl during the afternoon trying to get home during gridlock which made it tough to run my SOC down quickly after a QC especially when averaging less than 20 mph. 

 30 kwh packs should have more durability simply because they are bigger, cycle less, etc. So why didn't that happen for most?  Is it charging to 97.7% SOC instead of 97.3?  Is it the steeper fast charge profile?  Or simply a hiccup in the process? There is a lot of talk about cell voltages and I found after looking at several screen shots that they seem to vary, guessing due to temperatures with my pack running from 4.112 to 4.136.   I spent quite a bit of time looking at LEAF Spy data to determine what voltage 90% SOC, 70%, etc was and its not consistent.  Kinda clears up why customized SOC settings are not all that straightforward. My respect for the legions of aftermarket people out there working on this has attained new heights!

Options; This isn't written for anyone out shopping for an EV. Its for the ones who have already made the commitment.  I am here to tell you that you don't have to roll over and take it. There are options; obviously not easy ones but the consequences are hardly a cakewalk either.  But the key is even if the 40 kwh pack has no improvements in this area, it becomes a very viable option for many simply because now charging to 70 or 80% and being able to get where you need to be is much easier. 


Breakpoints? On the storage experiment, there was a degradation difference of only 2% for the 40% SOC pack at temps between 0 and 25ºC which is 77ºF.   At 100% SOC the difference was 14% (94 to 80%) but as always, Battery U is very good at giving us a very very small picture of what we need to see.  A chart showing say 70% SOC and 15ºC would have cleared up a lot. But the site is huge. The info very well could be there and I simply haven't stumbled across it yet. The other thing is this is a different chemistry so the numbers will vary a bit but the mechanisms apply to all Li. 

On the flipside; Winter reduces range so being on the high side of the range was not only a minimal compromise on longevity but simply a good idea erring on the side of convenience and safety.

So there you have it. Go to Battery U for a LOT more details, graphs, charts, etc. but realize there is no one chart, statement, graph or experiment that is going to tell you what you want to know.  It does require reading between the lines, extrapolating, etc.  So did I take leaps here?  Had to. There is no other way to get there. Am I right?  I think I am, at least for now. 

It wouldn't be the first time I was certain of something only to find out later I was simply in the right place but the wrong zip code... 

Now did I charge to 100%?  Of course I did. Its too hard to drive 26,000 miles a year without doing that. In fact, I charged to 100% on Chademo at least 2-3 dozen times and yeah, the pack was a bit "warm" but 20-39 miles down the road, the pack was still hot but now the LEAF was moving out of the "SOC Danger" zone.  

So DIYers; We need that custom charging app!! 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Happy Birthday LEAF#3!

Happy Birthday LEAF #3!  A year ago today, she came home with me from Campbell Nelson Everett  (Thanks Ray!) and what a year it has been!  She has definitely opened my eyes to things that were completely unexpected and has turned out to be a trial run on truly evaluating my range needs. But before I get into all that the #1 thing here has always been about money so here are the numbers.

Miles driven;  26,100.2
Kwh used (estimate) 6240.56
Level 1/2 charges; 237.  Level 3; 227
Public Charging (mostly Chademo but some Level 2); 3676.578 kwh
Public charging fees (mostly Semaconnect and Blink level 2 overruns);  $19.33
Cost per mile; 0.97 cents.  (Less than 2 weeks ago, it was under .7 cents per mile)
Real Cost (@ 9.3 cents/kwh); $254.16
Cost w/o NCTC; $573.89
Additional cost if the Road Usage Charge was in effect @ 2.4 cents per mile; $626.40

**NOTE**  The charging costs are estimated but fairly close.  Keeping in mind had all that charging really been done at home, it would be higher because of 1) hitting tier two. In Summer I am always below, In Winter, its half and half.  There is also an efficiency factor since all my QC's are calculated using 95% efficiency, all L2 charging is calculated using 89% efficiency. The lower home efficiency means more kwh from the wall to provide the same amount of range.


Start;  363 GIDS,  Kwh available (77.5 Wh GID setting); 28.1, Ahr 82.34, SOH 100% Hx (average)  10

Lowest; 363 GIDs,  kwh; 28.1,  Ahr;  79.83, SOH 100%,  Hx; 95.35%

Current;  363 GIDs, kwh 28.1, ahr; 81.53, SOH 100%, Hx; 97.53%


Previously the high water mark for annual mileage was 17,960.2 miles in my other LEAFs so the mileage makes sense.  I used the Corolla when time constraints or lack of public charging simply made it a better idea or when the car had sat too long. My parameters were one month during Summer, One week (more or less) during Winter. I missed those parameters SEVERAL times.

Corolla mileage by year

2014;  6112
2015;  6677
2016; 7485  (Higher due to lease mileage issues with LEAF #2 turned in 7 weeks early)
The last year;  3261, ¼ of that in last few weeks.

The biggest surprise was the MUCH faster QC profile. The ability to charge higher than 35 KW above 90% SOC gave me many more options to incorporate charging into my work day. This almost doubled my ability to use the LEAF on jobs that were well beyond its range.  This meant a lot of public charging but I was able to incorporate a lot of it into either my workday (breaks, meals) or my "off clock" time (filing paperwork, uploading/downloading assignments, etc.) all of which is time I would have to take when I got home. The ability to get a significant range boost at nearly any SOC in 10-15 minutes is huge and a total shock (in a very good way!) to me.


My 2016 LEAF has done all that I have asked of it and more.  If I had to complain, the FOB battery didn't even last 8 months and this is without using any of the buttons (intentionally) but my local dollar store now stocks the batteries in a two pack so.  I have been running Battery Torture test experiments for several months to no avail. The pack just doesn't seem to be dying like it should but its early still, right?  More on "The Experiment" in the next blog (or soon after)

But for anyone driving an older LEAF who discounted a 2017 (and the great deals to be had) because its "only 6 kwh" more. Think again. There is a more to it than meets the eye!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Washington Gridlock Test of the 2018 Nissan LEAF.

As we all know, I drove the 2018 Nissan LEAF on a predetermined course in Las Vegas a few months ago and that course was specifically designed to highlight Pro Pilot and it worked very well as one might expect.

But I wanted to try a test drive in "not so friendly" conditions AKA "Puget Sound Gridlock" the acid test of any ACC. (Adaptive Cruise Control) But my original meet time was for Southcenter Mall at 2 PM which meant there was a good chance that I would have to drive around the airport to find good gridlock at that time of day but as "luck" would have it, my job in Silverdale ran long so we decided to meet at the EvGO stations at Tacoma Mall at 4 PM instead where Jose, my host got a firsthand look at what I deal with every day which meant gridlock caused him to be 30 mins late. Considering I started it all by being two hours late, I was ok with it.

Grabbing a quick picture 15 mins before Sunset!

Since I had already done the test drive, I was familiar with most of the stuff so I decided a quick jaunt down I-5 to the 512 then up to Pacific Ave to 56th Street and back to the Mall would give me what I wanted.

Checking charge levels.  The default is 3.6 KW level 2 charging which is strange since that
 is NOT AN OPTION on the North American LEAF. Notice the 4 bubbles to the left? The
 2nd bubble is highlighted.  The 4 way NAV button on the left of the steering wheel
 navigates the screen options. Use left/right to hit different categories and the up/down for
 screens within the category. Here we have 4 views which includes a setting screen where I 
changed it to 6.6 KW charging. There is also DC options as well. 

For anyone who has had a Prius, this screen needs no explanation. Here we have a one hour history of efficiency in 5 minute increments.  A HUGE thing for people like me!  Since I know Jose 
came from SouthCenter, I can say for certain that the first 8 mile/kwh bar counting from the
 left is the Highway 18 intersection and the 4 mile per kwh bar @ 20 mins is just past the 
Highway 167 exit. This means the drive of roughly 6½ miles took 20 mins. That is sadly 
about the average. 

Battery Temperature. The Charger at eVGO was broken and the other one was occupied. I 
had kicked around the idea of doing a before and after shot and letting Jose QC the car
 before our test drive, but not to be... In retrospect, I should have gone thru and took pix of
 every screen  available. There are a ton of them. Anyone reading this who will be taking a 
test drive please do this. I would love it if you sent them. I could post them here (with your 
permission of course!) 

Before taking off, I set one pedal, Eco and B mode since this is how I would likely drive the car.  There is no creep at all. In fact, at low speeds, the car drags like the parking brake is on.  Not sure that I will want this all the time and made me wish the car was fully charged to see if it reacted differently like my current LEAF does when there is no regen. I am guessing friction brakes take over to minimize any differences in the driving experience.

At parking lot speeds under 10 mph, One pedal brings car to a full stop in 10 feet or less. This will take a bit of getting used to. Keep in mind, you can also simply release accelerator slowly for a more gradual stop as well. For me; I think I would have that mastered within a day. There is a great "feel" of the regen at work here.  IOW; Regen is MUCH stronger.

I enabled ProPilot as we turned onto Tacoma Mall Blvd headed to the 56th on ramp to I-5.  You need to be going a certain speed for this to work. Not sure what that speed is other than I couldn't do it when not moving but was able to do it while moving pretty slowly so guessing more than about 10 mph?  During the drive, I noticed that on surface streets with newly painted lines, any place that had the double yellow lines, the lane was not recognized. But if I moved over, where there is just the dashed white lines, it worked fine even on surface streets.

Here is the ProPilot Screen. Sorry for the blurriness. For anyone who lives here, they would
 know that at nearly 5 PM, its actually pretty dark. The ProPilot Controls are on the right side
 of the steering wheel and looks like normal cruise control buttons for the most part.  The key differences are the Pro Pilot button in blue on the right and the following distance button on the 
left (has the 3 lines under the car)

This is a screenshot from Las Vegas. Posted to illustrate that each screen has the status screen
 in the right corner. Here the car is parked at the Reveal so notice the lack of icons above the 
circular efficiency meter?  On the first Propilot screen the "--" is the ACC setpoint for speed. 
Since ACC disables after 3 seconds on a full stop. Its blank but as soon as I re-engage it,
 my setpoint returns.

When the lanes are recognized, you will see a green border on the road. This tells you Lane Centering is active. Despite what you may have read "directly from Nissan's site" ProPilot works from ZERO to Max speed.  A reviewer quoted Nissan's Webpage as saying ACC only works from 10 to 62 MPH. That is a COMPLETELY WRONG statement.

The ProPilot screen will also display cars it recognizes and this we will soon find out is a good thing.

Since we were in ProPilot mode, as the light turned green at the 56th Street on ramp, I simply tapped the "Res +" button and the car took off to hit its preset speed. (You can also just tap the accelerator to resume)  On the pix above; On the right is a circle with a MPH display. Here is where you can see what your ACC speed is set to.  A pretty cool thing especially when you are moving from a 35 mph street to a 60 mph freeway. I was able to adjust my speed to 59 mph (as if I thought I would actually go that fast...) as I was entering the on ramp well before highway speed.

In the pix above when the car is moving you will see lines in front of the car designating what your following distance is. Hitting the button on the left toggles from 1 to 2 to 3 and back to 1 again.  I found that 3 and 2 were simply too far so I set it to 1 on the freeway. As I toggled thru, I could feel the car adjusting its speed since traffic was not moving at 60 mph. (what a surprise... NOT!) A following distance of one worked well but still allowed too much room so naturally cars cut in which made for a bit of excitement especially since we were approaching the double exit to Highway 512 which meant cutting in AND slowing down.  Although the car beeped (I am guessing to alert me that PP saw the car) I decided some manual brake action was needed anyway.

Now we are sitting at the entrance to Highway 512 coming off I-5 from the North which means its a 3 lane left turn.  Something that PEOPLE can have issues with keeping in their own lane.

Highway 512 West Entrance/I-5 South exit

Now, its quite dark by now but and I am in the center left turn lane which means white dashed lines on both sides so when I resumed, I was more than a little shocked that the LEAF said "I got this!"  and started this challenging turn. Needless to say, I had my hands on the wheel and couldn't help but adjust the aim a little although I am not quite sure it was needed but was unwilling to take the chance!

This brings up another key point of the Lane Centering Function. Although you can easily feel the steering adjustments, they are effortless to overcome. The LEAF makes no large movement instead electing to make very fast small adjustments. When exiting I-5 to Highway 512, we were in the 2nd lane from the right so going straight was an option but as I turned off and the LEAF recognized this after a split second and then helped to make the turn.

Again, my speed is still set to 59 mph and it takes quite a while before traffic gets up to that speed. Two miles later, I exited the freeway onto Pacific Ave (Highway 7 for the out of towners) where I had hoped to see heavy traffic with stop lights every half mile or so.  Traffic was disappointing at first and I realized that ACC doesn't work well if you are first at the light. I "almost" (not really that close mind you) let the car follow the other car thru the light.  And yes, we did see a few people running red lights including one guy who went halfway into the intersection before deciding to stop and back up!

But it only took a mile or so for traffic to thicken up and I found that at 35 mph, a following distance of 2 seemed to work the best.  In the normal stop and go, the car worked very well. It was more relaxing than having to moderate speed which was kind of a surprise to me since I still had to steer, make sure there was a car to follow, monitor lights, etc. It didn't seem like the car was doing much of anything but later back in my 2016 when I had to do EVERYTHING I realized that it did take off some of the load!

One of the things that ProPilot needs to work on is its reaction time to merging traffic.  The time between when cars exited the street and the LEAF recognized it was a bit too long. But when the car did recognize the space, it sped up QUICKLY. The same thing happened when cars cut in.  Instead of a gentle metered slow down, it was a rather strong deceleration.  Now, I have to admit I failed to go thru the entire menu screens so there very well could be adjustments to address these issues.

I did kick around the idea of plugging in LEAF Spy just to get a few readings but figured they would not be accurate so decided against that.   One thing I want to find out is how much, if any, friction braking was involved in those strong deceleration events.  If its all regen, this would somewhat explain the delay since it would take what? a ¼ second to ramp up to the level required?  If that is they case, I might very well be ok with that.

Finally and yes, I was in a fully loaded SL (purposely avoided the surround view. Didn't want to be tempted!) so my impressions will probably be a bit slanted but after sitting in a dozen Bolts (several with leather) over the past few months, the LEAF simply feels like its in a different class.  The seats are firm (which I need) but VERY comfortable. I love range but the reality is 2 hour stretches in the seat are far too common for me to be able to compromise comfort.

In reality; it will still come down to price/features but I just priced a Bolt and it was still $37K after incentives for a lease to purchase after just under $4000 in incentives (buyers would get that PLUS the fed credit!)   The T3 would be waaaay down the line and priced a few thousand less  but lease to purchase is not likely and the WA State tax bill of $3K + would apply making it just slightly more than the Bolt but much better cargo utilization and SC network puts more than makes up the difference but still have to see one first. I can't/won't do a car with a low seating position.

So it comes down to the LEAF (again!) With half the incentives I received on the 2016, I am still looking at car in the $23-25 K range. That is simply too much money to ignore especially for my budget.  With several programs in motion to add public charging, I am hopeful that my 140-150 mile LEAF would do the job (My 30 kwh LEAF is doing a pretty good job now without the added future public infrastructure improvements!)

Again; for anyone doing test drives, grab them screens! Ask any questions below. Just because I didn't mention it doesn't mean I didn't notice it! 

Test drives are in selected areas only but I don't live in one of those areas but close enough to drive there so meeting somewhere besides your home is an option. Sign up here to check for availability

Sunday, November 5, 2017

October 2017 Drive Report

I finally hit my goal of reducing LEAF usage!!....Well sort of.  However I did have to do tire rotation #4 so it was definitely a month of mixed results.  I did become a "50-50" car with 227 Regular charges, 227 QCs. but that will be changing quite dramatically and I will explain that in my next blog.

But the Corolla went 163.7 miles for October costing $13.10 or a hair under 8 cents per mile.  I will be using the Corolla much more for November which means unlike October, I will be buying gas this month.  (last gas purchase was Sept 19th)

But to be clear; More Corolla usage has nothing to do with reduced Winter range on the LEAF. Its all about preservation. It is easy to sit the Corolla for several weeks at a time in the dry Summer but the wet Winter, its a completely different story. The car sits outside (under a tree so not "completely" exposed) so mold, mildew and what not will be a battle so driving it at least once a week with the heat blasting away to dry up the interior is pretty much required.  I should really get one of the portable carports from Harbor Freight or something for my Christmas present but... maybe.

The LEAF went only 1965.8 miles (first time under 2000 since last December!) costing $13.10 or less than a half a cent per mile.  Without NCTC, the cost would have been roughly $44.76 or 2.3 cents per mile.   My NCTC benefit, I was using the tier one rate of 9.3 cents per kwh which isn't technically right since its power reported as delivered to the car. In reality; the station is drawing more than that from the power company but its close enough.

The pix shows good battery stats and I actually finished the month at "new" numbers for the last 8 days of the month but there was a lull in the middle of the month where I did see lower figures of 79.88 ahr and 95.75% Hx. Both GIDs and SOH remained at the max of 363 and 100%.

But the real story is Western Washington's 6 month long Summer is finally over and with a bang. First we had a 3 day Fall complete with Monsoon's and we shifted right into Winter so check your tire pressures. Many will need adjustments. Remember there is roughly a one PSI drop per 10 degree temperature drop. Only adjust your tire pressures during the COLDEST PART OF THE DAY. First thing in the morning before any driving will do just fine.

As for me; I have washed my windshield wiper pads, conditioned the windshield and wipers, and put the electric blanket back into the car.

To condition your windshield; take some fine steel wool and basically polish the glass. Not as effective as Rain X but works pretty well and is much easier to do. Rain X is awesome but hard to apply correctly and it doesn't last more than a few weeks here.    With your wipers, you want to rub the blades down with denatured alcohol. This smoothes the blade allowing them to slide across the glass easier which means better contact with glass for a more effective wipe.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

If You Have Battery Degradation, Read This!

Every day, I read posts from people who have lost a capacity bar on their LEAF and seeking information on why it happened or if their car is normal or not.  EVERY ONE of these posts do not provide the information that is needed to make a decent evaluation of that person's situation.

The reality is we as a society don't have the faintest clue as to what to do to maintain our battery packs. What I see is "I babied my pack and still lost a bar" which would imply they knew exactly what to do and guess what?? They were wrong.

What we need is a reference guide as to what we need to consider and more importantly a checklist as to what we need to report when looking for advice online!

Now this chart represents general guidelines on what affects the general rate of degradation. It is not a chart in reality. Only a visual representation only. What does "not a chart mean?" What it means is that X,Y points are not observed data points so should not be referenced.  The important takeaway here is the meaning of each color and its relationship to other colors on the chart. Despite SOC and temperatures being the most important aspect of the chart, they are for relational reference only (hotter/colder,  High SOC/ Low SOC)    

Now, we all know Nissan put the fear of God into us when charging to 100% and letting it sit. They even went so far as to put in an 80% charge option for a few years. Thankfully, they quickly realized that the wrong message was received and removed the 80% charge.   So lets look at the 100% SOC area.  First thing we see is that there is some Red when the temperature gets hot enough but we have to be on "Broil" (or live in Phoenix) to see Black.  Luckily, even Nissan knows this so they restricted the charge to 97% so the downside of charging to full overnight is pretty minimal. What Nissan did do is allow you to manipulate the charge so it finishes near the time you would be leaving so again, no real downside to charging to full!  Now this chart does not input any time parameters in here so that is on us to guess but in Winter, there is little reason to not charge to full every day.

So the next question becomes "Why are you not recommending I stay in the Yellow ALL THE TIME?"  Well, I am recommending that you do... IF you can. Realize staying in the yellow means your already limited EV range is now cut by MORE than half.   Another reason and much more important is look at the cushion you have between the Yellow and the Red at the bottom verses the cushion at the top?   Not a lot of forgiveness is there?

Thanks to the GOM's subliminal hypnotic suggestion, we tend to think we have more range than we really do. We also underestimate the impact of our habits like heat, taking the wrong route to work, etc.  After all, at the end of the day, how many times to do say "Wow, look at all that extra range!"
So, lets pretend "Yellow" doesn't exist.  For those of you that are retired, work at home or simply have nowhere to go, good for you! Your LEAF will last you a lifetime but then again you don't post online about losing bars anyway so the next time someone asks why Nissan removed the 80% option, now you know.

Now, I do have one recommendation; In Summer, if your ONE WAY commute does not drop your SOC below 80%, then probably shouldn't charge to full unless you are in an underground parking thingy, middle of the forest  or some place with a lot of shade.

Another thing to look at is the huge number of people who charge at work. The chart above shows Red in the mid 80's for SOCs at 80% (remember X,Y points are not valid so its important to understand the hotter the worse)  so if you are going to do this make sure you have shade and you don't start charging until after lunch. Remember, your packs can see radiant heat well over 100º on the mildest of Sunny days (People who live in San Diego or any other Sunny coastal area, please take notice. Your weather is FAR from perfect) So 80% would have been perfect for this right?  No, not really.  What it would do is give people the false impression that 80% would be ok even if done by lunch. In a perfect World, we would hit 80% 5 mins before 5.  The reality is half of you probably charge in the morning while your co-workers charge in the afternoon. Who is going to volunteer to be a "Red" EV?

Ok, so the full charge question is out of the way, lets look at the MUCH more familiar low SOC.

One of the things Nissan has not removed is the low state of charge warnings and for good reason. Look at the chart; other than extreme heat, low SOC is BY FAR THE NUMBER ONE reason for degradation. Remember this because this is THE MOST CRITICAL PART of the survey.  Low SOC is not affected in anyway by temperature which means this applies to everyone no matter where you live.  Simply another reason why you should charge more than you think you need. Its simply a good idea.

But I constantly read how people made it home with 8 GIDs and were proud of themselves and I ask them if they plugged in the car and they say, "I am fine, its on a timer"  or they say "I only charge when the rates aren't 30 cents per kwh"  and I think "Why do they want to screw themselves over like that??"  Is saving 50 cents really that important to you that you would sacrifice a $5500 battery pack? What is wrong with you!!

Either way; My recommendation on this is if you get home with ANY battery warning on, plug in ASAP. This is what I do and its only for 60-90 mins. Sometimes 2 hours if  I spaced it off.   How important is this recommendation?  It is the MOST important thing this blog is relaying to anyone.  Couple things to consider; The LBW (low battery warning) comes on first and it comes on at 16% more or less. Well, look at the chart. The Red starts at 25ish % SOC. So by the time you see that warning, you are already beating up on the pack...

Ok so the basics of charging are out of the way, so now we need to get into the checklist for info you want to provide us online to get insight into your degradation issues.

**Location. This is important to evaluate your climate

**Build date (located on driver door jamb) Purchase date and any info about time spent on the lot.  Dates are also important because there is a huge difference between spending ONE month on the lot in Summer verses Winter.

**Driving habits. How far you drive,  how fast (be specific. "keeping up with traffic" is not an answer)   mostly freeway? Cold blooded (run heat at 80º on a 65º day?... Don't laugh, I know a lot of people who do EXACTLY this!) Hypermiler or constantly late?

**Efficiency. What is your miles per kwh average? Its on your display and can be reset as often as you deem necessary and I highly recommend you do it often. At least on every season change. I reset mine DAILY.

**Charging habits.  Do you plug in ASAP at low SOC? (anything under 25 miles on the GOM)  What is charging type and speed?  Charge to full every day or only a few times a week? Charge at work?  Fast charge?  There is no such thing as too much info here.

**Parking habits. Garage or driveway.  At work; Garage? Park in shade whenever possible and is it possible? Get to work with less than 80% SOC and more than 30% SOC

Finally the thing to keep in mind is the above info is the MINIMUM you should provide and when if you forget something, no worries but adding that info in the middle of a 100 post thread... well you might as well not add it at all. Any question answered in the thread should be updated on the your original post.  Your original post, nearly everyone will get 75% of the info contained in it. As for additional info added in the thread of the post? You lucky if 10% see it.

Remember that this battery babysitting thing is still a bit new to all of us and we are still learning just like you but the quality of what we know is solely dependent on the quality of the information we receive and the thing to remember, we are all doing this to learn how to keep those 12 bars as long as possible so everything we learn from you will benefit everyone!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Backwards Compatibility; I'm Sorry But Why Do So Many Of Us Want To Live In The Past?

Mr Money Mustache recently posted a reflection on his one year ownership of his 2016 Nissan LEAF.  As you might expect, he was practically gushing over the usefulness, convenience and most especially the minimal cost of driving an EV.

Well, we all knew that, right?  He stated that half his transportation "cost" was free based on the free public charging (guessing partially from NCTC)  but in the interest of "balanced" reporting, he had to find something "wrong" about the LEAF. Failing to do so, he turned to the next logical target; Nissan.

  • Nissan doesn’t seem to care about its past electric car customers: The 30 kWh battery from 2016 will not fit into a 2015 Leaf, and I’m out of luck if I want to upgrade my car to any of these juicy 2018-and beyond batteries which have been improving at a rapid pace. You can upgrade to a fresh replacement of your current battery, although it’ll cost you $5500.The correct way to handle this (as Tesla does) is to make new batteries backwards-compatible whenever possible, and allow old cars to be upgraded with minimal mark-up on the battery. After all, an electric motor can run for over a million miles with zero maintenance. The rest of the car is rock-solid as well. Why not provide a path for these cars to have a healthy 30-year lifespan, getting a longer range every 10 years or so as the batteries need replacement? There’s still a chance for the company (or the aftermarket) to correct this problem, so I remain hopeful.
Again, the same old story; Complain about range simply because its hard to find "something" to complain about so here is a guy who drove 3500 miles IN A YEAR  complaining about range!

Incredible!   I drove 3500 miles IN A MONTH and I don't have any range complaints.  But then again, Mr. Money did not have the same exposure to the 2018 LEAF that I had.  So I will give him a pass. Besides his main thing is how not to spend money so obviously buying new technology no matter how cheap, is not in his wheelhouse.  Did I mention the 2018 LEAF despite better tech, better battery, etc is CHEAPER than previous MY's?

But before we digress too much into this, lets discuss range.  At least twice a year, I have to drive to Ilwaco, WA which is located at the very SW corner of the State a few miles from the Columbia River ingress to the Pacific.  Despite living in Washington and working in Washington, my only option in my LEAF is to dip into Oregon to use the fast chargers "they" have since we don't have them.  L2 while on the clock is NOT an option.

What this does is takes a 115 mile trip (one way) and makes it a 140 mile trip.  I am ok with that. Its actually a very pleasant and scenic drive and allows me to spoil myself at the Berry Patch (a restaurant with decent food with pies that are to die for!) a stop that happens to have a fast charger on the premises.

Now, the Bolt and its vaunted 238 range would work here as well, BUT and yes I know it temporary but the reality is if it ain't in place by November, its useless to me. For the Bolt to make it, it will also have to stop to charge once as well but in Woodland, WA (the only CCS in the region) which now makes it 175 miles one way.  Now, I can charge for an hour (which is about the total time I would be charging my 30 kwh LEAF) at Woodland and this "might" give me enough to go home thru SW WA but it would be over 200 miles and not really doable under any but the best of driving situations due to terrain and the thought of that happening in November?  yeah, right.  So the more likely scenario is reversing the route with 2 30 min sessions making the charging time for both vehicles nearly identical.   Obviously a pleasure trip to the area completely changes the dynamics and there is a LOT of reasons to come to the area besides work!

 As mentioned in my 2018 LEAF blog, up until I drove that car, my primary concern was price/range.  This is why I jumped on the initial 2016 S30. It was super cheap, had more range and was 10's of thousands cheaper than a Bolt with a much more mature public charging network.  But it did not take long for me to realize how beneficial a small bump in range was in addressing my needs.  And to be honest with you, I am not sure how much the free NCTC plays a part in all this because it does fit rather nicely in one of my primary pursuits in life and that is a good deal!  So yeah, I am the one who does 3 refills of bottomless fries at Red Robin while taking nearly all my entree home to eat later.  Making a meal of salad and breadsticks at Olive Garden is hardly a compromise either btw!

But my driving habits changed as well.  In the 24 kwh LEAF, it was all about planning, checking the weather reports and monitoring LEAF Spy first thing in the morning to stretch and exceed the car's expected range.  As free stations faded away, my home charging increased exceeding $40 a month frequently.  But in the early days of EVness, that was the defacto challenge; proving that we could make molehill battery packs do mountainous commutes.

But upgrading to 30 kwh did not change my work destinations. It did add more destinations that were easier to do but what it mostly did was remove all the planning.  NCTC became my Plan B.  I no longer cared about my speed or efficiency and the arrivals to home under 10 GID dropped to once a month or so verses the 3-4 days a week. My reality became gorging at the fast chargers and getting home sometimes with nearly a full 24 kwh pack's worth of range.

So in my 300 days of ownership combined with probably 20-30 days I didn't drive the LEAF, my 200+ fast charge sessions do add up to a lot of time.  But so far, its only really been inconvenient to me a small handful of times.  Frequently I was able to get work done that would have taken away from my at home time so getting a charge and getting some work done meant in a sense that I was getting paid to charge! Many times, my gorging was a result of simply not getting work tasks done quickly enough when compared to getting the charge I needed to get home but will say my shift from rolling into home with less than 3 miles of range left was simply transferred in many cases to rolling into the charging station on "_ _ _" instead.

But the one takeaway from all that was that range is adjustable. Its simply easy most of time to get more and that is getting easier every day.  Don't get me wrong. I am lucky to be in a place that started public charging early in the game and yeah, lots of missteps, poor vendor decisions and simply really questionable decisions on territorial rights means it wasn't always easy and its far from a cakewalk now but the Sun is definitely on the rise here!

But then I did the 2018 LEAF test drive in Las Vegas and realized that my focus was wrong.  Before, it was the more range the better.  But after driving the LEAF, I realized the 2018 Nissan LEAF will be a watershed event in EV adoption but it won't be because of any of its EV features.  As we all know, the car has already been eliminated prematurely by a great majority of the die hard EV community whose only goal seems to be getting 300 miles on a charge but the question becomes "Do I need that much range and if so, how much am I willing to pay for it?"  The days of taking 2nd mortgages to get a Tesla are getting short.

The 2018 promises to be a near perfect blend of affordability, range, and tech and best of all, the tech that will be the "bait" that lures the "normal" consumer and maybe we have China to thank for that. I guess the numbers do always win. The near immediate reaction by several major auto manufacturers after China's announcement of it renewed commitment to EVs was unmistakeable.  The public has been put on notice and the percentage that are now listening has ratcheted up with many first time  lookie loos.

 I would love more range...if its given to me but when I have to pay for it, I'd MUCH rather get the range when I need it.  The Bolt is great but the reality is the range of 180 to 238 miles is something I would use a few times a month and not stopping to charge means getting home and having to do the work I would have gotten done at the charging station so its pretty much a wash 90% of the time.  My cheapness has struggled to justify the cost several different ways and what it boils down to is the ONLY chance (and its a pretty slim one) is lease terms giving full credit to me for the fed tax incentive like Nissan and doing the lease at near zero interest rates, like Nissan.

But why do something in hopes that it will be "like Nissan" when its simply easier and cheaper to simply "do Nissan?"

So lets go back to Mr Money's comments.  I predict that the 2018 LEAF will become so desirable that the market for extending the range of older LEAFs will shrink to a point that not even the most ambitious of aftermarket companies will want to cater to what will become the very few.

I do get the fact that the people who bought early instead of leasing aren't going to be happy to give up their car especially when they still have payments left. In that respect, I am like most in that I have never considered getting another car until the one I was driving was paid off but I also realize that was a different time. But back then, car loans were a lot shorter. My first car loan was only 4 years long.  The difference in technology frequently was pretty minimal so the only reason to get a new car was what?  The smell?  Moving from cassette to CD?  When I think about some of my previous purchase decisions I can't help but laugh.

So will I laugh about wanting to get a 2018 LEAF barely a year into a 3 year lease on my 2016?

I am pretty sure I will not.


There has been a very active response to this blog (all online, nothing here unfortunately) claiming I am way off base. That most would want to keep their 2011-12 LEAFs if they could get a bigger battery pack.  I say there is not enough demand for that to happen.

If there was a market for this, some bright guy would have taken up the reins and done it, right?  Now we do have a company  that started advertising extended packs for LEAFs at least 2 years ago and I have yet to hear ONE person taking them up on this.  Not ONE single person has done this.

Well, I for one can't blame anyone for not doing it.  When Nissan was offering discounted out of warranty exchanges for a few thousand or less, I would have done that.  The money was insignificant when compared to the convenience and utility gained. It was a HUGE goodwill gesture on Nissan's part.

Back when Nissan first started offering replacement packs at $5500 with exchange, that was also valued under market.  Many were surprised the price was that low.  (comparing the price of the Chevy Volt battery pack at the same time at 16.9 kwh and over $11,000)  Not a stretch that Nissan offered the pack below cost as a goodwill measure and acknowledgment that they screwed up on the battery.  Requiring an exchange insured that only LEAF customers got that sweetheart price.

But $6500?  That is a different level of commitment.  This blog was an attempt to ask the question;

What would you rather have?

**Your 2011 with 40 kwh of range for what? $8,000 or maybe $7000? Obviously wouldn't be $5500. The Hybrid Industries option linked above requires sacrificing cargo space since they would adding another 24 kwh pack to what you already had.  So you would be hauling around twice the weight knowing that one pack is degraded and becoming more of a burden every day... Weird idea if you ask me.


**6.6 KW charging
heated steering wheel and seats (some cars mentioned above got them. I didn't)
Automatic Emergency Braking
4G Connectivity
Pro Pilot
Power drivers seat
Hybrid Heater
240 Volt Portable EVSE (something you could easily sell for $400 or so since you likely already have one...)

Compelling thought eh?  All of a sudden the decision isn't quite and cut and dried.

Instead of putting say $6500 into an aging car,  sell it for $6000 AFTER you get your 2018 LEAF SV with the tech and climate package added on for LESS THAN what you paid for that 2011 SL.

This gives you $12,500 to put towards that 2018 plus the $7500 Fed thing (do a lease/purchase if you can't get all that)  plus the $1000 Nissan loyalty incentive and now that $36,000 car (that much since "all" of it wouldn't be sales tax free in WA)  plus Nissan hints that there will be additional incentive for existing LEAF owners to move into the 2018 (guessing that is why they extended all those leases)  So, now you are looking at a price of less than $22,000.

So what about that incentive?   I asked and several hinted something was being discussed and that was all so ZERO confirmation its even going to happen but at the same time, the enthusiasm when they were talking about it suggests "they" had high confidence something was going to happen... sooooooo

Lets go back to the leaked configurator for clues.  Most of it was spot on except for ONE thing and that was Pro Pilot.  Nissan released a price of $2200 but the leaked configurator said $900.  So would it be too much of a leap to think our incentive would be getting Pro Pilot Assist for $900?

hmmm... ;)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Electric Vehicle Incentives Needs To Be Revamped

On January 1, 2010 The US started the zero emission tax credit program that gave back $2500 to $7500 to any vehicle that had at least 5 kwh of battery capacity.   The first 200,000 qualifying vehicles from each manufacturer would get the credit. When that 200,000 was achieved, there was a ramp down of the credit lasting 15-18 months.

Section 30D provides for a credit for certain new qualified plug-in electric drive motor vehicles. The credit is equal to the sum of: (1) $2,500, plus (2) for a vehicle which draws propulsion energy from a battery with at least 5 kilowatt hours of capacity, $417, plus an additional $417 for each kilowatt hour of battery capacity in excess of 5 kilowatt hours. Under § 30D(b)(3), that portion of the credit determined by battery capacity cannot exceed $5,000. Therefore, the total amount of the credit allowed for a vehicle is limited to $7,500. The new qualified plug-in electric drive motor vehicle credit phases out for a manufacturer’s vehicles over the one-year period beginning with the second calendar quarter after the calendar quarter in which at least 200,000 qualifying vehicles manufactured by that manufacturer have been sold for use in the United States (determined on a cumulative basis for sales after December 31, 2009) (“phase-out period”). Qualifying vehicles manufactured by that manufacturer are eligible for 50 percent of the credit if acquired in the first two quarters of the phase-out period and 25 percent of the credit if acquired in the third or fourth quarter of the phase-out period. Vehicles manufactured by that manufacturer are not eligible for a credit if acquired after the phase-out period. After December 31, 2009, a vehicle that qualifies for a credit under § 30 does not qualify for the credit under § 30D.

This credit was designed to incentivize adoption of electric vehicles for the customer (CHEVY!, did you hear that!!) because like any new technology, EVs were limited in performance with nearly no public infrastructure support and each manufacturer was still spending a ton of money for development.  So the first batch of EVs were expensive, VERY expensive and "higher" price continues today. Yes, the last 7 years has seen better batteries, cheaper batteries, and more range but there is still a bit to go before EVs can compete on a level field financially against the gassers out there.  But that time will come and its approaching rapidly.

But what the credit did not consider is the significant number of manufacturers who either did not produce a qualifying vehicle or simply did so in VERY limited numbers.  What essentially happened is they did not put in the same amount of money for research but reaped the benefits of the advanced tech. 

So what's wrong with that? you ask. Well nothing EXCEPT  for the fact that by waiting to get into the EV game late, soon several manufacturers will have a huge price advantage over the companies that got into the game early and helped push the technology to where it is today. Without the efforts of Nissan, Tesla and GM, we likely would still be in the dark ages of EV Adoption and development.

I think its time to start lobbying Congress to change the laws to allow a set number of qualified vehicles from all manufacturers starting on a specific date and using the same ramp down method. 

An example would be  Starting January 1, 2018  the first 500,000 qualifying vehicles (or whatever) from all manufacturers qualify for 100% of the tax credit with the credit reduced to 50% in the 2nd quarter after the 500,000 is reached.

Another option would be to simply start the ramp down of the credit on a certain date that would roughly correspond with the merging of price points between EVs and comparable gassers.

What this does is puts an incentive to get more vehicles out there now and does not allow laggards to dominate the market due to huge financial advantages after the "Big Three" are on their ramp down.  This also has the huge potential of saving the government some money. Instead of providing the 200,000+  credits  to potentially more than a dozen manufacturers who have yet to put out a mainstream EV,  the money flow would end for all at the same time. Better yet, the range, convenience, price factor will likely have caught up to the gassers in less than a few years.