Sunday, September 11, 2016

To Unplug Or Not To Unplug? That Should Never Be A Question!

Recently someone unplugged a Volt because they thought the car had completed its charge based on the lights on the car.  He might have been wrong since Chevy changed the meaning of the lights in later versions which as you know creates confusion... or does it? Why should it?  Never confused me but then again, I never bothered to learn the patterns of the Volt or any other EV for that matter.  I always just looked at the charging station.

So I took it upon myself to search out a station that does not have any indication of an active charging session.  I failed to find this.


First off; the Eaton at the West side branch of  Olympia Federal Savings and Loan. I start with this one because there is a general consensus that one voice has no power and that couldn't be farther from the truth. The tallest skyscraper must rely on EVERY stone in its foundation to stand.  A habit I started when I got my ZENN is filling out comment cards, online feedback surveys, etc. and here I started requesting charging stations.  Be it MacDonald's, the Grocery Store or my bank (I never really bank there but do use the cash machine 4-5 times a year... I also have a safe deposit box for several years now and other than putting in some gold coins that I got from my Dad 3 years ago, I haven't had the notion to open it either...) Sooooo, my surveys probably did not contribute to this station being installed... or did it?

Here an active charging session would be easy to notice.  Interesting that a "Remotely Controlled" option means it can be turned on somewhere else which makes perfect sense but why would that be important to show here unless it was also on a timer charge that has yet to be initiated?  An unusual option for a public station to say the least.


This Clipper Creek is very similar to an AV and Blink L2 in that a glance at the lights will tell if the power is flowing.

Now some don't directly tell you they are hard at work. Those you have to have a bit of patience to see the status. The older Chargepoints are a good example. Most have a two line display that scrolls various bits of information such as station ID, cost, etc but also shows charging speed. I timed it and the screen you need to watch for comes up about every 20 seconds or so but on a dual head if both sides are active, the full cycle of displays will probably take longer but eventually you will see  the charging speed of the station.



The newer Chargepoints have a full display that shows several pieces of information and also have buttons where you can select certain screens on demand




Maybe Aeroenvironment got it right when they using animated lights on top of the station to show that a charging session is active. Maybe all charging stations should have a simple status light at the top of the station so parking enforcement officers can determine the status from across the lot?

There is also SemaConnects which I was not able to get to this week but most of them also have an LCD display that shows charging speed along with a "money counter" so again, it would take a few seconds but the charging station has all the info you need to make an informed decision of

"If It Ain't Charging, UNPLUG IT!"

Saturday, September 10, 2016

August 2016 Drive Report; Getting ready for Drive ELECTRIC Week!

Ok, so last month ended a while ago but in the middle of large project at work that runs every 6 months and last weekend was holiday so I am trying to get everything done this weekend that I ignored last weekend!

In August the gasser "won" the cheap transportation (in more ways than one!) contest costing me only $18.53 to carry me 316.3 miles or 5.9 cents per mile.  Although I don't include maintenance costs in these analysis, the car is likely going to cost me something down the road. Oil has to be changed as soon as the project is done since I am only 300 miles from that right now (have over 700 miles on gasser in Sept so far...)

The other possible thing is tires.  But whether I get new tires or simply dump the car is dependent on the range of my next EV. I would like to dump the car I think but we shall see...

The LEAF cost me almost double at $34.52 for the month aided by $4.68 in public charges but did go 1608.3 miles or 2.15 cents per mile.   High water battery stats; 261 GID, 20.2 kwh available, 60.45 ahr, 92.12 Hx.  Lows (mostly near the end of the month) 252, 19.5, 58.11, 87.91.

Today is the somewhat unofficial kickoff for Drive Electric Week but mostly because NRG is offering FREE CHARGING starting today and running thru next Sunday (central standard time) at midnight nationwide! So hopefully, the queues to charge won't be too bad. As always my off the charts work schedule will aide me in charging when no one else is basically conscious... still trying to decide if that is a good thing?

And NRG has been in the news a lot lately.  Recently we LEAFers became preferred customers of NRG along with preferred pricing!


Pretty cool eh?  Either way, NRG seems to be making the most noise right now in the public charging front (unlike our illustrious state :( ) and there is news that more stations are coming on line.

Fife Nissan also made a splash announcing a while back that they were putting in fast charger that would be free to LEAFers but an apparent change in management derailed the plans.  The charger is still happening but when is anyone's guess. I checked it out the other day and its in the ground  but no paving has been done yet meaning no power yet. Soon I hope...


And finally, more stories about crazy deals on LEAFs and they are starting to extend to 2016 SV/SLs as well.  One LEAFer decided to buy his 2013 SL for just over $9,000! A very good deal!  Some others who leased 2016's less than a year ago are getting discount offers of several thousand dollars and lease forgiveness if they decide to buy now.

All this has me thinking Nissan is trying to get as many titles transferred as possible before "something" happens. Well we can only guess what that "something" is. We all know that "motivated" battery research has only been in high gear for a relatively short period of time.  Previous to the EV, the big push was not more powerful batteries, it was designing battery operated devices to use significantly less power.  That is a great idea especially if its something you carry around in your pocket but a car doesn't have nearly the weight consideration issues.

Its been a year since 30 kwh came out, over 5 since 24 kwh. Its way past time to see a "real" upgrade and considering the competition coming real soon from Chevy, I think Nissan is poised to give us a significant bump in range.  40 kwh has been mentioned and makes sense simply because sure we want a 500 mile range battery just like we want a 500 mile range car but my car only has a 350ish mile range and I deal with it. Yes, its a compromise. EVERYTHING is really. Its all in how you want to deal with the various bumps in the road of life.

Either way; exciting times are just ahead.  Hopefully, NRG stepping up will motivate other charging companies to do the same.  Hopefully, Chevy putting 200 miles on the road this year will motivate others to at least boost their range. We have gone a lot of years with no changes. I think heading into 2017 we will be seeing our best year ever and here is hoping someone does it by December 20th!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Nissan LEAF Leasing AKA "Double Dealing!"

The debate over purchase/lease has ratcheted up a notch or two recently.  Nissan has been slashing lease rates on the 2016's to (hopefully) clear space on dealer lots for a soon to arrive longer range 2017 LEAF.

A rumor started in France predicts a 40 kwh LEAF hitting the streets in the next few months has me literally jumping out of my skin. The anticipation is unpalatable and  complicated by the usual "no word, no hints, no confirmation" Nissan stance on future models upgrades for its flagship EV.

Now before all this,  my plan was pretty clear cut. I would simply lease the best EV option out there when my current lease on my 2013 LEAF S expired Dec, 20 of this year. I figured the likely option would be a Nissan LEAF because they still give the best discounts on leases which includes the entire fed tax discounted immediately. I was willing to extend my lease up to 6 months on word of a better option like the 40 kwh LEAF if it was just around the corner but it would have to be a MUCH better option because....

I would have to get new tires. I planned to have just enough tread on my original OEM tires to pass inspection when I turned in my LEAF and that plan is right on schedule. With barely more than 3,000 miles on the lease, I can say with confidence, I might have a few thousand miles of tread to spare but not much more than that meaning more than a 2-3 month wait would require tires.

I would also have to renew my vehicle tabs at just under $300 a year ($225ish for the car, the rest is park pass, Seahawk custom plates. IOW; required driving utensils :) )

But my plan did not include a fire sale that would make California's wildfire season seem like an under-powered weenie roast.

First off; I received some snail mail a month or so ago offering to sell me my current LEAF for $5800! AND waive up to 6 months lease payments if I acted right away.  Well, you know the adage "If its too good to be true, it probably isn't?"  After all, my residual was $12,192.

Well that was my first, last and only thought on the subject and it immediately went into the garbage. So naturally I went on line to chide Nissan for sending me such an obviously transparent sales tool designed to get me in front of a salesman who would pressure me into something I didn't want at a price I didn't want to pay.

BUT...

I was immediately inundated by other LEAFers who got the same offer INCLUDING one who had decided to buy and did everything thru email including the final quote who ALSO had a 2013 S on lease and he got his for just over $6,000!

Another with an SV purchased his lease for $8100!  I began to realize that the "too good to be true" offer was in fact, REAL!

All of a sudden, I have many other options to consider.  At $5800, the LEAF was just about cheap enough to purchase, use it for shorter trips AND still be able to lease another LEAF! The range (just like my 2011) was very useful until I hit the 40,000 mile mark and now its going to be a struggle. Right now in Summer, I am good. Just did 90.4 miles on Monday with A/C but this car used to do over 100 miles which means Winter will take another group of destinations out of reach without a public charging stop.

THEN

Another EV'er who wanted to end his lease early on the EV, stumbled across and pulled the trigger on a 2016 SV with the 30 kwh battery and got a GREAT deal with $1,000 down and $270 a month!

This would likely mean I could lease an SV with 30 kwh for the same as what my current 2013 S is at $245.75 a month because EVs are not taxed in WA! Even if it was the same deal, it would still be significant and the reason??

My 2013 S is a perfect example of obsolescence. After 3 years, the lease residual is ridiculously high to the state of rapid improvement in batteries leading to much more desirable EVs.  No one would pay $12,000 on a used entry level LEAF that had 45,000 miles on it so hence the "half off" sale.

Another LEAFer received an offer in the mail for a 2016 S for $199 a month after a few thousand down which is really only an average price but the residual is a MUCH more reasonable at $8361.

Suddenly its beginning to make more sense to lease a 2016 SV.  The 30 kwh range opens up Grays Harbor for me (since public charging there does not seem to be happening any time soon) and in 3 years, I should be able to negotiate a better buy out the likely residual they are going to be offering!

This means I make out on the lease, make out on the purchase! Better than the doubling down I will be doing at Muckleshoot Casino in about 3 hours on my way to the Journey Concert tonight!

**edit**

Brian Henderson (also a LEAF Advisory Board Member) sent me this.

David, one more option to add to your EV decision confusion … as I feel your pat is missing a section!
http://daveinolywa.blogspot.com/2016/08/nissan-leaf-leasing-aka-double-dealing.html?m=1

FYI: a Soul EV. Right now offering leases with $13,000 (includes $7500 fed) incentives +$2-3000 dealer incentives. ie: a lease sub-$199. Know a couple owners at sub-$189/mo. While the monthly is lower tha Nissan, by default Kia quotes 10,000 annual miles vs. 12,000. (online calculators at each web make direct comparisons between LEAF SV/SL & Soul EV base/+). Kia's current base promotion is $169/mo (36 mo) with $199 down (ie: same as $224/mo avg with zero down)

On the use LEAF side, there's Paramont NW in Seattle and Platt in Portland. Both offer 40-60 used EVs at great prices. Seeing a number of lease returned 2013 LEAF's at ~$9000 range. Not sure how compares to you doing a buyout? Another option is to trade in your 2013 S and upgrade to a 2013/2015 SV/SL for the price difference. Advantage may be finding a more healthy (SOH) than you have at low mileage. A number of lease returns only have 12-18,000 miles!

Just a little something to consider as you enjoy your long weekend. 😉

Cheers, ++Brian

Thanks Brian for the heads up!

Friday, August 12, 2016

July 2016 Drive Report; No Alternatives

Shocker!!

Despite a 4.9 cent per gallon increase in WA's gas tax on July 1st, gas prices went down!  Obviously the tax increase was not enough. And public charging is still struggling to find the money to grow. Something is real wrong here!

For the month of July in the year 2016, the LEAF traveled  1057.9 miles costing $23.33 (includes $2.84  Blink fee) at a pace of 2.2 cents per mile.  The Corolla went slightly further at 1076.6 miles at nearly 3 times the cost of $66.36  (guess gas prices didn't go low enough after all 0) ) or 6.16 cents per mile.  (FYI; due to my simply missing the fact a new month started, my stats actually run into August 1st...ooops)

As you might guess; a combination of local work, reducing mileage on the LEAF and days off pushed my pack numbers (GIDs/ kwh available/ ahr/Hx) to new yearly lows of  19.5/251/57.82/87.27. Most of the drop happened over a 2½ week period where I only had 2 complete charges so the drop was more than expected.  As we moved into the early days of August, I had planned days off that increased my LEAFing which also caused a bit of rebound in my numbers to 251/20.1/59.78/91.39 soooo looks like the going away party for bar 12 will need to be postponed again!

August saw some other milestones when on the 2nd


Now my LEAF kinda knows what I felt like when I turned 50... But in reality; she doesn't.  A good indication of your pack "can be" when you drop your first bar.  I reset trip A and Miles/kwh daily and as you can see, 6.6 miles down the road with 12 bars still so she is still pretty healthy!

In other news; if you have not already done so you should and that is register for the WSDOT Hybrid Vehicle and Alternative Fuel Report.  It's a quick summary on the various doing in the mostly (thankfully) EV World.  Written by Thomas L. R. Smith. PhD;, he has a easy to read writing style that is both entertaining and informative.  The latest entry is here.  Its published twice a month (unless they take a trip to Europe or other things) and you can see back articles here .

An example of the simple truth he writes...


"There are no alternatives"  well, gotta say HE NAILED IT!   Actually its his way of saying nothing of note happened during the two week period the newsletter covers. Hopefully this trend will continue!

I added the rest so our  FB Seattle LEAF owner Mod, Casey  could see that despite flipping coasts, he still has options!

And finally; (was hoping this would be a July story but.... Nissan of Fife is making progress on getting their fast charger on line. Hopefully not too much longer.





Sunday, July 31, 2016

Public Charging Awareness Needed!

To say there is an energetic debate or who should be ponying up the cash for a public charging network is probably an understatement as compared to any question except maybe the question, "Will we need a public charging system when the 200 mile EVs come out?"

Well both questions are flawed, both rely on weak premises, and both center on all or nothing ideologies.

The need for a public charging network will always be great even with 200 mile EVs clogging the streets.  Why is that you ask? Unlike gas, one can leave home with a full 200 mile range meaning any charging network that would be needed would be something following the freeways, right?

Well, no... not even close.  There are several factors at work here and the biggest factor is the assumption that people will see the immediate value of an "affordable" EV in the $35,000 range (which would be true on the TCO over a relatively short period of time)  and flock to them instead of buying the much referred to new $32,000 gasoline car.  Well saving money is always a big consideration but emotions generally play the biggest part of an automobile purchase which means if you filter out trucks (average selling price over $40,000) sports cars, full sized SUVs, etc. you quickly find the selling price of the market that a 200 mile EV would be siphoning from is basically two segments; the car priced in the mid 20's.  The next segment would be the "bargain, commuter only" car in the high teens and low 20's.  Now we have a $10,000-$15,000 price difference to explain away.  And yes, compelling offers in the EV arena will siphon sales from all categories but we are just sticking with general trends.

It is this reason why the 100 mile EV is here to stay and stay for a long time. Now a few things to understand here. No amount of innovation will drive the price extremely low so compromises will need to be made. Nissan had a GREAT idea when they released a stripped down LEAF.  This is a very viable niche.  Supply a 100 mile EV (using the 30 kwh pack) at a price starting in the mid 20's and you WILL have a hit on your hands.  This is a niche car for sure but a niche that a huge majority of households have. The 2nd car primarily used during the week to drive back and forth (usually alone) to work!

Wait! you say.  The S Trim is currently in the low 30's without the 30 kwh pack so how we gonna get it to the mid 20's with the pack?  Well, remember the $7500 fed credit is still in effect and if in WA, you are saving another $3,000 by not paying sales tax so that actually brings it to the low 20's!  Now the only thing to work on is lowering costs between now and the time the Fed Credit ends, which is not an insurmountable challenge by any means. (the State Credit is in until 2019)  Either way, one thing that is very clear and that is not supplying the 30 kwh battery to the S Trim was a monumental mistake on Nissan's part.  I fully expect that to change for 2017 but because of the fed credit wind down (made famous by Tesla's goal of milking for as much as they can) Nissan and others probably have at least 2 more years to get the price right.

The credit remains at 100% until the quarter after the quarter in which the sales figure is reached. The sales limit is 200,000 per manufacturer so suppose Nissan hits that number the first day of a new quarter say July 1st for example. They would have the full credit for the remainder of the quarter plus the next quarter ending Dec 31, meaning the first reduction to 50% of the credit would not happen until Jan 1st of the next year.

Either way, more choices, more range, more EVers means one thing; our current, already inadequate public charging system is not going to work.  Right now its common to have to wait for someone to finish their charge before you can start yours.  During 3 day holiday weekends, popular stations (which in the public charging world means "working and the only option for 50 miles!") can have 3 or 4 cars waiting.

So public charging needs a shot in the arm, a HUGE one.  What is needed is a "Moonshot" effort to get the network built as soon as possible.  But waiting on private industry to do it has simply not worked. We have several networks that are here and there that provides bare bones coverage in most areas.  (We still have VERY desirable locations unreachable by LEAF)

So why is this happening?  In most areas, charging companies are now pretty much on their own to expand their networks. Federal assistance has all but dried up. New installations now are usually due to a benefactor AKA host willing to pay for nearly everything.  NRG made a big splash in the Pacific Northwest early Summer of 2015 announcing fast charger placements at 4 major malls. The speed in which they were installed gave everyone hope that NRG was a motivated player who was "all in" for us!

Well, that was not the case.  In reality the likely story was a single company, Simon Malls who put up the money for the initial installs. Unfortunately, there are only 4 Simon Malls in Western Washington so additional expansion, though ongoing, has been painfully slow. The ongoing issue of providing access to the Washington Coast is still completely unresolved.   Add to the fact that NRG has a subscription requirement for decent pricing which complicates the matters because nearly no one is in a position to access these far flung locations on a regular basis, making the subscription model, the one year contract requirement, and early termination fee very undesirable. In defense of NRG; I do know two people who terminated their subscriptions early without penalty. Now both had very valid reasons so maybe NRG simply did the right thing instead of not holding fast to the policy.  Now, I am not familiar with NRG's newer installs in the area but guessing it was due to hosts stepping up and paying for most of the costs and why do I think this?

Demand charges are a monthly fee added to an electricity bill if a draw exceeding a predetermined level is maintained for a period of time. (15 minutes in some cases) The charge is levied once per month and is for each KW over the threshold.  This can add hundreds of dollars to the monthly bill and some localities only apply the demand charge based on the highest usage for the previous year meaning one poorly timed fast charge could have a year long consequence!

Now one could argue that demand charges can be mitigated by having multiple meters at one location but most utilities have that covered as well. Several schedules have very large basic monthly fees. I went thru EVERY schedule Puget Sound Energy offered and looks like this would be the best option.  Now, even the busiest location is not likely to use anywhere near this much power during the month.


Now Puget Sound Energy has dozens of schedules for billing customers and here is one example. Here demand charges don't start until the instantaneous usage exceeds 50 KW which is actually fairly generous compared to several utilities in the region.  So imagine a "bare bones" charging station consisting of a single fast charger and 2 L2's.   Keeping in mind that only a brief time at high power usage is all that is needed to create a demand charge, we could see a 30 kwh LEAF at 45 KW along with 2 other LEAFs each pulling 6 KW or a total of  57 KW.  Now we are seeing a demand charge "starting" at $42.14 to $63.14. (7 times the applicable demand rate)  The problem is that there will be other power needs present including lighting and connectivity needs.  Also keep in mind; these are somewhat "low ball" figures considering that charging speeds will only be going up.

Unfortunately these "favorable" rates are not everywhere. In Washington, the Pacific Coast is a highly desirable location especially for simply spending the day walking (or driving) along beach.  But there is no real charging network located there. Yes, there is one at a lodge past Ocean Shores (unreachable by a 24 kwh LEAF) and an L2 at the Chevy Dealership in town but on a day trip, only fast charging will allow the trip to happen.  A quick glance at Grays Harbor PUD business rates quickly reveals why this is likely true.

In my travels for work I talk with a lot of business and franchisee owners including a business owner in Aberdeen, WA who drives a Chevy Volt. He was mulling the idea of putting in charging stations at his 3 business locations but was hesitant over the cost.  This was back in 2012 and I was completely unfamiliar with what businesses had to deal with and I thought demand charges was something only high cost Californians dealt with. Imagine my shock when I look at his bill and realized it STARTED at $500 BEFORE any usage costs were added in.   Now to be fair, he had gas pumps (which he did not pay any of the cost of including the electric bill) and his one other location that had no gas was a bargain where the bill was roughly "only" $300 before any usage charges were added.


Unlike Puget Sound Energy, Grays Harbor PUD applies a demand fee on EVERY KW! (Kudos to Snohomish PUD where demand fees start after 100 KW!) All of a sudden, it becomes very clear why there are no fast chargers in Grays Harbor County!  In reality; the only way to affordably put in charging stations is the "Small Use" rates which have a $20 service fees, higher usage rates starting at 9 cents per kwh but no demand charges. Problem with that is you are restricted to 200 amp service (240 volt feed) or 48 KW. Not sure what the continuous load restrictions are but if its the 80% max then we are looking at 38.4 KW which means barely enough for 3-4 L2's with some over head for lights, etc.... But the number of L2's doesnt really matter unless we can blanket the area with them making them destination chargers.

With these kinds of obstacles, it becomes very clear that governmental intervention is needed. Puget Sound Energy  is regulated by Washington Utilities and Transportation (WOW if that is not an EV marriage dream come true!!) Commission (UTC) and I think this (http://www.utc.wa.gov/Pages/default.aspx) is where we need to start. Unfortunately, this is only a start and it doesn't even address the horrors of being a business customer of Grays Harbor PUD. So what is the right answer?

Maybe a requirement to allow fast chargers to get demand fees waived. Or perhaps require certain amount of fast chargers to be installed in a county based on EV registrations. Either way, there is no perfect solution and only State law can force privately owned public utilities to comply.

Currently WA State is in the process of launching a new program funded by the increase in EV registration fees that will earmark one million dollars to encourage private investment in charging stations.  The ideology is the hope that grants and other financial incentives will lower the start up costs and attract local businesses.  But with ongoing demand fees, I am afraid areas like Grays Harbor will find very few takers.

 I have struggled with the end of this blog for several days now. An easy solution to this issue is simply not there. It has become much clearer to me why public charging is struggling here. There is a lot of obstacles including us EVers who quite frankly are clueless as to how expensive it is to maintain a charging station.  We only know the 8-10 cents per kwh we pay at home.


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

June 2016 Drive Report; Gas Tax Goes Up, EV Registration Fees Go Up, Commuting Time Goes Up

As mentioned several times, my lease mileage is not going to survive til the end of my lease (Dec 2016) so I made the painful decision to gas it a bit more this month... a BIG bit more.

The Corolla drove 1108.2 miles at a cost of $67.81 or 6.1 cents per mile.  It gathered no other expenses other than few top offs of the oil here and there.  My previous long term plan was to drive the Corolla until it needed tires then dump it but the additional load its taking on might force my hand on the tire thing. Sucks...

The LEAF went 1248.9 miles costing $30.09 or 2.4 cents per mile. This includes $8.10 in public charging fees as my free settlement juicing has sadly expired. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted and it was nice to see how the other 90% lives (me being one of the very very few to have driven two new LEAFs without NCTC...) At just under 39,000 miles, I have 6,000 lease miles and just under 6 months to go... *sigh*

Anyway, enough of this; on to life!!  Its July and its supposed to be getting hotter (week long forecast for the mid to upper 60's here) eventually so the concern here is fast charging during the heat of Summer.  Now, I haven't had a lot of chances to test this since my charging times tend to be as far from the heat of the day as one can get when a lot of them happening before 6 AM but did have one this week.

On Monday after a very long day, we had to stop and charge at the Blink in Fife with temps hovering in the mid 80's all day.  I started the charge and the battery temp (have to think its an anomaly) jumped from 77 to 89º within 20 seconds (LEAF Spy had only been running a few seconds before the charge started)  I charged for 24 mins gathering 12.48 kwh. Temps started at 89/90/90.1, finished at  97/98.6/96.6. Took off and continued upwards to 99.6/100.6/96.4.  This heat up after charging was complete did happen in stop and go traffic with ambients in the upper 70's (it was 8:24 PM) and only lasted a few minutes, roughly 3 minutes and 12 seconds.

Now the ambient pack temps being in the high 80's is very believable as we had been crawling along I-5 with the pavement probably very close to 90º even at that late hour (Sun was still up)

In other news; this month signals the cost of driving going up.  The WA State gas tax goes up 4.9 cents per gallon moving us to 2nd place in that race.  The EV registration tax goes up to $150.  The extra $50 will be partly used to fund a pilot program encouraging private businesses to host charging stations in the form of grants and favorable pricing.  The fund will be capped at one million dollars and before you ask; no, the fee will not drop back down to its previous $100 level when the money has been collected. As far as the gas tax hike; it apparently isn't enough. My local gas stop's prices did not budge an inch after the increase.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

To Tax Or Not To Tax?

Recently a Seattle LEAFer posted a comment urging support for lesser vehicle tab renewal fees.  In some areas, EVers are faced with a $150 EV tab fee along with a Mass transit support tax which can push the annual renewal fees on their LEAFs to over $300.

Well his suggestion did not go over well with the forum and there was a lot of valid reasons why although I am disturbed that we are seeing great programs slighted or simply getting lost in the big picture.  I can understand whining about a $150 EV tax fee (I can understand the dissention but I FULLY support the fee) but then sacrificing the parks system by saying no to $5?? Yeah, that's right; FIVE BUCKS!

So what is the real issue here? overtaxed EVers? Not quite.  Its gasoline withdrawals.  We have been spoiled by the subsidized cost of driving our gasoline cars which has been underfunded for decades.  This allowed us to become addicted to super cheap transportation. So how did this happen?

Loss of Free Choice

Think back to all the old car commercials you remembered seeing as a kid. What is the one theme that you remember most?  Being stuck in traffic? Sucking up someone else's exhaust?  Avoiding other careless drivers?

No, of course not.  How can anyone sell cars with those kinds of messages? What we saw was a single car driving into the Sunset alone on a highway fading into a picturesque horizon, usually a beach or mountain getaway.

Remember the Jeep ads with the car sitting on a mountain top that would challenge any Mountain Goat?  Ever wonder how that car got there? Well, no of course not because your brain was too busy absorbing the subliminal message that with a car, anything was possible!

During our brainwashing, the Oil companies were secretly insuring that our "free will" to choose the car as the primary mode of transportation had no competition. Slowly, support for the train system eroded.  Intercity transit funding faded away as Oil company lobbyists made sure every available dollar was earmarked for the support of cars, gas stations and parking lots. In fact; what little we were paying was also being minimized. The last federal gas tax increase was in 1992. Now its currently 18.4 cents per gallon. Had it been raised based on inflation it would now be 32 cents per gallon or roughly 14 more cents.

14 cents doesn't seem like much and it really isn't but it would have put billions into the support of the highway fund. Now would that 14 cents saved any lives on a Minnesota bridge? Who knows but the fact is that it hasn't been raised so the money to maintain the roads is either siphoned from another program or people die...

But the key takeaway here is that Big Oil got away with destroying public transportation because they created the illusion of free choice. We accepted what Big Oil did because in our own minds, we "chose" cars. Because of that, Big Oil was let off the hook because we were lead to believe we didn't care about mass transit.

Fast forward to today.  Most people still don't care about mass transit because they are too busy bitching about traffic and driver's with minimals skills they have to share the road with.   What is shocking to me is the ONLY reason they are there is because mass transit has been crippled to the point where it CAN'T meet the needs of a large portion of the population who would rather not drive.

Thurston County runs a shuttle service that you must qualify for based on need, income,  etc. Its primarily for the handicapped, elderly, infirmed, etc.  This program is a great idea but is hampered by overwhelming need.  I had a neighbor who drove and by every measure, her license should have been taken away YEARS ago.  We lived on a cul de sac off a main road and too many times I was stuck behind her for several minutes while she waited for a week long opening to make a right turn onto the road. Thank God she almost never turned left!   But that was the start of it. She never drove faster than 20-25 mph but was at least alert enough to pull over to allow us to pass her, something she did several times per mile!

Now some people do have a leg to stand on when complaining about taxes, especially the RTA tax levied for people in a select area to pay for a light rail system that will service the entire region.  The funds are collected by increased sales tax and vehicle registration fees for select areas of Western Washington.

Now, this may come as a shock to those who have declined to pay FIVE BUCKS to the State Parks but I am opposed to the collection of the tax because it is unfairly applied to people in the immediate area while I, who has to drive that region nearly every day, pay nothing.

This means a MUCH slower payoff, a MUCH less effective system when it is built and worst of all; a traffic situation that is getting worse and worse every day.  I posted a link on an earlier post here that stated commuting times have increased nearly 40% since 2012. That is ONLY 4 years ago!

Now, we all know that gas tax, vehicle tab renewals, etc. don't come close to paying for the roads around here. So where does the extra money come from?  Well, in some cases, it comes from the general fund, in other cases, its simply maintenance not done.  I often marvel at the differences in location around the State.  I live in the state capital of Washington and yes, that does mean something.  Right now as we speak, Highway 101 entering Olympia is being resurfaced including parts of I-5.  This part of the freeway was pretty much rut free before the resurfacing mostly because it was just resurfaced about 3-4 years ago and yes, a major portion of the resurfacing was done because of a landslide.  But the fact remains we are spending big bucks to fix a road that didn't need fixing while I-5 around Southcenter looks like ground zero of a bombing run!

So we have two issues; an inequitable spending of funds and an inequitable collection of funds. So why am I not paying my fair share! Who determined I did not want light rail to extend to Thurston County or is it simply the law makers living in Olympia have insured we have ample smooth roads to drive on?  Well, I hate to burst your bubble but the drive home which used to clear up at DuPont is now sucking ALL THE WAY TO OLYMPIA!!!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Why Dealer Loyalty Is More Important Than Brand Loyalty

I spent time in the car business working for 4 different car dealerships. Granted they were jobs that were more than 30 years apart but the one thing that was obvious is that there is a huge difference from one dealership to the next even if selling the same brand of car.  Now some dealerships are much more proactive about building a good name than others and they do it by having raffles, charity events,  autograph sessions with local sports heroes, etc.  Its all about getting their name in front of the customer's eyes and guess what? The brand of car really doesn't matter.

The great predominance of car purchases are emotional ones. Most shoppers go in with only a vague idea of what they want and what they are willing to pay for it. Car Salesmen know this and the average consumer walks away with a car they had no intention of buying that morning when they set out.  What happens is the salesman creates a relationship with the buyer and eventually the buyer makes the purchase to help out the salesman.  Now this isn't always how the deal works but if there is a question of 2 cars being nearly equal in price and condition, it is this reason that usually controls the decision to buy.

The EV community is different. In most cases, the buyer knows more about the car than the salesman so dealerships need to set themselves apart in different ways.  We don't care about sports star being there to sign autographs, what we care about is price, range and charging.

In 6 months, I will be in the market for my 3rd EV. Not sure what it will be or whether I will buy or lease.  One thing that seems certain and that is the best lease deals seem to come from Nissan but now that other manufacturers are offering more range, this maybe my "conversion" from leasing to buying.

BUT

As good as all that sounds, I am in a time crunch for several reasons. I have more than 7 months left on the lease but less than 7,000 lease miles which means a lot of gassing or a lot of overage charges. This gives the advantage to Nissan because right now they are offering $1000 loyalty cash or lease/purchase of a LEAF and will forgive up to 2 months of lease payments on your current lease. This means 7,000 miles in 5 months!...

BUT

Offers like that is usually in preparation of something that is about to happen which I am guessing means that their 2017 plans will be public within the next 3-4 months. So predicting even more range (Time for the 48 kwh battery?) and better pricing (larger pack on the S trim) which means waiting could be a huge benefit to me

BUT

There were people who literally stole 2015's on year end deals and I now have to struggle with whether I want to try to cope with 30 kwh on another 3 year lease?  But if the price is right and all that needs to happen is another range jump!

SO

Despite all the noise from Chevy, Tesla, BMW and VW,  the LEAF still seems to be the best fit for me.  The Bolt is interesting but I have to say I would be surprised to see any significant deliveries in this area before mid 2017. As far as in time for my lease end?  Not a chance.  If I lived in California or Michigan, maybe but here?  Washington has been in the Chevy Doghouse for decades and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

SO

Now to start my dealer selection.  This will be my 3rd LEAF and most likely my 3rd dealer.  Price is still the #1 consideration so anything is possible but one thing is for sure. If there is a tie, there will be a 3rd dealer.

BECAUSE

Rairdon's Nissan has had at best a shaky reputation. My 2011 came from them and I paid an exorbitant fee for the car.  This resulted in the much questioned $10,000 downpayment I made to reduce my "rental" fee to somewhat normal levels.  As it stands, I "escaped" with my decision and in retrospect; could have parlayed it into a great deal if I had taken the offer to extend the lease longer since $162 a month payments was a "pretty good" price.  Granted; I have not kept up with what they have been doing lately but at the same time, I have not heard anything resembling their trying to be more EV friendly.

Olympia Nissan is where I got my 2013. There was actually a tie between them and another dealer but I chose them because I had had my 2011 serviced there and they had THE FIRST  24/7 fast charger which meant they had to change their policy of locking up the lot at night.  Before they had an L2 in the spot currently occupied by the fast charger and no, you could not charge after hours until they changed their policy.  

But what was a great beginning has soured.  On Jan 11, I reported the fast charger was broken. It remains broken today. "Waiting on parts" is the official response... Not even going to comment on that.

PLUS

I recently took my car in for some recall work.  An hour after I dropped it off, I got a call. On the multipoint inspection I was told that my rear tires were in the "near replacement" stage but my front tires were basically illegal.  2/32nds was the measurement and it was recommended that the tires be replaced immediately.  The first thought that came to mind "Why does he think I am an elderly female from Pasadena?"  and I politely declined the offer of $232 per tire.  This did make me wonder though if my experiment had gone too wrong.

My brother was the manager for the Les Schwabs in downtown Bremerton and always said if you want to be cheap (he knew me well) rotate your tires at a minimum of every 5,000 miles.  Front tires wear the fastest but at the same time you want your best tread on the back for Winter (assuming you did not take his first recommendation of snow tires!) to prevent oversteer.   So I thought; lets change the rotation to 10,000 miles just the one time and see what happens.  Before with the 5,000 mile rotation, I never had more than a 1/32nd variation in tread depth. I have to say my showing off in roundabouts probably was not the best idea...  Well the report said  2/32nds on the front,  5/32nds on the rears.  The only correct thing on the report was the differences in tread measurements.


Either way, I had already decided I was not replacing tires before my lease turn in and I am sticking to that plan

My "bald" tire

I did realize that getting a decent pix of tread depth is VERY tough. Notice the middle tread depth seems much shallower?  I actually made several measurements on both front tires and there was essentially little or no variation.

So I did the coin test on the middle tread


So if the report is correct, Lincoln needs to shave his head!

The back tires were better of course.


The tape measure was a lame attempt at providing some sort of scale...

ANYWAY

I am hearing a lot of people who are swearing off Nissan's based on dealer experiences. Luckily there is not too much of that in my area but let us not make the mistake of blaming Nissan for shaky dealer experiences.

BUT

I will be contacting 4-5 dealers by email by mid Fall.  I now feel that to get the best option, I will need to expand my radius to about 85 miles.

CLARIFICATION

The service visit at Olympia Nissan is not the reason for the change.  In reality, the service advisor did his job to a T so have no complaints with that. This may come as a surprise but let me explain.

The service advisor did not do the inspection. They only read the inspection and then makes the determination on what recommendations to make to me.  First off; they will look at my history and notice I am not a frequent visitor.  Unlike some who bring their car in several times a year for very small issues, I don't.  In the 2½ years of my lease; this was my 2nd trip to the dealership, both for recall notices.  So the early recommendation for tire service is understandable. He realizes I don't want to be there so its very well possible that I would want to get everything done in one shot and on that ideology, he was right. He had no idea the tire measurements were way off.

FINALLY

Anyone who spends anytime on LEAF Facebook groups knows there is a huge divide covering the spectrum of dealer experiences. From the ease of getting in and out, great deals, etc.  It all matters but what matters most to me is the support I get from the dealer after the deal is done. This is what separates the good, the bad and the pretenders.  Public charging is still woefully inadequate for many areas of Puget Sound.  5 months for a repair??

There is a reason I waited until June 11, to write this. The service visit was just a side note really.  I do remember sitting at the dealership on the phone trying to get the station to work on Jan, 11. I remember being confident that the station would be fixed quickly. Now I wasn't expecting a few days, more like a week, maybe two at the most...

HELP

So I need to ask for help. Anyone who is familiar with the breakdowns that happen and what is the turnaround on a parts order? Because I think the delay has to do with simply providing the funds to get the station fixed. Who pays for the fix? The dealership or Nissan?


Thursday, June 2, 2016

May 2016 Drive Report; Running Backs Need It, Gymnasts Rely On It. Balance Is The Key

Another month down and only 17 days left of my 90 days of free fast charging which means I need to get busy to make sure I get my $50 worth!

First off, the price of gas is skyrocketing! I filled up last week for $2.389! which was 27 cents higher than my last fillup on April 13th...Not a good trend but somehow I will survive. Thank god I was barely under half a tank on the fill up so it only cost me $14.72

Either way, the Corolla went 261.8 miles in May costing the $14.72 or 5.61 cents per mile up from 5.1 cents per mile in April. There were no other costs associated with the car.

The LEAF went slightly farther at 1491.1 miles costing $24.19 in home juice or 1.62 cents per mile. I did manage to squeak out roughly 379 minutes of fast charging at various locations which amounted to about 87.98 kwh.  That doesn't add up to $50 if I use the right kind of math so will have to make a final push before my time runs out on the 17th of June...


As we all know, battery stats via LEAF Spy or other apps that are available can be quite variable.  Part of the reason very well could be balance.  The LEAF BMS charges based on the highest voltage reading of the pack's cells.  This makes sense since overcharging will quickly degrade the cell's ability.  But when the pack has a large delta between the highest cell and the rest of the pack, range suffers.  The range ends when the lowest cell reaches the cutoff stage. The voltage of rest of the pack doesn't matter. This is why we have reports of people with bad cells who will be driving along with a range of 50 miles on the GOM and suddenly shut down, out of power.


I snapped this pix of my LEAF Spy the other day. Notice the SOC at 57.4% with voltage delta a mere 7 mV.    Earlier in the month when my ahr was dipping into the 58's, I was averaging 20-30 mV deltas. Now to be honest, I had not paid an extreme amount of attention to such things until I read a post where a few people were seeing lower than pack averages with specific cell pairs so I started paying attention to this.  Well as you can see, nothing was really sticking out. So I continued to monitor the situation waiting for a runaway cell to appear.  Even my "out of balance" readings were pretty even. But it was this looking back and forth where I noticed the differences.


Which kinda got me thinking... Is my true pack condition based on a well balanced pack or should I go with the "normal" condition?  To be honest, I rarely have the opportunity to let the pack get out of balance but that might be changing soon.  I have just under 7 months left on the lease and just over 7,000 miles on the lease mileage which means the LEAF is going to see the inside of the garage a lot more in the near future.  

Problem with that is it only takes a day or two of driving the Corolla for me to tire of gas and go back to the LEAF... first world problems, I guess.

SCE has announced they will be installing 1500 charging stations in their service area. The chargers will be concentrated on work places, condo's, and apartment complexes where the likelihood of home charging simply isn't.  I have always said the public utilities should be taking the lead on providing a public charging network.  Now SCE is only providing infrastructure management and support coupled with grants to defray installation costs.  A charging network provider will handle the billing. My suggestion says the PUDs should handle it all. Issue me a card or code or whatever and bill it to my home bill. But its a start, right?  Besides if all goes well, SCE wants to eventually install 30,000 plugs! Now would that not be cool!!

Finally, Tesla has finally admitted that free access to the SC network would not be happening with the T3. Not much of a surprise to me (since I predicted it a few months ago...) but hinted that the option is likely to be available at the right price. Pay per use was also mentioned although no price was revealed. My guess?  Elon is hoping for a gas price spike between now and launch day. :)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Benefits of Guilt-Free Driving

Saturday, my little white microwave died.  It lasted thru 3 moves, 2 garage (maybe 3) sales,  4-5 years of neglect in the garage... It had a tough life. But it was a long life.

I got the microwave as a Christmas present roughly 15-18 years ago. I have literally had it forever  but it was a small one. 1.0 cubic feet I think and have no idea what the power level was... 600 watts I think.  It was put in storage when we moved because there was one of those hanging built in ones in the house.  Later I moved again and we got a bigger microwave from the in-laws I think so the little white one remained in the garage.  Unfortunately, it wasn't worth much so it garnered no interest when we tried to sell it. I think it was a bit too small for most people. Now that I think of it, I am beginning to have doubts that it was as big as 1.0 cubic feet...

But nevertheless, life without a microwave was not an option so I went down and got another one. This one was bigger. Big enough for me to be able to use my Chicken Roaster again. The little white microwave did not even come close to being able to handle the Chicken Roaster.

But when I got the new larger (1.8 cubic feet) Silver Microwave home, I realized that the smallness of the white microwave was the reason it fit so well on the kitchen counter.  The new one was way too big.  The white one was small enough that I could store my microwave plate cover,  plastic wrap, hot thing grabber and all the other stuff a microwave needs to function on top with plenty of room to open the cupboard doors above it. After all, it was the cupboard above that contained most of the microwave safe dishes and bowls I had. Blocking the cupboard was simply not an option.  I resigned myself to the fact that a microwave cart would be needed.

Well, normally I would bounce around online to determine what a good price to pay would be but I decided I had the time to do some comparison shopping and since I would be taking the LEAF, it would be nearly guilt-free shopping.

So I went to Shopko, then Target, then Goodwill, then Best Buy then another Goodwill, a Furniture Outlet place, Big Lots, Fred Meyer and Walmart.  It was after all this driving around town of 23.1 miles at 5.1 miles per kwh that I realized that Shopko (the first place I went to) had the best deal so I went back and picked up a nice roll around stand big enough for my Silver 1.8 cubic foot Microwave and my toaster oven.  I spent an hour putting it together which was pretty easy after unloading it from the car and bringing it in, which was not easy (It has a real granite top which didn't look heavy in the store  but...)  

So sum total was roughly 45 cents in electricity and for my efforts...



Not too bad I think!