Sunday, March 22, 2015

Oh Where Oh Where Has Washington Gone?

Recently Bellevue Nissan opened its new facilities with great fanfare and they should be proud. Several WA State dignitaries including Governor Jay Inslee were on hand to unveil a  SIX station DCFC network for public that will be accessible 24/7!

Picture courtesy of Greg Kunz!

This is great news and the new stations will be one of the first for a newcomer to the NW, NRG EvGo. During the ceremony, Gov. Inslee brought up what has to be on the minds of every LEAFer in attendance and that is "Why have you forgotten about us?"

You see, Washington State and Oregon led the US charge for fast charger deployment. The West Coast Green Highway promised an EV corridor that would allow travel in a Nissan LEAF from Canada to Mexico. The first stations started going in early in 2012 and there was a lot of excitement that many more would be coming soon. But the hype has not lived up to even the most modest of expectations. Fast forward 3 years and we still have huge areas of the state that are inaccessible while Oregon has covered nearly every inch of the Western portion of their state while other portions of the country have taken notice. 

Now, I expected places like California to take the lead in fast charger deployment due to weight of massive Humanity if anything else but  Kansas City (of all places) will soon have one of the most comprehensive fast charge networks in the country. Kansas City??? When did they become the hotbed of EV adoption??  But electric vehicles are here to stay and although we all know this, others have taken the initiative that we are seeming to lack.

 The "other" Washington area Fast Charge Map

Governer Inslee introduced WA State's planned roadmap that would bring over 50,000 EVs to the state in the next few years. In support of this plan, he outlined plans on how and where public charging support should happen. 

The plan was likely a result of the study done by the state and published last June concerning the lack of public charging support in the state.  A few of the findings

Despite having one of the most extensive Level
2 charging networks in the United States,
Washington’s Level 2 charging network may
not be enough to accommodate its current
EV fleet. Studies have suggested one Level 2
charging port is needed for every 2.5 EVs.
Washington has 11 EVs for every Level 2
charging port.

This is just the beginning. Although the report mentions it, the figures above do not take into account, how many of the stations are operational. Blink chargers lead the pack in unreliability and although the new owners CarCharging  has shown more initiative in keeping stations up and running, they have also been slow to react to new repair requests, sometimes taking weeks to respond.

Of the ZIP codes in Washington with an EV registered,
59 percent do not have a Level 2 charging station.
In fact, there are eight ZIP codes in the Seattle area with
more than 50 EVs registered and no Level 2 charging

A bit of a caveat for this stat. Yes, Seattle does have some very high end neighborhoods that simply do not have viable locations for public charging facilities, but that is not the case, especially not THAT often!

Now, we are talking! Its nice to know that at least they are aware of the challenges we face. I have mentioned several times how the Olympic Peninsula is out of reach for a day trip despite having some of the most compelling "touristy" areas of the state!  Combined with Grays Harbor County and its economic woes, it just makes sense to provide a lure for out of area dollars to support local businesses and generally speaking; EVers have more dollars than most (me excepted of course) and are nearly always VERY grateful to any charging station host.


There were a few scary parts including the role they feel that fast chargers should play

On the other hand, the number of DC
fast charging stations in a county does not need to match
its EV registration level. This is because DC fast charging
is often used for traveling long distances, so drivers are
more likely to plug into a DC fast charging station on the
way to a distant destination, not close to home.
Like say what??  In an 85 mile range EV, public charging is most definitely an issue especially since the average county is about 35 to 50 miles from one end to the other.  So their idea of "long distance" is scaring me just a bit.   But at least they do recognize that time is the most important factor.

So the State started looking at traffic densities as a guideline and this is where the light at the end of the tunnel became visible and it does make sense that if the objective is getting current non-Ev'ers to convert, we need to know where they are going and BOOM!! First thing they noticed is Highway 12 from I-5 at Grand Mound to Highway 8 in Elma has a lot of traffic for a two lane country road.

In the map above, Highway 8 is the main road to the coast from Olympia while Highway 12 is the road heading Northwest from Centralia.  This is a great start but what is missing is coverage of the Olympic Peninsula on the Highway 101 Loop.  The Western part of the loop shown North of  Hoquiam is not a very heavily traveled area but the Eastern half especially to Shelton is and Shelton is an ideal location for another charger along with Gig Harbor and Port Orchard.

Going South on 101 from Aberdeen is Long Beach, WA a town of World Renown for well, being windy and I mean REAL windy, so much so that Washington State International Kite Festival is held there annually but the only real way to get there is to loop down and around thru Oregon using their fast chargers!  Is that pathetic or is it just me??  But another fast charge station (keep in mind, there is currently ZERO PUBLIC CHARGING STATIONS OF ANY LEVEL in Grays Harbor County) in Raymond, WA would be very welcomed and despite the relatively low levels of travel, would definitely be used!

But as always, money is the issue.  Fast charge stations cost a bundle compared to level 2 stations especially when most require a utility upgrade first. This is where public utilities can help.

Granted, the info on this graphic is a bit dated especially on the actual station equipment costs but as you can see, its the connection fees that really push the price up.  But its hard to expect the public utilities to play along unless we show them how it benefits them right?

Well actually that is the easy part. Notice which entity gets the most check marks below?

Who Benefits From Increased Public Charging Coverage? 

Ya, that's right, it the electric company that will ultimately be one of the big winners here so why shouldn't they pitch in? 

All in all, WA State residents continue to be leaders in the EV adoption field using their wallets to buy a lot of cars! Its time that the State and local businesses start opening their wallets. A Cleaner transportation system benefits every resident and business in the state!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Feb 2015 Drive Report; Fill It Up While You Can Still Afford It!

Well, not unexpectedly, gas is on the rise. On Feb 3, I paid $193.9 for gas. I should have brought gas cans with me.  It wasn't bad enough that gas eventually went up 44 cents for the short month of February but its already gone up 30 cent for the month of March and its only 2nd.  Ya, that means my fill up today was at $2.679!  In December, I predicted gas would be back at $3.50 a gallon by the 4th. Now thinking I should have said Memorial Day...

Well, the benefits of a new car really manifested itself this month when my Corolla did something with the piston on the front driver's wheel which caused me to have to get that fixed along with the bearings that cost me $728.95. This probably adds another year on to my TCO payback time. But at least it pushes back the time at which my fuel costs adds up to 50% of my total TCO for the car which I had predicted would be the end of 2016 at just under 10,000 miles a year.  On the LEAF?? a few round trips to the Moon would be shorter...

Either way, the Corolla went 919.1 miles for a cost of $60.82 in fuel or 6.6 cents per mile.  FYI; today's fill up was over 8 cents. Yep, cheap fuel is fading fast!   The LEAF went a bit further at 977.5 miles for a cost of $18.61 or 1.93 cents per mile.  I did do two short L3 charge ups at Oly Nissan so for first time in a few months, used public charging.  But did so mostly so I could drive 70 mph since it I already knew it would be both a late night and very early morning for work and any additional drive time simply did not sound inviting.

Other than that, a lot of excitement has been generated over the thought of 200 mile EVs from several manufacturers including rumblings of possible new blood aka Apple in the mix. Competition is a good thing and the more the merrier although I see little direct head to head and more filling out the niches a bit better. (especially since currently most are being ignored) Another good thing is the emergence of the used EV market. Several online buds have gotten used 2011 and 2012 LEAFs and are enjoying them immensely. A few are seeing battery issues but also several have replaced them under warranty nearly hassle free so all is good for that 85 mile trip.

But a few have gotten used LEAFs at deeply discounted prices hoping that Nissan or someone will offer backwards compatible packs with more range. I think that will happen but the packs will still be limited by the physical size so not expecting a very large increase. Maybe 25% over the original range at least for now. What I also don't expect is for Nissan to be leading this charge.  Apple's role as a new player in the game, is still as yet undetermined. The only thing we know is that Apple has grabbed a bunch of engineers from Tesla for "something." Speculation is for the "i-Car" but that might not be where they are headed.  There are several areas Apple could integrate themselves in the EV World without actually building a car including BMS,  self navigation, etc.

But time will tell since Apple is currently silent on the topic. But as an innovator who does not actually build a lot of their hardware, if they do do a car, who will make it? China?  That is why I think they will simply build something related to cars we simply cannot live without

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Longer Range EVs and the Fate of Public Charging

My 2013 LEAF has transformed my driving habits! No, its not because its electric since my primary source of transportation has been electric since 2007. In fact, I turned in my 2011 LEAF to get the 2013 so what did cause the transformation?

Range! My 2013 having an extra handful of miles has allowed me to use public charging a lot less than in my 2011.  I do this by simply driving a bit slower, using neutral driving, and monitoring my progress using LEAF Spy. This has allowed me to squeeze that extra 4-5 miles out of my LEAF without doing the 15 minute pitstop I did so frequently in my 2011.

Now, to be fair, I have to say that the early days in my 2011, I had much less driving needs and I also was "driving blind." Without a battery monitoring device, it was nearly impossible for me to tell just how far my LEAF could go! So it was a crap shoot wondering just how long I had to sit charging somewhere to make it home. By the time I did change driving habits, degradation had set in albeit to a very modest degree, but degradation all the same.

So the real question is if a small increase in range has lessened my dependence on public charging, what will a big jump in range do? Are public charging companies about to fade away? Is their future doubtful?  Well to answer that question, I have to say for me I would use public charging more because trips that would take 3-5 charging stops or more could be reduced to 1-2 charging stops and if the chargers were placed well, could only slightly impact my total road time.

In my 2011, I did a road trip from Olympia, WA to Salem OR once.  I would have been ok with doing it more often but my passengers were not. It was "only" 7 charging stops for the 405 mile round trip which did include some local driving while in Salem but one charging stop (which was actually multiple sessions) was at the Salem destination on 120 volts at the home we were staying.

Now this trip has been done in the Prius several times (With a ZENN and its 35 mph limitations, road trips were not an option) and we always stopped at least once (or twice about half the times) for a meal which means a fast charge would  be applicable there.  With double the LEAF's range, only one stop would be needed to get to Salem. This makes the "Just leave the Prius at home and take the EV" argument a much more popular choice!  FYI; a few times it was predetermined that we would not be making any stops on the way since it is barely a 3 hour drive to the point where we had coolers with snacks, food, drink, etc and every time, we changed our plans and stopped somewhere anyways...

With the launch date probably 18 months or more away, its anyone's guess how much LEAF II and its near 200 mile range will cost but there have been hints it maybe just a little bit more than the current price range. This keeps it in the affordable range but the real question is how much more can be charged while keeping it in the range of the masses?  Well, I am guessing not too much. We already saw evidence with the Volt and Ford Focus EV that even with incentives, prices over $40,000 scare a lot of people away.

Where there is a lot of room is cutting costs to provide a cheaper EV option. There has always been rampant speculation as to how much it really costs to manufacture EVs and if you listen to Nissan, Chevy or what have you, they make it sound like they are really sacrificing to bring you the car at the prices currently offered.   Sorry but I couldn't swallow that line with the help of $300 Champagne!

The price of goods has always been determined by how much we are willing to pay for that item. No one does it for free or even close to free. Nissan has nowhere near the cash to support EVs or subsidized pricing so there is little doubt in my mind that they can come up with a version of the LEAF and a price that would compete directly with the gasoline car in the $20,000 price range before incentives. Sure Nissan had help with a generous loan from Uncle Sam to kick start their US operations but they would not have done it without a clear timeline for paying the loan back.

But an EV that competes directly with gasoline versions price wise is surely to make huge waves among the buying public. This forces the focus away from the sticker price to the huge differences in maintenance/fuel  TCO and I think this will be the main profit engine thru sheer volumes of sales. I also think this will be the main driver for future, longer range (and higher profit margin) EV purchases!

The only thing missing is a well placed public charging network. Hope someone is listening here!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Jan 2015 Drive Report

WOW!! Just paid $1.939 for gas yesterday.  Did not think it would be that low but recent news reports suggest issues at the refineries on the West Coast may drive gas prices up soon so enjoy it while you can!!

In January, the Corolla went 1050.5 miles at a cost of $55.54 or 5.29 cents per mile.  As always, this cost is an estimate due to the fact that I do not fill up right at the beginning of the month but its close enough.  My 3 fill ups for the month averaged 36.1 MPG which is my lowest figure ever. (previous low was December 2014 which was 37.7 MPG) I will be keeping an eye on this and hoping its not an early warning of major upcoming repairs!

Now there has been some noise hinting that these low gas prices has made getting an EV a mistake? Well, not quite.  Ya, 5 cents a mile is cheap (and yes, I am ignoring that extra ½ cent + per mile in oil changes!) but my LEAF still came in UNDER TWO CENTS PER MILE! so gasoline prices still have a long way to go and keep in mind, its looking like the prices are about to make a u-turn but hopefully not too soon.  We should be raising gas taxes now to get the badly needed extra revenue while prices are so low then reducing them as prices go back up but...

Either way, the LEAF did manage to go 654.0 miles on $11.68 of PSE juice (which includes a few freebies...) or 1.8 cents per mile.

**Sidenote** Yesterday, I went to the garage to grab something out of the freezer and one of the charge lights on the dash was blinking. Unfortunately, I had forgotten what it might mean but a quick query on Facebook helped me determine it was likely a 12 volt battery boost in progress.  Now, not that I constantly check this kind of stuff but it was the first time I had seen this in 4+ years of LEAFing.

This was a bit of a concern so got up this morning and checked the voltage and it was 12.18 volts at 7:35 AM. This was a concern!  My blog about others having 12 volt battery issues in Oct, 2014 showed my average voltages being in the 12.4ish range.  Now, it is colder now (which hurts the battery) and the LEAF sits a lot more (which also hurts) so the 12 volt battery is not getting the constant boosts now.   So I decided that since I have most of the day at home, I would check it every hour or so to see what it did.  My 8:30 check made me feel MUCH better

7:35   12.18 volts
8:30   12.30 volts
9:36   12.29 volts
10:53  12.28 volts
11:58  12.27 volts

Ok so now I am thinking I checked the voltage at 7:35AM when something else was going on in the LEAF that was causing a voltage drop. Whatever it was apparently was only on a brief moment. If I should ever run across this again, I will check the voltage every 5 mins or so to see how long this event lasts.

Ok, its been a week since I started writing this. Got sidelined onto something else so FYI; gas has gone up about 20 cents a gallon so I expect to pay a lot more at the pump but then again, been LEAFing it mostly this week to see if I can drive my batt stat numbers back up to the range they were in when I switched to driving the Corolla mostly. I will let you know how things turn out!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Nissan, When Will the LEAF E Be Available?; Long Term EV Views

Recently there was a story published online talking about the longer range Nissan LEAF.  Reading the story gave me the distinct impression that the story was mostly speculation likely built from bits and pieces of casual conversations from various Nissan employees.

It mentioned the SL getting more than double the range with possibly a more powerful motor as an option while the lower trims would see a smaller increase in range, all for a small increase in price.

I am hoping its all speculation and mostly false and the biggest reason is there is very little wrong with having an EV that gets 85 miles of range on a charge. A huge majority of commuters could easily make that work for them which would include nearly all their personal driving needs as well.

Now, don't get me wrong. I am all for longer range! Its the "small increase in price" comment that worries me. Ongoing battery tech improvements coupled with volume manufacturing should  drive costs down in 2017. The sticker price is still a roadblock for many and Nissan cannot lose sight of the fact that a cheaper 85 mile LEAF would still be in high demand.  Am I suggesting a new trim, the LEAF E for economy that keeps the 85 mile range but cuts the price several thousand from the current price? Yes, that is EXACTLY what I am saying!

Keeping shorter range EVs on the road means that public charging stations will still fill a need but the current setup is not working and we need to figure out a better way or the system will fail to receive the necessary funds to maintain itself.   High power AC units combined with creating a "boutique" like atmosphere can accomplish this.  Maybe "boutique" is not the right word but what if the charging station was not a station and was more like a center?  Abandoned gas stations would be the right footprint.  Have several charging stations both high power AC and Fast charge DC and design it like Starbucks.  Make it attractive to want to hang out for an hour.  Free wi-fi, data stations for laptops, music,  and even enclaves sufficient enough for a 2-4 person impromptu EV owner's meeting to swap stories and share experiences.

But a longer range is still needed.  Range variety will bring more customers in. There is a balancing act between the high sticker price and the perceived utility of the car. Too short a range with a high price, too high a price with ANY range, and simply not enough pegs for the board all tend to reduce the potential customer base. But if done right; Nissan can cover most of the market by doing at least 3 ranges.  85, 125 and "about 200" I think is the sweet spot.   Tesla is a great car but for most, you are paying a huge premium for battery capacity that simply is not used very often. Most of us simply do not have the cash to pay for something that exclusive.  If you do, great! but for the rest of us, Nissan; allow us regular people to have an effective  2 EV household that covers nearly all our driving needs without having to sell the house to afford it!!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Stress Free EV Driving

If you drive an electric vehicle you are probably well aware that the quiet, smooth ride can create a "zen-like" experience which can help reduce stress especially while sitting in bumper to bumper traffic. But this is not what this post is about.

Driving in neutral is way of driving that is stress free for the battery pack. We all know that the pack has a limited life. It has a limit to how many times it sees the same electron passing back and forth from its cells so although regen is a great way to extend the current charge's range, it is not a great way to extend your battery pack's overall life.

Now, don't get me wrong; Neutral will not allow you to gain any extra charge cycles or anything like but we don't really judge longevity like that anyway.  Its all about the miles.  So it makes sense that the easier the miles on the car, the more miles you will get, right?

Now some will argue that Neutral driving is dangerous and if you feel that way, please comment below as to why you feel that way because I simply do not understand why anyone would think that.  The brakes still work in neutral so the only thing I can think of that might be considered dangerous is the diversion of one's attention to the road to shift.

Now, maybe its because I have been doing it so long (Also did it in the Prius just not nearly as much) that I have simply become efficient at it from practice but I don't have to divert attention from the road while shifting. As long as I am traveling over 8 mph or so, I shift to Reverse which automatically kicks it to neutral except without the delay. The shift happens immediately. The other thing is that neutral driving requires a much higher level of attention to the traffic and its flow. This should increase your awareness and your level of safety.

But all this can be a lot of work especially if the gains are minimal. I think that if you are in the right situation and know your terrain well, you can go a significant amount of miles this way and all with minimal wear on the battery pack.

I found that coasting in neutral does not hold up traffic especially if taking advantage of slight declines. Even the gentlest of downhill slopes allows the LEAF to maintain speed very well.  Like all new processes, there will be a learning curve to overcome but I think the benefits far outweigh any risk.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

2nd Generation EVs and Public Charging

During the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, General Motors introduced the Chevy Bolt BEV.  It is tentatively scheduled for as early as a 2017 release at $30,000 after incentives and reputed to have a 200 mile range on a single charge.

Elon Musk has been talking about his Tesla 3; An affordable mid sized EV starting at $35,000 before incentives with about 200 miles of range to be released in the future. Most think this will be mid 2017 or early 2018.

Carlos Ghosn of Nissan alluded to a Nissan LEAF II that will more than double the current range putting it in the 175 mile range "at competitive pricing." Add to that an unnamed Nissan Engineer stating a new battery chemistry that has finished testing giving the LEAF 249 miles of range. (No, not better than the two above, only using a different testing system to get that number.) Despite the varying  claims, I suspect the true range differences between the three to be minimal.

Since the current 85 mile range Nissan LEAF meets more than 80% of people's needs; with more than double the range, will the long lines at the highly valued fast charge stations disappear?  Although highly valued, most fast charge stations are lowly regarded due to poor reliability.  Some have required resets to function which is not a big deal to someone who has been EVing 4+ years and is willing to "walk the line" in a manner of speaking (FYI; a few years ago when faced with a non functioning DCFC, I was told by their tech support to power cycle the unit by flipping the breaker. Obviously not the first thing we want to do but...) but to the newer crop of LEAFers (not forgetting the other "handful" of Chademo-enabled EVs...) they are generally stuck without a charge if the station does not function exactly as the instructions printed on them states.

I can see people not wanting to invest a lot of money into a charging network based on these claims but we need to keep in mind a few different things;

1) New products are usually rushed to market so most of these "pre-release" announcements generally reflect best case scenarios.  So we are likely looking at least 2 years down the road for the first of these new 2nd Gen EVs. That means a lot more shorter range EVs hitting the road to share an already over taxed public charging system.

2) Mistakes were made in deployment of the current charging network.  More fast chargers at "convenience" locations like fast food restaurants, etc.  More (MUCH more) L1's at long term parking area like employee lots and park and rides.  No, these are not designed to give you a fully charged car (although that may well happen) but does add 30-40 miles of range which may well be just enough to cover after work errands and the return home. Concentrate L2's at locations where people tend to spend more time.  Malls, movie theaters, parks, sporting venues, etc.

One thing that always irked me a bit was the ideology between placing fast chargers. The "25 miles apart" might sound good for someone traveling through the region but it really sucks for people who have to travel within the region like me. I think they should be every 5-10 miles AND in pairs to be effective.  The real issue with a lot of the non use of these stations is the distrust many EVers have developed after multiple failed attempts to get a satisfactory charge at many of these locations.

3) Pricing. These announcements may seem like a great deal especially if you are driving a Chevy Volt or Ford Focus EV that cost you over $40,000 before incentives but to the newer wannabe EVers, these prices might be a bit hard to swallow.  Underestimating the demand for shorter range EVs at prices that could challenge current mid sized gasoline cars would be a critical mistake. Although gas prices have dropped complicating the issue for people who are not truly aware of just how cheap an EV can be to drive, I see the typical commuter household morphing from Gasser-hybrid/EV to Short range EV/Long(er) range EV. (Matt; if this sounds like you, that would not be a mistake!!)

4) Only in the Oil Industry do incentives go on forever, for everyone else the light at the end of the tunnel is on. I am predicting that the above 3 auto manufacturers will have less than a year left of the maximum tax deduction for EVs by the time these 2nd Gen EVs hit the streets. The currents regs gives a $7500 deduction of taxable income (cannot be rolled over to another tax year)
 for the first 200,000 qualifying units from each manufacturer. After the 200,000 unit mark is reached, it drops to 50% in the quarter after the quarter the  mark is reached (so roughly 3 to 6 months later) then 25% for 6 months, then nothing meaning that Nissan who is currently leading the numbers game could see sales as early as mid 2018 with no federal incentives at all.

This puts puts the small select group of early EV manufacturing pioneers under great pressure to offer vehicles that are priced competitively . I have already discussed how the current incentive is HIGHLY UNFAIR and penalizes the companies that brought us EV options years ago. Companies like Toyota and others could wait for the technology to mature then put out a product with the full incentive intact for years. I can see a situation where Toyota could price an EV at say $3750 below market allowing them to cannibalize sales from other manufacturers who no longer have the tax incentive and bolster their profits as well.

In a nutshell, the greater range the 2nd generation EVs will provide will be wonderful but this should not signify the end of the shorter range EVs. I am a daily testament as to how well 85 miles can work for a great majority of the driving public.  EVs for the family running covering the entire price range is where we need to be and hopefully the auto manufacturers recognize this.

Finally; even when gas is dirt cheap, it can still be unexpectedly expensive. It is really too bad that damage caused by the user cannot be billed back to them when using the public charging network, but gas stations have a different policy. You break it, you pay to fix it.

I was eating a Gut Dog while working at a store in North Tacoma when this happened. I wish the guy would have let me know what he had planned to do so I could have gotten it on video but can't win em all I guess.

Now, as luck would have it, the gas pump maintenance man was on the premise and his rough estimate was $400 to fix the pump but that was a bargain since normally there would be a $250 trip charge added.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Dec 2014 Drive Report

Ok, I admit I have been saying for months that I would be driving the Corolla more due to exceeding the lease miles on my LEAF and this month, I finally did it. In December, I drove the LEAF 610.1 miles at a cost of only $6.03 cents which works out to a ridiculous one tenth of a cent per mile and did it without a lot of free public charging. Work reimbursement was a mere $8.64. I ended the year with 17,446 miles on the odometer.

Puget Sound Energy is kicking back some of the profits from selling off assets a few years back dropping my rates to 4 cents per Kwh. Unfortunately, its rumored that rates will be back to normal this month. I guess I picked a bad time to not drive the LEAF.  Murphy's Law wins again!

The Corolla drove 832 miles at a cost of $61.17 or 7.3 cents per mile which was helped a lot by dropping gas prices. FYI; expect even better numbers for Jan as average price paid for gas in December was $2.44 and so far this month, average for Jan is under $2.15 a gallon! So I guess I picked a good time to drive the gasser (Take that Murphy!) Work reimbursement was $257.92

For the year, gas was $479.62 to cover 5903.2 miles or 8.1 cents per mile. Keep in mind; without the typical errands we all must run, my efficiency is higher than a single car household would achieve.  This saved me an estimated $61.13 in gas for the year.  Also had 2 oil changes for a total of $49.12 (having relatives in the car biz means I get good rates!) adding almost a penny a mile to the TCO (.832 cents)

For 2014, the LEAF drove 16,957.8 miles at a cost of $346.93 or 2.04 cents per mile.

Final Note; Not driving the LEAF really does kinda suck. I have to constantly move equipment needed for work back and forth and the Corolla does not have automatic door locks so having to take the key out has really become a bit of an alien concept for me.

But as things usually do, it gives me a chance to run a bit of an experiment. Since I started driving the LEAF much less, I only charge a few times a week and SOC runs between 25 to roughly 70% or so and my battery pack stats have dropped to where they have settled to 62.20 ahr and 95.79% health. This is a pretty big drop from 65 ahr and slightly over 100% health.

So any bets on how much I can recover when I start exercising the LEAF again?  Does anyone think that I might lose this capacity permanently if I let LEAF take too long a vacation? There were times when LEAF sat as much as 48 hours straight but that will be rarer now but driving under 15 miles a day is pretty common right now.

Post your thoughts!!

Saturday, December 13, 2014


I can't even begin to thank Nissan enough for having the guts to be first to market with a viable EV that fits my needs and guess what? After 4 years, the Nissan LEAF is still the best fit for my needs.

Now, there is competition but you have to live in specific areas of the country for that.  I am (like 90% of the country) not lucky enough to have the correct zip code. So, again I am thankful that Nissan has fully committed to the LEAF and not half-as... well you know what I am saying.

But like the first place car in a race, setting the pace uses more fuel and can cause a situation where additional fuel stops are needed. Plus, cars behind can use the leader's slipstream to keep up while conserving fuel.  So is Nissan making a mistake? Right now, the biggest draw to EVs is their relative cheapness that combines a reasonable sticker price (after incentives) along with ridiculously low cost of operation.  But those federal incentives are limited. Its up to $7500 for the first 200,000 units from any manufacturer then it drops from there each quarter until zero.

Which makes me wonder if other manufacturers dragging their feet has more to do with getting a price advantage on Nissan than waiting for better technology?   Cause I have to think if there was a "ticking" clock, then everyone would be in the market right now trying to establish a niche in the market.

Nissan should be rewarded for pushing the envelop and allowing us to enjoy, learn and incorporate electric vehicles into our lives today! We have over ONE BILLION kilometers of EV driving under out belts and that number is growing exponentially!

But incentives can't or shouldn't go on forever. Unlike the Oil industry, the incentives should have a finite period. So, this is where you guys come in. We need to start petitioning our legislators to make the incentives time based and not unit based.  This puts all manufacturers on equal footing and the best part is it rewards the manufacturers who take the risk and brings products to market sooner rather than later.

And I am betting this will meet with huge resistance from manufacturers who currently have little or nothing to offer in the EV arena currently. They will say its unfair because Nissan has been enjoying the benefits of the incentives for over 4 years and several thousand more units than them. But whose fault is that?

Compliance cars are simply an answer to other manufacturers taking advantage of loopholes in the system. Lets close some of those holes! Contact your legislator today!!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

**UPDATE** The Saga of VIN #222; RESOLVED!!

A while back I wrote about a neighbor, Jennifer who purchased a used LEAF last Summer. It has 12 capacity bars and was a good deal. Not a great deal, mind you. Just a good deal.   She soon lost her first bar which we told her was likely to happen in the first year. Now keeping in mind the first bar represents a capacity nearly three times larger than the next several bars, it would not be extremely unusual for only a short period of time to pass before losing bar #2.

But the Pacific Northwest's weather is nearly tailor-made for battery health. Our climate is tempered by Puget Sound so its rarely very cold or very hot.  My first LEAF, VIN 258 built nearly the same time but having the advantage of living in the Pacific Northwest went 44,958 miles with all 12 capacity bars intact. At 57.11 ahr, it probably would have lasted all Winter before losing its first bar in mid Spring. So it had at least a few thousand miles to go.

But Jennifer's bars continued to disappear at the rate of nearly one per month! Something was not right.  Further digging found that this EXACT same car was reported as a 3 bar loser by its original owner in Southern CA back in November of 2013.

Obviously, someone was trying to pull a fast one here. She posted her dilemma on Facebook and we encouraged her to get the car inspected and research its history.  When the history of the car was reviewed it was immediately obvious that all was not as it was represented to be.

She was able to get it tested and guess what?? During the test, she LOST ANOTHER BAR!!

As a result, a new battery pack is on its way. It will  be a "Lizard" pack so it will be coming from Tennessee but the adapter kit is on back order and will take several weeks. She is in a loaner until then so looks like everything will work out for her and she will soon be driving a better car than she thought she was purchasing!

There still remains a question of how all of this even happened. How the depleted capacity bars were restored. Why she was not advised they had been restored. Who knew what and when?

Having been in the car business, car dealers have no more protection at auctions than we do, so its very much buyer beware. But in this case, the dealer, Tacoma Nissan should have been able to access the car's warranty history just like the dealer who is helping to get the warranty pack.  But auctions frequently have time limits, limited information in advance, etc. So it can be conceivable that Tacoma Nissan would have known very little in advance before bidding.

But they would have had ample time to have discovered the true nature of the car well before it was sold. The price they sold it for does not suggest they were open about the battery's degradation level. Either way, it is pretty obvious that laws need to be written that REQUIRES the true nature of the battery pack to be documented and accepted by the buyer.

Because this is such a new concept and still very much under the radar in most areas, we REALLY need to rely on you people to get the word out to your legislators.  The first post concerning this issue has links from Facebook and detailing the history of the car.

Finally, this issue would have never come to life if not for the actions of several people.

Kudos to Jennifer, the Washingtonian who bought the car from Tacoma Nissan and alerted our Facebook group to her plight and also for completing the escalation process!

Kudos to Aaron (The Tech) for investigating the history and testing the car AND being insistent with Nissan who first stuck with the claim that the car had 12 capacity bars in Jan, 2013!

Kudos to Nissan Motor Corporation for having the insight to create the paper trail that allows us to know the true nature of the battery's health. It was the warranty history on the car that provided the proof to warrant the test needed to complete the escalation process.

and finally....

Kudos to Nissan of the Eastside  in Bellevue, WA for giving Jennifer the "proper" loaner while she waits for her new batteries


Edited to update that it appears Jennifer will be getting the Lizard pack after all.  Normally, it would be OEM for the 2011/12 model year but as expected, the packs from Japan have apparently run out so she will be getting a better pack than the car was originally equipped.  As mentioned above, the Lizard pack requires a adapter kit to make it work. Some components of the 2011 pack were moved to the front of the car so the adapter is required.

Also want to make it clearer that the information surrounding this situation is still coming in. There is some details of the story that some parties to the story want to keep under wraps for the time being, so stay tuned. We will have more updates as they come in.