Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Regional EVing

Its a slow day for me. Everyone in the house is sick and I am spending most of my energy trying to beat the odds and stay healthy.  The big topic is Frankenstorm Sandy but I kinda already talked about the weather yesterday so need to move on

This is kinda of a repost of a blog entry at www.mynissanleaf.com but lots of stuff being written about the roll out or non roll out of public charging and the hurdles that still surprisingly remain.  Nissan offered England free Quick Charge stations and all England had to do is get some hosts but as easy as that would seem, things are not going well. Although nothing specific was cited as a cause of the "slow" roll out of the quick charge stations, one could probably guess cost was a factor.

This delay has caused separation of the ranks in the EV community with many pitching their support for either what they have or what they want.  Faster L2's (are cheaper which means better vendor site acceptance), battery swapping (where swap company takes care of the entire start up costs) or continuing to push for quick charge stations

Free Charging Stations is only half the battle. Many areas are not set up to handle the high current demands a 50 KW station requires.  In some cases even with the free station, the infrastructure upgrade costs are prohibitively expensive.  In the Puget Sound Region of WA State; many site hosts have bowed out due to that cost and sometimes an alternate site is not easy to find in the same location.  proposed DCFC (direct current fast charge) sites at Fred Meyer Stores in Issaquah, Maple Valley and other places were shelved due to high installation costs. Now, Fred Meyer Stores has been a great site vendor having already installed several DCFCs  at stores in Oregon and the Seattle area.

This is a problem. An effective fast charge network needs stations placed at intervals that allows use. the Mitsubishi MiEV has a lessor range meaning stations have to be closer together. The goal is 20-30 miles apart. For my LEAF, this means I could actually skip every other station and these options are greatly appreciated as station reliability is still very much up to chance.  But DCFCs allow me to gain up to 30 miles of range in my LEAF in 11-12 minutes.  Great when an unexpected errand pops up.

I actually ran into a situation when my LEAF SOC was in the 30% range. I had anticipated a light driving day and early return home from work so plenty of time to get a few hours charge in if needed.  Plans changing in the middle of the day are common but usually they are made with a few hours of notice to prepare.

Well, I was cruising the web (as if you didnt guess) when SO calls. She is at work in Centrailia 32 miles away and had forgotten some paperwork she needed for a meeting. its 12:55  the meeting is at 2 and she just now realized when went to the car that the paperwork was not in the car.  She was in a panic and asked (although it kinda sounded like a demand) that I bring the paperwork to her (which was sitting on kitchen counter along with her lunch she packed...)  Well, its 40 minutes to get there so I immediately jumped into the LEAF and headed out and didnt take me long to realize that I might not make it. I figured I could slow down a bit but realized that I would be short...very short.

I jumped off the freeway and pulled into the Tumwater DCFC thinking  I had nowhere  near 30 minutes but better than walking. I charged for 8 minutes (as long as I dared) and jumped back on the freeway and dropped off the requested documents at 1:50.  I then went to the Centrailia QC  charged for 12 minutes and then rushed to pick up my Son to take him to his appointment at 3 PM (which is what that original 30% charge was being used for...)

After his appointment in downtown Olympia, we swung by the DCFC again, charged up for about 10 minutes, went to dinner and shopping and got home with 31% SOC. Not bad considering I drove 90+ miles that day and spent 30 minutes charging!

Although quick charging works best for me; each charging option has its merits and will fill a void. The best option is OPTIONS!! choices.  L2's are much slower. Even the faster 6.6 Stations will still take an hour to give me what a DCFC can give me in 11 minutes.  But they are cheaper, can be deployed in much greater numbers and can go a long way towards "filling in the gaps"

Swap stations have huge upfront costs and subscription rates means that large scale adoption is likely in areas with much higher gas prices. But not all EV'ers have a garage to charge at home or even the time to stop often enough to make quick charging viable.

So, the more the merrier!

Monday, October 29, 2012

100 Year Storms

Its still early but things are not looking good.  I am losing hope that the forecasters have "over predicted" the impact of Hurricane Sandy.

Reports of hurricane force winds in a 175 mile radius makes this the largest hurricane to ever hit the United States. The satellite pictures are overwhelming.

Once again, we have a weather event of epic proportions.  But that is how the World turns.  In my lifetime, I have heard of, seen or lived thru several of them and no matter how big, how fast, or how bad; there is always something bigger and badder around the corner.

But we used to get a few years respite between the really big events.  But lately "events" are coming in bunches. Its been barely a year since Irene. Now, I probably wouldnt consider Irene to be in the "100 Year" category today but wondering if I have simply become used to extreme weather events. It was devastating and very costly. It killed 65 people and caused over 16 Billion in damages and it was just a category 1 Storm but then again, so is Sandy, but the area and location is something not commonly seen.

In the Puget Sound Region, we went thru a record breaking heatwave in 2009 and this past Summer we went thru record breaking dry spells (along with the rest of the country) and normally its not all that newsworthy.  After all, what are records for if not to break them right?  But to break a rainfall record of a few inches to NOTHING and do it two months in a row is something we probably wont see again anytime soon. The last time we had anything close to weather that dry for that long was 1920...so guess it should be a "92 year" event.

Or is this our new normal?  The 14 "Billion Dollar Weather Events" in 2011 did set a record and part of that could simply be more people means more infrastructure means just more stuff lying around to get broken. Add to that, inflation and that could go a long way towards explaining that.

Now, the Pacific Northwest had a crippling snowstorm (in my front yard) this past January. Mind you, in an area where snow is not guaranteed every Winter, we got over 20 inches. It shutdown my town for 3 full days.  Some people in outlying areas had no power for over 3 weeks. It took 2 days to plow half the main roads and I live less than 5 miles from the state capitol.  Fact of the matter; the area was not prepared to handle something so far over what we normally see.  10 inches ok. Way more than we are used to but seen it before. That happens every 4-5 years. But more than 20? I have lived here since 1985 and the most snow I've seen at one time was like 12 inches. I have seen probably a half dozen Winters with no snow at all.

But its interesting how our seemingly insignificant effects of our habits have created havoc with the weather. Now we can argue that Mother Nature is a force far beyond our ability to affect its course and in a "one on one" basis; the arguments maybe correct but even the strongest castle will fall if the siege is carried out long enough.

We are all aware of the "1 degree rise in temperatures over the next XX years" stories. We have been inundated with them for a nearly a decade now.  But did they mention that the warmer air would hold more water so when we get these "water release" events that they would be MUCH worse?  Well, they probably mentioned it but I dont remember it.  They definitely did not emphasize it enough. Now they did mention that extreme weather events would be more extreme and I guess that was emphasized enough but we still didnt listen.

What we fought against and complained about the most was anything that might cause a dime rise in the price of gasoline because it would hurt too much. But in the meantime we were paying over $12 a gallon for bottled water because we no longer trust the public water supply.  

Katrina was the most expensive storm in History (although I have to think most of that was due to the direct hit on a major population center that lies below sea level) at nearly 106 Billion but I think that the tally of Sandy will be much much worse.  It does not have the strength but at the same time; it looks to affect areas ill equipped to handle the effects of a hurricane only they "normally" only see every 100 years.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Battling Range Degradation Part 2

Ok, batteries have arrived much earlier than expected so very happy with that!  Battery pack is very small so a bit shocked. Thinking this does not seem like it would provide very much power but as shown in this youtube video  even very small Li Battery packs contain a lot of power. Coat does state "up to 6 hours" on a charge. That 6 hours is probably if on the lowest heat setting.  All I really need is about 2 hours on "high" setting

The battery charger was 6" by about 5" with the power pack itself being 3.5" tall and nearly 2" in diameter

placing power pack into adapter for the coat brought the height to 5". either way, very portable. one could easily carry an extra power pack in one of the pockets

The pack comes with a 3 year limited (very limited I am guessing) warranty for defects only. Charging time is listed as 30 to 75 minutes and an inverter with an output of 100+ watts can be used on the charging unit (but that would defeat the purpose right?)

The initial charge took 42 minutes. There is a pocket to left side towards the rear where the power pack is plugged in.  This does add weight to the coat but the coat is made of very lightweight waterproof material to begin with and did not seem to be enough weight to bother one if you decided to go on a brisk walk while wearing it.

There is a button on the chest that operates the coat. Press and hold 3 seconds to turn it on. This puts it into "rapid preheat" mode. In this mode the light on the button pulses.  Preheat mode took 4 minutes and 20 seconds on the first power up.

The coat comes on in low power mode. Pressing the button cycles it thru medium and high power modes then back to low.  To power off, press power button for 3 seconds. Simple enough! I was ready to road trip test it!

But... the weather is not cooperating. Cloud cover has been extensive. We are in a constant rain (mostly drizzle) pattern and its expected to last several more days.  Last night when I tested the coat, it was 51º which is a temperature I would not be feeling that much cold in most situations.  So, may have to wait a bit before I can really determine whether it will work for those 30º days it was intended for.

One thing that was a bit unexpected is that even on high heat setting, the heat is not hot or overwhelming as I thought it might be.  I also could not determine where the heat is coming from exactly which means the coat probably uses wires instead of heating panels.  There is definite warmth in the front of the coat on the chest and also to a lesser degree on the back.  Could not really tell if there is anything on the sides.  Not sure the coat will provide enough heat in the dead of winter.

Will have to do a "part 3" after I get a chance to do a drive in colder weather

Friday, October 26, 2012

Gas Anxiety

After 23,000 plus miles on the LEAF all at a cost of under $600, I wondered "Hey! how much is my Prius "saving" me? After all, its the mileage King"

So, I went back and got my gas receipts for the last 23,000 miles on the Prius to find out and really wish I hadnt.

In retrospect; I wanted to continue to think that my Prius was dirt cheap to drive. I wanted to continue to think that I was not paying anywhere near what others were paying to meet their transportation needs. IOW, I wanted to continue to fool myself into thinking I had it handled... but, it was too late.  I had looked.

I double checked my figures. I questioned Open Office's ability to perform the basic function of addition. I manually went thru and added it up myself.  After all, this was a spreadsheet I used and designed to track my mileage expenses.  I had to have made a formulation mistake somewhere...somewhere there is a mistake here...

Tracking my mileage is something I had been doing since Thanksgiving Weekend of 2003 when I ordered my first Prius.  I was driving a 1990 Ford F-150 Pickup back then.  So when finally taking delivery of my 2004 Prius on June 30, 2004 the differences were EXTREME!! I was saving tons of money! I was stoked!!  So, the practice continued with my 2006 Prius, and now with my 2010 Prius.  But the F-150's stats had lulled me into a sense of complacency.  Its huge numbers and the Priuses' little (or so I thought) numbers were just like so different, it was like another time, a different generation...hmmm? a different generation?

But there is was.... Nearly $1900!! WOW. my "Eco" bubble shrank (along with my bank account!)  I no longer felt green... (kinda blue actually!)  I mean it was like the same distance driven but more than $1300 of difference.  That is like 65 Lunch Buffet specials at my fave Sushi place! the loss was almost inconsolable. CRAP!!, I mean CASH!!!

had to stop the flow of cash! I mean suddenly I realized, I have GAS ANXIETY!!

Immediately I had a sit down conference with the SO. Had to coordinate our travel intenerary.  But one thing was clear.  Two jobs, two commute needs, two different directions!

Each conflicting need especially when the distance was well within the LEAFs range was like a knife in the pocketbook but not nearly as painful as the very short 2-4 mile trips we so frequently have to make.  These are not "50 mpg" trips in the Prius. they are more like 25 mpg trips especially at this time of year!!

Now, have to go.  gotta apply for a "gas loan"

Battling Winter Range Degradation

The weather has changed!! Mornings are now in the upper 30's to lower 40's which is not good for the batteries in my LEAF. The batteries are very much like people. They do best at room temperature.  Hotter and they degrade quicker. Colder and they lose their ability to hold a full charge.

My off the cuff, antedotal evidence suggests my batteries are holding 18.5 to 19 Kwh as opposed to the 20.5 to 21 KWH of Summer.  Add to that the climate controls that use 150-300% more power to heat than to cool and we now have range anxiety!!

Well, actually I dont. But coming home during the Winter especially from the Centrailia commute of 64 miles roundtrip means pulling into the garage with only a few miles to spare. Now for me?? a few miles is fine. I am very ok with that. In fact, as long as I dont have to push the car to get it to the charger, I am ok with that so 5 miles left or 5 feet remaining is all the same to me!!

But my SO does not share that sentiment. She is much more "cold sensitive" and part of that is due to the fact that she does really dress for the weather. She works as an ER admitting Rep for Providence Hospital in Centrailia WA.  She generally wears sweaters all year long (fairly lightweight for Winter...a bit excessive for Summer)  but guessing the A/C works well there maybe?

Adding to her concern is the GOM that I strongly suspect is designed to "encourage" the driver to stop and charge up way before they really need to.  Either way, driving in Winter does require some additional preparations.  So, naturally we got one of those seat heaters.  Its the plug into the 12 volt power port kinda things.  It works great for warming the back and its relaxing (has vibrator too...) but its not all that great for keeping the core warm and its slow to heat up.

So, Casey a fellow LEAFer mentioned he got a heated jacket so I decided I would try it as well.  So after an exhaustive 10 minute search on Google, I settled for a "Milwaukee 2330 Cordless Heated Jacket"

Now a few reasons why I choose this option.

Cons for other options

1) most of the other options I found were companies that were not known to me (which really does not matter)

2) Used what I would have to consider as proprietary parts

3) Were a LOT more expensive.

Pros for Milwaukee

1) Obviously the price. The Jacket was  $115.89 on Amazon (of course) and the Battery charger was $19 and the battery $34.

2) Availability. Although I dont anticipate needing a lot of batteries since the Coat will supposedly run for "up to 6 hours" on a charge and the LEAF would be driven 40 minutes each way daily so a total of around 1.5 hours, the battery should be fine but if it isnt or when it degrades (its still Li!!) then I have to think that picking up a replacement battery locally should be easy.

Either way, it should be arriving today (the coat...batteries not expected until Monday/Tues...)  so I am excited.  It has 3 heat settings including a fast Preheat so sounds like it will work great for keeping us warm in the LEAF.

Now, remember my SO is heat sensitive so it remains to be seen how this goes. I am suspecting she will fall in love with the jacket and commandeer it so I will see it rarely.  The Price is right and if it works as well as I think it will, it might also be an Xmas present to myself as well

Oh guess what!! UPS was on the ball today.  Package just arrived so hold on!! Pix coming...

Ok, now its REALLY sucking that Amazon ships stuff separately and I have to wait all weekend before I can try this out. But what do you think? Have I wasted my money on this?  Will it be effective in getting me a bit more range in Winter for my LEAF? Keep in mind; This wont help defrost the windows.... feedback is appreciated even if just to say "Dave you crazy!"  (I am used to it!)

This is part one of three so make sure you read the rest to get the full picture!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Heaven Or Hell

America for decades was considered the world leader. We had the greatest military, greatest industrial capabilities, greatest education and research and the greatest ability to mobilize on massively complex and daunting tasks at a moments notice.  To the rest of the World,  we were invincible... that was until 39 years ago this week when OPEC put into motion events that would cause a 400% increase in the cost of crude oil to more than $12 a barrel. (ya, that right... twelve dollars!!)

Despite great efforts to combat the price increases; The 55 MPH National Speed Limit, Daylight Savings Time, etc. Within weeks, it was obvious that the US Achilles Heel was Oil.  Oil powered nearly every self indulgent part of our wasteful society and without it,  our lives would ground to a halt, it became clear  we would pay any price.   What we failed to realize was that the higher pump prices was just the beginning of the higher cost of oil and by far the smallest increase.

This action by OPEC was essentially a reaction to our support of Israel during the Yom Kipper War and the "Arab Embargo" was ended when the US was able to negotiate a peace treaty among Israel and other Middle East Countries the following Spring of 1974. This can argubly considered our official expansion as the role of "World Peace Keeper" This action insured that as long as we continued to be totally reliant on oil, we were vulnerable and protecting that vulnerability was to take precedence over all else.  The real reason the Gulf War was started will probably never be admitted publicly but there is little doubt that the reason was to insure stability of the region that supplied the World with the oil we were addicted to.  Saying we did it over concern of the citizens of Kuwait is just a bit of a stretch especially considering we sat on our hands when one million Rwandans were murdered or when over one million people of Dafur were victims of genocide.

The answers to our energy question plays like a bible story.  On the one hand we have Oil. Its powerful, having much more power density than anything else on Earth. Its plentiful, convenient and available at a moments notice. It is the Devil's Solution.  Its cheap, but like any "Devil's Solution"; A penny spent on oil today creates a dollar of debt that society must pay back someday

The other hand are the "Fruits of Nature"  Solar, Wind and Water.  Provided by Mother Nature. Harder to harness, more expensive to produce, etc. But the supply is endless unlike oil. The Wind blows nearly all the time and we know why and we have even gotten to the point where we can predict when, where and how much.  Solar is the same way. After all the only impediment to Solar during daylight hours is clouds and we can see them coming days in advance.

But both technologies despite massive recent growth are young and a lot of money is needed to continue the growth. Unfortunately, there is now growing opposition to that funding.  Individual failures like Solyndra and A123 are being played up in the media as the "inevitable course of things" concerning green energy tech. This is scaring away investors making doubly tough to insure future growth when support may or may not be there.

Now, we can debate forever on the merits of "use the oil because we already spent the money to develop the infrastructure" verses spending the money now for green energy tech that will take years to pay back to get a real long term solution for our future.  But I will close with a parable instead

Thus, spend for no tomorrows -- or save for many.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


There are 5 technology adoption stages.

"Innovators" which consists of 2.5% and these are people that are more commonly known as the "bleeding edge"  They are the "stand in line for 4 days"  before launch kind of crowd.  They base their purchase decisions on marketing hype, Scientific Journals and color brousures.

Then we have the "Early Adopters" or 13.5% of the population and these are the  "cutting edge" crowd.  They buy based on internet research,  test driving events,  and word of mouth from their more adventurous acquaintances and co-workers.

Then we have the "Early Majority" and "Late Majority"  both consisting of about 34% of the population and finally the "Laggards"  the remaining 16%.

EVs will prove to be the go to technology  as described in my "What He Said" entry but how fast?  With EVs being so right, it should be pretty quick right?  Well, yes and no.

The Technology Adoption Curve although well defined, is not guaranteed. It also has a "Chasm" which is a barrier that must be overcome and it sits between "Early Adopters" and the "Early Majority" and this Chasm usually means failure for the weaker new technologies that fail to find a market.  With EVs being so right, they will overcome this barrier but this could delay mainstream adoption by years.

Recently this was demonstrated in Wind Energy.  Wind has been enjoying rapid steady growth with current incentives but the incentive is only good for 5 years.  The first incentive also good for 5 years was allowed to lapsed and had to be reintroduced. This caused great uncertainty for businesses and investment strategists and subsequently a hiccup in the growth curve.   Compare the Wind Energy Incentives to incentives currently being enjoyed by the fossil fuel industry whose incentives are actually written into the tax code. Without a deadline looming in the background, long term investment strategies allows a much more relaxed flow of money into the technology.

Now, big strides have been made by the Obama Administration to reduce fossil fuel subsidies but some still remain. Since the whole point of subsidies is to help the technology be successful, there is no reason to continue to prop up an industry that rakes in Billions of dollars in profit almost daily.  So, lets write some incentives into the tax code and when Wind, Solar, etc. become profitable machines, then and only then we can go back and rewrite the laws.

The other thing I have touched on previously and it does bear repeating is the current tax credit of up to $7500 for purchasing a plug in vehicle.  It is generally accepted that without this incentives, EVs are priced out of the mainstream market.  But EV sales are still sluggish despite the incentives and one of the big reasons why is that that $7500 tax credit is too restrictive.  A large segment of the population is left out in the cold and that is retired persons.  They have a reduced income along with the reduced tax liability but at the same time; many also have reduced transportation needs. They are far less likely to want to do a 500 mile car trip. They are more likely to only want to drive locally and the thought of  refueling their vehicle from the comfort of their garage is very appealing to them.

So the EV tax credit should be an instant rebate for purchases which is essentially how it is handled for leases.  The $7500 tax credit is treated as a down payment so it reduces the capitalized cost of the lease. Then the leasing company simply applies for and receives the $7500 directly from Uncle Sam.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What He Said


If you havent already noticed (most do right away) I suffer from Adult ADD or at least I can say yes 18 times on a survey that only requires 10 yeses to be strongly suspected on having it...

So, that means I have a degraded ability to form thoughts, plan things, etc. and I have to say I fully agree with that. These blogs are a prime example.

When preparing to write a new entry, the one thing that applies to all of them is that I never plan to write one.  I just happen to get a thought in my head about something and then away I type.  This "process" has a tendancy to produce rather scattered trains of thought (some resembling traffic jams more than trains...) that can make making a point rather confusing.

I also have a tendancy to make statements that someone very familiar with the subject would understand but the casual reader would not which is also bad.

So when someone is able to put my thoughts down better than I ever could and claim them as their own, I am not upset... He, like anyone is more than welcome to share my views!!

So the explanation for the link. I was just going to post the title and the link but thought a brief explanation might be in order.

Either way,  my main topic seems to be centered around my LEAF and why should it not? the LEAF is an amazing innovation and it is used by us daily and it has performed better than expected.  The problem is I get chances to talk with people who are interested in electric vehicle technology and they end up discounting a LEAF in their future based on misguided information, prejudices and reactions about EVs from Non EV'ers... How is that exactly?


The psychology of car buying almost deserves its own volume.  It almost always starts out as a numbers game infused with sensible logic, cost analysis and long term TCO calculations.

Then the buyer hits the lot, the numbers go racing from the head and emotion is the only thing left.  Well, at least that's how it has been working up until now. Then the electric vehicle entered the picture.

The electric vehicle has moved emotion to the top of the list.

** Its green; the right thing to do

** Its cool; techy cool. Nissan knew this and took advantage with its "windowesque" start up chime and multi-colored displays.  Hard to dispute the fact that a picture of the Nissan Leaf dash would easily blend in with just about anyone's Christmas home decor.

** Its convenient; no getting gas

** Its cheap (if you can make it past the sticker price)

the list goes on and on, but most (even the convenience thing) of these reasons are based in emotion. Now, it could be argued that "Greenness" and its righteous quality is based in fact and one would be correct but that is not the reason why most of us choose to "green up"

But anyway the reason for this entry actually has nothing to do with EV's but hybrids; namely plug in hybrids.

For those who have found that EVs are not all that inconvenient as most would have us believe; the new push is an EV/hybrid household.  Right now; two combinations dominate.  the LEAF / Prius or the LEAF / Volt.  Ford and Toyota are both challenging that domination with new products.

Toyota was first out with adding plug on their hybrid king the Prius but many felt it a token gesture at best when it was realized that the EV range was barely 10 miles.  But blended range driving did give a big mileage boost for those who had that longer commute and the Prius still boasted the big "5 -0 MPG"  a milestone that still allows them to stand alone.

Ford taking some pages from the Toyota play book developed a product from scratch; the C-Max.  It is slightly bigger,  slightly cheaper, and double the EV range of the Prius.   A major challenge to unseating the Prius from the top spot.  it did not quite make the 50 mpg level  but came close enough at 47 mpg. (edited; actually its 42 MPG for the Energi AND early test drives with the hybrid are showing performance in the 30's...)  But the key thing; 21 miles of EV range doubling the PiP (Plug in Prius) a definite white glove "slap in the face" challenge to Toyota.

After the C- Max Energi specs were announced (release date is not until Jan 2013)  I fully expected Toyota to counter with a longer EV range to compete. After all, Ford was beating Toyota in 3 of the 4 main metrics. But Toyota chose to bet on Customer Loyalty which is essentially emotional buying.

But one thing is clear; both Ford and Toyota have declined to challenge Nissan in the "family affordable" EV car class.  What they have recognized however is the powerful emotional draw that EVs possess over their owners.  A force so powerful it is overcoming the logic infused with the traditional car buying process.  a draw that permeates the EV owners surroundings so completely  that the big concern; How much that "EV ness" will affect neighbors, relatives and co-workers.

So are the plug in vehicles with impractical EV ranges a compromise allowing people to be seen plugging in but not really committing to the movement?  I am proud to live in a  state that does not jam up their HOV's with single passenger vehicles like Volts, PiP's and LEAFs but cant help but wonder how a LEAF driver feels when he sees a slow PiP driving in front of him?

The final thing to mention; Only the Volt has the EV range to meet the needs of the massives in the plug in field. its 40 mile EV range no doubt decided on stats showing the Average American drives 38 miles a day (2 mile buffer for late night runs for ice cream probably)  but its price is decidedly not middle class despite GM's attempts to disquise that fact with attractive leasing deals and I still recommend the lease anyway due to the promise of bigger, better and possibly cheaper plug in options in the "near" future.

Right now; the EV world is far from mature. the LEAF is still the best choice for many 2 car households including mine but they still have unresolved issues that will affect some commuting needs.  So lease it; get a 3 year one and then re-evaluate with the best of the 2015's

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


281 is the GID count of a "seeable" capacity on a Nissan LEAF traction battery pack. Each GID is supposed to represent 80 Watt/hours. There is a total of 300 GIDs to make the 24 Kwh battery pack. Now the LEAF actually drops the connection to the traction pack at around 2% leaving about 22 Kwh or about 91.6% of the true pack capacity.  Now because a battery charge is a chemical reaction whose properties can change with temperature like any chemical reaction; actually charging to that top target of 93.6 % is an approximation that can be affected by hot Summer time temperatures. the LEAF's BMS may throttle back the charge slightly to prevent any possibility of overcharging and the resultant permanent capacity loss so the top end is typically in the 90-91% range for me.

Now the accepted charging efficiency from wall to battery is about 85% and if each GID was 80 watt/hours then it should take about  94 watt/hours to get the GID there but that is the rub.

I purposefully ran the pack to near VLB (very low battery) which happens about 8.5 % or 24 GID (i was actually at 27 GID)  but only took just under 20 kwh to recharge.  (no pix of starting point on meter other than it was a "hair past 3750")

Now, I was at 281 GID and it was a bit of a surprise (was 275 yesterday) so I went and got my phone to snap a pix. two minutes later I returned and it was 280 (should have turned off the radio!)

So despite the SOC meter saying i gained 254 GID, if using the 80 watt hour parameter and the 85% charging efficiency number i come up with 213 GIDs put back in the pack. Now that would make sense since I drove 64.8 miles @ 4 miles/kwh. with 27 GID left that would take me about 6 miles for total of 70-71 miles of range in last nights near freezing conditions. The remainder of the power could be attributed to occasional defrost used to clear the windows.

Now, before the weather turned cold, my GID count ran from 268-272  with an occasional bump to 275 during most of the past Summer representing a 2-3% loss.  If we compare the LEAF's performance to last winter, it does appear to have lost a bit of range but not really too much, maybe only a few miles.  With the SOC meter, it does lower the range anxiety a bit since we know that Turtle happens about 7 GID so there was still 20 GID "left in the tank"

Either way; the LEAF is headed to Centrailia again this morning.  will report back tomorrow and the recharge amount!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

25 Miles

Has Nissan made a mistake?  By putting most of their eggs in the LEAF basket that is?  It was marketed as the first full production highway capable EV that was affordable and it very much is all that especially when many current or potential EV drivers say they need about 25 more miles of range?

But to reduce costs to keep it within reach (albeit after government subsidies) of most consumers,  they passed on temperature management of the battery pack which would have helped maintain range during the winter as the batteries are better able to take a charge when its warmer than when its cold.  Temperature management would have also slowed degradation due to excessive Summertime heat suffered by people who dont have colder winters

So it appears that Nissan's decision has hurt LEAF owners in the warmer climates and owners who experience moderate to severe winters.  That does not leave a whole lot left. So, exactly how functional is the LEAF when considering the loss of what is already a limited range?

According to the EPA, the LEAF should take you about 73 miles on a full charge assumeing that charge is on a new battery pack that is at about room temperature. Well, its EPA and one can easily  beat that will a minimal change in driving habits. I plan on 80-85 miles even with A/C running.   In winter with climate controls, that range can be more like 70 and if cold enough, make that 50-60 miles and this is with a new battery pack.

So what happens when the pack is not so new? and its cold and the range is now 40 miles? Well, I might be answering that question very soon.  I am heading into my 3rd winter with the LEAF and our longest regular commute is 64 miles roundtrip.  The weather has just recently turned cold and the LEAF is sitting in a parking lot as I type halfway on its 64 mile trip

I mean like "40 miles??" what can anyone do with that? Well that number is a bit interesting since it is still more than the 38 miles that is traveled daily by an average American.  But what does that mean anyway? because 38 miles is not very much for me or a lot of people I know.  Now is that daily average based on 38 miles * 7 days/week or  266 miles a week or  13,700 miles a year?  What about people who drive 45 miles a day 5 days a week and only a little on weekends?

Either way; the ability to drive 40 miles at a time can be very restrictive.  Now, the other thing I have to mention is that most of the people I know dont drive more than that. My sister drives about 16 miles a day (in her 20 mpg SUV she cant afford to go any farther!) after quiting her much higher paying job 20 miles away and taking one in the town she lives in.  My in-laws both  long time Olympia area residents also have under 5 mile commutes having moved back from Rochester (about 18 miles away) about 5 years ago. Ya see, they moved because the thought of a big yard, cheap house was attractive to them but it did not take long before they realized that the extra 15-20 minutes each way was simply not worth the trouble.

But I am not in that situation. My SO drives 64 miles RT for her job in Centrailia but we are easily able to drive that (she did it last night but plugged in the car before I got home from work so I dont know how much charge was left but she claims it was about 10 miles of range and she drove 64.6 miles with defrost running on the way home) averaging around 60 mph.  Add to that the DCFC in Centrailia and Tumwater that can add 30 miles of range in 10 minutes and we are set for quite a while.

Now the real challenge is getting people to realize that they dont need that much range all the time.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Better Place

Recently Better Place founder and CEO Shai Agassi was ousted as the CEO of the company. The company's goal was battery swap stations that would allow EVs to extend their range in 5 minutes.

This is a stunning development to me. I felt confident that Better Place had the right idea, but unfortunately maybe a bit too soon.

They were able to get the company off the ground in Israel and Denmark but the sheer cost of starting up along with the shaky state of financial affairs in Europe may have played a part in the decision to seek new direction for the company.

He was able to pitch the idea well enough to get enough backing to get started having raised about 750 million but that is not enough to put up the swap stations and supply the battery packs because;

**economy of scale;  there is several battery pack manufacturers out there, but there still seems to be a shortage everywhere. Nissan addresses that shortage by building their own battery plant eliminating the need to rely on a 3rd party vendor but that plant has only been running a few weeks. This applies to EVs in general leading to...

** Choices;  21 months after the LEAF was released, it is still the best choice (only choice really)  for someone in my position (iow, VERY  middle class)  that will hamper the EV market. But no single product appeals to everyone.  People want choices and on the surface, we seem to have them. a dozen options out there but is there really?  Ford will put out a few thousand of the Focus EVs along with Toyota, Honda and several others but in 2-3 years time!!  IOW;  the average consumer will not likely be exposed to a vehicle which such a limited release. if not for California (the largest car market in the World) requiring a portion of each auto manufacturers offerings to be zero emmission plug ins, there is significant doubt that these manufacturers would be in the EV game at all. therefore most haved dubbed these very low volume EVs as "compliance cars"

**Battery Cost;  Despite our grandest hopes, limited production and capacity have still kept battery prices high. That should change but when??  Nearly every week theres is a news story about a new innovation in battery technology. its beginning to sound like repackaged Christmas hype of decades old products; "Bigger, Faster, Smaller, Lighter," etc.   But as always, the actual product just seems to be 2-3 years away just like they were 2-3 years ago.  Nissan has been leaking out information on range improvements hinting those improvement "could be" a result of battery improvements and most were anticipating getting the real info in a few months for the 2013 model but now, other rumors are saying any chemistry changes will not be seen until Fall 2013 for the 2014 MY, so once again; another delay

**Support;  There will always be a raging debate over how much support Big Oil receives simply because Big Oil can afford to throw money at the engine of misinformation.  This complicates the matter and places doubt and only the teeny tinest amount of doubt is all that is needed to kill any groundswell of support for competing transportation technologies.  EVs have had very little support and what support they do offer is of questionable value to many potential EV owners.  the $7500 tax credit is only good for those who have that much tax liability. What about retired people? most of whom have scaled back a lot of their transportation demands to the point where a 75 mile EV would be ideal for them?  Change that $7500 to an instant rebate and let the dealership take care of getting the money! more on this later.

What really gets me is that the EV program must somehow be worthy or profitable but what measure of "worthy" are we going to use? is EV support money wasted as many seem to think?  Amtrak lost a billion dollars last year and received 1.42 Billion from Uncle Sam to keep its doors open. Should be dump them because they are a money loser?  they provided a benefit to over 30 million people last year, most of them probably tax payers.  Most would say that Amtrak is a VERY regional benefit so why should CA residents help support Amtrak where ridership is weak?  Why cant the Eastern Seaboard pay for it where ridership is strong ?(and Amtrak IS profitable)  Well, the East does pay for a greater share of the support thru ticket purchases and keep in mind; what is the impact were Amtrak not there? Greyhound might like that but most likely just be a lot more cars, a lot more traffic, a lot more lost time sitting in the middle of a packed concrete ribbon...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Great Expectations!

Earlier my "Mob Mentality" Post got attention but still people felt I was somehow not showing enough compassion for the AZ owners which is not true at all.  Its the people who are hurting the EV movement based on Nissan's actions and not the product (Nissan's actions or inactions do suck A LOT!)  that I have issues with especially when their LEAFs are performing they way they should...or are they?  what is exactly what people were expecting the LEAFs battery pack to do after 20,000 miles?

I tried to set up a thread to examine that question exactly and unfortunately it turned into a thread of "well, i will be ok as long as i dont lose more than X% over the remaining 18 months of my lease" or  " as long as I dont lose more than X%, this will have worked out very well for me" thread.  iow, it would appear that most had not really thought about it much at all.

well, actually i am sure most did think about it at least a little but simply forgot about it.  It is easy to see that because like me, they were overly excited about the anticipation of delivery and I have to admit the furor over battery degradation mechanics is not unlike the furor over changing delivery dates and conflicting information (none of which came from Nissan since they were telling us NOTHING way back then as well)  and Nissan simply makes the issue 10X worse but not saying anything. they are worse than Toyota is about new product intros or what they are doing about various fixes and I didnt think anyone could be worse than Toyota.

But, one of the reasons I started the thread to see what people's expectations were was because I could not really remember mine.  after 18 months and 20,000 miles i hit my first ever 281 GIDs and i kinda readjusted my thoughts about what i "wanted" to expect.  I eventually had to go back to my journal (ya, i keep one but mostly because it has info in it i need to remember and i found that its easier to find because i only have to remember the approximate time of the data i want to remember)  and what i found was shocking...

I reasoned that Nissan told us to expect 20% after 5 years and 30% after 10 which told me that the rate of degradation after the break-in period of higher rate loss was 2% a year right?  10% additional degradation in the 2nd 5 years so that was easy, so the only thing i really had to figure out was how long does that initial degradation period last?  well, i guessed two years but also said I would be nearing 14% degradation!!

ya see, i took years to be same as 12,000 miles. after all, its alway 5 years or 60,000 miles or 3 years or 36,000 miles right?  so, i figured after 24,000 miles (which i am 987 miles from as of now)  it would be 14% and i figured it by saying

year one= 10% (remember, its faster at first)
year two= 4% (slows down)
year 3-10= 2% per year to 10 years, 30%.

makes sense does it not?? I have to admit I am glad i was thourough in explaining my logic because that 14% about knocked me over when I found it.

soooo, hmmm.  now, i will say that i had no signs of degradation, at least no "permanent" signs of degradation although i suspect i have lost about 2-4% and that has happened rather quickly.  a check of my records shows a 278 GID reading at 22,446 miles which is not all that far in the past.

now wondering if my degradation curve will speed up to say 10% over the next few months, then taper to 6% over the next 12,000 miles and then settle in for the long haul at 2% a year??

sounds weird but Tony Williams had a brand new LEAF that showed no signs of degradation then suddenly lost 10% and it happened so fast he was caught completely by surprise and that is probably not an easy thing to do. Tony is a pretty sharp dude.  He has dissected every gauge, every number, every volt and every mile his LEAF has gone.  add to that his pilot training which requires him to have a level of observance beyond the casual man.

Either way, i have to adjust my expectations a bit i guess.  so if in a cooler climate, we get a "bonus year" (or two?) where we dont have to worry about degradation.  wow, that would be nice.  wondering what AZ'ers will say when they find out i probably got one of their bonus years along with mine?

Either way, it will be very interesting to see how my pack stands up over the next 5,000 miles or so and just in time for Winter! how lovely

Mob Mentality

I will pass 23,000 miles on my 2011 Nissan LEAF sometime this weekend (only have 80 miles to go) and the car has exceeded every expectation I have had over reliability, coolness and longevity and let me examine that last one; longevity.

Nissan told us that under "normal" circumstances, expect about 20% loss of range in 5 years, or 30% after 10.  They then posted a driving scenario that also told us what to expect as far as range goes.  I used that chart to estimate what range I would get and then removed that 30% range reduction and found that the LEAF would still address a significant amount of my transportation needs, so I got one.

That happened Jan 18, 2011  nearly 21 months ago.  Now, the degradation I was expecting really has not happened.  Based on my SOC meter (whose accuracy in measuring true battery state is now in question but still good for general purposes) I have only lost a few percent of my range, but others have not been so lucky due to the climate they live in and I am sorry that Nissan seems to have elected to buy their cars back instead of fixing the cars and allowing them to continue to drive electric because in the grand scheme of things, nearly 2 years after the fact: The LEAF is still the ONLY game in town for me.  the rest dont have quick charge or they are beyond my financial means.

So, I happily push the LEAF to anyone interested because it is a great idea for anyone in a two car household in this area for DOZENS of reasons.  Cheap electricity, refueling at home,  reducing our oil usage, pollution, etc. and on and on and on, Right!!

As much of a no brainer this seems to be, the EV community has turned in on itself.  We as a collective are starting to create a huge philosophical divide. On the one hand; Hot LEAFs verses moderate weather LEAFs.  we have people who are suffering thru huge unknowns because their battery capacity bars are dropping like flies at a RAID party and that is scary especially since Nissan is not telling them what to expect a year from now other than to say "the degradation rate will slow down"

well, slow down to what?? 10% a year verses 15%?  Kinda hard to plan for the future. Generally car buying decisions are pretty lengthy.  With rapid range loss, Phoenicians are panicing and rightly so; the unknown is a bitch!  Cant wait until the job is a mile shorter than the total range and then start discussing options with Nissan or any car manufacturer. In any product issue; the longer you wait, the more of an impression the manufacturer gets that you have a higher level of acceptance. So I get the issues in Phoenix, but what I dont get is the band wagon comments that seem to be the new norm.

Now; the massive efforts to publicize this has benefited them. It has greatly shortened the timeline of action on Nissan's part. No doubt, if left o each individual to fight the corporate giant, there would probably still be nothing accomplished, but it has  also had the unintended consequence of creating a mob mentality born from the compassion of fellow LEAFers and that has gone amuck

I have seen comments from people COMPLETELY unaffected by degradation due to the fact that they live in the Bay Area, Coastal Southern CA, or the Puget Sound region of WA State, who flat out stated they will no longer recommend the LEAF to anyone they run across because of the issues that are going on in AZ!!

What kind of logic is this?? You are dissing a product that might be a great solution to the person you are talking too (who will consider you an "expert" because you experience the EVness daily) and you are helping to hasten the demise of a great product.

How can one not think they are possibly changing the course of EV technology long term?  How many people are potentially impacted by your statements to a single person?  Remember even the ripples of a pebble covers the entire pond.

Now, many happy users of the LEAF have recognized this and have posted comments in support of the LEAF and now are being accused of not caring about the battery issues, glossing over the issues,  dissing affected owners, or living too much in the limelight to realistically evaluate their own personal owner experiences!
How did all this happen? Are we to think that Nissan essentially sold A/C to an Eskimo?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


As we approach the eve of the ribbon cutting for the new Nissan LEAF assembly plant in Smyna, TN many people are beginning to think Nissan has a screw loose.

The plant will have the capacity to churn out 150,000 LEAFs annually and right next to it, a battery plant will put out 200,000 high energy packs as well all at a cost of nearly 2 Billion dollars and all to bolster what? the under 10,000 cars sold per year?

What is it that Nissan knows that no one else seems to know? Well, actually what Nissan knows, EVERY current LEAF owner also knows and that is driving electric is addicting, economical, convenient and VERY VERY cool!

Electric vehicles will be mainstream some day. Nissan knows that, current LEAF owners know and soon the general public will know it and they have boosted their projection of 500,000 EVs sold worldwide by 2015 (a number most dont think they will achive no where near half of )  to an astounding  1.5 MILLION by 2016!! 

As I stated earlier, in my EV-evangelically designed pursuits of an audience, I have also been loosely tracking the concerns of people and #1 after public charging support is the cost.  Great confusion over the Federal Tax credit and also that many Senior Citizens simply dont have the tax liability but their transportation needs are almost perfectly suited to the LEAF's "neighborly" range ( i refuse to use the word "limited" because it is simply not!) And Nissan is listening!

They are soon to release two new EVs in a much lower price point, one for Europe and the "S" brand LEAF which takes some of the bling and drops the price to a rumored $31,000!  Now, do the math. for anyone who is interested in a lease/purchase (my recommendation)  the LEAF after the $7500 fed tax credit (taken instantly if leasing) and the WA State sales tax waiver (another $2800 benefit) the price now is the same as any other standard $21,000 car.

But that is only the beginning. As we all know even modest driving needs show that in 3 years time driving 12,000 miles a year, the LEAF will be less than $1000 in electricity and NO trips to the gas station verses a standard car getting 30 mpg @ $4 gas (if we are to be so lucky!) costing nearly $5,000.   This drives TCO of the LEAF into the econo-box price range in less than 3 years.

Problem is; people dont really see that.  But they will as more and more of their neighbors and co-workers start driving the LEAFs and "put up" with that $30 bump in their monthly electric bill verses others paying $100-$200 a month for gas. Keep in mind, we have not even mentioned maintenance costs

Either way; Nissan is doing it right and sooner or later, we will all agree. As for me? nearly 23,000 miles for less than $600 in gas. During the same time period, my Prius went slightly farther (due to 4 very long trips over 500 miles)  but cost over $2000 in gas and that is for a car that gets 50 MPG!

Sunday, October 7, 2012


This is a repost of my www.nissanleaf.com blog about quick charging.


ok, thought i would incorporate multiple QC sessions into my day yesterday. was hoping for 3 but only had to do 2 so here goes. 

started out the morning at 191 GID. took a trip to Centrailia DCFC which was 29.9 miles and ended with 106 GID, 5 Batt bars. 

started the charge and time to collect K's

1; 80
2; 90
3; 103
4; 108
5; 125
6; 135 time 10;41 so not too bad. 
ended with 183 GID usually the rate slows down quite a bit when hitting the 65% so i rarely go beyond this point unless i need it. now at 6 heat bars. 

did some more driving around hitting LB at 49 GID. still 6 heat bars 
started at much lower SOC at 46 GID

1; 82
2; 77
3; 73
4; 75
5; 73
6; 74
7; 75
8; 89
9; 100 154 GID; total time 11:58 still only 6 heat bars. 

total travel; 91.3 miles 4.8 miles/k (dash) ending GID count 141

Takeaway here;  I am able to gain 30-35 miles of range in 11 minutes if charging the bottom 2/3rds of the pack. a MUCH better use of my time

Longevity Verses Safety

My Nissan LEAF has performed to every expectation I had conjured in my head during the long torturous 9 months I waited for delivery but there are still nagging questions about why certain things were done.  Now, in all finished products, there are several forces at work.  Engineering, Finance, and Sales.  Of the three, Finance usually has the most clout. they determine the pricing, so ultimately they determine what actually goes into the vehicle. Essentially they dictate the product and its up to Engineering to figure out how to build it and Sales figures out how to sell it.

So my question is the BMS (Battery Management System) and its lack of temperature controls and adequate monitoring equipment; namely the GOM (guess o meter, labeled as such due to its fluctuating estimate of your remaining range left which is based on recent driving performance. so go up a hill, your estimated range drops very fast or go down a hill and gain several miles of range estimate)

Last Summer I did some "hot weather" charging experiments (http://www.mynissanleaf.com/blog.php?u=291&b=171  to see what if any effect very warm weather had on the LEAF's ability to accept a charge. the premise was that when the LEAF battery pack detected very high temps, it would lower the amount of charge it would take to protect the pack. In my very small sample experiment, this premise seems to have been verified.

What did shock me was the lag time between the pack warming up and how long it took to cool down.  I knew the pack was sealed and began to wonder.

One thing that Nissan empathized was that the LEAF was totally safe.  They posted  videos on the pack being unscathed in  horrific crashes. We saw the LEAF drive back and forth thru a tank of water that was 3 feet deep and so on.  We saw the LEAF stuck by lightning and the pack weathered all tests without a hitch.

But now I think that going overboard on safety may have created a pack that is so insulated to the outside it has difficulty dissipating heat.  The pack warms up when charging and if add to that extreme ambient temps seen in the American Southwest, we may have a situation where internal pack temps could be at 120+º for days.

Phoenix went thru long periods where the overnight lows hovered near 90º.  Park it in the garage and leftover ambient heat radiating from the concrete pad would add a few degrees along with charging adding a few more and if it took greater than 24 hours to cool that off in normal temperatures? this could go a long way towards understanding why Phoenicians saw so much degradation so quickly

Now, a few people at MNL (www.mynissanleaf.com) have investigated the possibility of  attaching a heat sink to the outside casing of the battery pack but that is complicated by the fact that Nissan covered the underside in plastic to reduce wind friction.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

TMS verses Bigger Battery

One of the main topics of conversation right now is how to deal with the long term limitations of driving electric.  Now, if you got the big bucks you dont have much to worry about. plop about 100 grand on the table, get the max'd out Tesla S and in a few years when the charging infrastructure is up, you are set, But...

That does not address what most EV'ers or wannabes are looking for.  For me, I am not in the upper income level of most of my EV brethren.  It was a major financial stretch for me to get rid of a lightly used 2006 Prius that was paid for to get the LEAF but I did it because Nissan specifically  marketed the car to people like me. Ones who want to drive EV who reside squarely in the middle class (on the lower end) and need to do it on a budget.

Just driving EV help tremendously with the budget. Once again, recent refinery issues has caused a very large spike in gas prices. For the budget-conscious, it can be difficult to account for the gas bill when you dont know if its going to be $200 this month or $300.  Driving electric eliminates that question. my cost to drive the LEAF has not varied more than $10 per month in the 20 months  and nearly 23,000 of my LEAF experience. eliminate the 400+ mile spread in distance driven from one month to another and the "weighted" difference per month is less than a buck. iow; very predictable!!

So the question now has become what should the right budget EV look like?  The LEAF has a 24 Kwh battery pack with no battery pack temperature management system and is good for 70-90 miles depending on season and driving styles.  Its advertised at 100 miles and I have done over that a few times but that is all street level driving with no freeways involved so a bit unrealistic for most.  Now if it stayed at that range, most would be ok with it, but degradation reduces that range and degradation starts on day one.

Now degradation has two different modes; permanent and temperature induced.  cold weather reduces range so when making a purchase/lease decision one needs to evaluate the weather as vigorously as their commute routes to determine viability of the LEAF. But the other loss which is permanent has several causes but the one with the most concern is heat related losses experienced by people in Phoenix, AZ.   Many battery experts questioned Nissan's decision to not put in TMS (temperature management system) for the battery pack especially when they did have it for the inverter, charger and AC/DC converter.

So the question;  What is most cost effective?  Bigger battery pack or TMS?

More batteries is the primary reason why other EV options are so spendy.  Toyota's new RAV 4 EV is reported to have the range that most say they would accept but at $50,000 before incentives that is out of my consideration.  Bigger batteries also mean more weight which can lower range and for me; I am not sure I want to carry that extra weight 24/7 when I would only need it a dozen times a year.

So back to TMS.  Why did Nissan elect to not put this into the LEAF?  Granted, Phoenix just went thru a much hotter than normal Summer but so did the rest of the country and we may need to face the fact that the Summer of 2012 just might be our new normal.  One would have to guess it was a budget decision.  Nissan already was concerned that the price point for the LEAF was probably too high and made the decision to leave TMS out and I have to wonder if that was a mistake?

Another thing to mention; I have seen only a 2-4% degradation so TMS would have been a waste of money in my case since cold weather degradation is only temporary.  Now, would I have liked to have the longer range in Winter? yes and Nissan did address that partially in the Cold Weather Package released for the 2012 model year.

Nissan has released some information on changes to the 2013 LEAF that includes efficiency gains by a yet to be specified. Rumors have a battery chemistry change to be introduced later to be available for 2014.  But Nissan has also decided to introduce a lower priced LEAF entry that removes features like the LED headlights and the NAV option. Coupled by lower American manufacturing costs and renegotiated prices from suppliers, they are aiming at a $31,000 price point which would put it in the low 20's after incentives for WA State residents.


Yesterday Nissan announced specs for the 2013 Japanese Market LEAF. It does get a bit more range (estimated 73 to 83 miles) but did it thru a more efficient motor, better regen and a reduction in weight.  No changes to the battery pack itself other than the weight loss due to lighter materials, etc.

Also no mention of a TMS but once again, this is the Japanese Market and expecting the American Market to be different since it always is. Several reports that 6.6 Kw charging was coming but not mentioned here. Hopefully the American announcement will arrive shortly!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Decrepit Battery Pack Destinations

Right now the Nissan LEAF online community is in a rage (which has become the norm lately much to my chagrin) over batteries.

Some in AZ have experienced very rapid declines in range but most have just experienced range anxiety over the anticipation that they will suffer the same range loss. Problem is that in Phoenix its the heat that is probably causing that loss of battery capacity and lets face it, its so hot there that  People from Hell go to Phoenix for Spring Break so the likelihood that anyone else will experience degradation to that degree (pun intended) is unlikely.

Now, degradation is happening for sure. that is how batteries work. they start to lose capacity from Day ONE. there is nothing that will stop that including chemistry TMS (temperature management systems) etc. nothing.  Now, the loss can be very slow. As for me?  nearly 23,000 miles and i figure i have lost 2-4% which is very acceptable and well within what Nissan told us to expect, so I am happy.

I am in the EXTREME minority although its the extreme minority that is AFFECTED by heat issues

The Problem we have is that many in warm areas (as opposed to hot) people are already extrapolating their range loss into next year and starting to make plans on whether to dump the LEAF for a much more extravagant purchase or simply get a new battery pack. Problem is; Nissan aint telling us how much that pack costs

Now for a company that has already had several PR snafu's is this just another one or are we simply completely misunderstanding Japanese Automobile Culture?  Why is the pack cost such a secret?  Well, guessing that its cheap enough (Rumors going around its $5,000 which is DIRT CHEAP!) that people who dont have any real loss may want a pack replacement based solely on their empathy with their Phoenix Brethren?

Either way, there has been a ton of speculation as to what will be done with these used battery packs.  Even with extreme degradation of 30% we still have a pack has more range left in it than a brand new Volt pack, so its got value.

another thing that people are questioning especially after Tesla announced that they are installing the public charging station for the long range Tesla S's themselves.  Many feel that part of Nissan's problem is the lack of public infrastructure support and that maybe each Nissan dealer should have installed Quick Charge stations instead of the slow L2's.

now what if? Nissan took those slightly used packs and incorporated them into a DCFC (direct current fast charge) station to eliminate demand fees.  put a half dozen used packs that can be charged slowly by line current (or better yet Solar/wind)  have enough in there that they can be charged to 80% and be ready to dump their charge when a LEAF plugs in?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

LEAF Verses Volt

As a LEAF owner over the  past 20+ months, I feel it fair that i should warn you that this will be a very biased opinion here. So if you are a die hard Volt fan who simply will not be swayed, then you might not want to continue.


There is a lot of debate raging over what is the best way to go to drive EV.  One thing is certain; Driving Electric is pretty awesome!  But how best to achieve that?

the LEAF is 100% battery and its one way but its limited in range to over 85 miles in Summer and just 70 miles in Winter (mild Pacific Northwest Winter i should clarify) and most areas have little or no public charging available so its a lot of compromise right now.

The Volt however has much less EV range of around 40-45 miles but has a gas engine to fall back on just in case you need it.  Both right now are enjoying fabulous lease options easily reachable by the middle class

So which one?

My LEAF has performed very well over the 20+ month and nearly 23,000 miles it has taken me.  Public charging of the fast variety (DCFC gives me a 30-35 mile boost in range in just 11 minutes)  is still a bit slim but growing and L2 (240 VAC and 16 amps) is plentiful and workable if you will be somewhere for a few hours to charge up since it only gets you about 12-15 miles per HOUR of charge time.

The Volt; no quick charge available and although the EV range seems limited, its actually still more than what an average American drives daily and reports from Volt Owners bear that out. many only use gas on infrequent occasions and are reporting overall gas mileage at 150 MPG and even some at 300+ MPG

so what to choose?  well, the lease options which on the surface appear to be nearly equal are not.  my lease has a residual of $15,694 so at the end of my 36 month lease in Jan 2014, i can buy the car at that price which is beginning to look like a very attractive option.   Now, batteries dont last forever and the LEAF using 90% of the battery capacity means it will show a reduction in range much quicker than the Volt and since there is no gas backup, a significant reduction in range can really affect the usability of the LEAF (although i would have to lose almost half my range to be down to the Volt's range) so a public charging infrastructure that is convenient is a must to address the issues meaning quick charge for any travel from city to city and options like L2 for work commutes and so on.

Now there are several Volt Lessees who have monthly payment similar to mine but has a residual value of $26,000 which makes it highly unlikely that a purchase is in the cards especially if there is any kind of decent lease deals or major product improvements on the horizon but more importantly is long term maintenance.  If I to get a Volt it would be for at least 6-10 years due to the cost of the purchase.

Now, battery replacement costs for the LEAF are now rumored to be significantly under $10,000 to the point that a replacement down the line is a very attractive option for me. add to that a very nice purchase price and for significantly less maintenance of major components farther down the line and the LEAF really does return a great TCO.

The other thing the Volt has against it is the engine.  the average run time between failures on engines can be as low as 800 hours but electric motors are rated in the hundreds of thousands of hours. IOW, the motor is something that will outlast everything.  A gas engine however is going to be different.  Now how well a motor that is used very infrequently like the Volt's will hold up over several years is anyone's guess right now.

Wasting Money on Federal Subsidies

I dont have TV so I did not see any of the debate last night but have seen plenty of reaction to Mitt Romney's comments on how we wasted money on various green tech firms namely Solyndra and Tesla.

He thinks its a waste of money to support a business that is "a loser" and ultimately Tesla may end up failing but will the US have lost?  if so, what would they have lost? a few hundred million dollars? ok, ya that is a lot to you and me what is that worth to America as a whole?   After all we have Billion dollar programs that could easily be considered to be failures; The highway fund, Social Security, Education program, Medicare, Social Security, the list goes on and on. None of these programs would have survived in the private sector and they dont survive now unless we continuously infuse massive amounts of cash to keep them going.

But Tesla has given the country value even if they shutter their doors today.  They have proven that a great electric vehicle can be built and they did it with only a fraction of the money available to established auto manufacturers.  Now the book is still open on the Model S and the Roadster did have a few hiccups, delays and mis-steps in its day as well but considering the odds; Tesla has done extremely well and we should have a fairly decent idea of how the S will work by this time next year.

Monday, October 1, 2012

September 2012 Drive Report

Its October!! and soon the cost of driving a gas car will go UP! since we will switch to winter time fuel which will lower our gas mileage.  Now we normally dont notice because the price of gas goes down due to less demand and the end of the summer travel season.  (still waiting for that price drop!) But...

The Prius drove 1028.6 miles at a cost of 77.01 @ 7.49 cents per mile.  this will most likely be the last tank being under 50 mpg for  several months. Now the month's cost is estimated taking a charge of $33 on next tank fillup which will be tomorrow using mileage driven in Sept at 7.5 cents per mile

The LEAF performed excellently as well. Did not use the QC as much this month (only 6-7 times more or less) but traveled 1409.4 miles at a cost of $30.63.  QC is still free for the time being but Blink has started charging. Have not yet to use Blink since the pay structure started but if I do, its cost will be tracked as well