Sunday, February 24, 2013

SB 5849; Provide Fines For ICE'ing EV Charging Stations

On Friday a bill SB 5849 was introduced to the WA State Legislators to create a bill that would levy a $250 fine for EV charging station violators. This is a good thing and I encourage everyone in WA to write their representatives to encourage them to support this bill as well.

I have posted a copy of my response and anyone is welcome to use my letter or use it as a template.

I am pleased with the support that WA has provided me and my fellow electric vehicle drivers with sponsorship of the West Coast Green Highway, sales tax waivers, etc. But the money spent to install public charging stations is being wasted if an electric vehicle is blocked from charging and this needs to be addressed. I am counting on your support for SB 5849 to provide fines for violators much the same as the way handicap parking violations works. 

Currently Electric Vehicles are having issues being "ICE'd" (Internal Combustion Engine) where a gas powered car is taking the space without being able to plug in preventing an electric only vehicle from using the station as it was designed for. 

This situation is causing problems for existing EV (electric vehicle) owners and could inhibit adoption of EVs as a viable source of transportation for WA State. 

EVs provide many benefits to the state. They are clean, provide no emissions and use a resource we have in abundance; electricity.  Most EVs charge at night when we have too much electricity so this will help balance the load and allow WA to utilize our natural resources within the state instead of selling excess power to other states at prices way below market rates. 

Building an infrastructure of any kind requires workers and vendors who operate locally, so building and maintaining the electric vehicle charging network also creates jobs.  

Every mile driven on electric is one less mile powered by gasoline, a resource we must import at great expense to our budget, environment, climate and our children's future. 

All in all, EVs are a win-win for WA but there is a limitation of range that these public charging stations address. More than one time I was forced to find another station or simply wait for the offender to move. As an early adopter, I will compromise much more than the average commuter simply because I know that adoption only happens when the first stone is turned and I am part of a growing movement that will prove to its neighbors, friends and co-workers that EVs can and do have a place in WA. But other people will not feel the same way. But this barrier is an easy one to remove with your help.

Thank you for your time.


David Laur; EV driver since 2007 including over 28,000 miles on my Nissan LEAF

To provide your support and find your representative go here

Friday, February 22, 2013

Take Care of Your Tires!

Rewind about 12 hours; its 3 AM and I am quick charging at Fife DCFC at Tahoma Market.  I am doing so because I dont have the range to make it home and no, its not my habit to stop somewhere to charge after a long night of work.

Rewind;  30 hours. Its Thursday morning having finished short job and recharging car, decided to quantify how much tire pressure affects range. Had planned a 50 mile jaunt for lunch with SO but her work schedule didnt jive so it was postponed until tonight. Forgot to restore tire pressure...

Normally I run pressures at 42 PSI all around. Nissan recommends 36 PSI so I tried it.  Now, last night's job was in Puyallup so it was drive there, work. Swing by office to drop off travel logs for the week and then drive home. This equates to about 68 miles and have done it many times.

Now, maybe this was a "perfect storm" scenario but either way, after dropping off paperwork at office, I see I have 22 miles of estimated range and 27 miles from home. a quick calculation told me that even 55 mph (at 3 am its not like I am holding up traffic) would put me a bit short.  So, it was go to Fife (back tracking 5 miles) for a 20 minute charge up.

Pressure works on STP (Standard temperature and Pressure) which means if the temperature drops so does the pressure. In an EV, that could mean disaster in Winter. So, the moral of the story:

dont experiment with required transportation needs on a time schedule


Check your tire pressure during Winter to make sure your pressures are up to snuff.  in my case, its difficult to quantify the range loss due to it raining and other factors but guessing it was close to 6-8 miles or so.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I Am Lazy, but So Are You!

Recently a NY Times Writer drove a New Tesla S 85 to test the quick charge network. He had problems including driving with no heat to preserve range,  being DOA on the side of the road and making decisions based on "legacy" knowledge that were ill-advised (and in some cases, recommended by Tesla!) which contributed to a near comedy of errors. Basically, everything he could have done wrong, he did.

Now, a regular car guy or tech guy who had even a little understanding of EVs would have made the journey with comfort. After driving EVs now for more than 5 years, what "seems" like common knowledge to me might not be so much to the layman who has limited exposure to EVs so we EV'ers need to take a step back.

The real issues concerning EV adoption is really just like every movement we have had in the past that has "greened" us up.  Remember the movement to CF's? Then LED's?  Wow, that was a trip eh?

If you took all the reports to heart, we would all be dead of Mercury poisoning! or taking out 2nd mortgages to pay for the upgrades.  Either way, its the same old same old. We are resistant to change and the biggest reason is because we are too lazy!

In the case of light bulbs, I spent an afternoon about 10-12 years ago (the first time) changing out the bulbs including some that required some effort to access thinking that "great these bulbs will last 20 years because this is real work!"  (only later did I realize that the old CF's required being installed a certain way to last longer. IOW, installing them base up burned them out quicker...MUCH quicker)

But the point being is that instead of accepting change that is a good change for the better, we choose to either make up stuff or emphasize some obscure half truth as an excuse to continue being lazy thus avoiding any slight variation of our daily routine.  What's worse is that the more beneficial the innovation, the less likely we are to welcome it with open arms.

LED's had the too much money, not enough light, wrong color.   I mean "wrong color?"  how easy was that to fix? well, turns out, not much of a challenge. Now we have all kinds of colors, the price is dropping like a rock and they are brighter than they used to be and as a compromise to "something we apparently cannot do without" they are now dim-able.  Ya, thats important...

Now comes EVs. Here is something that is good but actually requires some thinking to even understand half the benefit and why? Because it involves money and lots of it.  We all know that each mile driven on electricity directly contributes to the lessening of our oil dependence.  The laundry list of good EV things still apply and nearly all multi-car households can make an EV fit their lifestyle but it still requires a change in routine and because of that, we are resistant.

We have to install a charging system at home. That requires a trip out to the garage to peer at the breaker panel and several calls. How can we fit that in?

We also have to plug the car in nearly every day! Wow, the work is really piling up here and there is the toughest task of all; planning a drive of more than 50 miles in Winter or 70 miles in Summer.  Now that requires at the very least Google Maps, several 3rd party charging station locator apps with knowledge of the area a plus... a BIG plus!

So, there is no denying that driving an EV to the fullest does require some work. Not a lot of work and to me its like a hobby. I frequently have to map out whether I can this trip or that trip and its complicated by the fact that most of the trips are work related so highly time sensitive so long stints at out of the way L2 chargers is almost never an option. But its a challenge to me, a hobby if you will.

But back to the NY Times writer. We will probably never know what he was thinking but his journey simply had too much go wrong to be a coincidence. I think he may have started out with the best of intentions but after his range estimates dropped below his destination's distance, I think he decided to "make a story"

You see, in its very young life, The Tesla S has been lauded, applauded, awarded and rewarded over and over and over. The positivity of the model has been overwhelming...a maybe a bit stale.  Now a failure?? that would be news! After all, the Tesla S has met and exceeded all that has been put before it.  Another successful trip would have faded into oblivion before the echos of the keyboard faded away.   But a Tesla S failure would really catch the attention of the fanatical EV world.  So, maybe there was a bit of manipulation going on here. 

After reading the article about the trip, I decided I needed to get to know this writer better. having been a "free" online subscriber of the NY Times for over 10 years, I cant say that I have ever heard of the guy. I thought I was very familiar with most of the tech guys who normally write about this stuff, so I went back and found that he is a bit of a "non" greener. a smoker if you will.  He disses Obama's green programs as not going far enough but not in the way of doing more. It was more of "it aint gonna work so give it up" vein, but that could have just been me reading more into his words then what was really there.

Now, the driver does appear to be a bit clueless about EVs but lets be realistic. No one, and I mean NO ONE is going to spend nearly 100 G's on a car and not know anything about it. Especially one that has so much space-age bling. It just aint gonna happen. So in that sense, the writer's blunders would not happen in real life.  Others like Chelsea Sexton thinks that too much emphasis is being placed on the Tesla S being able to do it all and she does make a good point in that EVs are not nor should not be the "go to" car for long distance journeys.

Either way; the "test" the writer performed was unrealistic. No real EV'er would have left themselves short nor would they have spent the night without charging, or have run completely out of charge without doing "something". There is little doubt in my mind, the writer wanted to run out, wanted that picture of the S on the flatbed and wanted his negative article to stand out in that huge sea of S positivity.

Elon Musk tweeted immediately after the story was published that the writer was a bit less than honest and states he has logs to prove it.  The writer wrote in his blog that everything he said was accurate, so I am guessing something is going to break in one way or another but either way, this is a win for Tesla because Musk promised the route would be repeated and the Tesla S 85 can do the route easily and all the attention gathered from this story will see those successful attempts and the negativity will have only gathered more interest in Tesla.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Yokohama Part Five (and last, I promise)

Saturday was a day of goodbyes. It started first thing with Mark leaving for his flight by 7 AM, Chelsea had flew out late the night before. Our group was fading away...

As luck would have it, Darrel and I were the last to leave with flight times in the late afternoon which gave us a chance to do some more shopping and exploring.

                             OK, so where do we go?? Decisions, decisions!

Actually the one destination that had eluded us was Takashimaya a HUGE department store 9 stories high.  (7 above ground, 2 below)  Unlike the rest of the mall which was open till 11 PM or later, Takashimaya closed early and we just never made it back to the hotel in time.  So, we decided that would be #1 target.

So we made the long nearly whole block journey across the courtyard to the front door only to find out that it did not list its hours of operation on the door but there was already a handful of people sitting patiently so we thought "Must be soon!"  It was just before 9 AM. Well, 9 came and went and dozens of workers inside scurried about getting ready for the day...

Right behind us was the Yokohama Air Terminal (no airport here but does have connections to every form of travel you can imagine. The pix in part 4 was basically under this spot) where taxi's wait patiently for customers getting off the train or subway or bus or...

               Here is Takashimaya on the left, the Sheraton on the right

                                        Lobby of Yokohama Air Station

      Here is Darrel posing with "the Ladies" in from of Takashimaya

Then right at 9:30, some activity.  A store worker unlocked the front doors but another worker immediately wrapped a red ribbon over the handles.  The level of activity inside increased.  So store is just about ready! I had heard about Japanese promptness so figured now its time!   but, then they moved off. There were now dozens of people waiting and no one made a move for the door. So we waited...and waited...

Finally at 10 minutes to 10 AM, an army of store personal marched up in file and stopped in front of the doors. The lady who had unlocked the doors went to each and removed the ribbons. Then called her "army" to attention. There was a short speech and what I took to be a prayer and each person went to a door (there was about 10 of them) and stood at attention. At what I am guessing to be precisely 10 AM sharp, all 10 doors were opened at exactly the same time and we were welcomed inside.

True to its reputation, Takashimaya had EVERYTHING! or just about.  I spent a fortune here too but it was worth it.

Finally it was time to go back to the hotel and pack up.  We rode the bus to Narita and spent SEVERAL hours in the United Air Lounge eating and drinking for free. They had some pretty decent Sushi there as well.  Finally I bid Darrel farewell, headed to my gate and boarded the plane back to Seattle.

Thank you Nissan for the trip. It was very enlightening on so many different levels.  The chance to experience a small part of the Japanese culture gave me a much greater understanding of why it was the Japanese who are first to town with an EV. (Tesla too...)

There I saw thousands upon thousands of bikes literally parked on nearly every corner. I mentioned before about the trust bicyclists have with their bus driver counterparts. Around my town, if a car gets within 5 feet of me, I am freaking out. In Japan with smaller streets, it was common to have a bus and biker less than 2 feet apart. Scary!! but they took it in stride. There is a trust there that we Americans cant even begin to understand.

But of the thousands of bikes I saw, I dont think I saw even a dozen bike locks. Amazing!  "Toshi", one of our Nissan tour guides stated that when you buy a bike, its registered to you so if its lost or stolen, recovery is easy. Bike theft is very rare here.

Another thing that is common is people wearing surgical masks. Now, there are two reasons for this. The one is to prevent spreading of germs. IOW, people actually care not to get someone else sick.  Nice! but the other reason some wear them is to keep from getting sick.  There is sense of commitment in Japan where even missing one day of work or school is a very bad thing. This all goes back to promptness and reliability.  A recent study showed that the average American worker was late as much as 6-12 times a year. Japanese are much more committed to being on time and its no wonder that most trains, buses and subways run every 10-20 minutes.

After the Fukushima  Disaster, there were many reports of Japanese going to extreme lengths to reduce their electricity usage to help stabilize the grid. Another example of how the Japanese where small personal sacrifices are willingly offered for the greater good.

All these examples are reasons EVs are much more successful in Japan than the United States.  They quickly realized that not importing oil to burn gas in cars is a good thing in so many different ways.

Before the trip, there were a lot of questions we wanted to know. This trip is very much just an introduction and some insight to Nissan's ways and what they go thru to effect the changes we all want.  This trip is step one of what I hope will be a long and fruitful journey.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Yokohama Part Four

The "official" part of the trip was over so the last day was a sightseeing trip to Tokyo.  All of our group but one attended (she had to work so had to leave early. Bummer!)  As always we started with breakfast and was off on the bus by 9:30 (a bit late)

Tokyo is a very crowded place. The utilization of the space available is a remarkable achievement and any city in the world should be envious but such vertical integration can be very daunting to travelers and natives alike. Freeway signs do their best to help ease the navigation woes. A bigger pix is here

As mentioned before, transportation around this crowded metropolis of 30 million plus is easy with a multitude of options and no trip to Japan would be complete without pix of train!

On arrival to Tokyo, it was hard to miss the towers. The Tokyo Tower was built for Worlds Fair in 1960 and is just over 1000 feet tall. The Tokyo Tower 2 (actual name is Tokyo Skytree) was finished in March 2011 and is nearly twice the height at 2080 feet!  here is #2

cant tell in this pix because I had to zoom out so far to catch the tower but those building in the foreground are about 30-40 stories...

Our first stop was the Asakusa Complex with the Sensoji Temple and Nakamise Arcade.

  This housed both a Buddhist Temple and a Shinto Temple. The Shinto Temple (Nishinomiya Inari Shrine) was only part of complex not destroyed during air raids of WW2 and was built in the 15th century and rebuilt a few times the latest being 1727.

The Buddhist Temple foundation was originally erected in the 6th Century and the building itself has been rebuilt several times after being destroyed by fire a few times, Earthquakes, etc.

                                   Nishinomiya Inari Shrine

This shrine is one of the most popular pilgrimage areas in all of Asia. Here is a "prayer wall" where people from all over, post prayers to Buddha. Our tour guide was able to identify prayers from China, Mongolia and Taiwan here.

                                                 Buddhist Temple

                                               The Inner Sanctum

                                     History of the Temple  <<Big Pix

          Entry to Temple Areas. Check out the size of those lanterns!

The Nakamise Arcade where shops are PLENTIFUL. (ya, spent a ton here!)

Another tower. Not sure of its significance here but it is labeled as "Five Story Pagoda"  Isnt that where Bruce Lee fought Kareen in "Conquer the Dragon?"

These two pictures really illustrates the premise of the Japanese Culture and religion. The first is an incense well where people bathe themselves in the smoke before entering the temple area. The 2nd is Don cleansing himself at the water well.  Nature and the preservation of is a very important part of the Japanese Culture and betting it plays more than a small part in Japan's ready adoption of EVs. (1700 quick charge stations probably helped a lot as well!)

After that was lunch in the Ginza District and another vertical example as this was a basement restaurant

Left to Right (Darrel, George, Don and Mark getting ready to feast. As always, the food was wonderful!

After our meal, it was the visit to the Imperial Palace. The palace itself only allows visitors on the palace grounds once a year and no...this was not that one day. The very large "front yard" displays perfectly manicured Bonsai Trees by the hundreds

And of course "Perfection" is something never achieved, only strived for so here area the real heroes of the garden, The tree trimmers!!

Of course the Imperial Palace must have a guard and this Samurai Warrior does the job!

The wide open spaces of the Garden area of several hundred acres is a stark contrast to the high density vertical integration you can glimpse in the background of this picture.

The palace itself only has one entrance and is surrounded by a moat which was necessary back in the day where raids were common.

Although we were not lucky enough to be here on the one day the gates were open, we did happen to be here right at the changing of the guard (and unlike my visit to the "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in DC, didnt have to wait 45 minutes to see it!)

Now, if you are planning a trip to Japan, nearly every tourist brochure will have this scene in it, so we had to do it to prove we were here!

Left to right;  George, Chelsea, Darrel, Me, Don, Fran, Jeffrey and Mark. (Kathleen was the one not pictured who had to work and Ruud who had a business meeting to attend to...)

After that, it was some shopping. Tokyo does have a "few" options in this area. Here is one of many many shopping areas in Akihabara District (AKA; "Electric Town")  They say if you are looking for rare electronic gadgets, toys, action figures and it aint here, it aint nowhere!

Took this pix but should have made video of it. It was a multi-colored sign that kept changing. it was pretty cool and was hung over a shopping "district" (a narrow corridor that barely qualified as an alley in the US, but was packed with people so must have had something good there)

Soon it was back to bus and headed home (which is good because here more money was spent!)  A parting view of the Tokyo Skyline with Toyko Tower One dominating

                                              Back to Yokohama

We ended up having dinner on the top floor of our Hotel in the "Sky Lounge". Was an ala carte and first meal (other than breakfast) where American Food was an option. I admit, I did take a few of those but as always the food was good.

Was hoping to make this a 4 part series but...

To Be Continued

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Jan Driving Stats

okie dokie. Due to being in Japan for a month, the LEAF did not travel very far traveling only 959.6 miles at a cost of $25.33 with only 2 short free public charges for a cost of 2.6 cents per mile.

 For those who dont know; Prius was totaled at end of December so between a Fiesta rental and our 2011 Yaris purchased to replace Prius, we put in a total of $77 in gas.  Prelim results shows both vehicles getting around 38 mpg so guessing gas costs will be more or less the same as before but due to SO job location change which means we simply will be driving less miles.

As far as decision to get Yaris, despite my recommendations; SO was determined to buy a car. I thought leasing would lower monthly payments and get us more car but since i bought the last 5 cars, it was her turn and her decision. But the Yaris had pretty low miles (32 K) so not too bad I guess.  But first car in 9 years to not have backup camera smart key entry, etc. so the old habit of pulling FOB out to get into car is still something I am trying to get used to again...

Yokohama Day Three

Thursday, I did get a bit more sleep but was still at breakfast in the Compass Room right at 6 AM. This time, I left early to shower and dress for the short ride to Nissan World Headquarters where we were having a meeting in the "Big Wheel" Conference Room also on the top floor.

Here is a where Nissan top brass has business meetings. What you dont see is a giant screen that allows them to video conference with associates around the world.  Each chair is miked for sound.  Notice Darrel in a show of respect sitting on the railing separating the inner circle from the outer circle.

Attending the meeting to hear us present our views were

Toshiaki Otani; Senior VP, Global Battery Business Unit, Global Zero Emission Business Unit

Yasuharu Watanabe; Manager of EV Energy Development Dept. Battery Engineering Group

Tooru Abe; Chief Product Specialist in charge of LEAF product planning

Atsuhiko Hoshino; GM in charge of LEAF global sales

Shinsuke Tominaga; Manager LEAF global sales

Kiho Ohga; Deputy GM for EV Infrastructure, ZEV Strategy Group

Kazuchika Nakamura; Global Chief Marketing Manager for global EV Marketing

Masayo Sawada; Manager, Global Chief Marketing Manager's Office in charge of Global EV Marketing

Kumiko Oana; Staff, Global Chief Marketing Manager's Office in charge of Global EV Marketing

Makoto Okubo; Customer Insight Specialist, Global Market Intelligence Dept.

Since this meeting was more an intro than anything else, we were basically allowed to do most of the talking. Here is where we presented what we felt were the biggest barriers to EV sales success. The cost, range and infrastructure; so in that sense, both Nissan and our group were on the same page.  After we had finished speaking the Nissan representatives were given an opportunity to briefly provide their thoughts.

Some things that they were thinking about doing was providing a certain number of free rentals to each LEAF driver to eliminate stress over the "5%" (term used to describe trips that are beyond the LEAF's normal range). There was actually a program launched in Spring of 2012 that provided this benefit but it was up to the dealer whether or not they participated in the program. The program had very favorable reviews (for the people who were offered it) but this time, Nissan wanted to offer the program directly from corporate which is a MUCH better and insures that all LEAF drivers get the same opportunity.  This takes the dealer completely out of the picture.  The logistics of such a program are large and no real details on this as of yet.

The other thing (which is no longer news) is an ambitious plan to build their own fast charge network. Whether they were encouraged by Tesla's announcement of the same or whether they finally heard us crying about the current vendors inept attempts at providing a network, I dont care. How I can get multiple quick charge options in my region is not that important just as long as it happens and fairly quickly.  Once again, no firm plans but they did state "significant progress" on the network within 60 days.

One of the biggest topics discussed is how to build brand excitement. We EV drivers know that the LEAF might be green, (coal fired electricity) might be economical, (the Prius in expensive electricity TOU areas) or might be convenient to refuel (if you dont live in multi-dwelling housing) but there was no question that an EV is fun to drive. Smooth and responsive power, super quiet, low center of gravity makes maneuvers a breeze, etc. The challenge here is how to convey that message to the potential buyer who has never driven an EV.  To address that issue, the thought of providing extended test drives for perhaps a weekend. One suggestion was an extended return policy.  Buy a LEAF, if you are not happy with it, return it within 15 days or even 30?

Incentives for current LEAF owners who promote the EV lifestyle that results in someone purchasing a LEAF was also discussed.  Referral programs are common in the automotive industry  if someone sends a potential buyer to their salesman that results in a sale, compensation is frequently offered as incentives. It could be cash, t-shirts, hats, or even service gift certificate.

This is only a partial list of things discussed and all these topics will be addressed in more details by the group in the following months.

After the meeting, the next agenda was lunch at the cafeteria on the 6th floor overlooking Yokohama Bay where Bento Boxes were served. As always, the food was excellent!

After lunch, it was a leisurely walk thru the underground mall back to the hotel (about half a mile or so...)

Its a bit hard to see, but the transportation options here are amazing. Subway, bus, train, and high speed rail all interconnect making it very easy to get around this very busy place!  Our walk is typical of the Japanese culture and very accepted here and also wonderful for one's health!  Use Google Maps and get directions from Yokohama to Tokyo.  In the US, the default is door to door by car.  In Japan, Google Maps incorporates all the transportation modes above including walking!

Then it was back on the bus for a very long ride to the Nissan Technical Center. The level of security here was very high. The entrance was a tunnel into a complex completely surrounded by hills and mountains. Very secure!

Here we were greeted by Koji Nagano and Maroru Aoki, Design Directors for the Global Design Center where we got an up close view of several EV mockups set for release between 2014 to 2017. Unfortunately, no cameras here and unable to give much details about the cars we saw other than to say that Nissan is fully committed to EVs and will be releasing several new models every year for the foreseeable future.

Later we were joined by Andy Palmer and Simon Sproule, Corporate VP for Global Marketing Communications for a discussion concerning details of product launches and time frames. The releases and time frames  are "99%" set so they are not speculating on concepts any longer.

Then it was back on the bus for the long ride back to Yokohama and a dinner cruise on Yokohama Bay

This was basically the farewell dinner as this was the last planned event with our hosts thru out the trip. Without them the trip would not have been nearly as enjoyable. They acted as our interpreters, tour guides, history and cultural advisors.  And also provided us employee discounts for any purchases at Nissan Stores! They were;

Jeff Kuhlman; Division GM of Global Communications in charge of global product/corporate/executive/internal/CSR communication

Osamu Igarashi; Deputy GM of Global Chief Marketing Manager Office in charge of global EV communication

Masako Fujita; Deputy GM of Battery Business Unit/Global Zero Emission Business Unit/ Global Chief Marketing Managers Office

Toshitake Inoshita; Manager of Global Communication Dept in charge of Global Corporate Communication.

As always, the food was totally awesome and Vintage aged Saki was served and it was VERY good. Here we were joined by Dan Sloan; GM Global Communications Division in charge of Global Media Center.

After dinner, Karaoke is a avid pursuit here in Japan and it simply would not be a complete trip without it! (the Saki helped a lot!)  Here Toshitake was excellent singing American songs and  Dan just blew Japanese songs out of the water.  Sung and READ in Japanese, Amazing!

Then it was back to the hotel. It was inconceivable that anything could have topped the previous day, but this one actually did.

To be continued