Tuesday, March 19, 2013

This Week In EV Valley; Surveys, Does Anyone Ever Win The Prize?

The rock band Heart has announced they will be touring with Jason Bonham, son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham.  Bonham will play a 30 minute Zep tribute at the end of the Heart Concert.  Despite the WA State roots, early tour info shows the closest they will approach the Emerald area is Portland, OR. Like wow, what is with that??

My inability to keep any job long term (interest or circumstance) has allowed me to  earned a pension from two different companies. It wont be much but it will be two separate paychecks both starting at 65 (Social Security says my full benefits will not start until I am 66 years and 10 months old...).

My dad retired from the Army then worked civil service, retiring from there as well. So, he is set. My old neighbor retired at 50 something from Boeing collecting $40,000 a year in pension payments. (no wonder planes cost so much!)   Yesterday, Boeing workers approved a new contract where Boeing employees hired in this department after March 1, 2013 will have a 401K plan.  Now, we have only ourselves to rely on to put away the money for our golden years.  Guessing, Boeing paying as well as they do will have a generous matching program to help with that.

Wow, times sure have changed. This all reminds me of the struggle for EVs to exist in this "Old World."  The reason pensions went away is because of the long term cost.  The reason EVs are struggling is the same thing but backwards. Its the "entrenched" money that is desperately holding onto the legacy gasoline based car.

Like 401K's, it is now up to us to manage and promote EVs.  Writing to your congressman to let them know their EV stance will control your vote is one way. Now, we need to work on that "entrenched" money  and let them know that if they dont support EVs, we wont support them.

One of the jobs I have is inventorying the drugs at the Walgreen's Pharmacy's in Western WA.  This as you can guess can keep one very busy because there are a lot of them!  Which means the opportunity to purchase items is a common one for me and Walgreen's also provides you an opportunity to fill out a survey asking about your experience while visiting their stores. The info for the survey is printed on your receipt and you can go online or call their 1-800 number.  So, naturally all my surveys to them (and for any other store that offers it) has either

As an EV driver, I can't tell you how invaluable it is to me that you are hosting an EV charging site.  When making any unplanned  purchases the primary factor controlling my decision is convenience. However, Walgreen's is always my choice because of the charging stations. Granted, I will only get a few miles of range for the short time it takes me to get what I need and my fondest wish is that you encourage your other locations to do the same. Once again, thank you for recognizing the importance of supporting a great, clean and green transportation option for the future!

As an EV driver, the ability to grab a quick charge can be the difference between a stressful drive home with the  minimal range or knowing that I can get the few extra miles I need while visiting your establishment.  As an electric vehicle charging station host, there would be little doubt in anyone's mind concerning your environmental stance.  Several of your competitors have taken on that responsibility to help support a method of transportation that is cheap, efficient, clean and powered by homegrown electricity in a very green way.  I frequently make unplanned purchases and the primary reason for the business I choose is convenience and location and that means several choices.  A charging station makes the "tiebreaker" an easy choice.  
OK, so I guess the real reason for this post is that I need advice. I want to definitely give the business the impression that if they dont have a charging station that they are pretty much not on the list, but I dont want to sound like I am giving them an ultimatum, so am looking for some advice. Do you think I have gotten the point across in a "semi PC" way?

Now, dozens of stores offer a survey and offer anywhere from great prizes ($10,000) to "is that a prize?" (free whopper IF you buy something else...never guess where that is from eh?) Now, I have to be honest with ya. Until I started campaigning for charging stations via survey, I hadn't really noticed how many were doing this but having filled out about 50 or so in the past month or so and have yet to win anything!  Wondering if they are dissing my entry based on my comments?

But considering the free charging from Walgreen's and others, I guess I am a winner!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

This Week in EVburgh; On Sale Now!

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all. Hope you are wearing green unless you are cute, then I hope you're not!  (just kidding)

Couldnt help but notice when getting gas for the 2011 Yaris last week that it had  exactly 4,100 miles more than the LEAF.  Now, both are 2011's but the Yaris has not been driven much lately. The Fife DCFC has helped me eliminate a few of the trips I used to use the Yaris for and the work schedule has either been close or a vanpool was available (which only requires about a 50 mile round trip in the LEAF)

Either way, my goal is for the LEAF to exceed the Yaris mileage by the end of the year. So far on the first 17 days of March; Yaris miles month to date; 220. The LEAF; 988. I think it will be close!

SB 5489 Update; The bill passed the Senate and should go to the "other" half (Representatives) then the governor.  The vote was very encouraging as it passed like 45-3 I think or something similarly lopsided.  Only change made was the fine was reduced from $250 to $124 (which is just about the amount of gas tax paid by me last year. coincidence I am thinking  ;) )

The "ICE'ing Fines" experiment left little doubt of its effectiveness. From Seattle LEAF owners on Facebook;
 All I know when the signs were up the spots were not ICE'd but when they were down ICEing galore!
 Someone eventually took down the signs and the ICE'ing picked up right where it left off almost immediately and that did not go over well with the EV community.

You would think the business owner that went through the trouble of putting these charging stations in their parking lot would care more about whether or not EV drivers can actually use them.
Personally, I think the business owners are relieved that the parking bill is on the table. Takes the responsibility of being the "bad guy" out of their hands.

One comment lamenting why the issue is worse in some areas than others;
Wonder why this is such an issue there, but not at Lake City. Totem Lake is slightly closer to front door, I guess.
Guessing, this poster was lucky enough to be there when it was not busy.  Locations of the charging stations is a key consideration and I am very willing to walk a hundred yards or whatever if I have a better chance of being able to plug in when I need a charge.  A few of the Walgreens put their charger in the back lot if they have one which is a great idea. Those spots are never taken up.

But sometimes it is just the attitude of the people. I have to recognize the people of Lacey, WA  as one of the more considerate in this area. The Walgreens in Hawk's Prairie has one of the only (had the ONLY one until Providence put some Blinks at their new medical building) chargers in NE Lacey.  It is in the front of the building at the far left but situated right next to the Redbox machines that also sit out front. Despite the close proximity, the station has never been ICE'd. Now, being so close to home, I have only charged there 3-4 times, but drive by there frequently and I always look (mostly for other LEAFs) and so far, so good!

Can't wait for the March 2013 sales report. I think LEAF sales will really prove that the biggest problem Nissan had with 2012 sales was not range anxiety but sticker shock.

Seeing much more activity on the public forums over people picking up 2013's and reports of dealers doing very brisk business.  Eastside Nissan of Bellevue, WA has 25 LEAF loaners! Like WOW!

But if predicting sales, I would think 1400-1500 this month,  2000+ for April.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

This Week in EVville; Working For the Power Company

When the weather gets cold so does everything else including the battery in my LEAF, and like me it gets sluggish.  Like any star athlete who needs to warm up, my LEAF's battery is the same way. So a slower charge is expected.

Now, I am in the camp that believes that quick charging is best when charging the lower 2/3rds of the pack. The charge is quicker, less heat build up and more people are able to charge.  Case in point; On Monday, I swung by the Tumwater DCFC and there was a lady (Diane) from JBLM (joint base Lewis-McCord just south of Tacoma, WA)  charging. She was at 94% and had 5.9 Kwh so she was basically topping off.  I was not in a hurry so I was not upset but guessing someone who had a time schedule might be.  I dont know where she was going but in her case, L2 would have provided almost the same charging speed as she was getting. Now, she had only had her LEAF since October so maybe she did not know and I should have advised her but we got talking and she was a very motivated EV'er and adamantly stated several times she did not want to buy gas and the LEAF was her only vehicle and so I spaced it out... oh well

But back to topic!

So, my habit has been go to QC, plug in 7-15 minutes, then go. Frequently I that was all the time I had and other times, I simply didnt have the patience to sit there longer. But a few months ago, I noticed that I seemed to be getting less charge than I normally finished with. I had no hard numbers unfortunately. Just a hunch.

Now, the business owner at the Shell Station hosting the charger has been upset over how AV has been handling his account and I thought "well, maybe he throttled down the power?" but I had spent the weekend watching spy conspiracy movies and my head was in a weird place...

But anyway, Monday was a perfect day to test. I was at 21 GID or so, It was 42º. So I plugged in, cranked up the timer and tracked my Kwh times

1 Kwh...........81 seconds
2 Kwh...........84 seconds
3 Kwh...........95 seconds
4 Kwh...........103 seconds
5 Kwh...........107 Seconds

Ok, so my experiment did not provide a lot of data supporting my conspiracy. I also did this a few times in Summer where temps were in the mid to upper 70's and had a the first few Kwh as low as 75 seconds.  So guess maybe he had the charger turned back up!!

Want to make more money than you or your great great grandchildren (or your spouse at Macy's) could ever spend?  Then invent an effective power grid storage system.

Electricity has a huge advantage over gasoline. It can be generated a dozen different ways, can never be exhausted, can be scaled to nearly any size, is pervasive thru out our society and it runs our cars!

But it has an Achilles heel; a single drawback that allows fossil fuels to thrive and that is ineffective ways to store large quantities of it in areas where its needed.

In fact we have the ULTIMATE sin happening on a regular basis and that is shutting down ultra expensive emission free sources of power while other forms of power are allowed to run.  In WA State, when Wind generators are shut down, the host is still paid for the potential revenue (not the actual amount of power generated based on that periods wind speed) which is a huge hit on the PUD's budget.  (obtw; that "ultra expensive" part I got from my local oil company's report. they did not provide a reference link for that statement)

But what if an army of EVs were recruited to balance the grid?  How would that work?

Well, supposing you are at the EV store choosing colors and the salesman says "Sign up for Grid Balance, participate for 4 years and we will give you 15 Kwh for free"

You say "Free is in my price range!"  and with this, you get access to a charger at home and at a place convenient to your work all paid for by the PUD. Your only requirement is to set a mileage requirement you need. IOW, how much you plan to drive that day and plug in most of the time.  It could be that simple!

The two areas you spend nearly all your time is home and work. With your EV plugged in, the grid will either charge your car, or drain your car to manage grid demand.  Now, instead of maintaining large base load coal plants, a move to green sources is much more manageable.

Instead of managing several different accounts for a half dozen charging companies, your EV's net usage will be on your electric bill (over 99% of us have one)

Instead of paying several thousand dollars for range you might use 5-10 times a year, you have access to that range anytime you need it. Simply plug in that you need 150 miles that day or whatever and the grid will drain someone else's EV. After all, 98% of EVs will only be traveling locally that day so its not like they have to look far to replace you.

Cost to install will go down. Sure its expensive for US to install QC's and what not, but think of how much money it would cost if the PUD in conjunction with local government was running the show?  No permit fees, no OUTRAGEOUS power line upgrade fees. Even gassers would benefit (although very slightly)

But the real benefit is decentralizing the grid. It is pretty obvious that our next terrorist attack will be on a public infrastructure of sorts.  The internet today, tomorrow it will be a gasline, pipeline,  or the grid.  With grid access so prevalent, adequate protection is simply not possible.  A coordinated attack at a just a few key (usually very remote) power switching stations transmission lines is all that is needed to cause great havoc and huge expense.

Having grid power stored in 50 million EVs makes such an attack fruitless especially when in most cases, a large percentage of those vehicles could be tapped to cover the sudden loss.

Now I did not spike my coffee enough to not realize that such a project is a decade of dedicated partnership away from reality but the sooner we start, the sooner we stop paying the Piper.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Week in EVton; Carwings Is Your Friend

The week was relatively uneventful but not completely without some minor detours.  I decided to do a range test of sorts to check the tires, etc.  Unlike my normal tests, I decided to see how speed affected the range and did it ever!

I set my speed using the cruise control to 65 mph and drove 59.2 miles starting with GID count of 277 and ended with 23 GID for projected range of just over 62 miles! Yes, it was cold (27º) but I was shocked.

I then went home keeping speeds between 55-60 mph and drove 58.9 miles and ended with GID count of 70 or projected range of 75 miles. It was warmer (45º) and I usually am better by a few miles in this direction but the adage "Speed Kills" really applies here!

A great thing happened this week. A LEAFer in Seattle was contacted by Nissan who stated they detected irregularities in his LEAF from his charging records that were transmitted by CARWINGS.  On Nissan's recommendation, he took his LEAF to the dealer to have it looked at and sure enough they found a defective cell.  It was replaced and now everything is fine.

What is even more unusual is that he never had any dash lights, warnings or any other indication that something was wrong.  It is probably good that a bad cell is detected quickly since its failure to "hold up its end" will cause other good cells to degrade prematurely.  So kudos to CARWINGS (probably their first ever!) and Nissan for being proactive in fixing the problem before it became an issue

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tires, Signs and Fines.

Well last week was tough but ended on the upside. Last week, I was turning left onto I-5 North at exit 109 when I hit something. It was 4:45 AM and dark and I was the 4th or 5th in line so did not see anything, just heard it as I ran over it.   Being completely unprepared for whatever it was, I swerved and hit the curb. Result; two flat tires.  I got a tow to Oly Nissan where I got a pair of Dunlap Fierce Instinct VRs put on.  Definitely not low rolling resistance but that was the best they had and I did not really have the time to be picky.  I then left for work and found out on the way home that there was a big hit on my range. I ended up doing 50 mph home and stopping for a 10 minute quickie charge at Fife for good measure. 

The next morning, I checked and sure enough, my tire pressures were all set to 36 PSI, so I jumped them back up to 42 PSI. There is always a very active discussion on what PSI's should be and its a near even split and both sides are pretty adamant that they know what is best.  Well, my brother when he was alive was the manager of the Les Schwabs in Bremerton and did talk about tires a bit (well, ok that is all he talked about besides the Mariners)  and he did say that you should run your tires at or near the max tire pressure printed on the tire for long life and better handling. The max pressure on the Dunlaps were the same 44 PSI as the Ecopias so I figured 42 PSI was good.  Per my brother's recommendation, I also rotate my tires every 5,000 miles. 

The range was a bit better but still shockingly short. (roughly 70 miles. before I could stretch it to near 80...)  I then decided that maybe the new tires should go on the back. Maybe if they are off the drive wheels, that might help performance.  When swapping them, I did notice they were heavier than the ecopia's. I had a hard time finding any real details about the Dunlaps (tirerack never heard of them...)  but did finally find a shipping weight of 23.8 lbs at walmart.com so going with that which means the ecopias cant weigh no more than 15 lbs which seems awfully light.

After putting the Dunlaps on the back, naturally life and work combined forces to prevent me from being able to get a decent range guesstimate until today.  I took off this morning with temps about 36º and put on 32 miles then in the afternoon put on 36 more when it was about 45º. I did cruise control at 60 mph and minimal CC only using defrost enough to clear the windows. The afternoon, although not sunny did provide more than enough radiant heat that it was very comfortable. In the morning, fresh out of a hot shower with coffee in hand, I rarely feel cold then either. ( I use heat VERY sparingly in the blast furnace as well, believe it or not...)  But my projected range turned out to be about 74 miles with about 9 miles of the 68 miles driven at street speeds of 35-40 mph.  So, I guess if I need to stretch it a bit, I can still just drive slower. 

Now for the upside! Remember SB 5849? the bill that would create a $250 fine for ICE'ing a charging station?  Well, its still a long way from being enacted (crossing fingers!)  but it looks like it might be a great idea and now there is proof!

The DCFC at the Totem Lake Fred Meyer is situated in front of the store in a very prime parking area in front of the sidewalk that surrounds the building. Needless to say, its ICE'd nearly all the time despite being very well labeled as to its purpose. 

Well a Seattle EV'er put up a "$250 fine" sign just below the "No Parking except to charge" sign which had been completely ineffective and guess what?? 

Now, the charging stations are NEVER ICE'd anymore. The sign was put up last weekend and since that time there have been nearly a dozen reports of no ICE'ing!

Just goes to show you that people would undoubtedly being parking in handicap parking as well if not for the threat of a fine.

Thank you **** for the sign idea! (not sure he might not get in trouble so he will remain anonymous for now)

****Public Service  Alert****
Help us help you! Plug in America has a survey to measure LEAF battery degradation. It takes only a few minutes and will help the EV Brainiacs get the data they need so they can tell us what we can expect down the line


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Feb 2013 Drive Report

Gone are the gasser days of 5-6 cents a mile. With the Prius being wrecked, the 2011 Yaris takes its place and its running 8-10 cents a mile for gas costs and that cost will probably go up.  Gas went from $3.279 to $3.659 during the month and I am guessing that has already gone up. In other news, Friday, March 1st, Oil set a new "low" price for 2013 at just over... ahh, what does it matter??

Now, the SO's job transfer from Centrailia to Lacey means she drives the Yaris most of the time since it is our policy that the LEAF takes the longest trip of the day that is easily manageable with the existing public charging system combined with its range which varies greatly due to the seasons.  There are occasions where I take the Yaris for the longer drives due to my work needs.

The Leaf traveled 1261.5 miles in Feb for cost of $29.75 or 2.36 cents per mile in home electricity cost all of which was billed at tier 2 Puget Sound Energy rates which after taxes and such worked out to about 10.7 cents per Kwh.

In that mix was 10 public charging sessions (all free) using Ecotality, Semaconnect and AV stations adding 68.83 Kwh of power.  If that power was billed at the same home rate, my cost per mile "jumps" to 2.94 cents per mile.

As a side note; I did get a chance to talk with Shandy; the Ecotality Rep who was working on the Fife DCFC who states they hope to install another 20-25 stations in the Puget Sound region and start a monthly subscription service for unlimited access. She mentioned $15 a month which I thought was more than an excellent deal but would really depend on where and when these stations come about.  Right now, the Fife Station is the only one in my area.  Put 4-5 well placed stations around me and it would be a great deal at double the price!

The Yaris did travel 1023 miles (that included trips totaling 300 miles the last week of Feb) for a prorated gas cost of  $104.59 or 10.22 cents per mile.  In defense of the Yaris; when I take it for work, 25% of the time I have co-workers with me which means a much heavier passenger load than I normally see when solo'ing in the LEAF although the LEAF was used twice for work with a passenger in Feb.