Thursday, September 18, 2014

Nissan Doing the "Shimmy Shimmy Shake!"

With the recent rumor that Nissan was talking to LG Chem about a battery deal combined with a several members of the top executive team leaving the company, it has left many people concerned over the future of the Nissan EV lineup.  The massive battery plant in Smyrna, TN has been open less than a year and already its future seems in doubt??

Add to that another disappointment when Nissan dropped several hints that a longer range LEAF would not be coming until 2017 after so many had figured 2015/2016 and we all have to wonder has Nissan come to a realization that they have bitten off more than they can chew?

As a member of the LEAF Advisory Board, I was able to meet Billy Hayes and Andy Palmer and witness first hand their faith, enthusiasm and commitment to making the LEAF the car that people wanted to buy.  It was this experience that further bolstered my conviction that I had made the right decision in 2010 and 2013 to go LEAF.

But as mentioned before, the LEAF was not a "purchase-ready" car for me just yet. My driving needs being beyond the norm made a long term commitment to a specific LEAF a bad idea. So, for the 2nd time in my life, I leased my 2nd LEAF.  But Nissan seemed to be listening. They changed their warranty to add a battery capacity clause. They then addressed issues many with longer commutes had when they started offering enhanced new pack replacements at the great price of $5499 after exchange admitting this price was being offered at a loss.

All of this while looking like proactive moves on Nissan's part to help the early LEAF adopters could also be looked at as losing faith with its battery partner NEC.   Since Nissan's partner Renault has gone with LG Chem batteries, CEO Carlos Ghosn, should have some inside knowledge concerning the technology behind the two battery options. So does this mean that Nissan is dropping NEC in favor of a better battery?

Since Nissan had denied all of this, we can only speculate and I choose to speculate on the brighter possibilities (as if that was a surprise)

Besides, it would be more than a bit difficult for me to think that Nissan is just going to let both battery plants in England and the US be left idle.  I personally think that Nissan is simply making moves based on long term success and realizing that multiple battery suppliers especially ones based in different countries is simply insurance against any possible hiccup in the supply chain.  This allows them two battery suppliers and does this create confusion or better yet, a clearer path towards adding more EVs to its lineup?

Up till now, we had all assumed that the coming infiniti would have Nissan/NEC batteries in them and the optimal capacities of Nissan's 3 plants in Japan, England and the US would imply that there is capacity to let that happen. But as I predicted, LEAF sales are starting to take off and I predict monthly sales approaching 4,000 units by the end of the year.  A longer range LEAF along with the resulting downward pricing pressure on the current range LEAFs will be the factor that will finally move EVs into the mainstream.  That is just around the corner, so lining up vendors now is simply business as usual.

But all of this does not explain the big shakeup at the top. But Palmer leaving Nissan to be a CEO can easily be seen as a promotion. After all, why work under someone when you could be at the top? Aston-Martin is a much smaller company but it is also located in his hometown. Had to be a big consideration for him.

Either way, many in the online community are viewing these latest actions as a precursor to bad news. I think its Nissan reacting to escalating sales of the LEAF.  Post your thoughts below!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Fall Is Coming, Time To Adjust Your Tires!

Being a Military Brat meant living in a lot of different areas of the country which meant experiencing just about every kind of weather, so I can say with certainty that Late Summer/Early Fall is the best time to be a resident of the Great Pacific Northwest. Unlike Spring when the area passes thru the same general temperature swing, this time of year is fairly dry which means less cloud cover so warmer days and colder nights.  Cloud cover acts as a blanket to keep the nights mild and the days cool but we have had a wondrous string of near perfect sunny days.  Typical highs in the upper 70's occasionally touching 80 but no warmer.  The nights are getting colder though with a prelude to the coming change in the seasons. 

This means we need to adjust our EVs!  We all know that proper tire pressures helps us get more range. How much more? Good question but I am betting you are not willing to find during your 80 mile family outing next weekend!  Your tires maximum pressure, generally 44 PSI does allow for pressures to go higher but even going a little lower can have ramifications on range and longevity.  The general rule of thumb is that every 10º change in temperature results in a 1 PSI change in pressure.  Your tires should be set at "cold tire pressure." So "what temperature is that?" you ask. Well, it depends. Its actually means the coldest your tire is likely to see.  So its the first thing in the morning reading. Now, here that has been in the mid 40's lately. For Phoenix, probably closer to the mid 70's. So you get the picture.  

 Now some background. My tires are running 1 to 1¼ lbs higher in the front generally speaking.  Now on the front one tire is good, one should be reduced about ¼ and on the back, one should have 1½ PSI added while the other gets about 1 PSI.  But yesterday, I got up and it was about 45º and saw this. 

Sure sign Fall is almost here!  Below is the picture taken while driving between morning job and afternoon job. It was 75º.  Definitely a difference!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Manipulating Battery Stats

I have mentioned this several times so we are pretty familiar with my ahr rising when I cycle deeply or use a Quick Charger and we really don't know why, or at least I am clueless.  I don't have the lizard battery but I am confident I do have a battery that is better than what I had in LEAF I so I decided to see if I could manipulate my battery's numbers and then restore them to their former glory.

Part One;

Way back in the beginning, I noticed a big jump in ahr and SOH when I quick charged but it never lasted more than a few days.  This was winter so I thought, its the warmth that did it. But then Summer arrived and my pack was in the 80's all the time. Then I noticed that driving 80+ miles and recharging to full more than 3-4 days straight also increased my numbers although not quite as astronomically as the quick chargers did. And as expected when the weekend came or a few local jobs in a row happened, my battery stats dropped just like my driving need.

So to test this, first I decided to not fully charge a while by only using LEAF for shorter commute days and timed this in a week where I had 4 local jobs.  Plus it was a good time to exercise the Corolla anyway, right!

As expected, my battery stats dropped from the mid 65's to the low 63's.  For kicks, I fully charged the pack and checked my stats; 63.84 ahr, then let it sit roughly 29 hours before driving and checking stats again and it had dropped to 63.20 without moving an inch!

The 2nd part of the experiment was to just do as much fast charging to see if that would raise the numbers like it did last Winter but this proved to be a tough one and mostly due to lack of charging locations. Here in the South Sound, fast charging locations are still sparse and I was not willing to pay astronomical rates to use AV although, I was kicking around the idea of paying $20 for a monthly subscription to try it but it did not take long to realize even AV's locations were just not convenient in my day to day driving needs most of the time. I need something going North!!

Going North, the nearest DCFC is the Blink at Fife. Now that Blink as gone to a $.49/kwh rate, this is doable. Not cheap but doable and I feel obligated to use them to show support for the new pricing model although I would prefer a time based rate to maximize the time the DCFC is available for others to use. You see, the longer you stay plugged in at a DCFC, the slower it charges as the battery pack fills up. Eventually the per kwh cost will be pretty high if there is a reasonable per minute rate of say? 20 cents or so?  But anyway...

Charging using nothing but fast charging for 4 days really did not do much. My ahr did improve to the low 64's but that was as good as it got.  I was now beginning to think I had real and permanent degradation.  The accepted high water mark for ahr is 67.36, a figure i obtained several times. If my new level is 64 ahr, then degradation would be 5% at this point and not too far off what is expected in this area.  The one thing to mention during the fast charge period was the light driving need.  42, 28, 51 and 39 miles.  Each fast charge was roughly 15-23 minutes and only once did I receive over 10 kwh.

Part 3 of the experiment involves driving the 85+ miles per day.  The best I could muster was at least 76 miles a day for 3 days in a row which brought me up to 64.68 or 4% degradation in just under 13,000 miles. In some ways I wanted to go another 1-2 days but the work schedule did not work out and my mileage lease limitations has made me hesitant to drive around for the purposes of this experiment.  The other reason is these measurements are very much an approximation so only trends collected over time should be taken seriously. Since my data is collected daily, I will as always report my findings. I have little doubt that my work schedule will provide me ample opportunities to continuously test this phenomena.


Guess I needed the combination of unseasonably warm weather and longer commutes!

After seeing all time low of 62.83/96.54/20.8  on my ahr/Hx/kwh available, the weather got hot! including a day in the 90's along with drives of 94.9/87.4/96.7 and 111.3 miles I got up this morning and saw this

So the moral of the story?  YMMV!!

Don't forget to attend your local Drive Electric Event this week!  I will be in Stelicoom, WA this Saturday the 20th. Come on down!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

August 2014 Drive Report

August was a banner month for the Corolla driving 400.9 miles at an estimated cost @ 9 cents a mile (probably higher but won't know for sure until I fill up) for a total of $36.09 in gasoline.  Work reimbursement was $158.11 at 41 cents per mile which was tax free so it all comes back to me minus the gas bill of course.

The LEAF drove a bit less due to an experiment I am currently running which I will tell you about soon but basically I was trying to see what effect the battery numbers would have if I let the LEAF sit around more than it normally did.  Results to follow. But the LEAF did manage to go 1536.6 miles in August costing a total of  $28.53.  That was from $26.69 in electricity and $1.84 in public charging fees.  That puts me below 2 cents per mile which was no doubt due to 2 Hospital runs for work and taking advantage of the freebie juice available at a few of those locations.  :)

The drawback to using more gas is the slower payback from work so my reimbursement from work this month did not meet my expenses setting my ROI back  $17,  Monthly expenses (lease payment, insurance, electricity and public charging fees) were $342.28 but work reimbursement was a "paltry"  $315.10.   But I am ok with it.  I will just have to figure out how to make it up somehow.

Last paystub. I get paid every two weeks but Auto reimbursement is listed only once (notice phone reimbursement is "phone reimburse 2?"  that means its for week 2 of the 2 week pay period.  

So, despite the set back, I am still on pace for "free miles" about the first week of November.  Free miles is the point where work reimbursement will cover all my expenses for driving the LEAF in  2014 for both work and play.  Now that is a true ROI.

Once again; I LOVE MY LEAF!!!