Saturday, March 28, 2015

The High Cost of Fast Charging Verses TDI's; IOW, Someone is Smoking Something!

Recently it was announced on the Seattle area LEAF owner's Facebook page that NRG EVgo  will be putting in 4 very badly needed fast chargers located at malls in Marysville, Tacoma, North Bend and Northgate.  The locations will go a long way towards making gaps smaller or doubling up on some of the busiest stations in the area.  So, it would seem that this would be a good thing, right??

Well, apparently not all good things are good.  Complaints on the higher pricing the EVgo will be using was immediate and I thought a bit misleading.  One poster provided an example of a single use fast charge that would be $4.95 connect fee and 20 cents a minute. A 30 minute charge would run the user $10.95.  Comments that a TDI would be cheaper (guess the Prius is not in vogue any more?) immediately came up.

Wow! this is a bit of a one sided comment.  I expect (and see) those types of comments from oil companies but on a EV site?? What?? wait a second, lets look at this again!

First of all, we are looking at a worst case scenario for transportation expense in the LEAF. It really can't get any worse so using a single event to determine anything is way off base from jump street.  So is it really that expensive? But then again; the right question should be "Is this what we really want?"

First of all, how much should a fast charge cost?  Well, we currently have two basic choices. Blink (maybe they should only be considered ½ a choice to match their reliability?) and Aeroenvironment or AV.   Blink charges 49 cents per kwh so only the deadest of LEAFs with time to kill would run the tab to $10.   AV has two options; a single unlimited session for $7.50 or the dreaded subscription model of $19.99 a month for all you can eat.  Both are definitely cheaper than EVGo but to answer the question;  No, neither Blink or AV is what I want.

Both Blink and AV encourage users to "slow roll" the stations. Slow rolling is a term used to describe a LEAFer taking on more charge than they really need because it does not cost them any more money.  Now, you might say "If Blink charges 49 cents for each kwh, how can they be slow rolling?"

The answer is that the higher the SOC, the longer it takes for the LEAF to absorb a kwh.  The difference at SOCs above 90% can be nearly 10 minutes per kwh!  Only a billing model based on time will encourage people to get only what they need and move on allowing more people to charge at any given station and reducing wait times for people unlucky enough to be the 2nd or even 3rd person in line.  So in this scenario, the answer to the question is "Yes, EVgo is the only fast charge provider providing me the time based billing I want.

The other thing is apathy. Ok, well maybe that word is a bit over the top but in my last post I lamented that despite WA State's great start out of the gates, we have, by all appearances, dropped out of the race!   EVgo represents more options which might help create better billing between AV and Blink while maybe even driving down EVgo pricing. So EVgo is providing cnoices, so in answering the question "Is this what we want?" the answer is Yes, EVgo is providing competition.

But they are still spendy right?  Let me ask you; Who has paid $1.29 for a bottle of water at 7-Eleven knowing full well, you can buy a single bottle of water at the Trader Joe's across the street at the case price or about 29 cents?  Why did you do it?  Own stock in 7-Eleven? or was it simply convenience, less hassle and a better location?  Lets face it; the better option is to buy the case and carry a few in your car. I actually go a step further. Although, I admit to not liking plastic (I actually use Plastic Coke bottles, refilled with water but only because they freeze much better) I work in random areas where sometimes water is not easily accessible or simply tastes horrible. So I generally carry 2-3 bottles with me just in case. I do store then in my Seahawks cooler so they are not in direct sunlight and what not...

But the point is you pay for speed and convenience at 7-Eleven, not because they are cheap or have better water.  So now EVgo has only plans for locations and we have seen AV and Blink with plans that did not materialize or were MUCH slower to materialize than stated so its a bit premature to think EVgo has it going on but preliminary locations  are nearly exactly where they need to be.

Not sure I like the mall concepts especially Tacoma Mall since it is legendary (my office is just down the street from them) for being very time consuming getting in and out of there during rush hour traffic. Simply way too much stuff going on in too small a place complicated by the fact that the mall is bordered on one side by what is now a 30+ year construction project.  But the locations are convenient. I think I am not alone in saying that a fast charge network in the right places with high reliability could easily demand a 50% higher premium and still have people flocking to their sites. So to answer the question rating EVgo;  Not sure yet although I can say that the current providers AV and Blink rate no better than a "C" for convenience and that is VERY generous.

Ok so now we seem to have EVgo filling a lot of needs but again that cost.  Well, as I see it, you have a few options.  A subscription fee now drops the cost to $14.95 a month with 10 cents per minute.  This could drop the charging rate $4 per 30 minute session if you used it every other day. Keeping in mind on a longer trip, a well placed network could be sipped from 4-6 times in one day.  But lets make it more reasonable.  Back when everyone was free, the most I used the fast chargers was 7 times in one month for a total of 101 minutes.   So using the EVgo plan that would have cost $14.95 plus $10.10 or a total of $25.05. Now that makes it cheaper than Blink since I gathered roughly 73 kwh or  $35.77.  But keep in mind; I rarely got much more than I needed and even more rarely made anyone wait more than 5 minutes. Now, I am not saying this to be viewed as a nice guy or anything because if I need it, to Hell with anyone else but I do admit to a lot of sessions being very late at night.

So what it boils down is a single use fee is expensive, 7-Eleven taught us that, or a subscription fee which makes it a bit better.  But neither addresses the "TDI dilemma"  So if a TDI gets 45 miles per gallon on the highway, is that a fair comparison?  Using the best case fossil fuel figures against the worst case EV figures? Well, oil companies seem to think so and I thought we were beyond that but looks like even that subject should be reviewed.... AGAIN!

I made a comment on line that a TDI making a run to the corner grocery and back in December, would cost more than the EVgo single fill up.  Remember short trips in Winter can reduce the most efficient car into full sized SUV numbers.  My Prius averaged 15-25 MPG on those short 3 mile roundtrippers. I have talked previously about my Corolla getting 4-5 MPG above EPA but not because of my stellar driving, its because my Corolla is only used for optimum driving trips.  So back to the cost scenario.  MY lifetime "fuel" cost over two LEAFs is running 2.1 cents per mile. this includes home utility rates at just under 1.9 cents per mile along with any and all public charging costs.  Now, I don't pay for a charge currently on a regular basis with anyone but if using last years figures, I drove 16,957.8 miles for a total cost of $346.95  or 2.04 cents per mile.  Add a $20 a month sub cost to say AV and its now 3.46 cents per mile. In the examples above, the AV subscription would be cheaper than EVgo while EVgo is cheaper than Blink, so an EVgo subscription would be slightly higher. Ok, lets say it doubled our EV costs, so we would be looking at nearly 7 cents per mile.  So all of a sudden, we see that EVs even with "exorbitant" fast charge costs, is NOT more expensive than a TDI.  In reality, a subscription would not have doubled my per mile cost and either I would have driven more miles or had less home cost due to the additional charging done on the road. I suspect reality will be a bit of both.  So again; with more places to charge, even on a cost basis; EVgo still seems to answer our question favorably.

But there is still the "Just take the Prius" crowd and I do fall into that category by definition only in that I also have a gasser to go along with my LEAF.  So my Corolla drove 5912 miles for a cost of $512.44 in gas or 8.66 cents per mile, keeping in mind, I averaged 39.77 MPG. IOW; again a nearly best case fossil fuel comparison since the only time I did anything remotely resembling in town driving was trips to the gas station and there were a LOT of them; 18 with 8 of them coming after gas dropped below $3 a gallon making the numbers even better.   BUT even if ignoring maintenance costs, I still have to add insurance which was basic liability, no collision (obviously not something someone would do to their precious TDI) added another $372 a year which now pushes the cost to 15 cents per mile but as mentioned, cheapest possible insurance so again best case presented for Big Oil (as if they would have it any other way!)

But "HOLD ON!" you say.  And yes, I did not include insurance costs in the LEAF numbers and why? Well, insurance cost varies greatly AND we all have to have it so why include it in the 2nd car but not the first? Because having a second car is optional so is all the expenses tied to that option.  I could throw in insurance on the LEAF but in a LEAF verses TDI in a single car household, its a wash.

In summary; EVgo entrance to the Pacific Northwest brings us new stations, new options, new competition and the correct way to bill for fast charging.  It would be difficult to get too excited over all this until they announce their 2nd round of stations will I be able to determine if they will fit my needs. There is already reports of construction on one of the locations EVgo will be so its looking like they are getting things done quickly. I can only guess we shall see several more stations going up this year.

So to anyone who thinks the Prius is cheaper; please enlighten me because I had 3 Priuses in which I tracked every single penny that went into driving them. And yes, I had months where my fuel costs only were below 6 cents per mile! I was proud... well, at least until I got my ZENN EV and began to truly realize what the real definition of economic driving meant.

Now if you are a two car household (I actually consider myself to be a 1½ car household) post your costs and lets compare them with the TDI. This should be fun! ;)


EVgo has finally posted a Seattle page complete with typo's and pricing!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Oh Where Oh Where Has Washington Gone?

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

Picture courtesy of Greg Kunz!

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

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

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

 The "other" Washington area Fast Charge Map

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Benefits From Increased Public Charging Coverage? 

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

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

Monday, March 2, 2015

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

Well, not unexpectedly, gas is on the rise. On Feb 3, I paid $1.939 for gas. I should have brought gas cans with me.  It wasn't bad enough that gas eventually went up 44 cents for the short month of February but its already gone up 30 cent for the month of March and its only 2nd.  Ya, that means my fill up today was at $2.679!  In December, I predicted gas would be back at $3.50 a gallon by the 4th. Now thinking I should have said Memorial Day...

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

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

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

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

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