Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Blink's New "Parking" Fees

Soon Blink level two stations will begin charging for the time an EV is connected but not charging at the rate of 9 cents per minute after a 15 minute grace period. This new process will launch next Monday July 20, 2015.

In an email Blink stated;

Over the last year, we have heard from many EV drivers about how frustrating it is when an EV remains plugged in to the charger after it has completed charging and blocks other electric cars from charging. In an effort to address this issue, we are implementing Charger Occupancy fees on Blink-owned Level 2 EV charging stations. This means that after an EV has completed charging, if it remains connected to the charger for more than 15 minutes, then a Charger Occupancy fee of $0.08 per minute will be assessed until the connector is removed.

Ok, not sure what Blink is referring to since the only issue I am aware of as far as not having a place to charge is on the L3's.  Only a handful of locations don't have both and I only occasionally see any L2's in use at all.  Tahoma Market in Fife, WA is one of the busiest L3's in the area and Tahoma Market has made the decision to remove the L2's due to lack of use.

So where are these lines?  Gateway Park in downtown Olympia has 8 Blink L2's and I have never seen more than 3 in use at any one time. Granted, I don't drive past it much any more since moving 16 months ago, but still manage to swing thru the area every few months or so and usually see only the same Chevy Volt that I first saw there 3 years ago.

So again, it looks like a good idea poorly implemented on a network that was poorly planned to begin with.   Many L2's are positioned where moving the car after a short charge session is not possible. Park and Ride lots generally see cars there for 10 hours or more.  So that would be out.

Topping off a charge would also not be as convenient unless you happen to be close enough to be able to stop what you are doing and move the car.  See a movie and topping up most likely will not work.  Missing 10 minutes (that is a likely a best case scenario) near the end of a movie would really suck.

Add to that many stations can only service one parking space due to stations being aligned next to each other.  The stations should have been installed with access to a minimum of two spaces, 4 being the best option in a 2 by 2 grid.

So lots of issues with this new plan and although Blink thought it might be a revenue gain (occupancy fees plus greater turnover) I fear it will backlash on Blink causing even less usage on their lightly used L2 networks because they are simply less convenient.

But ICEing is an issue and people sitting at charging units for several hours or days is a real issue.  Parking enforcement has simply not worked. WA State has a ICEing violation on the books but it was poorly written and has never been enforced to my knowledge, and if it has, its definitely not widespread.

But is this the best solution?  Probably not. A quick poll of people who use Blink L2's on a semi regular basis found roughly half (of the 13 respondents) could go out and move their vehicles although most admit that there were times when it could be delayed by as much as an hour depending on what they had on their plate at the time.  A more frequent response is unplugging before the charge was complete during a break in their schedule.

Some stated they would likely not use Blink as much due to uncertainties with their jobs and all worked in the medical field. not sure if that is significant since most of the ones who said they could manage to move their cars also worked in the medical field.

Finally there were others who pretty much had to plug in somewhere and said this would likely affect their next purchase decision if other options did not manifest themselves. Many got their EVs because of the stations located at their work and making them very inconvenient without regard to demand. Providence Centralia has 2 L2 Blinks plus two 120 volt stations used for Providence LEAFs and the Blinks are very lightly used.  A few people do use them once in a while but no one does so on a daily basis.

Now, I like the idea but it needs a LOT of work.  Having slower L1 stations in the same location allows one to pick a charger based on how long the car will be parked not to mention more plugs! Besides, the Blink Network as mentioned before has not grown significantly in my area and it definitely needs to.

The other thing that might make this new charge work is changing the current rates L2's charge. At 49 cents per Kwh, an L3 is a reasonable deal. I love the ability to get only what I need for a few bucks.  This opens the station up for the next person and I am not paying unfair connection fees.  But 39 per kwh for L2 is way too high considering the speed of the charge.  Chargepoint and others at $1-2 an hour is a much better deal.

and finally; Remember ICEing? it is a real issue but this does absolutely NOTHING for gassers camping out since they don't have an account and can't plug in anyway!!

Blink; if you want to do it right, renegotiate your contracts with the host sites REQUIRING parking enforcement that prevents ICEing!

PS; Yes I realize some areas of California have so little plugs to service so many EVs that even Blink L2's are fought over but that does not change the fact that this new change does not help Blink with customer service or being competitive.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Why Washington's $35,000 EV Incentive Cap Is The Right Thing

Recently WA passed their state budget in a midnight session beating the deadline by less than 30 minutes. This was they typically generated political drama in which we all knew the budget would pass but in reality there was actually last minute finagling of the terms and one thing the legislators made clear is that the state was unwilling to support higher income residents buying premium EVs.

So the new law puts a "hard cap" on the previous sales tax waiver on Electric vehicle purchases of $35,000. IOW; if the car cost more than that, the tax credit is ZERO.  EV proponents argued that only the first $35,000 of the purchase price should be tax free which means other cars that just miss the limit like the BMW i3 or the upcoming top trim options for the longer range Nissan LEAF.

The $35,000 limit will likely (I am not sure since this is a new ruling so this is the general consensus)  be the  negotiated sale price before down payments or trade ins are considered  but it is a significant hit on the incentives of purchasing an EV. Since WA does not have income tax, its sales tax ranks as one of the highest in the nation where some residents would pay near 10% of the purchase price of a car depending on their location. I think the lowest rate is about 8.5% or so. I would pay 9.0 % but I am also lucky enough that I do not live in the area that is supporting the mass transit rail system.

But I still like the law.  Granted there is a real risk that the LEAF I get in Dec 2016 will exceed the limit since I am looking for more range and the tax hit would really hurt me but the financial benefit of driving EVs would still trump gasoline by a long shot. And there are other great benefits of the transportation bill that I greatly support such as;

** EV registration jumps from $100 annually to $150. Why is this good? Because the extra $50 will be earmarked strictly to maintain and expand the public charging network. WA was fast out of the gates for public charging but has essentially not finished a single lap in the race. The well publicized "West Coast Green Highway" is incomplete and has HUGE holes in it caused by the Federal program that was never completed.

** Gas taxes will jump nearly 12 cents per gallon with 5 cents this year and about 6.7 cents next year so gassers will be paying about the same $150 as well so that is a wash and the results is a good thing. Keep in mind that gas prices are low and the Middle East seems bent on keeping them low for the foreseeable future as a move to derail the U.S's increased domestic production.

** EVs are getting cheaper because of higher sales equaling higher production numbers along with advancing technology of the batteries which will yield cheaper, lighter and more powerful cells.  This should result in many more EVs priced competitively with their gasoline counterparts which will remove the "EV premium" and boost current range. I have said it a MILLION times and its worth repeating. Yes, I want (and need) longer range because of the unique job requirements I have but the most popular EV will be the one that does 100 "real" miles with a sticker in the mid to upper 20's which is well below the cap.

** The loss of the sales tax waiver is not going to stop one single owner from purchasing a Tesla. I only know of one Tesla owner is remotely qualifies as "normal" income and he is unique. He is a homeowner, solar panels for decades now and retired with a great pension.  He literally has no bills and basically he bought his Tesla by simply foregoing a few of the vacations he normally takes (he is literally gone nearly all Winter, every Winter) to get the purchase price of which he paid cash.

** The Chevy Volt now qualifies for the tax break or any plug in that can squeak out at least 30 miles on battery only. This I don't like. Its a way of maintaining oil flow but...

** I am sure there are Tesla S owners out there right now who don't have solar but I don't know one so again, one of the likely characteristic of people looking at high end EVs is the fact they would be charging their car with nearly free electricity and ya, I know those solar panels were not donated but they already bought them so way too last for buyers remorse! Besides, WA has one of the best solar power benefit programs in the country.

So its all good right?  Well, ya but... Right now its hard for many to believe this because most are assuming that longer range EVs will exceed the cap like the "affordable" Tesla 3 which starts at $35,000 but keep in mind; the longer the range, the greater the percentage of driving the EV would do which increases the savings which means a short payback on the ROI.   So if doing the math on say a $40,000 EV (which is about where I expect most Tesla 3 and Chevy Bolt purchases to be) that would come with a tax bill between $3600 and $4,000 for most of us and a fuel only savings of 5 cents per mile (assuming you don't have solar that is...)  we are looking at a complete recovery of the tax in 72,000 miles or less than 5 years typically.

Add in the required additional cost of maintenance of gasoline vehicles and the pay back could be reduced to just over 3 years.

Finally; as a member of the "working poor" I talk with people every day in my situation. As an auditor where 75% of my work involves physical inventory of retail establishments, I work with people in the service industry daily. Many people have taken a lot of interest in my LEAF and I am "generally" willing to share my experiences ;).

But it has always come down to the sticker price. I say lease! but that is such a strange concept to many (like it was to me 5 years ago!) so the tax break is a must. It is simply another great incentive to get fence sitters into the EV game. This allows them to see firsthand how cheap an EV can be since nearly all will still have a gasser in garage for direct comparisons.

Now I don't know how close we came to not having any tax waiver at all but it does seem like this law was not a sure fire thing so I am grateful we still have something so all in all, I am very much in favor of the new EV incentive rules because the alternative was just too scary to think about!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

June 2015 Driving Stats; The Pitfalls of Budget Transportation

Ok, first off; the front end woes of my Corolla continued resulting in 3 more trips to the shop resulting in a final repair bill of $532.66.  Added to the previous trip (when my wheel almost fell off) of $728.94 essentially makes my $2300 car a $3500 car but at least the front end does not make any noise anymore, at least not yet anyway...

As far as the Corolla goes, it went 323.1 miles (about half was trips to the repair shops along with random test drives)  for nothing!~!   well, not really but did not purchase gas in June so using the last purchase in May, It cost $23.86 or roughly 7.4 cents per mile. There is just over a quarter tank left but will probably fill it before its next use for easy math purposes for lack of a better reason.

The LEAF went 1375.2 miles at a cost of $24.22 soaking me at the rate of 1.76 cents per mile. Included in that cost was a pitstop at Tahoma Market for a buck 66 of electrons.  I did use the "free bucket" network 5 times.

Today I proved our crappy freeway system makes Nissan good on their 100 mile claim.  One would think at 4:45 AM there would be no traffic slowdown but noooo... still had roughly 10-12 miles of reduced speeds including the typical Tacoma Dome stretch and Southcenter stretch where the speeds average 20 mph on good days.  All in all, drove 98.5 miles with a kwh to spare

I had actually planned to do a pit stop in Tacoma after dropping off paperwork at the office and get a TB test (required every year...) at the same time but found that my remaining range was enough to get home so I got TB test in Lacey after lunch instead!

And for those of you who think the above was mostly in town driving, not the case. Granted there were stretches of the freeway that were slow but it still was about 75-80% at 60 mph. Besides, 5.2 miles per kwh around town is definitely nothing to brag about.

This is in town driving!

June was warm, in fact the warmest on record. It was so warm that it would have been the 8th hottest August on record (August is our hottest month with average highs of 78º. Average highs in June is 73°) and today its 92º with promises of 90's for 7 of the next 12 days (we average 5 days in the 90's each Summer)  so looks like we are quickly losing our "climate" advantage for battery degradation.

As always, I will keep you posted!