Saturday, December 24, 2016

30 KWH; Bigger, Faster, Hotter??

Anyone who says the LEAF's 30 kwh pack is not an improvement simply does not have a 30 kwh pack. Yes, its still on the borderline of what a road warrior would need.  Yes, it still must rely on a reasonable public charging network and yes, it will probably degrade faster than a TMS battery pack would, but...

I have yet to realize just how much more freedom I have because I got mine at the end of November so its been cold, rainy, snowy, and even windy...VERY windy!  But a few things are already obvious; I now do what I couldn't dream of doing with a 24 kwh pack.

I am not talking about those Wintertime 80 mile trips that I made in my 24 kwh LEAF with VERY careful planning that I now do without even thinking about how much charge I have left. Typically, on the way home, I am in a hurry so previously I drove as fast as my remaining range and weather conditions permitted me to do, which was usually 55-60 mph.  Now, even at 70+, I am barely hitting LBW by the time I get home.

I am also not talking about the 163 mile trip I took the other day which included an unexpected detour to pick up my Sister when BiL's near new Chevy Truck went DOA on the highway.  This was an unplanned 52 mile detour.  I had already planned on getting a quick boost on the way home since I would still be near 110 miles in Winter but now it was a full blown 30 min charge on the way there.  Thankfully, the 30 kwh pack takes a charge at near full speed at much higher SOC's.  This allowed me to get enough so that I did not have to stop again on the way home. Again, not possible in the 24 kwh pack especially when the charging speed starts to drop before 50% SOC!

In a nutshell, the 30 kwh pack not only provides roughly 20-25 miles of extra range (5.4 kwh) its ability to charge faster means a much greater flexibility in planning a drive that may include charging stations not in the ideal position along the route.


There is a catch. The 30 kwh pack has been available since the beginning of the 2016 model year in the SL/SV trim with the S Trim getting it mid Fall.  There was a lot of reports of "2nd Gen" LEAFers who claimed their 30 kwh pack heated up much faster than their previous 24 kwh packs despite less fast charging sessions.

Well this was a concern! What good is getting extra kwh's on the road if it heated up your pack so much that it rendered the car nearly unusable?

Now, initially I had some doubts. Hot weather was probably part of it.  I figured people were just Kwh crazed, driving 75 mph,  zipping from one station to the next only because they could.  But then I saw some reports in mid Fall from an Oregonian when the weather was in the mid 40's. Wow, that is not hot weather at all!

So I decided to heat up my pack to see just how bad it was.  But 3 stops at fast chargers this past week didn't seem to do much heating at all. As always the weather was completely uncooperative being much colder than normal. So might have to repeat this experiment when we get back to normal.  For some background, at this time of year, I usually had 4 temp bars and a fast charge would bump me to 5 or 6 temp bars and I would almost always have at least 5 temp bars the next morning.  But that is not happening with my 30 kwh pack and because I park in my garage, the colder than normal temps are not really a factor since the garage temperature swing is only about 4-5º even on the coldest days.

So, I purposely did not charge the night before, got up yesterday morning, OAT was 33º, garage was 50.2º and batt temps were 50.2/49.8/49.2.  So did a bit of driving around and then hit the Tumwater DCFC

Time Stamp 12:15
As you can see, the driving around we did hardly changed temps at all. In fact, the last number went down. This one I am guessing is at the end of the pack or more exposed because it always quickly diverges from the other two always being cooler than the top 2.  I also suspect that it might not be as accurate since its usually reading lower than the garage temp. (or I need to change battery in garage sensor...:) )

Time Stamp 12:38
So I charged for 21 mins to get to 80% (There was also a car with Campbell Edmonds Dealer plates who pulled in...) cutting it a bit shorter than planned but still ok.  AV says I got 12.05 kwh and as you can see LEAF Spy counted 11.558 kwh to the pack adding 12.6 kwh as "available" so the heatup worked. OAT has dropped to 32º and it starts to snow.

We then went home to wear out the Xbox which was 10 miles and FOREVER to get there. People seem to lose their ability to make rational decisions behind the wheel when flakes appear. Its almost as if they are auditioning for that scene from "The Wizard of OZ" or something...

Time Stamp 14:05
We get home and park in garage cause its snowing like crazy now and I don't want that stuff on my car but we leave garage door open (which is pretty normal for me during the day anyway) Later we dash off to get something to eat.  We picked a bad day to be out driving. It literally took us longer to drive the 3.4 miles to the restaurant than it took us to order, eat our food and leave.

We go home and car is in garage with door shut, OAT warms up to 25º, Garage is 45º. (left door open too long).  A few hours later, car has to give up its spot for Kayak (another story) but just for an hour.
Car returns to garage, door shut.

Time Stamp 20:46
LEAF put to bed with no dinner. (She was not bad or anything like that. Just another sacrifice for pseudoscience!)

Time Stamp 08:02  12/24/16
I got up, crank on heat (overnight temp is generally set to 55-58º), drink coffee and checked LEAF.  As always, all 3 are back to near ambient temps. I guess I should have checked before I turned on heat. But in reality, I probably don't want to know how much my furnace is heating up the garage. Sometimes a bit of ignorance is... well, you know.

In conclusion; my experiment did not go as I had planned cause I wanted to heat the pack up a bit more but even in the times I did it earlier in the week, I was still seeing the same results the next morning. The pack always returned to near ambient temps.

Another thing to keep in mind is most of what I was doing during the week was charging at Tacoma Mall, spending 25-40 minutes to drive home and immediately parking in garage with door shut so even with a somewhat climate controlled garage that never got below 46º even during the colder days, I was still seeing all the heat generated from fast charging dissipated overnight.

This experiment is not done but the initial results are interesting.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Winter Time LEAFing AKA How I get 100 Miles In The Dead of Winter!

Despite the calendar saying Winter is not arriving for a few weeks, Our Winter officially started a few days ago when the Mercury went below freezing.  This afternoon we are expected to get our first significant snowfall in nearly 2 years (or longer. Its been so long, not sure when it snowed and stuck around for more than a day...)

All this means reduced driving range on our EVs.  So a few tips for any EVers and also some great gift ideas for an EVer on your Christmas list!

First off; lower tire pressures reduces efficiency and tire pressures drop as the temperature drops.  What I do is set my tire pressures in the Fall to 44 PSI.  This generally means pressures no lower than roughly 42 PSI during the coldest of  Winter weather.  The rule of thumb is to expect a drop of one PSI for every 10ºF drop in temperature.  Another thing to remember is to set your tire pressures during the coldest part of the day.  First thing in the morning is usually the most convenient for me.

2nd;  Maintaining safety.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, temps in the 20's are rare but wet, rainy weather is not. So being able to see clearly is a huge concern. Making sure your windshield wipers are in good shape and maintaining the inside glass will reduce the need for using defrost to clear the glass.   One of the things I found that works best is this.

Mine has a two part handle which allows you to reach the entire windshield from the driver's seat. The handle comes in two parts so can easily fit in the glove box for storage. The microfiber cloth acts as a glass polisher which does a great job of not only drying the glass but cleaning off the tiny particles and junk that tends to gather on the glass. Gillian from the Seattle LEAF owners group;

"PM auto expert Mike Allen explains that the hazy buildup common to interior window surfaces comes from gaseous vinyl chloride, a plasticizer added to soften vinyl components, which slowly off-gases as a filmy fume. On a hot day, Allen says, the stuff just sublimates right out of the dashboard. Allen could see a use for the tool reaching across anything from steep-raked muscle car windshields to those long-dashed early '90s minivans that looked like DustBusters. Even if the windshield is clean, he might use the microfiber cloth to wipe interior condensation before defrosting "
I did verify this to be accurate. My first version of this I got last year and when I first used it, the streaks were very easy to see and I found that eventually I removed the streaks and the associated distortion.   Also keep in mind. The fog on your windshield is actually millions of water droplets condensing  on the glass simply because the glass cools down much faster than the rest of the car.  Water vapors need something to attach to.  Removing the slimy film along with dirt (most likely diesel particles btw... :( )  makes it that much tougher for water droplets to find a place to form which reduces the need for defrost as well.


Its currently on Amazon for $9 for a two pack!! So give one, keep one! FYI; fogging issues happen on every car.

Keeping moisture in check helps as well. The drier the car (and contents) the less fogging. Now in an area where the humidity runs high nearly all Winter, that can be a challenge.  I do have a pair of desiccant cans which helps I'm sure but I decided to bolster the drying power (Plus I need something for the Corolla) so I ordered a pair of these.  These plug in to regenerate via USB or regular power.  The "333" is the size of the area they should cover. Guessing that is cubic feet.

Thirdly and the most subjective is maintaining comfort.  Now this is the toughest since some people can handle cold and some cannot.  I find that its easy to be "heatless" in the morning than on the evening trip home.  Now part of it is hot shower, hot coffee and a lot of commute left in the morning verses  commute target in sight and extra range to burn!! (well... sometimes)

But the real takeaway is dressing for the weather! I had a video of a lady wearing a few sheer dress with a light weight sweater impatiently waiting for a tow truck driver to jump her disable vehicle (yes it was a gasser!) in Michigan and I can only guess she was not comfortable. So hat, gloves and coat is the minimum!

Now I am heading into my first Winter with my 2016 which does not have steering wheel or backseat heaters! both of which was in my 2013. I have blankets for both front and back seats including a Seahawks wrap thing that has arm holes!  The blankets helped trap the heat so my passengers actually felt very comfortable.  But I decided that a 12 volt blanket for the backseat was in order and got one large enough for both people on Amazon for $27.

For the cold hands issues,  I generally wear Seahawks Gloves during Winter all the time even on warm days but on the colder days, they fall short especially if my hands were already cold when getting in the car (A common issue with my job) so a bit of help was needed.

This I picked up at Shopko for $7 for the two pack. The warming pads are small enough that I can slip them inside my gloves so they sit on the back of my hands and are very effective in keeping my hands toasty!  They are reusable so should last a long time. One thing I did find out is that they need to be reset so they are good for one trip (or two if you are ok with one cold hand. :) ) but as mentioned before, in the morning I am generally pretty comfortable. You can also get an 8 pack on Amazon right now for $24. This is probably the way to go. This allows you to not get caught unprepared.  For $35 they have hand warmers that also provide duty as a flashlight and portable power pack for your electronics.

Finally, the biggest thing you can do is simply slow it down a bit.  Not only does it increase your range but its also all about safety. wet, snow, black ice, etc. all increases our risks on the road. Cold air is denser so your LEAF must work harder to push that heavier air out of the way.  There is no getting around that basic reality of physics other than reducing your speed.

In conclusion, the most important issue that needs to be understood is you. We all have limits to compromise, comfort, etc. and thanks to Global Warming, most of the time it simply isn't that cold here.  So if you think all this is my using any excuse I can to show Seahawks Pride, you might be on to something!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Nov 2016 Drive Report; Gasser Ignored

Another month is in the can and this month's statistics will involve 3 cars instead of the normal 2! If you are familiar with my previous blogs, you will realize that this is the first report for my new 2016 S30 which also means that my 2013 S24 will make its final appearance on the monthly drive reports so without further ado (personally not sure why that word works here. I prefer "to do" but whatever...)

For the month end November 30, 2016 the Corolla went 11.6 miles at a cost of...uhh, hmmm? ok, I guess that "3 car" report isn't working out...

The 2013 LEAF traveled 610.6 miles at an estimated cost of $12.87 or 2.11 cents per mile. For the last 10 days of its life (for me) its low water stats for GIDs, kwh available, ahr, Hx were 257, 19.9, 58.47, 88.69, On the high end;  260, 20.3, 60.30, 92.42%. I did turn it in with about 160 miles remaining of its 45,000 mile lease so plenty left for a test drive! Call Ray now!

The 2016 went 1318.2 miles (in 20 days... already blowing up my lease miles  *sigh*) at a cost of $28.02 or 2.14 cents per mile. Now that figure does include $3.05 in public charging fees but in reality, my costs would be much higher.  Without NCTC  I would be over 3 cents per mile.  Thus far, my new LEAF is struggling to average 3.6 miles/kwh.  This a huge drop in performance from my 2011 and 2013.

Now, part of that is more range for a lot of trips that are not further in distance, new tires and "unusual" weather.

On that unusual weather part, you might know that I advertise the Pacific Northwest Winters as being 6 solid months of humid misery. Fairbanks Alaska gets 10X more Sun at this time of year! And yes, I admit I do it to discourage people from relocating here. We already have enough people here and now working on ways to get rid of a few we already got so more people coming in is not going to work. After all, Olympia is the foggiest city in the US!! (and that part "is" true!)

But the truth is that Chicago, Detroit and New York gets more annual precipitation than Seattle does. But this year, our Winter has lived up to my (somewhat exaggerated) billing.  We set all time records for rain in October and since I got my 2016, the weather for the end of November has hardly been better. On the last day of November, we exceeded the average rainfall for the year.   So thinking I either had a very smooth rolling LEAF before or maybe need an adjustment on this one for alignment or something.

A quick check on the early days of both my 2011 and 2013 (received in Jan and Dec so similar weather) shows an average just over 4 miles per kwh (mpk).  This is normal since on wetter days, I get 3.5 to 3.7 mpk while drier days I am in the low to mid 4's.   I have only hit 4.4+ mpk mark 3 times.  And yes, that is just slightly less than the number of good days we have had lately.  This eliminates the new tire possibility.  Using the same old Ecopias.

Another test involves 2 down slopes I drive nearly every day. The one is Northbound I-5 into the Nisqually Flats.  I shift to neutral at a certain point (marked by a sign) and even during crappy Winter weather, I can normally get up to 62-63 mph (70 mph in Summer)  but not able to maintain 60 mph now and even tried hitting the sign a few mph faster...still didn't work.

The other one is much less gradual and South of the Cabela's roundabout. Here I shift to neutral as low as 30 mph and am able to hit 50 mph.  Now, barely hitting 40-42  mph.

In looking at other differences, it became obvious that cruise control maybe nice but its not efficient. So I have gone back to my old style of feathering the pedal and varying my speed a few miles per hour to take advantage of short down slopes or minimizing the penalties of short up hills. This seems to benefit my performance about .2 or .3 mpk.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Is LEAF Braking Breaking? Or Is It A "Regen Penalty?"

Waaaay back in the day when the 2011 LEAF was the only version around, there were some people that had grabby brakes. This seemed to happen the most in heavy, slow stop and go traffic.   A fix was issued and the results covered the entire range of possibilities. Some people reported it was fixed, others reported it was better, and a few reported it started out better but went back to bad within a few days to a few weeks. IOW; the fix did not address the cause of the issue.

Fast forward to 2013 and again the same braking issue.  A few differences here and there but basically the same symptoms. One would be gliding to a stop, feathering the pedal with the goal of getting the maximum regen with only enough friction braking to accomplish the stop and all of a sudden, the full braking force of the car kicked in causing a screeching stop.

Now during all this, I never experienced the issue.  I got the recall done because that is how I am. I pretty much never make a special trip to get any of these things done instead electing to do all of them on a random visit to the dealership. Now this all worked out well (except for AC issue on the 2013 when it decided to stop working on a record breaking day in April. Considering Global Warming, you can guess which end of the records spectrum we are talking about!)

Now, many claimed they could reproduce the issue at will.  I followed their process several times and it didn't happen. Not sure why. It just didn't. I chalked it up to the variances all products had despite the fact that this was not an isolated incident.  It actually became easier to ignore because the 2013 fix seemed to be much more effective and the sad fact that LEAF degeneration levels of the 2011-12's meant not that many surviving 2011's out there unless they were part of the small few who got replacement batteries.

But then Kelly Carmichael from BC Canada who still had his 2011 had the issue reappear.  He stated the change to colder weather seemed to aggravate the situation but the problem is that being in the Pacific Northwest, we rarely get that cold especially if hanging around at or near sea level.  So why was this happening? Why was the fix not working for him but working other people?

As always was a great resource to find out what others were experiencing.  Many echoed the sentiment that the fix was at best temporary for quite a few.  Others mentioned some workarounds that seemed to work including one person who disabled traction control, depressed brake pedal to the floor, held it a few seconds, let go and re-enabled traction control and the issue disappeared immediately.   Kelly tried this and it worked for him.  But again, some reported the workaround had to be repeated on a regular basis.

All this got me to thinking. I never had the issue and never disabled traction control with the one exception. The following is a distraction completely unrelated to the topic at hand but was fun doing it!

With all this in mind, I took off for work and as always, got stuck in traffic and realized that I was subconsciously pressing the brake pedal way beyond the point I needed to complete the stop. It was sort of a stretching exercise that I realized I was doing because it also seemed to relieve a tiny bit of stress. This was actually in the Corolla (which had been sitting 5 weeks and needed to be driven) so my first thought was I had to get my LEAF and try this.

So I jump in my 2016 LEAF and a few things I need to remind you of first.  Eco B is nearly 100% effective for one foot driving.  I have only touched the brakes more than a tap one time and that was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving when exiting I-5 North at Sleater-Kinney/College St which was a good thing because I could see that the traffic was backing up a few hundred yards ahead. Well a truck (diesel no less...) didn't realize it and cut from the far left lane across 3 lanes and into the medium, across it and off on my exit causing me to have to brake pretty hard to miss him. If my car had not been shiny, I would have rammed him, but... anyway.

I drove around and at the first stop, I depressed the pedal and was immediately surprised the pedal became firm almost immediately making the distance from the onset of friction braking to the floor much farther than I had remembered.

So back to my 2011 and what I remembered.  The 2011 had the best user controlled regen. Now, maybe it was my imagination but I could ease on the pedal and max the regen and I could feel the boundary where friction braking would start.  But that level of control was short lived because the brake "fix" took away a lot of that feeling.  Now, anything beyond the very lightest touch resulted in a mix of regen and friction braking. I could no longer light up the last regen circle with the brake pedal without some friction braking.  I spent a lot of time experimenting before resigning myself to the fact that Nissan simply took that ability away from me.

My 2013 was the same way. Regen simply was not as easy as before and it was also tougher to fill that last circle especially at lower speeds. This was disappointing especially when there were too many times a tiny bit of pressure on the pedal was needed in heavy traffic and the thought of using even a touch of friction braking really kinda pissed me off.  A LOT!

So imagine my surprise at how well Eco B worked. I loved it! The dozens of complaints from both the LEAF and Prius forum about "too sluggish" "like driving underwater"  I simply couldn't understand that attitude at even the very basic level. After all, I could punch the throttle and the  car took off just fine! Not $100,000 acceleration mind you, but I know me well enough to know I want to continue living so not having all that acceleration is a good thing.

So the days of slowly easing on the brakes was all but done.  Most of the time I could get down to under 10 mph before touching the brakes. So at the point, I didn't care what percentage of braking was regen verses friction because at roughly 8 mph, its all friction!

Then it hit me...

With a 2 mode braking system, an algorithm is needed to insure a safe stop in all situations.  This means both pedal position and pedal position acceleration have to be in concert with each other.  In a slow controlled stop situation, most of the top positioning is going to be primarily regen. In the 2011, I probably could coax close to 50% of pedal travel to regen only.

In an emergency stop, sensors detect greater pedal acceleration which charges the ABS system and friction braking kicks in much sooner as in almost immediately. After all, when 15 feet behind a bumper and closing fast, regen is not the priority any more!  IOW, almost all of the pedal positioning is now primarily friction braking.

I began to realize that the workaround of pushing the pedal to the floor was possibly a reset of the pedal positioning sensor. I seem to recall some people not liking the pedal going nearly to the floor in gradual stop situations but to be honest, can't remember if it the Prius forum or the LEAF forum or both

So we go back to Kelly's car and why his issue only happens in Winter but when only experiencing "Fall-like" weather?    Part of the 2013 brake fix was cycling the brake or ABS charge cylinder or something more frequently to keep it from freezing up.  Well as mentioned above, it aint freezing here and its not really even close. But its apparent that temperature is a factor at least for Kelly...

But Kelly has a 2011 with degradation and we do know that cold batteries do not regen as well which means even at lower SOC's sometimes regen simply either cuts out or is much lower than normal. IOW, can't light up that last circle!  Degradation multiplies that issue.

All this got me to thinking that the sudden braking was being caused by the shutdown of regen at 8 mph so when the friction brakes take over, they are overreacting to the pedal position not realizing it was the new boundary  of sorts for mostly regen verses mostly friction.

To clarify; normally the threshold between regen and friction braking moves depending on the driving circumstances, right?  We can "create" pedal play which allows us to vary the regen to get the most regen we can based on how much space we have and what speed we are traveling at. It would almost appear that the regen system is not talking with the friction braking system or at least is losing some of the information the two systems should be sharing.

Now does any of this make sense?

Lets look at the 2011 owners who had pretty much every possible solution to the brake fix. It ran from "fixed it!" to "a complete waste of my time"  So why the results so different in mostly identical cars?  What is the variance here?

Its the driver.  We all drive differently and we all pretty have our own ideas of how to maximize range.  Look at MNL discussions on regen verses neutral verses drive verses eco verses the day of the week! Everyone has their own ideas of how to get that last mile.

So I am looking for someone who has a 2011 and a 2013+ or one with B mode.  Is their a significant difference in brake pedal travel. Does your pedal slowly sink when you are braking primarily in regen mode?


Ok getting a lot of confusion so guess I need to clear up my muddy thinking a bit.  As mentioned the braking system is two parts regen and ABS or friction brakes.  Now the key thing is in an emergency stop detected by a fast change in pedal position, the ABS kicks in quicker.  Now we know regen cuts out at about 8 mph. So what happens if the regen pedal position is out of whack and it reports a position of 20 but when the ABS takes over under 8 mph, its sees 30? This ABS will read this as an emergency stop and you know the rest!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Fast Charging Info On LEAF Spy

On my last blog I mentioned I would be using a 50 KW fast charger to see how differently it reacted and as expected, it was better than the 40 KW charger proportionally which means more power in the same amount of time.  Average intake on 40 KW for 30 mins (NRG auto shutoff time)  14ish kwh.   AV on 29 mins; just over 20 kwh!!... I think...


The numbers bounce around a bit but was trying to
 show that it was charging at 32 KW over 80% SOC!

I used 50 KW AV DCFC yesterday for the first time (keeping in mind NRG is a 40 KW charger for the most part) and some "interesting" numbers.
LEAF Spy read 62 GIDs 4.8 kwh available and as always I reset the energy counter just before charge started. 

Charged for 29 mins (AV does not automatically shut off at 30 mins under NCTC) hitting as much as 47.7 KW (never seen 48 btw). Finished the charge and received 20.05 kwh per AV display, 19.42 kwh per LEAF Spy counter, 332 GIDs 25.7 kwh remaining.

My question; how does this add up?
Charge received 19.42 to 20.05 Kwh but available kwh increased 20.9 kwh ?
GID increased from 62 to 332 or 270 which is 77 wh/GID if using the 20.9 figure.
Now wondering if I have an errant LEAF Spy setting?

Checking LEAF Spy logs I can get a fairly good power calculation by summing the power found by multiplying the power on OBC out by the epoch delta (which I think is in seconds) and dividing by 3600 to get a watt-hour approximation. This verifies LEAF Spy readings (why wouldn't it?) and did see a brief hit at 48.6 KW! (so much for that never over 48 KW theory) 

shown from left; line number, GIDs, epoch time, OBC out,
 GPS Status (anyone know what it means? strange to see different 
numbers when car was parked?) and kwh calc

Kelly Carmichael proposed an interesting theory on the Seattle Facebook Page
 I dont know the answer, but I would suspect that the gids is tuned to the lowest cell voltage and if you started with an unbalanced pack then you could get access to some energy you already had but wouldn't have been able to use if you had kept driving.

Interesting theory especially when considering the pack will only give based on the lowest voltage cell so an out of balance pack would leave a lot of GIDs unused among the higher voltage cells and generally the voltage delta among cells widens as the SOC drops and the opposite happens when SOC rises.

Now its well established that balance is good but not necessarily critical for longevity when needs are met in without hitting low SOC.  But the question; Is Nissan's BMS that sophisticated?  Because if it is, this does explain a few things.

I reported a few years ago having additional range below the "zero kwh remaining" level. In fact it was this extra mile or so of hidden range that allowed me to make it home on what appeared to be a "GID on steroids"

Will be doing this again to see if the results are repeatable but for those Electrical Engineers out there; Does this seem plausible?  I understand balancing happens all the time but without a "ceiling" to slow the higher voltage cells, it was my understanding the balancing current was simply too low to be "quickly" effective.  Since the SOC peaked at 92% SOC, am I to think that some cells had already reached their peak voltage?  That sounds like my pack needs a lot more balancing? 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

2017 Chevy Bolt; Affordable EV For the Masses Or "Trumpetware?"

When it was announced, we really didn't take it seriously. It was 2 years away, it was Chevy and Tesla was already in town.

Then the prototype  came this past Summer. With sneer, road tests were done and redone and done again. 238 Miles??  Like WOW!! This wasn't pampered miles AKA "100 mile LEAF" , it was "real" miles!

Something was wrong. By all accounts (if you believe advanced hype) Chevy would be first, and with longer range!! What gives?  How did Chevy all of sudden vault into the upper echelons of EVdom?

But then, little pieces of reality started sinking in.  Granted the Bolt is real. There are already Bolts on the ground in OR with hundreds of deliveries on the road to the dealership as we type. So its not "vaporware" by any definition...


Nationwide Availability was being redefined.  California and Oregon would be getting huge allotments ASAP with the other "CARB" states following.

New Hampshire
New York
New Jersey
Rhode Island

Not only is the 2nd largest EV market, WA not on the list but neither is favorite Son, Michigan. So what started out as a nearly 2 year advantage GM had over Tesla's "affordable EV for the Masses" may now be a near dead heat in many areas.

So when will the rest get theres? Well its anyone's guess and since you are reading this, I am thinking you want to hear mine.

The Bolt roll out seems to be following the Volt roll out at least initially but there is a HUGE difference;

First off,  unlike Tesla who plans to manufacture their "affordable EV" in nationwide volumes, Chevy is not.  They announced initial volume figures that have slowly gone down to the current "20,000 to 30,000" in the first year.  With the pent up demand for a longer range EV, that might not even cover the 11 states mentioned above.  If we remember, the Volt did not sell very well until they put in the huge price cuts.

Lyft; Remember a large allotment of the initial units will be going to Lyft.

Unless Chevy has a backup plan to double production, this leaves the rest of us out in the cold.  Now I know a few Washingtonians who have talked with dealers, paid money for their place in line and are expecting their Bolts by early Spring and have ending leases backing up their bets.

ahh, like oops.

Its my prediction we not see "available" Bolts until Summer or later.  But we will see them, eventually.  Makes my LEAF lease decision a no brainer. Waiting a few months would have been terribly inconvenient, but 6 months is out of the question. I would literally have to buy another car to cover the gap.

So unlike "vaporware" that has a detailed announcement complete with a feature list, etc. This is more like "Trumpetware" when the product announced, happens more or less on time but in a very redefined way. IOW; the hype is not living up to the announcement... at least not yet.


*The Bolt won't be available nationwide at least initially.  To me a nationwide launch is pretty much that. Available in most of the states within a few months.

*Not the affordable EV we have been looking for.  Lease figures have come out for the Bolt but a straightforward calculation is not that easy due to sweetheart deals that appears to only be available to CA lessees only but if punching in basic numbers for lower trim with fast charge, we are getting roughly a total lease cost of $17746 that includes roughly $617 in sales tax for the portion exceeding $32,500.  This works out to a lease mileage rate of  39.4 cents per mile.  Weighted by range/price drops it to .001657.

Shown with 15,000 annual lease miles 

On my LEAF lease;  Total cost (real cost yet to be determined but this is close enough) was 18.9 cents per mile divided by the 108 mile EPA estimate (although I have found that to be on the low end) brings a factor of .001770 or 6.8% more or $585.45 over the life of the 3 year lease.   No word yet on other possible Bolt perks like NCTC but I could easily get that much free juice.

* Low initial volumes will keep demand high and less than optimal lease terms will keep the buy/lease ratio high. Looks like Chevy is pulling out all the stops to maintain what maybe a razor thin profit margin. This tells me that the T3 has them running scared?

Now, keep in mind; this is pure speculation since lease terms constantly change to address current market conditions and the pathetic terms for the Bolt can't get worse.  For one thing; only $2500 of the $7500 fed credit is being applied to the lease so in reality, there could be a huge discount 6 months from now especially if sales are sluggish but am guessing that is not going to happen. Too many people have the money and want the peace of mind, longer range EVs bring. But one thing is clear and that is buy is a far better deal than leasing as long as the car is a reliable long term driver.

We shall see.

**Edit** Thanks to Brian Henderson, I am reminded that the WA State sales tax waiver is on its last legs and the current super sweet lease deals on LEAFs and Souls could very well drain the well dry...

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

How 6 Kwh Lead Me Into a Life of Crime

Week one is done (well week and a day) with the new S30 and some very "preliminary" observations.

*The added range has literally turned me into a criminal.  Besides simply driving faster because I can, I had a situation when something unexpected came up just before I had to be at work so I ended up driving 75 mph to work to make it on time. Nice that there is minimal traffic on the streets at 3:45 AM! The best part is this did NOT cause me to have to stop and charge on the way home like a 24 kwh would have done.  Estimated range for that day (which was also one of the heaviest rain days) was still 90+ miles.

*The text read option on the LEAF failed. It was sending the message "I'm driving"  to the last  few people I texted automatically as soon as I started driving.  When you are on the road as early as I am, its a good way to lose friends!

*Had a thin skinned passenger so used heat for about 30 mins the other day. Have to say there was minimal impact the range but....

*Not getting the efficiency performance I normally get.  Not ready to say there is something wrong. But I rarely have this many days under 4 miles/kwh when the weather is this mild. Haven't had the car long enough in enough different climate conditions to make any definitive statements yet. Also have to consider that new tires are also going to contribute to lower numbers.

I have a few hills that I almost always drive in neutral. There is a significant difference in the attained speed from Summer to Winter and wet to dry but NB I-5 Nisqually Hill I can normally hit at least 62-63 MPH in the most extreme of conditions in Winter with 64-66 MPH more typical.  I am only hitting 60-61 MPH and that is with a start speed of 60 mph. This car simply does not appear to roll as easily as previous LEAFs, at least not in neutral.

*Fast Charge profile is AWESOME!  To test, I started a charge at 75% SOC and it went at  full charge for almost all of the 15 minute test.  I used the NRG Station at Tacoma Mall which is only a 40 KW station roughly since it max'es out at 100 amps.  My charging rate only dropped into the 75 amp range in the last few minutes.  I will repeat this test at the AV station in Tumwater or Centralia soon since they are 50 KW stations that can run up to 125 amps.  Now why is this important?  Well we still are not really covered by fast chargers in the South Sound area. Huge holes abound here so I am frequently faced with the decision when passing a fast charger early in the journey. Stopping means charging with SOC high which means a much slower charge which also means not a good use of my time. My solution was drive slower to so I could either not stop at all or at least have a comfortable margin (mile or so...) to get to the next fast charger.

*Eco B works well to slow me enough in traffic that touching the brakes is becoming a rather rare event.  This allowed me to discover that this just might make me safer in heavy traffic.  The other day, a motorist waved to me to advise my brake lights weren't working which made me realize that someone thinking my brake lights weren't working is likely to follow me at a greater distance than normal. I am ok with that!

*No steering wheel heater... kinda miss it but I have Seahawks Gloves and have been looking for an excuse to wear them more often, so its rationalization working OT here!

As always, more to come!  Have a nice Holiday all!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

100% or 80%?

In response to an MNL post, I realized that not everything I thought was somewhat common knowledge is not all that well known.

**Now this is "only" my thoughts on the subject, none of which is based in scientific fact. I have only my real observations and suppositions.**

Your longevity is better off cycling thru the upper 3/4th of the SOC range but that leaves a lot of range on the table  and for a short range car like the LEAF, that removes spontaneity and other unexpected joys of life.  not a good thing.  so with that in mind;

What you shouldn't do is leave your car at full charge for excessive periods of time so plan your charging appropriately. what is "excessive?"  well you need to decide that based on your life.  Obviously less is better.

the same goes for low SOC. your car tells you, so listen. Those triple warnings (LBW, VLB,Turtle) are not there to keep you company. it is a notification that "action is required" which means plug it in as soon as you get home.   many people make the mistake of leaving it this way for 3-6 hours waiting for the timer to kick in.  I plug mine in for at least an hour or so. then unplug. its a LOT of work but the extra steps makes my fitbit happy. :)  Due to the additional strain the timer puts on the 12 volt battery, I NEVER use a timer.  Going on my  7th year over 3 LEAFs and zero 12 volt battery issues. Probably just a coincidence. maybe...

My rule of thumb; if you are driving more than 20% of your range one way and parking all day,  before returning home, charge to 100%.  If you are driving more than 30% of your range round trip with short stops like an hour or two for shopping or dinner, charge to 100%.

Background; check my blog for battery stats manipulation. there are a half dozen. It is a well repeated phenomena that driving longer distances, cycling deeper and fast charging increases the range.  I regularly see a 5-8% jump so why is this happening?  Especially when we consider that balancing happens ALL THE TIME so why is top end balancing more effective?

well because unlike balancing at 80% where there is no restrictions on individual cells,  at the top end,  the higher voltage cells are completely cut out of the charging profile.  This allows lower voltage cells to catch up which increases the overall charge in the pack.  At 80%, all cells are receiving a charge because none have reached their max voltage. When the charge cycle stops, the balancing only now has the chance to equalize the cell voltages across the pack.

Finally; a Nissan Engineer stated last year at the European Car Show (or in the area) that you can gain a few miles of range by restarting a completed charge cycle a few times. I tried this by unplugging and plugging in every 10 mins for half an hour.  results varied but did work at least once. I think in my case, my pack was already pretty close to its top end balancing apex.

Friday, November 11, 2016

In With The New; Introducing The Era Of Eco B!

When we last blogged it was a goodbye to a very loyal servant who excelled in her ability to get me where I needed to go even on her last assignment of 82 miles in length with double digits to spare (If you are wondering, yes the GOM's primary purpose is to pump up her ego...)

Now it was time to move on but to what? Range is a concern but also have to look at value.  The Bolt seems to be the only option that provides a significant range difference but it was probably at least 3 months out and its my prediction that pent up demand for a 200 mile EV will insure that the supply remains tight for most of the year meaning the Bolt will go for premium prices for most if not all of 2017. This is verified at least initially by reports from the first orders of the Bolt where buyers reported there was absolutely no negotiations on price.  So an average out the door price of $40,000+ would be my likely scenario.  Now WA only waives the first $32,500 so I would be taxed on the extra.  So pencil math says I maintain the 2.1 cents per mile on the Bolt which is HIGHLY unlikely and that will be explained below, and a target of 22 cents per mile, on a purchase, I would have to be around 175,100 miles based on a $40,000 purchase price, $675 sales tax, onl $6,000 of the fed tax credit,  $5,000 down and 7 year loan at 3%.   So your results may vary but I give you my data so you can figure it separately.

Of course it doesn't make sense to compare purchases to leases but with no way of knowing what the Bolt will lease for, I really don't have a lot of options.  But its 238 miles of range!  Sorry but purchases require a long term commitment and 175,000 miles on an unproven and unseen car is not gonna happen here.  So chalk it up to bad timing cause not gonna lie, if the Bolt was on the streets, I could make real comparisons, but bad timing I excel at!  Nevertheless, in trying to make it work, I tried dozens of different scenarios including a $20,000 down payment to reduce interest but again,  it was that 175,000 mile commitment that held me back.  But I was still hesitant.  Then election day came.  Again, bad timing but I fear its for all of us, not just me...

So on to the LEAF option.  Here lease was easy and HUGELY beneficial financially.  For those that don't know, leasing another LEAF could potentially save you thousands.

*Disposition Fee of $395 for lease termination;  IGNORED!

*Up to $500 of damage to your returned lease vehicle;  GONE!

*Welcome Back (cause you never left) Loyalty Cash $1,000!! ; YOURS!

So in reality, the Bolt didn't have a chance. $40,000 minus whatever you qualify in the fed tax credit might be affordable to some, but not to me.

So off to my Employee discount page! It didn't take me long to find out I don't get to choose what dealer my interest is sent to so it took some finagling and 8 errant offers to finally figure out how to get who I wanted to see.  In examining the EV movement and the dealers doing the most to promote it, I immediately eliminated everyone who did not have a fast charger. This I knew I would do several months ago so then I started monitoring how often these fast chargers were working and how long it took to get them fixed when they broke. I can't blame the dealership for the equipment but I can blame them if they are dragging their feet to fix them!

Well, the dealer track record on this issue has not been stellar and I soon realized I had to expand my radius to get 3 options so my "circle" went from 50 miles to 83 miles.  Anyway, the winner was a near coin flip, but won because of his involvement with the Seattle LEAF Facebook page, his gushing customers, etc. It definitely wasn't because he was convenient! So yesterday, I charged up my old dilapidated LEAF and started on my 82.2 mile journey to see Ray at Campbell Nissan in Everett.

So we started out with the S30 (naturally) MSRP just over $33,000 after destination and some sort of protection package.  Discounted the protection package and my employee discount did not get the memo on the MSRP change so the discount for a plain S24 was around 800ish. Discounts on the higher trims ran $2000-$2500.  Either way, that was applied plus Dealer discounts, new price $29,330.  Notice this price is basically back to normal employee discounts when comparing MSRP of $30,860.

Then we apply loyalty cash as returning Nissan customer of $1,000.  New price  $28,330

Federal tax credit which Nissan applies at 100%. FYI; not every manufacturer does this. New price $20,830

Finally we have manufacturer's incentives. Keep in mind, if you are buying, incentives are larger but "Lease Cash" is nothing to sneeze at at $4,125.  New price $16,705.

Well that was fun, but unfortunately we have to add fees, $150 doc, $250 registration (which will be partially refunded) title fees $37.50.  Bottom line;  Zero down, 15,000 miles for 3 years and $245.99 a month, rent charge (basically interest on lease loan) $29.20, residual $9157.05.  So I get a new car, 6 more kwh for 24 cents per month over my old lease.  But more importantly its 18.9 cents per mile (includes a perk I hesitate to mention at this time)  Add the 2.1 cents per mile "fuel" costs and I am still well below the 22 cents per mile figure used on the Bolt.

Now, earlier I mentioned that getting 2.1 cents per mile on the Bolt would likely not happen and my reasoning is that it would not have happened for me either in my 2013 LEAF but I was able to take advantage of Nissan's "No Charge To Charge" program for 90 days (NCTC) as part of the battery settlement. I won't lie, I took MAJOR advantage of the program. My alternative was a $50 check. So I decided I would use $50 PER MONTH in public charging; a goal I accomplished quite easily.

I also mentioned earlier that I was prone to bad timing.  This is my 3rd LEAF lease and first NCTC qualification because yes, I barely missed qualifying for it my first two leases.  This time instead of 90 days of charging, I get 2 full years!!  My only question; Can I use it for the last two years of my lease instead of the first two years? Cause I don't see me needing it, at least not right away. :)

Anyway, after the math exercise was done  AKA negotiating the cost.  (all done by Facebook Messenger. This was the "real" reason why Ray was chosen. He was simply easy. )  It was time to pick a car.  I had a choice of Red or Blue but Red looked too much like the old Red but the Blue was nearly identical to my 2010 Prius so why not!

The 2nd consideration was time on the lot. The S30 simply hasn't been around long enough to worry about that.  So I fully expected a battery at 100%. So build date was 10/16 so far so good.  So I hooked up LEAF Spy and.... 99.91%... a bit of a disappointment. But I already knew she just needed a bit of exercise and the next morning pretty much confirmed this.

FYI; Before you say it, Yes I realize those tire pressures need fixing!

But as inflated as these numbers seem to be, the one thing that surprised me was Eco B. Where has this been all my life! It is a near perfect fit to Puget Sound Area traffic!   I left Everett at 89% SOC and 82.2 miles later, I still had over 50 miles on the GOM!  It was like being paroled after a 15 year sentence.  I already knew that 120 miles wouldn't be a challenge to me but I hadn't figured the impact of Eco B.  Seeing all the regen bubbles filled when coasting in Eco B at 30 mph was HEAVEN!!  Not quite like one foot driving (although I don't really want that. Close but not quite that extreme. ) but it is something I am sure to be investigating quite frequently if not all the time!

To summarize; In changing to the S 30, I lost steering wheel heater.  Now this was something I used extensively because discounting the few dozen times I had passengers, I might have used cabin heat 2 or 3 times maybe? (I actually don't remember using it at all, but I am fairly sure I used it to see if it worked so I am sticking to my "2 or 3 times" statement!) 

But I gained

*Cruise Control

*6 kwh

*better backup display (this was also a shocking difference!)

*Eco B!!! (I am soooo JAZZED!!) 

*two years of NCTC

* A much better charging profile. Now I can get 30 mins of fast charging instead of 10 mins of fast, 10 of medium and 10 mins of debatable L2 !

*A realistic purchase option (which I expect will go down even further in 3 years!) 
* a hidden perk

all for an additional 24 cents per month so now you know why I choose to LEAF again over the uh.. hmm??...uh... what car were we talking about earlier? 

Even if you are not in the market for a car, you have to meet Ray. He is a fascinating person to talk to and his philosophy on life is amazing.  At the dealership there is a sales board (every dealership has one) that only has room for 30 sales per month. Ray typically uses up his line on the board and then loops around to fill in the end of other people's line and its easy to see why. But if you are in the market, keep in mind that the more cars a dealership sells, the better the price they get from the manufacturer.  Ray is active on social media and a valuable source of info.  Remember who told us about the 30 kwh LEAF SIX MONTHS before anyone else knew it? Unless you were there when the 100 people online told you you were full of it only to see them eat crow later, you just don't know how it felt!

But if that isn't enough. Do it to combat World Hunger.  We have it lucky here. We got into Oil and it fueled our industrial growth and made us rich. It has become sadly apparent that many areas of the World will never get that opportunity.  Now some would say that "We did it, so they should be allowed to do it" (direct quote btw...) But that is not how it works. We also had slavery so because we did it, everyone else gets a turn too?  That is not how it works.  

But each LEAF Campbell Nissan sells, they will donate a goat to a needy family in Haiti or Kenya.  So if you don't want to help Ray, then do it because every child deserves to eat. 


As predicted, I received a refund for overpayment of the registration fees and its a bit puzzling because the breakdown seems right except for the fact that the $150 EV fee is missing... 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Out With The Old; Another LEAF Returns Home. (Not my home!)

34 months and 21 days ago, I brought home my 2013 Nissan LEAF S trim with the Charge package.  I went into it knowing it was pretty much the same as the 2011 SL I was turning in but without quite as many bells and whistles. Those I could live without but it was the range I wasn't as sure about. But 3 years ago, there was very little in the way of choices.  It was pretty much a Tesla or the LEAF.  The former was never a consideration, so LEAF it was.

I had few issues with my 2013. Only trip to the dealer was to replace AC hoses which I did receive a notice to get exchanged and did...immediately after they broke on the hottest April Day in Western WA history... Other than that, just for recalls and random updates. I was lucky. There were issues with the 2013 with brakes and other things but not here.

So here it was. I had less than 1000 miles left on my lease and exactly 8 weeks of my lease left. It was obvious what had to be done. I didn't say anything to her about my plans but I didn't have to; She knew the score.

So the return inspection was scheduled and that went smoothly. No extra charges. A bit of a surprise for me.  So an appointment was made and this morning I pulled her out of the garage for the last time.
Ahead was 82 miles of road in very heavy fog. A challenge for some but I wasn't worried and she was up for it. It was almost as if this was her last ditch effort to save herself, prove her worthiness and as always, she came thru with flying colors! As we descended into Seattle the Sun burst thru brilliantly turning a foggy Fall day into glorious sunny Summer Day!

The final stats are probably close to "real" since I drove less than 20 miles a day for the previous few days causing a drop in ahr from 60ish to this

hmm... lost a mile there somewhere?

The 44,840 miles used 10,895 kwh including nearly 970 kwh from public chargers.  Total "fuel" costs were $928.97 which includes $89.62 in public charging fees.  (Yeah, I visited the free stations "slightly" more often than the pay stations...) This put me just under 2.1 cents per mile.  At today's gas prices this would be the same as a 122 MPG Car but only because gas prices are very low right now. :)

Overall, I feel I have lost about 10% of the battery on my 2013 as opposed to 12% on my 2011 so there was the improvement. I know the final ahr of 57.96 with normal driving (which means not trying to manipulate the numbers) is closer to the mid 58's.  For those who don't remember, this pack was at 67.20 ahr when new.

So if you are looking for a LEAF that still has some range left, contact Ray at Campbell Nelson Nissan in Everett. (the Old Magic Nissan) He just might have what you are looking for!

As for me... well 82 miles is a pretty long walk home so... stay tuned!!

Nissan Marketing Blunder; 2017 LEAF Pricing Announced!

The long awaited announcement on the 2017 Nissan LEAF is finally here and there is no 40 kwh battery pack (at least not yet)  but there is a pretty good price cut on the S trim which as we recall now comes with 6.6 KW AC charger, DC fast charger and 30 kwh as standard.

**News Flash** Just read the specs from Nissan and the S trim while it still comes with the 30 kwh battery AND the 2016 S30 came with the charge package as standard, the 2017 S30 does not. Adding it brings its MSRP to the same as the 2016 S30 which means no change at all!

Originally, the 2016 S trim was $29010 but did not include the charge package or the extra 6 kwh. Both were later added as standard equipment in a mid year change

As you can see, SV and SL no  change at all. 

Sorry but Nissan?? What are you thinking?  Why are you advertising a price you already know you will sell ZERO cars for?  Is it really a better idea to start with a high MSRP then post ads with $5,000 Factory rebates?  

What about the people who are not EV diehards like us? (besides, diehards are either already EVing or already have decided what they are waiting for)   What about people who cruise the net just looking at the general prices not wanting to contact the dealer for "our super low prices" because every ad they see says the same thing? 

Wouldn't it be better to just cut $5000-$7,000 across the board since that is what you are selling for anyway?  Who would take a $34,000 LEAF with 120 miles of range (I have proof!) over a $40,000 Bolt with 238 miles?  People will glance at it (trust me that is how we all browse the net!) and immediately dismiss the LEAF from consideration. 

But if you put that S in at $24,000 or whatever and so on up the line. Now this seeds the thought process. Now instead of a knee jerk dismissal, they now have to break out the calculator to figure out which is the better deal. 

Now this is going to remove the wiggle room dealers have but lets be realistic. In the past month, what is the top dollar you have gotten for a LEAF?  See what I mean?

Now some people will say "not enough range at any price!" but guess what? That is not true because we ALL HAVE OUR PRICE!

I am not going to lie. I thought the same thing until I mentioned a buyout offer on my 2013 LEAF where they several thousand off the buyout price.  I didn't want to deal with the shrinking range, slight as it was, so I immediately tossed it thinking it was nothing but a sales ploy to get me into the dealership to spend money.  

Then a few days later, Someone posted on line that they received "an offer too good to be true" and as luck would have it, had a free afternoon so they decided to go to the dealership and play head games with them.  So they did and a few hours later, came home driving the newly bought LEAF!

I then realized the deal was probably real and mentioned it on line and the same people who said the range was not enough said "My LEAF's range isn't enough but at that price, I will find a way to make it work!" 

Well after hearing the same thing from several more people, I realized there was a point that even a limited range 85 mile EV was desirable if the price is right. 

So make the price right! 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

200 reasons why you should rotate your tires!

Rotate your tires!  I just had my lease turn in inspection and was dinged for $100 on each of the back tires and it was not due to tread depth (sort of...) but due to umm?... "near" sidewall wear.

this tire failed despite having the legal amount of tread (4/32nds)

This tire passed with only 1/32nd" more tread but notice the sides? 

Now if you recall, I did an experiment where I suspended my normal practice of rotating every 5,000 miles to wait until 10,000 miles to rotate just to see what the difference from front (where wear is the quickest) to the back.  This resulted in roughly a 3/32nds difference from front to back. I was shocked since the rotation interval was about what many recommend, a mere 10,000 miles. (Might have to reevaluate how I negotiate roundabouts as well...)

Now the reason I rotated every 5,000 miles was because my Brother was the Manager of the Les Schwabs in Bremerton, WA.  He claimed it was the best balance between wear, convenience and maximum tread wear and it turns out he was right!

Now my car has been in a million parking lots (nature of the job) and has suffered for it. I have a bundle of  parking lot dings and a scratch and I literally scared myself silly adding it up in my head (its amazing what two brain cells can do!) so I decided to check out the Nissan Guide for Chargeable Wear and Use  and was shocked (and RELIEVED!) to find out I could have literally beat the HE out of the car and not be billed!! Now, keep in mind, its always a fine line and pretty sure "HEL" would have cost me a pretty penny but I mean 3 inch long scratches? not billable!, 2 inch diameter dents? Not billable! Heck, I only have Dings!!  ( a lot of dings but still only dings)  I am golden!!

Notice the $70 for the manuals? If I had known they were that valuable, I'd probably had them in my safety deposit box!

Either way, I came out of the inspection much better than I had hoped so now all I have to say is


Saturday, November 5, 2016

October 2016 Drive Report; The End is Near

Resigned to the fact that Winter has finally arrived... well, sort of.  The rain is here setting new records for the month but its like really warm. Last night I left the gym at 8 PM and it was over 60º which is unusual even for moderate Washington weather!

During the month the LEAF again failed to moderate its usage to stay within its lease limits traveling 1202.2 miles at a cost of $32.92 which did include a $7.75 charge for an NRG fast charge. This inflated the economics to 2.74 cents a mile, highest ever perhaps?  On the battery front, the LEAF seems to be in a holding pattern.  The low water mark for GIDs/kwh available/ahr/Hx was 249/19.3/57.48/86.33. Highs for the month;  264/20.5/60.70/93.22.

The Corolla went 492.4 miles costing $30.72 or 6.24 cents per mile.

One of the reasons for the higher than normal cost to operate the LEAF was a $7.75 charge for a fast charge Session with NRG. (or EvGO)   I was offered reduced fast charge rates of $2.75 per session plus 15 cents per minute.  Now it all really started with a conversation with a LEAFer from California lamenting he had plugged into a station in the middle of the night, unplugged well before dawn but was billed the entire time despite only actively charging a few hours of the 5 or so he was plugged in. This got me thinking so I used the NRG station because they had the per minute billing and also a timer that ends all fast charge sessions at 30 mins.

So I went to the station at Tacoma Mall hoping a queue did not develop while I was doing this and watched (actually spent nearly all the time talking with someone who had a 30 kwh LEAF) the charge session end and I purposefully waited a few mins before unplugging and sure enough!

I was billed an extra 30 cents for the extra time spent being plugged in. So if you using NRG and plan to leave the car for an extended period of time, plan on paying for it!  This really becomes a conundrum. Yes, I want to unplug someone who is not actively charging because I need it but at the same time I want to not unplug them to pad their bill so they might learn something from their habit... hmmm, tough choice!

As mentioned the LEAF did not stay home as much as it should have and now the dilemma is I have 400 miles and almost 7 weeks of my lease left.  It looks like I will be eating month 36 of my lease. So in preparation, I had to get an unmodified EVSE for the turn in to not get dinged and if you think that used LEAFs are worthless,  try selling a used EVSE!

Now, like used LEAFs, my EVSE is old and less capable than the shiny new modified ones running around these days. Its an Rev 0 purchased in March 2011 right after they started marketing them.  It only has two charge modes. 120 volts at 12 amps and 240 volts at 12 amps.  No adjustments available like my newer modded EVSE which can go from 6 to 20 amps in 240 volt mode.

Either way, I figured it wasn't worth much but a free swap should be plenty popular so I posted the swap on Facebook thinking I would use Facebook to determined who was first and then I waited for the onslaught... and waited....and waited... After rebooting the computer a few times, I began to realize nothing was happening. I thought I would give it a day since maybe everyone was busy. It was Halloween weekend after all. So I waited....and waited...

Total response; ZERO!  Not one bite. I mean if I was charging $50 for the swap, I could see it but this was free plus mine came with two adapters!...

So next time you are whining about the low resale value of your used LEAF take heart in the fact that at least it has "some" value!

Epilogue;  Eventually I had to revisit my decision to post the swap on my local LEAF Group page in Olympia (membership 60) and try a "slightly" larger group like the Seattle LEAF Group page (membership 1800ish) and after less than 2 days, I was able to make the swap!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

WA EV Fence Sitters AKA "T3ers" Read This!

After what seemed like an interminable period of stagnation in the EV World (besides Tesla) there is now rumors flying all over the place of bigger, better and longer just around the corner.  Whether its 2 months for a Bolt, 8 months for LEAF II or 16 months (or more) for a Tesla 3 there now seems to be a ton of things to wait for!


For those of us like me who is looking for the best deal range verses dollars wise, is waiting for a bump in range going to be the right choice?  Right now there is a lot of incentives making EVs essentially a cheaper "purchase" option than a gasoline car. This is new. Previously to win the TCO battle, we had to live in a relatively cheap electricity/expensive gasoline area and drive the EV a few years before we started to realize the savings.

Now we all know that the longer you drive the EV, the more you save. On a per mile basis there is not a gasoline car in the World that can touch an EV's efficiency.

This chart shows relative savings driving an EV over a gasoline car. The figures show annual savings if you drive the typical miles in each state.  More details here.  As you can see, its a win in every state.  Another thing to keep in mind; Each number is derived using the average power rates for each state and average number of miles driven annually in each state.   Get a LEAF and your savings will escalate with two years of NCTC.  Have solar, same thing. Charge off peak in TOU areas like California and again, savings escalate. So generally speaking; unless your driving needs are very modest, you are likely to save more than this chart displays.  OBTW; New Jersey will soon implement a 23 cent per gallon gas tax hike... :)

So this chart illustrates that the sooner you start on the EV trail, the bigger the pot of gold at the end.  But there are other reasons why waiting might not be in your best interest especially if 200 miles is not really a requirement for you.

It wasn't until I mentioned a great offer to buy my 2013 S off lease that I realized that a lot more people than I realized were happy with their 90 mile LEAF despite knowing that that range was dropping every month.  Yes, most were 2+ car families so a gasser was always in the wings for that occasional trip across the state.  In fact, many were shocked I did not take the deal.  "I am not thrilled with the range of my LEAF but for that price!" was told to me over and over.  Apparently a price/range performance still applied even at the low end of the spectrum.

And this does make sense.  Before taking my current job which requires me to travel to my client's location, I would have survived EASILY on the LEAF's range even after losing a few bars. The current state of public charging isn't really acceptable for work purposes but for personal trips, it will do. I am more than ok with incorporating stops in the journey.  Today I will be going to celebrate the first anniversary of my great nephew's entry into this World. It will be 65 miles one way in VERY unfriendly driving weather. But nothing a 30 min stop each way can't fix.

Another thing making EVs a no brainer is dealer incentives.  Its the same ole year end closeout to make room for the bigger and better.  The 30 kwh LEAF provides a better charging profile and a boost in range along with a MUCH longer battery capacity warranty and its priced to sell.

This is from a dealer in OR. I posted this before and wondered why the S trim pricing was not matching and the article I got this from provided ZERO details but it was revealed that Nissan did a mid year update and the price includes the 30 kwh pack and fast charge package.   Now this incentive runs til Dec 15th  but as always includes the disclaimer that the promotion can expire at any time. IOW, standard auto industry "While supplies last" jargon and at these prices the already low LEAF inventory won't be around long.  Again, if 200 miles isn't a requirement, hard to find a better price/performance deal!

But a lot of us are waiting for that extra range and for good reason.  200 miles becomes 150 miles in inclement weather. Rain, snow, and plain old cold weather whittles away at the range. This is a major concern for those who do not live in an EV friendly environment especially one without at least a bare bones public charging network. 

But longer range vehicles are just around the corner. The Bolt with a tested 230 mile range will be on the streets soon and available in WA probably in less than 4-6 months. At $38,500 to start, its not a cheap option by any means but will still have up to a $7500 fed tax discount along with WA State sales tax working out to about $3,000 which means it could be had for an effective $25,000 gasoline car with roughly $2375 sales tax.  

Rumors also flying over a 2017 40ish kwh LEAF hitting the streets in 2-3 months.  Now most of the fuel for this has come from Renault's announcement of their 41 kwh EV hitting the streets.  Guessing we will learn a lot more during the Los Angeles Auto Show next month.  Even if this is true, still no word on pricing but have to think that it will price under the Bolt by at least a few thousand thru factory incentives or simply lower prices. 

Then of course we have the T3 along with its 300,000 advance orders. Tesla has built a reputation of "gathering no moss." They have not always been on time and yes, sometimes they put out products that simply were not ready, but for innovation speed and coolness, they stand alone.  So does the T3 deserve 300,000 orders? Probably not.  Musk created hype by advertising a very attractive price that in today's World would have made a T3 purchase a no brainer.  But the T3 does not exist in today's World and that completely changes the math. 

With the success of the S and the X and Tesla's ability to continue eating into the luxury car market, sales are booming. Probably better than they expected. This has caused a situation where most of the T3's won't qualify for the fed tax incentive.  For a car that Tesla stated will average $43,000 OTD, (effective price today 32,500) it's effective becomes $40,000 before the WA State sales tax incentive. But  WA State changed its EV incentive allowing more types of cars to qualify including the Chevy "Volt." AND it will only cover the first 7500 vehicles registered.  With the huge incentives on the 2016 LEAFs, combined with the Bolt introduction, added Volt sales and expected mid range LEAFs hitting the streets soon,  I expect $3,000 WA State incentive to expire by mid Summer 2017 if not sooner.  This all means the "affordable" T3 will cost at least $38,325 for the entry level model.  

Now things could change.  Obama tried several times to introduce a wrinkle in the EV incentive program including a $10,000 instant rebate for those of us like me who wouldn't qualify for the entire $7500. That failed so he tried an instant $7500 rebate but with the Republican controlled Congress, that also died a very quick death.  But the government makes it a practice to do things at the last second and the failure of Obama's proposal is partly our fault. Not enough of us made our wishes known. I think when the lose of the credit is just around the corner, that will change.  But then again, who knows? Not sure I want to bank on that. 
Now, EVs have been around long enough that a look at the used market is definitely not to be ignored. For modest needs, used LEAFs are almost being given away. Shopping around we are seeing several in the $7,000 to $9,000 range.  If your needs are more robust (and you have a wallet to match) maybe a CPO Tesla is something to look at.  Normally I would say its way too much money despite the huge range but with incentives evaporating faster than Donald Trump's supporters; a lightly used Tesla might not be that much more money after all

There are also some S 60's listed for $44,000 which makes it nearly the same price as the average out the door price on the T3 after the loss of incentives. Here you have a bigger car with similar range slightly used but remember, the sooner you start EV the sooner you save the money. Keep in mind; most of these cars come with supercharger access a price yet to be determined for the T3...

So like Wow! What to do?

My advice? (or at least what I am considering) I will separate based on need....

For the bargain hunter who needs are very modest;  Used LEAFs can be had for super cheap. Low gas prices are driving some used LEAF prices into the ridiculously low category. But the range will be a factor if your needs approach 50 miles at a time or your area is not EV friendly.

For the modest needs;  Jump on the 2016 LEAF closeouts. These prices are really not to be believed and one of the biggest reasons is that I sincerely do not think the WA State sales tax incentive will survive long enough to cover the LEAF II.  Remember the 30 kwh LEAF has a much better fast charge profile which should be maintained even 6-7 years down the line when degradation is setting in.  It is nice to now actually get that "80% in 30 mins" performance!

For the Road Warrior; This is a tough call.  The Tesla CPO provides a bigger more known entity but at a significant jump in price. But Supercharger access is a tough perk to beat and that network has not shown any signs that its ready to rest on its laurels.  An 85 kwh pack will provide very useful range for probably at least 8-10 years which translates to a minimum savings of likely $12,000 - $15,000 over gasoline and more.  Best of all; its here and now.

The Bolt promises to be a "Tesla beater" but that is the issue. The Bolt is all promise and no substance.  This is not Chevy's first foray into an EV. The Spark is out there in very limited numbers so the real question besides reliability is will they be available in decent numbers in a non CARB state like WA? But with a range over 200 miles and an effective price well under $30,000 it is a tough deal to beat!

Our state despite being a leader in EV adoption has been ignored several times and I don't see that changing. I do think that Chevy understands the market here and we are "up there" but we won't be first.  I think the Bolt will be a viable option by no later than March 2017 so its a great option at a great price point especially if you qualify for the whole fed tax thing.

For me? I doubt its a go for me.  The price I can overcome, but the "buy first, ask questions later" approach I am not sure I can overcome.  I leased my first LEAF because of the tax incentive. It was my original intention to lease it, get the full tax benefit than buy it.  I soon realized after taking possession that Nissan was essentially offering me a "3 year try it before you buy it" test drive with nearly no extra cost to me.  This was especially true on my 2013 lease where the "rent" cost for the 3 year lease (Rent is basically the equivalent of loan interest) was less than a dinner at a chain restaurant.  I admit to becoming accustomed to that lack of commitment.  :)

Sadly, my long awaited choice; the LEAF II is not likely to be here in time for WA Tax incentive which means likely and effective price near to the Bolt and probably with slightly less range and a BMS/TMS system yet to be determined.  But again, if Nissan continues with its 2 year NCTC program, it still makes it a viable option. Add to that; the best lease terms in the biz.

Finally; the darkhorse.  the rumored 2017 LEAF with a the 40ish kwh battery.  Not the long range choice but in an EV friendly area like Western WA, it is more than enough for me, especially at the right price and the price will be right because it will be here to gather all but the dealer incentives. As a returning customer, I will save something there! The price is unknown but if I had to guess, I would say mid $30K making the effective price into the mid $20K.

Now, this is going to come as a huge letdown to many of you, but its becoming clearer and clearer that that the T3 has been outdone... several times.


There are several more choices I did not touch on including the Soul EV which will have a longer range version out soon. The fed tax credit will not be an issue for them for quite a while. So if you miss the bargains that are out there now, you will still likely have the chance with lower volume EV offerings from Kia, Ford and VW. Now VW promises to have a very large footprint in the EV arena but their late start insures a bigger fed discount.

Another thing I failed to note is that the fed tax discount does not end abruptly.  The issues with Chevy Nissan and Tesla still remain but after they hit the sales target of 200,000 units, then the clock starts to tick.  The full credit will be available up to the end of the quarter after the sales target is achieved meaning you can still get the full credit potentially just short of 6 months longer.  But all three should hit that target in 2017. With EV recognition accelerating among the general public, sales will be increasing so it will likely be earlier in 2017 than later.