Monday, April 29, 2013

Compliance Cars, WA Need Them Too!

For years, California has lead the nation in several different areas, mostly in all things green. Pollution standards for cars being a chief factor. Several states have simply matched emission and warranty levels established by CA and that includes Washington. The practice has become so common that the term "CA Emission Standard" needs no explanation.

My question to WA, is why stop there? Lets take it a step farther and adopt their "EV Compliance Car" regs as well!  Right now, to get a RAV 4 EV, a WA resident can only do so at great risk to themselves. They run a risk of not getting the correct service or not finding a qualified service station to perform any maintenance.

Now, EVs have a reputation of not breaking down which is the reason a handful are taking the chance anyway, but why does it have to be that way?  CA may have the power as the reputed 8th largest economy in the World but the WA auto economy is more than large enough that WA can force Toyota to market and support the car here.  Same with any other compliance car.

Lets face it, the RAV 4 EV is not available in WA because WE simply choose to not bring it here? Is that right? because that is how I see it!

**edit** Crap, crap CRAP!!!
guess what? Honda is pulling out the big guns in the lease game! Bring it to WA PLEASE!!

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

Thursday, April 25, 2013

How To Make A Dollar In the EV Charging Industry

Ok, so the title might be a bit misleading, but on my post about a State-sponsored fee-based quick charge network, I solicited responses on reader thoughts. Got some great suggestions and questions came up and some require a pretty lengthy response which has filled up a few pages on Facebook so thought I would repeat some of that information here.

1) Why should we pay an annual subscription plus a charging fee?

2) What about non-profits like "Adopt A Charger" ?

3) Why do I think the State is the best option to run these chargers since they screw up on these kinds of things all the time?

1) Why should we pay an annual subscription plus a charging fee?

First of all, this network wont cost that much to install. On state property so the land is already paid for in a sense. They will be installed on existing sites and will have some traffic already from state workers coming and going about their business so a small level of security will be in place and because many will be on DOT sites, most already have easy highway access.  But the ongoing costs will need to be partially funded to get past the legislature and there needs to be some way to pay for expansion and future upgrades.  The subscription fees will only pay a portion of installation, maintenance and upkeep. But the per session fees should be earmarked for a portion of the  expansion costs.  This prevents an "open ended" expense report and allows expansion based on demand.

Now getting money from the State is not an easy thing to do especially if the benefits are not easy to quantify and EV charging really isn't. Yes, it will help WA tremendously but how much?  Maybe looking at our neighbors would help.  In a Green Car Reports article by Antony Ingram about the revenues attributed to EV adoption in Oregon
The state has the most charging stations per capita of anywhere in the country, with around 800 total charging stations. That's more than enough for the state's 2,500 registered electric vehicles, and it's good for the economy too. Oregon's electric vehicle industry is responsible for more than 1,600 jobs, over $260 million in economic activity and over $22 million annually in federal taxes.
Naturally no info on how those numbers came about but WA could encourage tourism and spending in depressed areas of the state like Grays Harbor for example by just putting in a few more charging stations in the area.  Even if just passing thru, people will be there for 30 minutes getting a boost which could allow a local store or restaurant to get business that gas powered cars would simply drive by.

Finally, fees for charging helps with a bit of exclusivity. Remember part of the network like along I-5 will be side by side with free chargers (for now...) . Paying a fee will hopefully mean a better chance of being able to charge right away instead of waiting for the 1-2 ahead of you at the free stations. Also many will choose not to subscribe or at least not participate robustly.  There was an incident in Vacaville CA where an RV was literally camping at the charging station for weeks there plugged in sucking up free juice 24/7 until the city finally got around to passing ordinances to stop it.  Lets not be subject to that kind of stuff. Remember, WA does have cheapskates like me and I am pretty sure the temptation would be too great for me to resist.

 2) What about non-profits like "Adopt A Charger" ?

Hey, the more the merrier and  Jack Anderson has a great project going installing high capacity AC L2's capable of providing up to 80 KW but for me and my lowly 3.8 KW charger, it is of limited help. They are a lot cheaper than Chademo and Jack says they are more reliable than DCFCs (which aint saying a lot...)  Also he is in Douglas County which as we all know is famous for being just this side of  "giving it away" (they reputedly have the lowest electricity rates in the country) This project is great because like Gray's Harbor and the Olympic Peninsula, it covers areas that business interests will ignore due to insufficient traffic levels but still provides access to places we do want to see! So for destination charging, it will be appreciated.   If you are interested in supporting this idea and having a great time doing it.  Sign up for the EV Wine tour! 

3) Why do I think the State is the best option to run these chargers since they screw up on these kinds of things all the time?

The biggest reason is because the State will benefit a lot more than we will.

One key point is simply familiarity which hopefully means "learning from past mistakes"  in that the State already runs several programs using the same model I suggested.  Like the Ferries, Bridge Tolls or even the Fishing and Game Depts; several levels of access controlled by regions would allow the user to pick what suits them best.  This gives the user more of a sense of "value" and control.

One scenario (used for clarification only. Probably a ton of better ways to do it I am not aware of ) is access by zones.  Say its $50 per zone annual fee and you could pick any combination of zones.  Naturally there would also be limited time passes available if a single trip outside your zone is planned or for out of state tourists.

Zone 1 would cover I-5
Zone 2  covers I-90, Highway 2 and the area Between Puget Sound and the Cascades
Zone 3 covers the Olympic Peninsula
Zone 4 covers the Coast including SW WA and Greys Harbor
Zone 5 Cascades going East
Zone 6 Eastern WA.

Get more than 2 zones, get a discount and so on.

But the main reason why the State should do it is because driving EV is right on so many levels but mostly indirectly.  "Collateral benefits" is something a for profit business cannot survive on but the State can.  The State lives on people within its boundaries spending money.  Whether we spend it on gas or we spend it on electricity, a dollar is still a dollar but how much of that "gas dollar" will stay in the state to be re spent verses an "electrical dollar?"  I don t have any proof of this but guessing revenue from buying something produced in state will go farther than having to pay for something that has to be imported from out of state.

Now the actual cash transactions from buying electricity is not what the State will thrive on. Its the money spent on local businesses that was NOT spent on imported oil based products.  Hey, maybe there is a buck to be made after all!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

EV Range Anxiety; Addressing the "5%" And User Supported Fast Charging

To spur 2012 LEAF sales some dealers were offering the "One to One" program which allowed a number of free car rentals for any LEAFer who might need to take an out of town trip. This was done to remove the anxiety concerning that annual trip to Grandma's house in a neighboring state.

Reaction to the program was excellent but it suffered because it was only offered at the dealer level and applied inconsistently which only caused confusion among the LEAF constituency.  Nissan is investigating a way to offer this program at the Corporate level to equalize the benefit across the country and eliminate the confusion. Hopefully that will happen soon.

Until then another way of addressing the 5% is the availability of quick charging. WA has once again committed to putting money towards installing more quick charge stations which allows more miles to be EV instead of oil-based.  But with an estimated 2500+ EVs now tooling the Puget Sound region the 20 some stations will be very hard pressed to service the growing demand to leave the gasser at home.

So the state is contributing, (West Coast Green Highway Project) the Feds are contributing, (EV Highway Project)  and Nissan is contributing. ( Planned 500 Quick Charge Stations installed at Dealerships Nationwide) Now, I am kinda feeling left out here.

I want to contribute.  Ok, so I will be paying an additional $100 for my plate renewal but that is supposed to replace lost gas tax revenue so not really adding anything to the mix here. Now I know what you are saying..."Hey! is this the same cheapskate Dave who will drive 5 miles out of his way just to get free juice?"

Ya, I am the same cheapskate Dave so you know I have an agenda.  Since April 1st,  I have exceeded 100 miles in a day 6 times. 5 in the LEAF and unfortunately once in the Yaris. Of the 6 days, the Yaris was the shortest at 105 miles. I also had days of 140 and 142 miles in the LEAF! but the Yaris day was done simply because there was not a convenient charging option for me and that really really really SUCKS!!

So, ya I have an agenda. If I can do 142 miles in a LEAF, there is no reason why I should have to settle for a measly 105 miles in a gasser!  But the rollout of DCFCs is slow.  Too slow and its due to too many regulations, not enough money and not enough push at the Capital.  We can change that!

Now a privately funded DCFC network would be nice but there is a major logistical hurdle...actually a lot of them!  But the interest is there. Tony in San Diego, a major EV owner/advocate actually attempted to build a private network and did manage to collect over $20,000 towards that end. Now, the venture failed but only due to possible liability and maintenance issues. But the money he raised definitely shows that the interest is there!

But there is still the legal ramifications but what about a state sponsored, partially funded public program?  Do it like the State Parks System, The Ferries or Toll Bridges?

All the above mentioned programs are not fully supported by fees and tolls but because they provide a vital roll to the WA's economy, the State does provide financial support and I think a charging network could work the same way.

What I envision is option to pay an annual fee of say $250 that allows access to state fleet charging stations. A modest fee would be required for use but the annual fee would be high enough to prevent overcrowding of the stations and as the network grows more users could be added.  Further down the road when all the WCGH stations become pay models there could be tiered subscriptions like $100 for the WCGH stations and $250 for all the stations and so on.

Now this model wont pay for itself either but the conversion of gas-powered miles to electric is a HUGE HUGE HUGE benefit to a state that does not produce a single drop of oil but has more electricity than it can use despite hosting the most power hungry industries in the World.

We have Aluminum refineries and Internet Server Farms up the Wazoo (was gonna say "Ying Yang" but decided to keep it local!) both well known as "champion juice suckers"  and we still have a ton of electricity leftover that we sell to states like CA at bargain basement prices.  By better utilizing our natural resources, we benefit the state as a whole making EV support a worthy investment for the State.

Now, I need feedback here. Would a program like this interest you as an EV driver? If so, what is a reasonable yearly fee for access?  If not, why not?  If you think the existing "planned" quick charge network is ok, say so. Or if you are in the camp that thinks quick charge is as overrated as it is overpriced!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Marketing EVs; Looking For An Edge, More Battery Or Just A Charging Station That Works

Once again it seems we are just on the edge of an EV explosion. Fiat has announced great new lease pricing on its 500e. Ford has great discounts on the Focus EV. Nissan cut the price on the LEAF while adding several much requested features. The options are really starting to pile up. If you live in California, you can now get a RAV 4 EV for slightly more than what a LEAF cost last year.

Add to that record breaking sales from Tesla and Nissan and yes, both are targeting completely separate market segments but for every EV that hits the street that is another dozen people that will get direct contact with the owner which will see another 100 indirectly exposed to "EV Fever".

Which means the competition will starting ratcheting up soon. Tesla has the luxury EV market locked up for now with no challengers in sight but a logjam is already starting to form in the $25,000-$40,000 market and at a price many still feel is too high considering the drawbacks that limited range EVs come with so getting an early advantage in the market is going to help but sales incentives can only go so far.

And price is not the only consideration. It is a car after all, so range has to be a top priority.  But bigger batteries and lower price dont go together unless we are talking oxymorons.  So getting the range without the price is the real challenge. Charging at work is the best way. Not having to drive out of your way or spending any extra time to charge is the ultimate way to get it done. The LEAF mileage champ, Steve Marsh could not have amassed his estimated 75,000 miles in such a short period of time if his employer had not put in a station for his use less than 50 feet from his office. But most of us are not so lucky.

Nissan announced a few months ago that they were putting in 500 quick charge stations at Nissan Dealerships across the country and we would see "significant" progress within a few months. When I first heard this, I thought it was a brilliant tactical move on Nissan's part. Getting these stations out quickly was sure to spur sales since only the LEAF and the nearly non-existent Mitsubishi MiEV used Chademo. Add to that a big push from the Smyrna Plant and that would give Nissan a big psychological edge over fence sitters considering other EVs that lacked Chademo support.

 Earth Day this weekend would have seemed a perfect date to have grand opening celebrations at DCFCs all across the country and that is exactly what is going to happen at about....2 or 3 of them.  Despite Nissan's grand announcement, the rollout has been sluggish at best.  Granted, 2 months was a very ambitious goal to begin with and I would have been happy to see a dozen in WA by the end of Summer but there seems to be little news of any stations anywhere near here. has several members scattered across the country and reports of ground breaking for stations has been very thin so far. Less than a dozen and all seem to be in CA mostly.  Like WA and OR, CA is part of two different projects to install quick charge stations and despite having the greatest number of LEAFs, they have seen the least amount of activity from either the EV Highway Project  or the West Coast Green Highway Project .  So if Nissan was looking to address the neediest, I guess CA would definitely fit that profile which also happens to be in the area of the greatest expected number of new LEAF sales.

Is this  "compliance" charging distribution?  Putting most of them in CA and ignoring most of the rest of the country? With only 500 stations going in, I did not expect to see a charger in little town WA has to offer but the Seattle Market is near to the top in LEAF sales along with EV sales and hybrid sales in general so the right mindset abounds in the Pacific Northwest.

Now Nissan is not getting all the blame here. Oregon is smaller, less populated and has less money than WA does but has outdone WA in the installation of public quick chargers and has plans to install many more in the near future. WA! you need to get motivated here. Every mile driven in an EV is a mile that takes advantage of the abundant locally produced electricity and is another mile we dont have buy gas!

One good thing to report;  SB 5849 providing fines for "ICE'ing" charging stations has passed both arms of Congress and was sent to the Governor on April 17th.  Its pretty much a done deal.  Governor Jay Inslee has been an EV supporter for years. Hopefully getting this signed will provide the momentum for more EV support and soon!

**Edit** Well that did not take long! Thanks to Brian for posting this link about Inslee and WA committing another 9 Million to getting more QC stations out for the West Coast Green Highway Project !!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Obama Proposal Promises to Boost Accelerating EV Sales Into the Stratosphere!

Despite my "Rah Rah EV" attitude (someone accuses me of that nearly every day) I am not going to go out on a limb and say that March plug in sales signals the start of the EV sales finally gaining a niche in the American automotive market.

The sales are impressive but Tesla has basically compressed 2+ years of sales into the last 4 months and is still playing catch up.  Just as Mercedes and Lexus puts of sales every month, Tesla will continue to do the same and I think they will be #1 or 2 in the luxury car market by the end of the year.  Their car really is that good. They are very proactive in addressing the quirks of the car and this can only bode well for their future offerings.  Now, despite Musk's promises to the contrary, I dont think Tesla will ever offer a car for the masses. The Bluestar I am predicting will come out at $40,000 + and will still be more than most want to pay. Like other luxury nameplates, I expect Tesla to attempt a economy offering that will fail forcing them to go back to their bread and butter $70,000 offerings,  but!

Obama is proposing to increase the EV incentive to $10,000 AND allow dealers to get the money for the EV buyer. This allows an instant rebate at the time of purchase and allows everyone to get it without having to calculate whether they fall under the Alternative Minimum Tax rule.  I think this is a great idea but should ONLY apply to EVs only.  The Volt, I will grudgingly continue to accept it getting the $7500 as a tax credit but the push to EVs needs to be more goal oriented.

Another big benefit of the larger EV incentive is that it will really push lease rates into a much more affordable range.  the extra $2500 "could" make an 2 year lease $108 a month cheaper or $71.42 cheaper on a 3 year lease (assuming 23 and 35 payments respectively).  Of course automakers could simply lower the residual to mitigate that savings but this allows fence sitters to gain that EV driving experience. Evan Fusco, a long time hybrid enthusiast states that after tooling around in his Tesla S 85, his previously beloved hybrids (Prius and Highlander) seems like "antiques" as stated (around 30:00 or so, give or take a minute...) on a recent "What Drives You" Show #116.  I share his sentiment as my Prius (which I used to brag was so quiet) seemed like a 30 year old rattle bucket after driving the LEAF.

A new LEAFer in Seattle who was hesitant to go electric is now a full convert after a month (i am guessing it really only took a few days) driving something that cannot truly be described. It can only be experienced!

All of this really points to a few things;

1) Incentives for EVs cant continue forever. Oil is simply too powerful to let it go on, so getting critical mass ASAP is vital and gives automakers incentive to put real money and factory time into getting the volume necessary to drive research and reduction in costs.

2) Word of mouth is what will ultimately drive EV sales. Its a bit of a foregone conclusion that Automakers are simply clueless on how to market EVs. Whethers is Nissan's "Polar Bear Hug" or Tesla's "$500 financing" the approach is not selling cars. The cars are selling cars but that cant be done until its in someone's driveway.

3) We preach Environmentalism but we ignore the real impact that oil has on our long term survivability.  Accidental, unknown and unintentional leakage of motor oil from passenger cars alone is responsible for dumping the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez into Puget Sound every SIX YEARS. IOW; we are in the process of our own Gulf Oil Spill and NOTHING is being done about it... oh wait!  There is a new program "Dont Drip and Drive" that provides FREE inspections and significant discounts for any repair needed to fix the drip.

The media blitz has been going on for a week now and it remains to be seen how many of the estimated 2.5 Million leaking gas powered cars will take the time to get their car in...

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

This Week in EV Bay; Should March 2013 Be Considered The Watershed Month of EV Adoption?

On the 2nd day of April, 2013, early morning announcements will create a more than a ripple in the automotive industry.  Early reports stating that over  6,000 plug ins were sold in the month of March including a record of 2236 LEAFs for the middle class and over 2100 Tesla's for the "not so middle" class.  Volt sales were somewhat lower at just under 1500 units but still respectable. Some speculate that announcements concerning the 2014 Volt has caused some to wait for the newer model.

Later in the day, it became obvious that March 2013 was simply "Car Month".  Every brand was up with several notables. Chrysler had their largest month since 2007, Nissan had its largest month EVER.  Quick note on that. 188 LEAFs were sold in the Western WA district making it #1 for the Nissan nameplate. This happening in a month when Nissan set sales records makes the achievement that much more impressive.  And there is no signs of slowing as of yet.  Tesla is still busy catching up with a 3 year backlog and Nissan has not completed stocking their dealerships of 2013's yet so very strong sales should continue for the foreseeable future.  All of a sudden, Obama's dream of a million EVs on the road is starting to look reachable.

What is not keeping pace is public charging. Despite the announcement in Oct, 2012 from Blink concerning a half dozen DCFC's for the Seattle area, only a few have been installed to this point.  I will say that so far, the Fife station has been rock solid and has worked perfectly for me every time I have used it. It does fill a very vital link for traveling regionally in the Puget Sound Region but I liken it to being an Oasis in the Desert. Too many stories of travelers found dead a half mile from the watering hole comes to mind here.  Last night, I was working in Auburn and had to use the station twice. Luckily, there was no issue. If there had been, it would have not been a late night. It would have been morning (even with a 15 minute boost, I got home at 3 AM)

Now, putting in chargers has proved to be a much tougher challenge than anyone has realized. Whether its a question of legislation to pave the way or what, I really dont know. Guessing the reasons are highly individualized based on each specific situation. Now when EVs were moving like molasses in January, it was ok to talk about how to get these charging stations in the ground because we had time, but now we have run out of time and there has been very little progress made towards getting charged while out and about.  Wish I knew how to rush them a bit but until then, there are still things we can do.

ICEing  is a problem that is being addressed but since its not law quite yet, not too late to put a bug in the ear of your representative! But things are looking good on that front.

The Golden Rule.  Too many incidences reported of people camping out at charging stations. One person reported that they were rushing to make an appointment and someone was at a quick charge station topping off.  The person advised that they only needed 10 minutes of charge and were rushed for time and asked if they could use the station and the other person relented but not before a somewhat unpleasant conversation was exchanged. Well, maybe we need to let someone else be the "bad guy".  I think Blink should take it on. (Wish AV had dual head chargers!)

What if Blink set a time limit of 20 minutes to charge?  with the other head already queued up, they would have to wait until the other person was done if they wanted to continue their charge. If there is not another person queued up. They simply restart the session.  In Yokohama, the free chargers Nissan provided "might" have had a 15 minute charging limit. Cant read Japanese but a "15" on a stop watch face seems pretty intuitive.

Hard to see in the picture (I dont have the option to change the size...pitfalls of a free blog account I think)  but next to the clock on the right is a picture of two cars with a circular motion suggesting that if 15 minutes is not enough time, you can get back in line again if you need to.  This is something we need to adopt but unlike Japan (where the culture allows this kind of respect and sharing) unless we have some mechanism in place, it wont happen.

Because the DCFCs are still too few and too far between and too unreliable, its easy to understand someone who feels lucky that they found a working station and their reluctance to let it go to chance their luck that the next one down the road will work as well but we do have to realize that we are all in this together.  We have to help each other out and if it means letting someone get a 10 minute boost, then let them!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Mar 2013 Drive Report

The Yaris traveled 326.6 miles in March with SO's 9 mile commute accounting for nearly all the gas burned at the rate of 11.25 cents per mile or  $36.74  The Fife DCFC allowed me to use the LEAF over the Yaris  at least 3 times.

The LEAF traveled 1963.9 miles at a cost of $42.66 or 2.17 cents per mile. which does include a first ever? "pay for public" charge at the new Blink L2 at Hawks Prairie Medical Center for $2 while getting annual checkup.  I pulled in with very little charge so didnt think I would have made it to the Walgreens 2 miles away and besides, didnt want to sit at Walgreens either so I caved in and bit the bullet.

There was 132.31 Kwh from public charging that was "mostly" free. Semaconnect as always is still free as is Blink and AV quick charge stations.

As one would guess, this is best month ratio wise ever also most miles in the LEAF, least miles in the gasser, etc. and this pace would blow past my 45,000 mile lease limit easily but alas it is not to last! We already have 2 gas trips planned where the distance is not so bad. It is really the lack of convenient fast charging on our route.