Monday, October 28, 2013

A Picture (or Graph) is Worth a Thousand Words

Ok, so my attempt at getting feedback on the techniques we are using to recruit new EV'ers has not had a huge response... Thank You!  Seattle Area LEAF Owners (the ONLY respondents so far...) for your contributions. That kind of surprised me. I thought for sure we all had at least one funny, poignant, or scary story to relate, but the holidays are coming. Getting ready for Halloween is no small task! Free time is valuable and all that kinda stuff.

Anyway, if you get the chance, dont forget about that post just because this one is here.  Now, not all of us are good at speeches, sales presentations or simply gushing in public.  I have actually been caught off guard a few times or sometimes I just dont have the time to stop and talk.

For those times, it would be really awesome if I just had an informational flyer with a few pertinent graphs illustrating the benefits of EV Life.  I could just hand it to them, point out a few things and then be on my rushed way.

But we dont want to have too many pages. One is enough really. So real estate is tight. The graphs must be large enough so old people like me can read them and so on.

So, with this in mind; what do you think is irreplaceable on this flyer?  Now, I am not going to make you rack your brain, compromise your values or drive you insane like those "Top 5" lists do.

So you dont have to pick just one. You can pick 2, 3 or even 5 things and you don't have to put them in order.

Now, keep in mind; this and the previous requests were made for a reason and your input is GREATLY needed.  So help me out.

To facilitate a timely response I have reserved a space below for your personal response!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Feedback Requested! (Get Out the Podium!)

By now, most of you have realized that this is a pretty one-sided conversation. I do nearly all the talking and you do all the listening. But this time we need to reverse roles. What I am looking for is personal stories by EV owners out there on how they convinced their friend, family or neighbor to go electric. (or extended electric like the Volt)

Crank up the memories and relate your best stories of  being accosted by people in public parking lots who just could not get over how much noise your EV did not make.

If you don't have any stories then tell me what or who convinced you to go electric.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Just Take The Prius!

After 3+ years of development of the public charging system, we still have very little insight as to what the future holds. I thought by now a somewhat predictable roadmap would have emerged that would have made a buying decision a bit easier for someone thinking about a shorter range EV like the LEAF.  But that has not happened. If anything, the future has become cloudier.

Ecotality is no more, bought up by another company called "Car Charging" (  so the "voting" for various billing options on the Blink fast chargers is probably going away which is a disappointment.  With the large disparity in electrical rates thru-out the country, a single rate structure means some benefit and some get screwed. With the low rates in the Pacific Northwest, I am definitely part of the latter group so "voting" for the rates I thought was a great compromise from a company that has done very little right the first time but they are no longer... *sigh*

 Now, Car Charging has posted that they will address any issues with current Blink customers for their home chargers and so far their ownership on the public chargers has been relatively transparent with the exception of splitting the billing cycle for the month of October.

But changes in the rates are sure to come. They have existing chargers and the rates for those are higher which makes the calculation for LEAF verses Prius much harder especially when we really dont know what the price will be. Its like 2010 all over again except that we dont get any free charging while Car Charging figures it out.

Also; Yesterday, CBS News announced that gas prices are dropping and are expected to continue to do so for the rest of the year. This is not really news as most of the time gas prices spiral downwards from their bloated Summer Vacation season levels. Analysts expect the national average to settle to about $3.15 gallon from its current $3.35.  ($3.54 in the Seattle Area)

So does this make the "Just drive the Prius" crowd stronger or more justified?

Well, that question can't really be answered directly because there is no right or easy way to answer the question. It also depends on how you determine the costs of the car.  Now, the best and easiest way is to simply have two cars. So for people in the buying market. If one can afford a LEAF and keep their gasser, that is the way to go.

The one rule that does apply is that a Prius will cost roughly 6-15 cents a mile in fuel costs. That is a pretty big range but that is how the math works when you only have a small percentage of the energy available to apply to the distance traveled. So to get a real good handle on the cost factor, we need to look at all the driving each car would do. Now we could do what EVERYONE else does and only look at the driving that the Prius does best in and the LEAF does worst in and then justify the Prius right?? WRONG!  After all, this is an EV blog and despite my having owned 3 Priuses of which I still have a strong fondness for, I do know when its time to move on! Actually just kidding on that last part and remember I did say the best option was to have two cars right?

Now, I normally would not be writing this but I am seeing way too many people (actually one is too many!) abandoning EVs and going back to gas based on the one-sided "JTTP" argument so the wrong must be righted! Now to elaborate on my statement above; the only justification I see is the limited range argument against the LEAF and the high cost of public charging and that could be a valid argument when time to charge is added in but its being unfairly presented.

So we first need to start off with a fair representation of the Prius.  Now everyone's driving needs are different so each of you must start out collecting data to see what your specific needs are.  This is something I started doing 15 months ago and this is what I have come up with divided by trip distances and frequencies. To make it a bit more fair to gassers, trips made within 30 mins of each other were counted as one. I did this because the large usually unconsidered factor is ICE warm up times and the penalties involved concerning performance. This time limit is valid during Summer but not so during Winter which means I am somewhat penalizing EVs by making gas cars slightly more efficient.

The other problem is that the Prius was wrecked (not by me!) Dec 30th but still had the car long enough during the record gathering to get a good idea of how well it does during all seasons.

A; 0-3 miles;  17%
B; 3.1-15 miles; 35%
C; 15.1-30 miles; 35%
D; 30.1- 60 miles; 11%
E; 60.1 miles +; 2%

In the breakdown above, I can safely say my LEAF covers 87% of my trips without public charging support (Actually by driving slower, colder, etc. Its more like 95% but also not what I would consider "mainstream acceptable") since many of these trip lengths need to be doubled as most are "there and back" types.  Of the trips more than 30 miles in length, 80% was because of work. Considering the office (a prime destination) is 23 miles away that also accounts for 60% of the "C" trips but many times, the office was a brief stopover to pick up co-workers, equipment or paperwork, etc only to go onward so the distance moved into the "D" category. Now most people would probably have much more in "B" or the lower end of "C" but once again, the variety of need is great and each of you should create your own mileage breakdowns.

Winter is coming and due to the short lengths of  Trips A and B, the Prius will not come close to its advertised 50 MPG. In all my Priuses, my overall average was in the 50 mpg range but there was always a 5-7 mpg difference from Winter to Summer in the 04, 06, and 2010 with the 2010 exhibiting the largest discrepancy and this discrepancy is magnified during colder weather.  Typical performances run 20-25 mpg for A trips and 25-40 mpg for B trips. Each trip performance was calculated by resetting the trip meters at the beginning of the trip and then deducting 8.35% from the dash results. The 8.35% figure was the lifetime medium variance from the dash display and the calculated fuel economy. My 2010 was from the first batch built in April 2009 and had a much larger discrepancy than ones built later that year.

The LEAF does appear to have somewhat of a warm up cycle as well but much shorter. I spent a lot of time experimenting with how well the LEAF does in the first few miles after a full charge was completed and found the first 5 or so GIDs dont seem to provide the same amount of driving distance. I even went so far as to drive ultra-conservatively try to bolster the numbers to no avail having to drop to roughly 15 mph before seeing any real repeatable results.  But what is there to warm up? Since getting access to the ELM app (now more commonly known as "LEAF Spy" at the Android Marketplace) I now can track battery temps and have determined their role to be small if any here. But whatever it may be, I mention it only in the interest of full disclosure of my observations.  But my LEAF essentially uses 225 to 265 watt hours per mile and this figure applies to a fairly wide range of driving conditions and speeds. 40 watt hours is not a whole lot so if using a widely accepted value of 4 miles/kwh (250 watt hours per mile) and my actual electrical cost of 10.4 cents per Kwh the value of 2.6 cents per mile comes real close to my real figure of 2.42 cents per mile (my real figure does take into account, free AV station charging and public charging costs by SemaConnect, Blink, etc) and that figure only seems to vary by no more than +/- .3 cents per mile from Summer to Winter. I will admit to using A/C liberally in Summer and very little if any heat in Winter.  Warmblooded I am, I am!

So to summarize what we have to this point; The Prius true cost for fuel can be hard to predict and very much tied to the personal driving needs of its owners and the seasons and the peculiarities of the Oil Markets.  The LEAF's cost varies little and is easily predictable weeks or months in advance.

Now if we look at the typical "JTTP" argument, it is centered on the only real thing a gasser can attack and that is public charging costs and the time it takes to rack up those charges. Right now, SemaConnect provides the worst deal in my neighborhood charging .49 cents per kwh. Now, I use them due to convenience of locations and the fact that I have a $20 credit on my account so might as well get that out of the way right? But unlike other companies; I pay for EXACTLY what I get to the penny! None of this rounding up to the next hour if I miss it by 5 minutes or whatever, so Kudo's to Sema for at least having an effective and FAIR billing system!  But at 49 cents a kwh and 4 miles/kwh times a 85% efficiency is 14.4 cents per mile (which is what my Yaris got last Winter when it replaced the Prius) and that is not good. The Prius can easily beat that right??

The above is how the typical argument goes and we have to assume this is for a trip of 60 plus miles or maybe even 50 miles in Winter right? Ok, but what about the other half of the trips made that fall into categories A and B?  Remember, in the LEAF it does not matter the length of the trip. The cost per mile is relatively static and predictable. In the Prius our 45 mpg winter average (actually 45.4 Winter, 52.3 Summer,  49.8 overall) at 7 cents a mile (when gas gets to $3.15 a gallon) is really as high as 15.8 cents a mile for A trips to 10 cents a mile on average for B trips.

So when I am categorizing my planned trips into EV or "JTTP" I compute my costs using the 2.6 cents for the first 60 miles then incorporating whatever charging cost that may arise.  Now, not all charging options are as expensive as Sema. Blink although much maligned for their one size fits all $5 flat fee fast charge (now to be known as "5F". I mention this so we all know that the "5F" is not a grade but an acronym, right??) actually provides a bargain for L2 charging at a buck an hour for members (there is no cost for membership and as I predicted, will never least as a Blink company) so now for my dollar we are getting (at my 2011 lame-o 3.8 kwh rate) about 13 miles (at 85% efficiency) or 7.8 cents a mile which just about matches the Prius on a good winter day. (provided it has driven far enough...)  So on a 100 mile trip, the LEAF would have 60 miles at 2.6 cents or a buck fifty plus 3 hours of charging for a total of $4.50 roughly or the Prius at 45 mpg and $3.15 gas at 7 cents a mile or $7 so the Prius loses by a few bucks but add in the time to charge and that is a problem convenience wise right?

So lets look at the Blink $5 fast charge. Now we all know that the higher the SOC of the LEAF, the slower it takes a charge. So for convenience sakes and the consideration of time, lets do an 80% charge for 30 minutes.

So, now we drive the same 60 miles for $1.50, pay our $5 and get enough to complete our 100 mile trip and its $6.50 so we still beat the Prius  but only by 50 cents. We can almost call that a wash right? (remember, we are not only dreaming of a White Christmas but also $3.15 gas for this to work...)

So on long trips, Prius is good but even with public charging costs, the LEAF is still cheaper, but that is not where most people live.  Now if you are like Steve Marsh (who has a 130 mile round trip work commute) then maybe a re-evaluation of the car you drive is in order (unless you are lucky enough to have your boss install your very own charger at work!) but most of us put most of our miles on driving locally. Short trips.

Its short trips and the lack of  "warm up penalty" where EVs excel. So the small savings seen on longer trips becomes a significant amount of  "cash back" with shorter trips due to their being a lot more short trips and the gas cost being much higher while "EV" cost goes down as the percentage of "home juice" increases over "public (make sure that "L" gets in there!) juice."  Short trips is also what prematurely ages a gasser. So, if for no other reason; get a LEAF because you love your Prius!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The "H2**" With Fuel Cells!

Toyota is still the runaway leader in the hybrid industry which means they have the technical chops to handle most challenges so why have they not produced a mass market EV?

The RAV 4 EV has been very successful. The raw numbers are not impressive until we see how many buyers are not in the RAV's distribution area. ("California Special" personified here!) It really says a lot when you see this many people taking a risk (although probably small) and the additional expense (to ship the car to their home) to buy a car where official service center support could be thousands of miles away.

In a recent announcement Toyota said they will be putting out a 2015 mid-size SUV Fuel Cell car that will get 68.3 miles per Kilogram of H2. Now according to the article (check this because the article kinda sucks imm. More on my reasoning below.) a Kilogram (Kg) of Hydrogen is "roughly" equivalent to a gallon of gas. The hybrid version of this car (seems only the Prius on its coveted hybrid platform is the only one who gets a new design...) which is a Highlander only get 26 MPG so this Fuel Cell Version is much more efficient with the energy it uses  (Kinda like an EV right?) and its a much bigger car than even the Prius V.  So on paper it really seems like Toyota has really improved the performance of the fuel cell car but there begs the question; If you provide the car, who is going to provide the massive amounts of cash to provide the fuel? How will Toyota deal with the other challenges associated with bringing new technology to the market?

In a nutshell, new technology must address cost to market, fuel delivery, TCO, customer user experience and the aura of new vehicle ownership. Its these issues that still haunt EVs but if we take the 3 main technologies and examine them, is there a case to move full force on Hydrogen?

Cost to Market; Gas wins pretty easily. After all, the auto manufacturers have had a lot of practice ever since Henry Ford figured out how to turn Black into Green. (backs)  EVs still have issues with battery pricing but that is improving daily, or is it? Let me put it another way; news stories claiming a breakthru that will some day make batteries cheaper are published daily. The rest remains to be seen. But we can all agree that price will come down and one major breakthru will likely cause a very large drop in the price.  Then we have fuel cells. Well, I have to say I dont know enough about them to comment.  They are very new so have to guess that volume will lower the prices eventually. Now Toyota is claiming $50,000 which seems conveniently priced considering the cost of the a Tesla and since no other EVs are projected to have longer ranges yet, price comparisons on that end cant be made.

Fuel Delivery; Gas stations are in a crisis right now and the weird thing about it is that hardly anyone knows or cares about it.  The number of gas stations in the US has dropped dramatically over the past 15 years but has it really impacted anyone's ability to fill up?  Sure we all have stories about "Old Ben" (true story!) who owned the convenience store/gas station on the corner who opted for early retirement simply because he could not afford to keep up with the newer safety requirements for gasoline storage and containment. We all thought he got screwed and wondered why the State could think so little of the 30 years of service he had provided to our community but at the same time, leaks had been happening all over the state and even though his location didnt have any, it was put in the extra precautions or stop selling gas. Either way, it was simply go to the next station down the street (or more likely ACROSS the street) and fill up.

EVs are a different story. We have a half billion places to plug in and electricity is easy to come by but in little chunks and that is fine for the most part. My LEAF covers more than 95% of my needs and that is where public charging comes in because it allows me to eat into that 5%.   But now the question becomes "When is it simply cool to plug in and when does it become an inconvenience?   Fueling up is a fact of life. Now we can look at these as inconveniences or grin and bear it.  My gas stop at Costco on October 16th is not typical or out of the ordinary. I get there and its busy. I love Costco because its cheap and they have a lot of pumps with long hoses so even though my filler tube is on the left, I can use either side of the pumps. But all this is well known and despite my only getting gas during what I consider slack periods, every once in a while, I hit a crowd which was the case the other day. So it was a 17 minute gas detour (average is only about 7-8) which would have been no big deal and quickly forgotten as flotsam in daily routine of Life except I was in a time crunch (Murphy's Law got me!) so blaming the gas station, gas cars and whoever else was preferable to accepting the fact that I was lax on my "15 minutes early is on time" rule.

But public charging has struggled. Its placement has been inconvenient, sparse, and overall a bit strange.  Part of the problem is public perception has been inconsistent, business acceptance has been weak and governmental support has been poorly implemented at the local level. Now if I had a 250 mile Tesla S 85, I might feel differently but I dont (along with the $90,000 to get one) and I am betting neither do you so in an 80 mile LEAF how far is too far out of the way?  My office is on 56th and Tacoma Mall Blvd. Its very freeway convenient along with the Fife fast charge station at Tahoma Market but its 8.1 miles away in the opposite direction of home. For trips north, its very nice but that is about it. So my options are to use the much slower 240 volt options which are plentiful and several can be found while traveling in the general direction of home.  It is a combination of the latter along with driving slower that I have used.  So fast charging really needs to ratchet up its installs but that costs money and its money the government is not very willing to give up nor is any host hopping to volunteer either.

So will Hydrogen filling stations have an easier time finding acceptable places to operate?  They will definitely be much more expensive. Their safety and containment regulations will be massive. The areas they will be allowed to operate; limited. But then again, this is something the Oil Industry could easily Segway into so it will have governmental support anyway. The government might be "of the people, for the people, by the people" but its still owned by Big Money and we aint got that kind of cash so its got to be someone else.  Like batteries, Hydrogen storage and delivery needs a technological breakthru to be truly viable in the mind of the masses (EVs actually work for most but they just dont know it yet...) so maybe Toyota knows something no one else does?

TCO; Finally an area where EVs are undisputed leaders! Gas cars are pretty much guaranteed to have a $2500 annual fuel bill (at least for me) that quickly makes that nice purchase price not so nice and that is the beginning. They have become MUCH more complex that the DIY'er can no longer handle 90% of the maintenance needs like the old days. EVs have very little maintenance costs and 90% of the its fuel can be had dirt cheap or free (yes Aeroenvironment is STILL FREE!) but even if paying for public charging, its still a bargain if the location of the station is not too inconvenient.

Now, the cost to maintain a fuel cell car is to be discovered.  So everything I say here is just a guess. If we go back to the article referenced above (as much as I hate to) they surmise a fuel price of $9 /Kg of H2. which is the "mileage equivalent of $3.50 in gas using a "new math" I guess... So actual fuel prices are not to be known but what can be easily accepted is that for at least a few years (I am guessing more like 10) a fuel cell vehicle will have to go out of its way to refuel. Still guessing here but I can see the "lucky ones" only having to go 10 miles out of their way to get refueled which means their range is reduced by that length. These stations will be located near population centers (assuming someone does not object and spin it thru the court system for a few decades) but it will most likely be a significant chunk of time.  I measured how much time it took to get gas and did not consider the time at the station.  I only tracked when I left my commute and how long it took to get back to my commute.  During rush hour it was over 10 minutes if the lights were not kind and this detour was about 200 yards.  So 10 miles in heavy traffic TWO ways could easily grow into 30 minutes or more. FYI; I predict Hydrogen will come in at a MUCH higher price.

We also have to look at maintenance. No real guesses on that other than in my experience, any tank that holds pressurized gas has to have the seals on the valves replaced on a regular basis. I can easily see this as DIY type of thing so will negate that.

Customer User Experience; Dont know many people who feel good about driving their gassers. We accept the fact that they are transportation and that is that. Sure there are Vette Owners, Monster Trucks, etc... but all those loves has nothing to do with how the car gets down the road.

EVs are different. Quiet, smooth, clean and COOL!  But Fuel Cells have all that too... at least I have to think they will. Now, I know a lot of people who would not own a car the size of a Highlander for any reason.  Its simply too big a car. Now, tooling down the freeway is no big deal but in my experience as a driver for work (Yes, I still use the LEAF most of the time but do use the company car if needed) carrying 4 or more passengers that a large vehicle really really really SUCKS sometimes.  Seattle is not known for being car friendly in certain parts of town so maneuvering a 10 passenger Van can be a real pain sometimes so small is good. The LEAF is small enough to be very maneuverable. The Tesla S does have a bit of a knock as being more car than people prefer (although I could learn to live with it should someone be so kind to send one my way!!)

Fuel Cells are going to be different. You have to have a platform that can hide those tanks PLUS you still need batteries. The fuel cell is limited on how much power it can supply so the batteries are used as a buffer.  So the big question is; What is the smallest platform a fuel cell car can be and will that small platform still be able to maintain a decent range of at least 250 miles AND have passenger/storage space?  And will that platform be small enough to be accepted by the masses since initially, the car will be marketed more as a commuter than a family trip vehicle?

Now, EVs have their drawbacks so don't get me wrong. Due to limited range, public charging is the only way I can make my EV work for me but travel all over Western WA (and beyond) is part of the job  and its lucrative. I am reimbursed for miles I travel in my POV (rates vary based on gas prices but is currently 39 cents a mile and was as high as 46 cents a mile earlier this year) which provides me $400-600 a month tax free. Considering that my cost is about 2.4 cents a mile for home charging, I find little to complain about here.  Now if I had a normal job (which would not be good for me as I am an abnormal person!) and my transportation needs were to the office and back, no problem. Its a 46 mile round trip that my LEAF could handle for probably another 3-5 years with home charging only.

Examining my time at public chargers, I find that I am productive and rarely is the time spent that was inconvenient but that has not always been the case. I have had a few times where stops were required and had to wait for a charger which I did not plan for.  Broken chargers used to be an issue but no longer so much any more. But in all cases, I had planned the time to use the chargers and sometimes it required me to get up an hour earlier which could be a hassle but I frequently had work or socializing that needed to be done (yes, Facebook is a need for me and I am not ready to ask for help yet!) so I made the time less inconvenient.  But most chargers are self serve, 24 hours a day operations. Will fuel stations be so convenient? I think they will be eventually but considering the possible hazards I wonder if 24/7 access by the general public would be an option. Something as simply as plugging in a car has proven to be a bit beyond the comprehension of many. Damages to plugs by mishandling and misdirection (people who choose to not read directions) has happened on a much higher frequency than I would have guessed.  But the inconvenience I have refueling has only happened twice in the last 30 days which is not bad considering the 14 public charging events. Keep in mind that I have concentrated on not using public charging ever since the Blink $5 fast charge decision. (Aug 22nd in our area)

Aura; For lack of a better term. EVs are dripping in it. They are the cool new kids on the block and owners are literally gushing over their rides. (unless you live in Arizona... :( )  I will admit to hoping to run into other EV'ers at charging stations so I can gush in public over my LEAF and allow them to gush back but Fuel cells could also have that allure.  But with the 10 (ya TEN, with 9 in CA, 7 in Southern CA) current Hydrogen refueling options, it looks to be a small circle of people that fuel cell drivers will be able to shine their aura on, for now anyways.

So is Toyota making the right move by pushing H2 over EVs?  Well, actually I think this is simply Toyota being different. They were snubbed by the Big 3 back in the 90's when the Clinton Administration strong-armed the Big 3 to develop family sized cars that would get 80 MPG. Toyota got wind of this and wanted to participate and was rejected so they started their own development program and the Prius was born. The Big 3 were successful in developing the prototypes but then Gore lost the election and Bush decided fuel cells were a better idea and so here we are.  So I think that Toyota's Highlander FCEV is another compliance car to satisfy California.

So is fuel cells a bad thing? No, it definitely should be pursued because it does allow very large platform vehicles a valid way to travel. Semi's have the room to incorporate the very large tanks and batteries and do need a much faster refueling method. So even if the refueling stations were scattered around, a truck with an extended range could still handle it. So its something that should be strived for, but at the expense of EVs?? Cmon Toyota, pull your head out!

P.S.  If anyone has some insight or knowledge to some of the questions I have raises about FCEVs, please respond!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

$1000 or "Those Were the Good Old Days!"

On October 7, 2013 my LEAF exceeded $1000 in fuel costs.  I am certain that if public charging had still been free, I could have made it to November but oh well, not really complaining  :) . However,  I am just as certain that the next $1,000 will happen much faster.

For one thing; due to work/time demands, I had to pay $5 for a 24 minute fast charge at the Ecotality DC charger located in Fife, WA on Oct 9th.  Now this is the 4th time charging there since Blink starting billing for fast charging but the other 3 times I was able to get what I needed at the much cheaper L2's.  But the demands ofwork was paramount and I do have to log my time and being an honest person, I find it difficult to lie about it and feel good. (the lying part is easy, its the "feel good" part that is hard ;) )

So I charged my 24 minutes (Blink says 24 min and 44 secs but I only count the time the car is receiving power...)  and got my 9.07 Kwh at a "wonderful" rate of  55 cents per Kwh (worse than Sema!!) while dreaming of the "good old days" like September 22, 2013 for example when I charged at the same Fife Market but this time it was the end of the work day and I only had to make the opening kickoff of the Seahawk game (which I did by about 10 minutes!) and paid a buck for 4.07 Kwh  (yes, I took advantage of their grace period and charged one hour 4 minutes and 12 seconds!) at the much more acceptable rate of  24.5 cents per kwh.  Now I have a 2011 LEAF which is a slow charger and my rates would be much better if I had a 2013 but hardware problems did cause Ecotality to turn down the charging rate of their L2's so not really sure how much of a bargain that would be. Might have to wait til Jan, 2014 to find out.

Now, fast charging is more expensive to the vendor and I should pay more for its services and if I had more choices, I probably would have elected to pay say...oh, I dont know lets use 55 cents per Kwh just for example's sake ok?

So, if having the choice; I would have elected to pay $2.20 for 4 kwh since that is all I really needed. Then, I could have not logged a 30 min lunch, probably finished my day a bit quicker and made the same amount of money.  Now, it was a bit nice to be able to catch up on text, Facebook, etc and eat in leisure but I eat in the car nearly all the time so that is hardly much of a benefit and I couldnt help but notice that the same amount of time it took to go in, wash hands, heat up sandwich, pay for it and return to the car was probably nearly the same amount of time it took to get my 4 kwh...

But as much as I complain about Ecotality's billing on fast charge (their L2 is actually a bargain! if you have the time...) I fear that I will regret the "new management" even more.

As we all know, Ecotality is no more. They have been bought up by the entity called "CarCharging".  Now what pricing they will charge is probably not really known yet. With the huge disparity in electricity rates around the country, a "one size fits all" scenario is not in best interests of anyone  but if going by general info on their webpage  They look to be matching Sema's rate at 49 cents/kwh or $2.49 to $2.99 per hour depending on the local laws concerning the sale of juice. They do have a disclaimer that Chargepoint station rates are set by the host so YMMV.  Either way; if they are charging this much for L2, I shudder to think what the fast charge rates will be.

Only time will tell, but I think I maybe pining for the "good old days" when fast charging was only $5 per session

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Toyota Cuts Pricing on their Prius Plug Ins!

Recently Toyota made two moves and their intent is rather obvious.  First they eliminated incentives for out of state buyers for the RAV 4 EV. Then they cut prices on the Prius Plug in to a level that is just  a few thousand more than the regular Prius.  They also broke up the options on the Advanced Tech Package so its no longer an "all or nothing" option. Something that should have been done from day one.

This is really a thinly veiled move intended to ride that hybrid horse for one more lap. Toyota is still the unquestioned leader in the hybrid industry and still enjoys having the only car at 50+ MPG in the US; a fact that really eats at the heart of every OEM on the planet.  Sure there are a few around that touches that coveted bar occasionally, but trying to match size, comfort, etc at the same time and there is nothing within sight. After 10+ years, it is really embarrassing how far ahead Toyota remains.

So is this a bad thing for the EV industry? Will PiPs take sales from the Volt (maybe...) or LEAF? (doubtful)  In this pond known as the American car market; every action creates a reaction.  A ten cent change in gas prices will either bolster or hamper the large car/SUV market. Ya, thats right! a fricking dime.  Newton and Einstein may have been smart but neither was bright enough to develop the math for that TCO calculation!

But what this will do is create a nagging worry for EV manufacturers. They will go back and take another look at their product roadmaps. Maybe a 30% increase in range in 2 years is not enough. Maybe it has to be 50%?  What is the compensation needed to overcome an "under $30,000 car that has a relatively easy potential to get 75 MPG?

Those are tough answers Nissan, Chevy and others will have to answer to and quickly. I really feel for them but only because I am likely to be the beneficiary!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

4 TB's and Regen. or "Heat Tolerance is only HALF the Battle!"

Starting with a picture is a new thing for this blog but this one does have at least a thousand words to say. For the newer LEAFers, we need to point out a few things along with some background info.

The two previous days I had charged overnight outside.  This allowed batt temps to drop until they were between 51 and 53ºF per the ELM.  I started from a full charge (235 GID) and trip meter was reset.  The picture shows 4 capacity bars used and nearly 25 miles driven (80% freeway @ 55 mph) and a temp rise of less than 2º (range of 52.4 to 54º.  FYI; normally batt temps drop on this early morning drive when batt temps are in the mid to upper 60's.  OAT varied from 43 to 52ºF)

Despite using more than one third of my capacity, full regen is still not available and probably due to the cold batt temps.  Another thing to note; it was very difficult to actually light up the 3rd regen circle. I could only get it lit very briefly. This is unusual in that I can normally (and quite easily) light up all circles available, especially the 4th one (farthest to the left) making me think that the 3rd one here is barely enabled.

The next morning was an earlier than normal one and car was garaged early in the day and door shut by 7 PM (normally open to as late as 10 or 11)  Charged finished before 1 AM and got 246 GID (highest reading since a 248 before the SW update) Batt temps were 65.6 to 68.9º. Departed at 3:15 AM and it was COLD! Climate controls used only enough to keep the windows clear. OAT was 35º per LEAF gauge.  To reduce interior fogging, I leave windows open on LEAF  but this only works if LEAF temp and OAT are close which they were not.  During the 4 mile drive to the freeway, I had both front windows down.  I rarely get cold during this because its fresh out of hot shower with very large cup of steaming coffee which would make me sweat in normal conditions. With a windbreaker on, I am actually very comfortable!

It was apparent early that my range would not be stellar and I dropped my speed to 50 mph after Nisqually Hill (about 5 miles on freeway) After a 9 hour day; I was on the way to an appointment so return speeds were between 55 and 58 mph but ended the day with a range estimated to be 72 miles to Turtle. This includes about 12 miles done at surface speeds of 25-40 mph.

Now hard to quantify the impact of climate controls on the day's drive and I guess I could dig out my Carwings password and at least get one number on the subject but guessing will have to wait a few days for Carwings to catch up so will edit with that info probably tomorrow.  But I only used defrost on a pulsing basis probably a dozen times for no more than a minute at a time so a small impact at best.  But does provide a decent picture of monthly driving (if you ignore the miles/kwh...)

Now; you could look at this picture and surmise that I had 7 days off last month but keep in mind; I worked a single job in Olympia twice in September (actually worked in the Olympia area 4 times but the other two times there was other jobs to go to...)  FYI; my average energy economy taken from the daily Trip A resets was 4.5 miles/kwh

Either way, I am sidetracking (always happens when I look at Carwings. Must be the nagging feeling I am looking at something that does not relate to me at all!)  But the batteries Nissan is currently using suffers from permanent degradation in VERY moderate heat. Case in point;  A San Diego LEAFer only 22,000 miles on his LEAF. Normally charges to 80% rarely sees temps above the low 80's. Has only QC'd a few times and has NEVER seen TB #7. All this would seem to be the perfect conditions of a longer lasting pack, right?

Wrong! He posted his stats when he lost his first capacity bar on MNL.  In fact, it was his post that started me on this temperature experiment. I had originally kicked the idea of leaving the garage window open all Winter (ya, would be cold) but now seeing that would be a hit on my range.

So in conclusion; I have to put in a bit about TMS. Its apparent the LEAF's pack has little tolerance for temperature discomfort. It is very much human-like in its desire to be at room temperature.  So am I now a fan of TMS? Will I join the ranks of people saying "My next EV will have TMS or I aint buying it?"

Well, no. Was not a fan of TMS before and I am not now. The reasons are primarily financial and really no need to delve into that. We are all aware of the sales jump that happened when Nissan and Chevy cut prices.

But a story that happened very close to home (about 45 miles up the road as a matter of fact) of a Tesla catching fire and burning.  Now; is that a knock on EVs? No, not at all. The EV characteristic had no bearing whatsoever in the starting of the fire.  But like most car fires (about 2/3rds) the root cause was electrical and the fuel was a flammable fluid that WAS NOT gasoline.   Herein lies the weakness of all ICE vehicles and EV's with TMS.

The battery pack in all EVs are nearly bulletproof, just like a gas tank on the car. But like a gas car, its when that energy leaves the pack or the tank, it becomes vulnerable.  On my trip to Japan; TMS was discussed and it was made clear that the idea of liquid cooling system was not an option due to safety.  I thought this to be an overly cautious approach but now I cant help but wonder if the LEAF could have weathered a publicity nightmare such as this incident with Tesla as well as Tesla most likely will?

P.S. Comments are free

**Edit** too many requests for clarification of acronyms here sooo

 TB= temperature bars which measure the heat in the battery pack. its the gauge on the left

TMS= temperature management system; which is used to control temperature of battery pack and something the LEAF does not have

ELM; is a device that connects to
 CAN (computer automotive network or something like that which is a data port under steering wheel of ALL new cars) and transmits data via BT (bluetooth) to an android device. it displays a wealth of info about the LEAF.

OAT= outside air temperature