Sunday, January 19, 2014

3 Years!!

Yesterday marked the 3 year anniversary of my experience with the Nissan LEAF. On Jan 18TH, 2011 I journeyed to Rairdon's Nissan in Auburn WA to pick up my blue SL with QC. Up until that previous weekend, I had planned to purchase the car but changed my mind at the last second because I became a bit hesitant about how well my state would support EVs. Its funny that range degradation was never really in my thoughts at all and why should it be? I was living in Olympia, working at a job in Olympia that I had been at 8 years so I thought I was set.  Wow, was I ever wrong!

For the 3rd time since I had been there, the company was sold.  Every time, we lost benefits. I finally decided it was time to move on but now realized that the range of the LEAF might hamper my job prospects.  Now this was really a complete 180ยบ change in attitude for me especially when 8 years prior, I made the decision to take the job in Olympia for much less pay than an offer I had 40 miles North.  I did it because I did not want to commute and I did not want to overly support the Oil companies. I had a Prius at the time so the gas bill would have been manageable in any case but I simply did not want to spend the time on the road.

After bouncing around a few jobs in the area, I finally settled (at least for now) on a job that requires travel to various job sites all over the Puget Sound region and has an office in Tacoma which is currently 23 miles from my house. The commute was ok for the LEAF but the best part is now, I got paid to commute.  For any travel more than 20 miles from my "location" of Olympia (actually two locations of Olympia or Lacey and mileage is measured from whatever is shortest naturally) I am paid mileage plus wage (minimum wage which sucks but better than nothing and I know a LOT of people who drive a lot farther who get paid nothing, so I "live" with it. either way, it makes being stuck in traffic somewhat more bearable...)

But as I took on more and more responsibility for the company I worked for, I started getting more jobs that only needed one or two people. So, I was less able to use a company vehicle (policy states that any job over 75 miles one way, a company vehicle is preferred so that leaves a lot leftover) and had to rely on my car more which was ok by me. The mileage I soon realized is a tax free payment that is not income and geared towards the price of gas in the area. It did not take me long to realize that using my LEAF at 2.4 cents per mile and near zero maintenance was a very lucrative proposition!

But degradation did set in eventually causing me to lose about 12% of my range and that little bit did affect my options quite a bit.  Now, one one man jobs, I could stop and charge and simply change my pay records to not reflect any stops that I could not bill to the company.  now WA State has very strict labor laws concerning meals and breaks so I did incorporate them as much as I could which is another reason why a per kwh pay system is something I supported so much. I frequently did not have 30 minutes to spare!

And thank you WA for your initial support of public charging and to the Feds for recognizing the people of WA for their progressive attitudes towards clean transportation in making us one of the launch points for the EV Highway Project.  But even that has almost come full circle.

What started out great guns with awesome promises never did really live up to the hype.  Ecotality, the makers of the Blink system of chargers and EVSEs simply never lived up to the hype. They only installed a fraction of the fast chargers promised and for several months had technical issues that took a year to resolve. But the did resolve the issues (a moisture problem in WA?? whodhavethunkit!!) only to be sold a few months later.  As far as the new owners?? Well that question has yet to be answered since they have effectively ignored the fact that we even exist.  Slowly, nearly every fast charger on the Blink Network has fallen into disrepair out of sheer neglect.  

For the few that are still working, new users are unable to access them anyway. Access cards are impossible to get and since the ownership change, I am not aware of a single card being issued despite several dozen people asking for one. This leaves only the option of requesting an access code from them and trying to get it to work but this can only work if the station is currently communicating with HQ, another issue altogether, which is simply another roadblock to LEAFers simply wanting to drive their LEAFs during less than stellar weather (which is common at this time of year around here) But there maybe light at the end of the tunnel as Nissan installed a half dozen fast chargers at various dealership locations which helped including Olympia and Puyallup which has true 24/7 access!

All in all, EVs are gaining steam in the market place and sales are accelerating. More options and manufacturers will soon have plug options available and hopefully will move beyond "compliance" numbers.  I am not willing to predict what it will be like in the next 3 years at the end of my new 2013 lease  but...

** WA needs to step up to install a charging network. This could allow them to boost the local economies of struggling areas.  Grays Harbor County is a perfect example of an area desperately needing a boost and also on the way to several tourist destinations. Putting chargers here would have people in EVs stopping and shopping for food, etc.  who would otherwise breeze right thru in their gas cars.

**Nissan needs to boost their EV selections. The LEAF is a GREAT start but they need to cover the needs of other market segments.

**Higher capacity batteries with better cycling are on their way and will be here by the time I am ending my current lease. If the price is right, I will move from leaser to buyer and I will be providing the information on how I will get the money  to do it.

Soooo, stay tuned!

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