Wednesday, February 26, 2014

State of the Charge Report

2014 looks to be an active year for EVs with setbacks coming from all directions. But, its not all bad news!

First of all, WA State wanted to hamper Tesla's ability to open more showrooms despite having one of the largest market shares in the country.  This is strange. Yes, there is no sales tax but there must still be B&O taxes Tesla pays so more showrooms means more sales, more taxes paid to the state and more of our homegrown electricity put to use to benefit us right?!!

So that was headed off somewhat but looks like any new upstart will have a much tougher time of it.

But the source of most of the news is the various charging network providers. Seems they all want a part of the headlines!

Car Charging (aka Blink)

The Blink saga is ongoing. Car Charging Group seems to have no more money or ability to handle the mess left behind than Blink did on its way out. I will say that Blink seemed to be improving during its last few months but all that stopped the day CCG took over and the system is literally comatose.  Now, homeowners are having support issues with their home based Blinks. Add to that, reports that CCG wants to stabilize the network before working on expansion and it looks like the delays will be extending far into the Summer. But that is making a lot of assumptions.  But that is all we have right now. They could very well being putting together an action plan that could be implemented with results in a few weeks instead of months.  At least, that is what I am hoping for.

Aeroenvironment (aka AV aka West Coast Green Highway)

At first there was 3 but then there was 2.  The plan was to have a charging network to do the Baja to BC drive.  Washington, Oregon and California had an agreement to put in stations every 20 to 50 miles so a LEAFer could travel the West Coast.  Well, OR and WA finished their end and CA got derailed.  The first stations went in OR in Spring of 2012 with WA following a few months later.  Billing was supposed to have started that Fall and on the AV portal, each of my fast charges did have a $2.50 next to it. I thought that was fair... actually MORE than fair.

But despite getting notices about a billing start, it did not happen.  That made us owners happy and created resentment among hosts expecting a new revenue stream.  But the day we have all been expecting has finally come.  Soon, billing at AV stations will happen with a subscription price of $19.99 (possibly a promo price??) a month for unlimited or $7.50 for fast charge, $4.00 for L2 charge per session.  Not quite sure if these are finalized prices since as a FOB carrying member of the AV Network, I have yet to receive my official email... (yes, that is a hint!)

Well, this was a bit of a shock.  Several of us had wanted a billing scheme LONG ago. There is simply too many people using the fast chargers who have little need to do so. Some are local and simply charge because it fast, convenient and FREE. This makes the true traveler who has to charge wait longer than they need to. Check the AV Network and Burlington is almost ALWAYS in use. Tumwater frequently as well. Keep in mind; these are the two stations bordering the area I commonly term as the Blink Blight (Bling Blight is the area aka Seattle that was scheduled to have as many as 22 fast charge stations provided by Blink but 11 were installed and currently less than half are working. This is also the most densely populated area of the state where probably 90% of EV owners live) so the need to charge there is VITAL to many.  But too many times, people living in the area of these stations are charging too.  A "reasonable" fee will cut that traffic down so the stations can start being used as intended.

Now, the response to the announcement was as immediate as it was predictable. I have used the Tumwater station frequently despite living less than 10 miles from it but due to time constraints that would not allow me to get the charge I needed at home. So, my sessions frequently were in the 10-15 minute range. I either had ONLY that much time or simply got what I needed and moved on.   So, a time based fee system is what I really wanted but apparently that is not a feature the AV Network can currently offer. Ok then, if the hardware can't do it, it cant do it. But that is only the beginning of the problems.

Now, AV states that ALL per session charges, we must call in to AV to provide a credit card # over the phone! Which means another delay getting the charge we need. Now, is this a true limitation of their network? A cost cutting move? or simply them wanting everyone to subscribe to the monthly fee schedule?

I suspect the latter and that really does not work for me. Being on the edge of Blink Blight,  I simply don't have the need to use the network unless headed South. Yes, south is in my district and yes, we do have a regular commute headed South but the LEAF is no longer doing that.  So, the need to head that direction is very infrequent for me.  In fact, the last time in that direction was back in Sept.  I will say, I have taken on a new client at work and this promises to add a lot of work South of Tumwater but that remains to be seen.  But anyway; a subscription is not likely to work for me unless the network is expanded to go West towards Aberdeen, East towards Tacoma or North towards Seattle.  But, either way, their official response is software limitations.


Saving the best for last! Unlike the others, Chargepoint only administers the network after the host purchases the stations. They have been both the most expensive, cheapest, most widespread, and up until recently the least convenient.

WOW!! make sense of that statement!! Its not easy, but Chargepoint Stations have the billing set by the host and that makes sense. The host, as the owner, does not have to answer to anyone right?  So, they maybe free like Sunset Air in Lacey, or a per session fee of $3.00 like Tacoma Transit,  or Super Cheap like the one I stumbled upon in Gig Harbor charging a mere 50 cents an hour! FYI; that is cheaper than I can charge at home with my 6 KW charger. LOVE THAT STATION!! But up till now, they have only been the dual headed L1/L2 stations. I love them, there are a ton of free ones located at State facilities all around me but I simply don't have the time usually to use them.

Talon Portfolio Services and Urban Renaissance Property Company announced the addition of four level two electric vehicle (EV) charging ports and one DC Fast Charger manufactured by Eaton, to the Bellefield Office Park, located at 1150 114th Ave SE in Bellevue, WA. All five charging locations will run on ChargePoint’s network, the largest and most open EV charging network in the nation with over 15,000 charging locations.

WOW!! the first Chademo Chargepoint in WA with promises of more already in the works!! This is HUGE!!  Now, we have Chargepoint billing flexibility along with Chargepoint Network status reports which seems to work better than most.  With the announcement just coming down yesterday, details are sketchy and who knows?? The billing scheme could be worse than AV's but this charger is nearly dead center in Blink Blight so even a bad billing scenario could be overlooked if it provides fast chargers in vitally needed areas that Blink could not service and AV won't!!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Metering the EV

A few years ago, I blogged this on MNL, but due to some sort of something or another, the blogs were removed and I missed the chance to migrate them so I am recreating this one since I have had a lot of interest in this subject lately.

3 years ago when I first got my 2011, I charged at 120 volts for 2 months or so because I was getting ready to move (move was required due to owner wanting to sell) and did not want to put anything in there.

So I was using the Kill a Watt meter and found that I was averaging right around 75% "well to wheels" efficiency using the miles/ kwh meter on the dash of  the LEAF for my "battery to wheels" numbers.  This in essence measures charging losses only since there is loss in every step of energy transfer process and yes, this banks on the dash calculation being accurate and that in itself is dicey but at least its not Carwings!  :)

After the move and getting settled in, I was investigating 240 volt meters and found nothing in the range I was willing to pay for until Tom Saxton a Pacific Northwest EV enthusiast turned me onto his method which was to simply to install my own meter!

I started by going online to   then mousing over "products" at the top of the page and clicking on single phase remanufactured meters in the drop down menu.   There I selected the "EZ Read FM2S 200A 240V 3W Meter"  which was $17.50.  This meter requires a base plate which was another $10.50.  Shipping/taxes, etc.  added another $15 so $$ invested; $43.45

Went to store to purchase some random parts for another $11 and  simply disconnected my plug, installed the meter, and then ran wire from the meter to a new plug box.

Now I did get Phil's EVSE upgrade so it took my 120 volt, 12 amp EVSE to 12 amps, 240 volts. This was the only option at the time I got it. Later, I got another upgrade which was MUCH better.  

Charging at 12 amps kicked my efficiency up to about 83%. The biggest reason for this is the static load used for water circulation, monitoring, etc. that runs during charging. It varies little between 120 volt charging and 240 volt charging. 
For 2011/12 LEAF users charging at 240 volts, 16 amps, most were reporting efficiencies in the 86-87% range.

Now the meter is not highly accurate for single trips and I only entered in whole digits but over time its accurate enough. It is a "utility grade" meter and guaranteed 99.95% accurate (as if I could tell the difference?)

When I got my 2013 LEAF, I did the EVSE upgrade again but this time, my EVSE was programmable so I set it to run at 20 amps @ 240 volts moving my efficiency to 90%  and reducing my full charge time from about 8 hours to 3½. 

I also ran several experiments trying to determine my fast charge efficiency and have gathered some numbers but all have been during Winter so will hold judgement until I can run some numbers during Summer but so far its looking like 95+% is a probably a pretty close guess.

So if you are not satisfied with estimating your electrical usage with the efficiencies I mentioned above and you want a reasonably cheap, easy way to do it that is accurate. Here is your $54 solution.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

TCO; Jan 2014 Drive Report

Another month down and first full month with LEAF II.   Before we begin, the balance sheet has been tilted my way slightly with a check from Oly Nissan for $36.75 for an overpayment on tab fees.  This now makes my drive off -$36.75! The lease did cover my first month payment, title transfer fees and tabs (which does include a $100 EV surcharge)

I was also reimbursed $479.58 from my employer for mileage driven in my personal vehicles for work. Now; this is not always the case but 100% of the Corolla's mileage was due to work needs (or getting gas...)  The LEAF, conversely I drive for EVERYTHING else which means it covers nearly all my personal transportation needs.

1999 Corolla

Anywho; Corolla "made" $277.79 from mileage reimbursement (remember, its tax free!) Insurance costs for the month was $31.75 for the month of Jan. This will be added to the adjusted reimbursement for the latter part of Dec. The pay periods do not line up exactly with dates in my TCO calculation so have decided to extrapolate and split the pay on both cars so each will get $92.24 applied to their balance sheet. Now this does favor the Corolla but only slightly I am guessing. The Corolla went 621.5 miles at an estimated cost of $53.70 which works out to 8.6 cents per mile @ 39.4 MPG.  These costs are estimated but only because the last time I got gas was Jan 13, and still have 3/4th of a tank of gas so I am taking $24 of the Jan 13th fillup to apply to Feb cost. This is approximate for a specific Jan cost but  makes no difference in a lifetime TCO calculation.

So this means a total TCO on the Corolla (includes all gas paid for but not used  and insurance to 2/17/14) of  $2830.38  along with the 1569.5 miles driven lowers TCO from $2.61 per mile to $1.80 per mile.  Tabs are due next month so the improvement will not be as wonderful but its getting there!  Removing mileage reimbursement from work and the TCO drops to $1.57 per mile.

2013 LEAF

The LEAF traveled 1661.4 miles at a cost of  $35.39 which works out to 2.12 cents per mile.  This includes public charging costs which amounted to a generous 56.45 kwh received at an enormous cost of.... 38 cents.  OK, to be fair with a very busy work schedule my free time to charge publicly is very hampered so most of the charging was done at home or during my very rare time off. But that is Jan and Feb is now here which means a bit of a slow period before a half dozen major clients crank up for the season.  My personal utility costs went up slightly to 9.1 cents per Kwh but more likely due to additional electronic flotsam acquired during the Christmas holiday more than plugging in. Keep in mind that Jan 8th, I went from 85% 12 amp charging (EVSE upgrade rev 0) to 20 amp charging (EVSE 2013 upgrade Rev ummm 3 or 4 or so??) which is running right at 90-91%.  So this should have saved me AT LEAST a quarter... well, maybe only a dime but every little bit helps!

On work reimbursement, I received $201.75 which will be added to the $92.24 for Dec.  Because of the lag in pay verses the mileage driven, this is the reason why the LEAF which drove more than 250% more miles gets less in reimbursement. Next month, the LEAF will be dramatically higher.

TCO adds $245.75 lease payment, $68 insurance payment, EVSE upgrade $339.50, misc shipping costs, random electrical parts and of course the MOST important cost of all of $71.75 for the new Seattle Seahawk personal plate. I am now officially "Seahawk 5020!!"

This brings TCO to $862.64 after 2150 miles to 40.1 cents per mile. Subtract my mileage reimbursement and we are now at 24.8 cents per mile

Now, after reading thru this a few times, it is a bit hard to follow so if you have any questions, please ask. I am probably gonna look at making a simple chart format for future entries.