Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How Big Is My Battery?

I am a day away from 10,000 miles on my LEAF and so far, it has exceeded my expectations by a good sum. The extra 7-10ish miles of range I have has really made a difference in the car's usability. But like all good things, it will not last. Degradation will happen and I might be seeing the first signs of it now.  The past 2 days in a row, I have had the full 284 GIDs but only seeing 22.0 Kwh available. This is a drop from the 22.7 kwh I was seeing before.  Now as a refresher, my highs from LEAF Spy.  Other monitoring devices might be slightly different

GIDs;  284   (up from 281 on the 2011/12's)_

Kwh available; 22.7  This number widely reported from other users as well

Ahr;   67.36  Again, widely reported by others.

SOH; 106.65%  This number has the greatest variance from other LEAFers. I have seen reports as high as the 109's.  I did see a reading of 107.10% on my LEAF once but I only record readings first thing in the morning so I will stick with that.

Ok, so a GID was thought to be 80 watt hours more or less. The values do seem to change at different SOC's although I suspect its partly accuracy issues with Nissan instrumentation along with the irregularities associated with measuring electrical charges in general.  So 300 GIDs would make a 24,000 watt hour battery right?  So the LEAF leaves roughly 16 GID or about 1280 watt hours unaccessible at the top end which means that all of the battery at the bottom end is accessible??

Well, of course that cannot be true, right?  After all, its generally accepted that the deeper the discharge, the worst it is for the battery.  So we have Turtle mode that warns us when we are getting to the danger point.

Ok, so yesterday, I drove 89.3 miles and due to the late hour returning home, I was driving much faster than I normally would be but monitoring my progress with LEAF Spy to insure I did not speed my way into a tow.  The last 20ish miles (traffic does not permit me to drive faster sooner even at 8 PM!)  was done at 70+ MPH and I realized something.

Despite having exceeded 95+ miles over a dozen times, I have never really come close to turtle. The other day, I drove 99.3 miles and still had 12 miles left on GOM (traffic was HORRIFIC) In fact, I just realized that besides not getting close to turtle, I have just barely hit VLB territory.

I had been under the impression that my "22.7 Kwh available" was not all available and that some of that at the lower end would be in turtle mode. Well, yesterday, I went all the way to .7 kwh and no turtle.  I then went to grab food and come home, down to .4 kwh and still no turtle.

I mean, what is the deal here? Nissan are you seriously allowing us to go to ZERO percent SOC? or is the instrumentation that far off, or...

Did you give me a bit extra and decided to not mention it?

I guess, the one thing that is possible is that my "22.0" available was actually still 22.7 and the BMS is making adjustments due to heat. It has been a lot hotter here (just now cooling off the past two days but at night only) and yesterday was a full Sun day so the car was VERY warm...

Either way, I hesitate to make any claims on capacity, degradation or longevity. With the readings I am getting, I simply can only say;

I will keep you posted!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Flat Tires, Cell Service, and Public Charging

An interesting discussion on MNL about the need for spare tires got me thinking.  One mentioned that he frequently took trips where there was no cellular service so roadside assistance would be of no use if he got a flat.  In the past 10 years, I have driven either Priuses, ZENN, or LEAFs; some of which came with a spare but the Prius and LEAF had TPMS.

Now during this time I was NOT lucky with tires. My 2006 Prius picked up a nail on 4 separate occasions, including two less than 10 days apart.  In all cases, I simply over inflated the tires until I got around to taking them to the tire store for repairs. On one occasion this went on for 3 weeks. So,  a spare tire or not? That was the question.  Twice I heard air leaking from the Prius and to slow the leak, I simply had to park on it.  But two other times, I was alerted by the TPMS.  Usually by the time the alert lights up the dash, I was in dire straits.  One time was coming home from dinner from the Lucky Eagle Casino in Rochester, WA where cell service used to be weak. My tire pressures on my Prius were set to 42 PSI front, 40 PSI rear but the right rear tire was at 25 PSI.  I carried around a portable jump box that was used for various things and it had a 12 volt compressor on it so airing the tire up to 50 PSI only took a few minutes.

Either way, I is strange to me that in this day and age, we are still hampered by ineffective communication. Historically, the government has stepped in to build nationwide infrastructure simply because private business either would not or could not.  The highway system and the national electrical grid are two prime examples. The other issue is that my LEAF had two issues with tires and in both cases, a spare would have done no good. Luckily, I was in an area that had cell service.

I think its time we started a push for two more networks;  Reliable Cellular service (no coverage holes, including degraded service greater than one mile) and a public charging network.  Now it took cars being on the road for over 40 years before we started the national highway system but we really can't and should not wait that long.

Cellular Service; This proves to be the biggest challenge. Simply too many non compatible protocols.  I have Verizon which is supposed to be the best or at least they seem to be at or near the top in most customer surveys but there are several areas in the Puget Sound Region where service is weak or non existent while still in the middle of town. Kent, WA is a  prime example. It is in a hole which explains the poor signal.  In my job, I rely on GPS daily. But cellular based GPS gets its route data from the cellular network. Now, it still only needs a clear view of the sky to navigate like any other GPS system so traveling through a dead zone is ok, its getting the route information is where the signal is needed. But in Kent, WA there are several areas where only text messaging works. Now, this is not a deserted country road or remote mountain highway we are talking about here, so why is this happening?

Regulations, territorial pissing matches, NIMBYisms,  etc. all play a part. Its time we wave some sort of wand and remove those barriers. Communication on the run has simply become too important including a threat to personal safety in some cases.

Public Charging;  Last month we added over 200,000 jobs.  The country is expanding and we need to keep that momentum going but it would only take one negative incident concerning the world oil supply to derail most of the progress we have made. Yes, we are making a lot of our own oil but to say that we can weather a major oil supply disruption overseas is still a bit optimistic.  One could argue that there is not enough EVs out there to justify the expense and they would be right but such a project would take several years and longer if we combine the public charging project with an upgrade and expansion of the national grid.  So the project should begin in the areas where EV adoption is well on its way to becoming mainstream.

Like all expansions, the fringe sees it last and least. So a reversal will hit them the hardest. This can be changed by a combination of limited range EVs and well placed charging stations. Grays Harbor County,  WA is a prime example. It has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state, least attractive job prospects and its largest city, Aberdeen, serves primarily as a junction  to other destinations.  Gas cars don't stop here. But EVs would have to and would WANT to if there was charging there.  One thing that applies to EVers and public charging. It does not matter where the chargers are. If one is there, the EVer will create a reason to go there! Most EVers would then spend money at the host location.  This builds income and eventually interest in the area. Aberdeen does have reasons to visit. After all there are at least a handful of people who live there because they want to.

The National Grid; There have been a few articles suggesting the next likely terrorist attack would be weak points in the electrical grid or a major pipeline.  Decentralizing the grid and creating more balanced distribution network  with super efficient transmission systems that can incorporate solar and wind more easily should be a top goal for both the security and economy of this country.

Now for those of you that know me and would make accusations that this was just a thinly disquised whine about the poor public charging system we have in place now,  you would be completely positively absolutely WWRRRIGGHT!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

June Drive Report and Unofficial Range Results In My 2013 LEAF

With no vacations in June, the mileage went up. (Well we did do an overnighter but that was it. Just a single day away from the LEAF since we did not drive) The Corolla was used for 4 trips, 3 of which were simply to drive it.  The trips were well within the LEAF's range but the car had just simply been sitting too much so I took it out.  Naturally a schedule change happened which required the Corolla (185 miles) so at least one trip was taken on gas needlessly. Its been two weeks now...time to stop beating myself up over that.

Moving on, The Corolla drove 489.5 miles at a cost of$46.97 or 9.6 cents per mile. There seems to be a lot of confusion over the actual financial benefits of EV over gas so this month we are adding some "reference" statistics.  I fueled up June 11 th (first time in a month and a day) @41.98 MPG and again on June 28th @ 38.87 MPG. The latter tank is showing the results of A/C which was used several times including nearly all of the 185 mile trip which was a 7 hospital run so a lot of stopping and starting. Twice we had the luxury of indoor parking but the rest was out in full sun and it was a VERY warm day.  Because the Corolla is never used in a day to day manner, I estimate I am getting 5-8 MPG more than if I took the Corolla out for 3 mile errands that the LEAF does.  Based on the EPA rating of 27/30/34, I am reducing my gas cost by at least 25% and usually more.  Using that as a reference, if the Corolla was my only car, it would be more in the range of 12-13 cents per mile. My gas cost using 12 cents per mile for all driving totaling over 2000 miles would have been about $246.  Reimbursement for work will be added next week when my pay stub arrives. It should be over $100 for the Corolla.

The LEAF drove 1567.4 miles costing me $30.33 or 1.94 cents per mile.  Another fact that seems to be "disputable" is my true cost for electricity. In June, I paid 7.8 cents per Kwh and that figure seems to be GREATLY disputed by people who want to do nothing but quote PSE.com rates. Well, that is fine but that is NOT my cost.  This in no way proves the bill is actually mine but I hesitate to post my street address. Not sure why so feedback on pros and cons would be nice

Either way, I figured my electric costs on the bill being $49.05 with kwh usage of 531 and connect charge of $7.87 making my per kwh charge bill minus connect charge divided by kwh used or 7.8 cents per kwh.

I know this may come as a shock to some (Charlie) but to the LEAFer's in the Pacific NW who actually do the calculations, it is pretty common knowledge...

So "my" EV benefit is what I could have paid in gas minus what I actually paid in gas/electricity or $246 - 46.97 - 30.33 = $168.70.

This would not include the reimbursement from work of course since most of you do not have that option.  As mentioned above, will have to wait on that but LEAF should getting $300+ which will take care of my lease and insurance payments quite nicely putting my overall transportation cost at a still astronomical "my time" (What can I say? traffic is a Beeyatch!)

Last week, in a jealous fit, I vowed to not use the Corolla (still seething over driving it for nothing...) so managing 3 90+ mile commutes would be a challenge.  The worst day was Tuesday where it was a  96 mile commute that ran from Lacey to Tacoma to Kent to Tacoma to Lacey. The Tacoma to Tacoma part included 2 co-workers. Lucky for me that neither was overweight!

Knowing the challenge and possible problems ahead, I started out at a steady 58-60 mph to the office in Tacoma, picking up passengers and did the same until hitting traffic at the Tacoma Dome a few miles down the road. Speeds dropped to 20-40ish for 4-5 miles then picked up until the Highway 18 interchange where there was another brief slowdown (by now we were in HOV lane) to 50 mph that again lasted only a few miles. We got to the jobsite in Kent, did the deed and piled back in to return. It was hot so A/C was on and set to 75ยบ.  Keeping in mind; the morning trip started at 4:30 AM, the afternoon trip experienced MUCH more traffic. This time, it was slow (we were stuck behind a school bus... like its nearly July, when do they park for the Summer??)  in the HOV lanes at 20-40 mph for roughly 8-10 miles coming back to the office. The slowdown at the Tacoma Dome, 705 Freeway/ Highway 18 freeway was minimal at 50ish MPH. My passengers were dropped off, I did about 20 minutes of paperwork and home for the day and it wasn't even Noon yet!

Was hoping to have some miles to show you but just missed it by about a half mile. Pulled in with 23 GIDs left. Not even close!

Now there has been a general consensus that the 2013 LEAF did not have a range increase but testing on the Japan cycle showed a 14% improvement.  While my unofficial observations have not been as optimistic, others have done various "constant" speed tests and showed no or minimal improvement.  In my 2011, I had attempted the Kent drive before (Its a pharmacy and we do jobs there once a month on the first of every month) and failed. Twice I even tried Highway 99, a road that parallels I-5 and is a hypermilers dream if you can manage the lights which are far enough apart and viewable from a good distance so can be easy to time, or not...

But there was a distinctive line drawn on where I could and could not go in my 2011 LEAF. Auburn yes, Federal Way, yes. Southcenter, no, Covington, no,  Kent yes and no (depending on which end of town!)

All the above are now reachable in my LEAF. So you can do set course testing and use those results for baseline testing if you like but my life is simply not that predictable.

One final note; the Corolla day of 185 miles ended with a 95 minute commute from St. Francis in Federal Way to my home. Unfortunately a car fire (yea, pretty common around here!) caused a HUGE traffic jam right at rush hour.  Normally its about 45 minutes home.  OBTW, it was a gasser on fire, not a Tesla.

Finally; a Kansas LEAFer sent me a link of a tent camper that was pulled by a motorcycle he saw on a trip out West!  Gotta be "LEAFable!"