Saturday, January 17, 2015

2nd Generation EVs and Public Charging

During the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, General Motors introduced the Chevy Bolt BEV.  It is tentatively scheduled for as early as a 2017 release at $30,000 after incentives and reputed to have a 200 mile range on a single charge.

Elon Musk has been talking about his Tesla 3; An affordable mid sized EV starting at $35,000 before incentives with about 200 miles of range to be released in the future. Most think this will be mid 2017 or early 2018.

Carlos Ghosn of Nissan alluded to a Nissan LEAF II that will more than double the current range putting it in the 175 mile range "at competitive pricing." Add to that an unnamed Nissan Engineer stating a new battery chemistry that has finished testing giving the LEAF 249 miles of range. (No, not better than the two above, only using a different testing system to get that number.) Despite the varying  claims, I suspect the true range differences between the three to be minimal.

Since the current 85 mile range Nissan LEAF meets more than 80% of people's needs; with more than double the range, will the long lines at the highly valued fast charge stations disappear?  Although highly valued, most fast charge stations are lowly regarded due to poor reliability.  Some have required resets to function which is not a big deal to someone who has been EVing 4+ years and is willing to "walk the line" in a manner of speaking (FYI; a few years ago when faced with a non functioning DCFC, I was told by their tech support to power cycle the unit by flipping the breaker. Obviously not the first thing we want to do but...) but to the newer crop of LEAFers (not forgetting the other "handful" of Chademo-enabled EVs...) they are generally stuck without a charge if the station does not function exactly as the instructions printed on them states.

I can see people not wanting to invest a lot of money into a charging network based on these claims but we need to keep in mind a few different things;

1) New products are usually rushed to market so most of these "pre-release" announcements generally reflect best case scenarios.  So we are likely looking at least 2 years down the road for the first of these new 2nd Gen EVs. That means a lot more shorter range EVs hitting the road to share an already over taxed public charging system.

2) Mistakes were made in deployment of the current charging network.  More fast chargers at "convenience" locations like fast food restaurants, etc.  More (MUCH more) L1's at long term parking area like employee lots and park and rides.  No, these are not designed to give you a fully charged car (although that may well happen) but does add 30-40 miles of range which may well be just enough to cover after work errands and the return home. Concentrate L2's at locations where people tend to spend more time.  Malls, movie theaters, parks, sporting venues, etc.

One thing that always irked me a bit was the ideology between placing fast chargers. The "25 miles apart" might sound good for someone traveling through the region but it really sucks for people who have to travel within the region like me. I think they should be every 5-10 miles AND in pairs to be effective.  The real issue with a lot of the non use of these stations is the distrust many EVers have developed after multiple failed attempts to get a satisfactory charge at many of these locations.

3) Pricing. These announcements may seem like a great deal especially if you are driving a Chevy Volt or Ford Focus EV that cost you over $40,000 before incentives but to the newer wannabe EVers, these prices might be a bit hard to swallow.  Underestimating the demand for shorter range EVs at prices that could challenge current mid sized gasoline cars would be a critical mistake. Although gas prices have dropped complicating the issue for people who are not truly aware of just how cheap an EV can be to drive, I see the typical commuter household morphing from Gasser-hybrid/EV to Short range EV/Long(er) range EV. (Matt; if this sounds like you, that would not be a mistake!!)

4) Only in the Oil Industry do incentives go on forever, for everyone else the light at the end of the tunnel is on. I am predicting that the above 3 auto manufacturers will have less than a year left of the maximum tax deduction for EVs by the time these 2nd Gen EVs hit the streets. The currents regs gives a $7500 deduction of taxable income (cannot be rolled over to another tax year)
 for the first 200,000 qualifying units from each manufacturer. After the 200,000 unit mark is reached, it drops to 50% in the quarter after the quarter the  mark is reached (so roughly 3 to 6 months later) then 25% for 6 months, then nothing meaning that Nissan who is currently leading the numbers game could see sales as early as mid 2018 with no federal incentives at all.

This puts puts the small select group of early EV manufacturing pioneers under great pressure to offer vehicles that are priced competitively . I have already discussed how the current incentive is HIGHLY UNFAIR and penalizes the companies that brought us EV options years ago. Companies like Toyota and others could wait for the technology to mature then put out a product with the full incentive intact for years. I can see a situation where Toyota could price an EV at say $3750 below market allowing them to cannibalize sales from other manufacturers who no longer have the tax incentive and bolster their profits as well.

In a nutshell, the greater range the 2nd generation EVs will provide will be wonderful but this should not signify the end of the shorter range EVs. I am a daily testament as to how well 85 miles can work for a great majority of the driving public.  EVs for the family running covering the entire price range is where we need to be and hopefully the auto manufacturers recognize this.

Finally; even when gas is dirt cheap, it can still be unexpectedly expensive. It is really too bad that damage caused by the user cannot be billed back to them when using the public charging network, but gas stations have a different policy. You break it, you pay to fix it.

I was eating a Gut Dog while working at a store in North Tacoma when this happened. I wish the guy would have let me know what he had planned to do so I could have gotten it on video but can't win em all I guess.

Now, as luck would have it, the gas pump maintenance man was on the premise and his rough estimate was $400 to fix the pump but that was a bargain since normally there would be a $250 trip charge added.


  1. With Honda and Hyundai just officially getting in the market at this timeframe Toyota and Ford may also jump out of compliance numbers at that point trumpeting the full incentive numbers

    1. Got plenty of room at the party so bring it on!! Ya, really hoping that Nissan's success will encourage more manufacturers to put their best foot forward. Its really sad that after 4+ years, the LEAF is still the best option for me. But what is sadder is that fact is determined by where I live.

  2. Couldn't agree more on pricing and options. I hope they take their cue from Tesla and offer two options, be it 24/48 or 30/60 kWh, as long as the price on the lower end one comes down from current leaf. Now here's the kicker... Right from the start, announce an upgrade path from one pack to the other. As we all know the current range is plenty for the majority of people the majority of time but a first time EV buyer still has a hard time getting past worst case scenarios and what ifs. Upgrade option removes that for a lot of people... If you move or change jobs or years down the road after some degradation you want to upgrade to something that makes your car better than new may be worth a lot. For the sake of argument, maybe out the door the cost difference is 8k but Nissan finds a way to offer the upgrade at a slight loss for 10k, now you have given people some food for thought.

    1. The best part of multiple pack sizes is the ability to buy low then upgrade to the larger pack later. since both would be on the same body style, the most modification needed "might" be some suspension changes for the additional weight or perhaps nothing at all. Either way, I don't see the upgraded battery packs costing anywhere near as much as you think