Sunday, June 28, 2015

Nissan's 338 Mile LEAF Is Real And This Is How It Will Be Done!

Recently Nissan posted a very short video showing a LEAF with a seemingly 338 mile range. The video was nothing more than a fluff piece with no words, no info, etc. Just someone happily cruising the country side without a range concern in mind.

 Now we see prototypes at car shows all the time so seeing something a bit unreal or "way out there" is kinda normal. Remember the "Bladeglider?"  The three wheeled super cool sports car?  Now that was a pretty awesome car. I had a chance to see it up close at the Toyko Motor Show and it is MUCH cooler in person than any excitement a picture could hope to convey.

But a 338 mile LEAF? Even under the very modest Japanese testing parameters, that still equates to 250 miles in America a 300% jump from the current LEAF.  How is it we went up that far that fast?
That is a good question and I am pretty sure I have a pretty good answer.

First of all, what would it take to get that much range?  We all know the LEAF is more efficient that the Tesla and the Tesla needs 85 Kwh to get a similar distance so lets start about there. If this was the case, then where does the battery go?  Did Nissan follow Tesla's lead and create a flat battery profile that would cover the entire underside of the car?  Some have reported the prototype did have less ground clearance so it is a possibility.  But how would that extra weight work with the LEAF?

Well, it wouldn't. Batteries have advanced a ton in the 5 years the LEAF has been out and about but not that much.  This means a drastic weight reduction measure would have to be implemented and to be fair, the video does flash to a part of the LEAF that "seems" like it could be carbon fiber. Hopefully that is not the case. This would drive the price of the LEAF out of my (and probably yours) price range. Now, even if this did happen, I am sure we would still have a super cheap trim option but it will be hard to accept that when so much better is out there.

So how will Nissan provide us all the range we could ever want?  Well, before we get to that (Am I a tease or what!!) People complain that Nissan is not doing enough to advance EVs. They are too closed mouth, too secretive.  I have to think that that opinion is mostly the result of Elon Musk rewriting the rules of auto manufacturing financing. It is estimated that even under the best of circumstances, Tesla will not generate a profit for at least another 4-5 years and that is a prediction made with great optimism, instead Musk basically makes money by creating hype.

So what "seems" like Nissan playing close to the vest is really them being normal and Tesla being "out there."  Now, don't get me wrong; I love Tesla. How can one not love Tesla? Here is a company losing millions but still willing to build a charging infrastructure for the customers, fre... ah, umm,  well for a reasonable cost.

But then again, maybe Nissan is telling us more than enough and we simply need to know how to process the information. For those of you who were good at  "Scavenger Hunt"  you have probably already figured it out.  But for those of you who simply gave up and got drunk instead (like me) lets walk this thru.

Hint #1;  Nissan's battery supplier NEC announces break thru in capacity and cycling back in 2012.  Testing has generally gone on quietly but there is also evidence that the product is now in use and doing very well at least under simulated cycling.

Hint #2;  Nissan partnership with Phinergy. Phinergy developed Al-Air battery technology. Its kinda hard to classify this as a battery in the regular sense when equating it with EVs because the battery is not rechargeable but so I liken it more to the Fuel Cell only MUCH better. In fact; Al-Air is Hydrogen's worst enemy!   unlike a lot of "battery breakthru" announcements, proof of concept has already been acomplished. Several successful prototype runs have been done which is probably why Nissan jumped into this partnership so fast. They predicted production ready cars in "2 perhaps 3 years"

Hint #3.  Ok, I lied, the video does have some words and the video is loaded with clues.  If you have not done so, go back to the link at the beginning and watch it a few more times. Did you see them??
First of all; the normal. Guy starts LEAF, GOM shows 544 km.  Great number and so far, what we know and expect (other than the awesome range speculation!)  But then we see another display that runs a count up to 544 km? Well that is something new, right?  What is that for? My guess is that is how you check your secondary power pack, the Al-Air pack.

Hint # 4; Then the video flashes bullet points;

"Increasing Battery Capacity." Check. see Hint #1.

"Reducing Weight"  Check. remember the carbon fiber mention? I guess a little here and there is ok.

"Improving Aerodynamics"  Check. Remember we mentioned it appeared the LEAF rode lower to the ground? Reduced ground clearance lowers drag.

"Technology That Takes You Further"  Now this is the final bullet point so it could be a summary of the previous points but do we really need a summary of a segment that took about 5 seconds? I think not. The emphasis on the word "Technology" is the clue. Its Nissan's way of introducing Al-Air.

Check my previous post about Al-Air  and its many advantages.  So what do you think about Nissan's 300 mile LEAF? Well, I don't have to, I know!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Nissan's Discounted Lease Purchase Program

Recently Nissan has announced huge discounts off the lease buyout of the 2011-2013 Nissan LEAFs. The amounts range from a few thousand to several thousand.

This is great news but I have to say I am a bit surprised at some of the reaction from the EV community. Now, I do realize that no matter what the subject is, there will always be a complete spectrum of reactions to that subject but it seems everyone has missed the biggest one.

A lot of comments were aimed at Nissan trying to scramble to cover the anticipated large number of lease returns. With a longer range LEAF just around the corner, the motivation to keep the older LEAFs will be affected as one would expect. So they threw out this seemingly desperation move to help stem the tide of returns.  Not sure I see it that way.

Would it play better if Nissan pitched it as "Buy your leased vehicle and receive a free replacement battery!"

I, for one would not like it at all.  For me, I would say "Give me the CASH! I will decide when and from whom, I will buy that battery from"

 Remember; Nissan tried to do a battery leasing program that was completely destroyed in the online community. It was not a bad plan at all. It was a way to have a range guarantee without a large output of cash. I did the math. Most people would be paying about the same money either way. Whether it was plop down $5400 now, or pay $100 a month. The costs after financing were nearly identical. But because of the reaction, we never did get any details of how Nissan planned to handle the extremes of drivers; the lightly used LEAFs and the road warriors. I am guessing both of these would have made out even better.

What I do see is Nissan giving the owner another option. Take the savings now, then decide when you want to pay for the replacement battery. I speculated in a previous blog that I anticipate a $1500 reduction in battery pack costs along with increased range by 2017. Take the cash discount, bank it and use it to buy your battery. I am guessing that you might find you have to contribute very little to that fund when you do purchase.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Will Nissan's New 30 KWh Battery Be Compatible with 2011-2015 LEAFs?

Next to the price, this has become one the most popular and debated subjects. I say yes because..

First off, according to this article , The idea of a 30 KWh pack is nearly 3 years old. Based on the article, we can assume that the 30 Kwh pack will be nearly the same in size and weight with the existing 24 kwh pack which means no significant design changes required.

Now, the other thing to think about is batteries are created in batches and I am guessing they are very large ones at that. So there is an issue of using up what is already in the supply line along with a question of shelf life.  As I understand it (which is little) unactivated battery packs can lie dormant for a relatively long time like over a year or more. Now, how much more? Good question! and if anyone knows, please chime in.

The way I see it is that Nissan will stop (if they haven't already) creating the 24 kwh packs altogether. It will simply be a question of guesstimating how many they will need to cover the 2016 S trims plus a few for warranty purposes. It will be this demand plus people simply replacing battery packs long after their warranty that will mean Nissan will have to provide a workable solution PLUS

US Law states manufacturers must supply parts for the "full warranty period." Which means that Nissan must supply a 24 kwh battery pack or substitute at least up to the year 2025, right? After all, what happens if you have a battery pack failure in your 2015 LEAF?

 Now, I tried to get some definitive answers about this law from various people in the biz but most were pretty evasive about it stating "they knew" some less popular models had no real parts supply when they were discontinued. But even whole companies that have disappeared like Oldsmobile and others, parts are still available for the cars. Just not very cheap ones!

Since the 30 Kwh pack is the same size and weight, its pretty much a no brainer!!

**Just a reminder** Remember in a previous blog, I predicted a replacement battery pack of 30 kwh will be going for $3999 by the end of 2018 and "that is my words and I am sticking to it!!"

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Will We Ever See A 500 Mile Electric Vehicle?

There are few guarantees in life these days.  It seems like all the old rules are being rewritten daily but there is one given; an undeniable segway  when a new electric vehicle is announced that has longer range than its predecessor or previous version and the 30 Kwh 2016 LEAF SV/SL is no different.

The argument always lines up the same. There is the "Wow, awesome! This is perfect!" group which is generally small but knowledgeable.  Then comes the "sounds great if its the same price" group. They love EVs, probably already have one and rarely use the range they already have.  And finally, you have the "Well, "XX" has failed us again and I won't be interested. I will save my money for the "blah blah" when it comes out"

Now, it would not take too much imagination for us to figure out that the 30 kwh 2016 LEAF 1.5 is not what we are talking about here, its the 2017 LEAF II with its "double range" capacity verses the much talked about mystery car aka the Tesla 3. So what do we know?  Well, nothing actually about either one so best we can do is what we have been told which as we all know is subject to change.

Musk promises the Tesla 3 will have a 200 mile range and start at $35,000. Now due to the extreme inequities of the federal tax benefit for EVs, The Tesla 3 will see the $7500 tax credit for probably a few years... but then again, that all depends on when the car shows up. I generally add a year to any Musk prediction which means I am only slightly antsy when the car does finally show up.   Keep in mind; the fed tax max only applies to the first 200,000 units from each manufacturer.  How many S's and X's will go before the 3 arrives is anyone's guess.

Now, the 2017 LEAF II will have what I am guessing to be 135-160 miles of range and will retail for something close to what they are selling for now. Middle ground says $32,000. So for an extra $3,000 or so, you can get 40-65 more miles of range. Sounds like a good deal right?

Well, I am predicting that the average selling price for LEAF II will be no more than $2,000 above my $32,000 estimate but more than $5,000 above Musk's $35,000 estimate for the average selling price of the Tesla 3 which now puts it over $40,000.

So, does this make the Tesla a significantly more expensive car when their is simply more pages in the accessories catalog? Do we base the cost of the car on the "stripped down" price of the no frills option in each line? Well, some might but I have to go with what is selling.

The actual reality is probably going to be "Musk being Musk"  He has always excelled at promotion and hype and this is no different. the $35,000 price tag is just the bait and like all Fish, the biters will realize that there is much more to it. Either way; Nissan does not have to worry about the Tesla 3.  infiniti, BMW and Mercedes? well, that is a different story.

As mentioned above, every new EV announcement is immediately followed with what everyone "really" wants and rarely does anyone really want something that correlates to their needs.  There was a guy who was basically a traveling salesman delivering medical equipment all over the State of Florida. He put several hundred miles on his Prius every day eventually getting to nearly a half million miles (in less than FOUR years!) Ok, so he might need a 500 mile EV but for the rest of us?

But I hear this every day. "I won't buy an EV until it has the range to do everything I need it for so it will have to have at least 500 miles of range."  Well, guess what? That will NEVER HAPPEN EVER.

No matter how much better the batteries get; a chemistry based battery solution will never go that far on a single charge and the main reason is we simply don't need it to.  There will be no car manufacturer willing to design a car for the few dozen people who actually may need that much range on a fairly regular basis. The other reason is there is simply too many reasons not to

Battery Swapping;
Now the need to drive 500 miles will arise but before we start hauling around more than twice the battery we need (along with paying for it!) other solutions will cover our needs.  Battery swapping will come back. Yea, Better Place had a great idea but was about 10 years too early.

Public Charging;
A build out of the public charging network will also help to cover our more extreme needs as well. Score one for Musk, he really nailed that one.  But this benefit won't happen until the Oil Companies accept the fact that electric vehicles have gained enough of a foothold in the market to warrant the consideration. Look for BIG movement in that arena within 2 years. Look for 2017 to be the banner year for public charging. Yea, our future is likely shifting from paying oil companies for gasoline to paying them for charging...

Chemistry;  There was a lot of noise made just before this decade started with Ultra capacitors and electronic charge storage from a company called eestor.  They claimed to have found a way to hold electrons with the ability to control the discharge. IOW, an electronic battery of sorts.  But their claims of a working prototype being just months away has been proven false.  Other companies have come out with random claims of new super capacitor  benchmarks but none appear to be near production ready at this point. But another company has taken old technology, conquered a key drawback and promises a "production ready" product in less than two years. Phinergy has already demonstrated a working prototype with great success which I wrote about in a blog a while back.

Now, this option has great potential. It has huge weight/charge performance gains, very low weight, and a supposedly no shelf limit. IOW, you could order the range extender on your new EV, drive on the rechargeable batteries for years all the while knowing you can switch over the range extender any time as often as you wish without any creating any detrimental effects to range within.  Sounds like a dream come true?  Well, Nissan thinks its their dream come true. They have invested into the technology so don't be surprised to see this in the 2018 model year and an option.  My take?  Well, Hydrogen; It was nice knowing you...          

Finally; need is not the real question here. Its desire. Who really wants to drive for 10+ hours in a day?  I am a military brat who joined the military so all day driving marathons is something I have gone thru way too many times. Ignoring things I did before the age of one, I was 18 (flying to basic training) when I took my first airplane ride. So it was drive and ya, its like drive to Virginia from California. Virginia to Alaska (and back!), etc. so who needs it??

Well, we do. I predict the occurrence of marathon driving sessions will jump up within 10 years but we won't be doing the driving. I will leave that up to Google.                      

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

May 2015 Driving Stats; Time To Boost My Battery Numbers!

Well another month is in the can and another issue for the gasser. Had wheel bearing go out which needed to be fixed. With some favors owed, it cost me $89.43 to get that straightened out but now the car drifts to the right so taking it back in tomorrow to check that out.

The Corolla did make two long trips this month so it was  busy month for it going 720.1 miles at a cost of  $77.42 or 10.75 cents per mile (fuel only)  510 miles of that was in a 2 day period for work. Normally trips that long, I have a company car but there was too many other things going on so I didn't push the issue.  

The LEAF traveled 1095.8 miles for a cost of $19.20 or 1.75 cents per mile. I did do 3 short public charges, all free during the month.   With the odometer sitting just over 22,700 miles on month 17 of my 45,000 mile 36 month lease, I think I am doing ok although I will have to shift more driving to the Corolla this coming Winter again.  

Now, with the two days of gassing plus some local jobs, scheduled days off, etc. I went thru a period of  8 days when I averaged 16 miles of driving per day. Twice I went 2 days without plugging in and when I did plug in, I did not charge over about 70% SOC. This resulted in my lowest battery stat readings including a below 60 ahr reading.

My numbers bottomed out at 59.63 ahr, 91.09% Hx,  259 GIDs and 20.1 kwh available.  Now, these numbers could mean that my theory of a better 2013 battery than what my 2011 had is wrong.  Don't get me wrong. These are not bad numbers at all after nearly 23,000 miles but they are really about the same as my 2011.

So, I guess my challenge will be to boost my numbers to see what I got "left in the tank."  I am not sure I will make 100% Hx, but pretty sure I can at least do 63-64 ahr.  I will have a decent drive (roughly 130 miles) on Saturday that will likely include fast charging (as we all know, fast charging always seems to boost the numbers) so we shall see.