Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Benefits of Guilt-Free Driving

Saturday, my little white microwave died.  It lasted thru 3 moves, 2 garage (maybe 3) sales,  4-5 years of neglect in the garage... It had a tough life. But it was a long life.

I got the microwave as a Christmas present roughly 15-18 years ago. I have literally had it forever  but it was a small one. 1.0 cubic feet I think and have no idea what the power level was... 600 watts I think.  It was put in storage when we moved because there was one of those hanging built in ones in the house.  Later I moved again and we got a bigger microwave from the in-laws I think so the little white one remained in the garage.  Unfortunately, it wasn't worth much so it garnered no interest when we tried to sell it. I think it was a bit too small for most people. Now that I think of it, I am beginning to have doubts that it was as big as 1.0 cubic feet...

But nevertheless, life without a microwave was not an option so I went down and got another one. This one was bigger. Big enough for me to be able to use my Chicken Roaster again. The little white microwave did not even come close to being able to handle the Chicken Roaster.

But when I got the new larger (1.8 cubic feet) Silver Microwave home, I realized that the smallness of the white microwave was the reason it fit so well on the kitchen counter.  The new one was way too big.  The white one was small enough that I could store my microwave plate cover,  plastic wrap, hot thing grabber and all the other stuff a microwave needs to function on top with plenty of room to open the cupboard doors above it. After all, it was the cupboard above that contained most of the microwave safe dishes and bowls I had. Blocking the cupboard was simply not an option.  I resigned myself to the fact that a microwave cart would be needed.

Well, normally I would bounce around online to determine what a good price to pay would be but I decided I had the time to do some comparison shopping and since I would be taking the LEAF, it would be nearly guilt-free shopping.

So I went to Shopko, then Target, then Goodwill, then Best Buy then another Goodwill, a Furniture Outlet place, Big Lots, Fred Meyer and Walmart.  It was after all this driving around town of 23.1 miles at 5.1 miles per kwh that I realized that Shopko (the first place I went to) had the best deal so I went back and picked up a nice roll around stand big enough for my Silver 1.8 cubic foot Microwave and my toaster oven.  I spent an hour putting it together which was pretty easy after unloading it from the car and bringing it in, which was not easy (It has a real granite top which didn't look heavy in the store  but...)  

So sum total was roughly 45 cents in electricity and for my efforts...

Not too bad I think!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

50 Fast Chargers Or 200 Miles?

My introspective analysis of my not too distant  (lease end, Dec 2016) future plans, I have been struggling with the question of need verses practicality (AKA affordability!) and came to the realization that I would much rather have a shorter range EV and use the savings on public charging as I need it and due to my job, my need is generally much larger than most.  Even with NRG's high prices, I could charge for years on the savings with  the possible price difference. Granted, I won't have the 200 mile convenience that would come in handy a few times a month in my job, but without public charging, no range is acceptable for me.

Now a lot of people will argue that time is money and spending time charging on the road is adding to the TCO of the EV experience which is as always, data spin.  Charging publicly can be a waste of your personal time but the key here is its "YOUR" personal time; time that if you looked at it closely, you already waste a ton of it anyway.  Driving is a unique experience in our World because of its singular ability to quantify how well our time was spent, hence the data sleight of hand commonly used in the anti EV argument.

"I made it to XX in 2½ hours" is one of the common themes at the annual far flung family gathering especially when it comes time to show your worth.  It is memories of this testosterone-based ritual that rears its ugly head when people are contemplating an electric vehicle in their future.   I can remember in the early days of Priusdom when my BiL lived in Salem, OR a 2½ hour drive of 164 miles.  The common topic was how long it took, where was the traffic, etc.  The conversation always went the same way.

They say "How was the drive down?"

I say "It took us just over 4½ hours"

 and they say  "Oh...ok. I have done it in 2 hours, which way did you go?"

and I say "Yeah but we stopped for breakfast (less than an hour from leaving home) and had a diaper change in Vancouver and bathroom break in Portland..."

and they say "Oh ya, I always stop at XX because we can eat, pee and change all in one place, and the service is fast!!"  With logic like that, I realize a stalemate is my best hope.

In all this, I never mention the fact that to maintain my 54 MPG lifetime average in my Prius my cruise control is set to 63 mph even in the 70 mph zone of SW Washington...

But the fact remains; if you are "wasting" time while publicly charging it is because this is what you have chosen to do. I have spent a lot of time charging on the road but very little of it has been wasted time and that is despite dealing with a very limited public charging system that is literally shrinking in parts of my local area!

But it was this conversation that made me realize that we Humans were not designed to do long drives in a car.  I only need to point out the existence of various products for "waste elimination without the inconvenience of unbuckling your seatbelt"  I also wondered if the huge variety of car cleaning products were inspired by a diaper change on a bumpy freeway...

But the one thing that is missing from the equation above is the fast charge network. In my previous entry, I closed with a question;

What would you rather have?  An EV that does a real 100 miles on the freeway and 50 well placed fast chargers added to your region or a 200 mile EV with your current fast charge network?

Well the first thing is defining "well placed"  I hear way too much about the "25-40 miles apart" model which is fine for a limited view, initial startup.  But that is not the definition of well placed. Maybe "good start" but not well placed.

Now this would be a great Charging net.... OH WAIT!!! this is a map of rest stops for those 400 mile range gassers!! Some less than 35 miles apart!... Hmmm?? interesting,  veeerrrrry interesting! Now what would they be stopping for? there is no gas at most of these places...

I am looking at something that looks more like chargers 10 miles apart radiating out in all directions. Granted, unless you live in the Midwest where townships created the lay of the land, the roads are simply not that geometric.   But in reality, such a network easily changes your 100 mile EV to something approaching...oh my!! 200 miles?? Can that be?

Now some might argue that 25 locations 20 miles apart with 2 plugs each is a better deal and that would be a great argument.  Obviously when these 50 chargers would be incorporated into the area's existing network, doubling up would make a lot of sense in some areas, not so much in others so we kinds already got that covered.

So the real objective is getting a basket for the eggs before the Chickens are sent to the slaughterhouse.  But then again, it kinda reminds me of climate change and the soon to be attained 400 ppm of CO2 before we started to talk seriously about an action plan to reduce emissions.

Just like climate change, we are headed to an explosion of EVs on the road and have yet to do much of anything to support them. The thought process is moving towards "With 200 miles, I don't need public charging" and that is about as wrong as you can get!  WSDOT (after years!) has recognized that many EVers are being left out in the cold and has started a program to encourage private businesses to host charging sites but I am afraid the plan is too limited and will likely be slow to develop. I hope I am wrong.

But the above map shows land and locations that require no owner agreements, etc. Its state land already developed to be easy access from the freeway for cars.  Putting in charging stations as a start has two hurdles; possible infrastructure improvements (some of these rest stops are bare bones) and changing some archaic law concerning vendor rights issues...

So whats the plan?  wait till we start dumping 200,000 new EVs on the road annually or taking action now?

Nissan + Mitsubishi = Synergy!

Recently Nissan announced they will purchase a large chunk of Mitsubishi which should generate some excitement in the EV World.

The subject of "What else, Nissan?" has crossed my mind several times, especially now 5+ years into the EV game. Its been way past time for a line expansion but its not happened nor has anything been announced.

The infiniti LE was a brief detour that resulted in a dead end, at least for now.  Guessing better battery tech would be required for the higher end tastes infiniti courts.

The e-NV200 is in Europe for a year now but still not a single word of it coming to the United States, so what gives?

Can it possibly be that after 5+ years and 3 battery plants, they are still struggling with meeting demand?

Not sure I can accept any of those reasons.  Depressed sales could be one reason but its easy to boost those. Put in more batteries!  The newer packs have definitely improved in reliability, longevity and heat tolerance. Granted, not there yet but progress is being made.

Now Nissan did bump the pack to 30 kwh but forced everyone to upgrade trim levels. Monumental mistake and hoping they have realized that by now. The popularity of the S trim with QC should have been enough hint that the low end market is still looking for a car to buy!  Put a 30 kwh (or larger) on the S trim for 2017 and start chanting now because a sales revival will happen!

But bringing Mitsubishi into the fold opens up new avenues. The MiEV is a smaller, cheaper EV that has been out a bit longer than anyone except the T Roadster.  But its initial pricing was too high for a car with shorter range and an overall impression of "entry level" to catch on.

But a small, very dedicated group of MiEVers are very happy with the purchase and with Nissan battery resources and guidance, the line could be reborn with a super cheap EV option.

The Outlander plug in has been delayed and some feel its due to a battery shortage. This is something Nissan and its worldwide manufacturing capacity can really address and it enters a market that is all but empty.

Now understanding the super cheap EV market is not that easy when you have to filter it thru the din created by the "I want 200 miles of range starting $35,000-$38,500" hoard, but rest assured we are here and wanting!

I am happy that so many can afford Tesla's, Bolts, and BMW's but I am not one of them.  $35,000 (to start mind you) is nowhere near my "cheap" category.  So give me an EV in the upper 20's that gives me 125-150 miles and I will be happy.  I have said it many times in the past and I will continue to say it; The 100 mile EV market will be here for several years to come.

A recent online discussion talked about "affordability" and one commenter stated that Tesla and GM's mid $30,000 price point was not that far removed from what we are paying now. That maybe true (its not) but that surely does not imply that is what we want to pay, because its not. The other point was that the link provided also mentioned that many cars will be sold in the low to mid 20's. Sure they were smaller cars or "student" cars some PC people like to call them but call it what you will, it is still a huge market.

All of this doesn't even address the used car market which (if only counting sales from licensed dealers) is more than three times larger than the new car market. All of this points to the fact that cars are too expensive and people are making compromises.  The EV industry has a golden opportunity to flood EVs into the lower price ranges and add in a perk for free charging for a few years and it becomes much easier to attract the lower income market.

But "cheapening" the LEAF line might be a deterrent that Nissan does not want to risk. They have spent billions to develop the line and the battery pack decision for the 2016 S trim might be an indication of that.  Its easy to understand not wanting to rush an infiniti to market because of the higher expectations of the brand so using the Mitsubishi nameplate for the low end market simply makes sense.

**Public Charging Rant Warning**

What would you rather have?

a 100 mile EV (100 miles on the freeway at 65 mph) and 50 DC Fast Chargers ideally placed in your region


a 200 mile EV with your current charging infrastructure?

Well, you already know my answer and I leave you with this; a gasoline car with a 1000 mile range is useless without a public refueling infrastructure.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to the kindest, selfless, most giving person I will likely ever know.  She may have only had 4 children in her life but there are far more than 4 people on this planet who feel the way I do about this woman.

Now some would say that she was a typical Okinawan (Not Japanese mind you!) woman where the culture was simply different. Family and children were simply much more important part of life than what is the American accepted norm. It was this ideology that so endeared my Mother to so many people...American people that is.

It is interesting how different nations react in times of great tragedy.

In the aftermath of Fukushima; many Japanese volunteered to turn off the lights to save power for the good of the country. Japan realized there was a problem so all nuclear plants were shutdown immediately to address the issue. Despite the obvious enormous financial impact to the country; this lasted OVER four years!   In America, we have to use the threat of fines for people to stop washing their cars in the driveway during catastrophic drought conditions; a situation that grows drastically more severe every day but still remains at best no more than an inconvenience in the minds of most Americans.

To contrast;
In the aftermath of Deepwater Horizon, Americans did...well, nothing.  To do so would upset the stream of money to a destination that I have to say could probably afford a few lean days... Now I would never accept the job of determining which tragedy was greater but then again; Fukushima had a much more direct impact on people than Deepwater Horizon. Unlike Oil where the damage stops immediately after the oil stops burning, radiation is a done deal.  We can only wait it out.  So its easier for us Americans to sluff it off as just a "bummer day" despite the fact that long term destruction will likely outpace radiation due to Oil Pollution's Worldwide scope.  But that is how we Humans choose to view life in general.  We remember and believe what we are able to accept.

Now a lot also depends on how the issue is presented in the media.  How many people died from the Fukushima tragedy verses Deepwater Horizon? I can pretty much guarantee the answer will surprise most of you so you will have to read it yourself. Granted the 20,000 people killed during the Earthquake/Tsunami likely did a great job of bending our memories since we can blame something other than ourselves (Mother Nature did it! We had nothing to do with it)  for the deaths but the fact remains that some cultures simply view life differently.

But going back to the Japanese response to Fukushima is even more shocking considering the financial impact to the country. Such a money play in the United States wouldn't have had a chance.  As it stands now; Big Business determines where it will operate based on the highest bidder, in many cases paying little or nothing to locate to an area citing the salaries of workers who would pay taxes. IOW; making the little people support them while they bank many millions in effect siphoning money out of the local area instead of putting it in.

But not paying taxes is only the beginning. Oh course tens of millions in additional payroll will help the tax base but does it help enough?  Does it pay for the burden the new business has on the infrastructure? Can the area's roads and utilities handle the additional workers without major upgrades?  I was in the 2nd group hired at the new intel plant in DuPont, WA in 1996. Since intel was looking at two different sites a few miles apart, Pierce County, hedging its bets built a new freeway off ramp to serve one proposed site before the site was selected. In doing so, they bypassed all environmental studies, etc. to put up the ramp taking less than a year from proposal to completion.  In contrast; the Highway 16 interchange on I-5 has taken over 25 years.

Recently a Facebooker in a discussion or car tab fees and whether they should go up to better address the real cost of driving or stay the same very low price and his response was "not with my money!" but what seems like a self-centered response may really be the result of watching large companies making money hand over fist as the worker's share shrinks daily, but the real meat of the discussion is the reason why taxes were so low in the first place.

Unlike Uncle Sam; city, local and state governments have to balance their budget. They don't have an unlimited ability to print money as needed.  But instead of raising taxes to pay for desperately needed services and infrastructure maintenance, they keep taxes low and we suffer and we accept this because the threshold of pain is low.  It only means tires every 3 years instead of every 4 due to worsening road conditions or 45 minutes to get home verses 35 minutes because of a combination of roads not built along with mass transit cutbacks forcing more cars on the road.

So why does this happen?  Well, if taxes were too high, it forces a closer examination of who isn't paying their fair share; a situation that Big Business will do anything to avoid.  So next time a major company comes to town wanting a 50 million dollar tax waiver in exchange for a 200 million dollar annual payroll (and its added congestion) think twice about who is getting the good deal.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

April 2016 Drive Report; After 36,000 miles, My LEAF Battery Can Still Be Revived??

I have proof that a gasser can be cheaper than an EV because my Corolla only used $24.20 in gas last month while my LEAF cost me $24.43!!! Moral of the story; Spin goes both ways...

For the month, the Corolla traveled 468.2 mile for the above mentioned $24.20 in gas or 5.2 cents per mile and that is all there is to that.

The LEAF using twenty three more of my hard earned cents traveled 1489.3 miles with its costs escalating due to $2.02 in public charging fees along with PUD charges totaling $24.43 or 1.6 cents per mile. Thankfully, I was saved by the 90 day free fast charging Nissan gave us for putting up with the borderline battery chemistry in the 2011 LEAF and got over 100 kwh on that program.

Since I am nearing the halfway point of my free 90 day charging, I am still working on getting the $50 worth that I declined in exchange for the fast charge sessions. But at least 2 of the chargers I might use are out of order including AV's Tumwater location and this definitely qualifies as the longest downtime stretch for that location by far. The location has been out of order several times but frequently was back up and running within a few days. Its been over 2 weeks now... :(

Now this is not being debated nearly as much as a year ago simply because there are too many people out there proving it on a daily basis but just some more evidence that the 2013 pack is a definite improvement of the 2011-12s.  We have known for quite some time that battery stats reported by the LEAF  and logged with devices such as LEAF Spy can have some pretty wide swings based on recent driving and charging habits.  Put simply; Drive your LEAF a lot and charge it fully every day and your battery stats will probably reflect a status better than reality.  Drive it modestly,  partially charge it or go several days between full charges, etc. and you see just the opposite. Numbers lower than the true state of health in your battery pack.

Well this is what I just did and yes I purposely did not charge it for high numbers which meant a lot of shorter duration charges that did not complete AKA Nissan 80% long life charging mode. ;)  As expected my numbers took a dive from the 61-62ish range to 58.44 ahr, 88.62% Hx, and 19.6 kwh available on April 25th. On that day, I drove 58.7 miles which is really far enough to keep your battery fully balanced with daily full charges.

But from the 26th to yesterday, I had a large client (they do this on last week of the month for most of the year Tues-Sat) and decided I would LEAF it every day. This required fully charging at home every night, A fast charge in the morning at work before picking up my crew and a fast charge in the afternoon after dropping off the crew.  Now the morning charge was only needed 3 of the 5 days since Renton and Tukwila are close enough but on the other 3 days for the Seattle Stores, I averaged collecting 4½ kwh which doesn't seem like much but my degradation needed it.  In the 5 days, I traveled 626.2 miles, publicly charged for 93 kwh and ended up yesterday afternoon with this


As impressive as this looks... I pretty much rely on 265 GIDs, 61 ahr and 94% Hx.... but still VERY nice to look at.

Fast Charge Notes;  Twice I saw a better than 100% efficiency based on kwh remaining delta / Wh
Using the pix above it would be 21.5 - whatever the charge session started at/ 12.572 (which i always reset to zero for the charge session)  Now this did not happen during the past 5 days but earlier in the month and I have not been able to reproduce this phenomena so am writing it off as user error or LEAF Spy strangeness...or something.  Other than those two times; Fast charge efficiency seems to be running between 91.4 and 94.7% efficient and no brand of charger seems to be consistently outperforming any other but as always, I will track it to see if any vendor emerges or falls from the pack.