Saturday, December 24, 2016

30 KWH; Bigger, Faster, Hotter??

Anyone who says the LEAF's 30 kwh pack is not an improvement simply does not have a 30 kwh pack. Yes, its still on the borderline of what a road warrior would need.  Yes, it still must rely on a reasonable public charging network and yes, it will probably degrade faster than a TMS battery pack would, but...

I have yet to realize just how much more freedom I have because I got mine at the end of November so its been cold, rainy, snowy, and even windy...VERY windy!  But a few things are already obvious; I now do what I couldn't dream of doing with a 24 kwh pack.

I am not talking about those Wintertime 80 mile trips that I made in my 24 kwh LEAF with VERY careful planning that I now do without even thinking about how much charge I have left. Typically, on the way home, I am in a hurry so previously I drove as fast as my remaining range and weather conditions permitted me to do, which was usually 55-60 mph.  Now, even at 70+, I am barely hitting LBW by the time I get home.

I am also not talking about the 163 mile trip I took the other day which included an unexpected detour to pick up my Sister when BiL's near new Chevy Truck went DOA on the highway.  This was an unplanned 52 mile detour.  I had already planned on getting a quick boost on the way home since I would still be near 110 miles in Winter but now it was a full blown 30 min charge on the way there.  Thankfully, the 30 kwh pack takes a charge at near full speed at much higher SOC's.  This allowed me to get enough so that I did not have to stop again on the way home. Again, not possible in the 24 kwh pack especially when the charging speed starts to drop before 50% SOC!

In a nutshell, the 30 kwh pack not only provides roughly 20-25 miles of extra range (5.4 kwh) its ability to charge faster means a much greater flexibility in planning a drive that may include charging stations not in the ideal position along the route.


There is a catch. The 30 kwh pack has been available since the beginning of the 2016 model year in the SL/SV trim with the S Trim getting it mid Fall.  There was a lot of reports of "2nd Gen" LEAFers who claimed their 30 kwh pack heated up much faster than their previous 24 kwh packs despite less fast charging sessions.

Well this was a concern! What good is getting extra kwh's on the road if it heated up your pack so much that it rendered the car nearly unusable?

Now, initially I had some doubts. Hot weather was probably part of it.  I figured people were just Kwh crazed, driving 75 mph,  zipping from one station to the next only because they could.  But then I saw some reports in mid Fall from an Oregonian when the weather was in the mid 40's. Wow, that is not hot weather at all!

So I decided to heat up my pack to see just how bad it was.  But 3 stops at fast chargers this past week didn't seem to do much heating at all. As always the weather was completely uncooperative being much colder than normal. So might have to repeat this experiment when we get back to normal.  For some background, at this time of year, I usually had 4 temp bars and a fast charge would bump me to 5 or 6 temp bars and I would almost always have at least 5 temp bars the next morning.  But that is not happening with my 30 kwh pack and because I park in my garage, the colder than normal temps are not really a factor since the garage temperature swing is only about 4-5º even on the coldest days.

So, I purposely did not charge the night before, got up yesterday morning, OAT was 33º, garage was 50.2º and batt temps were 50.2/49.8/49.2.  So did a bit of driving around and then hit the Tumwater DCFC

Time Stamp 12:15
As you can see, the driving around we did hardly changed temps at all. In fact, the last number went down. This one I am guessing is at the end of the pack or more exposed because it always quickly diverges from the other two always being cooler than the top 2.  I also suspect that it might not be as accurate since its usually reading lower than the garage temp. (or I need to change battery in garage sensor...:) )

Time Stamp 12:38
So I charged for 21 mins to get to 80% (There was also a car with Campbell Edmonds Dealer plates who pulled in...) cutting it a bit shorter than planned but still ok.  AV says I got 12.05 kwh and as you can see LEAF Spy counted 11.558 kwh to the pack adding 12.6 kwh as "available" so the heatup worked. OAT has dropped to 32º and it starts to snow.

We then went home to wear out the Xbox which was 10 miles and FOREVER to get there. People seem to lose their ability to make rational decisions behind the wheel when flakes appear. Its almost as if they are auditioning for that scene from "The Wizard of OZ" or something...

Time Stamp 14:05
We get home and park in garage cause its snowing like crazy now and I don't want that stuff on my car but we leave garage door open (which is pretty normal for me during the day anyway) Later we dash off to get something to eat.  We picked a bad day to be out driving. It literally took us longer to drive the 3.4 miles to the restaurant than it took us to order, eat our food and leave.

We go home and car is in garage with door shut, OAT warms up to 25º, Garage is 45º. (left door open too long).  A few hours later, car has to give up its spot for Kayak (another story) but just for an hour.
Car returns to garage, door shut.

Time Stamp 20:46
LEAF put to bed with no dinner. (She was not bad or anything like that. Just another sacrifice for pseudoscience!)

Time Stamp 08:02  12/24/16
I got up, crank on heat (overnight temp is generally set to 55-58º), drink coffee and checked LEAF.  As always, all 3 are back to near ambient temps. I guess I should have checked before I turned on heat. But in reality, I probably don't want to know how much my furnace is heating up the garage. Sometimes a bit of ignorance is... well, you know.

In conclusion; my experiment did not go as I had planned cause I wanted to heat the pack up a bit more but even in the times I did it earlier in the week, I was still seeing the same results the next morning. The pack always returned to near ambient temps.

Another thing to keep in mind is most of what I was doing during the week was charging at Tacoma Mall, spending 25-40 minutes to drive home and immediately parking in garage with door shut so even with a somewhat climate controlled garage that never got below 46º even during the colder days, I was still seeing all the heat generated from fast charging dissipated overnight.

This experiment is not done but the initial results are interesting.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Winter Time LEAFing AKA How I get 100 Miles In The Dead of Winter!

Despite the calendar saying Winter is not arriving for a few weeks, Our Winter officially started a few days ago when the Mercury went below freezing.  This afternoon we are expected to get our first significant snowfall in nearly 2 years (or longer. Its been so long, not sure when it snowed and stuck around for more than a day...)

All this means reduced driving range on our EVs.  So a few tips for any EVers and also some great gift ideas for an EVer on your Christmas list!

First off; lower tire pressures reduces efficiency and tire pressures drop as the temperature drops.  What I do is set my tire pressures in the Fall to 44 PSI.  This generally means pressures no lower than roughly 42 PSI during the coldest of  Winter weather.  The rule of thumb is to expect a drop of one PSI for every 10ºF drop in temperature.  Another thing to remember is to set your tire pressures during the coldest part of the day.  First thing in the morning is usually the most convenient for me.

2nd;  Maintaining safety.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, temps in the 20's are rare but wet, rainy weather is not. So being able to see clearly is a huge concern. Making sure your windshield wipers are in good shape and maintaining the inside glass will reduce the need for using defrost to clear the glass.   One of the things I found that works best is this.

Mine has a two part handle which allows you to reach the entire windshield from the driver's seat. The handle comes in two parts so can easily fit in the glove box for storage. The microfiber cloth acts as a glass polisher which does a great job of not only drying the glass but cleaning off the tiny particles and junk that tends to gather on the glass. Gillian from the Seattle LEAF owners group;

"PM auto expert Mike Allen explains that the hazy buildup common to interior window surfaces comes from gaseous vinyl chloride, a plasticizer added to soften vinyl components, which slowly off-gases as a filmy fume. On a hot day, Allen says, the stuff just sublimates right out of the dashboard. Allen could see a use for the tool reaching across anything from steep-raked muscle car windshields to those long-dashed early '90s minivans that looked like DustBusters. Even if the windshield is clean, he might use the microfiber cloth to wipe interior condensation before defrosting "
I did verify this to be accurate. My first version of this I got last year and when I first used it, the streaks were very easy to see and I found that eventually I removed the streaks and the associated distortion.   Also keep in mind. The fog on your windshield is actually millions of water droplets condensing  on the glass simply because the glass cools down much faster than the rest of the car.  Water vapors need something to attach to.  Removing the slimy film along with dirt (most likely diesel particles btw... :( )  makes it that much tougher for water droplets to find a place to form which reduces the need for defrost as well.


Its currently on Amazon for $9 for a two pack!! So give one, keep one! FYI; fogging issues happen on every car.

Another great option in areas where freezing is a lesser concern than high humidity is a squeegee. Very good for getting the heavy condensation which means your defrost doesn't do clearing, only maintaining which can be done in short bursts. 

Remember to treat both sides of the glass. If you have patience and persistence, Rain X is king! But it does not last (your windshield wipers essentially wipes it off) so needs to be reapplied every month or so and doing it right is not a 5 minute job but conditioning your wipers can be.  Take some alcohol on a clean cloth and rub the edge of the wiper blades until you cannot transfer any more black to the cloth. This will help the wiper slide across the glass easier which increases the contact time that results in a cleaner and clearer wipe.  Also, take some very fine steel wool and rub down your glass every other week. This is a $4 solution that does actually only take 5 minutes!

The reason these methods work is because without surface tension, water has nothing to grab onto so it beads up. RainX does nothing but polish the glass and smooth the tiny imperfections on the surface. So instead of each rain drop smearing across the surface, they bead up and gravity pushes them off the glass!

Keeping moisture in check helps as well. The drier the car (and contents) the less fogging. Now in an area where the humidity runs high nearly all Winter, that can be a challenge.  I do have a pair of desiccant cans which helps I'm sure but I decided to bolster the drying power (Plus I need something for the Corolla) so I ordered a pair of these.  These plug in to regenerate via USB or regular power.  The "333" is the size of the area they should cover. Guessing that is cubic feet.

Thirdly and the most subjective is maintaining comfort.  Now this is the toughest since some people can handle cold and some cannot.  I find that its easy to be "heatless" in the morning than on the evening trip home.  Now part of it is hot shower, hot coffee and a lot of commute left in the morning verses  commute target in sight and extra range to burn!! (well... sometimes)

But the real takeaway is dressing for the weather! I had a video of a lady wearing a very sheer dress with a lightweight sweater impatiently waiting for a tow truck driver to jump her disabled vehicle (yes it was a gasser!) in Michigan and I can only guess she was not comfortable. So hat, gloves and coat is the minimum! Why is she standing outside? Good question!

Now I am heading into my first Winter with my 2016 which does not have steering wheel or backseat heaters! both of which was in my 2013. I have blankets for both front and back seats including a Seahawks wrap thing that has arm holes!  The blankets helped trap the heat so my passengers actually felt very comfortable.  But I decided that a 12 volt blanket for the backseat was in order and got one large enough for both people on Amazon for $27.

For the cold hands issues,  I generally wear Seahawks Gloves during Winter all the time even on warm days but on the colder days, they fall short especially if my hands were already cold when getting in the car (A common issue with my job) so a bit of help was needed.

This I picked up at Shopko for $7 for the two pack. The warming pads are small enough that I can slip them inside my gloves so they sit on the back of my hands and are very effective in keeping my hands toasty!  They are reusable so should last a long time. One thing I did find out is that they need to be reset so they are good for one trip (or two if you are ok with one cold hand. :) ) but as mentioned before, in the morning I am generally pretty comfortable. You can also get an 8 pack on Amazon right now for $24. This is probably the way to go. This allows you to not get caught unprepared.  For $35 they have hand warmers that also provide duty as a flashlight and portable power pack for your electronics.

Finally, the biggest thing you can do is simply slow it down a bit.  Not only does it increase your range but its also all about safety. wet, snow, black ice, etc. all increases our risks on the road. Cold air is denser so your LEAF must work harder to push that heavier air out of the way.  There is no getting around that basic reality of physics other than reducing your speed.

In conclusion, the most important issue that needs to be understood is you. We all have limits to compromise, comfort, etc. and thanks to Global Warming, most of the time it simply isn't that cold here.  So if you think all this is my using any excuse I can to show Seahawks Pride, you might be on to something!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Nov 2016 Drive Report; Gasser Ignored

Another month is in the can and this month's statistics will involve 3 cars instead of the normal 2! If you are familiar with my previous blogs, you will realize that this is the first report for my new 2016 S30 which also means that my 2013 S24 will make its final appearance on the monthly drive reports so without further ado (personally not sure why that word works here. I prefer "to do" but whatever...)

For the month end November 30, 2016 the Corolla went 11.6 miles at a cost of...uhh, hmmm? ok, I guess that "3 car" report isn't working out...

The 2013 LEAF traveled 610.6 miles at an estimated cost of $12.87 or 2.11 cents per mile. For the last 10 days of its life (for me) its low water stats for GIDs, kwh available, ahr, Hx were 257, 19.9, 58.47, 88.69, On the high end;  260, 20.3, 60.30, 92.42%. I did turn it in with about 160 miles remaining of its 45,000 mile lease so plenty left for a test drive! Call Ray now!

The 2016 went 1318.2 miles (in 20 days... already blowing up my lease miles  *sigh*) at a cost of $28.02 or 2.14 cents per mile. Now that figure does include $3.05 in public charging fees but in reality, my costs would be much higher.  Without NCTC  I would be over 3 cents per mile.  Thus far, my new LEAF is struggling to average 3.6 miles/kwh.  This a huge drop in performance from my 2011 and 2013.

Now, part of that is more range for a lot of trips that are not further in distance, new tires and "unusual" weather.

On that unusual weather part, you might know that I advertise the Pacific Northwest Winters as being 6 solid months of humid misery. Fairbanks Alaska gets 10X more Sun at this time of year! And yes, I admit I do it to discourage people from relocating here. We already have enough people here and now working on ways to get rid of a few we already got so more people coming in is not going to work. After all, Olympia is the foggiest city in the US!! (and that part "is" true!)

But the truth is that Chicago, Detroit and New York gets more annual precipitation than Seattle does. But this year, our Winter has lived up to my (somewhat exaggerated) billing.  We set all time records for rain in October and since I got my 2016, the weather for the end of November has hardly been better. On the last day of November, we exceeded the average rainfall for the year.   So thinking I either had a very smooth rolling LEAF before or maybe need an adjustment on this one for alignment or something.

A quick check on the early days of both my 2011 and 2013 (received in Jan and Dec so similar weather) shows an average just over 4 miles per kwh (mpk).  This is normal since on wetter days, I get 3.5 to 3.7 mpk while drier days I am in the low to mid 4's.   I have only hit 4.4+ mpk mark 3 times.  And yes, that is just slightly less than the number of good days we have had lately.  This eliminates the new tire possibility.  Using the same old Ecopias.

Another test involves 2 down slopes I drive nearly every day. The one is Northbound I-5 into the Nisqually Flats.  I shift to neutral at a certain point (marked by a sign) and even during crappy Winter weather, I can normally get up to 62-63 mph (70 mph in Summer)  but not able to maintain 60 mph now and even tried hitting the sign a few mph faster...still didn't work.

The other one is much less gradual and South of the Cabela's roundabout. Here I shift to neutral as low as 30 mph and am able to hit 50 mph.  Now, barely hitting 40-42  mph.

In looking at other differences, it became obvious that cruise control maybe nice but its not efficient. So I have gone back to my old style of feathering the pedal and varying my speed a few miles per hour to take advantage of short down slopes or minimizing the penalties of short up hills. This seems to benefit my performance about .2 or .3 mpk.