Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Ultimate Range Answer? The Distance To The Next Station!

Summer 2017

"I no longer need to stop and charge"

"Who cares what they charge, now that I have my Bolt, if I don't want to pay their rates, I simply won't stop"

"I can wait for the stations to come. In fact, I doubt I will use them when they get here anyway but it would be nice to have just in case"

Winter 2017

"More and more of these cold weather stories will push EV manufacturers to have larger batteries and dcfc as standard, and more charging stations, much like Tesla. The next big EV will be the first Camry size sedan from a major manufacturer that has a 120kwh battery and the ability to charge at 800v ( 250kw ish charge ) for around $40k. This is the car that GM, Ford, and Toyota should be looking to sell in 3-4 years. The next gen bolt should have at least a 90kwh option."

We spent years asking for 200 miles. Saying this is all we need, etc.  I said from Day One and will say it again; There is no range that will minimize the need for effective public charging.

On the Bolt Forum, the predictable pattern happened. Summer it was all about posting screenshots bragging about how far one went beyond the 238 mile standard. There were many including several over 300 miles. Life was good.  Who needed public charging?

But just as I expected, now we are seeing people struggling to attain  ¾ of EPA with a few in the Northeast barely getting half.

**This is not a "Bolt Bashing" post. I use them as an example simply because the Bolt has been out only a year and far too many underestimated the need for public charging because you see, this post has NOTHING to do with range. After all, as mentioned several times before, range is adjustable. 

Recently Tesla made it known that SuperCharger is available for lease doing it by restricting its usage for businesses but also mentioning they do offer private SuperCharger network options.  So what appears to be a ban on commercial use can also be looked at is a public relations win to reduce congestion for private owners and another avenue of revenue for Tesla that could lead to special licenses for SC use for businesses that might even include monthly rate plans.

But is this simply step one towards a pay network?  Possibly.  Granted a lot of Tesla's on the road now will be free but how long will they last?  Accidents will eventually pull some off the roads. AP might prevent one from causing an accident but there is little that can prevent one from being in an accident caused by someone else. The Urban SC buildup would more than take care of "lifetimers" anyway.  Either way, the SC buildup continues at a frantic pace. Every day, I read about how Musk is running Tesla into the ground. But everything I see Tesla doing today is building towards a future that is much brighter than any auto manufacturer.

 I blogged a few weeks ago about how I see Tesla making a ton of money providing networked charging services to the trucking industry and I still see that as happening. Yes, it will take Billions to put in bare bones network but Tesla has already proven that they can build a network and at quite a good pace. The success of the current SC network will give Tesla the ammunition to get the financial backing needed to build the trucking network and the initial cost will pale in comparison to any project Tesla has taken on so far including the Gigafactory.

But this is inline with Musk's grand plan for Tesla.  The current dealer network reminds me of why drugs are so expensive.  As an auditor, I perform audits for several major Pharmaceutical Companies and a large part of those audits are on Drug Reps. This generally includes inventorying samples, inspecting storage and product handling, etc.  Very few market more than handful of products with just over ¼ of them only handling only ONE PRODUCT at a time.

Despite all this, I have yet to see a drug rep who did not make a lot of money. Granted I don't see it all but the huge money potential seems quite common.   The houses some of these people live in is amazing to see. But also gives insight to why drugs are so expensive. Simply too many hands in the cookie jar.

The auto industry is the same way.  Car salesmen are paid on commission.  Really crappy salesmen make minimum wage and most don't last more than a few months.  Now for nearly every sale, the profit is split between the salesman, his team leader, closer (which can be team leader in some cases) Manager and Assistant Manager of Sales, Finance (which also pitches upsells like GAP,  window etchings, extended warranties, etc.)  and the General Manager.

Now, not all cars sell for a profit so sometimes the "farther ups" get nothing. In my case, I could not make less than $100 on a sale no matter what the profit margin was and surprisingly enough, most dealerships do sell cars at a loss or least break even which means a loss since the $100 I get has to come from somewhere, right?  This is not uncommon but generally only applies to used cars.

On new cars, there is more than enough profit built in where everyone gets their piece which is generally very lucrative.  Top Salesmen easily make 6 figures with managers doing even better in most cases.   But all this means that manufacturers have to cut profits in order to entice dealerships to sell their cars.  This doesn't always work well especially when volumes are not high. So many dealerships rely on service departments to bring in enough money to keep the lights on during the slow periods.

But Tesla realized that dealership overhead would not allow them to make a profit and the dealerships would suffer as well since EV support on service revenue would pale even against the support trump provides for his detractors.

So providing ongoing support in the way of Public charging simply makes sense. Right now, the network does not collect enough revenue to pay its ongoing cost, much less the cost of installation but realize that electricity costs may not change much but the percentage of power SC stations will receive from Solar is likely to rise insuring long term operating costs dropping. 

But that is Tesla and as we all know, Tesla SC can't be used by anyone else.  Chevy has stated several times they won't contribute a dime to build public charging and it shows by the comment above which was made in response to a NEer who had to manage a trip with a Bolt range under 140 miles. Well, we all know that Northeast Winters can be brutal so this was at least partially expected.  Now part of it was the Bolt's 6 KW resistive heat taking up nearly ¼ of the juice but hard to fault the driver especially when temps are in the danger zone.  So in barely a year, we already have people crying for more range. My how quickly we change.

A while back, I was part of a survey asking about EV wants and dreams and yes, I was one of the majority that wanted an EV that would do a "real 150 miles" for around $25,000.   Now am I to blame for Nissan putting out a 40 kwh LEAF as opposed to the expected 60 kwh LEAF?  Despite being only a few years ago, 150 miles seemed like a dream come true and it would be had public charging infrastructure continued to expand.

Yeah, blame me but realize it was a majority selection and it wasn't even a close one. At the time there was no indication of who was sponsoring the poll but I felt it was Nissan.   The next most popular selection with almost ¼ was a 200 mile EV for around $35,000.  The prices I don't remember exactly because it was one of those polls that had several different pricing structures and some questions you could only pick one with others you could order your selections by preference but its in the ballpark.  But it was clear that we all thought EVs were simply too expensive.

Now another question was selecting what was more important and naturally it was range verses public charging and I took public charging and it lost BY A TON.  People poo pooed the public charging idea citing the lack of stations in their area along with the unreliability of the one that were there. Of  course, this was back when Blink dominated the landscape in many areas. Thankfully that is much less true although I will say that Blink has stepped up a bit in our area with all but 2 DCFCs fixed and running. Something that hasn't happened since the VERY early days!

But what we have now is the opportunity for Auto manufacturers  to get into the public charging arena which can boost their sales and provide an ongoing income for years to come. Right now its hard to see the model working because start up costs are high and the revenue is low but that will change. As more people adopt EVs, public charging costs will rise making a profit model more likely.

The cost of the charge itself might not rise but the volume of people charging means the ability to generate revenue from other sources will increase whether its food or advertising; when there is that many people out there; money will flow.  So will charging stations become the next Starbucks?  Tesla is betting on that.

So Chevy, Ford, VW, Nissan?  Get with the program before its too late and make sure your stations work for everyone.  Don't take too long because if you do, Big Oil might just beat you to the punch.


Receiving feedback that the SC network is much more profitable than my implication due to very low utility costs.  I am not finding any info on that so if anyone has some insight, please post your thoughts below!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

What Congress Should Be Doing With The EV Tax Credit?

Well, in reality Tesla and Chevy will be starting their ramp downs in 2018 with Nissan not far behind them.   But leaving it alone is just as bad as  removing the tax credit.

Basically the credit for battery electric vehicles is based on the size of the battery and currently runs as little as $2500 for Prius Plug in to $7500 maximum for most others. There are several in between.  Since the Prius PEV has a plug, it gets the minimum of $2500 because its battery size is under 5 kwh.  For those over that, They get $417 for being at least 5 kwh and $417 for each kwh beyond the 5 kwh base in addition to the minimum.   Leave it to the Feds to over complicate it so lets just say as long as you have at least 16 kwh, you are golden.

Now this credit has been around for  9 years and was a vital part in getting people interested in EVs.  Batteries were expensive and there were no gigafactories and traditional battery manufacturers had yet to gear up.  In fact, there was nearly nothing which was a big reason Nissan built their own. They reviewed what was available and realized there was nothing out there that would provide the volumes they needed.

But times have changed.  Traditional battery manufacturers are now recognizing and preparing for the huge new field; batteries designed with electric vehicles in mind.  This means costs have come down with a bigger supply line and this means better margins for manufacturers and better deals for consumers.

But several automobile manufacturers have only token entries on the plug in market which means they could be benefiting from the lower cost to purchase for years. There is also nothing that prevents new entries into the field years down the line.

This will create a huge marketing advantage for the companies who have chosen to sit in the background watching while others spent a ton of R&D cash to get the technology to where it is today.  Granted, there is still a long way to go and many more dollars to spend but is this how we treat companies who risked much to get us into EVs sooner?

So what changes make the most sense?

** Create income limits that limits the percentage of the full credit received.

One of the big talking points for abolishing the credit altogether is that the credit was just another perk of the rich.  The tax isn't refundable so only ones who have the $7500 in tax liability can take full advantage of the best deals available with few exceptions.  (Thank you Nissan!) There is little to dispute this reason.  This resolves that argument.

**Limit the vehicles that qualify for the credit based on sale price of package selected

Washington State has a good plan on this. They currently have a sales tax waiver on qualifying EVs but have limits on the "base" MSRP that qualifies along with a cap on the sale price portion that qualifies for the tax waiver. With a sales tax approaching 10% in some cases, this is a huge perk! So is this a "lets pick on Tesla" clause? Pretty much! Sorry but I have issues with handouts to people plunking down $100K on a car.

**Make the credit refundable or rollable into the next tax year. 

The segment of the population that needs the most help is not getting the help the federal tax credit was designed to assist. So more than a handful elected their "2nd choice" and leased a LEAF to get the full benefits.  This change allows lower income people to have a greater choice without having to check with a tax consultant first.  Naturally should one have remaining credits roll over to a year in which they win the lottery or became CEO or any other major financial change in their situation that would disqualify them based on the first point,  they would lose that remaining credit.

**Finally; Set an end date for the credit to apply to all manufacturers at the same time.  

Several companies have announced very grand plans for EV models and the timing is a bit suspect to me.  VW might not be the best example (I guess you could say they have been a bit occupied lately) but they have been in the EV market on a compliance basis for years now but have announced huge plans to flood the market and timed it just as Tesla, Chevy and Nissan will no longer have any credits left? Sorry bud, but that ainna gonna fly with me!

Now the Pubs are in a hurry to cut out anything that makes sense or does not directly line their pockets so ending the credit EOY 2018 likely means that only Tesla and Chevy gets the full allotment of credits.  Nissan would be close. Now, not so sure that is the best idea for us (and no its not because I am a diehard LEAF fan, either!)

Turning on the exit sign for the credit and giving companies enough time to react could be beneficial to us in that manufacturers would push cars out quicker instead of dragging their feet so maybe the better choice is June 30, 2019 with no ramp down of the credit.  It will lower the overall cost of the program and no manufacturer will have a $7500 price advantage in the market and more importantly, its a small reward to the "Big 3" who had the cojones to dive into the market and provide us EVs now instead of two years from now.  This is a compromise for sure and I think it has a chance to pass. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Why EVers Make The Best Fitbit Friends

When does compromise turn into a chosen lifestyle change?  This is a question I have pondered but only because it seems to be the general perception from the dark side concerning us EVers is that we have to have compromise to drive EV.    For reasons I don't understand, gassers feel that its more convenient to get in line and get gas than it is to plug in at home.

For a while, I could begin to understand why they felt that way. My 2011 LEAF had 85-90 miles on a good day but required constant diligence on my part to accomplish that.  But in those days, it was either do it or walk. Public charging did come early to Olympia when Chargepoint installed a level 2 charger in the Summer of 2010 at the LOTT Treatment plant but since I didn't work in town, it was not a convenient to my range issues.  So, I could understand someone in the dark seeing that as a compromise but it never was to me.  It was simply a new and emerging way to conduct my life.

In November of 2003, I was recovering from Black Friday and stumbled across  It was intriguing this Prius and I thought it was simply super cool.  I spent ALL day reading the ENTIRE SITE, including every post. (they were a "bit" smaller back then) and decided that was the car I wanted.  So I jumped into my 15 MPG F-150 and drove to the Toyota Dealer thinking I would call someone to give me a ride to pick up the truck after I took my new car home and...

Well, it was readily apparent that I wasn't the only one who had this idea and it was also apparent I was not early to the game either. Despite my "cash in hand" motivation, I was only able to put down $100 deposit and be put on a waiting list expected to be "8-10 months long."  So I suffered along with my truck... PAINFULLY.

Every day, I envied over experiences related by people on Priuschat who already had their Priuses and daydreamed about the time that I would be able to enact my own assault on the challenge of "50 Miles per Gallon."

Despite essentially being told that delivery in 2004 was far from assured, by February, I was calling once a month to check on the status of my car. Despite month after month peeling off the calendar, I always received the same response.  "It could be 3 months or it could be 6 months"  which was the very same response told me in early June when I made my monthly call.

So color me surprised when Toyota of Olympia called me the last week of June to ask if I still wanted the car?  DUMB  question!!

Well, they said we might have something for you but needed an answer right away and it was the exact color, trim and accessories I ordered with the addition of floor mats. (I hadn't realized you had to order those. I thought they were included.)  I was ecstatic and while pulling on my shoes, advised them I would be over in 15 mins with check in hand and....

They said, "Well, the car may or may not be available, but in case it is, we just wanted to know if you were interested." 


Since it was not a face to face conversation I am not currently serving time for the murder of a car salesman...

To make a long story short. 5 agonizing days later, Toyota called and said the car was mine if I was willing to pick it up in the next 48 hours.  I was at work at the time but was there that day and drove my new Prius home. (The truck sat at dealership for 3 days. I really didn't care about it but they did say I would have to pay for towing so I did pick it up and took it to my sister's house since I did not have two parking spaces where I was living at the time)

The issue was that the Prius was in such high demand despite Toyota increasing the build allotment several times that the car was selling at MSRP so it was pay MSRP or find another car.  Apparently a few dozen people including the one who ordered the car, thought they could negotiate a lower price. That is how I got my car. I already knew from Priuschat that some dealers were ONLY selling Priuses for MORE than MSRP.  Deals were simply not to be had.

I wouldn't realize it until many years later but that Thanksgiving weekend of 2003 is when I made my conscious choice to change my lifestyle (at least while driving).   From that day, I started tracking my true cost for transportation and to this day, not a single mile has gone unrecorded.

Well, I quickly realized that 50 MPG was not much of a challenge. Simply drive at or near the speed limit.  So it became a 500 mile tank (A given) 600 mile tank (Tough but doable) and even a 700 mile tank (requires planning on EVERY mile!)

But the teeny tiny infinitesimally small taste of EVness was addicting. I had to have more!  But after several investigations into the new market of pack extenders,  I decided full EV was the way to go and got suckered  into getting a ZENN in 2007.

At first it seemed like a good idea. WA was one of only two states at the time that allowed NEVs (Neighborhood Electric Vehicles) to go 35 MPH.  I lived in Oly, worked in Oly an 18 mile round trip commute. and it had a 30 mile range (supposedly) so all was good.  It was my daily commuter for 3+ years until my LEAF arrived.

But I soon realized that relying on a 30 mile car when the  national average driving distance was 38  miles was a mista....compro... a challenge.  For the first year, I was fine.  But degradation happened so starting early in the 2nd year, it became a struggle to make it so my employer allowed me to plug in at work. The reality is there was an outside outlet on the building and I worked the early shift so parking along the building especially the ones at the far end of the entrance was always available, so I started plugging in. It wasn't until 2-3 months later that the General Manager came to talk to me about it and how much it cost, etc. I advised the cost would be less than 25 cents per day and he was happy about that and never heard another word again.

Later I found out that he never did care but only responded because my co-workers started complaining that I was "getting free gas" and that was unfair.  So this was my first taste of  "EVenvy."

Well, eventually I realized (after 2 battery pack replacements) that my ZENN wasn't working and my Son (who LOVED that car because it was a two seater so he got to ride IN THE FRONT SEAT!)  relegated himself to riding alone in the backseat of the 2010 Prius I got (mostly for tax credit that was expiring and for the price cut received from Toyota as an invitee of the reveal in Detroit in 2009) when I realized that going somewhere OTHER than Olympia might be nice.  πŸ˜•

Again, I investigated battery pack options and was literally minutes (after several weeks of browsing) from spending $8,000 on a Li pack for the ZENN when Nissan announced that they were putting a highway capable EV on the market within a year!

That did it. I found and read ALL there was on the Nissan LEAF (took all of 10 minutes...) and decided that was my car and having learned from my Prius mistake, was determined to be first in line and for the rest of the story, read my blog!!

Although I was already fully aware, society in general failed to realize the growing importance of battery management.  Recently I was 'doing the Puyallup' with a LEAF full of friends and Lacy had battery issues of the phone persuasion. Luckily she also had USB C like me so I let her use my power pack. She basically ran it to dead which was ok.  I had a few but was more than a bit puzzled why EVERYONE didn't have a few. I have like 5 or so?  Including one from Portland NDEW

You'll never guess how I got this. 😎

But even when they aren't free, its hardly expensive to have a few lying around.  Costco 
two pack here. I felt the splurge was worth it. Sadly, I did it last year when they were
 like $15 so a much heavier hit on the budget!  😏

But the question remains; Why do people suck at battery management?  Is there no sense of priority in their lives. I (like EVERYONE I know) can survive for only short periods of time without my phone. It is my connection to nearly everything that is important to me. It is required to do my job (I have co-workers using cheapie prepay phones who struggle because of it not understanding why traffic aware mapping is CRITICAL)  So you would think that making sure your phone has enough of a charge plus a comfortable buffer would be a no brainer, right?

Well, the reality could not be farther from the truth.  I find it weird every time I am at the airport charging away with one of my power packs while people stand at the pole plugged in because the very few seats with power are always the first ones occupied.

But maybe our sad heritage of "growing up gasser" is the cause. Despite hundreds of miles of range, running out of gas is still a common occurrence. This implies the more time you have to address a VERY VITAL need, the less likely you will take care of it right away.  Cellphone manufacturers thought all they had to do was provide a battery that easily got more than 12-24 hours of use between charges but even that failed.

So finally to support the title of the blog, I have a fitbit. I love it. It does give good insight into several things including general health, sleep patterns, heart rate, etc. but despite having a bunch of fitbit friends where I can see their progress online,  I find most simply don't show up but occasionally.

My niece Kerry is a nurse at University of Washington Medical Center and a very active person and she was on fitbit daily for a month. Then it dropped to a few times a week and now its been over 6 months since she has posted any stats at all so I asked her what happened and she stated "I forgot to charge it"  well, she had a Blaze like me which only needs to be charged for like an hour every few days.  I wear my Fitbit ALL the time only taking it off and putting it on the charger when I take a shower.  But Kerry was actually one of several friends who slowly faded away to nothing or was off much more often than on.

It was then I realized that my Fitbit Friends could be put into two basic categories; EVers and Gassers.  ALL my EVer Friends are active nearly every day while most of my Gasser Friends are active much less than half the time.  So to Randy, Patrick, Sam, Keith and George; Thank you for being the reason that Crickets have not taken over my Friends list!

I guess I have to realize that battery management is still in the "learned behavior" category.  I pine for the day when it simply is the natural way of things.

And finally; when multiple plugs exist maybe its time to be more specific or text less?  πŸ˜‰

Monday, December 4, 2017

Analyzing The Best Deal; Model 3, Bolt and LEAF

Ok, so now I know how it feels when at the Mall on Black Friday! The choices are no longer simple and few! A good thing, right?  Heck its a great thing but now, what do I do!!!  Actually, its been a couple decades since I have done a Black Friday but I do struggle with Cyber Monday!  Thank you Price Protection Guarantee for saving me a ton!  I actually started buying Christmas Presents in September. I have a real issue being pressured into deciding what to get someone so I have to have time to think about it.  But I also have to have time to pay for it and I don't buy what I can't pay for (tell me THAT is not an alien concept!) but when talking about cars you kinda don't have a choice but to buy something that you can't pay for right away, right?  ummm, hmmm, yeah we'll just have to see about that. 

As always the "value" of the deal is #1 and the 3 contenders are the 2018 LEAF, Chevy Bolt and the Tesla Model 3.  If just looking at MSRP's there is not a whole lot of difference in price but that is where the similarities end.  First off, you won't go wrong with any of these cars.  Despite the high stickers, these cars will save you money over a comparable gas car.  All of them do a very good job of addressing different segments of the EV populace so basically this blog is nothing more than a transparency of my current thought process as I work out the best course of action for me in the next 2-6 months. Now each person's financial situation, timelines and needs are vastly different so my only goal here is possibly open up lines of thought that may not have occurred to you. 

But value also means "getting the most" for your buck and that does not mean the cheapest car wins. Not by a long shot.

First off, there is the possibility of losing the federal tax credit. Right now the House has it gone but the Senate has it still in place.  This would be a huge blow to 2 of the 3 options above.  Since I did not sign up for the T3, I wouldn't get one before the credit expired anyway. I might sneak in for a ¼ but even that is shaky. 

**Edit** As we know, the tax reform is moving much faster than I had anticipated and the Senate has already passed a proposal that may or may not include keeping the EV tax credit. Lets hope the credit stays intact! 

So lets start with the easiest one; the Model 3. Its easy because of the lack of negotiated prices and the assumption that no federal or Washington State tax credit would be applied.  The Base cost is $36,200 after delivery and the only option I would probably select initially is color for $1000 (still up in the air about that) so it would be $37,200 plus sales tax or roughly 40,473.60 on current 8.8% sales tax  rate for Olympia, WA. 

This is 220 miles of range, SC access (which is EXPLODING in my region) and a car that has a huge amount of passenger space easily matching or exceeding the full sized Chevy Impala work vehicles.  Not entirely sure that a base model would have the option to add the AP option later for $5,000 plus $3,000 for the upgrade but at those prices I am not sure I would do that anyway.  Emergency braking and collision avoidance are part of the standard features however which is my minimally acceptable safety features. 

Here I would get the LT with comfort package ($555) Driver's Confidence ($495) and QC ($890). After delivery it would be $39,435 plus tax  which would be minimal since the state sales tax exemption would apply to nearly all the sale price.  Now, I did get a quote from Chevy of Everett for $36,108 (sales tax included) for a car without Driver's Confidence in Black. It did contain a "buy it now" perk though so that price may or may not be available but I think it would still be in the same ball park.  However, we cannot ignore the possibility of a run on them if the tax credit is actually removed. 

Here I would be getting 238 miles of range and TMS, both huge considerations but there is little else to get me excited here.  There is no collision avoidance options unless you go premium which is an expense I am not sure I want to pay sure I WILL NOT PAY for.  To get "Low Speed Emergency Forward Braking" requires two seemingly unrelated packages that balloons the price to $43,510 before discounts so roughly $4,000 more and includes a lot of stuff I could care less about. The reality is I have lived without it for 40+ years and its something I guess I could overlook... 

**edit** Someone I know just purchased from Dave Smith Motors in Idaho (I think) a Bolt EXACTLY like mine minus Confidence package for $33,504! Deals abound!


For the first time ever, I am "voluntarily" selecting up trims. If you don't remember, my SL was a forced choice as it was THE ONLY way to get QC and I have said it many times and its worth repeating; The person who thought an EV without QC was acceptable, SHOULD BE SHOT! But the allure of the features along with the reasonable prices (for car accessories that is) makes it a tough thing to pass up even for this tight assed penny pincher like me!   

My choice would be the SV trim with All Weather ($900)  and tech packages ($2200) price would be $36,440 with delivery charges added.  If done before the WA State Tax exemption expires (which is likely) that would be the total cost plus dealer fees that would add a few hundred.  Notice no additional charges for QC? At least "some" got it right. Guess Meatloaf knew what he was talking about with his song "Two out of Three Ain't Bad"  Well, we all know what happened with that 3rd option...

The LEAF would have the the shortest range at 150 miles and no TMS but adds features not available in the packages selected for the Tesla and Bolt; 

**Minimally acceptable Safety Features;
Emergency Forward Braking; LEAF, Tesla. 

**Highly Desired Safety Features;
Adaptive Cruise Control; LEAF
Lane Assist; LEAF


Ok the Tesla due to its overwhelming demand and late delivery times will be the most expensive but also easily qualifies as the car I value closest to its MSRP by quite a margin. There is currently no lease options so a purchase is it.  I expect the T3 features to be ever evolving and Supercharger support cannot be overvalued.  But its basic premise for EVcentricity is top notch far exceeding both Nissan and Chevy for its forward thinking in both design, ergonomics and features.  I also expect that additional features may be available long after the purchase; the ability to pay for additional features at a later date is a great thing especially when the price is so high.  But with a $6500 down payment (If I don't blow it on something else during the loooong wait  ...) plus minor random dealer fees (does Tesla even have those?) I would be looking at $610.78 payments 2647.06 in interest if financing $34,000. 

Total payout of  $43,146.60

The Bolt would likely be the 2nd most expensive and since Chevy passes on NONE of the federal tax credit to lessees, it is simply not an option for me. It would be several thousand more dollars with a money factor ranging from 1.9 to 4.5% Effective interest.  If done today I would be putting down $6500 so a loan at 2.99% interest (guessing here) would cost 532.54 a month for 60 months with $2308.40 in interest along with the $6500 down payment.  I would get a few thousand on the tax credit at the most so call it a payout of $36,452.40

total payout of  $38,452.40


This will be the most speculative pricing of the 3. Nissan will have both buyer and factory incentives so unlike Tesla, none will sell at MSRP. But that is only part of the story as Nissan has provided THE BEST lease terms in the industry and I don't see that ending. There is no way we can know what terms Nissan will be offering since they tend to change every month but I have to think that passing on the entire federal tax credit will still be there along with "too good to be true" money factor rates resulting in rent charges for the entire lease coming in well under $100.  In checking with VERY recent leases on LEAF, the money factor (basically the interest rate on the lease term) is still nearly nothing probably less than ¼ of one percent.  So what does this mean?  Well, let me give an example I know well; my current lease term.


There are two reasons to lease; lease to purchase or lease to avoid a large financial commitment.  Lets talk about lease to purchase. Now I am not going to presume that I will get the same discounts I got on my 2016 but that is not needed to illustrate the point.  So for sake of argument, lets say I will get a discount of $4,000 off MSRP which is considerably less than what I got on my current lease but close to the discount on the Bolt.

So add it up;

$4,000 off lease discount
$7,500 Federal tax instant cash
$1,000 Returning Nissan customer loyalty
Waivers up to $500 in damages on previous lease for returning customer along with waiver of lease termination fees, etc.  This now puts my cost on the LEAF at (adding say $560 for easy math for dealer fees, etc) $37,000 - 12,500 = 24,500.  This price is available to EVERYONE (possibly minus the loyalty cash but this is what I expect to be an average deal at best). It does not matter what your tax liability is. But, we already know that. Something else we already know but bears reminding...

My current lease payment is $245.99 for 35 months or  $8609.65 for the 3 year term and that total includes a rent charge of $29.10.  My residual is $9100 so total payoff amount is $17700 more or less (I also got a $148 refund for "overpayment" of my ZERO down drive off)

But the real benefit here is that on both the cars above, I put down $6 500 (I do actually have that!) but on my LEAF lease I put down zero allowing me to invest the money (The money I had for a possible down payment last year was put into my 401 K instead. That money has grown almost 15% in a year) but down payments is something that can greatly lower your total cost of the payments soooo, what is the difference between saving a little money each month and then using it as a big down payment in say... oh 3 years verses leasing?  In the above real example the only drawback to the lease terms is the fees which are small and the rent charge which is less than small.  Again, lease terms change probably monthly so who knows what next month will bring but a new Lessee (had her LEAF less than a week) will pay $22 rent charge on her 2 year lease. 

So, my deal is really a 3 year test drive where at the end I can use my entire "investment" (Over $16,000 discounts on front end + my $8600 in payments) to basically purchase a car for a bit more than $9,000! 

So back to the 2018.  If using payments of $300 a month on a 3 year lease, this would leave just about a residual of around $14,000.  Now add that same $6500 down payment (which has had time to grow btw...) plus tax on $14,000 ($15232) residual and we are financing $8732.  Since its not a new car, we won't get new car financing (Truth be told, I would cash it out anyway) so financing at 4.99% for 3 years for payments of $261.67 with interest totaling $688.00

So total payoff in this scenario

35 lease payments @ $300 = 10,500
down payment   $6500
36 payments of  $261.67 =   9420.12

Total payout   $26,420.12.  

Remember this is assuming "average" lease terms from Nissan. I strongly suspect better terms could be had.  Another thing to consider; since the lease would be tax free, it might serve you to artificially increase your monthly lease payments to reduce your residual which would suffer from both WA State sales tax AND loan interest. As long as the payments aren't too high, it can be done. 

So is this really a better way to go? After all, its still money out of your pocket. Well, that is true for EVERY purchase but with automobiles, we have to look at other things besides price. The purchases above were calculated using 2.99 interest AND  $6500 down. That is a lot of financial commitment verses a ZERO down, near ZERO INTEREST lease with a residual you can take or leave at the end. FYI; If you think your residual is too high, call your dealer at the end of the lease and let him know. Several LEAFers have purchased their cars well below the residual. It all depends on how the market will go so the "risk" is what a 150 mile range EV will be worth in 3 years? 

So not only do you have choices but you also electing a few hundred dollars in fees over  $2,000+ in interest assuming you take a FIVE year loan. 

So here is where we talk about purchasing a LEAF... LOL!!! Gotcha!! You thought I was serious, right!!! You know me! I am on my 3rd lease!! I am not a LEAF buyer!!! But, I may soon become a "lease buyer."  πŸ˜‰

Now all this above is MY THOUGHT processes which means many of you won't agree with this. That is ok. I didn't write this to tease Tesla, bang Bolts or sell LEAFs. As mentioned above, the tax credit maybe no more and much sooner than expected. No doubt a lot of T3ers will drop out of the queue because of it.  That is just reality. I know a handful who signed up for the Tesla but admitted long ago it was too much if the tax credit was gone. They all still hold on to hope and that is a good thing, right?

But the lease option works with or without the tax credit as long as the money factor stays very low. So now the question is back to "How much is that extra 70-90 miles worth?"   Degradation is always a question but for some, its a very manageable thing.  Will 40 kwh be better? It would be logical to think so. 

Finally; I talk to many people who feel like a used EV is the only option available to them due to cost.  That is not true. The LEAF lease terms allows a much greater segment of the population to enter EVDom and whether you think the LEAF is the best option or not, I don't care.  I only care that you reduce your gasoline exhaust any way you see fit. 


Its been a year and HAVE to mention NCTC (No Charge To Charge) saved me over $1200 in charges at EVGO stations alone! They are one of 3 different networks I used extensively but by far the one I used the most.  So when calculating the above costs don't forget to toss in a few grand of free charging!  😎

Sunday, December 3, 2017

November 2017 Drive Report

Well, its officially the slow season at work so was expecting to cut my mileage on the LEAF but the first part of the month was busier than expected so that didn't happen to the degree I was hoping for. Another issue was too much time off. I could sit at home... or not. So it was 80+ miles one way to test drive a Bolt and over 100 miles round trip to see a Tesla Model 3 in the flesh. Both well worth the time btw!

I did manage to get the 2nd lowest monthly total (No, the lowest monthly total was not the month I picked it up despite being only 20 days long) so far at 1544.9 miles.   As usual, public charging kept my costs down but had a hit from SemaConnect for $20 on my card refill. So my cost for the month balloons to $31.12 or  2.01 cents per mile. Without the Sema charge, it would have been 7/10th of a cent that did include a small charge from Blink. (32 cents)

My LEAF Spy low water marks;  363 GIDs, 28.1 kwh available, Ahr 79.13, SOH 100%, and Hx 95.17.  During the month, I bounced from these numbers to 100% a few times dropping to my lowest numbers during the greatest period of inactivity. I noticed that moderate activity averaging 30-50 miles a day dropped me to the 97 to 98% range on Hx.  So if I have to make a guess as to the true state of my pack, I would go for 2-3% loss.

Another way of determining loss is simply changes in usability. This I have not really noticed.  As luck would have it, I took this pix and later realized it was a pretty good representation of where my pack is.  As always, I use climate controls only for defrost as needed relying solely on seat heaters to keep me warm. As you can see in this pix, its not that cold anyway.   Now as mentioned before; rain and snow on the road is the biggest range killer by far.  Cold weather has an impact but on dry streets, it not really that much. 

Now this was taken on my way home from Puyallup and this would be as close to range test as I would do. I simply don't have the miles or motivation to drive on the course at steady speed, etc etc. Even that has too many variables.  But in my day to day meanderings around the sound, a lot of the trips are rather repeatable so a very small loss of range wouldn't be noticeable so much.  Unlike the 24 kwh LEAF, I don't have an easy range test. If you recall a common destination for me was Southcenter.  It was 96 miles round trip so a very good gauge for degradation since even when new, I would only have a handful of miles left.   Now I realize this is mostly GOM but if you look at miles driven along with the GOM estimate,  you are pretty much seeing what my average Winter range is. 

The drive was somewhat normal. Early start meant driving there at speeds running from 60-72 mph with an average of probably 68 mph.  But the return trip was slower due to traffic, different routes (I use Google Maps and it selects the quickest which is almost never the shortest)  etc.  So the GOM estimate is actually high "if" I were to repeat my trip the same speed I came, etc.  It was raining pretty good both coming and going so that is a wash (close to wash out in some places!)

But to make a long story short, the range estimate adding the two together would be around 103-104.  Because of an additional 10 miles or so bombing around Olympia, I actually ended up with an estimate of 105 miles the only difference being that it was now 85 real miles with the GOM estimate. Because of the slower in town speeds, the real range would be likely to be in the 100-102 range.  If you recall, I guesstimated my range last year when the LEAF was new in Winter to be 92-105 miles depending mostly on how windy it was or how much water was on the road.

Obviously my range results are highly personal and not really translatable to anyone else's circumstances unless they live near here and is on the roads the same time I am.

On the dark side, the Corolla traveled 439.9 miles costing $30.79 (less than the LEAF!!...sort of ) or 7 cents per mile.  Assuming that its not a "skip gas Month" (Love those!) I generally fill up to get a much better idea of the cost of gas and this month was no different. Unfortunately, I picked the same day everyone else picked to get gas. 16 mins in and out... ick!

Costco Gas in Lacey WA. You would think with a HUGE number of pumps, the line
 would never be this way? But that is not the case. Its always busy here but this was 
a bit over the top!

Edit;  Have an expense to add. Ordered new wiper inserts for the LEAF. Got them, put them on and then 3 days later, I am cruising down the road near Nisqually (detouring to avoid traffic) and was zapped by a tree branch (well maybe not a branch but a big twig!) and it got stuck in the windshield wiper. The arm assembly survived but the blade did not.  The branch cut a couple notches in the blade before being thrown off the car so now the blade has a 3" section of glass nearly dead center of my driving view that does not really wipe.  

Now I had had some doubts about the blades anyway. They were Trico's and nowhere near as heavy as the Nissan inserts I removed.  Well, I passed a few car parts stores on the way home and no one had any inserts available so I just put the old ones back on. In reality, the old ones still worked well (remember I scrub my windshield with steel wool maybe once a week or so and that helps a ton)  but it was time to change and I did it more out of habit than anything.  

Anyway, I posted my situation online and as always, Social Media stepped up.  It seems that Nissan does not "officially" sell just the wiper inserts. They only sell the entire blade assembly which is $48 for the OEM parts from Japan or they have American part which is "just as good" according to the parts guy on the phone for $17.  So I was going to do the $17 thing when it was brought up that Honda sells inserts and one they sell just happens to be the exact right part. 

So if you want to save a buck. Go to your local Honda dealer and ask for a 

76622-STK-A02  for the drivers side 
76632-STK-A02 for the passenger side.  

Cost? Well, some said as little as $5 but even it its $10, its still a significant savings and everyone who tried it said the wiper inserts worked very well!

An MNL'er added that wiper blade replacements can be had for the LEAF by simply ordering parts from a different Nissan model.  

If you want to keep your original windshield wipers and just replace the rubber inserts, here are the part numbers you need to order from Nissan. The passenger side refill is Nissan Part 28895-1AA1A, and the drivers side is 28895-1AA0A. These are the same as the ones on the Maxima and the Murano. These will fit all Leafs 2011 to 2015.
Now, I have a 2016 but not sure that even makes a difference.  Guessing it doesn't since the wiper sizes have not changed. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Tesla's Multi Billion Dollar Proof Of Concept

A few years ago, the Kansas City Royals won the World Series almost exclusively relying on "small ball" to win.

Tesla could do the same thing here and I feel like we have been set up but in a good way,  a VERY good way. It now appears that Musk's grand plan was to provide EVs at cost in order to provide proof of concept to get the real financing he has been after all along.

Musk who has done what most considered impossible, upstaging the late great Steve Jobs. His latest wowzy is by far the most far reaching of his career and all of a sudden, everything he has done up to this point makes sense.  The Solar City purchase, Space X technology and the Supercharger Network.  Musk has laid the groundwork to put the trucking industry on its nose and the #1 benefactor will be us.

Musk's announcement of the fully electric tractor truck was expected but the a long haul capability with 30 minute recharge AND a maximum 80,000 lb weight was not.  The logistics of pulling this off is almost unfathomable!  The power requirements boggles the mind. The mind blowing challenge of providing the network required to support nationwide access to charging sta... Hey, Wait a minute!!

Is is possible that this was Musk's grand plan all along?  Did it EVER make sense to put out a 100 million dollar charging network that literally had no chance of ever paying for its ongoing operational costs much less its installation costs?  How crazy is it to mortgage the entire company (or group of companies) to build this network?  Was it really for the cars?

But what if everything Musk has done up to this point was simply his way of demonstrating viability for a multi Billion dollar investment to build a nationwide fueling support infrastructure combining Super Chargers bolstered by Solar to compete against the Diesel Fueling network?

What did the Supercharger Network do?

** Proved that a quick nationwide build out of charging stations was possible

** Provided financial data that allowed Tesla to accurately cost out a much more powerful truck charging network.

** Gives them real experience with Solar along with LSI Battery Storage.

When you add that up, it becomes obvious that Musk is not crazy. He is simply doing what he always does; seeing several years beyond what we can see and not providing us what we want but providing us what we need.

Its been the long accepted notion that the trucking industry would be the toughest and last to convert to electricity. Most felt it would never be done citing Fuel Cells as the likely answer despite the viability of the technology being at least a decade or more up the road.  Well, guess what?  Again, Tesla is proving that the past is the past and has nothing to do with what can be done.  Tesla has proven it can put together an end to end solution; a solution that will finally put Tesla into the black in a way that no other company could even imagine.  Just as printer companies sold millions of printers at or below costs just to reap profits on the ink refill cartridges; Telsa promises a two year pay back to trucking companies based on a huge reduction in fuel and maintenance costs that will still provide plenty of room for profit.

Armed with all of this, it should be an easy road for Tesla, right?  Well, no. Not even close.  Before, Tesla was nibbling away at the personal transportation sector with its cars and the very limited market share it had was simply not a major concern for the oil companies.  Tesla trucking changes all that. It is an "in your face" assault on Big Oil's greatest and most profitable cash cow and they won't go down without a fight.

I expect to see a lot of roadblocks thrown up by Big Oil as Musk attempts to get charging stations installed at truck stops around the country.  The alternative would be setting up truck only SC stations or expanding existing sites that have the room ( anyone notice the uptick in footprints of some of the latest SC stations?) . This would be costlier and difficult especially in areas where space is a premium. Truck stops just by their nature have a LOT of space and adding charging stations would not affect their ability to handle truck volumes significantly. 

As always, the naysayers group is very large and vocal. Many have doubts of the recharge times or the range of the trucks in certain circumstances.  But I would think that Tesla would be starting with with short hauls from major shipping ports where power is plentiful but still not as plentiful as diesel exhaust.

But the impact to our health especially in urban areas around major shipping ports would be massive. It would only be a matter of time (not very long I am guessing) before Tesla moves into transit buses.  This is something we need to get behind.

Waiting for others to do it is simply not working. Collecting Maple Syrup in below 0ΒΊ has more activity.  There are a few other companies that are putting large platform vehicles but their pace in the US has been slow. Maybe its the product, maybe its simply they don't have Elon Musk.  Whatever the reason, its been a slow slog.

I have to hand it to Tesla. Just when I thought the "hype ceiling" had been reached, Musk proved me wrong. I can't wait to see what he comes up with next.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Tesla 3 Up Close!

Everyone knows it to be Black Friday but I know it to be "Commuter's Day" simply because its impossible to clog the Malls and I-5 at the same time!  And this year was no different as my trip to Seattle was done in barely more than an hour at speeds bouncing between 65 and 72 mph. So naturally with a "once a year" ability to go somewhere unimpeded, finding something to do worthy of such a great driving day is always a challenge but this year, it was easy.  An up close encounter with the brand new Tesla Model 3!

Door sill Kick plate

First off, a debt a gratitude to Kevin for allowing me and several others to crawl all over his shiny new Tesla.  Again, reading about a car simply does not do it justice. Being there reveals so much more about the car!  It was a struggle to find balance in my observations. (It can't be ALL good!) So lets be honest; it was Black and showed dirt really well.  Whooo, That was tough!

And that is about all the bad. In fact, even the weather was good. Despite ominous forecasts, there was not a single drop during the hour long event held at Pioneer Park (a very lovely venue for a show!)

Yes, I was parked and outside the car when taking Pix!

Now before we begin; a quick reminder of what I was looking for in car in order of importance;

1) Price/Performance
2) Driving aids
3) Public Charging
4) Space
5) Range
6) Comfort (primarily seat height, seat heaters, etc.) 

Finally to the car!!

Despite being 10 mins early, there were already several people there!

As mentioned before, the car must work for work and that means carrying equipment and up to 3 passengers. Now, the passenger thing is not common (which really sucks on my 3 hour drives home and no HOV access!)  but the equipment is ALWAYS required. Now sometimes its only a shoulder bag, other times, its Printer, Laptop, Comm equipment, step stools, and several bags of handhelds. 

The one striking thing is how well Tesla was able to make every inch of the car usable. Greatest example of that is the near identical cargo space between the T3 and the Bolt. Despite similar sizes, the usability of the T3 is several notches higher. 

 The Frunk; Not huge but a separate storage area simply adds another easy layer of 
security. I think everyone has had the unfortunate experience of being on a roadtrip 
and doesn't it always seem like on the way you need the thing you packed first? 

 The trunk. I had some misgivings over the usability of a trunk mostly because of my now 16
 year run of hatchbacks but the opening is large, the depth is good and height is sufficient.
 And I have to say, it beats blocking my rear view (which is the norm on large jobs when I
 have my LEAF packed to the ceiling!)

Great example of making space count.  We all carry around stuff that might get used 
a few times a year and yeah, it sucks when is taking up valuable real estate. This is a
 great solution to that issue!

 The car is a bit bigger than my LEAF but the interior is HUGE. One thing I was apprehensive over when the T 3 was announced was seating position. I won't do low slung cars. Simply too much struggle. My Corolla has a seat that rides just above the ground it seems and its a climb to get out of the car.  Acceptable if doing it 2-3 a day but 10-15 times a day (Not extremely uncommon for me) is out of the question.  Thankfully, the battery pack in the floor fixed that and the seating position was excellent.  I adjusted the seats to my comfort level and got an immediate popup if I wanted to save it (I didn't) a great feature if you plan to share your Tesla (I am not sure I am willing to be that nice...) with someone else.  

Unlike the Bolt, the seats were very comfortable and the interior minimalistic with "The Screen" dominating the landscape; a Tesla tradition. 

 Thankfully, the early reports about EVERYTHING being controlled on the touchscreen
 were simply wrong. The steering wheel has the normal stuff close at hand; headlights, 
dimmers, windshield wipers, CC, etc. 

The Screen; My cellphone in my LEAF occupies a similar position and not sure if its my
 paranoia of air bags but despite being short, my seat is set back farther than most. Not a 
good thing when the shortness of my arms match the rest of me so leaning forward and 
stretching is required to do anything on my phone.  Nowadays, I do nearly everything by
 voice control so not as much of an issue but the screen is actually mounted a few inches
 farther back closer to me. Not a lot of difference, but the reach is much easier for me. 

 The interior. The center console has several cubbies including the one at the front which is
 VERY Deep. I know some people who will use this to store their Super Big Gulp!

As advertised, you can do everything from here including the ONLY way to open the
 glove box. Another way to thwart snoopers! 

One of the greatest surprises was the backseat leg room. It was HUGE!  We have a fleet of 
Impalas for work which are considered large cars. The leg room in them is far far far less! 

If I had to complain, I would pick the seat height.  It is a low seating position that would make
 the seats very uncomfortable on a long trip if you had a 7 footer in the driver's seat and you 
had to have your knees up in your face.  Beyond that, the ability to stretch out greatly mitigates
 this issue.  

No door handle here. Simply push the top button and the door pops open. Since there is no
 door frame, the window rolls down a smidgen so the glass can clear the car frame. Don't 
know if there is any emergency manual release. I looked and its very well hidden if its 
there.  Is this an issue? Well, could be but in 2006 a truck sideswiped my Prius turning left
 in front of me putting a crease barely an inch deep nearly the entire side of the car. I had
 to crawl out the passenger side because my door wouldn't open so door handles guarantees

On driving aids; The Tesla comes standard with several including the biggie, adaptive cruise control (see edit below) but the one thing, and its a BIG thing is the ability to upgrade features at a later date. Yes, autonomous driving is expensive but its something you can pay for later. The ability to take on an expense is much easier if the car payments are not standing in the way!  And like all Teslas nowadays, the car is ready to provide!

Rear facing camera

Not only are there driving aids but also aids for rescue personal! Good information to know. Not that I would cut up my shiny new Tesla, but I do know some over the top DIYers who might! 
Located in the frunk

Ok, so back to the "The List"

6) Comfort 
All three are acceptable. The LEAF might have the edge in driver's seat comfort and with my long slogs across Puget Sound, comfort is very nice to have. The Tesla comes close and easily could be better. I don't have as much time in the seats of the Tesla so I would call it a toss up. As mentioned in my Bolt review, the driver's seat has minimal padding and its easy to see how it could be an issue especially for someone thicker than me because the seat back is not flat,  (I am fairly a chubby sort of way... ) but the seat was not uncomfortable in any way. So it passes and the seat height (which is way more important) was fine.

5) Range
It wasn't until I test drove the 2018 LEAF that I realized I had been undervaluing driver aids. I am old school (or just plain old!) and the thought of relinquishing any tidbit of control of my car to someone (or something) else is a pretty alien concept.  But the traffic conditions have become untenable here so before you chide me for putting range so far down the list, lemme explain.  Cause up until that test drive; range was EVERYTHING to me. My only goal back then was how to get the most range for the least amount of money. PERIOD! Nothing else mattered. Uncomfortable seats? Better than walking!

But as 90 minute drives home changed into 3 hour drives home (this is no exaggeration. I get paid to drive which means I have to file a driving log along with payroll EVERY day which I do by email and Google is nice enough to remember all of it in case I forgot what I did on July 7, 2013!) my ability to maintain alertness after a 10-12 hour day was becoming suspect.  Every day, I would pass by another rear end fender bender wondering when my turn would be coming up.  So range?  I get a ton of that in my LEAF at 20 mph (and 20 mph is all too frequently wishful thinking!). So range is a priority; just not a big one and its the easiest to fix. Its called public charging!

4) Space
Both the Tesla and the Bolt are nearly identical in cargo space. Now the option to make the car a "two passenger" vehicle is not always available so I have serious doubts about the Bolt. Since I normally am alone or sometimes with one passenger (if I can talk someone into staying late so I can HOV it!) storage would only be an occasional issue but the Tesla simply has much more usable space than the Bolt.  Despite the LEAF having 50% more in the cubic footage dept,  I see it as only slightly better than the Tesla and even then only in certain circumstances.

Here "was" the typical pack for a larger job.  Keeping in mind; I frequently put 2 or 3 step
 stools on top of all this if I had 3 passengers.  But this was when we were transitioning to
 newer (red battery) machines which are smaller.  So this stack is now somewhat smaller 
(and MUCH lighter!) and only need one battery charger! :)   FYI; I say somewhat smaller
 because tablets have been added to the mix but generally only need 6 of them and they fit
 quite easily into one of the small bags. 

3) Public Charging
Mentioning this is completely unfair to the LEAF and the Bolt.  Tesla will soon have well over a dozen urban SC stations in the Puget Sound region and unlike the public stations I use now, you will likely have 4 to 10 plugs to choose from instead of one or two.  It is still shocking to me that only Tesla gets it; There is NO RANGE  that minimizes the need for public charging support!

2) Driving aids
Another easy one. The Tesla and the LEAF have it, the Bolt does not.  I get that Chevy cut costs to provide a bigger range but imm, they went too far and for me, it was a HUGE mistake. I had hoped the 2018 would have had it but alas... it did not. 

1) Price/Performance
The Tesla and Bolt are nearly the same price and have about the same range but I would pay $36,200 for a Tesla straight up. I wouldn't pay more than $30,000 for a Bolt and even then, I am not sure its worth that.   The LEAF promises to be MUCH cheaper, likely $10,000+ cheaper than either the Tesla or the Bolt simply due to favorable lease terms which also makes the financial commitment much easier to deal with. If they continue with ridiculously low money factor rates they will be a tough one to beat especially with the huge advances on the performance divide the 2018 provides.

So there you have it and first off, I must admit I did not put down a deposit on the car and the small twinge of regret caused by the HUGE buildup of urban based SC stations in the region is now a major sense of loss after seeing this car.  It exceeded every preconceived notion I had about the car and the one thing that I have learned is that Tesla is normally late but never short.  What Tesla loses in missed time lines is more than made up by going above and beyond their EV commitment and the Model 3 despite its much lower price is no different.  Tesla carefully analyzed what we wanted  needed and nailed it in every way.  A lot depends on where the LEAF will come in with its lease deals, etc. so my decision is not set,   But I can definitely say for me, the Tesla Model 3 is the first EV I know of that is worth buying. 


Ok when I actually "read" the Model 3 owners manual, I found that my assumption that "Speed Control" was some sort of adaptive Cruise Control was completely wrong so now the T3 is now "normal" in its lack of perfection since its bundled with a package I am not likely to buy... at least not  initially. 

On the steering wheel stalk, the wiper control does not control speed. Pushing the button only activates wipers for one sweep. Press and hold the button for spray and you will get two wipes right away plus a 3rd after a 2 second delay. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Chevy Bolt Test Drive

Yesterday, I had the privilege of doing a test drive of a 2017 Chevy Bolt LT equipped with QC and Comfort package. Thank you Bob @ Chevy of Everett for hosting my drive!

So, before we get into the details, first off; I don't really care about the acceleration. Any EV has more than enough AFAIC, so didn't really check that out despite nearly EVERYONE saying that testing "Sports Mode" was a required part of the test.  My EVing is all about getting range and before you say "238 miles is more than enough" let me just mention that I approached or exceeded that 21 times in the past year in my LEAF and by large, did it without any stoplight drag races!

After reviewing some numbers, colors and availability, I was sent off with the keys to go "warm" up the Bolt. This gave me a chance to spend more time in the seat,  play with the controls, grab some screen shots, etc. Here are a few in no real order

 Efficiency Chart in 5 min increments. Seems like the Prius started
this and everyone is following suit. Liked it then and like it now!

 Super cool! I can concur with the climate settings. Car was much too warm for me!
Knowing the efficiency impact of wearing a hat and coat will be awesome!

 Ok, I admit I changed the amperage to 12 from 8 and hoping that the pop up resulting from 
that change  is gone for good. Any current Bolters? Please assure me I don't 
have to change this every time I start the car!

 Another Prius Throwback Screen.  Nice I guess since it can be toggled to
 the other much more informative screens above. :) 

 Driver Display.  Didn't find a dedicated one, but the power meter  is the teeny
 tiny display on the right currently displaying 1 KW. The white line is actually the indicator and moves up and down while driving. The swing is very small though.   A bigger display accurately 
showing regen, power and friction braking is what we need here. But it does 
have the digital readout, So half a point! 

 Easy to see this is not my car. 30 PSI?? That is insane!!

 Sorry for the size of the pix but its all but unreadable unless displayed at original size.  Priced at $38,800. (Dealer dropped price about $3800 if purchased today) 

This was the one I drove and it was one of SEVERAL Black ones on the lot!

Ok, to address another big issue; The seats were not uncomfortable in any way.  Yes, there is a lack of padding which a seat cushion would easily fix but unlike other Bolts I have sat in, the side bar on the seatback did not jab me in the ribs.  I am not sure why. This is not a newer 2017 (delivered to dealer in May) so unlikely to have been tweaked by Chevy in response to the multitude of complaints over social media. Bob also confirmed Chevy made no changes.  My only thought was maybe it was the leather seats that I had the issue with. To be honest with you, I sat in so many Bolts during NDEW events (I went to THREE of them!) I lost track.  

I have to say, I simply got lucky. I am not a big guy 5'8" (and shrinking... in one direction anyway) or extremely overweight.  I do feel myself settling into a distinct position held rather snugly in place. It is easy to see that someone bigger might  not fit as well as me. 

On the drive, One pedal is of course a must and somewhat disappointed that the Bolt uses the old LEAF method of shift twice to get into "Low" for one pedal operation.  The Bolt shifter also requires you to squeeze a button on the side to shift. I guess it prevents accidental shifting. Didn't like that part. They should have instituted a delay for bad shifts like going from Forward to Reverse at higher speeds, etc.  I do a lot of shifting from neutral to B mode in the LEAF to take advantage of various levels of deceleration, slopes, etc.  Didn't try it on the test drive, but venture to say the Bolt won't shift to neutral like the LEAF did when an "illegal" shift was done.  In the grand scheme of things, it might not matter as much with the one pedal driving option that my current LEAF does not have.   I do like the 2018 LEAF's button selector option for one pedal though. 

As expected, the drive was quiet and smooth. Absent is the high pitched sound of the LEAF motor (of course that also went bye bye in the LEAF for 2018).  I didn't really push the limits on corners but the Bolt seemed very rooted and stable also expected, compliments of a well placed heavy battery pack. There was the nice high seating position with good views and a much lesser obstruction of the A Pillars when making left turns as compared to the LEAF as well. 

Also a few mentioned higher road and wind noise on the Bolt verses the LEAF which I did not notice.  Our freeway stint was short, only a few miles but the ride was smooth without any wind noise I could detect. The weather was windy but dry during the test drive on a day that saw small bursts of rain with mild wind gusts. 

So there you have it! The Bolt is a great option and again, I think anyone having seat comfort issues can fix them relatively easily with a seat back cushion although I doubt I will do that.  During the ride, I felt no discomfort at all. 

The cargo space is limited and could be an issue hauling what I need for work but it would only be an issue when there will be 4 occupants which only happened 12 times this year.  Most of the time, I would be fine with using the back seat for storage and having a 2 passenger car (or 3) and the key thing to remember, A Bolt in the house would be under completely different circumstances than a LEAF upgrade since both the LEAF and Bolt would be there. I could always switch to the LEAF for those 12 occasions if needed. 

So the Bolt has the range, acceptable comfort, and is available right now.  It is definitely a go for me. 


One thing to mention; It will not be easy to cover 2 destinations I have for work due to lack of CCS charging infrastructure in Winter.  That will change but when? Summer is doable. Its actually 238 miles RT to the farthest of the two (the other is 228 miles)  but this I have full confidence I can do. I simply need to avoid Sports mode :).  Since both these locations (Ilwaco and Long Beach) are in SW Washington,  public infrastructure enhancements cannot be relied on to happen in the near future. Both locations are easily reachable in my 30 kwh LEAF. 

But what price would the extra 80-90 miles of range come at?   Chevy is not passing any of the fed tax credit on leases so lease terms are horrendous.  The Bolt as configured would lease for $489.67 a month with Money Factor of .00188 or 4.512% effective interest rate. That calculates to over $4000 in interest on a 39 month lease with a residual of  $22,504.  total payout would be $41,601.13 assuming a cash out residual payment at the end of the lease without the  inevitable sales tax considered. With tax, we are talking $44,000.   So leasing is out.  

Purchasing would have to be the only option. But that brings on a whole new set of issues. Normally I wouldn't come close to qualifying for the full $7500 tax credit and this year is no different.  Add to that, I have already contributed to a previous employer's 401 K so my tax liability is even lower making a 2017 purchase out of the question. 

But using the Bolt above for reference, we ran the numbers with $6500 down payment with the numbers including the "buy it now $1000 bonus" of  $34,917 with random fees bringing it to $36,108 (sales tax starts after $32,500).  With 2.99% financing (Which I qualified for last year when getting LEAF. Not sure where the rates are now) on a 60 month term, I was looking at $532.34 a month that included 2344.40 in finance charges. That pencils out to a $37,908.06 payout. 

 Now, none of this includes the federal tax credit which "should" be still in place (I have faith that trump will be thwarted as usual) and again, won't qualify for the full credit but I would likely look to increase my tax burden likely by converting a portion of my 401K to a Roth. Not sure what that would cost, but again, that is for a later blog. 

So faced with a lot to think about. The Bolt would be a long term car for me. Its range guarantees viability for many years down the road but its lack of tech concerns me. The price concerns me as well especially since the LEAF promises to be a much easier finance due to favorable lease terms along with the strong likelihood of being over $10,000 cheaper but all that could change.  Possible changes to the federal tax code along with the limited time left for the Washington EV sales tax credit (valued at over $3,000) could easily make the LEAF only slightly cheaper than the Bolt. 

In the grand scheme of things, I really just want the two EV option but at the same time, I want the best cost/benefit option available and am willing to put forth the effort to make it work. 

In conclusion; If not for THE best lease terms bar none and expected loyalty discounts from Nissan, I would be driving a Bolt right now.  It is a great EV option and yes, its expensive but realize that the average person would save about $1000 per year driving it over gas.  I however, am far from average.  I logged over 35,000 miles on my job in the past 12 months and that is my normal. Unlike previous years,  a greater percentage of those miles were logged on my personal vehicles, mostly the LEAF due to its small bump in range  (resulting in a huge increase in convenience of making extended trips) over the my 24 kwh LEAF.  Logging miles on an EV using rates designed to mitigate the cost of a gasser is a win win for me. 2 years ago, I ran the numbers on my 2013 LEAF and determined that my reimbursement from work paid EVERYTHING on my LEAF and still put money in my pocket. That means all my charging, all my personal driving, all my insurance, all my everything related to the cost of driving my LEAF.  The Bolt with its additional range will do just as good. Now it would do better if Chevy provided a program similar to NCTC but alas, we already knew that range does come with a price. 

Ty Social Media!!

Some updates; Lease terms I mentioned above would likely be MUCH better for me in that the money factor I got on my worksheet can (and should) be MUCH lower.  So the $4000 in finance charges would be more than halved for my situation.

Also; the Disclaimer screen for changing to 12 Amp charging is apparently a cousin of the CARWINGS "I accept" screen and sadly, just as stubborn!!