Saturday, August 12, 2017

Charge Session Limit Poll Results

Several weeks ago, I posted a poll about public charging habits.  This was primarily due to the huge increase of Tesla's using the very limited resources we "peon EVers"have at our disposal. Well, as you can guess, the responses covered everything plus more. Very enlightening. As expected, most selected the "politically correct" response of 30 mins and go or less if you can get what you need or a variation thereof.  Kudo's to the people with total honesty who selected "charge all day" and there were not many as expected.

But a lot of possible compromises including;

**Just put in more charging stations!"

**If they all worked like they are supposed to, we wouldn't have a queue!"

**Increase billing after 60 mins

**Allow a 2nd non consecutive session at EVGO for example with higher per minute rates but no additional connect fee

**cuts off at 80% SOC

**Escalating cost when SOC passes 80%

**Billing by the minute causes price escalation at high SOC when charge rate slows way down

There is an underlying reason why I posed this question. Instituting a time limit like 30 mins at every fast charger will create a lot of anger especially among EV owners with larger packs. This anger will hopefully turn into momentum towards getting more chargers installed. The desire, especially among Tesla drivers to support a public charging network is weak and its easy to understand. Most will spend whatever time it takes to get the charge they need regardless of who is sitting there waiting. As long as this goes on, a voice and a very powerful one at that, has no reason to speak up. We cannot afford this inaction.   Tesla seemingly has the foresight to build their public charging network but the sheer volume of Tesla's on the road will inevitably lead to chademo's and CCS stations seeing an even greater uptick than we are already seeing now.

**Just put in more charging stations!" 
Ok, so the obvious. Tesla is doing it.  I will soon have 8 SCs within 75 miles of my house, 12 within 150 miles of my house. That pretty much covers every scenario I can think of. Add one in the Silverdale area and that we are at 100%.   Now WA has started funding a program (thanks to us!) to promote and expand the network. We also have the VW money which was supposed to start showing results this Summer. Haven't heard any stations yet here and Summer is now more than half over.

**If they all worked like they are supposed to, we wouldn't have a queue!"
Well, that isn't quite true but having all of them working especially the several Blink Chademo's that are either down or abandoned would be a huge help until the above mentioned start making a difference.

**Increase billing after 60 mins
Interesting concept but geared towards a larger pack. I think it should be after 30 mins since most EVs on the road now can really only take advantage of 30 mins of QC.

**Allow a 2nd non consecutive session at EVGO for example with higher per minute rates but no additional connect fee
Not positive what this means but guessing it was addressed to EVGO stations that have a 30 min time limit for fast charge sessions.  I would think that anyone using them on a regular basis would have the subscription option since single use is so expensive but this would be more inconvenient if we allow longer charging sessions with no monetary repercussions.  Another twist on this is allowing one to move to an L2 without an additional connect fee if one applies.  Currently the L2s at EVGO in the area are free. It would be nice to think that EVGO did this to reduce camping at the fast chargers.

**cuts off at 80% SOC
This would suck.  I easily get to 90-95% SOC in 30 mins on my 30 kwh LEAF with 125 amp (50 KW) stations.

**Escalating cost when SOC passes 80%
See above. The main concern is time.  IOW, how long should a single car be able to monopolize a very vital and still rare resource?

**Billing by the minute causes price escalation at high SOC when charge rate slows way down
This is a solution some stations have adopted to address cars that only need a few hours to charge but are parked at the station all day.  Primarily for L2 stations but could be a solution but still leaves it up the driver and his ability to pay and are we not already tired of the privileged few? 

One thing this poll makes clear. There is going to be a lot of pain before it gets better if it ever gets better. The consensus is clear that most EVers will simply monopolize the station for however long it takes to get the charge they need and the lower the cost, the longer they will prevent someone else from charging.   Because WA has generally cheap electricity (Last I checked, we were still #1 in the nation) there is less people charging publicly to lower their home electricity bills but that is probably not nearly as true as more expensive places in California where I suspect many are taking advantage of the various free charging programs to load up even if only a few miles from home. 

So I guess the right answer is the first one. Build more chargers.  I think we need to come to the realization that EVs are here to stay and the adoption rate is exponential. We need to get ahead of the curve before it skyrockets. Failing to do so will be disastrous. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Eeny, Meeny, Miney Moe; Wait!, Something Is Missing!

Despite it being nearly a month before the World Reveal for the 2018 Nissan LEAF, a lot of details were suddenly posted online by a lot,  like a configurator! But it was gone in a day which is not surprising but if you missed it, Lemme me tell ya what you could expect come January, when you order yours.

Since the S trim introduction, it has been a very popular model even dominating sales its first year out.  Since then, Nissan has slowly taken features off the S table while making its higher trims more attractive but up until now, it wasn't enough for me to want to move up.

But the 2018 model year promises to change all that and let me show you why.  For one thing, the trims basically were unchanged in price despite a higher performing motor and a bigger 40 kwh battery promising about 160 miles of range when combined with a slicker body and other drivetrain improvements.   But the options have changed dramatically so I configured what I thought would be the two most popular options.

S Trim; Have to have Quick charge. No mention of a 6.6 KW upgrade, so... well, more on that later.  But steering wheel heater is back! So added the climate package which also includes rear heater vents a huge want there.  Then the applicable floor mats which adds mudflaps. Here is hoping the mudflaps work better than the previous versions.  Missing here is half the color pallet. Remove the various versions of gray and Dark Blue is the only option.   But the bottom line!

The breakdown on the options were $450 for climate package, $200 (I think) for floor mats with the balance of  $1590 for the quick charge. So not a lot of difference here as far as my 2016 with a few minor differences.

On the SV, we kinda went whole hog a bit mostly because of the "untesla-like" option pricing. But   First off, the tech package adds a ton of cool stuff and its only $900!  It also has the climate package at double the S trim price also @ $900 but adds the hybrid heater (too bad that could not be separated out...)  so with $200 floor mats we have

The real S Trim killer here?  A color option fainting resembling GREEN!!! At long last! Its a light green Jade something or another but Green nevertheless!

So did anyone else notice the SV coming in just under Tesla Model 3? ($36,200 after destination fees)  Yeah, funny how that works!

Features listed on the tech package for the SV
6-Way Power Driver Seat w/2-Way Lumbar
Auto-Dimming Inside Mirror
Universal Garage Door Opener
LED Headlights
LED Signature Daytime Running Lights
Portable Charge Cable
Automatic Emergency Braking (PAEB)
Blind Spot Warning (BSW)
Electric Parking Brake (EPKB)
High Beam Assist (HBA)
Intelligent Lane Intervention (I-LI)
Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA)
Propilot Assist
Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC)

So a pretty extensive package. Now, how it fares against Tesla is anyone's guess. I did post a link to an article a few months back that stated Nissan was farther along the technology road on autonomous driving but who knows how much spin was at work there. 

Speaking of Tesla, the specs on the model 3 were also released (busy week eh?)   Now there are a lot of options but if I were getting one, the only one I would pay for would be the paint for a grand bringing the cost to $37,200. ($35,000 MSRP, $1200 delivery,  $1000 paint. Aina no way, I getting Black!)   The tech package here is $5000 and hard to justify that at this time. 

But we also have the Chevy Bolt (which is still somewhat surprisingly in contention) So visiting the Chevy site to run the configurator (again!)  I added the Comfort and Convenience  $555(heated seats and steering wheel, etc) and Driver's Confidence $495 (Rear parking assist, Lane change alert, rear cross traffic alert)  Fast Charge $750 and floor mats $250  

So there you have it; the Big 3! So what will you choose?

As I see it, all 3 should thrive since they don't really reside in the  same space.   Nissan is cheapest by a goodly amount.  Tesla comes close but if you add the tech package, it diverges very quickly.  So lets break it down by need.

Tech and Driver Safety;  Nissan and Tesla seem to be even at this point. Since we know little about Nissan's program and Tesla's is constantly changing, we probably have to wait a bit for a better determination but the price of the Nissan package makes it a no brainer over the serious financial consideration to add the same with the T 3.

Range;  The Bolt is king but the crown is tarnishing and tarnishing fast.  The T3 has the advantage of the supercharger network and that is huge.  Even without the extended range option, Tesla wins this easily.  Complicating my decision is the 3 SC's going into my area all within 60 miles of me and the price of 11 cents per kwh!

Price; Easy win for Nissan.  The SV may not have the range but the options are there and even when "loading" up the price is still below the base price of either the T3 or Bolt.  I want more range but the estimated 38.4 kwh usable combined with promised efficiency gains in both body and system, a doable 170 miles only needs 4.4 miles per kwh, not even close to hypermiling!

Usability; Despite a 50% smaller cargo area,  I could make the Bolt work I think. It would require vertical stacking which makes it a bit inconvenient if you put the wrong thing on the bottom, but its a compromise I can live with. The Tesla 3 is a different story. I will hold judgment until I actually see one in person but I really don't see how it could work for me.  If I did go that route, it would be no more than a 3 passenger car at best for me for work.  The LEAF still remains the most flexible although the configurator had "identical" measurements in all categories making me think that that was guessed and not actually information provided for the configurator.  I did see what I thought was a LEAF II mule that was definitely bigger but a recent story suggesting several new configurations on the LEAF platform is starting to make me think that maybe I saw a LEAF mini SUV!!... (ok, maybe a bit "too" wishful)

So knowing all that I choose....

to wait until the reveal.

If Nissan did leak the info, there is no doubt they saved a much bigger wow for the reveal, so the real purpose of this blog is to speculate on what Nissan has decided to hold back? With the comparisons of the big 3 above, this should at least give us a picture of where Nissan is lacking in addressing its immediate competition.

More range; Since everyone will scream if I don't mention it, I will put it out there.  There was no mention of different pack sizes despite many rumors there would be.  How much would you pay for an extra 20 kwh?  Tesla is charging $9,000 for what might be 25 more kwh (if rumors prove true) but then again, that is Tesla with Tesla pricing.  Nissan was selling replacement packs for $6500 but that price has been static for years now and the reality is not many are actually going for that price any more anyway.  So if I had to guess, I would go ohhh, say  $4169... which would put it below the Bolt by a buck with considerably more tech going for it.

Faster Charging Anyone else notice that the QC option for the LEAF S trim was $1590? Seems an awful lot of money for a chademo port. But would it be if it was 150 KW along with say... 9.6 KW AC?  What is obvious is the configurator has veered a bit too far off the Nissan path. EVERY previous version went out of their way to mention the increase in  AC speed.  But then again, it could be that 6.6 KW is standard now and no longer worth mentioning... Not believing that for a second. Leaving out charging speed is like leaving out the number of cylinders in a gasser!

Communication This would be the only one of the three not mentioning connectivity. I guess hoping for wi-fi and LTE would be too much to expect from Nissan... or would it?  OTA's,  SW updates, etc. direct to the car would be awesome and way overdue.

Loyalty In my previous blog I suggested that Nissan was holding out on a big surprise for its current LEAFers.  They extended leases even offering 3 months free without caveats to entice more to hold on their current LEAFs until the LEAF II announcement.  Now, this could be a ploy to try to win some loyalty in the oft chance that someone will feel guilty getting a T3 or a Bolt but its my feeling that that guilty feeling would be easily overcome even with the 3 free months, so maybe there is something else afoot here.  Either way, with the big reveal less than a month away, its well worth letting Nissan redeem themselves to us long suffering (well, actually I have suffered little if any at all but if it will get me a better incentive, I will say I am!) LEAFers.

EVERYTHING! I mentioned that the dimensions were strangely identical to the current LEAF despite my impression that it was larger when I encountered a test mule charging at Tacoma Mall.  John Voelcker from Green Car Reports says he talked with Nissan who says they have released no information which means the entire configurator could be a sham.  This would explain why the tech package was so cheap!

So what is your prediction for the reveal?  Post below.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

30 Days To Redemption; Reading Between Blank Lines.

My  sister has worked in the auto service industry for years and all dealerships have the ability to get "off paper"  things done for those out of warranty facing expensive repairs and actually has a fund for exactly that purpose so the reality is it is a lot of how you present your case,  previous history with the dealership, etc.

Online forums are a pretty small sample of LEAF owners out there and by and large started by a small core of hard core EVers most of which still remain here despite many not even driving LEAFs anymore.   The overwhelming majority of new people ONLY come here to complain. This has caused a lot of us to get a pretty negative view of Nissan but that is how we Humans roll.

When things go as expected, it simply does not make an impression on us.  Now did Nissan have issues? Yep, they did. Even in the "best rated" climate in the US for EVs, I still lost 12-13% capacity in 45,000 miles and 3 years on my 2011.  I leased so it was a somewhat of an inconvenience at first but I leased because like any new tech, I wasn't all that sure it was going to work for me.  It was compromise, no doubt but EVERY car is a compromise.  I have a gasser and I soon realized that it was a  much higher level of compromise masked by decades of acceptance of "that is how it is"

So when it came time to dump the 2011, I examined my options and found that the LEAF was basically my only choice, So got a 2013 but this time at SUPER CHEAP prices.  It undoubtedly proved that Nissan had made progress. I drove pretty much the same way, same areas, same location but ended up with roughly 8% degradation after nearly identical miles.  There is no amount of variance that can account for that much improvement.  FYI; I think LEAF Spy only helped me to abuse my pack more if deeper cycling is bad because I literally came home EVERY days for months at a time under 10 GIDs.

But the 2013 again was a lease and despite a crazy discount to buy it, I knew that the 2013 LEAF was simply not a "purchaseable" car for many of the same reasons the 2011 wasn't.  So again, I looked at the options and now there was good competition out there including the option toe extend my lease (remember I had one third less degradation so a few more months was easily doable)  for a Bolt but realized rather early in the game that Chevy wasn't a company I was going to be happy to deal with.

But Nissan incentives to return were simply too much to ignore. I thought about a 2 year lease but also looked at the timing of other manufacturers and the current nearly comatose build up of public charging and decided to make it a 3 year lease.  Whether that works out is still up in the air but the 30 kwh pack was bigger and for the first time in 6 years, I got the 2 free years of charging but again, the price was simply not to be believed making other manufacturers options simply too much more money.  But again, the 30 kwh LEAF was not a viable long term option and I ended up with what is essentially a 3 year test drive. A near zero interest loan for a LEAF whose out the door price would be barely more than half its selling price.  I figured I had little to lose with a $9,000 residual which I felt could be negotiated down if I decided the car was worth buying later.  But the reality was I had the chance to really evaluate Nissan's progress in making a better battery. With free charging, I could abuse the Hell out of the pack with the extra range assuring I would not be too inconvenienced at the end of the lease and that is exactly what I have done. More on that later.

But one thing I have noticed that started just about a year ago is Nissan taking a dramatic change in customer service and huge incentives on new cars was only part of it.  Previously I had heard of just a handful of people getting a decent resolution from Nissan if that.  The reality was even people completely under warranty were having issues getting things done and when it did happen it was after several weeks or even months.  Battery supply issues?  Nah, Nissan has a ton of facilities with MUCH more capacity than they were putting out.

But late last year, evidence of huge policy shifts became evident.  All of a sudden, I was hearing about people out of warranty sometimes by a year or several thousand miles getting packs hugely discounted or in some cases free.  It started a bit slowly but I realized that what we were seeing here wasn't representative of what was really happening.  The great deals were actually happening in bunches.

Again, it seemed like Nissan had added a page to its customer service rules without telling anyone. This is typical of how they operate. They have been tweaking the LEAF for a better customer service experience without letting us know any progress they have made.  Remember the announcement of the 24 to 30 kwh upgrade for the S trim on the 2016 LEAF?  Yeah, neither do I since there essentially wasn't one.

But the news of deals on replacement packs kept rolling in.  I am now hearing 3-5 a week including one guy who has over 100,000 miles on his 2011 and got a battery for 80% off. He is almost double the warranty mileage and several years past his 5 year time line.  But he is not alone.  Its almost as if Nissan knew the earlier replacement packs were not going to be significantly better than what the customer had and was hesitant to provide them but now that they had improved the chemistry, BMS, etc.  They had something that they could be proud of and wanted to pass them out to anyone who asked, hence the crazy discounts.

So back to my 2016 LEAF.  I got the car Nov 11, 2016.  Since the 30 kwh S trim upgrade wasn't really announced, its anyone's guess as to when they started building them in TN but my build date was 10/16.

So why did Nissan upgrade the S trim literally weeks  before the 2017's hit the streets?  Wouldn't have been better to hold off until then? Or was it simply "proud parent" syndrome winning the day?

To date I have driven 18,226 miles  with (just checked 5 mins ago) ahr 82.34, SOH 100%, Hx  100.56%,  363 GIDs, 28.1 kwh available (GIDs = 77.5 wh)  with 159 QCs,  189 L2s.   All these numbers are the same as the day I picked up the car (Actually Hx was 99%)   Now, our "perfect" climate for battery longevity is on hiatus this Summer.  On Thurs night according to someone on Facebook (did not verify because I was too hot to care at the time) but at 11 PM, Seattle had a higher temperature than Phoenix AZ.   Granted we don't (does anyone?) touch Phoenix for daytime temps but only provided the info to show that this Summer is as far from normal as... well as this past Winter was from our normal Winters.

So does this mean that despite baking the pack to 125ยบ a few dozen times during both cold and hot weather without any signs of battery fade mean that Nissan has finally hit one of their performance goals?  Well, its simply too early to tell to be honest with you. But the signs bode well so far.  My 2013 started its decline at roughly the same time period (but 5,000 less miles) so I might be just around the corner from seeing 99%.  FYI; because of out of town job assignments, a long 4th of July weekend (trust in the fact that going anywhere that weekend is insanity) combined with a few local jobs, my LEAF actually did see 81.90 ahr and 98% SOH after 9 days of averaging 25 miles a day and charging only a few hours every 2-3 days including one QC that literally lasted me almost a week. But my normal driving patterns made that a memory after 3 days.

We are now one month away from another "proud parent" day for Nissan.  This time the stakes are much higher. Gone is the pie in the sky expectations present in December of 2010.  Present on September 6th will be the still vivid memories of "100 miles of range"  "70% after 10 years"  "30 cents on the dollar for lightly used LEAFs"   For those of you that have had negative dealership or corporate interactions in the past, this will be a hard thing to believe, but this is Nissan's chance to thank the early adopters for their loyalty.  Already, they have made it clear that current LEAFers will have incentives available to them on the 2018 LEAF and whether you took an extension on a lease ending this year (along with the 3 free months) or you bought yours so many years ago,  you will be the beneficiaries.  Just as Tesla rewarded their current customers, Nissan will do the same.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

July 2017 Drive Report; Choices Choices Choices! So Why Are We Complaining?

Well first off, I have a confession to make.  Earlier in the month, I announced that my LEAF had finally started to degrade. After 150 QCs and 17,000 miles it was beginning its downward spiral.  ahr was at 81.90,  SOH at 98% and the usual charge it and drive it wasn't working. Well at least not for the first 3 days...

But then I got up one morning (after a 171 mile 2 QC day) and my Hx was over 105%. Highest I have seen in a while. She was back!  Although I will admit despite driving good distances regularly, my Hx has been on a slow decline ever since. Today it was at 100.02% and I am thinking the degradation did start after all and I got a very temporary reprieve.

But enough of that!  Excitement in the EV World abounds....or does it?  Tesla's long awaited Model 3 reveal was met with equal parts of enthusiasm and derision.  This was very puzzling to me.  Derision was primarily caused by pricing of options including the longer range battery.  Everyone thought it was way too much but what were they expecting?  A tricked out vehicle from a high end manufacturer at the base price?   Cmon people! lets try the real World for a change.  Tesla is like BMW, Mercedes or Cadillac.  They are a high end manufacturer and that is where they should stay.  The S and X built a reputation of cutting edge tech, no compromise public charging support, etc. but for a price. The Model 3 maybe mainstream but no more mainstream than any other high end manufacturer's "affordable" models.

I will say the whining did slow down quite a bit (Especially from the Bolt section) when the price was displayed from a another (more important imm) viewpoint.

The reality is the T3 takes the top spot no matter which range you choose if you configure the Bolt with QC but at the same time, the Bolt is seeing good incentives mostly due to very sluggish sales.  Price negotiations on Teslas don't really happen.  To put all this into perspective, my LEAF lease puts me at $163 (after incentives)  and change which does not surprise me. I knew I got a good deal.  But the Bolt is available now (in abundance in some locations) so there is a considerable tax break to consider.  The current price leader; the extended range T3 will get it but the standard T3 will have a lesser chance. Lets hope that Tesla #200,000 is sold April or July 1st.

But hold on! The Apple Cart is not full and the LEAF II could topple everything.  Now who should be the most worried?  I think Tesla is in a good spot simply because they are high end, a different class.  But GM and Nissan share the market and although LEAF II details are not out yet, I think its safe to say that both companies are taking different routes to the market.

The Bolt is to me an econobox with a battery on steroids.  They may have gone overboard a bit on the cost cutting. I think their better choice would have been a few more creature comforts in a car with 200 miles of range.  But the lack of charging support currently and Chevy's refusal to contribute probably played a big part in that decision. Add to that their shocking way of handling the federal tax credit on leases.  Maybe someone should tell them the incentive is for the customer! But the range is real and that cannot be ignored.

The Model 3 also has some compromises but still has the high end features for a cost and the Supercharger Network which Musk claims will be 3X larger by the end of next year. Near the end of last year when debating on my next EV, I lamented that the SC network might be great for driving 3,000 miles but didn't work if one only needed to drive a few hundred like me. Naturally as soon as I said that, Tesla announced plans to nearly triple the SC stations in my region. This puts an SC in every direction from me except Silverdale/Bremerton.  The best part is SC rates will be based on local market rates for electricity and WA will be at 11 cents per kwh!  Anxious to see one in the flesh. Seating height and cargo space are a prime concern for me.

But the LEAF II I expect to bridge the gap between the two.  Nissan has chosen to reveal teasers over the past few months to build anticipation for its World reveal scheduled simultaneously for Tokyo, Las Vegas and more maybe?   My guess is the LEAF will have the tech maybe not as advanced as Tesla but some autonomous driving features will be present and assuming upgradeable when more features are completed.

The range will not be as much as we want (if that is even possible) but again, its all about value. Being a current LEAFer means extra discounts and even if its the expected 40ish kwh pack, its still a significant chunk of new destinations added to the "easy" list for me!

Now I did have a chance to do a close up walkaround of a test mule and it does appear to be a somewhat larger vehicle. I am guessing a bit more rear passenger comfort. Reclining seats ala the Prius V would be nice.  More cargo space would be a plus as well.

But the redesign was probably to increase the efficiency which means that again, the extra 10 kwh will be more valuable than its face value just as the  6 kwh bump combined with the steeper charging profile was an unexpected boost in the usability of the 30 kwh LEAF.  There were other tidbits but the reveal is a month away so I am waiting to see the full story.

I will say one thing though; I may not end up with a Tesla but its looking pretty obvious that what I do get will be because of Tesla.

Anyway, back to the mundane.  To lighten the load on the LEAF lease mileage, the Corolla rolled 657.2 miles in July costing $44.78 or 6.8 cents per mile averaging 39.4 MPG.

The LEAF traveled 2125.2 miles costing $17.41 or less than a penny per mile benefiting 270 kwh of public charging during the month. The long anticipated $3.00 charge finally came thru from Chargepoint. My confusion appears to be from having several accounts from them AKA as Chargepoint not anticipating that anyone would buy more than one LEAF...

Normally the LEAF would have added roughly $44.46 to the power bill (actually probably more than that since I am barely on tier one these days) or 2.1 cents per mile.

Battery stats @ 18,000 miles remains at 100% SOH, 82.34 ahr, 363 GIDs, 28.1 kwh to use, 100ish Hx.