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!!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

What Happens When All Your Stuff Looks Alike? The Oops Of The Decade!

A lot of words about interchangeability of  LEAF packs from small to bigger and how difficult it "could" be but apparently if you have the right equipment and applicable authorizations it can be so easy that it could be done nearly effortlessly. In fact so easily that it could (and was) done without any intent to do so. At least in one direction!

Recently a LEAFer in Phoenix, Sam having lost the 4 bars needed for a warranty exchange, received his LEAF back and guess what??  Are you sitting down?  I would take a few deep breaths first before continuing...

His 30 kwh battery pack was accidentally replaced with a 24 kwh pack! 

LEAF Spy of Sam's 2016 SL after pack switch

The above is not a typo.  A 2016 LEAF SL with a 30 kwh pack had a 24 kwh pack installed as a warranty replacement and apparently the process is so similar that the tech never realized it was the wrong size pack!

This very well could mean that a lot of the excuses used for not being able to do this swap are simply ONLY due to Nissan's unwillingness to grant permission to do this and nothing more.

In 2015 a Nissan Engineer attending a European Car Show admitted an upgrade from 24 kwh to 30 kwh was technically possible but would not elaborate.

Now there is a question of direction here. Since packs degrade, accepting a smaller pack than what the BMS was designed for is a given.  The BMS simply adjusts for the lesser capacity so this in no way guarantees that the same thing would happen when putting a bigger pack in place of a smaller pack, right?

So before we all start calling our lawyers crying about wanting the bigger pack, this needs to be examined first. But its becoming apparent that the connections at least between the 24 kwh packs and 30 kwh packs are pretty close! :)

FYI; It was only after being armed with data collected from others that Sam was able to convince the dealership to look into a possible mix up and sure enough, he now has an appointment to get a 30 kwh pack  A MONTH LATER!

I have heard of loaner programs before but this is a new one on me!


The benefits of Social Media!

Apparently DIYers in Russia did the downsize and found it to be a pretty easy thing to do but the upsize was fraught with problem after problem and could only be done by swapping VCM from 30 kwh LEAF into the 24 kwh LEAF.

FYI; Nissan sells the VCM for the Nismo package that provides stronger power profile for $1385. Wondering if it also recognizes longer range. There is a mention of that in a very roundabout way but simply could mean just a stronger regen profile...

More to follow!

Here is the Youtube video that shows the ease of "downsizing" and the issues with "upsizing"

**edit #2**

Ok, apparently the 30 kwh pack WILL NOT work in any way in 24 kwh LEAF without a matching VCM swap.  A bit of lost in translation or something I guess. So I did a search at LEAF parts site and did not find a "VCM" but did find this

Part Code: 23740N
Part Number: 237404NP0B
Year range 11/2016 to Present
Quantity per vehicle: 1
*MSRP: $476.66
Fits vehicle filters:
( BODY = 'HB' and GRADE = 'S' )

Now, have no idea if this is the part that is needed and guessing even if it was, it still needs to be programmed so likely other equipment and codes are still needed to do a swap.  Still looking to be an expensive DIY project but also can see it being a viable Aftermarket Product although not sure that 30 kwh will warrant the price needed to make a profit. 

**Epilogue; The Saga of Sam's Shrinking Pack has come to an end. Today Sam finally received his LEAF AND 30 kwh replacement pack.  So all is back to normal, Sam is a happy camper and is now looking to take out a loan in order to pay for the gas on the loaner he had while the dealership got everything straightened out. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Degradation Theories Part 2; A 6 month Experiment

**Editor's Note**  Several times I will say "full" or "100%" but am referring to the accessible charge level controlled by LEAF BMS.

Always wanted to do that! :) 

A while back I posted a pictorial representation of the effects of temperature and SOC on battery degradation. The Pix did not have a time line but I did as much as I could to emphasize that time at these conditions is what should be avoided. That did not go over well.  So I am back to try again. Plus I have a confession to make. 

First off; my contention was a major portion of degradation we were seeing has more to do with time at high SOC rather than just heat.  There are simply too many people in areas that see little in the way of oppressive climates including one guy with very modest transportation needs with a 2016 LEAF 2015 build who has lost more than 10% capacity in less than a year but the real shocker is that he lives in Northwest Oregon!  It became apparent to me that the general conception of "degradation hot" needed an adjustment.  I began to see a pattern where even temps as mild as the 80's seemed to matter but I see that all Summer and more so why was I not affected? 

Now if we go to Battery U, there are some interesting insights and with the now infamous LEAF Degradation uproar, they naturally wanted to nose into this as well.  But the real shocker for me was this statement

Batteries chosen for an electric powertrain go through strenuous life cycle testing and Nissan selected a manganese-based Li-ion for the Leaf EV because of solid performance. To beat the clock, the test protocol mandated a rapid charge of 1.5C (less than 1 hour) and a discharge of 2.5C (20 minutes) under a temperature of 60°C (140°F). Under these harsh conditions, a heavy-duty battery is expected to lose 10 percent after 500 cycles, which represents 1–2 years of driving. This emulates driving an EV through the heat of a biblical hell, leaving rubber marks from aggressive driving, and still coming out with a battery that boasts 90 percent capacity.
Its no wonder Nissan was so confident in their pack. They put the pack in an oven for a month and it came out in fairly good shape! But what happened?  The cycle test obviously failed to resemble reality but this much off? 

So a few labs dissected the degraded LEAF packs to find out what the major malfunction was and determined that there are several types of degradation and they were detectable. The LEAF packs suffered from extended time at a high SOC COMBINED with high temps. 
The cathode (positive electrode) develops a similar restrictive layer known as electrolyte oxidation. Dr. Dahn stresses that a voltage above 4.10V/cell at elevated temperature causes this, a demise that can be more harmful than cycling a battery. The longer the battery stays in a high voltage, the faster the degradation occurs.
By now, I was beginning to realize that although heat is a major player, its not as significant,  per the general consensus, by itself. Its heat AND high SOC AND time that is the real killer. What does the bolded statement above mean? The obvious; the higher the heat and the longer the time at high SOC the more we need to avoid this.  But the statement implies the rate of degradation increases in heat.  To compare; the stress test using a fairly wide range of SOC probably running between 15-100% SOC (a search of the site provided no specifics)  and lasted roughly a month with losses of less than 5% per "rated" year.  Most manufacturers recommend a long term storage @ 15ºC (59ºF) and 40% SOC. In a year at the same temp and SOC, the cell loses about 25% capacity. A pack sitting on the shelf at the same temperature at full charge  losses roughly 40% of its capacity in 3 months or over 18% per month.

  Well, avoiding heat is not possible. The climate is what its going to be and by and large its getting warmer so we need to look at the other two factors we can control.  The reason the cycle test yielded favorable results is because it was discharged to a lower, less critical, SOC immediately in 20 mins! So there was high SOC, high temps but minimal time at high SOC making the temperature a lesser factor due to the transient nature of the fast cycle testing.  This also implies that temperature alone is not the major factor since the oven was at 140ºF the entire month! (Actually a 500 cycle test would run just over 28 days) 

In the previous blog, One of the statements I made that caused the greatest uproar was when I posited that a major cause of degradation was free workplace charging. Likely done  during the hottest part of the day, sometimes uncovered and its an extended time at high SOC.  Extended you say?  Yes, if using level 2 charging; even if you are lucky enough to time your exit just as the charge completes, level 2 is so slow that you are still spending as much as two hours in the heat if you recharged to full.  Back to the bolded statement above.  Can we say for certain that two hours at high temps/high SOC is twice as bad as one hour...or is it more? 

Now all of this is something I have suspected for years mostly because of people in areas like San Diego and in other areas where anything above the mid 80's was not common, 
 were seeing heavy degradation. But what is common is Sunny days and asphalt; an apparently lethal combination.

Ok; so I mentioned that I had a confession to make and by now most of you know that I have used a LOT of the free charging compliments of Nissan's 2 year free charging program NCTC.  What you don't know is that when weather turned in mid May, I stopped fully charging on level 2 resorting to almost all fast charging publicly frequently during the hottest part of the day . Crazy you say? Well, maybe, but...

But another experiment started in Feb was seeing how bad multi QCs heating up the pack really was.  I can't change my climate but generating heat was easy and so I started on many multi fast charge days hitting 9, 10, 11 TBs on a regular basis.  During this time, I only encountered one time where I think my charge speed was limited due to heat when I started a fast charge on an AV that should have run at 50 KW but it only ran at 30 KW and I was only at 9 TBs when I started.  I have started several fast charges at 10 TBs and didn't see any slow downs so maybe a station glitch? 

As luck would have it; Summer came early to Western WA and ended up being the longest Summer in my 32 years here by a long long long shot. The general consensus is maybe a week of Summer like weather by the 4th of July so having it start in mid May was a pleasant surprise!  The 9ish Holidays (3 day Memorial and Labor Day weekends plus the 4th)  were all hot, sunny and gorgeous! There might have been one time when Memorial Day had 3 good days in 32 years but I  mostly remember wishing there was one "decent" day most years!

This meant no more charging on level 2 to full and we had 6 months of warm!  In reality, I did charge to full 12 times but each time my leave time from home was before 3 AM. I did leave garage door open at night until bedtime to help cool it more and only a few times did the garage temp remain in the 80's sooo...not too bad.  This was great on the electric bill since the only time I plugged in was when I got home if below blinking bar but only for an hour. 

Since my experiment is based on time at high SOC as a main cause of degradation and not heat, it was essential to;

1) Heat up the pack A LOT and keep it hot which I did a fairly good job of. 

2) but still have enough range to average over 2500 miles a month and I did (obviously since there were no rides of shame to report!) 

3) Never let the car sit at high SOC which I did accomplish for the most part. 

4) Keep LEAF at lowest SOC possible as much as possible.  I will admit a bit of concern plugging into QC needing at least 75 miles of range while already at 10 TBs during the hottest part of a very warm Summer day but all in the name of Science!!

On most days, I parked my LEAF for the day at SOC ranging from 30 to 70% with battery temps at 9-11 bars. Unlike my previous LEAFs which NEVER got that hot (mostly due to pathetically slow fast charge rates), my 30 kwh pack cooled off faster it seems especially when battery was over 110º. Several times I would leave a QC in the mid to upper 120's and be in the mid to low 100 teens within a half hour while driving home during hottest part of the day.  Naturally on the hottest days, dissipation was much slower. I did manage to maintain minimum pack temps in the 90's for a pretty good stretch of the Summer mostly due to very early morning charging and 60 hour work weeks!

At least twice, I parked LEAF with greater than 90% SOC and batt temps over 110º due to last minute work cancellations. I resisted the strong urge to drive around town to reduce the SOC. I am thinking being 10,000+ miles over my lease miles played a part in that decision... 

When the weather got cold the last week of October, I ended the experiment, started charging at home again and as expected, the reduced usage allowed battery stats to drop.

New;  363 GIDs,  28.1 Kwh Available, 82.34 ahr, 100% SOH,  102ish Hx
Lowest; 363 GIDs, 28.1 kwh Available,   79.55 ahr,    100% SOH,   95.35 Hx. 

Work has also slowed down combined with several other personal days scheduled weeks in advance but did see a bump in numbers almost back to new levels with just a 2 day flurry of driving that included several QCs  so I venture to say my real loss is probably around 4% give or take. 

Now the debate becomes;

**Its only 4% solely because of where I live

** Despite my experiment, heat was still not a factor for me

** The high number of QCs  bolstered my numbers which is why my degradation despite more than double the miles is nearly 3X less than another LEAF driver living 100 miles south of me in a similar climate? 

**What is the definition of hot? 

In retrospect, there is other data I should have collected including recording battery temps several times a day. This would have been difficult to do at any set time but would have given an idea of the lowest temps the pack obtained daily.  

To summarize;

YMMV.  This is my car, my experiment, my situational driving.  My weird hours means large portions of my driving consists of higher speed driving VERY early in the morning before traffic buildup,  a TON of crawl during the afternoon trying to get home during gridlock which made it tough to run my SOC down quickly after a QC especially when averaging less than 20 mph. 

 30 kwh packs should have more durability simply because they are bigger, cycle less, etc. So why didn't that happen for most?  Is it charging to 97.7% SOC instead of 97.3?  Is it the steeper fast charge profile?  Or simply a hiccup in the process? There is a lot of talk about cell voltages and I found after looking at several screen shots that they seem to vary, guessing due to temperatures with my pack running from 4.112 to 4.136.   I spent quite a bit of time looking at LEAF Spy data to determine what voltage 90% SOC, 70%, etc was and its not consistent.  Kinda clears up why customized SOC settings are not all that straightforward. My respect for the legions of aftermarket people out there working on this has attained new heights!

Options; This isn't written for anyone out shopping for an EV. Its for the ones who have already made the commitment.  I am here to tell you that you don't have to roll over and take it. There are options; obviously not easy ones but the consequences are hardly a cakewalk either.  But the key is even if the 40 kwh pack has no improvements in this area, it becomes a very viable option for many simply because now charging to 70 or 80% and being able to get where you need to be is much easier. 


Breakpoints? On the storage experiment, there was a degradation difference of only 2% for the 40% SOC pack at temps between 0 and 25ºC which is 77ºF.   At 100% SOC the difference was 14% (94 to 80%) but as always, Battery U is very good at giving us a very very small picture of what we need to see.  A chart showing say 70% SOC and 15ºC would have cleared up a lot. But the site is huge. The info very well could be there and I simply haven't stumbled across it yet. The other thing is this is a different chemistry so the numbers will vary a bit but the mechanisms apply to all Li. 

On the flipside; Winter reduces range so being on the high side of the range was not only a minimal compromise on longevity but simply a good idea erring on the side of convenience and safety.

So there you have it. Go to Battery U for a LOT more details, graphs, charts, etc. but realize there is no one chart, statement, graph or experiment that is going to tell you what you want to know.  It does require reading between the lines, extrapolating, etc.  So did I take leaps here?  Had to. There is no other way to get there. Am I right?  I think I am, at least for now. 

It wouldn't be the first time I was certain of something only to find out later I was simply in the right place but the wrong zip code... 

Now did I charge to 100%?  Of course I did. Its too hard to drive 26,000 miles a year without doing that. In fact, I charged to 100% on Chademo at least 2-3 dozen times and yeah, the pack was a bit "warm" but 20-39 miles down the road, the pack was still hot but now the LEAF was moving out of the "SOC Danger" zone.  

So DIYers; We need that custom charging app!! 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Happy Birthday LEAF#3!

Happy Birthday LEAF #3!  A year ago today, she came home with me from Campbell Nelson Everett  (Thanks Ray!) and what a year it has been!  She has definitely opened my eyes to things that were completely unexpected and has turned out to be a trial run on truly evaluating my range needs. But before I get into all that the #1 thing here has always been about money so here are the numbers.

Miles driven;  26,100.2
Kwh used (estimate) 6240.56
Level 1/2 charges; 237.  Level 3; 227
Public Charging (mostly Chademo but some Level 2); 3676.578 kwh
Public charging fees (mostly Semaconnect and Blink level 2 overruns);  $19.33
Cost per mile; 0.97 cents.  (Less than 2 weeks ago, it was under .7 cents per mile)
Real Cost (@ 9.3 cents/kwh); $254.16
Cost w/o NCTC; $573.89
Additional cost if the Road Usage Charge was in effect @ 2.4 cents per mile; $626.40

**NOTE**  The charging costs are estimated but fairly close.  Keeping in mind had all that charging really been done at home, it would be higher because of 1) hitting tier two. In Summer I am always below, In Winter, its half and half.  There is also an efficiency factor since all my QC's are calculated using 95% efficiency, all L2 charging is calculated using 89% efficiency. The lower home efficiency means more kwh from the wall to provide the same amount of range.


Start;  363 GIDS,  Kwh available (77.5 Wh GID setting); 28.1, Ahr 82.34, SOH 100% Hx (average)  10

Lowest; 363 GIDs,  kwh; 28.1,  Ahr;  79.83, SOH 100%,  Hx; 95.35%

Current;  363 GIDs, kwh 28.1, ahr; 81.53, SOH 100%, Hx; 97.53%


Previously the high water mark for annual mileage was 17,960.2 miles in my other LEAFs so the mileage makes sense.  I used the Corolla when time constraints or lack of public charging simply made it a better idea or when the car had sat too long. My parameters were one month during Summer, One week (more or less) during Winter. I missed those parameters SEVERAL times.

Corolla mileage by year

2014;  6112
2015;  6677
2016; 7485  (Higher due to lease mileage issues with LEAF #2 turned in 7 weeks early)
The last year;  3261, ¼ of that in last few weeks.

The biggest surprise was the MUCH faster QC profile. The ability to charge higher than 35 KW above 90% SOC gave me many more options to incorporate charging into my work day. This almost doubled my ability to use the LEAF on jobs that were well beyond its range.  This meant a lot of public charging but I was able to incorporate a lot of it into either my workday (breaks, meals) or my "off clock" time (filing paperwork, uploading/downloading assignments, etc.) all of which is time I would have to take when I got home. The ability to get a significant range boost at nearly any SOC in 10-15 minutes is huge and a total shock (in a very good way!) to me.


My 2016 LEAF has done all that I have asked of it and more.  If I had to complain, the FOB battery didn't even last 8 months and this is without using any of the buttons (intentionally) but my local dollar store now stocks the batteries in a two pack so.  I have been running Battery Torture test experiments for several months to no avail. The pack just doesn't seem to be dying like it should but its early still, right?  More on "The Experiment" in the next blog (or soon after)

But for anyone driving an older LEAF who discounted a 2017 (and the great deals to be had) because its "only 6 kwh" more. Think again. There is a more to it than meets the eye!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Washington Gridlock Test of the 2018 Nissan LEAF.

As we all know, I drove the 2018 Nissan LEAF on a predetermined course in Las Vegas a few months ago and that course was specifically designed to highlight Pro Pilot and it worked very well as one might expect.

But I wanted to try a test drive in "not so friendly" conditions AKA "Puget Sound Gridlock" the acid test of any ACC. (Adaptive Cruise Control) But my original meet time was for Southcenter Mall at 2 PM which meant there was a good chance that I would have to drive around the airport to find good gridlock at that time of day but as "luck" would have it, my job in Silverdale ran long so we decided to meet at the EvGO stations at Tacoma Mall at 4 PM instead where Jose, my host got a firsthand look at what I deal with every day which meant gridlock caused him to be 30 mins late. Considering I started it all by being two hours late, I was ok with it.

Grabbing a quick picture 15 mins before Sunset!

Since I had already done the test drive, I was familiar with most of the stuff so I decided a quick jaunt down I-5 to the 512 then up to Pacific Ave to 56th Street and back to the Mall would give me what I wanted.

Checking charge levels.  The default is 3.6 KW level 2 charging which is strange since that
 is NOT AN OPTION on the North American LEAF. Notice the 4 bubbles to the left? The
 2nd bubble is highlighted.  The 4 way NAV button on the left of the steering wheel
 navigates the screen options. Use left/right to hit different categories and the up/down for
 screens within the category. Here we have 4 views which includes a setting screen where I 
changed it to 6.6 KW charging. There is also DC options as well. 

For anyone who has had a Prius, this screen needs no explanation. Here we have a one hour history of efficiency in 5 minute increments.  A HUGE thing for people like me!  Since I know Jose 
came from SouthCenter, I can say for certain that the first 8 mile/kwh bar counting from the
 left is the Highway 18 intersection and the 4 mile per kwh bar @ 20 mins is just past the 
Highway 167 exit. This means the drive of roughly 6½ miles took 20 mins. That is sadly 
about the average. 

Battery Temperature. The Charger at eVGO was broken and the other one was occupied. I 
had kicked around the idea of doing a before and after shot and letting Jose QC the car
 before our test drive, but not to be... In retrospect, I should have gone thru and took pix of
 every screen  available. There are a ton of them. Anyone reading this who will be taking a 
test drive please do this. I would love it if you sent them. I could post them here (with your 
permission of course!) 

Before taking off, I set one pedal, Eco and B mode since this is how I would likely drive the car.  There is no creep at all. In fact, at low speeds, the car drags like the parking brake is on.  Not sure that I will want this all the time and made me wish the car was fully charged to see if it reacted differently like my current LEAF does when there is no regen. I am guessing friction brakes take over to minimize any differences in the driving experience.

At parking lot speeds under 10 mph, One pedal brings car to a full stop in 10 feet or less. This will take a bit of getting used to. Keep in mind, you can also simply release accelerator slowly for a more gradual stop as well. For me; I think I would have that mastered within a day. There is a great "feel" of the regen at work here.  IOW; Regen is MUCH stronger.

I enabled ProPilot as we turned onto Tacoma Mall Blvd headed to the 56th on ramp to I-5.  You need to be going a certain speed for this to work. Not sure what that speed is other than I couldn't do it when not moving but was able to do it while moving pretty slowly so guessing more than about 10 mph?  During the drive, I noticed that on surface streets with newly painted lines, any place that had the double yellow lines, the lane was not recognized. But if I moved over, where there is just the dashed white lines, it worked fine even on surface streets.

Here is the ProPilot Screen. Sorry for the blurriness. For anyone who lives here, they would
 know that at nearly 5 PM, its actually pretty dark. The ProPilot Controls are on the right side
 of the steering wheel and looks like normal cruise control buttons for the most part.  The key differences are the Pro Pilot button in blue on the right and the following distance button on the 
left (has the 3 lines under the car)

This is a screenshot from Las Vegas. Posted to illustrate that each screen has the status screen
 in the right corner. Here the car is parked at the Reveal so notice the lack of icons above the 
circular efficiency meter?  On the first Propilot screen the "--" is the ACC setpoint for speed. 
Since ACC disables after 3 seconds on a full stop. Its blank but as soon as I re-engage it,
 my setpoint returns.

When the lanes are recognized, you will see a green border on the road. This tells you Lane Centering is active. Despite what you may have read "directly from Nissan's site" ProPilot works from ZERO to Max speed.  A reviewer quoted Nissan's Webpage as saying ACC only works from 10 to 62 MPH. That is a COMPLETELY WRONG statement.

The ProPilot screen will also display cars it recognizes and this we will soon find out is a good thing.

Since we were in ProPilot mode, as the light turned green at the 56th Street on ramp, I simply tapped the "Res +" button and the car took off to hit its preset speed. (You can also just tap the accelerator to resume)  On the pix above; On the right is a circle with a MPH display. Here is where you can see what your ACC speed is set to.  A pretty cool thing especially when you are moving from a 35 mph street to a 60 mph freeway. I was able to adjust my speed to 59 mph (as if I thought I would actually go that fast...) as I was entering the on ramp well before highway speed.

In the pix above when the car is moving you will see lines in front of the car designating what your following distance is. Hitting the button on the left toggles from 1 to 2 to 3 and back to 1 again.  I found that 3 and 2 were simply too far so I set it to 1 on the freeway. As I toggled thru, I could feel the car adjusting its speed since traffic was not moving at 60 mph. (what a surprise... NOT!) A following distance of one worked well but still allowed too much room so naturally cars cut in which made for a bit of excitement especially since we were approaching the double exit to Highway 512 which meant cutting in AND slowing down.  Although the car beeped (I am guessing to alert me that PP saw the car) I decided some manual brake action was needed anyway.

Now we are sitting at the entrance to Highway 512 coming off I-5 from the North which means its a 3 lane left turn.  Something that PEOPLE can have issues with keeping in their own lane.

Highway 512 West Entrance/I-5 South exit. I am traveling from the top of the pix
leaving the pix at the right. Pro Pilot pulled it off flawlessly

Now, its quite dark by now but and I am in the center left turn lane which means white dashed lines on both sides so when I resumed, I was more than a little shocked that the LEAF said "I got this!"  and started this challenging turn. Needless to say, I had my hands on the wheel and couldn't help but adjust the aim a little although I am not quite sure it was needed but was unwilling to take the chance!

This brings up another key point of the Lane Centering Function. Although you can easily feel the steering adjustments, they are effortless to overcome. The LEAF makes no large movement instead electing to make very fast small adjustments. When exiting I-5 to Highway 512, we were in the 2nd lane from the right so going straight was an option but as I turned off and the LEAF recognized this after a split second and then helped to make the turn.

Again, my speed is still set to 59 mph and it takes quite a while before traffic gets up to that speed. Two miles later, I exited the freeway onto Pacific Ave (Highway 7 for the out of towners) where I had hoped to see heavy traffic with stop lights every half mile or so.  Traffic was disappointing at first and I realized that ACC doesn't work well if you are first at the light. I "almost" (not really that close mind you) let the car follow the other car thru the light.  And yes, we did see a few people running red lights including one guy who went halfway into the intersection before deciding to stop and back up!

But it only took a mile or so for traffic to thicken up and I found that at 35 mph, a following distance of 2 seemed to work the best.  In the normal stop and go, the car worked very well. It was more relaxing than having to moderate speed which was kind of a surprise to me since I still had to steer, make sure there was a car to follow, monitor lights, etc. It didn't seem like the car was doing much of anything but later back in my 2016 when I had to do EVERYTHING I realized that it did take off some of the load!

One of the things that ProPilot needs to work on is its reaction time to merging traffic.  The time between when cars exited the street and the LEAF recognized it was a bit too long. But when the car did recognize the space, it sped up QUICKLY. The same thing happened when cars cut in.  Instead of a gentle metered slow down, it was a rather strong deceleration.  Now, I have to admit I failed to go thru the entire menu screens so there very well could be adjustments to address these issues.

I did kick around the idea of plugging in LEAF Spy just to get a few readings but figured they would not be accurate so decided against that.   One thing I want to find out is how much, if any, friction braking was involved in those strong deceleration events.  If its all regen, this would somewhat explain the delay since it would take what? a ¼ second to ramp up to the level required?  If that is they case, I might very well be ok with that.

Finally and yes, I was in a fully loaded SL (purposely avoided the surround view. Didn't want to be tempted!) so my impressions will probably be a bit slanted but after sitting in a dozen Bolts (several with leather) over the past few months, the LEAF simply feels like its in a different class.  The seats are firm (which I need) but VERY comfortable. I love range but the reality is 2 hour stretches in the seat are far too common for me to be able to compromise comfort.

In reality; it will still come down to price/features but I just priced a Bolt and it was still $37K after incentives for a lease to purchase after just under $4000 in incentives (buyers would get that PLUS the fed credit!)   The T3 would be waaaay down the line and priced a few thousand less  but lease to purchase is not likely and the WA State tax bill of $3K + would apply making it just slightly more than the Bolt but much better cargo utilization and SC network puts more than makes up the difference but still have to see one first. I can't/won't do a car with a low seating position.

So it comes down to the LEAF (again!) With half the incentives I received on the 2016, I am still looking at car in the $23-25 K range. That is simply too much money to ignore especially for my budget.  With several programs in motion to add public charging, I am hopeful that my 140-150 mile LEAF would do the job (My 30 kwh LEAF is doing a pretty good job now without the added future public infrastructure improvements!)

Again; for anyone doing test drives, grab them screens! Ask any questions below. Just because I didn't mention it doesn't mean I didn't notice it!

Test drives are in selected areas only but I don't live in one of those areas but close enough to drive there so meeting somewhere besides your home is an option. Sign up here to check for availability