Saturday, August 18, 2018

Is Costco Missing Out?

Electrify America added several more stations to the queue for phase one of the 5 phase project as part of the Dieselgate settlement against Volkswagen.   This includes 3 in the State of Washington and all are located at Walmart Supercenters

Not only is Walmart playing the very willing host to EA, but also EVGO and The WCEH have also charging stations located at Walmart Supercenters as well.

In Oregon, Fred Meyer leads the way as host to Oregon's extended WCEH.  Besides Walmart, EVGO has partnered with Simon, a company that manages shopping malls around the country for installation of charging stations as well.

Going to EA's  website,  we see an overview of the planned network that will be phase one.  Listed there are the 9 sites that are up and running along with 55 sites that are beyond the siting process and have likely broken ground or at the very least, has a concrete agreement with the host for the station installs.  Its been my experience that construction has started well before the sites make it to the "Coming Soon" list.

Of the 64 sites listed;

Walmart Supercenters; 35

Shopping Malls; 9

Outposts; 9. These are random locations, mostly gas stations, fast food row, a truck stop, a few hotels, etc. I call them outposts because they are essentially oases for  travelers out in the middle of nowhere.

Gas Stations; 4

Not mentioned in the list above are random shopping centers with generally one major host in a strip mall type of setup.  Mostly grocery stores like Food Lion, Safeway, Ralph's and Albertsons.

So looks like everyone is getting into the game but.... Where is Costco?

Costco was one of the first to offer plug's for EV's dating back to the early part of this century.  The Tumwater Costco had nothing but a sign and a 120 volt outlet but in my ZENN, that is all I needed! But the great gesture was not well thought out. The outlet was attached to the building which meant it was prime spot for ICEing.  Nearly every time I went there, I had to wait for someone to move before I could park and charge.   A few times when a time crunch was involved, I would park in the walkway (Easy to do with my super small ZENN) and plug in anyway. I had a 25 ft charging cord with 50 ft extension if needed so only had to be "in the neighborhood." although I never failed to get the charge I needed (in the ZENN, not charging meant a lot of pushing) it was obvious the location was not a place I could rely on.

So now the question becomes is Costco giving away an advantage? Today,  brick and mortar stores are mostly fighting a losing battle against the likes of Amazon and Groupon for survival.  Every day, more and more fail.  The stores that are surviving now are doing so from pinpoint inventory control to reduce costs (Walmart, Target) or from over the top loyalty like Costco

Of the 3, Costco is doing the best.  Walmart is not. Walmart (and Target) recently copied a page from the  Amazon playbook  by starting their own delivery service but with more of a "drive thru" twist where you can go to a store (there are millions of them out there) and a Walmart Associate will bring your order out to the car. 

Now, don't get me wrong, none of the 3 are in trouble. In fact, far from it. Unlike other retailers, they have survived and prospered by tightly controlling costs but are now realizing that any advantage over the other 2, no matter how small, can make the difference in their cut throat world. While Target and Walmart are in a virtual lockstep with each other,  Costco is in a unique space increasing memberships despite an increase in the annual fee  that is sure to go up again within the next two years. If you recall; Walmart's answer to Costco; Sam's Club has not come close to seeing the success of the paid membership model. Maybe its because I live in Costco's backyard but most of the Sam's Clubs here are no more.

So the question becomes? Is Costco giving away a competitive advantage by allowing Walmart and others to swoop up the charging stations?  Right now, a mere raising of the hand ensures stations in the lot at a minimal cost to the host due to VW's miscues.

Maybe Costco feels they can overcome the advantage Walmart or Target hosting stations?  Despite near identical numbers between Costco and Target, Costco is in a MUCH better position

2017 Forbes Report

At first glance, it would seem both are in a near dead heat but pay attention to the two bottom categories.  Target has 12½ Billion in debt while Costco actually has a half Billion in cash on hand.  Now we could get into why Costco is doing so well and for me the reasons are obvious. I am pro labor and Costco is one the leaders in employee pay and benefits in the retail sector. They also have one of the lowest CEO to employee pay ratios. Both I support vehemently. 

So does that mean I avoid the other 2? Well, no, not really. Walmart is open 24/7 here and has literally everything. So yeah, I go there once in a while simply because there are very few viable 5 AM options out there.   Costco also has a rather limited selection but generally high quality. Unlike the other 2, they have no clearance or dollar bins although the do have random price cuts which can make for a pretty decent deal. I do tend to "experiment" a bit when something I have never tried before has a price reduction. 

Maybe, part of the Costco allure is the much easier job of spotting bargains.  Both Target and Walmart literally wallpaper the store with sales ads, price cuts, etc. The reality is there is so much to look at, its quite easy to ignore ALL of it.  The pessimistic me generally writes these off as the "embellished" regular sale price. 

Another question is with so many hosts willing to put charging stations on their site, is it really necessary to have Costco in the mix as well? Well, that is one of the easiest answers ever!

Of course Costco is needed! Whether it happens in a few decades or a few years, there will come a time when fast chargers are every 2-3 blocks.  That day is inevitable. I am hoping for the latter but am expecting something in the middle of two time frames above. 

The other thing is being barely 60 miles from Costco's World Headquarters means that only California has more than the 31 Costco locations located here.  (count as of Sept 3, 2017)

Now the reason Walmart is anxious to host charging stations should be quite obvious.  Their drive thru pickup service is effortless, easy and at no extra charge. The reason Walmart has survived has been pinpoint inventory control which can and does frequently backfire. IOW, they have a huge selection but frequently may have only half the sizes available. It doesn't take many of these experiences to turn customers off. 

Recently I tested this Walmart service and I will say it did work exactly as they described.  I first went to the store in Lacey to verify they did not have said product on shelf, then ordered it thru their online service and selected store pickup.  Less than 10 mins later, I received an email specifying a day (5 day wait) to pick up said item.  I was simply to advise them when I arrived at the store which of the designated spaces I would be in.  I did so and less than 5 mins later, an associate delivered my order. VERY convenient.   

Now, Walmart is ONLY providing this service in an attempt to cut into Amazon's business of super convenience.  Now its not home delivery, but its completely free without any minimum purchase requirement and is essentially just as easy as stopping at the drive thru at McDonalds. 

This is completely against their business model of generating foot traffic thru the store. I never left my car. I was parked on the side of the building so somewhat away from the mass hysteria of the front of the store. From entry into the parking lot to exiting was barely 10 minutes.  By doing this, Walmart is killing one its largest profit models AKA impulse buying. 

This makes Walmart's willingness to host charging stations (and sequester potential customers for 20-45 minutes) quite transparent.   I love Costco but can they really afford to ignore one of the fastest growing segments of the population AKA the EV driving public?

Within my own reality (which is very active BTW) I see Costco hosting queueable stations where membership does have privileges with rates based on membership level and perhaps the amount spent at Costco the previous month or quarter... Yeah, NOW WE ARE TALKING!!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

2018 LEAF 6 Month Review

Happy Anniversary!  Today marks 6 months of 2018 LEAFness and it has been wonderful ride!

Now, don't get me wrong, like ALL cars, there are compromises and the 2018 version did come with more than a few surprises. But first, the basics.

The Numbers;

Miles driven; 10,315.4

Projected Cost; $230.72  or 2.23 cents per mile

Real Cost;  $67.86 or  .7 cents per mile

Public Charging;  1817.78 kwh

Public Charging Fees;  $7.92

93 Level 2,  116 Level 3 charges.

Ok, so saying that driving an EV "can be" economical goes without saying.  Now you can argue that in areas with high utility rates, I couldn't do this but you might want to notice that despite living in one of the lowest utility rate areas (WA is the lowest by mostly because we have areas of the state that bill LESS THAN 3 cents per kwh. My rates are in the "lower" range) I don't charge that much at home.  This is made possible by a job change (Even when I was driving 30,000 miles a year, I was charging publicly ¾ of the time anyway due to the shorter range of my 30 kwh LEAF) and a commute that is so short, I can do a weeks worth on 70%!  Over 70% of my home electrons happened in the early days before the job change.

So yeah, I an taking advantage...or am I?  NCTC is simply part of driving a LEAF. Its two years that is baked into what I paid for the car.  Not using it is like.... like paying for an extended service agreement; A TOTAL waste of money!  Now I will admit that the recent past has mostly been exploring new stations or verifying new compatibility with old stations.  EVGO has a decent and growing presence in the region but I have not visited them in over 3 weeks. I should "share the load" since they do now have new stations at the Tacoma Dome/ LeMay Car Museum.   

The Battery;

Day One;  ahr; 115.05, SOH; 99.66, Hx; 99.86,  491 GID   38.1 kwh available.

6 Months; Ahr; 111.05, SOH; 96.20, Hx; 114.29 (8/9/18) 483 GID   37.4 kwh available.

Unlike previous LEAF versions, all the stats except Hx continuously dropped (or stayed the same) without a single uptick event. Not one.   My LEAF's brief life has actually gone thru several changes in driving patterns.  The first two months before the job change was driving 60-200 miles a day for work. Fully charging every night at home, then grabbing a QC or two on the road.

I then changed jobs and before the weather changed, I would charge to 50% more or less and sometimes grabbed a 80 minute boost in the morning before leaving for work with maybe a QC once a week.  I also did several roadtrips where 3 to 7 QCs per day was done.  Thru all of that the numbers continued their slow decline.

But the decline is slow. Usually the drop is .01 to .03 with many days staying the same BUT there were two major exceptions when I lost a LOT all at once.  The first event happened April 12, at 4499.5 miles when my ahr went from 114.31 to 113.55 and SOH went from 99.02 to 98.36.  Now if we look at the degradation rate before that one day drop, we are looking at roughly being at 85% SOC after 100,000 miles. I was VERY pleased at that.  Now, I am not really that upset over the drop since its still rather small but I am somewhat confused as to why it happened? Examining the period of time surrounding the event (which was easy back then when it was fresh in my mind) revealed nothing unusual or out of the ordinary.

The 2nd time it happened, the drop was much larger.  I went on vacation leaving July 6th parking my car in an open lot near Seatac returning the afternoon of July 17th for a day before starting the 3rd leg of my vacation.  At 8467.1 miles my ahr went from 112.89 to 111.45 and SOH dropped from 97.80 to 96.54.   I have to think the pack sitting for that length of time is what did it but I parked it with 41% SOC so thought that would be ok but apparently open asphalt and 90º temps were enough to make a permanent impression on the pack.  FYI; On the 18th full charge was 485 GID, 37.4 kwh available.

The other thing that crossed my mind is the BMS doing some sort of recalibration occasionally which accounted for the drop.

So I have lost 5 ahr or 4.34% and 3.46% on SOH.  Now my 100,000 mile stats are looking like 66% SOH which means I will "just" miss a warranty pack replacement. I would be under 60% ahr so very close for sure.   Now, this assumes a continuing random "recalibration" at the same rate. Take out the 2nd drop and I am looking at 80% left at 100,000 miles. Still very ok with that!

Despite only doing full charges for "most" road trips which means only 4 full charges since March 29th, the cells have done a remarkable job of balancing.  Maybe this accounts for the very predictable LEAF Spy stats?

At any rate, I am simply not going to worry about this until say... 35,000- 40,000 miles when I have 6 months left on my lease.


Yes, I have had 2 "100 mile" LEAFs and actually did over 100 miles in both of them but it was TOUGH to do!  Nissan learned and so overestimating range is something they decided not to do in their 30 kwh LEAF and that continues with the 40 kwh LEAF.  The official 151 mile range is quite easy to do in the 2018 LEAF.  In reality, I "count" on 165 miles in Summer with 135 miles in Winter.  I continue to minimize heat mostly using defrost only as needed with seat heaters and heated steering wheel more than giving me what I need most of the time.  I will say I had a day where my estimated range was 128 miles (drove 90) but that was with full car (4 adults) and constant rain. The passengers were picked up at the office and from there to the job site, it was constant defrost the entire time to keep the windows clear. For Heaven's sake People, its Washington! Get a garage!

A good example of Summer range; Last Thursday, I decided to attend the grand opening of the Yakima QC which is about 149 miles away from the QC in Centralia.  After the event where I charged up to 99% or so, we went downtown for a quick trip which added 8 miles to my trip back West which in itself would have been doable despite now being well over the 151 EPA "suggestion"  but there was an obstacle... a BIG one.

White Pass outside Mt. Rainier (Elevation data courtesy of Plugshare's New Trip Planner!) 

But the drive was a GORGEOUS one and what else is the LEAF for but roadtripping! So even with the elevation change and AC (it was well over 90º in Yakima) blasting away until the pass, I made the 157 miles quite easily with a good 6-7 miles to spare. 

One thing about the GOM (LEAF range estimator) is that it slowly hides a reserve which is actually quite significant adding at least 10-15 miles of range well after the low battery warnings start.  Even when the SOC meter goes to "_ _ _"  you have the same range left that you had in earlier LEAF models with the GOM went to "_ _ _"  or about 5-7 miles of careful driving.  FYI; On the 40 kwh model, the GOM goes to "_ _ _" about 10 miles before the SOC meter does. 


Well, as we all know by now, the murder of my 30 kwh LEAF put me in a time crunch for a replacement vehicle which meant my first choice of an SV with Pro Pilot Assist was as much as a 30 day wait AFTER I had already waited nearly that long already so I took the S simply because it was already available.   So my planned evaluation of Pro Pilot, Adaptive Cruise, etc.  has been dashed and thought about just skipping this segment altogether but I do have to mention Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) as it most likely saved me from an embarrassing situation.  

Automatic Emergency Braking

What AEB does is automatically starts the braking process if the car senses a collision is imminent.  First though, it will provide a warning beep. It is this beep that alerted me in time for me to apply the brakes.  I am not sure I would have noticed the car in front of me in time since I had only glanced away for less than 3 seconds but as it was, the situation was way too close for my rather risky comfort zone.  But what it also did was really gave me a renewed sense of security knowing how conservative the AEB is (yes, that means sometimes it beeps at relatively mundane situations like diverging lanes,  etc) and how well and quickly I reacted to the beeps which are not loud or alarming at all.  It just worked. 

E Pedal

Maximum regen at last!  I did a few experiments and saw 67 KW regen which is simply awesome.  I would go into great lengths to explain how nice E Pedal is but it simply would not be effective. I would only be parroting the same thing I was told before my test drive in Las Vegas last September and trust me; words simply don't do justice to how nice E Pedal really is.  

What it does do is simply allows you to do one pedal driving nearly all of the time.  The hassle of switching from gas to brake to gas to brake is no longer! It is such a small thing in words but such a HUGE change in the driving experience. 

BMS/TMS/ Charging

TMS??? Say what? This is a LEAF a TMSless LEAF, right?  Well, technically yes, but changes in the quick charge profile have been made to help control the heat buildup in the battery pack hence TMS! Well, sort of...

What I am referring to AKA  "Rapidgate" is the ramp down when quick charging.  The charge rate slows based on two criteria; SOC and starting battery temperatures.  The ramp down from full power starts between 58 to 62% and is rather gradual.  

Here is a good example of how the change in charging curve helps to control temperature. The Green line represents the charging speed, the red line, SOC and the black line is the temperature.  I started this charge at a high SOC to limit the very fast part of the charge to better illustrate how the curve controls the heat build up. As you can see, the black line is relatively flat due to the short time 45 KW charging speed happened before the ramp down in charging speed takes place.  If you click on the picture, you will get a larger version which will show a change in the temperature slope as charge rate drops. 

Now if this was all there was to it, no problemo! But Rapidgate is the 2nd controlling parameter of charging speed and that starts to happen when battery temps hits the 90's F. 

Here is one of the most extreme cases (My only 16 KW charging session) where I started with a low SOC in the 20's and charging speed of 16 KW from a station that charged me at 46 KW earlier the same day.  But I started the charge with a battery temperature exceeding 120º. Now this was at the end of a 400 mile trip to Central Washington with temps in the mid 90's crossing over Snoqualmie Pass, etc etc so all the things that creates a hot pack were abundantly present.   FYI; I did this charge at an EVGO machine which only runs 30 minutes as part of my free NCTC program.  I gained about 20% or about 32 miles in range.  But part of the heat buildup was a lot of elevation gain and it was all down hill from there to home so 20% was enough but definitely something that needs to be known and prepared for. 

Truth be told; The above resulted from a trip done purposely with ZERO prep. I got up, decided to do a 350 mile road trip to the hot side of the state and left... with 25% SOC.  I did it but not without a bit of charging.


So this is when I do the "if I knew then what I know now" game.  Well, the wreck really limited my options A LOT! My real plan was to have not been in the way of the car that totaled my 2016, finished the lease, probably bought it to sell (due to over mileage penalties...)  so I could get the new 2020 LEAF or perhaps a LR CPO T3.  (my 2016 lease would have ended Nov 2019) 

I missed the chance at the really good Bolt deals and kinda glad I did. The car is smaller and not sure it would have been good for me and right now, a lot of the new fast charger installs I roadtripped to in my LEAF are not working for the Bolt.  A temporary thing I am sure but still... 

But truth be told, if I had to do it all over again, I still would have picked the LEAF.  The T3 I still think is the only EV worth the MSRP is not going to come with the full tax credit or the WA State sales tax waiver (although that has a good chance of returning next year) so its simply out of my budget. Changing jobs also meant a pretty significant pay cut as well. More and much better benefits in new job but that doesn't help out my bank account so stretching the budget for a car isn't going to be nearly as easy as it was. 

But the LEAF despite it being a half step in many ways, does add some essential functionality and all at a price that is cheaper than the previous versions.  Again, I leased and payments are $137 more per month than my 2016 but residual is nearly the same at $9600. Whether that is a good price all depends on what the battery pack does but right now, its more range than I need 90% of the time and that is very liberating. But the real benefit of the range is a better ability to pick and choose charging stops. I now skip over several on trips. In the past, I could only dream of driving from my home to Ellensburg before stopping to charge or from my home to Astoria (past FIVE stations) before stopping to charge.  Now if I can get my bladder to understand I don't have to stop as often... 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Casual Observational Differences in the 40 Kwh Battery Pack

Have had to address a lot of speculation over the 40 kwh battery pack with many automatically assuming (VERY applicable word here) that the new pack is the same old cells in a somewhat fatter configuration.  This I have found to be far from the truth.  In fact, other than the nameplate, nothing seems to be the same. 

GOM Part 1

After all this time, people still take the GOM (Estimated remaining range on the dash) as some sort of "official" word on range.  That is far from the truth and the 2018 strays even farther from it.  The GOM estimates the remaining range by using your performance over the recent past to extrapolate that performance to the remaining charge in the pack.  Unless you live "on the freeway",  you can't use the estimated range for a mostly freeway trip as it will bring you well short.  Same thing if the last few miles to your home is at a lower elevation which results in a very high GOM estimate or if your trip is uphill to home with its resulting low estimate. In previous LEAFs you could monitor the GOM while it was still blinking and make a mental note of the odometer so you had an idea of how far you could go with a margin of safety.   The 2018 removed that option as well (see below) IOW,  ignore it!

GOM part 2

Another common complaint is the GOM loses 20% of its full range as the car is driven to low SOC.  That isn't completely true either.  For one thing (see above) because most people live in areas where the speed limit is low and LEAF effieciency is high, the GOM will always overestimate the range slightly anyway. So how does those 20% claims come about? 

Apparently Nissan has decided to do what it can to encourage us to plug in at 20% so much so that they have realigned their low SOC alerts and even added another one.  But despite the car implying its now running on static electricity, LEAF Spy tells a completely different story.  Lets compare alerts from the 2018 LEAF to previous models. 

LBW (Low Battery Alert; GOM estimate starts blinking SOC 9%)  So this is the first alert so Nissan has done what every car manufacturer has done and that is provided the first alert well before action is needed. I give them a pass here. 

2011-2017  LEAFs--------- 2018 LEAF
--------48 GID -----------------87 GID

VLB (Very Low Battery;  GOM goes to "_ _ _" SOC 4%)  No more passes here. The range estimate is now gone so no way to even guess at how far you can go unless you notate odometer readings and knew what the GOM said before it started this...

2011-2017 LEAFs--------------2018  LEAF
------24 GID-----------------------62 GID---

Below we have to make up stuff in order to have easier references to them in the future. Granted they will likely only be valid on this blog unless for some crazy reason, people decide to adopt them.  All these ONLY apply to 2018 LEAFs with the exception of Turtle since nothing from nothing still equals nothing. 

SLB (Super Low Battery?? GOM "_ _ _"  SOC 1%)  This happens "around" 50 GID.  **See LBW reference above**  I only mention this because it is the MOST robust 1% of the entire pack. 

SEW (Static Electricity Warning  GOM "_ _ _" SOC "_ _ _" )  This happens around 40 GID (See VLB reference above.  I posted this info several months ago and had someone say that Turtle happened MUCH sooner.  I retested "only" to prove him wrong.  Key takeaway here is that 24 GIDs is roughly 2 kwh with as much as 1.5 kwh useable. 

TP ( "Trashed Pack" AKA "Turtle Power"  mode)  GID level varies.  On the energy screen of the 2018, we have segments;  32 power segments, 16 regen segments.  These provide the same function the power/regen circles did on earlier LEAFs.  As they disappear, they become unavailable.  Unlike the above warnings, Turtle is "voltage controlled."  Turtle should be avoided at all costs. 

Lithium cells can be permanently damaged if they drop below a voltage threshold. A "single" bad cell will take the ENTIRE pack down to its level which WILL result in a huge loss of functionality.  For this reason, cell balance is VERY important and your cells are balancing ALL the time. This voltage protection is job #1 for the BMS. 

Now we have all had flashlights with weak batteries where the light slowly fades but we can turn the flashlight off a minute or two and turn it back on and the light is bright!!... for 10 seconds anyway. 

Your LEAF battery pack works the same way. If you feel like you are in danger of being stranded, then DON'T KEEP GOING!  Driving until the car stops is VERY bad and will almost always cause "some" permanent damage to one or more cells.   If you feel like you have no choice but to keep going, then slow down... A LOT.   Take breaks to let your pack balance. I know all this sounds inconvenient (as if sitting on the side of road waiting for a tow isn't!) but too many times I read about people who were 500 feet short of a charger.  There is no doubt in my mind that if they had stopped 10 minutes before that point. Turned the car off, took a 10 minute walk and returned to the car, they would have made it. 

So back to the GOM (since that is what we are talking about) The GOM on a full charge is actually relatively accurate minus the recent driving history issues discussed above. It does not lose 20% simply because most of that range is transferred to the reserve.  Not that I recommend doing this to your LEAF but getting LEAF Spy will allow you do this. 

Turtle Mode. 14  power segments. FYI; I shut off car with only 6 power
segments to talk with someone interested in my car. It popped up to 14
in about 4-5 minutes. 

Turtle Mode. 12 (of 32)  power segments. FYI; I shut off car with only 6 power
segments to talk with someone interested in my car. It popped up to 14
in about 4-5 minutes.  In the pix above you can see meter behind warning
and how many power segments are gone. 


There is no longer a question that Nissan has GREATLY hampered DCFC sessions.  Charging slowdowns start about 86º, getting significant by the mid 100's at any starting SOC. But that is only part of the problem.  As mentioned in earlier blogs, the BMS is using two criteria to control charge rates; starting battery temps and  ongoing SOC.  So even in the event of cooler battery temps, the slowdown can happen anyway because the SOC is over 58-65%.   Remember the 86º comment above? That is starting temperature.  Look at what happens when its the ending temperature combined with high starting SOC.  

On the flipside, I did notice when pack was colder, the knee started at a lower SOC of 58%.  But this is rather easy to fix. Simply charge long enough to heat the pack into the 70's or so, unplug and plug back in to resume at full speed with a knee near the mid 60's % SOC.  Below is an example except in reverse. (What can I say? Its Summer time)   I started a charge with temps at 80º at full speed. Then unplugged and immediately restarted the charge with temps at 88º. Look at how the drop in the charge rate.  I immediately dropped from 46 KW to 42 KW.  

Note;  Notice that a slower charging rate is not all bad. The slower the charge, the higher the knee.  THIS IS HUGE.  In this case, there isn't a big enough change in charging speed to see this but I did the same thing unplugging at 100º and the charge rate dropped from 46 KW to 35 KW but the knee moved up to 72%.  So yeah, the charging speed is slower but the additional charging time isn't as bad as we might think.  

The same thing happens when starting a charge at an SOC  that is near or above the normal knee range of 58-63%.   Below, we still have the good temperature range in the low 80's but a high SOC which means no full speed charging but notice where the knee is? 

Charging speed 35.8-37.1 KW, SOC 58.3%, knee 71.2%

Now maybe we shouldn't complain about slowing down at 63%.  A lot of EVs do the same thing. The Bolt slows down MUCH earlier to a much slower rate BUT, it will still charge quickly from low SOC into the 55% range.  But here we have a LEAF that can still charge at near full speed (will gain some temperature from driving) despite it being the 2nd QC of the day.  Keep in mind; high ambient temps and spirited driving can add 15º dropping the charging speed from 45 KW to 33 KW. Not a huge drop but you have to think "How much time did I save driving 70 mph while I spend an extra 15 minutes charging?"  Keep in mind that higher temperatures AND a shorter range makes driving faster a double whammy.  


Well, its hard to deny the fact that despite a nice Spring day and batteries at ambient. We have gained 32% SOC with a 10º temperature rise. This makes it hard to argue that Nissan was too conservative here. Notice the lack of temperature spread on the temperature sensors?  This is not an anomaly.  Previous LEAFs I have had were normally 10+º difference and the hotter the pack, the greater the  spread.   Looks like temp sensors are better placed?  Better indication of true state of the batteries, maybe?   

20º spread was not all that unusual on my 2016 S 30

Jennifer from Arizona claims to have had success accessing the quick disconnect port located between the back seats on the floor and dumping ice there to cool the sensors to allow a faster QC. Realize she was seeing less than half speed charging on her first charge of the day!  

Now, we all know that the ice is only cooling the sensors and not the pack. How dangerous is this? Would this allow the pack to get to "runaway thermal" danger?  Well, probably not.  Nissan's lowering the charge rate of the pack has made it difficult for me to hit 11 temperature bars due to the slowdown.  I could probably do it by heating up the pack to the mid 120's and sprinting up the Cascades or something stupid, but simply not into nonsensical pack degradation.  After all, its all about how to make the LEAF work for me, right? 

Power In

Ever be in a hurry but still needed to stop for a fast QC?  Well, I generally go for a walk to stretch the legs most of the time but there were a few times I had conference calls or "something" that made leaving the car inconvenient. I NEVER used heat in those situations but A/C on a sunny day with temps in the mid 60's was almost always a given due to solar loading.  So I tried it and yeah. It will affect your charging speed.  With charging rates as low as 20 KW, this could add a significant amount of time to the charge.  What is significant when you are in a hurry?  Luckily,  the power draw for AC generally drops into the 300-500 watt range within 10 minutes on all but the hottest of days.  

On the chart below, its not that easy to see but power draw was near 2500 watts initially but dropped to 700 watts during the short period it was on.  Normally, it settles at 300-500 watts. 

AC effect on charge rate.

Just happened to see this when it was at 363 GIDs which also happens to be the new pack GIDs on the 30 kwh LEAF and also 28.1 kwh available is same as what I saw so... just had to capture it but lost a GID while getting camera ready.... Oh well, you get the idea! 

40 kwh pack matching 30 kwh pack stats


Previously, LEAF Spy stats on battery packs were difficult to interpret.  The numbers bounced around from season to season, charge to charge and sometimes for no discernible reason at all.  Gaining or losing 5% capacity was commonplace.  The ability to manipulate the battery numbers by changing driving habits or charging habits became well known.  This was largely overcome by recording and reviewing stats over a long period of time. I record mine every day before the first drive of the day (if I go somewhere...) and I recommend you do the same. If every day is too much, then pick a specific time and circumstance like every Friday evening when you get home from work or every Monday morning before you go to work, etc.  

The flakiness of LEAF instrumentation came into the spotlight when Nissan announced they had made an error on how the LBC (Lithium Battery Controller) calculated the capacity of the 30 kwh battery packs which meant the BMS (Battery Management System) needlessly restricted full access to the usable capacity of the pack which resulted in apparent rapid degradation.   The error was apparently discovered when Nissan started to examine the degraded packs that were replaced under warranty only to find out the remaining capacity was well above the replacement level. 

A software update was issued and so far, the results have been positive. Nearly everyone has reported increased capacity and no one yet has noticed any change in the fast charge profile. All is good!...for them. 

Since I track my battery stats EVERY day (I drive it or am in town to check it) I have NEVER seen the ahr or SOC go up. Not even a tiny bit.  Now, they don't always go down. In fact, probably 50% of the time or more, the numbers stay the same.  But its been a steady decline from day one.  But the decline has been slow. a few hundredths usually.  In just under 10,000 miles and 110 QCs, I have lost a pinch over 3%.  At that pace, I will get a replacement pack should I decide to keep the LEAF, but there were two very large drops that happened in one day.   One happened for no apparent reason while the 2nd happened the day I returned from a 2 week vacation where my LEAF sat in uncovered storage during that time.   

But if I take out those two big drops, I will fall just short of the required loss to qualify for a pack replacement.  Granted, its all conjecture based on the rate of degradation being the same thru out.  Keep in mind, a shorter range means more cycling which could mean quicker degradation as well. 

The other battery stat is the Hx; the mysterious metric several have speculated on and although I hesitate to say its this or that, the largest vote seems to center on it being a reverse measure of internal resistance where higher the number, the lower the resistance. Lower resistance means less loss to heat so its a good thing.  My Hx peaked 116.46 and is currently at 114.14 but it follows the "old school" flakiness of bouncing around although I do see a general downwards trend that has been relatively consistent over the past few weeks. This could also be a result of the higher than normal Summer temps we are suffering thru as well. 

**Yesterday on Facebook, someone reported they have not had "any" change to their battery stats over the last 1000 km spanning several days. This is the first I have heard of this from anyone.  If you have seen this as well on your LEAF Spy stats. Please chime in! We need to know why you are special!!**

Regrets and the Future;

I can only speak for myself when evaluating how well the 2018 decision works for me.  I will say, I am not completely happy with the lower knee on the QCs, the drastic charge rate slowdowns, etc.  but I do see a possible benefit if it will give my pack an extra several thousand miles of useful life. 

I will say, I am different in that pitstops for charging don't bother me all that much.  Its partially due to the area I live in where most of the time, it simply takes forever to get anywhere which frequently means I have to stop for personal reasons so timing those stops with a charging location is simply a no brainer.  My most robust abuse of free public charging happened on my Oregon Coast trip  where my first 4 stops to charge perfectly coincided with personal needs. In a few cases, it was almost a race to the charging station due to an overwhelming need.  

The other reason is simply me getting old. Fighting traffic is very tiring mentally so stopping to charge allows me to get out, walk around, recharge my personal batteries, etc. So, again, its all about opportunity charging. 

But the bottom line becomes should "you" wait for a more expensive, more capable EV that might be here in 6 months or less?  That is a decision that each of us has to make. Due to my accident, I was forced to pick and in that sense, I don't regret my choice. I  missed the window to grab a Bolt super cheap but I don't think I would have been very happy with the decision. Range is not everything and right now, the new CCS stations that are popping up all over the place are not treating Bolters very kindly.  That will change soon. FYI; "All" the road trips I have blogged about well exceeded the range of "any" EV on the road today. 

The other thing is I will be hitting Central WA AGAIN! tomorrow with my Son to watch the Perseids at th 3500 ft elevation of Wild Horse Renewable Energy Complex.  We will be camping in the car and pretty sure my air mattress would not have come even close to fitting in a Bolt (it barely fits in the LEAF!) 

But just around the corner is the 2019 LEAF; 60 kwh, 100 KW charging and TMS!! but for a higher price. The fed credit will still be there (assuming its not done away with altogether) but the rumored $5000 higher price is sure to be a challenge for me financially.  A challenge my new job is not likely to allow me to take on. 

Bottom Line

I am in my lease until Feb 2021 so I can either cry about my situation or figure out the best way to make my LEAF work.  This means

More planning for road trips;  This is something I have never had an issue with. Plugshare makes it easy and their new trip planner option even provides an elevation profile to help with your range estimations. 

More and longer charging stops;  Sometimes this can be a bear, but so far, I have IMMENSELY enjoyed my time exploring the areas during my stops.  I guess this will eventually get old as the rate of new station openings slows down but that is not likely to happen any time soon!

More time on the road; Yep, driving slower to keep range high and batt temps low is something that I need to schedule now.  But that is what I got, so I deal with it. With the traffic issues I have here, extra time on the road a given so the driving slow part is frequently unavoidable anyway.  The other day, I was coming home from highway 18 to I-5 and my estimated get home time was 7:47 PM with 72 mins of traffic slowdown with a 30 min stop in Tacoma to charge.  I was already hungry so I opted to stop in North Bend instead and SLOWLY  charge my hot pack and grab food there instead. Because of the extra range 40 kwh provides, even with the slow 18 KW charging, I still gained enough range to skip the Tacoma charge stop and still got home 23 minutes earlier than projected!

So this blog is not intended to persuade or change anyone's mind about anything. But if you have a 2018 in a lease or purchase agreement and you want to get all you can from it, hopefully this blog will help you a bit.  

Saturday, August 4, 2018

July 2018 Drive Report; Chargers, Chargers and MORE Chargers!

Ok, so I was gone for half the month and my LEAF did NOT like it one bit!  I  guess I should feel wanted because she missed me so much but wish she had found a less painful way of showing her love for me.

West Coast Electric Highway

Despite not being here to pile on the miles, I kinda piled them on anyway but did it in the name of science! Although new stations started popping up in June, they really ratcheted up the pace in July. I did blog about my trip to test the Ellensburg, WA charger which was the first of 9 new QCs that will be installed in Central WA.  Thursday I attended the ribbon cutting for the Yakima QC which is the 3rd of the 9 that should be completed "this" year!  Soon, driving to Spokane with 24 kwh degraded LEAF will be possible! (with a lot of chances to stretch your legs of course) The Kennewick station has been open a while making a Columbia River loop an easy outing now. 

The other 6 will be in the general location of Pasco, Connell, Richland, Prosser, Cle Elum and George. I am going to Journey/Def Leppard at the Gorge on Sept 29th so George being up and running is no longer critical but will be a nice option!

Also there will be a special surprise for the Cle Elum location which I can tell you would not be a surprise if  I told you now but remember, you heard it here first! 


A lot of people were really disappointed when they found their brand new LEAF would not charge at most of the Aerovironment stations.  Strangely enough, there was a small handful that did work but not enough in the right places. This put an extreme hurting on several road trips that were thought to be easily reachable but I just looked at it as another challenge to conquer but not everyone shared my attitude about roadtripping with minimal support.  But Webasto came to the rescue!  They bought out the public charging arm of Aerovironment and within days announced a fix was being implemented and that fix is now officially complete.  Now all the formerly AV stations in Oregon and Washington are fixed and compatible!


We all know that Nissan has been trying to dump their battery manufacturing partnership with NEC for the past 2 years and they have finally succeeded!   Envision will soon take over both the R&D facilities in Japan and the battery plants in Tennessee and England.

With Nissan completely out of the battery manufacturing business, this brings up a lot of questions for me.  Previously when the plan to sell off AESC failed, I wondered if Nissan would offer two versions of the LEAF with multiple pack sizes.  That speculation has ended with this confirmed (and hopefully completed) sale. 

There does remain the question of where battery pack replacements for existing LEAFs will come from.  Will LG packs be heat tolerant enough in a smaller capacity to be used as replacements or will a sweetheart price on battery packs be part of the sale price?  We all know that AESC has not been very effective with improving longevity of the LEAF pack. I love the extra range without the extra size or weight but maybe Envision will be able to increase the cycle life in a way that AESC has apparently has not?


By now (at least in the EV community) the reputation of the 30 kwh pack is solidified as the worst pack ever put out by Nissan.  But the evidence is flowing in that the software fix for the LBC actually "did" fix something.  I hesitate to make any definitive statements with barely two months of user reports but the initial comments are very encouraging.  I only mention this because I stand by my comment that the 30 kwh pack is BY FAR the best Nissan has ever put out.  My experience with the 30 kwh pack, albeit, brief was simply exceptional.  A big big big part of the reason I selected the LEAF over the Bolt or Tesla was due to how well my 2016 performed.  Granted, the accident changed all my plans...

For the month of July, I traveled 1356.5 miles using 289.474 kwh of public charging which meant nearly nothing used of home charging which would be correct. In fact, other than a few times charging for roughly 80 mins (which is wake up time to leave time on work days) I did a full charge a few times for trips but the SOC was relatively high putting my home charging costs at $3.22.  Without the public charging the cost would have been $27.82 or 2.1 cents per mile.  Summer time has boosted my efficiency a bit despite my using AC a lot lately due to several heatwaves we are having in the area.

I will soon hit my 6 month anniversary where I will be reevaluating my LEAF decision so stay tuned. I am anxious to hear what I have to say and hope you are too!

Friday, August 3, 2018

West Coast Electric Highway Goes Inland!

In June, 2008; California, Oregon and Washington came to an agreement to create the "West Coast Green Highway" that would provide alternative fuel options along I-5 to run from Canada to Mexico.   It was recognized that the I-5 corridor was one of the leading causes of pollution that was progressively getting worse making lower emission alternative transportation options a high priority.

The scope of the project was extended to include British Columbia, Canada and the West Coast Electric Highway was born.

In 2012, Aerovironment installed Fast Chargers along I-5 with the goal of making it possible for an EV like the Nissan LEAF to travel from Canada all the way to Mexico.  Oregon and Washington completed their legs rather quickly but California ran into obstacles which meant making the trip in a LEAF was not a "viable" one with the vision of the project.

But Washington's great start on the network of public charging was complicated by competing companies, jurisdictional restrictions and lack of continuous support. Also a lot of money was spent for level 2 charging that was and is underutilized in far too many areas.

But the few DCFCs installed by Aerovironment (AV) Blink and a handful of others did alleviate the strain on the stations installed at Nissan dealerships while Tesla showed us just how valuable a truly effective network could be.

Oregon used the West Coast Green Highway idea to electrify their coast along with the Columbia River Valley and the Central Oregon region. Being an EVer there was a dream! But I was only a visitor.   Don't get me wrong! Oregon is a beautiful state with a lot to see but so is Washington!

So, Thursday, August 2nd, I turned away from the coast and headed towards the passes of the Cascades to usher in the next/new chapter of the West Coast Electric Highway in Yakima, Washington!

As always, my car outlasted me in the "needs" department so I stopped at Snoqualmie for a break and grabbed a handful of electrons.  The line for the two bathrooms at Summit Deli was making me regret passing up on North Bend but at the time, my need was barely a twing and I still had 65% SOC!

In the end, all came out just fine and after 14 minutes and 8.372 kwh, I was on my way to my first "planned" stop of Ellensburg, WA.  Since it was only 145 miles from my house, it was quite reachable and charging there was key to the reason for going to Yakima which I will touch on soon.

As always, Ellensburg is a great location to charge because it has literally everything. So much to do and see and eat here.  If you are planning a trip thru the area and need a long charge, Ellensburg is the place!  This would be my 3rd time charging here and each time I have explored in different directions and so off I was headed South then East.   Since it was early a few local favorites weren't open (Most opened at 10:30 I noticed) so I got off easy with just a few donuts from ABC donuts which I discovered after walking well over a mile. (They were two blocks East of the station...)

Kittitas County Museum 

My kind of place!! But I didn't go in because I didn't want to be disappointed when the free charging would be for something inane like cell phones or something...

But finally it was on to Yakima. I unplugged after 53 minutes gaining 23.81 kwh  I elected to take Highway 821  following the river and I am glad I did.  Over a few million years, the river gouged the Yakima Valley creating a v-shaped path that would have been a perfect movie set for a flood disaster movie.  I had the river on my right and near vertical rock walls on my left.  It was beautiful in its barrenness, An awe inspiring result of the power of the Yakima River.  It is literally a 30 mile drive between the two DCFCs of Ellensburg and Yakima WITH NO TURNS!

Highway 821 entering Yakima River Canyon Scenic Byway

Just another stop the "car" didn't need to make...

**Filler alert. Pix added to bulk up blog entry**

And if pix weren't enough, here is a video to check out! I do have more but this one is the only one that is short enough to post

Sadly, the drive ended as I crested the top of the canyon and dropped down into Yakima but then again,  the Firing Range Chevron was the whole reason for the trip!

In case you don't recall, Washington decided to kick up the electric car tab fees to $150 from $100 and no, it was not a money grab. In fact, it was to benefit us!   The first million collected annually, $50 at a time would be set aside for funding the state's charging infrastructure.  Using a grant program stretched the State's dollars and gave vendors a financial boost to get started.  In 2017, several areas submitted proposals and 3 were funded to be completed this year.   EVITA in partnership with Energy Northwest (Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Transportation Association) was two of the three. Their project will add 9 dual format DCFC's in the South Central Washington region.  Yakima is the 3rd to open with Kennewick and Ellensburg already up and running.  EVITA will soon bring on Pasco, Connell, Richland, Prosser, Cle Elum and George making a trip to Spokane quite doable with SEVERAL EVs!  Cle Elum will include a very special surprise with a....ahh!!  Well, I guess it wouldn't be a surprise if I told you now! 😏

Juicing up with the big boys! For MNL fans, that is "Reddy" next to me!

 Because its mostly downhill from Ellensburg, my 30 mile drive used about 10% of the pack so I did it mostly to get a Plugshare check in! but did get 6.25 kwh in 23 mins!

l to r; Energy Northwest Business and Programs Developer Jennifer Harper; Tom Ashley, Greenlots; Sid Morrison, Former State Representative and Chairman, Energy Northwest; Hans, Site Development Energy Northwest; Tonia Buell!! (We all know her but for those who don't she is the WSDOT Project Development Manager for WCEH )  and last and most important! Sam Ali; Site Host and Owner Firing Line Chervon

Many thanks to Sam Ali; owner and site host for his hospitality! Not only did he provide the site for the stations, he also provided free taco's and drinks (which was VERY nice since it was 95º!)  This is one of the better sites for travelers as it is at a main crossroads for the region.  A lot of charging stops adds 10-15 minutes to the trip just to detour off and back onto the route to the station. This one is literally seconds off the freeway.  The station boosts a large, clean, air conditioned dining area and for the VERY hungry...

But it was time to go home but first I "had" to head East (Isn't that the wrong way??) to downtown Yakima to test some GE stations for compatibility and yes! They do work for the 2018 LEAF. So naturally after that strenuous test, refreshments were in order so a 2 block walk to the Pita Pit's neighbor Winegar's Homemade Ice Cream and Coffee Bar was in order!  When its hot (Realize Yakima is either very hot or very cold. They don't really do Spring or Fall) the espresso shakes are a GREAT choice!!. I ordered mine with 3 shots instead of the standard two and it was no extra charge! (I should have ordered 4...) 

But it was time to head West to the clouds and I could have backtracked or simply head West! So West it was. I actually did have to backtrack 5 miles since we were now East of the Chevron. So off I went.  It was now 153 miles to hit the DCFC in Centralia but I was still at 96% so I decided to be conservative and drive slower... Ok, the real reason is I didn't want to pass by a good view pix! 

Heading West on 82 to highway 12, the first order of business was climb!

And climb...

This would not mesh well with my range but I had my LEAF Spy phone sitting on the dash so couldn't see the GOM anyway so all was good!  But with the work, comes the reward!


 Rimrock Lake

Tieton Dam on Rimrock Lake. Ok so "you" can't see the dam but I could!
 Mt. Rainer from White Pass. Even at 5,000 feet, she is still impressive!

These pictures did not come close to capturing the majesty here. 
Its hard to tell but I am hanging over a rail I had to walk a half mile to get to. The 
bottom of the falls is probably 1500 feet below me. 

I finally hit the DCFC at Centralia 153 miles and 65 mins later than estimated by Google so I am guessing my slower efficient driving combined with a "few" stops is the reason but have to say it was 65 minutes very well spent!!

So til next time.... what?... oh the 3rd project you say??  

Oh, that is right! I did mention that 3 projects were funded for this year, didn't I? Ok, well the 3rd partner is EV Forth and they are bolstering the I-5 corridor with 9 stations but they have been less forward with the locations but as we have known for a year, one is in Tacoma and will be online in less than a week.  For the others? Well, you might want to review site host possibilities *cough Walmart* for the other 8 possible locations 😇

As always, if you find a new station, report it here in the comments and please please please add it to Plugshare!


It seems only fitting that Plugshare gets a plug! If you are a registered member (its free, takes a second) you will have received an email for a survey on new Plugshare features. Be heard! Be known! Let them know what you like, don't like and of course, please forward your Christmas list as well!