Friday, April 12, 2019

March 2019 Driving Report; Time Marches On!

March is over, the weather is warming up and 5 miles per kwh is starting to reappear again which means driving season is nearly upon us!  For the month, I abused public charging for over 166 kwh reducing my home charging costs to $10... NOT!!! (It was actually $9.39...)  Since it wasn't January, April, July or October,  degradation was nearly non-existent! But... πŸ˜” that is the reason this report is a bit late. More on that below.

Milwaukie Expansion of Electric Avenue

On Saturday April 6th, I journeyed south to Milwaukie OR for the launch of Portland General Electric's (PGE) newest Electric Avenue location.  This is the 3rd location of 6 currently planned to open in the near future.  Milwaukie has 4 DCFCs with both CCS and Chademo along with a dual head level 2 outputting up to 30 amps.  The DCFCs are 50 KW and The Electric Avenue stations are priced at $3 for a 2 hour level 2 session,  $5 for a 2 hour DCFC session or you can opt for $25 monthly for unlimited.  Access is thru RFID card or the Greenlots mobile app.

RAV plug in on the left, Tesla on the right!  

Normally you launch the Greenlots App, scan the QR code and the station is initialized. One QR code was scanning to a station at another location so that wasn't quite working but you can also type in the 5 digit station code as well.  The station was quick to react and took all of roughly 10 seconds for the charge to start.  My pack was roughly 105ΒΊ so you can see RapidGate still flourishing unlike the Europeans who got a SW fix that greatly lessens the effect.

  Despite the RapidGate issue, I still got what I needed in a decent amount of time.  Notice the 26%? That was my starting point. Very nice info to have!

It only took 37 mins to get the 20 kwh that I needed to do the 128 miles back to Oly.

In talking with the PGE reps at the event, the initial planning will be 6 locations with Salem being the southern boundary.  The $25 unlimited monthly plan likely means every Uber driver in the area will be using these stations extensively.  With the PGE plan combined with the Webasto $20 a month unlimited plan, this becomes a HUGE financial advantage (see gas price comment below) when computing costs especially when claiming the standard federal mileage deduction.  Not hard to see why EVs are exploding with Uberites.

But for drive thrus and visitors to the area, $5 for a QC session up to 2 hours (most won't need that much time) means even a LEAFer suffering the full force of RapidGate will be able to get a charge to 90%.  Better yet, this allows a full meal stop.  Normally, the QCs I do don't allow a sit down meal. So its fast food or food to go. I am ok with that. I have had tons of jobs where time to eat was minimal (IF available) so it was eat it while you can so eating fast is something I do most of the time but there are those days where sitting down to taste the food while eating is a nice change of pace.   Bolts and newer LEAFs will be able to get a charge that rivals or even beats their home rates. A great deal for the EVer and hopefully won't be too abused by local residents.  Either way, when visiting the area, these stations are moving to the top of my list when my NCTC runs out in 10 months!


A company in Holland has live testing of range extender for the LEAF! We have a LEAFer testing a 17 kwh extender pack on his 24 kwh LEAF. Details are thin but looks like we may have a buyable product here soon.   Don't let the Holland location scare you. They are working on a DIY option for the US. If you want to get in line, do so here

Not bad for a 9 bar LEAF, eh? 


PGE is not the only one expanding our public charging choices.  EA is installing a 6 stall charging site at my local Walmart in Lacey less than 5 miles from my house. No idea when it will be live as some EA locations get built quickly then languish sometimes several months before getting turned on.  With their connect fees, high per minute rates and my 40 kwh RapidGate, they won't be used in anything other than an emergency for me but for Plus owners, it might not be too bad.  One reports the full 50 KW speed up to 89% SOC on his SL+.  That goes a long way towards getting decent additional range are a reasonable price. 

Walmart in Lacey, WA

EVGO is also on the move. As it always seems to be, I wanted to check out the new EVGO station in Bellingham but it was the same day as Milwaukie!  Don't it figure? Go all year with nothing to do then two things on the same day???  Must be DCFC season! πŸ˜„

Its A Bird! Its A Plane! NO!! Its The Price of Gasoline!

Rumor has it, the price of gas is skyrocketing and may hit $4 around here before tapering off shortly after Memorial Day. I have to admit, I drive by gas stations all the time but simply don't notice what gas is selling for.  This comes as a bit of a shock as back in my Prius days, I literally tracked the price of gas everywhere I went in my quest for that elusive 5 cents per mile.  I think back on those days and its hard for me to understand what the fuss was about?

Costco CC Year End Summary

Last year, I spent $85.43 on vehicle services which means gasoline. I guess it "could" mean other things concerning cars but I have several credit cards used for specific purposes so in this case, it would be gasoline only. I did have my gasser until I got my 2018 and did give it away with a full tank of gas and I was forced to drive it for part of the 4 week delay between the death of my S30 and the arrival of my S40.  But the bulk of the cost was during vacation when I drove from Michigan to SW Ohio to visit my Son, Devin.  But this summary got me thinking so I looked back on previous years and found that even when I was part of a two Prius (and my ZENN) household, we were at or over $1,000 a year in gasoline.

Its kind of shocking I don't miss those days at all.  😏

Degradation On A Schedule

Its been nearly 90 days and I made a prediction privately to a handful of people and publicly in my blog,  that my "adjustment" was due.   Every 90ish days since my pack's conception (pack initialization, not delivery date) I have seen a rapid drop of SOH.   I purposely held off on the month's report to see it would happen and it did.  Remember the drop 90ish days ago last from Jan 8-14? Normally, the drop happens in a few days but my guess is light driving might have drawn out the adjustment, maybe?  

Soooo... Starting April 8th to this morning, my SOH has dropped from 92.90% to 92.05% just as expected.  Unlike the previous 90 days (which saw the largest drop) mentioned above (which had nearly no fast charging and a highly managed SOC) I did go back to a slightly lower than normal (for me but probably higher for others) DCFC use so my reward?  I guess I have to say the drop, although still dramatic still was less than the previous 90 days.   For a reminder;

Notice the 92.99 SOH on Feb 21st and the 92.90% SOH on April 8th?  Well that 47 days with a total .09% loss but this log tracks every 1,000 miles.  Looking at the daily log, we have 93.05 on Jan 14th ( right after the last adjustment) or a loss of .15% over 85 days.

All this along with very similar numbers from other LEAF 40's from around the World is cultivating a growing doubt about the programming controlling the LBC (Lithium Battery Controller) and BMS.

Or maybe I have the degradation that is gradual and the BMS is only accurate after these adjustments?  Adding my 17,000 mile stats to the chart above bumps my extrapolated SOH (to 100,000 miles) to 60.1% but only because it misses the recent adjustment. Plugging in this morning's numbers drops my extrapolates SOH to 56.55%.  I am on pace to receive a replacement pack well before the 100,000 mile warranty period.  Makes the "dump it or trust it" decision at lease end time a bit more interesting.  I guess it's all about how well I will like driving a LEAF with 35% of its capacity missing while having to pay for nearly all my public charging. Makes me wish I could select which two years I get the free charging...

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Automated Charging Is Here!

Recently a LEAFer asked if anyone had considered a DIY project that opens the hatch automatically. Apparently she came out one day loaded down with groceries and couldn't open the hatch without putting something down. She envisioned something similar to most SUVs where one only needed the fob in their possession and to wave their foot under the back bumper for the hatch to open.  I advised this would be a spendy mod to tackle.  Not only would motorized hinges need to be installed but then they would have to be integrated into a sensor that would be able to communicate with the existing security system inside the car.   IOW; several hundred dollars just in parts with only the technical expertise to marry them together needed, right?

But the desire for these small conveniences has exploded in popularity.  And yes, each small perk saves us mere seconds in convenience but eventually that can add up.  Taken at its face value; there is no way I could justify the automatic hatch option. I am ok with taking that few seconds to open the hatch manually and yes, I have had the exact same situation as the lady above and it's not easy to open the hatch with a handful.  I go to Costco and always get my stuff in a box. Frequently a single box which means its frequently HEAVY!! (I go a lot!) so I will drop off the cart at the door and carry the box to the car.  In my Prius, I was able to rest the edge of the box on the back bumper, and open the hatch but the LEAF's hatch extends out too far not allowing it to open when the box is resting on the back bumper so I have to unlock hatch then pick up the box and try to flip open the hatch with one or two fingers. Despite doing it all the time, it is still a "not so easy" thing to do! ( a lighter box might help...)

So I can see the lady's point. It really would be nice to have an auto hatch at the cost of $1000+.  Now, I am cheap so I would never consider paying that much for it simply because I don't have that many times I need it.  But what about charging the EV? This is something most of us do 1-2 times or more PER DAY.

So automated charging would be awesome but there is an issue. Wireless inductive charging is less efficient and in costly utility areas, that would not be desirable.  But a new product has solved that issue and unlike nearly all new things, EV; This one is available NOW!

NoCord Hands Free Charger

Washingtonian Stuart McColl has developed the "NoCord" a system that automatically connects the car to your EVSE when you park.  You simply drive in and magnets on the interface connects to the contacts on a modified license plate frame, the handshake is completed and the charge starts as soon as the car is turned off. (or based on your timer)

Now Stuart has a Tesla and a LEAF but claims he can do this on ANY EV!

Handshake and charge start takes only a few seconds. 

This means never having to open the charging port door or really touching anything else.  Sometimes, you will be leaving before the charge is complete. As we all know, when the charge is active, you cannot move the car, right?  Well,  NoCord has that covered with a remote control that stops the charge. Simply press the button and the charge stops allowing you to reverse detaching the interface.

Now, I did mention above the NoCord is available right now and that is true. In fact, I went and visited one or NoCord's first customer, Jim a Seattle area LEAFer to see how he liked his NoCord and we will get to that soon, but...

The NoCord is available today... If you live in WA or Portland, OR area.  But that will soon change if you are handy with mods.  Right now, the NoCord is $950 installed and that price includes one year of support in case something happens which includes a return visit should that be necessary.  But the regional restriction is only temporary as Stuart is working on a DIY option (takes time to write it up, etc...) for a $695 target price.  So with that in mind;  Why do this?


Show of hands. How many people have forgotten to plug in at least once?  Yeah, I did what most do which was rationalized that the gasser had been sitting too long and needed the exercise. 😏  Did you know that tires get a flat spot on them if the car hasn't been moved in a while? I didn't until I got my LEAF.   So yeah, it takes all of 5 seconds to plug... Oh DAMN!! Forgot to open the charging port door, hold on...  Ok so yeah, it takes all of 15 seconds to plug in, right?   Well, it takes only 3 seconds to put something down to open the hatch but we still pay for that.  Speaking of 3 second operations, it takes half that time to close the hatch when leaving. Thank you Nissan for making the hatch durable enough that it can withstand 65 mph down the freeway without damage... πŸ˜‘

I guess a system that minimizes the need to open the charging port door might not be such a bad idea after all.


The system is completely de-energized until the handshake is completed so no chance of the cat walking in with "frizz-do."  The interface is designed so it's not possible to cross connect the system.   The system is completely weatherproof. In fact, Jim has his outside (yes, its WA so that means it was raining) without any issues. It is under his deck but as we know, most decks are hardly weathertight and his wasn't.

Ease of Use

Aligning the interface it quite easy. The interface is mounted with springs so there is no chance of damaging the car and it also provides the side to side flexibility making "getting it close" good enough to connect.

The vertical mount of interface (attached to license plate here) makes aligning the interface very easy

The Remote. Jim had his loose but I would mount mine probably next to 
the garage door opener. I am not good with keeping tabs on tiny things
like this... 


Ok, I guess I will now talk about what 98% of you are waiting for.  This option should be available soon and you will want to monitor the website   for availability. 

But the best part of the NoCord is its simple and unobtrusive install.  No drilling needed which means that you lessees can take NoCord with you when you turn your LEAF in for the next bigger and better LEAF!  

The install starts out with the controller that interfaces with the LEAF's existing charging system and the NoCord interface.  This DOES NOT affect your charging ports in any way so level 2 charging on the road works like it always did. 

NoCord controller; At a couple inches, plenty of room!

Wires from the controller are routed thru the grill to the modified license plate frames to the connectors. The fan shroud will have to be removed so not "completely" easy.  Thankfully, its made of plastic which is generally a bit more forgiving on the uninstall/reinstall process!  TBT; the install could be done without much disassembly but I don't have the patience or skill, but you might. 

Interface attached with springs allowing flexibility with forward/back movement. 

Installing NoCord in a garage would be easy as your EVSE would be routed overhead to plug into the interface. It is very light which makes just about any hanging option doable. 

NoCord plugs directly into your EVSE. Notice the car
is wet? Told you it was raining!

If your install is outside, I would add a vent or a hood to cover the interface to minimize snow and ice buildup. Having lived a few miles from Lake Huron, I was simply amazed at how well ice covers EVERYTHING!  A cover goes a long way towards reducing that problem!


Like anything else, sometimes you just don't know how things will go until you try it. I think the benefits of NoCord are quite straightforward and I see very little in the way of buyer remorse.  But NoCord does offer a no questions asked 90 day return policy.  If your NoCord is installed, there is UNLIMITED return trips for the first year.  

The system is designed that accidental ramming (don't laugh, it happens all too frequently!) will do minimal damage to your precious LEAF (not so sure about the garage though...)

And finally (the part you have "really" been waiting for)  The DIY option will be available this Summer! 

As always, comment below. Please don't SPAM me. I have no interest in cheap used cars from Australia...


Thanks to Stuart for patiently answering all my questions (some of which I probably asked 2-3 times) and Jim for putting up with me and allowing me to visit his humble abode!