Thursday, January 9, 2020

The 2010 Decade Drive Report; The Long And Winding Road

Happy New Year!

As we enter the last year of the decade, so many things have improved while other things have worsen and the future outlook is hardly clear.  IOW; not much different than the beginning of the decade in 2011.  Back in January 2011, I was a mere 18 days away from leaving the Prius World and entering the LEAF World (although the Prius did remain in the family for 3 years, it was all but on life support)

Fast forward to a few weeks short of 9 years later and I am on LEAF #5 and I think I have finally got one that is actually worth buying.  But at the same time, I wouldn't trade a day with any of the 4 I've had. It has been a HUGE learning experience and it has really broadened my world.  As EVs take a firmer hold on our existence, the changes forward will be massive and revolutionary but will not match the level of change I have witnessed.

November 3, 2007; The EV Journey Begins But DEFINITELY Baby Steps!

Driving my 2004 and 2006 Prius had simply given me an insatiable thirst to drive electric. but options beyond DIY projects were non existent and EXPENSIVE.  After spending 2 weeks debating spending over $50,000 for a Gen one RAV 4 EV with a new lithium battery pack, I decided to spend a "bit" less money and got the ZENN. It was an NEV with a 25 mile range that would do no more than 35 mph. At the time, only two states; Montana and Washington even allowed these glorified golf carts to go that fast. The rest of the country was limited to 25 mph. It didn't take long to realize that the lead acid batteries were not going to hold up well.  I went thru 2 battery packs with ZENN and another set on my own.  Despite all the issues, it was my daily commuter for the next 3 plus years.

February 2010; Here Comes Nissan!

I was approaching the one year anniversary with my 2010 Prius and despite it being a very nice car getting me a lifetime average of 53 mpg, I felt I needed more. A lot more.  At the time we were a 2 Prius one ZENN household. I also had a Ford pickup but I used it less than once a year and it wasn't even parked at my house (we had used up all our allotted parking spaces so there was no room)  I was actively spending my time investigating Lithium upgrade for my ZENN along with adding a battery pack to the Prius to convert it to a plug in.

During my search, I stumbled across Nissan's announcement of a highway capable Electric vehicle. I went to their website, spent about 10 minutes (which is about all they had on the subject) investigating the car and decided to sign up. Later I found that I had basically entered a lottery.

April 30. 2010; Raising My Hand

The only thing I accomplished in February was signing up to receive an email invitation that allowed me to reserve a chance to submit a quote request to the Nissan dealers selected for the initial US offering of the LEAF.  (Yes, it's normal to reread that last sentence carefully) A $100 deposit was required.  As luck would have it, I had the day off so I basically got up in the morning, sat at my computer and refreshed my email all day waiting for the invitation. I only knew that it would come in sometime before 5 PM East Coast Time or 2 PM local time.  Soon it was 1 PM and I was getting nervous. was starting to report people getting their invitations  and all were on the East Coast. It was then we (there was a lot of us on the computer that day) started to collect data on when each person had registered online to get an invitation. There really didn't seem to be much of a pattern.

There was some rumor that there was a limited number of slots available. As it was, Nissan had already stated that limited initial production meant the LEAF would only be available in 5 regional areas.  My town, Olympia was not one of them but at the last second, was added as part of the Seattle region. This late afterthought caused me to not get a free EVSE... (assholes!)

It was now 1:45 PM and I figured I was not getting a 2011 and would have to wait till 2012. My thoughts went back to the RAV 4...

But then at 1:58 PM, the invite came thru. I immediately clicked on the link with Visa in hand (earlier reports had said that 11 digit American Express was causing problems with the system and I was taking no chances!)  At 2:15, I received confirmation my invitation to request a quote was confirmed.  I WAS IN!!

But then again... it was only step one of what would be a nearly year long process.

August 31, 2010; Dealer Selected

In the 4 months of waiting, Nissan had all but promised that we would be getting our cars Q4 2010. To prepare for this, I had to work on my tax liability. Without some manipulation, I would not get the full $7500 credit and for a car that cost $38,000, I needed all the help I could get.  At the time I had short term mutual funds that were maturing during various periods during the year. I planned them to mature every few months. I had this in case of an unexpected medical need. My Son had developed asthma as he turned 2  and I wanted to be prepared for the worst in case it was needed.  As these funds became available, I started a Ross IRA account boosting my deductions to 55% of my paycheck (the max available) I also converted a chunk of my current 401 to Ross as well.

I received my email authorizing me to submit a request for a quote to my local dealer of choice. Rairdon's of Auburn was offering a few grand off on a purchase. Realize most cars were going for  MSRP or more.  Even in the very early days of  EVdom, I realized that an EV without DC charging was not an option for me. So I chose the top of the line SL which was the only way to get the Chademo port on the 2011 model.

My quote was confirmed almost immediately by Rairdon's and then... nothing. FOR MONTHS, there was no communication at all from Rairdon's or Nissan.

January 18, 2011; Delivery Day

Rairdon's contacted me in early December raising my hopes that a 2010 delivery would still happen. Well, it didn't.  In fact, it didn't "anywhere" in the country. Now Nissan did have 4 promotional deliveries in the 4 initial regions in December but that was it.  I was so pissed. It was MUCH later I realized Nissan had done me a huge favor.

Without the tax advantage, it completely destroyed my financing plans.  Purchasing would literally cost me an additional $3000 BEFORE financing costs. That made an already expensive venture too expensive.  Making a long story short; I leased.  Leasing terms weren't that great. They raised the money factor on me based on my income statement (It was my intent to write a check for the car) so to reduce my cost, I put $10,000 down on the lease lowering my lease payments to $160 a month.  But the car was mine!

NOTE; for those of you who think my down payment on a lease was a mistake. See Feb 2018 below. 

Later I learned I was one of 4 that received their car making me the first (tied) person in Washington State to take "nonpromotional" delivery of a Nissan LEAF!

2011 LEAF SL with Charge (yeah that was extra)
3 year lease. 15,000 miles a year
OTD cost (Total lease + residual - financing; which would have been zero + purchase fees)  $30,818.


NMAC sent me a flyer offering me a buyout of my 2011 for $6200.  I thought it was a scam...then others on MNL reported getting the same thing. They actually accepted the super cheap buy out. My residual was $14,400 so it would have made the car under $22,000 all in. Even after getting confirmation, I didn't bite. I had realized that the 2011 was simply not a car worth buying at any price.  Now that is me.

December 20, 2013; Selecting The Best (and only) Choice

My lease was running out fast but not nearly as fast as my lease mileage. I had 45,000 miles but was less than 500 miles away and the busy season for work less than a week away.  I used my LEAF for more than 2/3rds of my work transportation demands which accounted for at least 1500 miles a month. I would blow well past 45,000 miles if I didn't do something right away.  I didn't read up on the lease return process and took my LEAF to Olympia Nissan to have it inspected only to be told that a 3rd party had to do it but they would take care of it and I could drive my new LEAF away right then. Well, it being the holidays and time of the essence, it was just too convenient not to. I had already played the email game with several regional locations and they along with Puyallup Nissan were the lowest in price (most quoted me no price at all which means they were instantly eliminated)

Now I could have gotten a better lease deal had I waited but it wasn't that much of a savings (plus I had no idea what the savings would be at the time) but the 2014 changes were expected to be minor (a lie but in a good way)  so I said get er done!

2013 LEAF S with Charge/Climate AND heated back seats!
3 year lease 15,000 miles a year
OTD cost;  $21,070.64

November 10, 2016  30 kwh!

By now the online LEAF community was quite large and active despite EVs still very much in the early stages of adoption. This was before other major EV options started to significantly erode the group. But the LEAF had been on the streets long enough by then that the divide separating pro EV dealers and gassers dealers was getting significant.  In my mind; there was no longer any excuse for dealerships to not know about the LEAF. It had been nearly 6 years now. Because of this, it became necessary to simply eliminate several dealers when it came down to picking up my next car.  Because the residual was so low on my 2013, I had entertained the thought of buying it and driving it until the longer range LEAFs (or something else) started to appear. The residual was lower than the current used LEAF market so it would have been a TCO wash. But timelines kept getting pushed back. Washington State failed to step up in requiring manufacturers to bring their EV options here so I felt it was simply destiny when in October, Nissan quietly came out with the LEAF S 30 with the longer range.  Add to that; lease deals were simply amazing.  As far as dealer considerations? By now it was obvious that Everett Washington and Magic Nissan was simply not too far for "anyone" to go to get a deal from Ray!

As always, I still requested several quotes from dealerships in the area. I had a discount membership club accessed thru my employer that offered points for car purchases. The process required submitting request to 5 dealers. Well, they used my zip code to select the dealers (I had no choice) and after I realized it and found a way to change my zip code, I soon had 10 dealers emailing me so I did a copy and paste to all of them basically saying what I wanted and that I only entertained offers that came with a price.   I got

"Nissan doesn't offer 30 kwh on the S trim" 4 times.
"C'mon on in and we will make sure you get the best price" 3 times
Two dealerships did not respond to my email at all.  I think one of the two did respond a few months later...

Then there was Ray. We basically hammered out a price on Facebook Messenger and scheduled a day for me to drive the 85 miles to pick up the car.   IOW; the other dealerships never had a chance.

2016 LEAF S 30 with charge/climate
3 year lease. 15,000 miles a year
OTD cost; $17,764.02

February 16, 2018 Still No Options!

As we all know, my S30 met an early demise sacrificing herself to save me. Despite only being 14 months old, she traveled nearly 30,000 miles enduring the heat of many QC's in the dead of Summer and came thru in near perfect condition. A LEAF Spy report taken a few days before the accident still showed 100% SOH with an ahr of 82.05 (from 82.34 new) Although her life was short, she left a MAJOR impression on me. Her ability  to take a full 120+ amps to over 80% SOC repeatedly was simply amazing.

My great lease deal from Ray who was now at Campbell Nelson Nissan of Everett (same place just a LOT more syllables) meant I had equity in my lease! Was that even possible?  After all was said and done, my insurance company paid me $1500.  For those of you who think that the insurance company had to settle with NMAC directly, that is not the case.  Despite the accident not being my fault, I had my insurance company handle the claim. There were two other people involved and they spent quite a bit of time "discussing" who was most at fault.  This would have extended my lease obligation. But my insurance company paid off the lease in less than a week leaving me a $1000 bill to NMAC to cover the collision deductible. (It took 2½ months to get that from the other 2 parties) Well, this happened in January  So I had a check...but no car. (Actually drove a rental for 3 weeks and my Corolla for 2 weeks)  The 40 kwh LEAFs were just hitting the streets but the S was even further delayed.

2018 LEAF S 40 with Charge/Climate
3 year lease. 15,000 miles a year
OTD; $23,025.19

November 16, 2019  200 Miles PLUS! 

2018 quickly became known as the year of Rapidgate.  Unlike my 2016, the rate of DC charging was wholly dependent upon the temperature of the batteries at the beginning of the charge. If the pack was too warm, the rate would be reduced from slightly below maximum current to as much as 64% slower! If the batteries were too cold, the knee when the current starts to taper can happen as much as 16% earlier. Well, all that I could deal with. I had NCTC so free charging. I would just stop twice instead of once. I have a lot of options. But my real disappointment happened when I realized that my optimal charging performance saw my charge rate starting to drop around 63% SOC! That was a huge drop from my S 30's 80% plus!

Add in the Rapidgate and a course with properly placed charging stations, my S30 could beat my 40 kwh in a cross country race.  So did I make a mistake?  Well... no.

Obviously it was not an optimal situation but at the same time, I lived in a climate that meant I had to drive quite a bit before any of this started to happen. The real truth of the matter was that 40 kwh was quite liberating! I found its range minus expected degradation down the road fit in very well with the driving demands of my job which had grown to over 2,000 miles a month.  With a residual of $9600 I was really thinking this might be the first LEAF worth buying. And barring any fabulous unknown EV intro, that was probably going to be my plan.  It was quickly becoming obvious that many major players like Kia and VW would be here in volume by Feb, 2021 so the likelihood of buying the LEAF and driving it another year or two after the lease seemed quite obvious. Plus I was quite certain, I would be way over my lease mileage limit anyway.

But the clincher was the expectation of 100 "real" freeway miles for several years after the end of the lease. During my LEAF life, I have realized that my ability to spend 2+ hours driving had diminished A LOT.  So stopping is more a personal thing than a range thing. The attractive residual was also a great draw. I felt confident, I could buy the car, drive it a year or two and get most of my money back when I sold it.

But the time of free charging was coming to an end and the thought of paying 18 cents a minute while charging at less than half speed was a bit gloomy. Well that is until Ray made the Sun shine! 

2019 LEAF S E Plus with Climate (DC now standard)
2 year lease 15,000 miles per year
OTD; $27,641.19

January 2020; Ten Years Already?? 

Its been 7 weeks since my E Plus has come home and I am just now realizing how important a faster charger will be as my freebies start to wind down. My NCTC ends Feb 15th. I do have a $250 charging credit from Nissan for EVgo that will be used on roadtrips. I have a year to use it up  and that won't be a problem.  Having clocked 74 kw max on EA along with gaining 25 kwh "averaging" over 60 KW while doing it saw my per mile cost (@ 4 miles/kwh) dropping below 4.5  cents per mile.  Even at 74 KW knee, I was getting 120 miles of range during "semi" Winter. That would be well over 90 minutes of freeway in Summer and to think, those charging sessions were only lasting 15-16 minutes. I would have to rush around getting everything done on my charging stops now.

Road tripping On The Cheap

Having only had the car one season means not really knowing a whole lot about what I can expect down the road.  Even with higher than expected degradation, the range will suit me for quite a while.  It well too early to tell anything definitive but I figure my worst case scenario is 4-5% loss in the first year slowing down to 1-2% annually after that.   Initially, the pack gains heat slower, sheds heat quicker.  So things seem better.  Both Rapidgate and Icegate have completely different characteristics and both have improved. Maybe its simply the greater number of modules or the greater capacity that is reason. Hopefully its all that along with better chemistry.

But my goal will be to find out the cheapest way to get the most range out of my LEAF. IOW, can I live off the bottom 2/3rds of the pack and its estimated 175 miles of range?  Or will I have to settle for less range for less money?

In closing I present you this; This charge happened at 8 temperature bars and this is the first time ever seeing this.  I started the charge at the normal 120ish amps until the SOC hit 55% at which the rate started to It quickly dropped to 20 KW and leveled off but the thing that really caught my eye.  Despite charging as much as 45 kw down to 20 kw, the temperature WENT DOWN! That is huge. OAT was 55º so not very cold.  Note; the temperature displayed here is the lowest of the 3. The others were just under 110º

What does this mean? Its all about how far I can drive on 55% SOC which should be about 140 miles.  Unlike my 40 kwh where the speed of the charge was reduced at the beginning, now the pack only makes sure the pack doesn't get into the red zone. IOW, its effectively raised the bar on Rapidgate A TON!

On Facebook, I posted my other "high temperature" charge on the same EA station I had gotten 74 KW from.  Yeah, not nearly as fast but still started the charge at 55 KW so also a huge improvement!

As always, stay tuned. My next blog will come in when my my pack drops to 175 ahr.  So likely sometime next month or maybe even later 😉

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