Thursday, April 22, 2021

Charge Your LEAF EVERY DAY!

 In the ongoing saga of nursing my 12 volt battery, I have been testing various ways to maintain it without actually doing anything.  I had suspected that my interactions with the car while "not driving" it was somehow affecting my 12 volt battery by altering when the LEAF boosts the battery when powered off. Things like grabbing something out of the car while its sitting in the garage was changing things so I decided it was time to test some scenarios to see if they made any difference. Now, my normal process was to plug in a few hours every day to keep my SOC in the 25-65% range during my 4 day work week. For my days off, it varies quite a bit. At this time of year the weather is too unpredictable to make plans more than a few days in advance.  I am usually up early enough that any plans created for the day, I can simply plug in in the morning and have enough to do whatever it is I wanted to do.  The larger battery means almost always having at least 75 miles of "emergency" range so adding more for longer excursions never takes more than a few hours. 

Using LEAF Spy To Monitor 12 Volt Status. 

On the LEAF Spy screen you can see the 12 volt battery status in the lower left corner of the 4th screen; the power meter or bar graphs showing GID, SOC, etc. I prefer the power meter to see the effects of seat heaters, A/C, etc.  With LEAF Spy, you will see one of 3 basic modes

Here you can see the 12 volt battery voltage on lower
left corner @ 13.04 volts and 1.04 amps
NOTE; system current is higher because of active
charging session. Its normally as low as .1 amps



Tip; A lot of the displays shown in LEAF Spy can toggle to different data displays. Simply tap on the display to toggle thru the options. 

12 Volt Battery Charging Automatically

This is the norm most people will see on nearly every start up. Voltage will be in the 14.4 volt range with a charge current running between 1-4 amps. In many cases, it drops to system voltage  with minimal current within a few minutes. 

System Voltage

This is the normal running state of the car. In this state, the 12 volt battery is essentially not being used. The DC system is providing the power and you will see the voltage around 13.04 volts with current usually well under 1 amp.  

LEAF Spy Pro data log. To make it "readable" I condensed the data fields down. (there is normally about 100 columns between column A and B) This shows first in the morning startup without prior charging. As expected an auto charge session begins immediately. Each entry is roughly 6 seconds apart so we see the "boost" is barely 2 minutes long. 

After the auto boost, it drops to system voltage where the DC system in the LEAF is handling all  the 12 volt needs.


12 Volt Battery Charging Manually

This is the mode we will investigate the most.  We can "force" charge the 12 volt by running the windshield wipers. I was using intermittent on the lowest setting. In this mode, the voltage is still in the 14.4 volt range but current varies from very low which means no charge being taken by the battery to several amps which means the battery is being boosted.  

This is a continuation of the same chart from above. The forced charge
lasted several minutes making it obvious that the 12 volt battery
was not at or near full capacity where lead acid wants to be as 
much as possible. 


When Does The 12 Volt Charge?

The LEAF uses an algorithm along with a current feedback sensor connected to the negative battery terminal to charge the 12 volt battery. This can happen at any time. If it happens when the car is off and not charging, your charging light indicator on the far right (as you face the car) will blink.  Normally your charging light indicators tells you the approximate state of charge but starting from the left side. Now, I have seen this maybe 3-4 times in OVER a decade of LEAFing so trying to monitor this was something I attempted to do but abandoned. More work than it was worth. 

Nissan's Insufficient 12 Volt Battery Management

As mentioned above, the 12 volt gets a boost on nearly every start up but sometimes the boost is very short including under a minute.  If a charge is terminated just before start up, there is usually no boost at all. IOW; it starts up at 13.04 volts immediately.  It was this observation that I based my tests on. 

Test # 1; Charging Daily

This was easy. I normally do that any way.  So I simply plugged in when I got up and on work days, the car charged between 70 and 80 minutes. On my days off, I charged between 45 mins and 3 hours.  

Observations; 

The different charging times did not appear to make a difference. 

44 of 52 days, I started immediately at system voltage. Which means 8 days I started at charge voltage

6 days, charge voltage lasted less than 1 minute.  The other two days went just a bit longer.

I attempted a force charge all 52 days;

49 times, no charge occurred. The voltage rose to 14.4 volts but current was very small under .2 amps or less. 

3 times, I was able to boost the battery for a few more minutes before current dropped below .5 amps. 

Conclusions; 

In most cases, the 12 volt battery had the most charge the system would allow. For YEARS, I thought the initial 12 volt boost to 14.4 volts on startup happened automatically as some sort of battery check so the fact that most of the time, the car started at 13.04 volts was a bit of a surprise. 

Test # 2; Not charging  every day. 

To do this, I had to throw out my SOC dogma and charge to 100% the day before my 4 day work week started.  I did this twice charging Friday night to 100%, running SOC down to 75% on Saturday and starting my work week on Sunday.   With a 28 mile RT commute, I have more than  enough range to cover the entire week. During the test, I did not avoid detours but the most common detours I use don't add miles. In fact, one "detour" shortens my commute by .6 miles. I don't normally drive that way because it might be shorter but its a lot slower. 

Observations; 

All 8 days saw automatic 12 volt boosting lasting anywhere from 3 minutes to 8 minutes. 

On 7 days, I was also able to force charge as well lasting anywhere from 6 minutes to my ENTIRE 20 MINUTE DRIVE TO WORK. 

Conclusions

Well, I think the issue is quite obvious. I expected to see more automatic boosting on start up, but what shocked me is the extensive forced charging AFTER the automatic charging ended.  The worst happened 3 times; twice on Wednesday (end of the week) and once on Tues.  Last week on the 14th of April, I pulled into work with my 12 volt still receiving 1.6 amps of charging current. 

It would appear the algorithm is not designed to top off the battery. It appears to boost the battery on a timer.  The current feedback sensor's likely role is to prevent overcharging. 

Extended Storage

What my tests didn't address is why am I able to park my car for 22 days (on my 40 kwh in July 2018) without issues?  I have no easy way to test this because even at the far corner of my house, the car can still detect the fob and parking outside is not worth finding out more information. 

Now we know we never have to take the  fob out of our pocket when using the LEAF which means that the fob and the car are always communicating. Now most of this is short range communications that unlocks the door when you push the button, etc. So when  you spend time away from the car, it eventually drops into a lower power mode disabling the short range sensors. My Prius would turn on the courtesy lights when I walked by it with my fob in my pocket so it was always sensing the fob so wondering how aware the LEAF was with the fob? 

To test this, I locked the car at night which I normally never do since its always in the garage then in the morning, went out quickly and pushed the button to unlock  the door and open it and found a few times that I had to attempt to open the door a 2nd time because it did not unlock in time.  At first, I thought it was proof the car needed a split second to wake up.  I also tried standing next to the door for a few seconds before pushing the unlock button and that also seemed to work a bit quicker. 

In addition; I started monitoring how fast the door would unlock when I was out and about. Things like a 5 minute stop at the store, etc.  It did appear the locking mechanism was somewhat quicker most of the time but without the ability to time it; hard to say.

Recommendations

Well, the title says it all really if you want the TLDR version. But charging every day is a challenge to some who have shorter range LEAFs. For me, its easy. I have a LEAF that provides about 8 times more range than I need most of the time. So having the "room" to charge even on days I am doing little or no driving, is easy because the car is never near a full charge unless I have an event planned. So now the question becomes "How bad off is my 12 volt battery really?" 

Does my 12 volt really work that hard? 

To find out, I decided to hit Electrify America right after the beginning of its free charge Earth Day promo which means 9 PM on the 21st since I am on the west coast, so jumped in my car, launched LEAF Spy and headed out for the HUGE journey of 3.2 miles to my "2nd closest" EA location (the other one is under construction so likely not working yet...) 

I pulled up, turned off lights (something I normally do before I come to a full stop. Old habit from the 24 kwh  days) popped the charge hatch, got out, plugged in and after less than a minute the charge started. So this is at the end of the day when the car hadn't sit for more than 2 hours after my drive home due to some shorter errands I had run after work.  So this implies 12 volt battery should be in good shape as it would be getting boosted whenever Nissan felt it was needed so I'm good, right? 

Things to note here; 

You can  see the significant drain on the 12 volt as soon as the car is shut off. Obviously this cannot be sustained very long and its simply what happens when  the car is at a high state of readiness. I kinda covered it but you see the voltage dropping to 12.08 volts.  How long will this go on, I don't know as LEAF Spy lost focus so I had to restart it which accounts for the 5 minute time gap.  

My History

I have been LEAFing over a decade on 5 different versions and have never had a 12 volt failure. So am I just being lucky or is there something I am doing unknowingly that has helped me avoid the issue?

After learning the above information, I realized my reducing time at high SOC meant that frequently  the charging had finished within a few hours of my departure times. My extreme driving need from 2011 to 2018 meant charging every day was a must.  Since 2018, I have been all about SOC management so I charge every day so I can keep from being too  high (above 70% SOC) or too low (below 20%) 

Since 12 volt failure has been a constant since 2011 on social media, I have visited this issue many times so I had a vague idea of what "should be ok for now" looked like and that seemed to be between 12.15 and 12.3 volts.  But my Plus hasn't been doing as well as it hovers between 11.9 and 12.0 volts. That concerned me so a few times I removed the battery, put it on a charger and ran a full charge cycle on it but it never seemed to last more than a few days.  This was way more effort than I or anyone else would want to invest especially if there was a way to lessen the risk so....

CHARGE EVERY DAY!

Friday, April 16, 2021

My Introduction To The ID4

 Yesterday April 15th, I was able to do a test drive of the new Volkswagen ID 4 EV.  Since its 100% electric, VW was awarded 85 out of a possible 100 points on my rating scale so now its all about how they do on the remaining 15 points. 

The Walk Around

My appointment was for 12 noon but it was 75 miles thru Seattle traffic past the 4 bottlenecks in the South Sound on I-5 so what should take less than 75 minutes, I allotted 2½ hours because that is what we have to do to ensure we get anywhere on time.  Besides being early gave me a chance to get a few extra pictures while waiting and when I arrived there were 4 cars sitting there making me think "why are they all here?" 

Well, as it stands, the "middle of the week" appointments were a bit light so I was told I could drive immediately despite being an hour early. 

My first thought when I saw the cars is they would win some customers on color alone but an up close look quickly revealed they were wrapped. The colors actually available are "most" of the standard car colors...at least here in the US. But the wraps most definitely deserved a pix! 



Its interesting how many cars seem to be "close" in size but the ID 4 is very deceptive. I came here thinking it would be slightly larger than the LEAF and was surprised to see how big it really was. 


The rear hatch which "auto" opens if you get that option but more importantly has lifters strong enough to open the hatch w/o your assistance. There is also an inside release as well.  With the HUGE increase in grocery/food pickups, this is a very nice feature.  

With the security cover, height is slightly under 24 inches but its more than deep enough to lie the largest suitcase on its side.  30 cu feet is the claim and it has all of that. Personally, the first thing I would likely do is remove the cover anyway for the extra space but who knows? Might not need that extra space! 


Some car people will have to chime in here because the ID 4 has this cover you can see that is about an inch thick and I see no purpose for it other than an easy way to remove and clean the hatch maybe?  It would be another thing I would store in the garage probably. 


As expected, we have a hidden cubby for the basics.  Only a 120 volt EVSE supplied which is a bit of a bummer but then again with many converted and repeat EVers, we already have that stuff! 
What the pix doesn't reveal (I need a laptop on these ventures to view pix to see that they catch  everything!) is that there is a flap that covers this making the other cover unnecessary.   As with most EVs these days, no spare tire but the cubby has plenty of room to add tools and other emergency supplies. 


Ok, should have two pictures here. This is the rears 255/45 20's.  The fronts are 235/50 20's.  I checked two other sites and despite not agreeing to tire sizes, they all agree that the front and rears are not the same size so tire rotation is out.  Definitely a minus for me. 



Why you shouldn't believe everything you read; Car And Driver classified the ID 4 as a "Small SUV 2WD" Since we have to think there is also medium and large, do we have to be over 10,000 lbs to be "large?" 

To be fair, the Car and Driver spec sheet listed "NA" on most of the specs so it was simply a click bait article without a whole lot of data.  The car I drove came in at just under 4700 lbs but it would appear you can get a trimmed down version around 4559 lbs. Of course, AWD will be heavier. 


Rear placement of the charge port means backing into nearly every EA station due to super short cord lengths.  Shouldn't be too tough though with the excellent backup camera. More on that later.  I had thought charging speed would be higher but according to the ambassadors at the drive event, it will pull 120 KW which as we know means 110 to maybe 115 depending on SOC.  That is plenty fast enough. 

With my lowly 80 KW LEAF, I barely have time to pee before its time to go! 



The ID 4 has a small hood and short nose which means a very tight layout. The easy; The fluids we need to maintain are in plain sight and easy to access.  The "less easier"...






As we know, nearly all EVs have 12 volt battery issues. Its seems that no model is immune. 12 volt batteries are supposed to fail so that is expected but within a year? That is not.  Now any DIY'er would be checking voltages occasionally to see how the battery is doing and maybe a boost here and there but it replacing the battery appears to be "slightly" more challenging than just a 10 mm wrench in hand to do the LEAF battery.  But VW has had time to sit back and watch other manufacturers fail on the 12 volt front so they have learned something? like Ford did with the Mach E?  I guess we shall see in a year or so

Breaking Eggs! 

Ok, maybe that was just weird so we will just open the doors. 


The back seats are firm and comfortable and unlike other EVs I have been in (except  the S) the ID 4 has the extended seat cushion to provide greater leg support. Super nice!  But also deserves a mention that the legroom of 78.7 inches (front and rear combined. If you don't know me I only look at this number since seats move! Makes no sense to look at anything else) is actually effectively more than other EVs because the longer "bench" means less legroom is needed in the back.  I had over 6" of clearance!


Access to the hatch; very convenient! 



Front seats. Again, long seat and this pix "highlights" the uhh arm rests! (you can see it in the extreme lower right hand corner of the pix) Did I mention the day was gorgeous and sunny? I mean like VERY bright sunny? 

The Toys


Ever notice how a lot of cars are designed for one? My Prius was this way. The SL version of the LEAF as well plus a bunch of others.  The driver gets everything, the passenger...not so much. 

Well, VW acknowledges that friends and spouses need benefits too.  Both front seats comes with power 12 way seats, two memory settings AND a vibrator! BOTH SIDES!!  Now, I didn't try the vibrator (kinda not sure I want to be more relaxed while driving??) but I do see it being a benefit to the more high strung, road rage, stuck in an one hour traffic jam, South Sound driver. 



Wireless charging pad. For some reason there was an i phone in my car. My guess is its used in case I steal the car or maybe get lost? They would use the phone to retrieve me or at least give me directions back to the mall.  I did try my phone and it connected just fine.   Funny thing; during the drive, I set my phone in the cup holder then started getting messages "Charging device" then "unable to charge device" then "charging device"  Apparently someone mentioned there is a charging pad on top as well. Nice. 


Inside hatch release. NICE and unlike the hands free auto release, this comes on every model. With a restaurant and grocery pickup being much more of thing because of COVID, this is a good thing! 



Because of COVID, social distancing and all that stuff, I had a 3 minute orientation on loading my route into the NAV and that was about it. I did the test drive alone and in hindsight, I should have pulled over somewhere and spent more time trying to figure out how stuff worked but one the strangest things I came across was the window controls.  

Notice only two buttons? Well, there are 4 windows. Apparently to control the rears you have to touch "rear" to switch modes. Cost cutting? Are buttons really that expensive? 



The center screen is 12" and bright, easy to see even in bright sunlight. Now the car I drove has a moon roof which was thankfully closed when I got there. As the driver, the moon roof provides zero benefit to me. I don't need encouragement to have my "head in the clouds" while driving and in Western WA, its nearly always clouds which sucks without the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with sunshine in the process of attaining skin cancer. So its anyone's guess as to how viewable this screen would be when the shade is open (yes, its just a shade, not a cover) 

4G is the standard powered by the "integrated" antenna and don't ask me what that entails but sounds like another cost cutting move by VW.  There are tactile buttons for the very basic climate controls but changing screens requires you to hit the blue  "X" on the left and either go back to the  prior screen  or select a new screen from the  options that are just below this pix. There are 4...not many.  

Now a lot of people love "auto" this and auto that so this is definitely aiming at mainstream but I am not one of them. I am constantly playing with my climate controls so physical buttons are highly desired for me.  But again, the very limited time I had with the car did not allow me to see if I could learn to live with this? 


The driver's display look decent here but its actually pretty small. Much smaller than I would have liked. Glancing at it thru the steering wheel was hardly impossible but felt more tedious than it should be.  It wasn't until I saw a blown up shot of the pix that I noticed things I didn't notice on the drive. That tells me this needs to be bigger. 


The Drive

Well, it was SHORT and didn't reveal a whole lot. Being unfamiliar with the car, I should have brought along a friend or two so I could observe the car while they drove.  COVID restrictions prevented the ambassador from accompanying me. It would have been nice to have him pointing out things I hadn't noticed. 



What's missing? In case you don't know; you can  click on the pix to get the full 4K version.  With the FOB in the center console (next to the i phone that was spying on me) I only needed to step on the brake pedal to start the car. Start up was silent so other than the screens lighting up, there was no indication  I noticed that told me the car was ready to drive.  

As you can see here, the driver's display is about a third the size of my LEAF. 

The shifter is mounted to the side of the driver's display and its the typical shift once rotating away from you to D, shift again to B. Rotate towards you once for R, twice for N.  As expected, you can shift on the move. I did not test to see if N could be quickly shifted by trying to shift to R but guessing it can. 

Another personal preference here. Maybe its my subconscious  pining for the old days of manual transmissions controlling my tendencies but when I drive, I am constantly shifting from D to B to E Pedal with an occasional N; only the Eco left on all the time.  During the drive, I found this shifting location to be very inconvenient.  If you are a set it and forget it driver, this will work for you. 

Yeah, the shifter location takes the fun out of driving. 


After start up, the natural thing was mode selection. Sport mode was the default although I suspect it will maintain whatever mode you select. Unlike many, I like the "EV" feeling. The regen, etc. So I selected Eco and during the drive, I switched around to see if Sport affected acceleration (it didn't but was supposed to stiffen suspension and that sort of thing. I didn't really have that kind of route so...?) 

Honorable Mention; The button at the left bottom the "P" menu is VERY cool. When you select it, it engages the camera based on the direction you are moving. Ever been in a tight parking space and not sure you can clear the car in front of you?  The overhead 4 camera view is nice but sometimes small, right?  Well, hit that button and the camera looking the direction you are traveling will take up the whole screen. This means being able to clear the car in front of you with inches to spare in confidence.  VERY VERY NICE! 


To start the drive, a pre selected route was programmed in and the NAV worked ok but a bit sluggishly.  While still in the parking lot of the mall, I purposely turned one block early and the NAV immediately told me to make a u turn. I had navigated back to the route before it was able to recalculate and direct me again. VERY slow. My phone takes about 2 seconds to do this.  

Now, driving by NAV shouldn't require looking at the screen at all and this one did a good job of that (if you didn't stray...) with good voice directions  although a bit earlier than I would have liked and even had dash lights that flashed green in the direction you are supposed to turn (red if you didn't...) 

The car drove with no discernible regen in Eco D which would be good for coasting but felt like it would be harder to control w/o braking. Eco B did work well with a much smoother transition from power to regen slowing the vehicle down to 2 mph. There was no one pedal driving mode that I could find.  Now the car has adaptive cruise control which could provide the one pedal driving in stop and go but the test drive simply didn't allow for testing that. 

The car did drive like a full size SUV but lacked body sway and roll. This could be partially due to the low speeds of the course but it had a very solid road feel and transmitted very little of the street imperfections to the cabin; a luxury type drive for sure. Acceleration was modest...very modest. TBH; I am a bit scared of my Plus's acceleration and although probably a bit slow for a lot of people, it has enough for me. If I had to compare, it would be close to the original 2011 and 2012 LEAFs. 

After barely a few miles, I was directed to make a u turn so not even a loop course. Quite disappointing really. With 200 miles of range, I should have taken it a few exits down I 5. With luck, I might have made it back to the event before the cops caught up to me...


The Score

I have to say, I didn't even scratch the surface of all the things the ID 4 has to offer. Dual zone climate controls, cross traffic alerts, lane guidance, adaptive cruise, etc but that is to be expected. It took a few days to get familiar when I took my Gen 2 LEAF home and that is after already being familiar with half the car! So there is no doubt I missed things that should be here so hoping you got enough here to decide if its worth a look to you. 

If you are into mid sized SUVs like maybe the Chevy Equinox, then this is worth a look for sure. If you are more into the personal transportation for yourself or your partner, this might be more car than you need. 

The base starts at $40,000 and not sure what the options will be. I am not a fan of RWD so that's a point off.  AWD will be about $3600 more I think and might be here by 2021. The date keeps getting pushed back so we shall see.  It also comes with THREE years of free access to Electrify America (what a shocker, right) which will help with those low efficiency numbers. 

As far as range, its 82 kwh or 20 kwh more than my LEAF but unlike my LEAF which easily exceeds the EPA rating, I am not as confident the ID 4's 250 miles will be as easy in as many different scenarios. In my very limited low speed test drive (not counting the 2 launches I did) it would appear I got 3.3 miles/kwh. If 77 kwh is available, that is only 254 miles so getting that on the freeway?  Either way, it should still be well over 200 miles which is really all we need between personal breaks anyway. With EA popping up like COVID cases, having one in a convenient place is becoming easier every day. 

The different tire sizes is a miss for me as I am a rotation fan.  On a per tire basis; 4 tires cost less than 2. VW, why??  The first thing I would do if I bought the car is match the tires as soon as they wear out.

Oh, the score? Cmon man!! Its an EV!  100% ALL THE WAY!... for someone 😉