Monthly Archives: August 2013

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Zoom!

There is another aspect of driving an electric vehicle that is different from a conventionally powered car: the motor/engine. The torque curves for the different power plants tells the story here.
An internal combustion engine’s torque curve is a curve that always starts at zero for zero RPM and generally increases to a point of maximum at a specific RPM then levels off, or even falls at higher RPM. Thus the transmission is designed to keep the engine close to the max torque during acceleration to get max torque to the wheels.
An electric motor’s torque curve is quite different: it’s max torque is at zero RPM and will typically decrease linearly as the RPM increases. Note that the max power draw will also occur when developing max torque at zero RPM as well because there is no resistance. (As the RPM increases the rotating magnetic field induces currents which increase the resistance reducing the current draw.)
Since you get max torque at zero RPM you can be a stoplight king in an electric car. Zipping away from green lights surprising other drivers around and, in some cases, passengers in your own car. (Especially because your doing it without a sound.) As you continue, though, your acceleration will decrease and the ICE cars will catch up at some point.
I’ve seen two different specifications for the Focus Electric: one says the car uses a permanent magnet motor, and the other says that it uses a synchronous one. A permanent magnet motor, as I understand it, is a DC motor which would mean that it has brushes–brushes tend to wear out. A synchronous motor, on the other hand, makes much more sense for an electric vehicle: it’s an AC motor (no brushes), the RPM is controlled by the AC frequency, and it is also either a motor or generator simply based on the phase of the AC.
Next up: charging: what does EVSE stand for and what are Level 1 and Level 2 EVSEs.

Whirrrrrrrr

Driving a BEV is an interesting and quiet experience.

Many compare it to driving an electric golf cart around. There is a little of that, but in a golf cart you don’t have a modern car fully enclosing you with its conveniences, safety systems and sound absorbing materials.

The FFE starts with the 2012 Focus glider (the body/frame if you will). As I mentioned in earlier posts: The 2012 ICE Focus is an excellent car in its on right. For the 18 months that I drove the conventional Focus I got quite accustomed to its driving characteristics: The peppy acceleration, the way it grips the road, the very excellent brakes, how really solid it feels. Moving on to the FFE introduces a whole new element to the mix: silence. Sure there is a slight whirring noise (much like the aforementioned golf cart) but that is dampened by the thick foam you find under the hood. Once you are up to a reasonable speed (about 35 or more miles an hour) the most noise you’ll hear is some slight tire noise and the thoughts in your head.

Stopping at a light becomes almost zen like; you notice all the other cars around you buzzing, shaking, rattling, etc. (Note that hybrid and auto stop cars also get this effect as they turn off the gas engine at lights as well). The first time I drove the FFE in the rain I found the first traffic light quite interesting as I was left sitting there waiting for the green listening to the raindrops bounce off the top of the car. Then the light turns green and you hit the accelerator.

Slow boat from

My coworker was able to find out that his headliner needed to be replaced because it was cut when some workers were crawling around in his back seat. The workers were crawling around in the back seat because the back seats needed to be replaced. The back seats needed to be replaced because the batteries needed to be replaced. The batteries needed to be replaced because they would not charge. He had to wait the extra time because they had to ship a new set of batteries (The FFE has two battery “packs”–one where the gas tank is on an ICE Focus and one in the hatchback area) from Korea where they are assembled.
This meant that my coworker had a pretty big decision to make: Should he take the car or not knowing that it has been ripped apart and re-assembled. How would it stand the test of time? Would he get a lemon? Would the car stop dead on the road? After much deliberation he decided to take delivery. After all it is a lease and will go back to Ford in 3 years anyway.
So after almost 6 contentions months he took delivery of his Blue Candy Ford Focus Electric. As of today neither of us have had any serious issues with the cars (mine with over 3000 miles on it, and his with over 2000 miles on it). Now our conversations involve our experiences driving an electric car and getting a Level 2 EVSE installed.

Two FFE's

Two FFE’s

Its here!

In the midst of my coworker’s investigations about what/where/when/how is going on with his car the date mine was supposed to show up at the dealer rolls around.

Not really expecting much I call my salesperson just before lunch: “Hey today is the day. Just checking to see if it is anywhere near the dealership?” “Oh hey! I was going to call you. It’s here. Just rolled off the truck this morning” “Really!? You’re kidding right? This is just some elaborate joke?” “(laughs) No really its here.”! After peeling myself off the ceiling in excitement I gather myself enough to ask if I can pick it up later that day: “Sure we can get it ready for you tonight.”

Having done my research I had already installed the smartphone app on my phone. To pass the time while waiting for some of the paperwork to be handled I figured I would register the car with the app–it only takes a second (for the FFE when you register the car with the app a confirmation prompt will appear in the car’s entertainment display; and then a 2nd one will appear 24 hours later). About a minute later our salesman returned all freaked out: He was pulling the car out front when the confirmation prompt appeared (which he had never seen before–they don’t sell a lot of these). “How did it know you were online?” LOL!
Photo May 21, 7 47 19 AM
(Picture taken the day after delivery at work)
To avoid rubbing it in my coworkers face the next day I waited for him to visit me instead of jumping up and down in his cube “Its here! its here!” etc. He did, however, have some more news about his car though…

 

 

Where is my car?

When we last left our heroes (myself, and my coworker attempting to purchase FFE’s–hey its my blog I can call us heroes if I want to! LOL) I was in the no-mans land of ordering waiting for a build date and my coworker was wondering where his car was: It was supposed to be at his dealership but didn’t show up.

The salespeople at his dealership were clueless and could only show him the schedule report that said it had missed its delivery to the dealership. I attempted to contact @FordService on Twitter to see if they had any information that they could share on the state of his car. Unfortunately the data that they conveyed was similar to what the dealer was telling him: The car was produced (at least that was the good news) but no other information about it was available.

Meanwhile, at my end of the block, I eventually received a build date (mid-May) and hoped that my car wouldn’t suffer the same fate as his–whatever that fate was.

Eventually he found a contact at the plant (where we work we often find people that know people inside the Detroit-3). His car was now a month late from the date it should have been at the dealer and the contact said it was sitting on the lot at the plant waiting for a….headliner!? What? Its the same body used by all the other Focuses how could it be waiting for a headliner? Aren’t they just laying around the plant? Pick one up and install it! Sheesh!

Technology/Efficiency

Taking a break from the story for a bit.

Here I am going to go into a general discussion of the differences between various vehicle propulsion methods: Gas engine, hybrid, and electric motor.

Your normal gas engine operates at about 18%-20% efficiency. Much the losses associated with gas engines are attributed to heat loss through the exhaust and friction in the drive train. This can be increased slightly by adding turbo or super chargers but they only bring the engine closer to its theoretical maximum efficiency (37%).
Electric motors, on the other hand, have an efficiency in the range of 85%-90% thus more of the “fuel” will go to moving the car. This also poses a problem as there isn’t enough waste heat to be used for other purposes (heating the cabin, warming the batteries, etc.). This large difference gives the electric car an advantage in “fuel” economy.

Now lets look at other aspects of the vehicle: What is the one thing that a car does that wastes the most energy? Its not acceleration; its stopping. Think about it: What do brakes do? Brakes turn the forward momentum of the vehicle into heat at the braking mechanism. All of this heat is dissipated into the air–just thrown away.

How can we recover that lost heat? There is no way to feed that back into a gas engine and re-create gasoline. What you can do is spin up a generator and store the electricity. This is the exact principle used by hybrid vehicles: There is a motor/generator that recovers the stopping momentum and puts it back into a battery for use during acceleration (this is what regenerative braking does). Hybrids aren’t designed to run on electricity alone–the battery isn’t large enough–they are only designed to capture and re-use the deceleration energy (for the most part).

Now adding all the equipment for a hybrid increases the vehicles weight by a significant amount (we now have two “engines” and two “fuel” tanks). Manufacturers make a tradeoff between the sizes of the engine, motor, fuel tank, and battery when designing the hybrid car.

An electric car does not suffer from that limitation–only one motor is present and one “fuel” tank. In addition the electric car can make full use of regenerative braking.

Given all these advantages an electric car has one huge drawback to it (as you are probably screaming at your screen about now LOL): The energy density in today’s batteries is nowhere even close to the energy in a tank of gas. There is a ton of electricity storage research (battery, super capacitor, air-battery, etc.) going on with the goal of giving today’s electric vehicles more range. I’ve read of a few people posting their opinions for the battery criteria required for BEV’s to go mainstream. Jumping into the fray here is my guess as what is required for mass adoption of BEVs:

  • BEVs must have a range of 250+ miles (Not saying 300+ miles because one of my ICE vehicles (a rather large truck) only has a range of 250 miles on a tank)
  • The battery in said BEV of range 250+ miles must be not much larger than the average tank of gas (note that the battery doesn’t have to have the same energy density of gas due to the electric motors higher efficiency)
  • There must be available charging stations to allow the 250+ miles to be replaced in approx 10 minutes or so

Easy as pie right? The Tesla Model S comes really close to all of those above with a luxury price tag. The sub $30k planned Tesla model should take the market by storm..

 

Tick tock tick tock

So the waiting begins: 8-12 weeks from early February brings us to the beginning of April for the best case scenario. April 1 also happens to be the cutoff date for the incentives available at the time of our order. The clock is ticking tick tick tick..
Anyone ordering a Ford vehicle really needs to be on twitter. The people at Ford that run the @FordService account are great. You can fire service questions off to them, send them questions about dealerships, and, in my case, give them your vehicle order number and they will check on the progress of your vehicle. Unfortunately, though, there is a “no mans land” in Ford’s ordering process where your order is in a queue and no information is available about it during that time (which in our case lasted about 10 weeks). Once a build date is assigned then you have a date and don’t have to pester @FordService so much LOL.
In the meantime we had a vacation scheduled–what a perfect opportunity to try out a different vehicle; to get “partway” to BEV status if only for a week. During our vacation to sunny AZ we rented a C-Max hybrid (seen here):
Photo Mar 31, 2 24 06 PM
We drove that car from Phoenix up to the Grand Canyon and East out to Holbrook (to see the Wigwam motel). In total about 750 miles or so (here is the trip meter just prior to returning the car):
Photo Apr 06, 4 15 57 PM
As you can see it did get great mileage, but not 47 mpg–it was AZ so we were driving with the A/C on and through the mountains. On the whole we found the C-Max a very nice car; a bit roomier than the Focus but very similar in driving dynamics (since it really is just a tall Focus anyway). My only complaint about it was that, at times, I felt that the battery could have been larger for longer EV drives but the C-Max Energi would solve that problem. Our final takeaway about the C-Max was that we would be happy to own one, perhaps in the future.
Once home it was back to waiting for the FFE. Now we’re in mid April and my coworker finds out that his FFE has already been built with a due date at his dealership for the very next week. (Even though he ordered his a week before mine.)
Next week arrives but his FFE doesn’t…

The waiting is the hardest part

After all the research, find the deals, etc. we go to the dealer (after all the dealer we’ve been using for years is showing that they have one in stock). Mind you this dealer is located directly across the street from the plant–you can see the plant out the window when sitting in our salesperson’s cube.

He inform us that, for whatever reason, they can’t sell the FFE that they have in stock (a black one with leather). No problem; we’ll order one. That way we’ll get the color we want (Blue Candy) and no leather–never did like leather seats. It shouldn’t take that long right? Heck the plant is RIGHT THERE!

Nope, orders typically take 8-12 weeks (this is early February). Ok we can wait for the right one as long as the incentives are still available (to the salesperson’s credit he did say that even though we ordered it we could walk away at any time if we didn’t like the deal).

Meanwhile I find out that a week after I placed my order a coworker also placed his order for a Focus Electric–in the exact same configuration.

Now the waiting begins…

How it all began

I figure the best place to start this is at the beginning: Why a BEV and why the Focus Electric?

I’ll start with the second: Why the Focus Electric? If you’ve read the about page you will already know. In short I’m a former Ford employee who has been purchasing only Fords for quite some time now. Thus there was no “which BEV should I get” type of question and evaluations but more like “Hey Ford will be producing an electric Focus–that will be a cool car! When can I get one?”

For the “why a BEV?” question: I’ve always been the techy/nerdy/geeky person who loves to grab the latest tech (an “early adopter” if you will). The FFE* represents the latest tech from Ford, not to mention that it is already based on the 2012 Focus which got great reviews since its introduction.

When Ford announced the FFE in 2009 I knew I would want one some day. Unfortunately it took Ford a good 3 years to get the car rolled out (and to limited markets on the coasts). In the interim I began driving a 2012 ICE Focus to see what the car is all about. The reviews are correct: The Focus line is a very competent small car: great handling (which carries over into the FFE), great mileage, good looks, etc. When Ford started the great lease deals in the 1st quarter of 2013 my chance had come…

Spare Electrons..

Welcome to my sporadically posted to blog. When I have a few electrons/thoughts to spare about driving a BEV (a Ford Focus Electric to be specific) I will post them here.

So far I’m a recent “convert”: Have only been driving a BEV now for about two months. I’ve been amazed at how quickly you acclimate to the different thought process involved with driving a BEV (e.g. don’t have to stop at gas pumps, plugging in daily, etc.).