Monthly Archives: December 2013

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What if…they actually marketed the things!

Now here is a thought provoking article: Imagine if Automakers Actually Tried to Promote Electric Vehicles!

Go read it–I’ll wait right here.

In reality we do kind of have a case study: Nissan does market the Leaf quite a bit–and they sell quite a few Leafs as well. Almost all of the other OEMs (Tesla included) don’t market their vehicles (Tesla is the exception because they get a lot of free-press and a lot of “Teslamonials”).

Now look at my lowly Focus Electric: Ford is making an excellent car (even if they didn’t engineer it in-house). Are they pushing it? Nope. Even the FFE managers and engineers have been quoted in the press saying things like “We won’t sell many Focus Electrics”. Sure you won’t:

  • Every chance they get Ford’s official voice on the FFE seems kind of split on one hand the engineers are saying that they don’t expect it to sell well and the other hand the marketers (when asked about it) try to sell it…a little.
  • Not many dealers outside the coasts have many on the lots
  • The dealers laugh at the people asking about them! (Yes this is true I know of at least one dealer in the Michigan area that has laughed in the face of people asking about the Focus Electric–fortunately my dealer wasn’t so condescending about the car)

It wouldn’t take much for Ford to push it, they could even make a “3-way” commercial advertising that you can have what you want with the Focus: A hot rod, a “normal” econobox, and the electric. Really with all the TV spots on the Focus they could devote only 1 of them about the electric and its sales would likely double overnight (yup a whopping 200 per month! LOL).

In all cases where someone has noticed that my car is electric they have stated that they didn’t even know that Ford had a BEV–and this is in Ford’s back yard!

 

Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas

Just a quick note that everyone have a Happy Holidays. Safe travels to all who venture forth.

 

Electricity consumption for November…

Just found out I can download my meter readings from my electricity provider as an Excel spreadsheet. In addition, the readings data is down to the hour. As a result I can produce pretty graphs like this: My Focus Electric’s electricity usage for the month of November:
Pretty Graph

My total electricity from 11/1 through 11/30 was 393 kWh. Since I have the car scheduled to charge up at night you can see from the above that the vast majority of that charging happened between 12am and 12pm. The largest single charge was 13 kWh and the largest hourly charge was 7.08. Now this 7.08 figure is interesting as the car only has a 6.6 kWh charger. Thus it can be deduced that the extra 0.48 kWh is overhead due to the EVSE and internal car inefficiencies.

Another pretty graph: This one is the daily electricity usage per hour average, and maximum:
Pretty Graph #2

Note the peaks at 2:00 am and at 7:00 am in the average data set. The 2:00 am peak is due to value charging (timed charging) and the 7:00 am peak is due to the car preconditioning itself for my morning commute. This data being in November the precondition is taking a lot of power to heat up the car and melt some snow. I’ll have to post some summer data–that shouldn’t have the 7:00 am spike.

The max peaks pretty much just indicate that at some point throughout the month I’ve charged at those times (the max peaks during the day would be weekend charges).

 

 

2015 Focus?

Autoguide has some pictures of the potential 2015 Focus–granted all the changes are masked..

For the purposes here: What does this mean for the FFE? If it doesn’t change much on the inside I can see the work required to pull the FFE forward into the new bodystyle being very minimal (since its already designed to fit within the current ICE Focus body). Perhaps they’ll update the FFE and add, at a minimum, support for the J1772 CCS charger (the SAE fast charger–Ford has already publicly said that they will be supporting the CCS charger).

Time will tell..perhaps Ford will unveil it at the 2014 Detroit Auto show?

Here is a small wishlist I have for the next gen FFE:

  • Much more efficient heating system
  • Better MyFordMobile.com integration (e.g. like could we have it actually work!)
  • A moderate increase in range (not too much, something like over 100 miles, perhaps even as much as 120 miles)
  • Support for the J1772 CCS fast charger

 

 

That squeak of really cold snow!

A quick post this morning and another winter weather observation:

If you saw my other post about our first big snow storm of this winter (affecting a lot more than just Southeastern Michigan) you’ll know that we got something like 8″ + of snow.

This morning, though, is a little different: The storm is gone, most of the roads are clear, it was warm enough for the salt to work. The temperatures overnight, however, were down into the single digits. At these temperatures road salt is less effective, and any resulting water on the roads turns to ice or an icy slush.

My observations here aren’t about that. You know when the weather gets really cold snow starts making that squeak as you walk around in it. Now imagine four feet stomping down holding up 3000 lbs on that squeaky snow! Yes with the Focus Electric being such a quiet car, driving around in squeaky snow results in a cacophony of that squeaky snow noise inside the car. I was a little surprised at how noticeable it was from inside the quiet car.

The things you notice when you don’t have the noisy internal combustion engine dominating the ambient sound field.

 

Not every day is a good day for EVs….

I’m pretty sure my EV blog has now become a winter weather blog! LOL

For those of us in Northern climes having a backup vehicle for your EV can be essential on some days. Like today, we woke up with about an inch of snow on the ground with another four inches expected to fall over the course of the day (strangely enough, places further south are expected to get double that snowfall). On days like these I usually revert back to my old daily driver:
The big bad F-350

Yup sitting there behind my ultra efficient Focus Electric is our big bad, Darth Vader like, black F-350 with a V-10 gas engine in it. On a good day this thing gets 11 mpg. (Yes one of the reasons for getting the FFE was to reduce the monthly fuel expenses–went from $350+ for the black beast down to $40 for the FFE!)

Now, mind you, we have a perfectly good reason for having the F-350 towing monster:
Truck n Camper

We’ve taken this guy all over the Eastern portion of the US (yeah in this configuration 8 mpg is very optimistic). I’ll be happy the day you can get an all-electric F-350 that can pull 30,000 lbs and still have 200 miles of range!

So, for today, I think the EV will sit in the garage and later I’ll go out and have fun in 4×4 mode. Happy trails….

Update: 12/15 We did end up getting around 6″ of snow. You could tell that it was snowing faster than they could plow it (at least for the residential streets). Driving around is kind of interesting: If you find a rut down to pavement you’re ok.

Took the FFE out to see how it would handle it. It handles the snow pretty well. Once you’re above 10 mph or so it only modulates power to the wheels (instead of using the brakes). This works out quite well–even better than an ICE as the motor responds to the traction control commands quicker than a gas engine would. You simply point it in the direction you want it to go and hit the accelerator–the traction control will determine the best speed to go at (even if it is only 3 mph–you just have to be prepared for that!).

 

Long trip planning, the Tesla way…or is it the EV way?

I found this article quite interesting for a few reasons (take some time to go read it…I’ll wait):

  • The current lack of Tesla Super Chargers on the east coast forces the driver to plan a bit more–like having a Focus Electric, or a Leaf (or any other <100 mile range BEV)
  • The driver comes to the conclusion at the end that is better to be more efficient than to rush (determining that driving slower and using less electricity actually saves time in the long run)
  • His reported “burn rate” for electricity is really not much higher than the FFE “burns” (300+ Wh/mile in the cold with the heater running, ~270 Wh/mile in milder conditions without heat from the article).

The ability to quick charge the Tesla does make for a much nicer experience when taking a long drive. In the above article he gets 190+ miles for 45 minutes of charge–short enough that a simple stop for dinner fills it up. I certainly hope that the next generation of EVs (FFE included) has a provision for fast charging (the J1772 Combo Plug option is already available on the Chevy Spark, and Ford has pledged to support it on future BEV and PHEV vehicles).

 

Another weather related observation

Here is an interesting thought/observation: If you keep your EV outside in the winter (as I do) you’ll often wake up to a bunch of snow piled up on the car. In my case, during weekday mornings, the car will heat itself up and melt off some of that snow–mostly the snow on the windows. Snow on the roof and hood typically will stay.

Here is the thing: If that snow is the slightest bit sticky and you don’t clear it off it will stay on the car. EVs don’t generate all the excess heat like an ICE vehicle does that would melt the snow off the hood (and most likely the roof as the heater will be run continuously throughout the commute). Since we’re driving with the heat off most of the time to extend the range as much as possible the cabin doesn’t stay warm during the commute and heat the roof.

The net affect of all this is that any snow on the car will stay there until its physically removed (scraped off, car wash, etc.). If left to accumulate that snow could have an overall negative impact on range–snow weighs a lot.
Snow on the car in the cold

 

The weather outside is frightful…?

Well, ok, unusually we in Southeastern Michigan just got a slight dusting of snow–nothing like out East received this past weekend! Did you see that Lions/Eagles game??
Lions vs Eagles

Wow! Nevertheless we got enough snow to make driving out appear to be very treacherous but the temperatures are such that (high 20s F to 31F) salt works very well at melting anything on the roads.

That combined with the fact that it is still early in the winter driving season means that people are driving in their “ooh its winter have to drive slow” mindset. This results in traffic going about 10 mph lower than the speed limit on most roads (with that one occasional driver with an SUV who is impatient and attempts to go fast around everyone).

The effect on the EV driver of everyone driving 10 mph slower..LESS energy use! This morning I only burned electrons at a paltry 250 Wh/mile rate (on a typical morning my rate is usually around 270 Wh/mile). This is almost comparable with summer numbers.

There were a few streets, side roads mostly, that haven’t been salted yet and had enough snow to make them slippery. How did the FFE drive on those roads? Pretty good actually. It would seem that the traction control attempts to reduce power to the motor and use the brakes to keep the wheels from slipping. So far I’ve found the FFE to be about equal to its ICE brother in snow handling (The FFE would seem to have a weight advantage being heavier, but the ICE version has better all-season tires).

 

Misc thoughts and ramblings

So here are a few miscellaneous random thoughts:

  • I’m kind of surprised at the extent Nissan Leaf owners go to monitor their batteries. Is this due to the lack of a TMS? I know you want to eek out every last little mile out of the battery but really: extra power monitors, etc.? Granted I’m sure there are FFE owners doing the same thing. To me that all just sounds like so much more work! LOL You can get % charge remaining on the FFE (an approximation on the dash via the green bar on the battery and an actual value on one of the MFT display screens)–this has been sufficient for myself…?
  • Speed: I had a post about 0-60 times for the various models of Focuses. That isn’t where the FFE really shines though as far as acceleration (which is probably also true for all the EVs on the market today). It really doesn’t matter how fast the motor is going you will still have almost maximum torque available instantly. This makes small short accelerations seem much faster than what you get starting from a stop. Passing cars on the freeway is just a toe dip away in the accelerator. Perhaps I’ll figure out a safe way to record some times (10-30, 30-60, etc.) and post them (most likely by mounting a video camera at the dash). Should be interesting..