Monthly Archives: August 2014

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Now this is an interesting revelation..

Compact Ford Plug-in Hybrid Coming on new C2 Platform in 2018

This news all but confirms the plans for a “Focus Energi” coming in the near future (as Inside EVs also points out). The speculation there is that it will also include the Escape as a Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid which would make a lot of sense for Ford to do since it was so successful with the old Escape Hybrid.

What will all this mean for the Focus Electric? Time will tell. Many worry that Ford will kill it at some point–I don’t have this pessimistic opinion simply because Ford needs the FFE to be in compliance with CARB laws (even if it has a stable of plug-in hybrids). My hope would be Ford would take the lessons learned with the FFE and apply them to larger cars–I’ve seen wild speculation that Ford would produce a 200 mile+ range BEV Lincoln MKS–now that would be some car! (I doubt that will happen though: Ford is far too conservative to attempt something that ambitious.)

Think about it though: Since Ford has recently been giving people many different powertrain options (look at the Fusion: you can get a standard engine, turbo, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid) they should also add EV to that mix (not necessarily for all models). Since many are on the same platform they could conceivably do this with the Focus, Escape, C-Max (although the article above seems to think the C-Max will be going away), and possibly the Fusion:

  • Standard gas engine
  • Ecoboost gas engine for more mpg
  • Hybrid for even more mpg
  • Plug-in hybrid for even more mpg
  • EV for no mpg

Even better yet: They should advertise that they have these things (when is the last–or even first–time you saw a Focus Electric commercial?).

 

Round up of interesting news

Haven’t had a lot to post recently: Its summer, and the car has been performing satisfactorily so here are a few interesting news items:

A sexy electric Shelby Cobra? Almost.

Jay Leno drives Harley Davidson’s electric “Live Wire” project bike.

Free Juiceboxes for people living in California.

It won’t be long now before I start posting the “Its cold outside” posts again…!

 

 

Noah has nothing on us…

Now here is something that you don’t think about: Yesterday the Detroit area got hit with some freakishly huge rain amounts–enough that many area freeways had to close.
Flooded Detroit freeway

(Image from the above linked article)

On my commute home I drove through some areas that were easily 1 foot deep. Take a second to think about this: An ICE car requires air to burn the gasoline (or Diesel). This is the reason so many cars stall out in floods: The engine ingests water which causes significant damage and stalls out the car. On the other hand, an EV doesn’t burn anything at all–its just some wires connected between the battery and the motor (simplifying a bit). All of that is sealed so that the car can also drive down wet roads, get washed, etc. As a consequence of this an EV is less likely to get stalled out on a flooded road.

My drive through 12″ of water yesterday pales a bit from my coworker’s experience from yesterday. His part of the area flooded to a much greater extent. When he was trying to avoid a flooded intersection by driving through a parking lot he found out that it was worse: at least 18″ deep, he could see the water level just below his window edge and below his rear view mirror. As he continued to navigate the parking lot the traction control warning light started flashing as his car was beginning to float a little. All this time the interior remained dry with no water incursion. Passing by a stalled out SUV he continued on his way and exited the parking lot no worse for the wear except for a new waterline mark to be washed off on a  sunnier day.

You may be thinking here, though, that since an EV uses electricity there is a big chance to get shocked, or worse from this.  The thing is you have to be able to drive the EV anywhere that you can drive an ICE car through. This means that the car needs to be sealed up against weather (rain, snow, sleet, puddles, etc.). Since the FFE is the first production EV Ford has produced it is probably over engineered and thus more sealed up than it needs to be.

Now I’m not advocating everyone with an EV to run out and find the deepest creek to forage. Its still a car and it still can get washed away with as little as 6″ of water. The thing here is, though, an EV may not suffer nearly as much damage as an ICE car if it gets stuck in some abnormal flooding.

How efficient is charging?

These days everyone is concerned with how much resources do they use. Tracking things down to the penny/gallon/kWh/etc. When you have an ICE vehicle there are no losses from fueling the tank: The amount of gas that went into your tank is exactly equal to the amount of gas that was extracted from the tank in the ground and is equal to the amount of gas that was in the tanker truck, etc. (within reason). When you plug in your EV its not the same: When you charge what happens? The battery and the electronics heat up. That heat is wasted energy. Not all of the electrons going through the charge cable end up in the battery. But how many? Is there a way to measure this?

Many modern charge stations will report out the kWh value they put into the car (Chargepoint, for one), in addition some home stations (like the Juicebox) also report out the kWh value. This gives us one figure, but to figure out the charge efficiency we also need another number: The kWh the car used from the battery. This value is the amount of kWh the car consumed that the charger replaced. Divide these two values into each other and you’ll get a measure of how efficient the charge process is in the FFE.

For example: This morning my commute in to work consumed 3.5 kWh according to Ford’s online application (one of the few values in the trip history that have been accurately reported here). Once at work I used a local Chargepoint station to top it off. Chargepoint reported that the car consumed 4.14 kWh during charging. This would work out to a 85% efficiency while charging (at least for the top 20% of the battery or so which is what these values amount to).

I’ll have to do the math again with a deeper charge and using the Juiceboxes values for a different comparison (I’m not expecting it to be much different but more datapoints is always better).

Update: The commute home consumed 3.3 kWh according to the trip meter and the Juicebox put in 4.2 kWh to charge it back up (about 79% efficient).

Also note that the amount of energy going in also is used to run the TMS (temperature management system) and thus when its running will lower the efficiency.

Update 2: After a deeper discharge (9.6) charging took 11.7 for an efficiency of 82%

Update 3: A normal commute usage (11.1) and overnight charge (13.0) yields: 85%.

Update 4: Another normal (10.3/12.4): 83%

Update 5: 10.5/12.8: 82%

 

Traffic Jams and the ICE Mindset

Now and then when talking to people about my FFE/EV I hear a common question, one that people think will “sink” the EV: “What if you get caught in a traffic jam?”

Its interesting to ponder the one question. It is rooted in the fact that if you are driving a conventional car and get caught in stop and go traffic your engine continues to run burning gas. If you don’t have much fuel to begin with (e.g. not much range in the EV) then you may have a problem as you burn through your fuel sitting there.

This certainly is the case during the winter months, especially in the FFE due to the cabin heater. If you are not moving you’ll need some heat. In the FFE the cabin heater is the most power hungry accessory in the car. Thus stuck in traffic burning through electrons to simply heat the cabin you may very well have an issue. On a very hot day the problem is similar with the A/C consuming some electricity (but not nearly as much as the heater).

On a much milder day, however, when you can just sit in traffic with the windows open (if you don’t mind the noise & smell from the other cars) you will use very little electricity at all. In fact as you go slower the “guess-o-meter” will actually increase your available range because you’re using less electricity. Its fun sitting in traffic watching the status indicator creep up and up–at times I’ve had the available range after a traffic jam be more than the range at the start of the trip!

So the next time you hear: “What if you get caught in a traffic jam?” respond with something like: “EV’s love traffic jams”!

 

More on that melting..

Back in May I had mentioned that my coworker noticed the handle of the Bosch EVSE he was using was getting warmer and warmer (see post here).

After he had his EVSE and the charge connector in the car replaced all was well..or so he had thought.
Melted Vehicle connector

Above is his first vehicle connector before being replaced.

Changing out the EVSE eventually fixed the problem but not before the 2nd vehicle connector also suffered some damage. Unfortunately his dealer did not feel the need to replace the 2nd damaged unit.

Fast forward to last week: He gets in his car to go to work and is greeted by a strange prompt in the car: “Am I still plugged in?” Not thinking much about it he dismissed the prompt and proceeded with his commute. At work everything went nuts: The dash board started flashing many errors and warnings, including the dreaded “Stop Safely Now” message and the car quit. He called Ford’s Roadside Assistance for a tow–which was very efficiently handled, he got text messages to his phone indicating which tow company was coming and when..if only other Ford operations worked so well. The tow truck driver even asked to see the owners manual to clarify how to tow the car.

Once the car was at the dealer he prepared for the worst (since most of his experiences with the dealer have been less than satisfactory). They replaced the charge plug and harness, the LED ring and the 12V battery in the car (With the damage to the old plug the car was left in a state where it thought it was plugged in and thought it wasn’t plugged in thus keeping the 12V electronics in the car alive enough to drain & damage the 12V battery which is why the car freaked out). The dealer even kept the car overnight after all the fixes were done “for observation” to ensure that all was well and working before returning it.

Happily after a weekend of putting 50+ miles on the car it seems to be back to its quirky self again, and plugging a charger in is no longer a delicate operation…

Here is hoping this is the last story I hear from him about car malfunctions! (He is now investigating a completely new EVSE.)

 

 

The FFE turns up in the darnedest of places

Typically when you have a hobby you dive all in (much like this blog, although I’m not sure I’d call EV ownership/advocacy a hobby–more like a passion). You do research on your hobby, find like minded individuals to discuss your hobby, even subscribe to a magazine or two that is specific to your hobby.

In a few prior posts I’ve mentioned my desire to take the FFE with us camping with our motorhome. With the purchase of the motorhome we got a free subscription to, what else, Motorhome magazine. Imagine my surprise to see this cover when I received the September issue:
Whats that on the left
What is that on the left? Why its an image of an FFE! This makes me wonder: Did the producer of this page just grab a random car and it just happened to be an FFE? Or, more interestingly, is the designer an EV advocate and really likes the FFE? I doubt I’ll ever know for sure. The price shown is about right if you include all the tax breaks you get on the car.
A note about the FFE as a toad (a “toad” is a car towed behind a motorhome): I’ve mentioned before that the FFE would be a perfect toad: You could charge it up at the campground very easily with readily available 240V 50A service at many campsites. The range wouldn’t be a factor because typically you don’t stray to far away from the campground (even when sightseeing) and if you do you tend to take the leisurely route. The downside to this is the fact that the current FFE can’t be towed with any wheels on the ground so you’d need a bulky, cumbersome, and expensive car trailer.