Monthly Archives: November 2014

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Extending the range of your EV

The BMW i3 has a cool REX option where they include a small motorcycle engine to extend the range by a hundred miles or so. There is another way to extend the range of your i3, if you have the cash:
Charge Plot

(Click on the image to see more of the RV)
This form of range extension was featured on the Travel Channel’s “Extreme RV” show.

That’s right: simply build in a garage into your RV. They even wired an outlet into the compartment so that the car can charge while the RV drives down the road (no mention on the website or during the show if the EVSE is a Level 1 or Level 2). The neat thing here is that the ramps extend: You don’t drive the car up into the RV; you just drive it up onto the ramps and then retract the ramps.

The cost of this is completely on another level. There are people who could afford a Tesla Model S at $100k+ but could not afford this combination ($250k+ for just the camper alone, then you still have to pick up the i3). Not to mention that you’ll be burning a lot of Diesel going from city to city.

Comparing the dimensions of the i3 vs the FFE we find that the Focus might be a better fit in there: The i3 is about 5″ taller and 15″ shorter than the FFE. Thus the “garage” could be a little shorter (and longer) to fit the FFE. Here the important thing is shorter–this makes more standing room in the bedroom above the garage. The steep rake on the FFE’s front windshield may also help out since the car is stored on an angle which may allow for an even shorter garage.

How does the FFE Charge?

This question could be answered in many ways depending on how you interpret the question: There is a technical answer (it uses a 6.6kW charger inside the car), simply (you just plug it in and it charges), how much current is used, how fast does it get to 100%.

In this case I was interested in the last answer above: Does the FFE’s % battery full “meter”/value increase linearly when charging? Li-Ion batteries themselves don’t charge up linearly. As the battery gets closer to full the internal resistance of the battery increases making it harder to force more electrons in and thus the charging rate of the battery slows down the closer to full it gets. If you were to plot this you’d get a curve where charging is quite fast at the beginning then as you approach 100% it flattens out slowly approaching 100%.

Having done a little reverse engineering on the API that the mobile app and the website use I was able to make a program that logs the % battery value and the range over time. Now if I were to log these values during a charge cycle I could produce a graph to see the charge curve. The graph could be a line as the internal software in the FFE could normalize the % value to a line while charging (to simplify it for users). Frankly I don’t think they would go through that much effort–there would be no benefit to anyone (other than geeky people like me who write blog posts about graphing the car charging! LOL). So I give you my FFE’s charging plot from about 35% to full on a freezing Friday evening:
Charge Plot
The blue line is the % battery value and the orange line is the estimated range value (only topping out at 70 miles here due to the cold days we’ve been having and the fact that I’ve been using the heater).
What surprises me the most about this plot is how flat it is. I was expecting it to be much steeper with a pronounced knee near the end as it flattened out. Note that there are a few gaps in the data as the API timed out or otherwise gave an error. There is also an unexpected turn faster around 10:00pm where it charges slightly faster. I wonder if this is where the temperature management system kicked in to cool the battery a bit allowing for a slightly faster charge..

I have another idea for this logging: What if I were to let it log while I was driving the car around? That plot may also prove interesting as the % battery value would decrease in a predictable manner but the estimated range (the guess-O-meter) value would be all over the place depending on if the heat was on or off, if I was on the freeway, etc. Some more experimentation is in order here…

My “My Ford Mobile”

It turns out that simply using the developer tools in Chrome you can reverse engineer the REST interface to My Ford Mobile….and make your own app!
My My Ford Mobile
What you see here is just dumping out some fields that are returned by a “get battery condition” call. It isn’t as pretty as the official MFM app (and mine won’t be: I’m a programmer not a designer). Not sure how far I’ll take it, but its fun to hack around with.

 

The beginning of EV Winter

Today marked the beginning of EV winter, or FFE winter if you will. Yeah another cold weather post–I know move south already LOL.

The momentous occasion to mark this event is that today was the first day, for me, when the car complained that its cold outside and should be plugged in. This morning our outside temps are about 24F–about two weeks ahead of “normal” for us.

Even though I’ve been through this once already I’m still experimenting. This week I bumped the precondition temps back up to 85F so the car would be nice and toasty again. The experimentation this time: Many people on the forums have mentioned that to prevent the windows from fogging up simply crack a window. Hmm if this works effectively and I still stay warm it could be the best way to drive in with the lowest power consumption in the dead of winter. This morning I had the drivers window cracked about 1/2″ and HVAC off for my 15 mile commute in. The window never fogged up and the temperature remained quite reasonable. I’ll have to try 1/4″ next week….

 

 

What is Ford’s next EV move?

If you are expecting some insider information here you’ll be sorely disappointed! LOL

That’s the rub though: We’ve heard rumors and speculation about what Ford will do in the past but nothing concrete. There have been rumors of an EV MKS, “insider info” about a Focus Energi, many have postulated that an EV MKZ would be perfect from Ford. What have we heard from Ford itself? Crickets..

Even though Ford’s people have said stuff like “We could make a Model S” and “We could make an electric Mustang” the implied statement following both of those would be “but we won’t” (otherwise why say something like that..you’d just do it).

Another point is the fact that Ford did announce the Focus Electric waaay back in 2011 at the Consumer Electronics Show. It wasn’t released to purchase until December 2012–that is almost two years. Granted this was a brand new powertrain for Ford to tackle. For contrast: Ford announced the all aluminum new 2015 F-150 back in January 2014 at the Detroit auto show and it is already “on sale” (you can order one now but can’t take delivery until early 2015). This is only a years timeframe.

This means that a new EV from Ford will be 1 or 2 years out from any announcements they make..and they haven’t said a peep. So all you get now is empty speculation.. and the fear that Ford won’t say anything about EVs for the foreseeable future…

Of course I could be a bit impatient here as well since we are heading into “auto show season” (LA Auto show is next week and it would make sense for Ford to announce any EV news there… we’ll see.)