Monthly Archives: March 2015

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What’s so special about a grill?

When Ford redesigned the Focus in 2012 to the current platform it had a rather unique face to it:

The car itself drew rave reviews not only with the styling but with its handling as well. Shortly thereafter Ford released the Focus Electric:

Interestingly this is the first Ford with the Astin Martin inspired front grill. Since that time Ford has also introduced the Fusion with the same design language in front:

and the new C-Max in Europe:

Beginning to see a pattern here?

Why am I mentioning this? Up until this model year the Focus Electric’s only unique styling on the Focus line was really the front end and some miscellaneous badging that said “Electric”. Indeed many reviewers pointed out that the Focus Electric is a “stealth” EV in that it is really difficult to discern the Focus Electric from the conventional Focus. This year Ford has made it even more difficult to pick out a Focus Electric from a crowd of Focuses:

For those people who are looking to drive green without screaming to the world that they are driving green this is even better news. Now your average Focus could be an ICE or an EV–you’ll never notice given a passing glance. (Personally I like the new look: it makes the ICE Focus look more “grown up” from the previous incarnation.) The only real issue is that people will be even more surprised than ever to discover that Ford sells an EV–although I can’t imagine people being more surprised given that the vast majority of people don’t know that the FFE exists at all but that is a different rant for a different day LOL.

 

 

EVs and the “heat island” effect?

This report is making its rounds on the internet lately. It basically says that since EVs don’t run as hot as ICE vehicles they don’t contribute to the urban heat island effect (which is that cities tend to be a few degrees warmer than the surrounding countryside).

The interesting thing is that, if you read the report, you can see very detailed figures, references, etc. basically they did their homework. Note that there is no evidence though, the report just does a lot of math to come to the conclusion that EVs would reduce the heat island effect. Thus its basically a hypothesis waiting to be tested. Given that I’ve seen more than a few comments on the articles relating to the report where people state “I just can’t believe that cars driving around can contribute that much heat to raise an entire cities temperature” (this actually sounds very familiar to another argument about greater atmospheric conditions). The reasoning goes: “My car does so little how can it possibly do that much damage?” What if you were to add up all the cars? Your car, your neighbor’s car, that one from the goofy guy down the street? The barber’s car? The butcher’s car? All of them… Then you end up with a very large number (like the 9.85 × 1014 J daily value in the report–or 11 gigawatts). Now it makes more sense! That is a lot of heat.

I’ve often wondered about that from a different perspective. Think of your morning routine: You get up, wash, shave, etc. How about all that hot water going down the drain? What about everyone’s hot water? Is the sewage system running a lot warmer due to everyone’s daily routines? (just asking)

On top of the heat generated by vehicles, now that it is hotter people will run their air conditioning more. This will also add heat. Thus if you can reduce the outside temp a bit you’ll also reduce A/C use.

How would someone go about testing this in a controlled fashion? What kind of scale would be required to verify the effect? e.g. would a small scale test work: put a small ICE inside a large room and let it run for a while and compare that to an electric motor running for the same length of time? Which room is warmer? Would you want to do the test at an even larger scale? Setup a “fake city” and run that city for a few weeks with ICE vehicles monitoring the temperatures and then follow that up with a few weeks of EV? (In that case it would be really hard to match the weather conditions.)

Interesting stuff, and also reasons why this stuff is so difficult: Its very hard to make controls with identical conditions in order to come to hard conclusions.

 

What is Ford up to?

This blog post is just a bunch of speculation thus you can take it with a very large grain of salt but here goes:

What exactly is going on at Ford about EVs these days? We don’t know: Ford has said nothing about any of its future EV plans even when competitors make huge announcements…crickets…

Even more maddening is that recently there was a rumor floating around about Ford also working on a 200 mile EV (started by a speculative article on one website) and Ford’s only comment about it was:

“We do not comment on speculation but can confirm these reports are not accurate”- Ford spokesperson

Which is nuts: “Not accurate” could mean anything from: “We aren’t working on any future EV projects at this time” to “well 200 miles isn’t correct but everything else is”. Add to that Ford’s focus lately on performance leads one to believe the “Not working on any EV at this point of time” meaning of “not accurate”.

Included in that frame of mind was a comment to one other Inside EVs article by a member of that site who lives in the greater Detroit area to the affect of: “Nobody in the Detroit area thinks EVs should be any part of the automotive market” (living in Southeast Michigan myself I can concur that this is the general opinion of the people/engineers that I talk with).

Think about all these negative EV thoughts then look at this:

That is the plugshare map of Dearborn. All those grey charge spots? Yes Ford employee charge locations. Does this imply Ford is up to something in the EV world or just providing spots for all of their employee’s for the cars they already have? (I presume these were all added as part of an announced partnership.) Who can say (except Ford and they aren’t as of yet.)

For myself all this speculation is part of my “What is next after the FFE lease is up?” question which I still have over a year to answer but given automotive production cycles such as they are; the cars available to me at that time will pretty much be the cars available right now….

 

Can’t catch a break

On any given day at my work you can find two FFE’s. It is rather unusual that we park next to each other like above, though. On that day my coworker’s FFE had just returned from its latest hardship–his FFE has led a much tougher life than mine:

Ironically, in the picture above his is on the left: the cleaner one as it had just returned from being repaired from the accident.

The story gets even more sordid: On the day he picked it up from the dealer after getting the body work repaired he discovered that the 12V battery was dead (for the 2nd time). When he managed to get the car back to the dealership they were out of power: Their transformer had blew. It took a couple of days before the dealer was back up and running before he could get his car back. (On that 12V battery: When we measure the charging voltages between our two FFEs; mine is consistently between 1/2 volt to 1 volt higher.)

Nonetheless he still is pretty happy with his FFE and continues to drive it (when it isn’t being repaired). The funny thing is: When we were both putting our orders in for the car I had warned him about some possible issues (like the Stop Safely Now issue, etc.) and his reply was: “I’m fully aware of what I’m getting into.”!

* During the record rains we got in August of 2014 his area was one of the hardest hit. He said there were several instances when he was driving around where the water level was just below his rear view mirrors. Yet his car never leaked inside and it continued to function normally.

The bad part of preconditioning

Preconditioning: Where you can setup the car to be ready to go at a specific time every day (like during the week and you want the car nice and toasty warm for your commute in to work)–what can be bad about that? The car is warm. The battery is conditioned (heated or cooled for best performance). What could possibly be a negative?

Well its spring; when the mild weather returns, the snow melts, and some of the critters return. In our area one of the harbingers of spring is skunks. Typically we’ll see three or four on the road dead. Each dead one on the road produces that lovely skunky odor for a good mile in radius. What is worse is when the neighbors let their dog out in the morning who gets immediately sprayed and then your car starts to precondition. Yup…that is the bad part: My car was even closed up in a garage but still found a way to grab some of that lovely skunk musk.

Fortunately the car itself didn’t get sprayed and a few minutes with the windows open took care of any lingering essence. Even so this is a minor drawback to the car automatically preconditioning itself (granted any neighbors with their ICE cars outside remote starting them would also subject their cars to the same treatment). Our neighbors got it much worse and were still doing damage control as I left for work–they are a bit experienced at this as their dog has been sprayed a few times now.

 

20,000 leagues under the….er miles under the wheels

This afternoon my FFE will roll over the 20,000 mile mark. This milestone also means I’m approaching the 2/3 point of my lease. My thoughts are more frequently considering what will be the next car (I’ve mentioned before on the blog that the next car will more than likely be a plugin). Given the timing of things I doubt my Ford choices for another plugin will be much different than what they are now (FFE, or one of the two Energi products).

Just today there is a new rumor about Ford producing a 200+ mile car. Even if this rumor is remotely true, it is very unlikely that the 200+ mile EV will be in production before my lease is up. Even the rumored timing of the Chevy Bolt places its sale well after my lease end date. The only new plugins to be available for me in the time frame are cars like the VW Golf or the new Volt. Both of which I may consider if only briefly.

All of these considerations are still more than a year off though. Today I’ll just silently observe the changeover from 19,999 to 20,000 (if I happen to be looking at the odometer) in a bittersweet moment as the novelty hasn’t really worn off about driving a BEV around..

Which reminds me…have to take it in for that $10 20,000 mile service (rotate the tires).