Category Archives: Charging

Public chargers don’t affect EV sales?? what?

Here is some interesting research:

When we account for the relevant factors, our analysis suggests that the relationship between public charger awareness and plug‐in electric vehicle demand is weak or non‐existent,

In short: When people are considering if they want to drive/purchase an EV the availability of public chargers doesn’t factor into their decision. In interesting result. Granted when people are considering a conventional ICE car the availability of local gas stations doesn’t factor either–but this is simply because gas stations are found everywhere. If you are considering a Diesel vehicle, however, you’ll be interested in how many local stations sell Diesel fuel (simply because not all gas stations have Diesel–at least in the U.S.).

When I was considering getting the Focus Electric local public chargers did not factor into my decision process. My main concern was: can I get to and from work on a charge and have sufficient reserve to be able to run errands and/or be able to charge sufficiently at home in order to go out later after work. Obviously the answer to both those questions was yes (I already knew before I got the car that workplace charging was not available and wouldn’t be available to me). Thus my experience fits in with the results of that research.

This makes perfect sense: Your house already has an electric “feed” going to it. You know that if you get an electric car you’ll be able to charge at home. Your main consideration will be: can I get everything I need to do with the EV charge I can get at home on a daily basis. This would lead to some “range anxiety” concerns (a really bad term coined by the media–you get “range anxiety” in a gas car too when the low fuel light turns on). If you’ve done your homework and determined that an EV is the right fit for you; you quickly realize what the EV can and cannot do with the home charge. Its only at that point where you even begin to consider public charging: When you’ve determined it all works for you and then ask “Hey! Where else can I take my EV?” that is when you start looking for public charging which is long after the initial purchase decision.

 

The next chapter in the melting saga

If you’ve been reading this blog a while you may recall one of the stories of my coworker’s car when his charge plug melted. For a refresher here is a picture of the plug:
Melted Vehicle connector

After getting the vehicle side connector replaced twice he finally had Bosch come out and replace the vehicle side wiring of his Power Xpress EVSE. Since then we’ve both been contacted about a recall of the Power Xpress unit. Since then I’ve received a phone call from Bosch stating that parts are finally available and I’ll be contacted by an electrician to swap out the cables.

The funny thing is that last week I received an e-mail with a tracking number from Bosch. Today that package was delivered:
Power Xpress harness

A shiny new wiring harness for my Power Xpress unit (Note that I have not been charging my FFE with the Power Xpress since my coworkers problems with it and about the same time I had noticed that the handle was starting to get a little warm in the morning after a charge. I’ve been making due with either the Juicebox or the Clipper Creek EVSE’s that I have).

What is more interesting about this shipment is that it comes with very clear instructions on how to swap out the wiring harness. I may just do the swap myself and when the electrician calls just tell them that I’ve already performed the task. (The procedure is pretty simple: remove a panel, disconnect the old wires, unscrew the strain relief, remove the old wire, insert the new wire, connect wires, tighten strain relief, and replace the panel.)

Taking a close look at the plug:
Power Xpress plug
Oooh all shiny: These contacts are silver coated. Silver coated contacts don’t corrode. The old plug is all copper which can oxidize and introduce some resistance. Given that 240V at ~30A goes through there even a small amount of resistance here will generate some heat.

Now I’m awaiting a phone call…LOL.

 

Ford working on CCS for the FFE?

Is for working on CCS for the FFE? A couple too many acronyms there? Ok we know FFE = Ford Focus Electric as I’ve been using that in this blog for quite some time now, but CCS? CCS = Combined Charging Standard. It is the “fast charge” capability that SAE (yeah another acronym: Society of Automotive Engineers) had developed for North America.

To date Ford has said nothing about any improvements to the FFE. Just a year ago when they announced the 2015 ICE Focus the big news for the FFE was an additional color that was it. Since then Ford has said not so much as a peep about the future of the FFE (or even any possible BEV product). When they announced the 2015 Focus there was rumors that Ford would be including a Focus Energi. That rumor made a lot of sense: They already had the powertrain developed, it is already in a Focus based product (the C-Max), therefore it would take very little engineering to get done. Alas the 2014 auto show circuit came and went with no new news on any electrified Focus (or Ford BEV model).

Fast forward to today: We are in the middle of the auto season here (with the LA Auto show kicking it off last fall and the Detroit Auto show in a week). Included in this is CES. Now CES isn’t your usual auto show, but Ford has had a keynote address there for the past few years (in fact it was back in 2011 that Ford announced the FFE at the CES). This years Ford CES keynote can be viewed here. I encourage you to take the time to watch it as it shows the very different direction Ford is taking/planning for way out in the future. Pay careful attention at the 29 minute mark, though where Mark Fields says this:

It would also be beneficial if urban shared vehicles were electric. Because not only do they lower operating costs they also can be refueled in their parking space. But shared EVs need time to charge and in Dearborn we are developing fast charging technology for our vehicles. Plus we’re looking at partnerships with retail and fast food businesses to develop fast charging infrastructure. Because we want to make EVs easer to use because when more people chose EVs everyone benefits from the lower emissions.

The context of the quote is for an urban vehicle sharing environment but the last few sentences (about businesses and what they are doing in Dearborn) hints that they are already working on this for production vehicles. The only fast charging technology that Ford has publicly bought into is the J1772 CCS standard (and the photo in the video seems to imply that is what is on the FFE shown–including a much simpler charge port door):

CCS Fast charging doesn’t really make sense for the Energi products with their 21-mile range and small batteries. It only really makes sense for the FFE or another large battery BEV. Thus one could conclude from this small morsel of information that either a CCS enabled FFE is coming down the pipeline, or that Ford is working on another BEV for the marketplace?

Will Ford slip in more pieces of info like this at the Detroit Auto show in a week? You’ll have to pay close attention (like I did pulling the above needle out of a haystack)..!

 

A PowerXPress “recall”?

Interesting, I got the following note in the mail from Bosch:
PowerXPress note
Here is the text:

Our records indicate that you are using your Power Xpress to charge an electric
vehicle(s) with a charging system that operates at 30A or higher. Recent
incidents have occurred in which customers have expressed concerns related
to the performance of the Power Xpress while charging at 30A or higher. Some
consumers have reported incidences of sticking or melting within the connection
between the charging station coupler and the vehicle inlet.
The. Power Xpress is designed to charge vehicles up to 32A. A new cable/coupler
assembly has been designed to address the customer concerns while charging
at 30A or higher. In an effort to secure your complete satisfaction, Bosch will
upgrade your Power Xpress with a new cable/coupler assembly — completely at
your convenience, and at our cost.
The division of SPX Corporation that originally designed and sold the Power
Xpress became part of the Bosch group of companies and now operates as Bosch
Automotive Services Solutions Inc. (“Bosch”). Therefore, Bosch will be addressing
your charging needs going forward, including the upcoming interaction with you
regarding your charging station.
A Bosch customer service representative will be contacting you within the next
30 days in order to arrange for this upgrade. We will coordinate with you to have
a Bosch certified electrical contractor visit your installation at a time of your
choosing to complete the exchange of the coupler and cable. Because the Power
Xpress was designed for field replacement of the cable/coupler assembly, this
repair will take less than one hour and will not disturb your installation or its
environment in any way. A licensed electrician will detach the existing cable/
coupler from the unit and simply install the new one.
Should you no longer own your Power Xpress, we ask that you forward this
message along to the new owner if possible, or provide the new owner’s contact
information if available.

If you have any questions in advance of our contacting you,
please call Bosch at +1 888 823-9877.
Bosch Automotive Service Solutions

This is interesting! You may remember that my coworker suffered from this very problem. A technician eventually did replace the cable in his unit at no cost. The issue must have happened to more than a few EV owners for Bosch to issue this recall.

 

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…

Another novel use for the FFE

Found another novel use for the FFE:
Another novel use

What am I doing here? It would appear that I’m charging the FFE off of a covered RV. The novel use here is to provide a load for the generator in the RV. While in extended storage (say over winter) the engines have to be run about once a month or so. For the generator the Onan people told me that when you do run it you have to provide a load. I don’t think I could provide a better load to the generator than having the FFE charge with its Level 1 EVSE (which will draw about 12 amps).

Other options for drawing a load would be the A/C (which shouldn’t be run in cold weather), or a ceramic heater (which would have the benefit of heating the interior of the RV). In both of those cases, though, the electricity produced will simply vanish into the air. With the FFE the electricity goes to good use charging the battery (granted only using Level 1 for about 20 minutes I’ll be lucky enough to get a mile…maybe).

 

 

 

Disco pants and haircuts….Yeah

In an earlier post I mused on how effective it is to have public chargers at motels and hotels. Other optimal locations for public charging are locations where people tend to stay for a few hours. These locations include:

We happen to take advantage of one of these types of locations this past weekend which worked out quite well: A Mall.
At the mall

This mall in particular lies slightly beyond the 1/2 “tank” range from our house and thus a short charge is required to complete the round trip. These chargers were recently added about 6 months ago (four Level 2 chargers to be specific). We took a little over an hour browsing and shopping in which time the car gained about 20% in battery charge (don’t know how many kWh that was because these were simple chargers–no card access required, no 800# to call, just plug in and they charge with just some status LEDs indicating charging, fault, ready, etc.). At the time all four parking spots were available which can be unusual for some areas of the country.

This is great as more and more companies realize the benefits of having a charger (shows a progressive business, encourages those who own EVs to shop there, etc.) we’ll see more of this–especially if EV sales continue to grow.

 

Ford to build Michigan’s largest solar array

More news from Inside EV’s: Ford to build Michigan’s largest solar array.

Interesting, to me, of note is this quote:

The project, funded by DTE Energy, will provide employees with 360 covered parking spaces and 30 charging stations for plug-in electric vehicles such as the company’s Ford Fusion Energi and C-MAX Hybrid Energi. A kiosk will also be on site offering general information to visitors about solar power and specific details about the Ford carport.

No mention of the FFE? (It is mentioned later on in the press release when they talk about the solar array at Michigan Assembly where the Focus and C-Max are built.) Was this an oversight, simple error, or does it indicate that the FFE may not have a future? Am I reading too much into this one statement–most likely! LOL

 

Testing EVSE’s

From Inside EV’s: Testing interoperability of 11 different EVSEs.

This is something to keep an eye on, how well will the EVSE(s) you use stack up against all the others?

When I watched the video I noticed the exact same connectors on the power side of the EVSE’s that I’ve been using in my garage–given that they are in Plymouth, Michigan it wouldn’t surprise me if they purchased them at the same Home Depot that I did! LOL

Here is a link to more details about the study.