Category Archives: Electrification

A couple of ARS articles relevant to EVs

One article details the dramatic price drop we’ve been seeing in the cost of Li-ion batteries. The drop has been faster than predicted and bodes well for future EVs.

The other, however, repeats much of the information from a recent study on “how much do EVs pollute”. This study is another in a line that attempts to calculate how much better (or worse) EVs are to conventional ICE cars. These studies are popping up now about once every 6 months. Some show EVs as being dramatically better, some show them as dramatically worse. Most of them have some flaws. At the moment I think the jury is still out (for some of the “EVs are worse” studies, though, there are some really obvious flaws in them). The one thing that is true, however, is that EVs will get greener as the power grid gets greener–that cannot be said for ICE cars.

 

Old review, but a good one

Inside EV’s noticed that MotorWeek has released their review of the BMW i3 today.

This reminded me that MotorWeek also reviewed the Focus Electric back in 2012:

In general they liked the Focus Electric but note that back when this review was done the FFE’s price tag was quite a bit higher than it is today ($29,170–almost $10,000 less than mentioned) and, at the time, the Leaf wasn’t available with a 6kW charger (hence the claim that the Focus charges faster). The opposite is now true today as you can get a Leaf with a CHAdeMO fast charger and the CCS is nowhere to be found on the FFE (perhaps 2016??).

All told, though, it is a pretty decent and evenhanded review of the FFE.

 

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.

 

Battery powered railcars

The city of Detroit is currently building a small street-car rail system going along Woodward ave from downtown to the new center area (3.3 miles in all–the original plan was for it to go much further). The system is called M-1 rail.
M1 Rail construction map

Wait? a rail system? in your EV blog? Yes a battery rail system.

There are sections of the track where they will be unable to put the overhead wires and in those instances the rail cars will be running on battery only.

Instead of a Woodward Avenue wrapped with electric lines, 60% of the route will be “off wire,” meaning most of it will run on battery power versus electricity.

I find this kind of ironic: The cities new rail system will be an EV and yet most of the automaker’s here would rather that EVs go away. Not to mention the fact that when the cars are running on battery they still are running off of electricity–just internal stored electricity.

Ford is sharing FFE’s?

What? Ford is starting its own car sharing program? Called GoDrive in London:

Click here to see the press release.

The pilot experiment launched with 100 registered members accessing zero‑emission Focus Electric or fuel-efficient, low-emission Fiesta 1.0-litre EcoBoost models from secure parking hubs near major public transport locations, such as Waterloo and Victoria railway stations.

How interesting. A short range electric car is perfect for an inner city car sharing program: They can recharge at the sharing sites, and users typically wouldn’t need to go too far with them–they aren’t using them for their commute (that’s what the subway is for). In addition, since they are also featuring 1.0L Fiesta’s anyone wanting a longer range than the FFE could simply take off in a Fiesta.

This is a really interesting experiment–especially from a large auto company (given that if car sharing like this takes off a lot fewer people would be buying cars).

 

 

 

DIY Recall part 2

Yesterday I got a phone call from the electrician about replacing the cable for the Bosch EVSE. It went something like this:

“Hello I’m electrician XYZ calling about that EVSE cable. We can schedule a time for me to come out and swap them out.”

“Oh yeah that cable–I’ve already did the job.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, the instructions were so clear it seemed pretty easy to do. Took me about 15 minutes.”

“It works?”

“Yup right after the swap out I let the car charge for over an hour and nothing blew up.”

“Ok, I may have some paperwork for you to sign.”

Shortly after I got an e-mail from them with the paperwork. The signatures required basically acknowledged that the work was performed to my satisfaction! LOL Sure it was since I did it.

 

DIY Recall

Yesterday my Bosch replacement cables arrived for the Power Xpress EVSE. To my surprise the kit included detailed, clear instructions on how to replace the cables so I did…

The first step was to remove the sticker covering the screws:
Power Xpress panel
The screws are the same square head screws that just about every RV in the world uses which meant that I already had the tool for the job.
Behind the Power Xpress panel
From there its loosen the terminal block screws to pull out the wires, remove the nut to disconnect the ground wire, remove the cable stay, and remove the tension nut at the very bottom.
Once the old cable is out you simply reverse the process to install the new one.
New Cable installed
Finally, plug in the car to test.
New Cable installed
I let the car charge for a good hour to ensure the connections were solid with no ill effects to the EVSE or the car (then I unplugged it and reconnected up the Juicebox LOL since that is my main EVSE).
Total time: about 20 minutes which included trips to/from the basement to retrieve various tools.
Now I await an interesting conversation with the electrician when they call: “Hello we’re calling to perform the cable swap out for your charger.” “Ok I’ve already performed the task, do you need the old cable back?” “What?” “Well the kit came with very clearly illustrated instructions and there was nothing indicating I should wait for the electrician…”

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.

 

EV’s losing their buzz?

If you know the general rule to headlines asking questions then you know the answer to the one I posted (hint: No). My headline question is from a Detroit News article of a similar title. Go read it and come back, I’ll wait (yeah ok its an often used blogging joke but it works).

Lets pick this one apart shall we: some points from the article:

Sales of new electric cars and hybrids, according to automotive research and shopping site Edmunds.com, are at their lowest level since 2011

According to Inside EVs total Plug-In sales for the first 3 months of 2015 are 23339 units, for the first 3 months of 2014 they are 22671, for 2013 they are 17963, for 2012 they are 6698 and finally for 2011 we get 1662 total units. I do see a trend here but it isn’t what the News article says it is…where did Edmunds get its numbers? (Now it is possible that plug-in sales in the first few weeks of April have taken a complete nose dive but that would have to be a huge nose-dive to see the results they are implying above.) I did search around the Edmunds website but found no news article that could have been the source for the News one. I did find this, however, interesting.

The above statement is qualified by talking about the Leaf and Volt. If we look at just the Leaf and Volt numbers we see a similar trend overall that we saw with the total yearly numbers: 5959 (2015), 8790 (2014), 7783 (2013), 5648 (2012). Note the lower number for 2015–perhaps this is the whole reason for the News article? Not stated at all in the news article is the fact that Chevrolet will be selling an all new version of the Volt later in 2015 and thus the current Volt’s sales are depressed due to people waiting for the new one (and hence there are a ton of sales going on for the old Volt to clear it off of dealer lots).

Lets continue on with deconstructing the article:

Furthermore, motorists who leased those first-generation cars, and have decided not to buy them, are turning them in. They’re on dealer lots with still relatively low mileage, and at prices considerably cheaper than the new ones.

Of course they have decided not to buy them..they leased the cars for a reason! Its well known in the EV industry that the residuals of the cars coming off lease are far more expensive than the used car market simply because EVs are becoming cheaper and cheaper. This is due to battery prices dropping (to which the article doesn’t mention). Less expensive batteries means the automakers can drop the car prices to more competitive levels which means people coming off leases are much more likely to lease another car at far less cost than it would be to purchase the lease. In addition they are getting newer technology.

Even with $7,500 federal tax credits and other incentives, automakers such as General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Nissan have dropped prices in an attempt to move their new hybrids and electrics. Cadillac became the most recent to reduce the sticker on an electric car, when it whacked $9,000 off its ELR plug-in hybrid last week.

Note how this is framed: That the manufacturers have to cut prices to make sales. As I mentioned above, though, costs to producing EVs are dropping and thus the manufacturers are reducing vehicle prices accordingly.

It’s no mystery why these cars aren’t moving at a brisker pace. Stable gas prices, fuel-efficient internal combustion engines, continued uncertainty about electrics by some motorists and the availability of relatively cheap used electrics and hybrids make new ones a hard sell. Yet automakers offer them as part of their effort to meet fleet-wide fuel efficiency standards set by the U.S. government.

Really? Lower gas prices means less EV sales? Well given the sales charts above we already know: “No” but here is more information refuting that myth. The paragraph above (and pretty much the whole article) also simply lumps in EVs with plug-ins to provide a dim view of sales as a whole (the link I just provided separates them to point out that EV sales have been unaffected by low gas prices) but even looking at the sales charts on the first link of the article shows that EV sales have risen year over year.

The rest of the article is pretty much more of the same and then concludes with a discussion the used EV market and the fear of battery replacement costs (One funny aspect is discussing what to do with a 10 year old car and perhaps replacing the battery may not make sense because the car might not make it another 10 years! If any car is going to last 20 years–or longer–it will be an EV: Much less maintenance and less vibrations. The drive train alone will still be good 20 years on; the car body may not be there but the mechanicals will be good.).

Seems to be more of the same from a Detroit area newspaper and will likely just confirm to most of the gearheads in Detroit: “Why are we making EVs again??”

A few critical articles on the report from Edmunds:

Green Car Reports, Clean Technica

 

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.