Category Archives: Experience

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.

 

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.

 

La La Land

You may have noticed that I’ve been absent this past week (well perhaps not as my postings haven’t been that regular lately and missing a week has happened a few times). This past week was, for us, spring break. For several years now our son has requested that our vacations take place in cities with MLB ball parks in them (and that they take place during baseball season). This years spring break was the greater Los Angeles area to catch Dodgers (his favorite team), Angels, and Padres games (which brings us up to 13 of the 30 MLB ball parks we’ve visited).

The three games constitutes 3 days of the 9 day vacation, what to do for some of the other days? Imagine my surprise when I find out that the Formula E race was going on the very Saturday after we arrive? (Yeah this post was going to get to EVs eventually.)

If you are not familiar with Formula E: The FIA guys (the ones responsible for the Grand Prix races world wide) started this year a shorter Grand Prix style race with electric race cars. They are going to introduce it in stages: This year each car is identical: Identical batteries, identical motors, etc. Next year the races can customize the motors all using the same batteries. In the third year its all custom: custom batteries and motors. The interesting thing is that during the race they limit the power from the batteries. On the website you can vote for your favorite car/driver. The top 3 drivers get a power boost for a minute or two.  Are you curious yet? What do these things look like?

Since they are electric cars you’re probably wondering what they sound like going around the track?

Well they sound like electric cars: Very quiet with only some gear noise/whine (they simply replaced the engine with an electric motor and thus they still have a transmission with a few speeds). No ear plugs are necessary for this race! Unfortunately, though, I wasn’t able to stay for the race itself–only for the time trials and for the school race.

They invited 10 local high schools to spend a few days building these racers and then had them race on the same track as “the big boys”. Unfortunately for them all of the cars went about as fast as someone can run. Watching this race was like watching paint dry. The electric go-karts they had setup in the infield for anyone to drive went at least twice as fast as these guys!

Watching the schools race was about all we could handle (and we had other things to do) so we left prior to “the big race”.

This was an interesting experience, though, watching the Formula E cars quietly zip by..those of you who really enjoy the sound (and the feel) of car racing will be very disappointed by Formula E. If, however, the thrill of the race and speed are your thing then you’ll love it: just another form of car racing.

 

 

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).

 

Cars traded up for like phones

Now this is an interesting article:

Upgrade envy has helped Apple Inc. sell millions of pricey iPhones. Now, it’s the auto industry’s turn, thanks to a raft of new technologies that make cars safer and easier to drive. Must-have features like parking assist and wireless Web access have helped automakers recover from the 2009 bust and charge record prices for their vehicles.

I can see this happening more with EVs than with ICE vehicles especially because over the next few years battery technology should be increasing. As an example several manufacturers have already announced plans for low cost longer range EVs (Nissan, Chevy, and Tesla).

As pointed out in the article vehicle technology is increasing at a more rapid pace but it still takes a good 2-3 years to move a vehicle into production. This makes a 3 year lease a good option for people who want to stay on the cutting edge of vehicle technology.

Of course not everyone can afford to continuously have a $300+ car payment. There still are quite a few people that purchase there cars with the intention of driving them well past the last payment–EVs should be good for that as there is less maintenance and less wear & tear on the drivetrain.

Brrrr yup another winter weather post

Hey I haven’t posted a winter weather post for a few months now! LOL I’m due for one.

This morning our thermometer’s are reading -11F which is a record in these parts (official temp this morning -10F, old record was -8F from 1934). In these brutal days I pretty much use all of the battery for my 30 mile commute, arriving home with the <10 mile remaining warning indicator showing. I find my non-symmetric power consumption interesting: In the morning I precondition the car and attempt to use as little electricity is possible on my way in. For the drive home, however, I crank the heat and take the freeway maximizing power consumption. The net result is that I use about 25-30% of the battery in the morning and almost 60% of the battery in the evening.

Another thing that is noticeable about the car in such cold weather: The noise. On a balmy 70F degree day the car is virtually silent with only a slight whrrr noise from the front. In temps this cold things shrink and start rubbing differently, the plastic squeaks, the window creaks, the driver moans, etc. Makes you feel like something is going to break during the commute.

Thankfully this cold spell is happening in the 2nd half of February which means it can’t last too long…right? (Last year the cold spell started in January and thus the light at the end of the tunnel was a lot further off).

 

More colors!

With the 2015 model year Ford has added at least one new color for the FFE: Ruby Red. This is welcome news since prior model years only offered one “splashy” color along with the standard list of conservative colors (white, black, silver).

My own anecdotal observations show that this is much needed (e.g. non-scientific wild guess LOL). I see a lot of the current “splashy” color, Blue Candy (BC), around. At the moment I know of at least 6 FFE’s in Blue Candy on my side of town: In addition to mine and my coworkers I’ve seen on several occasions BC FFE’s driving around (granted all of the ones I’ve seen could all be the same one). These sightings are in addition to the several BC conventional Focuses I see a day (again these all could be the same cars, especially since I take the same route to/from work and thus are probably seeing the same drivers along their same route).

This is, of course, all unscientific and simply my observations since studies have shown, over and over again that the most popular car colors are the three conservative ones: black, white, silver. (For some data see here). At least its nice that Ford is giving the new FFE driver another choice in Red–I probably would have chose that Red had it been available at the time of my order.