Category Archives: Experience

Here we go again…

Here it is late-October and the chill of fall is on us. Thus begins another six months or so of winter driving posts. I’ll try to keep it to a minimum (especially if this winter is much milder than last year..sheesh!).

Here in southeastern Michigan we’re getting frost almost every morning with milder afternoons–pretty typical for this time of year. This means that the morning drive is starting to become the power drive: Even after a precondition you still have to use some heat to stay comfortable. Long gone are the days of summer when I would wake up to the guess-o-meter saying the car had 100 miles of range.

Now that I’ve had the car for over a year I pretty much know what to expect from it in just about any condition (kind of also why I’ve been posting less here because there have been fewer “exceptions” to talk about). I feel a bit more comfortable with the guess-o-meter and the blue-cup on the dash and thus feel like I have a bit more freedom to do things like use the heat on the way in fully knowing that I’ll still be able to make it home without having to charge somewhere.

Just like owning any other car: once you’ve had it for a while you know what to expect out of it. With the FFE (or any EV), though, even if I barely make it home I can let it charge up over dinner and have it ready for most errands the night may bring.

 

MyFordMobile freaking out..!?

Now this is something I haven’t seen from My Ford Mobile(MFM):

Last night while out I went to check on my car via the mobile app. The app showed a popup that said: “Your vehicle has been removed due to Master reset recovery”!? Hmm the last time I did a master reset (last week) went well: I reset the MFT display and re-entered everything into MFM all seemed to be working fine.

After I returned home I re-added the car to MFM. This morning I awoke to an e-mail stating the same thing: car removed due to Master reset recovery. That’s odd. For the 3rd time I re-entered the car and immediately received the e-mail: car removed… what? Later in the day I figured: what the heck I’ll do another master reset and see if that clears the condition…Nope! After the master reset enter in the data and boom immediate e-mail: car removed…

This is getting a bit frustrating!

Lets see what else can I try? Ahha! I’ll create a new MFM account and try to register the car to that (don’t really care much about the “history” in the old account since MFM didn’t record any meaningful values for the car to begin with!). So far (knock on wood) that has stuck and the car *and* MFM are both waiting the 24 hours for the 2nd confirmation..crossing fingers..

Isn’t technology fun!

Update: After the 24 hour period the car did indeed ask the 2nd confirmation and my MFM access is now restored to its previously partially working status (partially because some data from the car never gets to the website like the Wh/mile value in the trip and charge log).

 

 

Whats next, part II?

In my first Whats Next post I described some things that would be nice to have with the next generation of the Focus Electric.

Now I’m approaching my 1/2 point of my lease and have started considering what I may get following the FFE. I still really love the FFE as much as I did when I picked it up, and it still is my most favorite car that I’ve driven. Thus my personal preference would be to either pick up another FFE or just purchase the one I already have. That decision is highly dependent upon what Ford will be doing with the FFE over the next 18 months. I have a feeling that my timing will not be right: My lease will be up in May 2016. I don’t think any new next generation FFE will be available before fall of 2016… On the other hand, that may mean the deals for the 2016 FFEs at the time will be really good? or not?

Other possibilities include (in decreasing order of preference):

  • C-Max Energi
  • Fusion Energi
  • Tesla Model 3 (If available)
  • Another manufacturer’s EV

I kind of have two conflicting “requirements” here: I’d like to stay with Ford if possible, and I’d like to stay with a BEV if possible. If Ford drops the FFE completely that kills one or the other requirement. Nonetheless the next car will have a plug on it.

Of course I also have other considerations: Family. My son will be getting his license over the course of my next car’s ownership (can’t think of an easier car to drive/learn on than an EV. In addition a limited range EV may be perfect for a teen driver.)

So decisions, decisions…fortunately I still have 1.5 years to let all this roll around in my brain. We’ll see what falls out….

 

Hmm this is new

Well now this is something new that the car has decided to do.

The MyFord Touch system has had a very rocky history. Many people can’t stand it (with good reason), some people like it (I’m one of them). Regardless of where you stand it can get maddening from time to time when it doesn’t exactly work.

Recently the MFT in my FFE has started acting up. For some reason it just decides that I shouldn’t be listening to the radio so it shuts it off on me. It behaves exactly like I hit the power button: The display switches to the power off screen showing the button and the audio cuts out. I can hit the power button to turn it back on again but sure enough within a couple of minutes it shuts off again. So far in the 4 vehicles we have had with MFT we’ve never seen this kind of behavior.

To try to rectify the situation I’ve attempted:

  • Pulling fuse 67 (the sync module/MFT fuse) to reset it
  • Performed the master reset
  • Tried out every audio source to make sure it isn’t isolated to one

So far nothing has worked (switching to FM seemed to work but sure enough after about 10 minutes–long enough to make me think that it might work–it shut off). Sigh..I may now have my first issue with the car that I have to take it in for service… oh joy.

This doesn’t appear to be a mechanical thing like a loose wire: It has happened at stoplights when the car wasn’t moving, and it only turns off the radio (if there was a loose wire in the power button I’d expect it to also power the radio on when it is off).

Update: Radio heal thyself. From what I’ve heard the issue was with a local radio station’s HD equipment and affected quite a few vehicles. They have apparently fixed their broadcast equipment. So no trips to the dealer for me.

 

One of those days…

Yesterday I had one of those days. It was the kind of day that ICE drivers use as an excuse for why they don’t want to drive an EV. A busy Saturday starting out running some short errands which turn into longer errands, then out to dinner, and finally the local department of transportation decided that now would be a good time to close off that entrance ramp to the freeway that you were going to take thus adding another 10 miles to your drive…and so on.

At the end of the day the trip meter showed a total of 65 miles driven with 20 miles of range left (I managed to get a quick 1/2 hour charge at home between trips). Had I known the day would have turned out that way from the beginning I would have had the car charge all the time at home (taken off value charge for you FFE owners). Here is the thing, though: the car made it all day, it never left us stuck at the side of the road with no juice. They don’t just suddenly run out of power, there is a gauge telling you how much you have to go. If at any one time I had thought that the trip was longer than what the car could do we would have taken the other car (or waited on the charge). Its as simple as that..

 

September is on us

Now that September has started it won’t be long before my posts veer towards weather and the accompanying range loss that comes with colder temps. Hopefully this winter won’t be nearly as bad as the last one! The last one certainly proved to be a test for the FFE (which came through with flying colors).

This post will probably wander around a bit as I don’t really have much to say on any particular topic. Things have been a bit quiet for two reasons:

  • I’ve been on vacation (which typically means the FFE stays in the garage)
  • There hasn’t been any “exceptions” to talk about with respect to the FFE: It continues to purr right along

In a few months I’ll be 1/2 way through the lease with about 15,000 miles on the car. I’ve already started pondering what the next car will be. It will most likely have a plug since I already have the infrastructure at the house for it. Unfortunately I think my timing may be a bit off as the lease will end in May and any newly redesigned FFE won’t likely come out until Fall of the same year. I’m reasonably sure the next one will be another FFE if possible (or an Energi vehicle).

In the FFE forum’s there has been considerable thought put against the net usable capacity of the 23 kWh battery in the FFE with most calculations settling in on the range of 18.5 kWh to 19.5 kWh. Using the trip meter and the % remaining my calculation comes in around the 19 kWh range (divide the % used into the kWh used shown on the trip meter, for instance: 13.6/69% = 19.71 kWh..a bit on the high side).

Lately I’ve also given some thought to getting an electric motorcycle or scooter. This probably won’t get much past the thought stage as I don’t have any experience with a motorcycle (although with no shifting I’m sure an electric one would be quite simple to drive). The Zero S does look like a sweet ride though.

 

Noah has nothing on us…

Now here is something that you don’t think about: Yesterday the Detroit area got hit with some freakishly huge rain amounts–enough that many area freeways had to close.
Flooded Detroit freeway

(Image from the above linked article)

On my commute home I drove through some areas that were easily 1 foot deep. Take a second to think about this: An ICE car requires air to burn the gasoline (or Diesel). This is the reason so many cars stall out in floods: The engine ingests water which causes significant damage and stalls out the car. On the other hand, an EV doesn’t burn anything at all–its just some wires connected between the battery and the motor (simplifying a bit). All of that is sealed so that the car can also drive down wet roads, get washed, etc. As a consequence of this an EV is less likely to get stalled out on a flooded road.

My drive through 12″ of water yesterday pales a bit from my coworker’s experience from yesterday. His part of the area flooded to a much greater extent. When he was trying to avoid a flooded intersection by driving through a parking lot he found out that it was worse: at least 18″ deep, he could see the water level just below his window edge and below his rear view mirror. As he continued to navigate the parking lot the traction control warning light started flashing as his car was beginning to float a little. All this time the interior remained dry with no water incursion. Passing by a stalled out SUV he continued on his way and exited the parking lot no worse for the wear except for a new waterline mark to be washed off on a ┬ásunnier day.

You may be thinking here, though, that since an EV uses electricity there is a big chance to get shocked, or worse from this.  The thing is you have to be able to drive the EV anywhere that you can drive an ICE car through. This means that the car needs to be sealed up against weather (rain, snow, sleet, puddles, etc.). Since the FFE is the first production EV Ford has produced it is probably over engineered and thus more sealed up than it needs to be.

Now I’m not advocating everyone with an EV to run out and find the deepest creek to forage. Its still a car and it still can get washed away with as little as 6″ of water. The thing here is, though, an EV may not suffer nearly as much damage as an ICE car if it gets stuck in some abnormal flooding.

How efficient is charging?

These days everyone is concerned with how much resources do they use. Tracking things down to the penny/gallon/kWh/etc. When you have an ICE vehicle there are no losses from fueling the tank: The amount of gas that went into your tank is exactly equal to the amount of gas that was extracted from the tank in the ground and is equal to the amount of gas that was in the tanker truck, etc. (within reason). When you plug in your EV its not the same: When you charge what happens? The battery and the electronics heat up. That heat is wasted energy. Not all of the electrons going through the charge cable end up in the battery. But how many? Is there a way to measure this?

Many modern charge stations will report out the kWh value they put into the car (Chargepoint, for one), in addition some home stations (like the Juicebox) also report out the kWh value. This gives us one figure, but to figure out the charge efficiency we also need another number: The kWh the car used from the battery. This value is the amount of kWh the car consumed that the charger replaced. Divide these two values into each other and you’ll get a measure of how efficient the charge process is in the FFE.

For example: This morning my commute in to work consumed 3.5 kWh according to Ford’s online application (one of the few values in the trip history that have been accurately reported here). Once at work I used a local Chargepoint station to top it off. Chargepoint reported that the car consumed 4.14 kWh during charging. This would work out to a 85% efficiency while charging (at least for the top 20% of the battery or so which is what these values amount to).

I’ll have to do the math again with a deeper charge and using the Juiceboxes values for a different comparison (I’m not expecting it to be much different but more datapoints is always better).

Update: The commute home consumed 3.3 kWh according to the trip meter and the Juicebox put in 4.2 kWh to charge it back up (about 79% efficient).

Also note that the amount of energy going in also is used to run the TMS (temperature management system) and thus when its running will lower the efficiency.

Update 2: After a deeper discharge (9.6) charging took 11.7 for an efficiency of 82%

Update 3: A normal commute usage (11.1) and overnight charge (13.0) yields: 85%.

Update 4: Another normal (10.3/12.4): 83%

Update 5: 10.5/12.8: 82%

 

Traffic Jams and the ICE Mindset

Now and then when talking to people about my FFE/EV I hear a common question, one that people think will “sink” the EV: “What if you get caught in a traffic jam?”

Its interesting to ponder the one question. It is rooted in the fact that if you are driving a conventional car and get caught in stop and go traffic your engine continues to run burning gas. If you don’t have much fuel to begin with (e.g. not much range in the EV) then you may have a problem as you burn through your fuel sitting there.

This certainly is the case during the winter months, especially in the FFE due to the cabin heater. If you are not moving you’ll need some heat. In the FFE the cabin heater is the most power hungry accessory in the car. Thus stuck in traffic burning through electrons to simply heat the cabin you may very well have an issue. On a very hot day the problem is similar with the A/C consuming some electricity (but not nearly as much as the heater).

On a much milder day, however, when you can just sit in traffic with the windows open (if you don’t mind the noise & smell from the other cars) you will use very little electricity at all. In fact as you go slower the “guess-o-meter” will actually increase your available range because you’re using less electricity. Its fun sitting in traffic watching the status indicator creep up and up–at times I’ve had the available range after a traffic jam be more than the range at the start of the trip!

So the next time you hear: “What if you get caught in a traffic jam?” respond with something like: “EV’s love traffic jams”!

 

More on that melting..

Back in May I had mentioned that my coworker noticed the handle of the Bosch EVSE he was using was getting warmer and warmer (see post here).

After he had his EVSE and the charge connector in the car replaced all was well..or so he had thought.
Melted Vehicle connector

Above is his first vehicle connector before being replaced.

Changing out the EVSE eventually fixed the problem but not before the 2nd vehicle connector also suffered some damage. Unfortunately his dealer did not feel the need to replace the 2nd damaged unit.

Fast forward to last week: He gets in his car to go to work and is greeted by a strange prompt in the car: “Am I still plugged in?” Not thinking much about it he dismissed the prompt and proceeded with his commute. At work everything went nuts: The dash board started flashing many errors and warnings, including the dreaded “Stop Safely Now” message and the car quit. He called Ford’s Roadside Assistance for a tow–which was very efficiently handled, he got text messages to his phone indicating which tow company was coming and when..if only other Ford operations worked so well. The tow truck driver even asked to see the owners manual to clarify how to tow the car.

Once the car was at the dealer he prepared for the worst (since most of his experiences with the dealer have been less than satisfactory). They replaced the charge plug and harness, the LED ring and the 12V battery in the car (With the damage to the old plug the car was left in a state where it thought it was plugged in and thought it wasn’t plugged in thus keeping the 12V electronics in the car alive enough to drain & damage the 12V battery which is why the car freaked out). The dealer even kept the car overnight after all the fixes were done “for observation” to ensure that all was well and working before returning it.

Happily after a weekend of putting 50+ miles on the car it seems to be back to its quirky self again, and plugging a charger in is no longer a delicate operation…

Here is hoping this is the last story I hear from him about car malfunctions! (He is now investigating a completely new EVSE.)