Category Archives: Myths

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.

 

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….

 

Contradictory article contradicts itself!

In the Detroit News today there is an article with the headline: “Buyers, electric cars slow to connect“.

I do realize that, in many cases, the headline is written by a different person than the article. The first section of the article would seem to confirm the headline saying things such as:

But four years after the Volt went on sale in late 2010 to enormous fanfare, sales haven’t met early optimistic predictions

Then later on, though, the items such as this are mentioned:

Still, EV sales overall are growing — with EVs up 25 percent and plug-in hybrid sales up 35 percent — but they still account for a minuscule .7 percent of U.S. car and truck sales. Some 20 models come in EV versions in the U.S.

What isn’t mentioned is that plug-in sales are increasing at a rate faster than hybrids did (source). The article, to me, just confirms that people are being overly critical of plug-ins in general and that if they aren’t a sales smash (e.g. in the top ten sales list) then they are a failure. This is completely unreasonable; no new technology was a sales leader when it was first introduced (Apple iPhone notwithstanding).

I have another nitpick with the article:

Automakers have spent billions to introduce the vehicles. They repeatedly cut prices in an effort to juice sales. Just this month, Ford Motor Co. cut — again — the price of its slow-selling Ford Focus EV. Its price tag is $29,995 — down $6,000 since last year and down $10,000 since the Dearborn automaker put the vehicle on sale in late 2011.

Price alone isn’t why the FFE hasn’t sold that many (all along its price structure has been in-line with its competitors). Ford itself has said many times “We don’t expect to sell many of them” and, given how much effort they’ve put into selling them, sales have born that out. The FFE is a great implementation of an EV and Ford would sell many more if they simply marketed the thing…

In contrast the Detroit Free press has published an article helping people decide what kind of alternative vehicle they should get.

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”!

 

Are people really aware of EV costs/savings?

A new survey finds that most consumers are not aware of the savings available to them if they purchase an EV.

The Detroit News reported on the study:

  • Only 2 of 758 respondents knew about available home EVSE subsidies
  • 75% were uninformed about savings due to EVs efficiency
  • Consumers couldn’t answer basic factual questions about EVs

This study is very interesting, but I’m not surprised: How often do you see an EV being advertised on TV? (Granted EV advertisements on TV are most likely a very regional thing–I’m sure there are a ton of Leaf commercials on TV in California.) In addition there are certain portions of industry that don’t want to see EVs succeed.

Well look at that: the study data is from 2011 (see details here). As that link says: back in 2011 of course no one knew about EVs–they were just starting then…!

 

 

Can you get it washed?

As I sit here writing this it is kind of a dreary day outside: temperatures in the 60s (F) a constant drizzle is falling down and my Focus Electric is sitting outside plugged in. In this state I’ve never been zapped or so much as felt the slightest tingle when unplugging the car.

Surprisingly I’m frequently asked the “can it get wet?” type of question; sometimes in jest but sometimes not. I suppose the fear is that the car will short out or that I will get electrocuted. Really? These are cars designed to be driven in a wide variety of weather conditions. Surely a puddle or even a slight fog won’t even faze the vehicle.

In the two short months that I’ve had the car its already been run through some pretty typical conditions: Its been through numerous car washes, many downpours, puddles as deep as the bottom of the car, and even down some pretty washboard-ed roads (to the extent that any lose connectors would be immediately apparent as well as any lose fillings in my teeth!).

Remember it is a car first; the mode of propulsion is just that: an engine choice. The frame or glider has already been designed and tested for worse weather than I will ever subject it to.

In addition, the J1772 connector used to charge the car has a sense line that is disconnected before the power lines. The electronics in the EVSE turn off power when it detects that the sense line has been disconnected (thus there is no power on the power lines before the plug is fully removed from the vehicle, and power is not applied until the plug is fully inserted into the vehicle).

So yes you can get it washed and I recommend you do: They look so much better clean!