Motoring…

A discussion on the My Ford Mobile website linked to an Engadget article with cutaway pictures of the FFE’s motor. Some things you can figure out from the pictures and the article: like the long half-shaft for one of the wheels goes through the middle of the motor.

More details can also be found in this article.

Going mobile…

“My Ford Mobile” (MFM) is Ford’s attempt at remote access/control of your BEV.

My Ford Mobile Smartphone appOn the whole the application gets the basics correct: Tells you correctly the state of charge, the cars status (plugged, unplugged, etc.), allows remote control, navigation features, etc. The additional features, however, don’t work so well.

It appears as if Ford concentrated on getting the basics working well and then launched the website/application before fixing/verifying all the rest. That is too bad because some of the extra features could come in quite handy. What are the extra features? Here is a small list–not inclusive:

  • Trip and charge log
  • Driver rankings in different regions across the US
  • Driver “achievements” (awards given for “green” driving)
  • A driver’s “score” from 0 – 100 based on how “green” you are driving

Here is an example of “not working well” from my experience: The Trip and Charge log seems to accurately note when I’ve driven and when I’ve charged but the values it displays are usually off (the watts/mile value is never displayed, for the charge display the charge time is always 1 minute). For the charge log it would also be useful to know how much charge, in kWh, was added to the battery in addition to knowing the final state of charge (a % value). It would be really cool if: A) these values were accurate, and B) you could download the last X days of data into an Excel spreadsheet (say 30 days or so). Other items not working well: My position in the driver rankings seems to have frozen: On the website it seems to think that I always drive at a 237 Wh/mile rate and that my drivers score is always 53–I really don’t think I’m that consistent (and I’d like to think that my driver score has increased a bit! LOL).

Due to the above inconsistencies I rarely use MFM for the above features. I’m now in the habit of only using MFM for the basic and reliable features such as:

  • Checking vehicle state (state of charge, plugged in or not)
  • Checking vehicle location
  • Remote control of vehicle (start/stop, lock/unlock)
  • Sending addresses to the nav system (which can also be done from www.mapquest.com to any MFT enabled car)

The funny thing is that even the basic features listed above go well beyond the capabilities of any vehicle I’ve ever owned in the past. In fact, for about 12 hours back in early summer, MFM communication to the cars (all of them–lots of posts on the FFE forums) was down; during that time I missed being able to “talk” to the car–amazing how quickly you become spoiled!

In Touch…

The Focus Electric comes complete with the “MyFord Touch” system (known as MFT; you can see an introduction video about it here).

Quite a lot has been said about this system in car magazines, on the internet, in the news, etc. To many people its a love/hate thing: they either love it, or hate it. Ford took a bold step in late 2011 to introduce MFT as a complete system controlling entertainment, temperature control, cell phone access, navigation, etc. MFT has improved greatly over the past 3 years: there have been three major updates to it (with possibly more to come).

Personally I like the MFT system and have developed a usage pattern that takes advantage of its positives and attempts to minimize the negatives. The first thing I do with any new update or car with MFT (my FFE is the 3rd car we’ve owned with MFT) is to turn all the settings to the ‘advanced’ mode. This has the affect of speeding up interactions with Sync because it stops Sync from talking to you a lot. For instance: when pressing the sync button instead of saying “please say a command?” the system simply beeps. Another thing is to use the voice control for any interactions while driving–one of the main complaints about the MFT system is that it increases driver distraction because you have to look at the screen to touch the area you want (hint: the complainers are using the system wrong: you talk to it not look at it while driving).┬áThere must be a lot of people who do like the system since MFT sold on 79 percent of new vehicles in 2013.

The current revision on the FFE is not without its faults though: Messing up value charge times, getting the date wrong, missing functionality (bluetooth, and applink), etc. Not to mention the problems with My Ford Mobile the website to remotely check up on your FFE driving (but that is another post!).

 

Leveling up

To take advantage of an electric vehicle you really need a Level 2 EVSE installed at home unless your daily commute is roughly half of the vehicles range (I’m speaking of the “low cost” BEVs with a range of ~100 miles–a 300 mile Tesla Model S is a different story). At Level 1 charging rates a completely empty battery could take as much as 20 hours to charge–much longer than your average night time.

Level 2 EVSE’s can cost a few hundred dollars (the DIY versions) to up to about $1000. Do some research; you may find deals and/or rebates. For myself I found a $2500 rebate towards the price of the EVSE and installation from my power company. The deal also included me in the EV program for time-of-day rates on electricity (charging at night reduces my electricity cost by a factor of 4). The program was part of Bosch’s “Plug In Now” EV business (formerly SPX). Note 1: you can even search for incentives in your area on that link. Note 2: You need to have possession of the EV before you can use that program.

The installation process was pretty easy: They first send out a contracted electrician to quote on the installation (funny that it always seems to come very close to or above the $2500! at least from the few I’ve talked to who also did this). After the quote is approved by you and Bosch they order the EVSE. Once the EVSE arrives they schedule a date to come out an install it. Now the fun begins: You can start charging at Level 2 speeds (at this point you may not be billed for the EV separately yet as the power company has to then come out and install a 2nd meter).

My Bosch EVSE

My Bosch EVSE

Using a Level 2 EVSE won’t use any more power than the Level 1 EVSE: The car still charges to whatever battery level it has; it just does it faster. In many cases Level 2 charging is slightly more efficient and thus will use less power.

Now you may ask: What does that really do to your electric bill? Using all that electricity it must be a lot! (A question I just received recently) To that my answer is below: Exhibit A my EV electric bill for the first month:

First months electricity bill for the FFE

First months electricity bill for the FFE

Yup: One month of driving around in my car cost me a whopping $37.79! In our ICE Focus the same commute was costing me $200+ per month in gas.

 

Fill ‘er up

When I tell people that I have an electric car I get the usual spate of questions: Has it ever left you stranded? How far can you go? Do you have to charge it every day? (As if that is such a huge inconvenience!) What do you do if you run out while away from home?

The quick and simple answers are: No, about 75 miles, no, you plan so that doesn’t happen.

Lets start with charging and the big misnomer: The thing on the wall with the chord that you plug into the car is NOT a charger, its called an EVSE: Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment. It is basically a smart GFI. The actual charging circuitry is inside the car. The EVSE provides a safe connection to electricity. There is a sense line where the car knows if it is plugged in or not, and how much current that the EVSE can provide to the car (which also determines how fast the car can charge up). The J1772 specification, which governs everything about EVSE’s, is actually spec’d out up to 80A (which could charge my car in about 2 hours or less if the car could handle it). The actual charge time is determined by the lesser of the supply current or the power rating of the internal charger in the car (my FFE’s charger is rated at 6.6kW). (The “No” answer above to: “Do you have to charge daily” is true depending on how much you drive. If you only drive 5 miles a day then no you don’t have to charge daily–just like an ICE car: If you empty the tank in a day then you have to get gas daily!)

Now the big deal, or at least it is for most people who ask, charging daily: You plug in your cell phone every day (sometimes more than once per day) how is that less of a hassle than plugging in the car? For myself I just get in the habit of plugging the car in every time I get home–every time, whether I know it will charge or not. It really only takes seconds to grab the cable, open the charge port door, and plug in (I do listen for the cycle the relays make as I’m unloading or locking or otherwise walking away from the car to make sure everything is working). For those few seconds I’m saving a 30 minute round trip to the gas station and back (of course this refers only to the times when I make a specific trip to the gas station, but even just stopping on my way in to work adds 10-15 minutes to my commute).

Here is something to think about as well: If you plug in daily, and charge nightly then every morning the car has a “full tank”. What “range anxiety”? I rarely drive more than about 60 miles a day. On a normal day I barely look at the battery gauge; don’t even give it a passing thought. Conversely when I get into one of our ICE vehicles the first thing I do is check the gas gauge to see if I have enough!

You do have to get a Level 2 charger at home though, that makes all the difference (Level 2 = 240V and can charge the car at its maximum rate). The “convenience chord” that comes with the car (most EVs come with one) is called a Level 1 chord that can be plugged into 120V–the slowest possible speed to charge (up to 20 hours in my case). I was able to find a deal through my electric company that covered most of the cost of the install..

Zoom!

There is another aspect of driving an electric vehicle that is different from a conventionally powered car: the motor/engine. The torque curves for the different power plants tells the story here.
An internal combustion engine’s torque curve is a curve that always starts at zero for zero RPM and generally increases to a point of maximum at a specific RPM then levels off, or even falls at higher RPM. Thus the transmission is designed to keep the engine close to the max torque during acceleration to get max torque to the wheels.
An electric motor’s torque curve is quite different: it’s max torque is at zero RPM and will typically decrease linearly as the RPM increases. Note that the max power draw will also occur when developing max torque at zero RPM as well because there is no resistance. (As the RPM increases the rotating magnetic field induces currents which increase the resistance reducing the current draw.)
Since you get max torque at zero RPM you can be a stoplight king in an electric car. Zipping away from green lights surprising other drivers around and, in some cases, passengers in your own car. (Especially because your doing it without a sound.) As you continue, though, your acceleration will decrease and the ICE cars will catch up at some point.
I’ve seen two different specifications for the Focus Electric: one says the car uses a permanent magnet motor, and the other says that it uses a synchronous one. A permanent magnet motor, as I understand it, is a DC motor which would mean that it has brushes–brushes tend to wear out. A synchronous motor, on the other hand, makes much more sense for an electric vehicle: it’s an AC motor (no brushes), the RPM is controlled by the AC frequency, and it is also either a motor or generator simply based on the phase of the AC.
Next up: charging: what does EVSE stand for and what are Level 1 and Level 2 EVSEs.

Whirrrrrrrr

Driving a BEV is an interesting and quiet experience.

Many compare it to driving an electric golf cart around. There is a little of that, but in a golf cart you don’t have a modern car fully enclosing you with its conveniences, safety systems and sound absorbing materials.

The FFE starts with the 2012 Focus glider (the body/frame if you will). As I mentioned in earlier posts: The 2012 ICE Focus is an excellent car in its on right. For the 18 months that I drove the conventional Focus I got quite accustomed to its driving characteristics: The peppy acceleration, the way it grips the road, the very excellent brakes, how really solid it feels. Moving on to the FFE introduces a whole new element to the mix: silence. Sure there is a slight whirring noise (much like the aforementioned golf cart) but that is dampened by the thick foam you find under the hood. Once you are up to a reasonable speed (about 35 or more miles an hour) the most noise you’ll hear is some slight tire noise and the thoughts in your head.

Stopping at a light becomes almost zen like; you notice all the other cars around you buzzing, shaking, rattling, etc. (Note that hybrid and auto stop cars also get this effect as they turn off the gas engine at lights as well). The first time I drove the FFE in the rain I found the first traffic light quite interesting as I was left sitting there waiting for the green listening to the raindrops bounce off the top of the car. Then the light turns green and you hit the accelerator.

Slow boat from

My coworker was able to find out that his headliner needed to be replaced because it was cut when some workers were crawling around in his back seat. The workers were crawling around in the back seat because the back seats needed to be replaced. The back seats needed to be replaced because the batteries needed to be replaced. The batteries needed to be replaced because they would not charge. He had to wait the extra time because they had to ship a new set of batteries (The FFE has two battery “packs”–one where the gas tank is on an ICE Focus and one in the hatchback area) from Korea where they are assembled.
This meant that my coworker had a pretty big decision to make: Should he take the car or not knowing that it has been ripped apart and re-assembled. How would it stand the test of time? Would he get a lemon? Would the car stop dead on the road? After much deliberation he decided to take delivery. After all it is a lease and will go back to Ford in 3 years anyway.
So after almost 6 contentions months he took delivery of his Blue Candy Ford Focus Electric. As of today neither of us have had any serious issues with the cars (mine with over 3000 miles on it, and his with over 2000 miles on it). Now our conversations involve our experiences driving an electric car and getting a Level 2 EVSE installed.

Two FFE's

Two FFE’s

Its here!

In the midst of my coworker’s investigations about what/where/when/how is going on with his car the date mine was supposed to show up at the dealer rolls around.

Not really expecting much I call my salesperson just before lunch: “Hey today is the day. Just checking to see if it is anywhere near the dealership?” “Oh hey! I was going to call you. It’s here. Just rolled off the truck this morning” “Really!? You’re kidding right? This is just some elaborate joke?” “(laughs) No really its here.”! After peeling myself off the ceiling in excitement I gather myself enough to ask if I can pick it up later that day: “Sure we can get it ready for you tonight.”

Having done my research I had already installed the smartphone app on my phone. To pass the time while waiting for some of the paperwork to be handled I figured I would register the car with the app–it only takes a second (for the FFE when you register the car with the app a confirmation prompt will appear in the car’s entertainment display; and then a 2nd one will appear 24 hours later). About a minute later our salesman returned all freaked out: He was pulling the car out front when the confirmation prompt appeared (which he had never seen before–they don’t sell a lot of these). “How did it know you were online?” LOL!
Photo May 21, 7 47 19 AM
(Picture taken the day after delivery at work)
To avoid rubbing it in my coworkers face the next day I waited for him to visit me instead of jumping up and down in his cube “Its here! its here!” etc. He did, however, have some more news about his car though…

 

 

Where is my car?

When we last left our heroes (myself, and my coworker attempting to purchase FFE’s–hey its my blog I can call us heroes if I want to! LOL) I was in the no-mans land of ordering waiting for a build date and my coworker was wondering where his car was: It was supposed to be at his dealership but didn’t show up.

The salespeople at his dealership were clueless and could only show him the schedule report that said it had missed its delivery to the dealership. I attempted to contact @FordService on Twitter to see if they had any information that they could share on the state of his car. Unfortunately the data that they conveyed was similar to what the dealer was telling him: The car was produced (at least that was the good news) but no other information about it was available.

Meanwhile, at my end of the block, I eventually received a build date (mid-May) and hoped that my car wouldn’t suffer the same fate as his–whatever that fate was.

Eventually he found a contact at the plant (where we work we often find people that know people inside the Detroit-3). His car was now a month late from the date it should have been at the dealer and the contact said it was sitting on the lot at the plant waiting for a….headliner!? What? Its the same body used by all the other Focuses how could it be waiting for a headliner? Aren’t they just laying around the plant? Pick one up and install it! Sheesh!