Still around..

just dropping a note here. I’m still around, just taking a little R&R.

A few weeks will bring the Detroit Auto Show. Perhaps there will be some EV news from that!

What’s the Best EV for the average consumer

Green Car Reports published this article attempting to clarify “The Best EV for the Average Consumer”. As one would expect the comments are overflowing LOL.

Given the title of my blog here you can also predict what my answer is. I find some of the reasons to eliminate the FFE from contention to be quite arbitrary: Eliminating the compliance cars because they are low quantity sellers and there may be service issues? A low quantity seller means you’re more unique than driving around one of the million other Leafs? Service issues? (As pointed out in one of the comments) These are EVs which have much fewer moving parts and hence less need for service. Besides: The FFE is mostly the same as an ICE Focus and there are Ford dealers everywhere.

The biggest reason to discount the FFE, and justifiably so is the lack of any form of quick charging. (Hopefully Ford will include the CCS charge port at some point–they have publicly supported CCS instead of CHAdeMO since CCS is an SAE standard.) The “average” consumer would want a quick charge because designing for the “average” usually means the “lowest common denominator” thus you’d need quick charging even if the vast majority of people most likely would not need that feature. In reality if you need quick charging only once in the life of the car then you’d need the capability.

Having said all that, when people ask me if I’d recommend the FFE I heartily give its endorsement. If your lifestyle fits within the parameters of a short-range EV then go for it!

 

EVs across the states

Now this is an interesting map:

US EV Density
Its from an Inside EVs article about EV distribution in the US.

Some surprises here among the obvious (CA, WA, and GA all of which have significant tax breaks for plug-ins): MI, IL, MN, and FL! The article does mention the leaders but not the “stragglers”. I can see Michigan being in there as the home of the US auto industry. Even if its full of gear-heads it is also filled with tech people and people with access to employee discounts. Likewise FL can be explained by retiree’s with access to employee discounts as well (and retired engineers interested in the next big thing).

IL, MN on the other hand! Hmm all cold weather states too; makes it a bit tough for EV ownership.

 

What to do about heat?

When you look under the hood of the FFE you notice that it has a rather large radiator (most likely its the same part in the ICE Focus–they look very similar). A large radiator like that is designed to dissipate a lot of heat something which the FFE doesn’t generate much of whilst driving around. The whole arrangement shows an interesting design decision on the part of Ford…

When you look at the front of the FFE you see the fake grill and a small opening for air below it, permitting a lot less airflow while driving than the conventionally powered Focus. In this pic you can clearly see the difference:
Red Focus Blue Focus
The front of the ICE Focus is open whereas the FFE just has that gap at the bottom. The reason for this is obvious on the ICE Focus: The gas engine generates a lot of waste heat that must be removed to prevent an overheat situation–even in cold weather there is still plenty of waste heat to go around.

For the FFE on the other hand: Very little heat is generated while driving and thus the front can be a solid nose (with a little decoration); even rounded a bit in an attempt to improve aerodynamics (look at most EVs they all will have very little pass-through). What about that large radiator though? This comes into play during charging and on hot days. The FFE has a battery temperature management system. When charging the battery generates a lot of heat. Heat that also must be dissipated to prevent damage to the battery. This is the reason for the large radiator: To help with this heat removal. In addition, when charging, the car is stationary so there is no forced air coming in from the front; airflow must be generated by the radiator fan (most likely also the same part number as on the ICE Focus). Indeed, during charging I quite frequently hear the radiator fan running at full speed (especially near the end of the charge cycle).

The other use for the radiator is similar: removing heat but this is during a hot day. When the outside temperature gets a bit hot out the car will “complain” that its hot out and should be plugged in. This is to use the fan, and if needed the chiller, to remove heat from the battery if it gets too warm (something it won’t do if parked and not plugged in).

Note that the car also complains when parked and its cold out to be plugged in so that it can keep the battery warm.

I bet you were expecting different subject matter when reading the title of the post?

 

New Sync 3

Today Ford announced Sync version 3:

Ford today introduced Sync 3, the latest generation of its infotainment system that will debut on 2016 Ford and Lincoln models next year in a bid to win over critics who found past versions hard to use.

I’ve briefly played with the new system–or at least a very early version of it. It is very responsive and smartphone like (drag across the map to pan, pinch to zoom out, etc.). The article also mentions new features like the ability to download updates over a WiFi internet connection–a very handy feature. I’m not sure how many customers will go that route though as I’d bet there is a good number of MyFordTouch systems that have never been updated at all. Well at least the tech savvy customers will appreciate that.

As far as the FFE is concerned: I wouldn’t expect this to show up until at least the 2016 FFE at the earliest; perhaps even when the Focus redesign hits somewhere around 2017. We’ll see (it would be nice if it does make it to the 2016 as my lease will be up by then).

 

Going green by….painting?

Ford has partnered up with artist Trina Merry to paint their plugins and people to match their surroundings in an effort to showcase the “greenness” of the cars:

The good news here is, of course, that they actually show an FFE! This is one of the very few times where I’ve seen Ford include the FFE along with the Energi vehicles.

Maybe, just maybe Ford will promote the FFE more?? Naaahh what was I thinking…!! LOL

Update: They’ve produced a video only on the FFE:

 

 

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.

 

Extending the range of your EV

The BMW i3 has a cool REX option where they include a small motorcycle engine to extend the range by a hundred miles or so. There is another way to extend the range of your i3, if you have the cash:
Charge Plot

(Click on the image to see more of the RV)
This form of range extension was featured on the Travel Channel’s “Extreme RV” show.

That’s right: simply build in a garage into your RV. They even wired an outlet into the compartment so that the car can charge while the RV drives down the road (no mention on the website or during the show if the EVSE is a Level 1 or Level 2). The neat thing here is that the ramps extend: You don’t drive the car up into the RV; you just drive it up onto the ramps and then retract the ramps.

The cost of this is completely on another level. There are people who could afford a Tesla Model S at $100k+ but could not afford this combination ($250k+ for just the camper alone, then you still have to pick up the i3). Not to mention that you’ll be burning a lot of Diesel going from city to city.

Comparing the dimensions of the i3 vs the FFE we find that the Focus might be a better fit in there: The i3 is about 5″ taller and 15″ shorter than the FFE. Thus the “garage” could be a little shorter (and longer) to fit the FFE. Here the important thing is shorter–this makes more standing room in the bedroom above the garage. The steep rake on the FFE’s front windshield may also help out since the car is stored on an angle which may allow for an even shorter garage.

How does the FFE Charge?

This question could be answered in many ways depending on how you interpret the question: There is a technical answer (it uses a 6.6kW charger inside the car), simply (you just plug it in and it charges), how much current is used, how fast does it get to 100%.

In this case I was interested in the last answer above: Does the FFE’s % battery full “meter”/value increase linearly when charging? Li-Ion batteries themselves don’t charge up linearly. As the battery gets closer to full the internal resistance of the battery increases making it harder to force more electrons in and thus the charging rate of the battery slows down the closer to full it gets. If you were to plot this you’d get a curve where charging is quite fast at the beginning then as you approach 100% it flattens out slowly approaching 100%.

Having done a little reverse engineering on the API that the mobile app and the website use I was able to make a program that logs the % battery value and the range over time. Now if I were to log these values during a charge cycle I could produce a graph to see the charge curve. The graph could be a line as the internal software in the FFE could normalize the % value to a line while charging (to simplify it for users). Frankly I don’t think they would go through that much effort–there would be no benefit to anyone (other than geeky people like me who write blog posts about graphing the car charging! LOL). So I give you my FFE’s charging plot from about 35% to full on a freezing Friday evening:
Charge Plot
The blue line is the % battery value and the orange line is the estimated range value (only topping out at 70 miles here due to the cold days we’ve been having and the fact that I’ve been using the heater).
What surprises me the most about this plot is how flat it is. I was expecting it to be much steeper with a pronounced knee near the end as it flattened out. Note that there are a few gaps in the data as the API timed out or otherwise gave an error. There is also an unexpected turn faster around 10:00pm where it charges slightly faster. I wonder if this is where the temperature management system kicked in to cool the battery a bit allowing for a slightly faster charge..

I have another idea for this logging: What if I were to let it log while I was driving the car around? That plot may also prove interesting as the % battery value would decrease in a predictable manner but the estimated range (the guess-O-meter) value would be all over the place depending on if the heat was on or off, if I was on the freeway, etc. Some more experimentation is in order here…

My “My Ford Mobile”

It turns out that simply using the developer tools in Chrome you can reverse engineer the REST interface to My Ford Mobile….and make your own app!
My My Ford Mobile
What you see here is just dumping out some fields that are returned by a “get battery condition” call. It isn’t as pretty as the official MFM app (and mine won’t be: I’m a programmer not a designer). Not sure how far I’ll take it, but its fun to hack around with.