Tag Archives: Ev

A couple of ARS articles relevant to EVs

One article details the dramatic price drop we’ve been seeing in the cost of Li-ion batteries. The drop has been faster than predicted and bodes well for future EVs.

The other, however, repeats much of the information from a recent study on “how much do EVs pollute”. This study is another in a line that attempts to calculate how much better (or worse) EVs are to conventional ICE cars. These studies are popping up now about once every 6 months. Some show EVs as being dramatically better, some show them as dramatically worse. Most of them have some flaws. At the moment I think the jury is still out (for some of the “EVs are worse” studies, though, there are some really obvious flaws in them). The one thing that is true, however, is that EVs will get greener as the power grid gets greener–that cannot be said for ICE cars.

 

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.

 

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….

 

GM Takes a big step forward, Ford a few steps backwards

Today and tomorrow are the press preview days at the North American International Auto Show. First up on the block was GM/Chevy with a big announcement: the new Volt 2.0 and a “Bolt” concept car:
Bolt
This is huge: Chevy showing a 200 mile BEV for around $30,000. If GM can get this guy to production before Tesla’s Model 3 then GM will own the BEV market (and before the Leaf 2.0 which is also rumored to have at least 150 miles of range). Announcing these new vehicles at a time of record low gas prices does show that GM, at least, does get it. GM does understand that EVs are the future (or at least that the future is going to include all sorts of alternatively powered cars, not just ICE).

In contrast, what did Ford show off today? Performance vehicles: The new F-150 Raptor, a race ready Mustang GT350R, and it reintroduced the GT halo car. Granted both the GT and the F-150 will be powered by an Ecoboost V6 instead of a V8 (much to many gear-heads disappointment). Also granted that Ford does have a full stable of vehicles and customers (probably more ICE customers than BEV customers anyway! LOL) but its been a long time since the Blue Oval has released any encouraging electrification news (There have been no substantial changes to any of their plugins for a good 3 years now–FFE, C-Max Energie, and Fusion Energie).

Realistically, looking at the timing of my lease, if I were to hope to get anything new it would have to be announced this winter as anything announced next winter would go into production long after my lease is up. I can still hope Ford will announce something EV related at the Geneva auto show in March. That show, however, is for the global market and anything announced there would not be sold in North America within the lease time period either. Which leaves me with a huge question mark come next year: What will my next car be (reasonably sure it will be a plugin)?

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.

 

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:

 

 

What is Ford’s next EV move?

If you are expecting some insider information here you’ll be sorely disappointed! LOL

That’s the rub though: We’ve heard rumors and speculation about what Ford will do in the past but nothing concrete. There have been rumors of an EV MKS, “insider info” about a Focus Energi, many have postulated that an EV MKZ would be perfect from Ford. What have we heard from Ford itself? Crickets..

Even though Ford’s people have said stuff like “We could make a Model S” and “We could make an electric Mustang” the implied statement following both of those would be “but we won’t” (otherwise why say something like that..you’d just do it).

Another point is the fact that Ford did announce the Focus Electric waaay back in 2011 at the Consumer Electronics Show. It wasn’t released to purchase until December 2012–that is almost two years. Granted this was a brand new powertrain for Ford to tackle. For contrast: Ford announced the all aluminum new 2015 F-150 back in January 2014 at the Detroit auto show and it is already “on sale” (you can order one now but can’t take delivery until early 2015). This is only a years timeframe.

This means that a new EV from Ford will be 1 or 2 years out from any announcements they make..and they haven’t said a peep. So all you get now is empty speculation.. and the fear that Ford won’t say anything about EVs for the foreseeable future…

Of course I could be a bit impatient here as well since we are heading into “auto show season” (LA Auto show is next week and it would make sense for Ford to announce any EV news there… we’ll see.)