Tag Archives: Weather

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.

 

Turning the corner on Winter…

Well now that that stretch of nasty weather is behind us. Just as a refresher: Here in SE Michigan over the past week we’ve seen some of the worst winter weather in a decade. Almost 2′ of snow (which in and of itself isn’t that bad) combined with temperatures well below zero (-15F I think was the lowest temp I saw in our city). I think its safe to say that my FFE has seen the worst winter weather that it will see during the time that I’m driving it.

Most EV drivers in the northern climates wonder about that first winter with the EV:

  • How much range will I lose?
  • Will I be able to go without using heat?
  • How much additional electricity will be used by the heater?
  • What about keeping the windows clear, how much will that cost?

I haven’t really noticed a huge loss of range simply due to the cold. The guess-o-meter still reads around 70 miles of range in the morning when fully charged (in the summer I would frequently see 100 miles. I know that this isn’t a very accurate measure of actual range but the value at a given time–say first thing in the morning when fully charged–will reflect the power consumption for the previous day’s driving). Now if I have to use the heater at all during my commute the power consumption spikes dramatically (If I have to use the heat for the drive in I can double my power consumption).

Overall I’m still very pleased with the car. The winter “power loss” is about as I had expected from my research before I got the car. I’ve developed the following habits to cope with the cold with the FFE:

  • Use the go times to precondition the car to the highest temp setting for the morning commute in
  • Use the defroster on “Lo” to clear the foggy windows occasionally (when 20F or above, have to use heat for colder temps)
  • While at work park the car where it will get the most sunlight to keep it somewhat warmer
  • Clean off as much snow as possible–if you don’t it will stay there
  • When overnight temperatures are less than about 20 F or so garage the car (better for the batteries and when its that cold out the precondition has a hard time getting up to temp)
  • Remote start the car about 5 minutes before the return home commute when temps are colder and sky is overcast

You’d think that a small car like the FFE wouldn’t do very well driving around in all the snow and ice. Not so, after the recall fixes the traction control on the car has just been amazing. I’ve driven through some snow piles that I thought for sure I’d be getting stuck in. The car just drove through them like they weren’t even there. Slick ice, no problem–it just creeps along over the ice until it finds some pavement with a little more traction. Its kind of interesting: you hit a very slick spot and the car just slows down–like it knows better than you how to get through the gunk–then when it finds even the slightest bit of traction….you’re off! (You can even drive over the slick spots with the accelerator floored! Just be careful though because you’ll be off like a rocket as soon as the car gets traction again.)

My coworker did come up with a good suggestion for Ford to improve the climate control: Allow a defrost+re-circulation setting. This would take air from inside the cabin and blow it on the windows to defrost it. There is no CO danger like on an ICE car–since the car doesn’t make CO (the only source of CO2 is the passengers). This feature would also use less electricity if the driver did want to heat the air as the air in the car will be warmer than outside.

After all its only 33 days to spring training!

 

That squeak of really cold snow!

A quick post this morning and another winter weather observation:

If you saw my other post about our first big snow storm of this winter (affecting a lot more than just Southeastern Michigan) you’ll know that we got something like 8″ + of snow.

This morning, though, is a little different: The storm is gone, most of the roads are clear, it was warm enough for the salt to work. The temperatures overnight, however, were down into the single digits. At these temperatures road salt is less effective, and any resulting water on the roads turns to ice or an icy slush.

My observations here aren’t about that. You know when the weather gets really cold snow starts making that squeak as you walk around in it. Now imagine four feet stomping down holding up 3000 lbs on that squeaky snow! Yes with the Focus Electric being such a quiet car, driving around in squeaky snow results in a cacophony of that squeaky snow noise inside the car. I was a little surprised at how noticeable it was from inside the quiet car.

The things you notice when you don’t have the noisy internal combustion engine dominating the ambient sound field.

 

Another weather related observation

Here is an interesting thought/observation: If you keep your EV outside in the winter (as I do) you’ll often wake up to a bunch of snow piled up on the car. In my case, during weekday mornings, the car will heat itself up and melt off some of that snow–mostly the snow on the windows. Snow on the roof and hood typically will stay.

Here is the thing: If that snow is the slightest bit sticky and you don’t clear it off it will stay on the car. EVs don’t generate all the excess heat like an ICE vehicle does that would melt the snow off the hood (and most likely the roof as the heater will be run continuously throughout the commute). Since we’re driving with the heat off most of the time to extend the range as much as possible the cabin doesn’t stay warm during the commute and heat the roof.

The net affect of all this is that any snow on the car will stay there until its physically removed (scraped off, car wash, etc.). If left to accumulate that snow could have an overall negative impact on range–snow weighs a lot.
Snow on the car in the cold

 

Does the car charge to keep warm?

This past weekend I’ve noticed something kind of odd with my Focus Electric. The temperatures around here have been in the 20s; I keep the car parked outside (and, unfortunately, this time of year it is mostly in the shade all day too).

When I’ve plugged it in after a drive I’ve noticed it taking a very slight charge–not quite the large charge that the Level 2 can deliver (typically I see 1/2 the battery charged in 90 minutes). Today I monitored it for almost 5 hours after taking a short 15 mile drive this morning using up about 4 kWh of electricity.

Over that 5 hours of time the car consumed 3 kWh of electricity and the car did charge up to 96% charge (when it started it was somewhere around 80%). All this time the dash and the website indicated that the car was waiting to charge (its set to always wait until 1:00am to begin charging).

From this (granted not very scientific) experiment I’m suspecting that when the car needs to turn on the TMS it also turns on the charger to trickle charge the battery (perhaps even using the process of charging to heat the battery??). Very interesting indeed.

Note in the summer when I’ve monitored the car while it was waiting to charge the % charge remaining value always stayed the same over the course of the day (didn’t think to measure the power consumption at the meter though) so something different is happening when the car is cold.

 

There is a storm coming…

Today it appears that the midwest is in for a rough ride. Severe weather (and perhaps a tornado or two) is predicted for almost 11 states (Michigan being one of them). As I write this a tornado warning has already been issued for IL.

Why am I mentioning all this? Simply because I just went and did something I thought I’d never do: as a precaution I unplugged the car just like you would your computers, TV, cellphones, etc. in preparation for a storm predicted to have a ton of lightning. Granted the EVSE does provide some surge protection (one of the reasons its there) but to be 100% safe I just unplugged the car (it is fully charged so doesn’t need to be plugged in anyway).

If lightning were to strike the car I would gather that it would behave just like an ICE car would: the charge would dissipate around the outside of the car (a car is a nice faraday cage). The FFE has some pretty big relays between the battery and the rest of the systems. When in an off and unplugged state these relays are open completely disconnecting the battery. Thus it is unlikely a lightning strike would do any battery damage.

Stay safe out there…

 

Really getting cold here now…

This morning it was down to a chilly 24 degrees F–by far the coldest morning for the Focus Electric yet. Its so cold today that even the car is complaining:
Cold weather warning

Where I’m at the car is reading 24 F but the forecast is for warmer:
Weather forecast

Since I can’t plug in at work I did the best I could: Parked the car in a spot where it will get plenty of sunshine (when it rises). Hopefully that provides a little warmth for it.
We even got a little snow overnight:
Snow covered

But with the “Go” time set to 85F this is what was waiting for me when I left for work:
Go times go!

I also used the most electricity I’ve ever used on my 15 mile commute in to work leaving the battery state at 68% charged (yesterday it was as high as 77%–lately its been averaging somewhere around 75%. In the summer the best state was 80% after the morning commute).

This still leaves me plenty of juice for the 15 mile downhill commute. As winter progresses I don’t expect it to get much worse (as temperatures around here don’t really get much lower than the 20s).

 

Its getting cold outside

This week has been the coldest its been since I’ve owned the car (back in May). This morning the temperature was 32 F as I was leaving for work.

EV batteries don’t really like it much when the temperature is outside of their comfort zone (around 70 F). Too high and the battery is damaged, too low and it can’t hold as much of a charge. The Focus Electric has a thermal management system to attempt to keep the batteries within their optimal temperature range. The problem is, though, when the temperature is far outside that range the management system will use up electricity heating or cooling the batteries. So even if the batteries are kept at their optimum temperature the car’s overall range will still suffer due to extra electricity expended maintaining the batteries temperature.

I’ve been noticing the affect of the weather as the temperatures have dipped over the past few weeks. My commute in to work, which was using only 20% of the battery when it was a balmy 80 F outside, is now consuming 25% or more without even using the cabin heater (for my own comfort! LOL).

The car also has a feature for that: to minimize my discomfort and heat/cool the car before it is unplugged you can program in a specific time and temperature you want the car to be ready for up to two times a day. I’ve also been experimenting with this feature. For all the time I’ve been using it (on the Focus Electric the feature is called “Go Times”) I’ve had it set the temperature of the car to 72 F–a nice and comfortable temperature. After a conversation with a coworker yesterday I decided I’d try out the higher temperature setting: 85 F. This morning in a matter of about 20 minutes the car went from completely frost covered to mostly clear and wet–the windows were completely clear of frost, the roof was mostly clear with just a little frost on the back (furthest from the heater vents inside the car), and the rest of the body still had a lot of frost but it was thinning. Wow–it never did this when set to 72 F! Of course when I started my commute I got in a very toasty warm car as well–to the extent that turning on the vent/defrost on cool provided a nice cool breeze (as well as keeping the windows from fogging up using a minimal amount of power).

I’m now eagerly awaiting our first snowfall to see how much of the snow will be melted off the car before I leave for work (planning on posting a picture of that!).