Tag Archives: Winter

Brrrr yup another winter weather post

Hey I haven’t posted a winter weather post for a few months now! LOL I’m due for one.

This morning our thermometer’s are reading -11F which is a record in these parts (official temp this morning -10F, old record was -8F from 1934). In these brutal days I pretty much use all of the battery for my 30 mile commute, arriving home with the <10 mile remaining warning indicator showing. I find my non-symmetric power consumption interesting: In the morning I precondition the car and attempt to use as little electricity is possible on my way in. For the drive home, however, I crank the heat and take the freeway maximizing power consumption. The net result is that I use about 25-30% of the battery in the morning and almost 60% of the battery in the evening.

Another thing that is noticeable about the car in such cold weather: The noise. On a balmy 70F degree day the car is virtually silent with only a slight whrrr noise from the front. In temps this cold things shrink and start rubbing differently, the plastic squeaks, the window creaks, the driver moans, etc. Makes you feel like something is going to break during the commute.

Thankfully this cold spell is happening in the 2nd half of February which means it can’t last too long…right? (Last year the cold spell started in January and thus the light at the end of the tunnel was a lot further off).

 

The beginning of EV Winter

Today marked the beginning of EV winter, or FFE winter if you will. Yeah another cold weather post–I know move south already LOL.

The momentous occasion to mark this event is that today was the first day, for me, when the car complained that its cold outside and should be plugged in. This morning our outside temps are about 24F–about two weeks ahead of “normal” for us.

Even though I’ve been through this once already I’m still experimenting. This week I bumped the precondition temps back up to 85F so the car would be nice and toasty again. The experimentation this time: Many people on the forums have mentioned that to prevent the windows from fogging up simply crack a window. Hmm if this works effectively and I still stay warm it could be the best way to drive in with the lowest power consumption in the dead of winter. This morning I had the drivers window cracked about 1/2″ and HVAC off for my 15 mile commute in. The window never fogged up and the temperature remained quite reasonable. I’ll have to try 1/4″ next week….

 

 

Now here is something you can’t do with an ICE

Haven’t had a winter weather post in over a week! So here is one on this chilly last day of February:

Now that the truck is gone my FFE has been spending its nights inside the garage. Thus when I get in the car in the morning there is no snow to brush off and the temperature around the car is 20-30 degrees warmer than the outside air (since the car is preconditioned it is really warmer inside the car LOL).

This morning, though, with the outside temps <0F again, I did something I could never do with an ICE vehicle: “Started” the car with the garage door closed. That’s right: I got in the car, buckled up, started the car and got everything situated before I opened the garage door. With an ICE vehicle this is very risky: It is never a good idea to start an ICE car inside a closed environment (underground parking garages and tunnels have ventilation systems to exhaust the CO2 and bring in fresh air). In an EV, though, you can sit in the garage with the car “running” to your hearts content: No nasty gases will be generated at all (at least from the car), especially since you’re not moving thus the only electricity consumed is the 12V system powering the dash, radio, etc. All this to give the car that extra minute or two of warm up time and delay the time that I’m exposed to the outside air.

Winter can be done any time now..especially since tomorrow is March….

 

Another useful tip for winter driving when preconditioning

Here is another useful winter driving tip when using preconditioning:
After your last drive the night before pull your windshield wipers out about 4-6″. I’m not saying bend them up I’m just saying lift them up so that they look like they are at about a “1/4 wipe” position (you should be able to carefully pull them up–they will offer just a little bit of resistance but they will pull up: This is a feature on all the new Focuses so that you can change the wiper blades).
I try to leave the wipers just above the defrost vents on the inside.
What this does: When the car preconditions (especially when set to 85F) it blasts the heated air out the defrost vents just below the wipers. Thus not only is the window getting cleared but the wiper blades are also slightly warmed up.

The ICE Focus has a nice and toasty warm engine: Forward motion causes warm air to ride up over the windshield melting any snow and/or ice that forms on the wiper blades. The FFE doesn’t have this so I’m constantly digging snow/ice out of the “pocket” where the wiper blades are stored when off. The trick above helps the blades, if only briefly, to warm up above freezing.

 

Will this winter ever end?

What? Another winter driving post? Well, here in the Midwest, when its cold and snowy outside we don’t get out that much. The amount of daylight is shorter which means as you eat your dinner it goes to pitch black outside further reducing the desire to venture out in the cold. For the winter EV driver these conditions fit right in with the range reduction: Since you don’t have the desire to go out that much after work you don’t and the car won’t take you as far anyway.

This past weekend we took two trips that kind of illustrate this: On Friday after work we drove a short distance away for dinner.. 10 miles one way. What? so 20 miles is considered a bit of a distance? Sure: In the winter on a Friday after I’ve already driven the car for my 30 miles round trip commute. This is 50 miles of total driving for Friday. 50 miles is about what I had expected winter range to be when doing my research before getting the car. The car did show 5+ miles remaining on the battery as we arrived home.

Our second trip was on Saturday: To a trade show about 20 miles away–via highway. This one was interesting: On the way to the show it was cold (~10F) and overcast. The drive to the show via the freeway consumed 45% of the battery (65 mph or slower slogging through some freshly fallen snow–of course). The return leg, however, was after the sun came out for a few hours and via backroads that top out at 45mph speed limit. Due to the sun shining we didn’t even need any heat..we barely used 25% on the return (the ambient temp was still in the teens).

On a summer’s day I wouldn’t give either trip a second thought–we’d have plenty left in the battery after each. As such 40 or 50 miles is about the most I would attempt to go during the winter..

At least we’re into February and then March and….Spring! Hey pitchers and catchers are starting to report to spring training…there is a light at the end of the tunnel (and then my posts will switch to Spring/Summer driving! LOL).

 

Brutal cold…Is it spring yet?

Its been what, over a week, since I last posted about winter driving issues? LOL

The next week or so is going to be almost as cold as the polar vortex was (granted we didn’t actually get the core of the polar vortex earlier this month–just a small eddy from it).

Yesterday the temps were in the single digits; this morning the news said -5 F (the car said 0 F–in either case simply cold). By now I’m already accustomed to the range loss and only expect the car to go 50 miles or less on a charge. The challenge in this really cold weather is how to keep the occupants (mostly myself) warm whilst still maximizing range. I’ve written before about my coworker’s solution (the 12V heated blanket); he has now added to his 12V accessories: a 12V window defroster (this item also uses less electricity than the car’s built in heater). The 12V defroster doesn’t help when the temps fall into the single digits and colder though–it only clears away a small “hole” in the frost.

So far all of my experiments have been attempting to use different settings on the climate control and some RainX anti-fog towlettes. My current results: In the deep cold its best to just hit the “Max defrost” button and let that run for 30-60 seconds and turn it off than any of the other settings, and the jury’s still out on the RainX anti-fog: I have one treatment on it and the window still fogs up a bit. This morning I did use a small lap blanket; just the blanket combined with the seat-heat works quite well to keep me comfortable.

Ford really does need to come up with a better heating solution than the one currently in the FFE–at times it uses more power than the drive motor!

 

 

 

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!

 

More nasty weather and cold coming….brrr

Watching the snow falling as I type this…the first big winter storm for 2014 and the coldest temperatures around here since something like the 1990s! (Monday’s low is supposed to be -16F! Tuesdays will be a balmy -6F.)

I think Monday & Tuesday will be the first two days I opt to leave the EV in the garage and drive the truck to work. I’m all for experimenting but I think I’ll leave my experiments for when the temps are on the positive side of the scale. Although I may find that simply leaving the car in the garage overnight will be enough for it and still drive it to work–its the trip home that will be the killer (the commute in I have the go time set so even if the car is in the garage it still will warm itself up to 85F. The commute home, on the other hand, is after the car has sat all day in the parking lot at work without being plugged in and thus has cold soaked…brrr.

Stay safe out there–and warm.

 

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.

 

Not every day is a good day for EVs….

I’m pretty sure my EV blog has now become a winter weather blog! LOL

For those of us in Northern climes having a backup vehicle for your EV can be essential on some days. Like today, we woke up with about an inch of snow on the ground with another four inches expected to fall over the course of the day (strangely enough, places further south are expected to get double that snowfall). On days like these I usually revert back to my old daily driver:
The big bad F-350

Yup sitting there behind my ultra efficient Focus Electric is our big bad, Darth Vader like, black F-350 with a V-10 gas engine in it. On a good day this thing gets 11 mpg. (Yes one of the reasons for getting the FFE was to reduce the monthly fuel expenses–went from $350+ for the black beast down to $40 for the FFE!)

Now, mind you, we have a perfectly good reason for having the F-350 towing monster:
Truck n Camper

We’ve taken this guy all over the Eastern portion of the US (yeah in this configuration 8 mpg is very optimistic). I’ll be happy the day you can get an all-electric F-350 that can pull 30,000 lbs and still have 200 miles of range!

So, for today, I think the EV will sit in the garage and later I’ll go out and have fun in 4×4 mode. Happy trails….

Update: 12/15 We did end up getting around 6″ of snow. You could tell that it was snowing faster than they could plow it (at least for the residential streets). Driving around is kind of interesting: If you find a rut down to pavement you’re ok.

Took the FFE out to see how it would handle it. It handles the snow pretty well. Once you’re above 10 mph or so it only modulates power to the wheels (instead of using the brakes). This works out quite well–even better than an ICE as the motor responds to the traction control commands quicker than a gas engine would. You simply point it in the direction you want it to go and hit the accelerator–the traction control will determine the best speed to go at (even if it is only 3 mph–you just have to be prepared for that!).