Monthly Archives: November 2013

You are browsing the site archives by month.

Turkey day drive

Our destination for Thanksgiving this year was family located across town about 41 miles away. I had some internal debate about which car should we take: the ICE Focus or the Focus Electric? Some of the things weighing in on the determination:

  • The temperature out was only 25F or so. At this temp the Focus Electric’s range is significantly impacted (even with the battery temperature management system)
  • The prior day the Focus Electric spent the entire day at the dealership getting the recall fixed.
  • The nearest Chargepoint station to our destination was about 1.5 miles away (ok to walk, but not pleasant at 25F out)

To help out with the determination, at least with regards to the recall, I took the car for a little (~15 miles or so) drive after picking it up from the dealer. This short of a drive wouldn’t really guarantee that there are no issues but it would point out anything that the dealer may have messed up. Fortunately for me the car drove and behaved no differently than it has in the past (the dealer indicated that about four modules were reprogrammed as part of the recall).

Nevertheless, as you can tell by this being a blog entry, we decided to take the Focus Electric. Upon our arrival the car was showing about 15 miles of range remaining (the trip meter indicated a burn rate of about 300 Wh/mile). We unloaded the car and I drove it over to the local Chargepoint station (a family member graciously volunteered to pick me up–saving me a brisk walk).
The car savoring those yummy Turkey Electrons
The trip there really posed no issues as the car was preconditioned and nice and toasty off of wall power before we left. The trip home proved to be a bit more interesting.
At the Chargepoint station I let the car charge itself up to about 96% battery (it was showing around 60 miles of range). This time there was no preconditioning and it was evening with the temperatures dropping further. I setup the navigation so that the car would tell me if we would make it or not–at no point during our journey did any of the navigation indications show that we couldn’t make it. We did get a “low battery” indication when exiting the freeway at the destination (which did provide some surprise/humor as we’re not used to getting “low battery” in a car–well first time anyway! LOL). In the end we made it with 13% battery remaining and about 8 miles of indicated range. Having said all that; not once during the trip, etc. did I ever experience any feeling that could even remotely be considered as “range anxiety”–I always knew that the car could make the trip.

Here is the trip in numbers:
Trip meter for the drive

Some numbers on the cold

Last night I took some data down on how much electricity the car used overnight while charging (should have done this in the summer months as well!).

To start with I recorded my power usage for the day (at least what the car thought it was using, this value corresponded with 59% of the battery remaining):
Trip meter display

These numbers are somewhat typical for my daily commute. Ironically this commute was on a rather cold day with just under 1/4″ of snowfall overnight. Preconditioning the car combined with everyone’s cautious driving caused me to only use 7.2kWh of electricity! These past few cold days I’ve been using closer to 8kWh of electricity for my 31 mile commute.

Right when I arrived home I grabbed my meter reading (the car’s EVSE has its own meter):
Meter reading 1

At the time I plugged it in the outside temperature was 35F and thus the car stated “Waiting to charge” with my normal start time of 1:00am. As the evening went on the temperature dropped–when it hit freezing the car switched from waiting until 1:00am to waiting to start at the current time–it was starting its warming/trickle charge cycle.
This morning I recorded the meter right before driving away (with no preconditioning, outside temp: 20F):
Meter reading 2

So overnight the car used a total of 10kWh to keep itself warm, and charge up to 100%. Thus 7.2kWh of that went into the battery along with some burned up in the charger due to the charging efficiency (according to the EPA charging efficiency is roughly 80%) which would be about 2kWh. This leaves about 1 kWh used overnight to keep the car warm. (I’m being purposely vague here because I don’t know the exact efficiency of my EVSE + car combination. Doing the math directly yields 1.36 kWh which is close enough to my 1 kWh value.)

The numbers above align rather nicely with the daily average power consumption reported by my electricity provider. The daily averages per month also seem to be reflecting the additional power usage as the temperatures drop:

  • September: 9.9 kWh/day
  • October: 10.1 kWh/day
  • November: 12.8 kWh/day

Around here the temperatures took a dive in November which is reflected in the numbers. There are other factors in those numbers as well: In September and early October we were driving around a bit more each day due to various school/sporting activities (which may be the reason that there is only a 0.2 difference between September and October).

At this point, with our early blast of arctic air, I’ve been very pleased with the performance of the FFE–I was expecting a much greater drop in total range as an affect of cold weather.

Update: Power required for a precondition. Prior to driving the car across town for Thanksgiving I had set it up to precondition to 85F. This was the perfect opportunity to measure how much that takes. Before the car started the meter looked like this:
Power meter
Just before leaving I grabbed a picture of the meter (when the car was done preconditioning):
Power meter
Thus the car used about 5kWh of electricity to warm itself up from the ambient 25F.


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.


Are people really aware of EV costs/savings?

A new survey finds that most consumers are not aware of the savings available to them if they purchase an EV.

The Detroit News reported on the study:

  • Only 2 of 758 respondents knew about available home EVSE subsidies
  • 75% were uninformed about savings due to EVs efficiency
  • Consumers couldn’t answer basic factual questions about EVs

This study is very interesting, but I’m not surprised: How often do you see an EV being advertised on TV? (Granted EV advertisements on TV are most likely a very regional thing–I’m sure there are a ton of Leaf commercials on TV in California.) In addition there are certain portions of industry that don’t want to see EVs succeed.

Well look at that: the study data is from 2011 (see details here). As that link says: back in 2011 of course no one knew about EVs–they were just starting then…!



New ChargePoint milestone

ChargePoint has announced that it is up to 50,000 members.

According to them the 50,000th member is a Tesla Model S owner from the bay area. This is good news: The more people sign up for ChargePoint the more likely the network will be around for a while. In Southeastern Michigan the largest network of public stations is with the ChargePoint network so you can see why I’m happy for their success.


How fast is it?

We all know electric cars feel quite zippy due to the instant torque available (due to a couple of reasons: synchronous A/C motors have almost all their torque available at any time, and since all the control systems are electronic any changes in the accelerator pedal are instantly transmitted to the motor). But really how zippy?

This morning I happened to be the first at a stop light when a Focus ST pulled up to my right. About a mile down the road the two lanes merge into one (I frequently notice people racing off this light in the morning to be the first down the lane). Normally I don’t race anyone–that kind of defeats the purpose of driving a very efficient car. However, it was easy to see that the ST driver was intent on being first. It didn’t quite turn out that way though! Frankly I was a bit surprised that my FFE could keep up. My suspicion is that the driver of the ST did not anticipate that the FFE would zip like that.

Anecdotes aside, lets take a look at some 0-60 numbers (2013 model year):

  • Focus ST 5.9 seconds
  • Focus 7.6 seconds
  • Focus Electric 9.6 seconds

We can see that the FFE is the slowest in the Focus stable by a full two seconds. It certainly doesn’t feel that way (most likely due to the instantness of it). Granted the FFE, and most electric cars today, isn’t designed to be fast; its designed to be efficient and thus compromises are made so that it can “burn” as few electrons as possible.

The interesting thing is, though, since the entire driving experience is dictated by the software in the car I would suspect that all it would take to shave a second or more off the 0-60 times is a new powertrain computer calibration. Of course there will be a top end to the amount of current that could be pumped through the motor controller, wiring, and winding’s in the motor.


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…


Resetting the budget…

I found out a way to reset the “budget” display (the budget indicator shows a miles to go value; I discussed it in detail in this post).

If you’re driving and decide that you don’t like the status indicator showing -100 miles (well ok that is a bit unrealistic: -10 is more like what you’ll see) you can reset the budget to what the current range is being shown. The trick is simply: set a navigation destination (with charging) and then cancel it. When the navigation is cancelled the budget will reset to whatever the current range is indicated on the battery display.

If you have “My Home” setup in MyFord Touch the quickest way to perform this operation is:

  • Press the Sync button
  • At the prompt say: “Navigation”
  • Next prompt: “Destination”
  • Next prompt: “Favorites”
  • The screen will show the favorites list say “Line 1” (that is always “My Home”–note since you’re talking you can do this while driving!)
  • The screen will eventually popup a question “Will you charge there”: press “Yes”
  • Press the “start route” button on the display

Note: You have to go through the “Favorite” route instead of simply saying “My Home” at that step because if you were to say “My Home” it would skip the “Charge at the destination?” question and assume No as an answer.

After a few seconds of chugging and calculating the route the nav display will show the route and the dash will switch to “charge point” and “surplus”. At this point press the sync button and say “Cancel Route” (it will ask an “are you sure” type question respond to that with “yes”).

Once the route has been cancelled on the left dash display you’ll see “budget set to xx” just like it did when you started the car. Now your status is back to zero!

Ok sure a long and convoluted method but it would appear to be the only way to reset the budget value (it may be quicker to just pull over and turn the car off and then back on again!). Now I’m not saying that the budget value is that important just how to reset it here.


Staying warm…

A common problem for EV drivers is staying warm in the winter. Everyone attempts to reduce their electricity consumption in order to increase the range. As the weather gets colder out you run the heater more and more. The heater in an EV can be the most inefficient item in the car (at least it is in the Focus Electric, I hear the latest incarnations of the Leaf use a heat pump which is much more efficient–more like the A/C compressor instead of just running current through a wire). In any case you want to use as little heat as possible…

One solution is to bring along a blanket and wrap your legs up. Even better is this 12V Heating blanket. From the web page it looks like it consumes about 50 watts–much much lower than the Focus Electric’s heating element…
12V Heated blanket

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).