Monthly Archives: January 2014

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Bad battery and clear roads…

Another “winter” post with a twist: With the bad weather again returning–mostly subzero temperatures–I put the FFE in the garage and drove the truck for a day. Leaving the truck outside to keep the FFE “toasty warm” in the garage (at freezing!) I retired for the night. In the morning, with the EV all warmed, loaded up and ready to go I hopped into the truck to move it…click..!? Try again…click…nothing. Fortunately I do have a set of jumper cables (hey it is a pickup–no pickup should be caught anywhere without jumper cables–but I digress) a quick jump from our other ICE Focus and it was up and running. Guess I’ll be getting a new battery for the truck; LOL.

With the FFE all warmed up and ready to go the commute in was relatively easy and only consumed 4.1 kWh or 26% of the battery. Just a few days ago the commute was consuming 31% of the battery at the same outside temperature (~13F). The only difference is that today the roads were completely clear and dry and the prior days the roads had a good 3″ of slush and snow on them. Thus slogging through the snowy roads causes the car to consume about an extra 800 Wh or so vs driving on clear roads.

I didn’t even consider that driving on a snow covered road would consume almost a full 1kWh of power over my commute…interesting.

Another Tesla road trip in progress…

This trip is NY to FL. At some point the trips wont be noteworthy as everyone will be making them (at least Model S owners).

This one is driven by a Green Car Reports driver. Its funny how, on his very first leg, he’s learned the low-temperature lesson that every EV driver has to cope with.

Update: There are two more reports on hist progress: Here and here.

After reading these reports a couple of statements stood out to me:

As I drive, I keep careful track of how the range display compares with the actual miles driven.


Once consumption settles down, I do my now-standard comparison of rated mileage decay vs real mileage traveled, and find it’s right at 20 percent.

His mental calculation of “rated mileage decay” and “real mileage traveled” is right on my dashboard in my Focus Electric! Its called status. It is the difference between the range to empty at the beginning of the trip and the current calculated range to empty (I discuss it more in this posting). Do we have a feature on our Focus Electrics that is missing from a Tesla Model S…it would seem so.

A Tesla first…

Big news today in the Tesla world: A first ever cross country trip using only Tesla Superchargers was completed this weekend by a father daughter team.

You can read up on their adventures in the Tesla Motors forums here.

The story is very interesting and very well planned: Some of the Superchargers were not even available yet when they started the journey! Very brave souls indeed.

If you look at the Supercharger map currently the only way to go from NY to LA is via a circuitous northern route via Chicago, South Dakota, down through Colorado and Arizona–a very long drive to say the least but through some of the most scenic areas of the country. Many on that forum are proclaiming this as a historic moment like the first trip from NY to Paris by plane, etc. I don’t think I would go that is historic as far as EVs are concerned though.

Kudos to John and his daughter for having the time, courage and energy to try it.

Hopefully soon there will be other long range EVs that will be able to easily accomplish the same feat (I might add affordable to that as well).

Looks like some media is picking it up:

Green Car Reports

Daily Kos

Inside EVs

Update: Now Elon Musk will be taking the trip as well.

Update 2: The story is now on Tesla’s website.

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!




North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) aka The Detroit Auto show

(Long post warning)

In the Detroit area the Detroit Auto show is just part of the holiday season: First is Christmas, then New Years always followed by the Auto Show (followed by the boat & camper shows–in the middle of winter we celebrate the summer activities! Even the Tigers have a winter festival in January).
Before I go on about the show, though, we had to get there–and back. Downtown Detroit is a shade over 30 miles from our house. In the summer this poses no problem for the Focus Electric–we’ve even done it a few times: taking the FFE to a few Tigers games. In the winter, however, at 25 F outside a 60 mile round trip tends to be a bit more difficult. Fortunately, GMs headquarters is downtown and with GM promoting the Volt for the past few years there are more than a few Chargepoint stations downtown:
Chargepoint map
Even better: The two stations on W Congress are directly across the street from Cobo where the Auto Show is held. Charging spot picked out we set off. Arriving at the parking garage I used about the same amount of electricity that I have in the summer (about 55% remaining on the battery). So we plugged in and went to the show.
Plugged in
The trip home, however, was a bit more unexpected. With a 22 mph (gusting to 37 mph) head wind I ended up consuming double the electricity that we did on our way down! The total round trip cost 22 kWh (this was without using any heat).
Trip Display
At times we were burning electricity at 450 Wh/mile! I’m glad we found a charger. The “Low battery” indicator went off about a mile from home (on the FFE it indicates low battery when there are 10 or less miles left).

Enough of that–on to the show: I’ll start with Ford since I’ve already admitted to some Ford bias (see the about page). Ford’s big news this year was the 2015 Mustang and the all new aluminum F-150 both of which aren’t exactly your economy leading vehicles (even though both new vehicles will offer a significant improvement in efficiency). Thus the two “center stages” in the very large Ford area were dominated by Mustangs and trucks. Off to the side was the high-efficiency plug in vehicle display:
Ford's green vehicles
The good news here is: This display was in a high traffic area on the very corner of Ford’s show. If you were walking from Acura, Cadillac, or Honda it is likely that the first display of Ford that you would come to is these three cars. (Yup that is a Focus Electric on the left in white.)

Many people are interested in how much space the batteries take up. Here are a few pictures (yeah not the most sexy pictures but probably more useful!). First up a Fusion Hybrid’s trunk, followed by a C-Max Hybrid trunk, and then finally a C-Max Energi trunk (if you want to see a Focus Electric’s trunk I covered that in this post):
Fusion Hybrid Trunk
C-Max Hybrid Trunk
C-Max Energi Trunk
(Sorry about the blue tint: There was a Ford LED wall right behind the cars which was lighting up the whole area in Ford blue–look at the above picture of all 3 cars: All those blue walls are all LEDs.)

Next up, every EV lover’s favorite: Tesla.
Tesla display
I got a very strong “Apple Store” vibe from walking around the Tesla area and talking to other people (people viewing the cars, not the “product specialists”). It was very different from any of the other manufacturers. Here is the Model S cutaway chassis:
Tesla cut away chassis

In between Ford and Tesla was a company trying (at least they say they are) to be Tesla’s competitor: Cadillac with their ELR:
Complete with a Cadillac branded EVSE–I wonder how much extra it costs for the word “Cadillac” on it! The ELR is deceiving: In drawings and photo’s, at least to me, its always appeared longer than it actually is. Being developed on a Volt chassis I knew it wasn’t going to be very long which is why the pictures I’ve seen were not what I was expecting. Here is the dash of the ELR.
Inside the ELR
Next on our tour, the ELR’s brother: The Volt:
Chevy Volt
Much like Ford, Chevy’s big news was the new Corvette Stingray (there were so many people in the Corvette area–we couldn’t even get close to one!) and so the Volt’s were hidden in their own display behind the Camaro’s? Which was very odd. Even more significant: We couldn’t find an electric Spark–there were a couple of gas engined Sparks on display.

Nissan had a multi-level display area with the Leaf’s off in the corner–one of which could drive itself:
Nissan Leaf
Honda introduced a new Fit at the show, but didn’t mention if the new Fit will have an electric version or not.
Honda Fit
Audi had an A3 eTron parked for viewing:
Audi A3 eTron
BMW was showing an entire area dedicated to its “i” vehicles: The i3:
BMW i3
and the i8:
BMW i8
Wouldn’t you like to sit behind the wheel of the i8?
BMW i8
The other German company (VW) was showing off the eGolf:
VW eGolf
Unlike any other manufacturer there, VW had a cutaway of the eGolf’s drive train:
VW eGolf drive train
Lets see, what else is left? Oh yeah: Fiat: (This really is a small car)
Fiat 500e
Love the dash on the 500e (looks like its from the 1940s or 1950s):
Fiat 500e dash
There’s still more: Electric Smart Car (even smaller than the 500e):
Plug in Prius:
Plugin Prius

Last we have, from the basement, VIA motors with their electric conversions:
VIA Pickup
Note the cover on the pickup bed, its a covered with solar cells!
VIA Pickup solar cell

I did spy something very interesting off in the corner of the basement. A very exotic looking hybrid that I didn’t think I’d see at a new car auto show any more…
Yes! A Fisker Karma!

We were very surprised by the number of people at the auto show (especially when the doors opened at 9:00am on a Sunday!). Very good news for the Detroit automakers, and for Detroit on the whole….

How to charge?

Chargepoint just recently redid their website. Included with the refresh is this fancy video on how to charge:

I see a few posts now and then in the plugshare app where people aren’t familiar with how to turn on/off a chargepoint station. It really isn’t that difficult, although I learned something watching it: Typically I just unplug the car when I’m done–instead of turning off the station first (it would probably complain less if I did turn it off first! LOL).


Estimating power consumption

In order to estimate the power consumed for a given route I’ve put together this simple page.

Enter in your starting and ending addresses, and approximate value for watt hours/mile and the usable battery capacity (these two values will default to 230 and 19.5 kWh for the FFE) then press the “Calc Route” button. Once you’ve calculated the route you can edit the Wh/mile and battery capacity values to see the values change. In addition you can drag the route around to change it and see how long that takes.

This is a really simple calculator that uses the distance over the route as returned by Google and the Wh/mile value to come up with the estimate. Elevation changes are not used in the calculation (as I’m assuming the elevation consumption will be included in your Wh/mile value).

Update 1: The page has been updated to add some round trip values, and it now will attempt to estimate the electricity used with a basic formula + google maps elevation data. These new values are reflected by the “est:” label in the output (Electricity Used, and % Used).

Update 2: Added a “use heat” checkbox to indicate if the heater is used or not.

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 news about the Next Gen Focus

Autoexpress (a UK based site) has a long report about the next version of the Focus and more spy photos.

One of the interesting tidbits there is the addition of a “Focus Energi” model. For those people who want a plugin car but are afraid of the range. This seems like it is a simple thing to do since the C-Max is essentially a taller Focus and they are built at the same plant.

The article mentions about a 25 mile EV only range on the “Focus Energi” (The C-Max gets something like 21 miles). I think that its possible that it would get even more miles than that–perhaps a 30 mile EV only range (making it directly competitive with the Volt to some degree).

The article also mentions that the fully electric Focus will also continue to be produced. Hopefully this is true especially in light of the fact of the Energi version (I can easily see them killing the Electric one because the Energi version “has that covered” to some degree).

Wow, check out the taillights:
Focus Rear picture
Looks like a cluster of 3 gun barrels shooting back at the car behind it! LOL

We’ll find out for real in March (I was hoping that they would reveal the next Focus in Detroit though)….

(Keep in mind that most of the information in that article is pure speculation as no official Ford source is mentioned at all–all they have to go on is the few spy photos and an “inside source”.)


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.