Monthly Archives: February 2014

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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….


Really extending the range of the Focus Electric

In a previous post I showed my spare vehicle I use for rough weather, hauling stuff, etc. when the FFE can’t cut it.

Well, we don’t have either of those anymore. At a recent camper show we kind of traded all that in on a new camper (the camper on the left):
Axis Motorhome

Mind you this guy still has a V-10 ICE in it (our third vehicle with a V-10 in it). In addition it also has a 4kW generator in it for dry camping and/or tailgating, etc. I can think of another use for it: Charging up my FFE while we pull it down the road (on a trailer, though, since the FFE cannot be towed with any wheels on the ground). All I need for it is a trailer (an aluminum one at that as the FFE by itself is close to the tow ratings of the Axis). Granted: since the genny is only a 4kW model I can only use the EVSE that came with the FFE–can’t use a level 2 with it. This shouldn’t be an issue as most campgrounds have 50A plugs, and sometimes we’ll be driving for a long time (and sometimes we’ll take the ICE Focus instead).

My Bosch/SPX EVSE is already installed with a plug so its really easy to remove and take with us (along with an adapter to use it at campgrounds plugged into the 50A 6-50 plug).

This combo is one of the reasons I created the “how far can I go” maps: I can map out how far from a given campground I can drive the FFE and still return if there are no charge stations in town.

2015 Focus news

Ford has released pictures of the 2015 Focus, you can see a bunch of them here.
2014 Focus

I like the look: like they grafted a Fusion front end onto the Focus..very nice (although I’m starting to think Ford is overusing the Fusion front end and it will start to grow tired).

Here are a couple of articles on it, first from The Detroit Free Press and from the Detroit News.

Hat tip to Bloggin on the myfocuselectric forums.

Update: Ford of Europe has posted some videos about it:

Update 2: Ford now has an official site for the 2015 Focus.

How far can I go?

Much like estimating power consumption along a route many people would also like to answer the question “Where can I go?”. Typically you would place a pushpin on your map and draw a circle around the pin the radius of your distance you want to go. This circle method has a drawback though: The distance is a straight line distance and does not reflect the actual driving distance from a given point. As an EV driver with limited range the actual driving distance is more important to you. To that end I’ve created this driving circle page.
Circle image
Enter in an address, or city name and a radius in miles and press “Calc Circle”. A transparent red circle will be drawn on the map. This circle is the linear distance from the given point. After about 20-30 seconds the green polygon will be drawn (I’ve had to put in some delays to prevent errors returned by Google). The polygon represents the area that can be driven to the given radius miles.

The polygon is calculated by dividing the circle up into 36 points. For each point the page requests directions from Google from the center to the point on the circle. It then walks the returned route stopping at the point when it hits the radius distance given. These end points are then used as vertices in the polygon.

Along a similar theme: Here is a version of the above page for drive times. On this page you enter in a location as above and the number of minutes you wish to drive (granted this page is more useful for going long distances). Here the red circle represents how far you would drive at 70 mph if you could drive in a straight line from the center point. The polygon is how far you’d go heading in that direction for the specified number of minutes. Again the circle is divided up into 36 points and Google is asked for directions from the center to each point. The vertices of the polygon are determined by following each route and calculating where you get at X minutes.

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.


Extending your range?

I’ve seen a few people post ideas in the FFE forums about how to pull a generator behind your EV to give you that extra bit of range. It is an interesting thought…enough of one that someone actually designed a thing: I give you the EP Tender (here is their main website).
EP Tender
I don’t think this guy will work for my beloved Focus Electric because he taps into the vehicle between the charger and the battery (since most EVs don’t allow charging while driving). It basically turns your EV into a PHEV with a cute little trailer. Even more fascinating is the simple solution to backing up (watch the video).


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).


Thinking about an EV?

Are you currently interested in purchasing an EV and are going through the research phase? Does your driving pattern fit within the parameters of an EV?
When I was doing my research to see if the FFE would work for me I had the same question. I did all the math and it told me that it should have no issues with the FFE. Still your left questioning…what if?
During my investigations I found the iEV smartphone app. (Note that I have no connections to the makers of iEV–just a happy customer.) You run the app whenever you drive somewhere in your current car. The app uses the phone’s accelerometer to estimate what electricity your driving would use if you were driving an EV. They have recently updated the app to version 3.
iEV 3 screen grab
This new version has a larger selection of EVs to choose from and shows you how your trips fit with each. After using it for a few weeks you’ll get a feel if an EV is right for you–maybe even which EV is right for you.

About that climate hit….

So what do you think this post will be about?? Winter weather driving?? LOL Well sort of.

Ever notice that as soon as you turn on the heater the guess-o-meter’s value suddenly drops by 10 – 20 miles and your status goes <0? (If your status read 0 beforehand the value of the status will be the amount that your range dropped.) Have you wondered where the guess-o-meter gets the value that it will use to drop the range with? Keep reading…

During the week I use the FFE as my commuter car for my 30 mile round trip into work and back. On the weekends we typically use it for short trips to the store, or to my son’s activities, etc.–just driving short distances around town. This means that during the week I have to make sure the FFE can go the 30 miles so I can get home, but on the weekends it really doesn’t matter because it typically only drives 10 or 15 miles a day–if that. In warmer weather the 30 miles is no problem (usually only using about 20% of the battery for those 30 miles). This winter with the really cold temps, though, I’ve had to use all the tricks to (most of them spelled out in a blog entry or two here) ensure I have the 30 miles. Where are you going with this you’re thinking to yourself?

Here is the thing: During the week I’ll attempt to use as little power from the HVAC as possible (defrost on LO and fan on low) but on the weekend since it doesn’t matter we’ll use max defrost, set the temp high, etc. What I’ve found out is that the guess-o-meter also guesses at the power consumption for the HVAC! On Monday morning when I get in the car and hit the HVAC button to turn it on my range will drop by 20 miles (because over the weekend we’ve used max power on the HVAC) but on Saturday morning when I hit the HVAC button to turn it on my range will  only drop by 1 or 2 miles–if that (because during the week the HVAC has used very little power). Thus the guess-o-meter is also making an educated guess about how much power the HVAC will use based on your prior usage of it.

That’s actually pretty cool: instead of just using some fixed guess that may be too high at one point or too low it is actually using measured historical usage.