Monthly Archives: March 2014

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Whats with that blue cup?

What blue cup? This one on the dash:
The Blue Cup
I’ve covered it a little bit in the posting “What Can Your dash tell you?” but I figured it could use a bit more explanation.

You can find the blue cup on the left display (the Message Center). There are several ways to show it: As a few options in “Display Mode” and as one of the screens in “Energy”. When you configure the “Display Mode” custom view make sure you grab the indicator as shown above (you can select it with or without tick marks–the tick marks are important…keep reading).

This display shows you 3 items all related to power consumption: Your “instantaneous” value of Watt hours per mile (the white line), your average Watt hours per mile for the current trip (white tick marks) and the “blue cup”. These items are related to the budget display and the guess-o-meter as follows:

The guess-o-meter uses an average power consumption value (similar to the white tick marks) to estimate the range remaining on the battery: As the white tick marks move down (a lower average) you’ll notice that the range to empty shown on the guess-o-meter will increase (an educated guess).

The budget display shows the range to empty based on when you started your trip (or the distance to the next waypoint/destination). The all important blue cup shows you where your power consumption needs to be in order to make the budget. If you can keep the white tick marks at or below the level of the blue cup you’ll be able to drive the budget distance (or make it to the next waypoint/destination).

This indicator contributes greatly to the “video game feel” of driving the FFE around: You’re constantly trying to “beat your score” by keeping the tick marks well below the top of the blue cup. It becomes more and more challenging because the blue cup will get shorter for more efficient drives thus as you make trip after trip driving efficiently the blue cup will get shorter and shorter until you can’t possibly get any more efficient but you’ll try anyway LOL.

About that white line: The white line will move up and down in realtime as you speed up and slow down. You can’t possibly use the white line to modulate your power consumption (good luck keeping it in the blue cup while your climbing even a modest grade). You can try to keep it in the blue cup as much as possible but the real indicator if your driving efficiently is the tick marks.

If you don’t really like the fancy graphics of the blue cup display you can always just use the hard numbers approach: Instead of the blue cup display set the Message Center to show the enhanced trip meter. The enhanced trip meter will show miles driven, power consumed, average Wh/mile, and elapsed time since last reset. The trick to using the trip meter is to reset the meter when the car is fully charged and try to minimize the average Wh/mile value.

The video game nature of these displays makes it easy and fun to maximize your range when driving the FFE around.


Win one for the Zipper…

Detroit really is a sports city: There are few other alternatives for entertainment other than movies, the occasional concert, travelling shows (Stomp, Mythbusters, etc.) and the rare play that makes its way here. Above all Detroiters love their sports teams (yes, even the Lions!). What better thing to do on a Sunday night, then take a trip downtown to see a Red Wings game.
Go Wings

Joe Louis arena, where they play, is right next to Cobo Hall where the North American International Auto Show was held. This proximity also makes the same parking structure/chargers convenient to going to Red Wings games as well.
Chargepoint map
(The blue “C” on W Congress St.)
Instead of turning left when leaving the parking structure to walk to Cobo you turn right and climb the ramps up to the arena.

Reading online about areas with a lot of EV adoption (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta) gives you the impression that there are more EV’s than public chargers can accommodate. Looking at the map above ~10 chargers are available in the dozen or so block area. Joe Louis arena seats approximately 20,000 people and these days is usually about 1/2 full. Given that EV adoption is a few percent of overall vehicle sales you’d think that there would be 10 to 20 plug-in vehicles attending any Red Wings game.

Knowing the above, we left plenty early to get to the game in order to snag one of the two spots at the Millennium Garage. Turns out I didn’t have to do so: The other charge spot remained free throughout the duration of the game. I guess the intersection of Red Wings fans and plug-in vehicle drivers is exactly one: me!
Chargepoint map
Further evidence of this was the large group of people ahead of us as we exited the arena and entered the parking garage. As they rounded the corner in the garage and saw my car I could hear one of the party loudly exclaim: “ELECTRIC!” (She said it very loudly almost shouting it).
When we made the trip down to the auto show it was a very cold January morning with a strong headwind for the ride home causing us to burn 22 kWh:
Trip Display
For this trip the temperature was a bit warmer (in the 30s instead of the 20s LOL) with very little wind resulting in us only using 20.5 kWh:
Trip Display
For some additional figures I reset the 2nd trip meter before returning home: This way I can break out the two trips:
Trip Display
The trip down to the arena used 9.1 kWh and the trip home used 11.4 kWh. On the way to the arena I was driving very conservatively, using minimal heat, etc. since I didn’t know if I could charge at the game or not. For the drive home I was free to use as much heat and speed as I wanted.
In addition, since the car was charged up when I started, I charged to full in the parking garage, and the charge station was a Chargepoint station I can also use this to calculate the efficiency of the charger in the FFE. According to Chargepoint the car consumed 10.887 kWh during that session. Thus the efficiency should be at least 83%. I say at least because I had remote started the car when the game ended so that the car would be nice and warm by the time we got there which means some of the 10.887 kWh was used to heat up the car for the 15 minutes or so it took us to get there.
In the end, though, the Wings lost in overtime. Although not the best outcome they still did get 1 point to try to keep the playoff dream alive…

Ford installing more chargers…

Here is an interesting development:

Ford Motor Company in conjunction with GE, will supply vehicle charging stations at Ford facilities nationwide, beginning with facilities in and around its headquarters.

This is in addition to the 200 or so that they installed in prior years. This is a huge commitment to electrified vehicles on Ford’s part. With this kind of investment it would seem that plug-ins are here to stay for Ford….


Now the car tells me its spring

This morning the car said I had 90 miles of range on a full battery (well the guess-o-meter did). I haven’t seen that kind of estimate since last September! Yesterday’s temps were in the high 30s and overnight it never dropped below 40F. For my morning commute I used a paltry 238 Wh/mile (which means tomorrow’s range estimate will probably be even greater than 90).

This weekend, however, our temps are dropping again. Part of the freeze thaw cycle that destroys roads….


Whats that thing up in the sky?

Whats this? A post about weather again…but wait there is this thing up in the sky, its really bright? In addition I’m standing on something…green? More importantly the guess-o-meter is telling me I have 80+ miles again! Could this be….Spring?

We are now in the midst of the big thaw…all that snow (84″ of snow in Southeastern Michigan as of today) will take some time to melt. It may be August before the last of the piles are gone.

Bring on the warmer weather…!


Very funny Focus Video–from Ford!

Courtesy of Ford of Europe a very funny Focus Electric spot that takes a different approach from the Leaf videos:


Don’t we all need a passenger providing some engine noises! LOL


Weighing heavy on my mind…

I’m a relative newcomer to the EV lifestyle: Only living it for the past 8 months or so. We’ve been RV’ing for far longer (going on 15 years now with various forms of RVs). It would only be me that would attempt to combine the two. What combine EV’ing with RV’ing? How can you do that? The EV can’t go very far! Well if you’ve read this post you’d know the answer: Take the EV with you pulling it behind the RV.

Pulling the FFE behind an RV is a little more complicated than with your average toad (toad = car towed by an RV, typically towed with all 4 wheels down). Since the FFE cannot be towed with any  wheels down it must be towed on a trailer. As most RVer’s know: when your towing you have to carefully look at weights.

Looking at our new motorhome: The gross vehicle weight is 12,500lbs and the gross combined weight is 18,500. This would imply that it can tow 6000 lbs–it can, however, the installed trailer hitch is only good for 5000 lbs. This means that the total weight of the FFE plus the trailer can be no larger than 5000 lbs. Ford’s specifications say that the FFE weighs in at 3640 lbs–is this true? Well lets see what it really weighs:
FFE Weight

Wow that’s 20 lbs less than specified..great! (Weight obtained at a nearby Cat Scale.) This means that the trailer can be no heavier than 1380 lbs. Fortunately they make aluminum car trailers which weigh around 1200 lbs.

The other piece of the camping with the EV puzzle is: How do you charge the EV? This one is actually pretty easy. Many campgrounds have campsites wired for 240V 50A connections (many large motorhomes with 2 AC units use such plugs). All that is necessary to bring along the EVSE then is an adapter to go from the campground 50A plug to the EVSE plug (in my case this would be a NEMA 14-50 plug(RV) to a 6-30 receptacle(EVSE)). I simply need to bring my Level 2 EVSE (which is wired to a 6-30 plug) and the adapter. When camping at locations without 50A service I can simply plug in with the Level 1 EVSE provided with the car (and charge a lot slower).

It is still early yet, there is still a good 2′ of snow on the ground, and temperatures haven’t risen high enough to unwinterize the RV so there is still time to assemble the puzzle… Happy camping/EV’ing.



How far can I go part II–using the car

How often do you use the Navigation system on the FFE? Probably not often. After all you can only go 70+ miles or so on a charge right? In addition you pretty much know your neighborhood and where you drive it (it is a commuter car…).

Even if you have used the nav system you probably have only set a single destination: “Take me home”. There are other buttons on the screen:
Nav screen

Ever wonder what that “Set as Waypoint” button does? Try it. Pressing that button takes you here:
Nav screen 2

You can use this screen to add in a bunch of stops to your route. You can indicate at each stop weather or not you’ll be charging. You can use this screen to program in an entire route to see if you can make it on the current charge. If you tell the car that you’ll be charging only at the last stop that way when you start the route in the car the “status” value will indicate if you can make the route or not (a positive value for status means you’ll have extra miles available after the route, a negative value means you can’t make the route). You can even be sitting at “Home” and program in “Home” as the last stop for a round trip.

To add more stops simply press the “Add Waypoint” button at top left. When adding intermediate stops be sure to hit the “Set as Waypoint” button at the POI screen (seen above with the button circled). When adding the last point hit the “Set as Dest” button. To start using the route you’ve created press the “Compute Route” button at the lower left. This will bring you to the normal start navigation screen where it shows the different route options (shortest, fastest, etc.) where you can continue just like using a single point destination.