Category Archives: Electrification

Another novel use for the FFE

Found another novel use for the FFE:
Another novel use

What am I doing here? It would appear that I’m charging the FFE off of a covered RV. The novel use here is to provide a load for the generator in the RV. While in extended storage (say over winter) the engines have to be run about once a month or so. For the generator the Onan people told me that when you do run it you have to provide a load. I don’t think I could provide a better load to the generator than having the FFE charge with its Level 1 EVSE (which will draw about 12 amps).

Other options for drawing a load would be the A/C (which shouldn’t be run in cold weather), or a ceramic heater (which would have the benefit of heating the interior of the RV). In both of those cases, though, the electricity produced will simply vanish into the air. With the FFE the electricity goes to good use charging the battery (granted only using Level 1 for about 20 minutes I’ll be lucky enough to get a mile…maybe).




Contradictory article contradicts itself!

In the Detroit News today there is an article with the headline: “Buyers, electric cars slow to connect“.

I do realize that, in many cases, the headline is written by a different person than the article. The first section of the article would seem to confirm the headline saying things such as:

But four years after the Volt went on sale in late 2010 to enormous fanfare, sales haven’t met early optimistic predictions

Then later on, though, the items such as this are mentioned:

Still, EV sales overall are growing — with EVs up 25 percent and plug-in hybrid sales up 35 percent — but they still account for a minuscule .7 percent of U.S. car and truck sales. Some 20 models come in EV versions in the U.S.

What isn’t mentioned is that plug-in sales are increasing at a rate faster than hybrids did (source). The article, to me, just confirms that people are being overly critical of plug-ins in general and that if they aren’t a sales smash (e.g. in the top ten sales list) then they are a failure. This is completely unreasonable; no new technology was a sales leader when it was first introduced (Apple iPhone notwithstanding).

I have another nitpick with the article:

Automakers have spent billions to introduce the vehicles. They repeatedly cut prices in an effort to juice sales. Just this month, Ford Motor Co. cut — again — the price of its slow-selling Ford Focus EV. Its price tag is $29,995 — down $6,000 since last year and down $10,000 since the Dearborn automaker put the vehicle on sale in late 2011.

Price alone isn’t why the FFE hasn’t sold that many (all along its price structure has been in-line with its competitors). Ford itself has said many times “We don’t expect to sell many of them” and, given how much effort they’ve put into selling them, sales have born that out. The FFE is a great implementation of an EV and Ford would sell many more if they simply marketed the thing…

In contrast the Detroit Free press has published an article helping people decide what kind of alternative vehicle they should get.

Kirk and Spock for VW!

Now this is interesting:

William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy in a rather interesting Star Trek VW eGolf commercial.

Funny, they seem to be making the rounds lately in commercials…as Nimoy and Zachary Quinto were in a Audi commercial not to long ago ( ) also interesting there as Audi is owned by VW.


Drive Electric Week–Ann Arbor

This year the National Plug In Day event, er sorry Drive Electric Week, for Southeastern Michigan took place in Ann Arbor at Briarwood mall. This is a very popular mall with a lot of traffic–a much better location than behind a parking structure at a community college where last year’s event took place.

In addition, this year the timing worked out for me: The event was originally planned for Saturday but there is a U of M football game on Saturday (many people attending the game park at the mall and take the shuttle and traffic near Ann Arbor on game days is a nightmare). I would not have been able to attend the Saturday event with my son’s sports schedule.

Now on to the event; I loaded up the FFE with some EVSE’s and a table to display them all:
Loaded up
Arriving just prior to the official start I setup my display:
All set up
The EVSE table
On display I had the Juicebox, a Clipper Creek LCS-25P, and the Ford Level 1 charger. I was surprised to learn that many of the EV drivers haven’t heard of the Juicebox. This was most likely due to the fact that the majority of cars that showed up were Volts which doesn’t need much more than what came with the car (in fact many of the Volt drivers just used the included Level 1 charger).

The car tally for the event was:

  • 1 C-Max Energi
  • 1 Jet Electrica
  • 3 Tesla Model S
  • 2 Focus Electrics
  • Half dozen or so Volts
  • 3 Battery Scooters
  • Many battery bicycles

Shortly after setting up I was asked to assist with placing the signs around the mall. I only mention this small detail because we used a Tesla Model S to drive around and place the signs–my first and only ride in a Model S. What struck me the most about the Model S was how similar an experience it was to riding around in the Focus Electric. Now before anyone gets all bent out of shape, think about it a little bit. They are both EVs and they both exhibit all the common qualities that makes everyone love an EV: the smooth and quiet ride. As far as acceleration: Yeah the Model S has that in spades (and this was only a 60) over the FFE.

During the show/event I noticed that when people would show up to see the cars they tended to gravitate to my small display first. I’m not sure if that was because I had a lot of stuff to look at with the EVSE’s on display, that I was always by the car, or simply because of my car’s color. I did get a few comments on the color and how striking it looked compared to the other cars on display (most of the other colors: The Ford’s were their Ice Storm color, the Volts and Model S’ were various colors of: Silver, Black, White, etc.).

I would estimate that throughout the day I spoke with about a dozen people. Some happened to be driving by the mall and noticed the cars, some were already going to the mall for other reasons and noticed the cars, the remaining few (about 3 or so) actually looked up the event online and came specifically for the show. All of the discussions were positive–I may have even sold an EV or two (perhaps even an FFE–there was a gentleman and his friend who were really interested in everything about the FFE).

If you’re still reading this far, you’re probably thinking: Enough blabbing already! More pictures. Ok here is the Jet Electrica:
Jet Electrica
Jet Electrica

Here are the converted electric bicycles: (These were very popular with everyone taking at least one for a spin.)
Electric Bicycles

Finally, some wide shots:
That's it
In the lot near Sears
Model S

On the whole everyone seemed to agree that it was a good turnout (given the fact that the date changed only two days ago) and it was much more visible being at a popular mall right by the busiest entrance.


Disco pants and haircuts….Yeah

In an earlier post I mused on how effective it is to have public chargers at motels and hotels. Other optimal locations for public charging are locations where people tend to stay for a few hours. These locations include:

We happen to take advantage of one of these types of locations this past weekend which worked out quite well: A Mall.
At the mall

This mall in particular lies slightly beyond the 1/2 “tank” range from our house and thus a short charge is required to complete the round trip. These chargers were recently added about 6 months ago (four Level 2 chargers to be specific). We took a little over an hour browsing and shopping in which time the car gained about 20% in battery charge (don’t know how many kWh that was because these were simple chargers–no card access required, no 800# to call, just plug in and they charge with just some status LEDs indicating charging, fault, ready, etc.). At the time all four parking spots were available which can be unusual for some areas of the country.

This is great as more and more companies realize the benefits of having a charger (shows a progressive business, encourages those who own EVs to shop there, etc.) we’ll see more of this–especially if EV sales continue to grow.


Ford’s director of electrification

Here is an interesting interview with Ford’s director of electrification.

The tag mentions that he was talking the future of electric vehicles, but there really isn’t much of that in the article. It is more about him, his personality, etc. than it is about anything specific with Ford (which of course makes sense: any announcements come from the press office, not some exec even if they do let things slip now and then).

Heck its probably a good thing that Ford has such a position to begin with–it would indicate that some thought was put into plugins instead of just making a bunch of “one offs” to check the boxes.


Now this is an interesting revelation..

Compact Ford Plug-in Hybrid Coming on new C2 Platform in 2018

This news all but confirms the plans for a “Focus Energi” coming in the near future (as Inside EVs also points out). The speculation there is that it will also include the Escape as a Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid which would make a lot of sense for Ford to do since it was so successful with the old Escape Hybrid.

What will all this mean for the Focus Electric? Time will tell. Many worry that Ford will kill it at some point–I don’t have this pessimistic opinion simply because Ford needs the FFE to be in compliance with CARB laws (even if it has a stable of plug-in hybrids). My hope would be Ford would take the lessons learned with the FFE and apply them to larger cars–I’ve seen wild speculation that Ford would produce a 200 mile+ range BEV Lincoln MKS–now that would be some car! (I doubt that will happen though: Ford is far too conservative to attempt something that ambitious.)

Think about it though: Since Ford has recently been giving people many different powertrain options (look at the Fusion: you can get a standard engine, turbo, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid) they should also add EV to that mix (not necessarily for all models). Since many are on the same platform they could conceivably do this with the Focus, Escape, C-Max (although the article above seems to think the C-Max will be going away), and possibly the Fusion:

  • Standard gas engine
  • Ecoboost gas engine for more mpg
  • Hybrid for even more mpg
  • Plug-in hybrid for even more mpg
  • EV for no mpg

Even better yet: They should advertise that they have these things (when is the last–or even first–time you saw a Focus Electric commercial?).


What would it take??

Now that I drive an EV around whenever I’m driving one of our ICE vehicles I like to think about what would it take to make this vehicle an EV?

Lets start with our new car: a 2014 Ford Escape. This exercise should be pretty easy as the Escape is based on the same platform as the Focus and thus shouldn’t require much more than the Focus. Looking at some of the specs for the Escape:

  • 1.6L Ecoboost engine making 178 HP, 184 lb-ft of torque
  • 3500 lbs curb weight

These numbers aren’t too much off from the ICE Focus (2.0L 160 HP, 146 lb-ft, 2950 lbs) thus to electrify the Escape: a slightly larger electric motor (just 20% larger) and more battery for the larger engine (about 30 kWh or so). The challenge with the Escape is that its footprint is about the same as the Focus which wouldn’t leave a lot of room for the Focus battery let alone a 30 kWh battery. It does sit higher being a CUV so there may be some room in the floor which isn’t available in the Focus. Note that using these numbers the converted EV Escape would still only manage about 75 miles on a charge since I’ve only extrapolated the numbers from the existing Focus Electric.

The next contemplation is a bit more, um, serious! Our RV:

  • 6.8L V-10 engine cranking out 305 HP and 420 lb-ft of torque
  • Weighing in at a hefty 12,000lbs

Now we’re talking large multiples (at least 2X engine size and 4X weight). Just taking that into account we’d need a 2X electric motor producing roughly 200 kW–or would the implementation be easier by just using two 100 kW motors: one driving each rear wheel. The real trick to electrifying the RV, though, is battery: This is due to the fact that for an RV to be useful you’ll want a ton of range (our RV has a 55 gallon gas tank giving it an effective range of about 600 miles). Simply doubling the battery size from the FFE won’t be enough, we’ll need something more like 10 times the battery size (due to the range requirements, and the additional weight of the RV). So now we’re talking about a battery around 250 kWh. How big would that be? Is it practical?

The best EV batteries today are about 240 Wh/kg (Tesla Model S). The translates our monster 250 kWh battery to be around 2300 lbs. That is a heavy battery enough so that our RV would have to bump up the chassis from the E-350 its based on to the E-450–it may also necessitate an increase in electric motor size simply to compensate for the additional weight (ok so lets put the motor at 250 kW from 200 kW).

Is there enough room in the RV for such a large battery? My initial thought would be yes: The electric motor can simply be bolted to the rear axle freeing up the engine bay, drive shaft tunnel, and exhaust pipe routing for battery usage. Again using the numbers from the Model S (about 700 Wh/L of volume) results in a battery that is: about 12 cubic feet in size. If we flatten that to a 1 foot high slab we get a battery that is roughly 3 feet by 4 feet by 1 foot high–easily tolerable in the RV.

If this appears all feasible how come we aren’t seeing ERV’s? Well something I haven’t mentioned, but also needs to be calculated, how much would a 250 kWh battery cost? A reasonable estimate for battery costs today is around $250/kWh thus a 250 kWh would cost $62,500 just about doubling the price of the RV–not including all the R&D that would be required for building something entirely new. Would someone pay that? If you were looking at two brand new RVs sitting on the dealer’s lot both identical to each other on the outside with identical floorplans inside but the left one had an electrical powertrain with a price 2X the one on the right with a gas engine would you purchase the electric one? (It should be noted that if there was a 3rd one with a Diesel engine its price premium over the gas engine one would be about 10% – 15%.)

Note that the numbers I came up with here are really just guesses (battery size and motor size) from scaling up the FFE’s motor–doing the real math to figure it out may come to significantly different values.


Another funny/good EV commercial..

From the likes of VW:

This one comes courtesy of Inside EVs.


Electric everything…

Can’t believe I haven’t mentioned my other electrical efforts before…

About the time Ford announced that it was going to produce an electric Focus in 2009 and I decided that I would get one eventually I also figured that it would be a good idea to start electrifying other areas around the home. At the time LED lights were just being introduced so I gradually started replacing the household lights with LEDs as they burnt out or when the LEDs went on sale.

Shortly thereafter our gas lawnmower gave up its last breath. I thought perfect just in time to get a new, electric one. Not being satisfied with dragging a cord around the yard with me I searched for a battery powered mower. At the time I think there was only two on the market, and not the least expensive mowers on the market. Of the two the Ryobi 48V one seemed to be the better option (I think the other one was a 24V Toro).
Ryobi Electric Mower

I went ahead and purchased the mower. Initially it was a little rough going as a single charge was just enough to cut all of our lawn (a standard 1/2 acre lot). In addition the included charger is a little finicky and you have to pay attention to when it should stop charging as it may overcharge and fry the battery–found that out the hard way. After picking up a spare or two I’m now pretty happy with the mower. About 1/2 way through the lawn I switch the battery and start charging the used one. A while after I’m done that battery is charged and I switch the charger to the other which finishes in a couple of hours.

Just like the FFE the lawn mower is very quiet with respect to other mowers. The only noise it does make is from the blades as they spin about twice as fast as a normal mower (when running it sounds almost exactly like a large fan on high).

Soon after the mower I also picked up a battery powered trimmer followed by a battery powered leaf blower. Sadly the only piece of outdoor equipment I haven’t been able to replace with an electric version has been the snow thrower (the only one I know of is prohibitively expensive).

So at least during the summer months I’m able to use only electrons for the weekly yard work…

Now if you look at the home improvement stores there is a little bit more of a selection of battery powered mowers including this “EGO” one (that costs even more than my Ryobi cost several years ago).