Tag Archives: Driving

One of those days…

Yesterday I had one of those days. It was the kind of day that ICE drivers use as an excuse for why they don’t want to drive an EV. A busy Saturday starting out running some short errands which turn into longer errands, then out to dinner, and finally the local department of transportation decided that now would be a good time to close off that entrance ramp to the freeway that you were going to take thus adding another 10 miles to your drive…and so on.

At the end of the day the trip meter showed a total of 65 miles driven with 20 miles of range left (I managed to get a quick 1/2 hour charge at home between trips). Had I known the day would have turned out that way from the beginning I would have had the car charge all the time at home (taken off value charge for you FFE owners). Here is the thing, though: the car made it all day, it never left us stuck at the side of the road with no juice. They don’t just suddenly run out of power, there is a gauge telling you how much you have to go. If at any one time I had thought that the trip was longer than what the car could do we would have taken the other car (or waited on the charge). Its as simple as that..


Traffic Jams and the ICE Mindset

Now and then when talking to people about my FFE/EV I hear a common question, one that people think will “sink” the EV: “What if you get caught in a traffic jam?”

Its interesting to ponder the one question. It is rooted in the fact that if you are driving a conventional car and get caught in stop and go traffic your engine continues to run burning gas. If you don’t have much fuel to begin with (e.g. not much range in the EV) then you may have a problem as you burn through your fuel sitting there.

This certainly is the case during the winter months, especially in the FFE due to the cabin heater. If you are not moving you’ll need some heat. In the FFE the cabin heater is the most power hungry accessory in the car. Thus stuck in traffic burning through electrons to simply heat the cabin you may very well have an issue. On a very hot day the problem is similar with the A/C consuming some electricity (but not nearly as much as the heater).

On a much milder day, however, when you can just sit in traffic with the windows open (if you don’t mind the noise & smell from the other cars) you will use very little electricity at all. In fact as you go slower the “guess-o-meter” will actually increase your available range because you’re using less electricity. Its fun sitting in traffic watching the status indicator creep up and up–at times I’ve had the available range after a traffic jam be more than the range at the start of the trip!

So the next time you hear: “What if you get caught in a traffic jam?” respond with something like: “EV’s love traffic jams”!


Over range drive…

So what would be a good term to use when you go for a long drive that is longer than a typical charge (in the FFE’s case that would be 70+ miles)? Over range? Simply “long drive”? On a car with such a short range this is a novelty, on ICE cars its a daily occurrence.

Nevertheless these summer weeks have provided plenty of opportunities to take our FFE on trips longer than my usual daily drive (30, sometimes 45 miles). Two recent instances of this include:

  • Going to a graduation party about 30 miles from home
  • Going to a Detroit Tigers game after coming home from my commute to work

With the graduation party being on a weekend it was easy to start out with a full charge and make the round trip on a single charge. I was even able to drive conservatively enough to have 30% of the battery remaining when I completed the trip (including taking the highway most of the way).

The Tigers game, however, was a bit more of a challenge: Comerica Park is also 30 miles away from my house but those 60 miles would be in addition to my daily commute of 30 miles (totaling 90 miles if you’re paying attention). I didn’t want to attempt all those 90 miles on a single charge as the last few miles would involve returning home late at night–didn’t want to have to stop somewhere and charge since I did have to go to work the next day. The solution, in this case, is to use a public charger near my work to top off at work and then topping off again at home before departing for the game. The 15 miles in to work typically requires just under an hour refill, and thus the 15 miles to home also took just under an hour at home. If I was not able to charge up at work I don’t think I would have been able to make this trip–at least not within the allotted time.

As you can see, driving an EV sometimes requires a little bit more planning than driving your average ICE vehicle simply due to the limited range. If my FFE had an operational range just double what it does now (increasing the range to 150 miles or so) then this additional charging would not have been needed.

In the coming weeks I’ll have a few more opportunities to try these long drives..more grad parties across town, more Tiger games, more….


The commuter’s consumption..

As with most people who drive to and from work on a daily basis my commute is pretty routine. At this point I can almost tell the outside temperature by the amount of electricity used (Oh no, not another weather post!–well not really bear with me). I’ve also noticed a disparity between the power consumption on my two daily trips: The ride in to work typically uses between 10 and 20 wH/mile more than the trip home.

I’ve always thought this disparity was due to the elevation difference between home (675 ft) and work (900 ft). Climbing 225 ft or descending 225 ft over 15 miles would explain the power consumption difference but I wonder if there is something else that is contributing?

My day starts pretty early when there are few cars on the road in the morning and at the end of the day there is significantly more traffic. This difference may be a factor: In the morning with little traffic I find myself doing the speed limit if not a little bit over–usually I can even get the lights timed perfectly and make most of then. In the evening, on the other hand, there is so much traffic that I’d be lucky if I could maintain a constant 10 mph under the speed limit. This speed difference is significant–you can see the wH/mile change quite a bit for a 10 mph increase in speed (we’re talking from 35 mph to 45 mph here). This would also explain the inconsistency in the values I’ve been seeing: Some days in the afternoon there is less traffic and some days there is more traffic.

Food for thought…


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….


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.


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).


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!




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.