Monday, November 26, 2012

The Th!nk City has improved heat!

Yet another reason to be Thankful - Think NA upgraded our heater under warranty!

I sent this email to a fellow Think driver:


Well all we had was the heater upgrade but Kevin and I were thrilled. We have been keeping records of charge and mileage on the Think:

Last week - Up to Eurostar battery starts at 100% ends at 45% for 40 miles with no fan or heat.
(I'm alone going up in the Think - large portion of this is highway at 65mph)

Tonight - Back down to Bowie same trip we start at 102% and end at 48% for 40 miles with heat on the whole way.  (and it's 20 degrees colder then the drive up last week when I dropped it off and Kevin is an extra 160 lbs sitting next to me.) With heater/fan dials on LOW we were toasty!

You have to understand - maybe the winds were more favorable etc. but in the Leaf turning on the heat cannot be mistaken - range ALWAYS drops - first for the cold and second for turning on the heat. I generally only use the seat heater unless I need to defrost windows. 

That is hot!

Dave





Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving and EVs.

Like past Thanksgiving's this November 2012 has plenty to be grateful for. This blog is about the return of Electric Vehicles in the US and we'll look at what is good there.

First the election was probably better for renewable energy and EV's. Why conservatives have taken the positions they have on climate change and new vehicle technology is odd - given that long term neither of those make sense. Nor is the liberal side perfect - I see very little low carbon commitment there but at least they are supporting renewable and EV development subsidies.

I personally am thankful for the range of EV's available and that many are being made in the US. We are still awaiting Nissan's new US made Leafs. All indications are of improvements and less expensive models but the US 2013 models are still awaiting announcement and specifications.

I'm grateful Nissan was able to fix my Leaf - squirrels got in the engine compartment and chewed up the air filter and blower. Not grateful for the squirrels though. Thanking the tiny remaining Think USA company for replacing the heater in the Think with a more efficient heater unit under warranty.
 
Finally on the manufacturers side, I want to also thank Tesla. I can't afford one, but Elon's dream and drive have really jumpstarted the EV and kept the other manufacturers in the game. Car of the year for the model S is very nice.

On the user side the various regional and national organizations have done a great job with National Plug In Day. In our area both EVA/DC, also Mark Czajka and MD Volt have done excellent work with meetups and other events. Below is a Tesla S attending the last MD Volt meetup.

Happy Thanksgiving !!



Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween for the EV Family

The east coast just had an ugly hurricane - New Jersey and New York took the worst impact - for Maryland it was power outages, some flooding, and just a single death. Which was a tragedy as big as any to that family but the numbers and damage were much worst north and on the shore. 

We are on the edge of an election where one side is spoiling to drill and drop efforts to develop alternative low carbon energy. It amazes me with the hotest climate over multiple years, hurricanes at the end of October, and continual weather disasters - conservatives can't seem to see the handwriting on the wall.

As a two EV family I know we have done our part. Still I have to admit the lukewarm demand amazes me. The reward of cheap fun miles helps though. The fact that Th!nk is also coming through with upgrades to the problem heater system - pretty good considering their up and downs. Kevin's excitement at the Th!nk is great too.

So a mixed Halloween - Tricks & Treats for all.

Let's hope for an EV positive Thanksgiving!

Dave


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Th!nk fun and issues

The Th!nk City to date has been a lot of fun.  It seems to have about 5 more miles per full charge then the Leaf in range which is nice. Roomy for a two seater - as a former Honda CRX and Spitfire owner I like the seating. However I'm glad the highway segments I've been on have been short - it's clearly straining above 60 mph. Acceptable and reasonably safe but not as comfortable as the 40-55 power band where it excels. Rt 301 and around Bowie/Brandywine/Waldorf is quite nice. I brought it down from Euromotors via the 695 Baltimore Beltway - fine even in rain with the lower center of gravity, but not comfortable at 65 mph highway ( which keeps me pretty much right lane - but I'm used to that in the Leaf for milage reasons). I did get the speedometer up to 75 to prove it could get there but it was on a flat section and clearly sucking down the electrons.

That is fine though - it's meant to be a city runabout and for that it's a ball to drive. It gets a lot of positive feedback for it's fun look. My son and others have tried it - will writeup some feedback on that in the future. Pretty positive though. However there is a fly in the ointment - the heater.

When I drove it home I used the heater - no problems. Reading on the internet at the Th!nk users group on heater use however I was saddened to find that heater use can unpredictably mess up the electronic controller - sometimes fatally.

While supposedly Th!nk USA is working the issue - we buyers are hearing nothing yet - and it's getting colder out.... Will keep you up to date on any developments.

Dave

PS - Lanny from EVA/DC took this after kindly giving me a ride up to EuroStar Motors to pick it up:


Friday, September 28, 2012

Time to TH!NK expansion

I may need a new alias for the blog.

Instead of DG Leaf it may have to be Th!nk City DG Leaf. At the National Plugin Day my son and I had lots of test drives. One of the fun ones was the Th!nk City. 

It's a two seater hatchback similar to a Smart but a little more solid looking. ABS plastic - sort of a nordic IKEA looking design. Originally the Nordic design was bankrolled by Ford to the tune of 120 million. The DOE had loans in too. The company has been in and out of bankruptcy which is scary, but allows for a very interesting gamble. It's currently on again and the dealer and company are currently honoring warranties etc. They claim there will be a 2013 - the dealer says they have an order in.

The 2011 cars are being sold cheap to clear the decks. Assembled in Elkhart, IN with US made batteries ( Another company in and out of hock ) this 2 seater has the same size battery - 24kwh as the Leaf ! 

MSRP 36,145 ( tells you why they are having issues..)

$22,968 upfront - no MD tax, thats with 200 dealer prep and tag/title/registration.

$15,468 after Fed $7500 rebate - For a highway 80 mile, city 100 mile range car.
                 ( I'll report back as I real world test these. )

Electric ! A Leaf was $39K when you added in all the dealer crud. Better deals available today with electric model year changeover and slow down. The Leaf is quite a luxury electronics showroom vs plain Jane Th!nk.

But 15.5K???  I'm all in. Yes at some point in the future the EVA/DC club members that have been snapping them up, may be maintaining them like Delorean's after that company disappeared. That is in my opinion less of a challenge with an electric.

More to come! The new Glotfelty family one is red.

A couple videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=rMWZpSXsqJY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGxGvkb7KxM

In red:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=H4ntT3DGOf0&feature=endscreen

Dave


Monday, September 24, 2012

National Plug In Day - Winners & Losers

National Plug In Day was yesterday. The one I went to in White Marsh is not to be seen as representative but I have some observations on it.

Winners:
-----------
Mark Czakja - excellent organizer. Awards for the MTA's beautiful charging setup at White Marsh, great sponsor organizing, and prizes / test drives / fun.
The public that came - not as many as could have made it out, but lots of rides in supercars!
The EV owners - Giving nice folks rides. Networking and driving other cool cars - I tried 3.
The Think dealer - Eurocars, showing people cool Thinks at firesale pricing!
Kevin my son won a $100 Mom's Organic Gift card as a door prize!!!
Lots of other door prize winners too.
MTA folks - Putting in charging station in the perfect spots for public transit links.
Emergency Responders - They are training on all major EV's to take care of in accidents - awesome!
Baltimore County reps and many other guests.

Draw:
--------
The public that didn't make it - We'll keep trying - there is always hope next year.

Losers:
---------
Two EV Dealers. At least at White Marsh, Mark invited the local Nissan (Leaf) and Chevy (Volt) dealers just down the street. They didn't show. Sad - the one group that should be supporting all this for their own corporate goals - total no shows.

---------------------
Fun day, great seeing Jill Sorenson from BEVI, lots of solar home reps, a Leaf owner who drove from NJ, Ford - although it was their hybrid vs the EV, and a ton of Volt owners. I had a ride in a very nice 'EcoBling' Volt the owner had tricked out with leds and cool accessories.  Mark also had snacks, T-Shirts for EVers and demo riders, and the vendors had refreshments.

Kevin got a passenger ride in the Fisker Karma supercar which was quite sporty. I got to take him for a test drive in the Think - the Eurocar dealer was cool about it and just let us two take off. It was quite nice for a very small car - kind of took me back to my young days with a two seater. Kevin dug it too.

Ah a day of optimism,

Dave

PS Here's a couple of son Kevin pics from the plugin day...





Wednesday, September 19, 2012

National Plug In Day - This Sunday - September 23

National Plug In Day is Sunday!

Your friends with EV's, EV clubs, dealers of EV's will all be at 60+ locations all over the county to show you their Electric Vehicles.

Lately the press has been sharpening their knives - with big advertisers that have entrenched interests. Yet the owners have the highest satisfaction ratings out. While there are issues - the high heat issues for the Arizona desert owners are one serious problem, owners love their EVs.

Overall though, the 2013 domestic made Leaf is looking even more promising - Nissan CEO Ghosn has said their new battery upgrade will increase mileage by 25% - that is a tremendous improvement on top of the other improvements slated!

So come on out on Sunday and check out the new commuting vehicle that can change how a family spends on their motor vehicles, has a ton of fun driving, and leaves kids a cleaner sustainable planet.

http://events.pluginday.org/

Here's where Kevin and I will be Sunday morning in White Marsh MD:

http://events.pluginday.org/p/salsa/event/common/public/?event_KEY=68049



Dave

Monday, September 10, 2012

Tesla buzz and awaiting Nissan's next move

The Tesla S is starting to make the rounds as the deliveries begin. Basically if you are in the upper income brackets or have a sizable nest egg for that one special item - I really don't see any competition. The EVA/DC website has links to a member drive test that just looks incredible. Good range, active battery protection, and next generation electronics - there really is nothing else like it. If you have got the loot and love high end cars - get in line for a Tesla S.

So the how about the company trying to make electrics for the upper middle class here? Nissan has had many reports of improvements - some unofficially from corporate insiders as I've noted before. Quite a few websites are reporting more improvements as well, but nothing yet seems official. Range and price are always the two biggest questions with faster charging a close third. The wait for details on the 2013 is a killer, as Nissan tries to sell down the 2012's. August monthly sales numbers were better - in the 600s, but still no breakthrough numbers. The 600's are happening due to very sweet sales and lease deals.  Basically if I could have held off I might have saved 5K easily but I must admit in this case I'll trade driving joy for the cash...

So we remain in a holding pattern for September awaiting developments! I will report on how National Plug In Day goes September 23rd.


National Plugin Day

National Plugin Day - September 23rd 9am - 1pm,

I'll be at the one above Baltimore at White Marsh in Central Maryland. Here's a link:
http://events.pluginday.org/content_item/about

Should be fun - various electrics, dealers showing their models, information on coming EVs.

I'll get there early to pickup a charge, read for a while and be ready by 9am for the gathering. Bring a license and valid insurance information and drive an EV!

Dave

Monday, August 13, 2012

Commute increase - charger upgrade

So the new commute to College Park is a brutal upgrade of at least 60 miles round trip from formerly 26.  Yeech.  Also we are talking later arrivals at home with less juice - yuck.

So as I am a basement apartment dweller I opted to upgrade Nissan's trickle charger. This upgrade with various support thick gauge (12x25') extension cords and various adaptors was about $500. It lets me charge at 240 16amp without buying a permanent station to leave at my apartment.

It does let me charge in 6 hours if empty, 4 hrs for 33% juice left, or an hour gets me a quick 15 miles more or so in the battery - enough to trip south for errands and aikido class in Waldorf.

So far so good - it plugs into my dryer and appears to be working well.

Will report on the new commute as it drives me batty.

Still a typical month going from 20 x 26 = 520 + 400 miles on incidentals = 920
Now is                                        20 x 60 = 1200 + 400 = 1600 or 680 more or 22 gals

That would have been an additional eighty bucks a month!   Closer to $18 with electric.

Dave                  



Sunday, August 12, 2012

Great focus of purpose at MD Volt meetup

The Meetup group for Volt drivers and other electric cars met a week ago at Fedex field.  The NRG Solar installation was the meetup point. What a great plan for folks to see how renewable power from the sun can power a stadium and electric cars to boot. Very cool.

A Ford Electric Focus was there too!  They gave out rides! I drove it - and was impressed. Here's my review on the EVA/DC site  : http://evadc.org/2012/08/05/ford-focus-ev-test-drive/


Really appreciate Kristin and Ford letting us drive. First off – great car – puts all EV makers on notice if Ford produces these in quantity.
I own a Leaf – which I love – so I’ll contrast with it. To be honest I don’t see the Focus competing with the Tesla head on as those are pretty different price ranges. On the other hand it may convince someone considering the base S that there is another more reasonable alternative with style.
Console – Focus by a nose. While we didn’t get up quite the metered display I enjoy in the Leaf, there was a choice of reconfiguring displays nicely integrated into the instrument cluster. I prefer that to the ‘center square’ nav/energy display on the Leaf and others. Also looks at first glance very normal so not as off putting to a converted ICE driver.
Passenger Room – Leaf by a nose. Still I was impressed at 6 foot that I ,and even taller testers, were comfortable in the Focus. More then adequate for me though. Did not test the passenger area – again adequate but a little smaller. A couple of the even taller fellows may want to weigh in.
Styling – Focus by a head. Here trading a little head room gives a nice low slung styling the Leaf can’t hope to match. Sweet paint job and front grille. Cool ‘state of charge’ glow ring around the charge cap. Everyone liked that. Kind of European in look.
Acceleration and handling off the line. I think this is still the Leaf by a nose. Still the Focus has the similar instant giddyup we have come to love from our electrics. Very peppy, low center of gravity, handled very well. Did not take it out on the bigger stretch so can’t comment at higher speed. The ‘fun’ factor most of our electrics share is definitely there. Steering was responsive. Now the autocross will have to get run to determine a king of the hill – is it subjective that I think the Leaf is ahead? Only one way to tell – let the games begin!
Charging – Focus by a body length. 6.6kw is what Nissan should have put in the Leaf. Will it be there in 2013? Will it cost extra? For the moment this easily goes to the Ford Focus.
Trunk space – The Leaf by a head. Clearly part of the batteries and support electronics in the Focus have taken up the lower trunk area.
Range and efficiency – looks like a wash for the moment until we get better real world data.
Cooling. Head and Shoulders Focus. I dont have any info on electric load to heat and cool the cabin – that could be important to find out. However liquid cooling for batteries should favor the Focus especially in Southern States. Some Phoenix Leaf owners are already having battery issues only a year in and it appears soaking in 110-114 F and higher is not working well with air cooled batteries in the Leaf. Kind of frightening even for a Marylander as we’ve had a couple 105 days and with climate change more to come. Advantage Focus.
Price – Close. A little higher (2-3k) then the Leaf – until we see how dealers charge for these we really can’t tell. I would say like the Leaf they are definitely an alternative to Tesla for the budget minded – if one is will to give up the ‘Star Trek’ level features of the Tesla.
Manufacture – Focus by a nose. Nissan is opening the Smyrna, TN plant to their credit and making Leafs and batteries there. Ford however is the US automaker and that will undoubtably bring many looking for a US buy.
So my conclusion – I may keep my Leaf but I hope Nissan takes notice and steps up to the plate. If I was a younger buck the Focus styling would be the kicker – a very pretty car. A Mustang of EV’s perhaps?
Thanks again for the test ride.
Dave Glotfelty
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

One thing I noticed after I'd written this from pictures was the console does have a center screen I assume for navigation. It was off when I was driving but again my point would be that unlike the Leaf I could put more involved displays up in the center console - in the Leaf some alphanumeric stuff can be called up in the console but not the energy info display etc.

I should also say for me while I admire styling, space is much more important for me which the Leaf has. I also find entry and exit easy on the Leaf. Finally as I said the Leaf seemed a little peppier. i.e. I'm still a Leaf fan as for my favorite in that price range. Could be owner bias - grin!

However I think a younger person with less time to charge would have to go for the Focus. We'll see if that changes if the 2013 Leaf includes 6.6Kw charging. Would be nice...

What is exciting me here is Ford is totally in the game. Competitive maybe winningly so. Unlike Honda who looks like a winner then proceeds to make 300 a year and lease them. Or Toyota making a tepid Prius entry and then waving the big fib of hydrogen in 5 years. Yeah right - it doesn't make sense on the basic physics.  Tesla - in the game if only for the high end still.  GM(Volt), Nissan(Leaf), and now Ford(Focus) - in the game.  How could Honda and Toyota blow this? Well good - glad to see American companies leading again for a change.  That and the fact Nissan is building in this country really make Electric Vehicles a win for the US at this stage of the game.




Sunday, July 22, 2012

Slowdown

Well the discussion at EV club this month has centered around two issues for the Leaf.

First a slowdown in sales this year. Clearly they are down from 2011- the year one for the Leaf. I originally believed the issue was Nissan constraining supply because of the extreme weakness of the dollar to the yen. At least one dealer in discussions has admitted though that they are not selling as well and they are on the lot longer. While various pro C02 folks claim the vehicle is the problem I lean towards the fact the Leaf buyers tend to do deep research. After all the car is expensive if well appointed and basically we buyers really check out everything we can find on bleeding edge (grin) of technology before we jump. As I advised here months ago the 2013 will be made in the US, have half the charge time required, and have a heater that doesn't hammer range in the winter. Those improvements are a big deal. This is all published and can be easily found. While I was asked and did hold some of this information when first told, basically all this information was available in print in late Dec '11 - plenty of time to slow buyers.

One more point is the US made batteries and US made cars - will this allow a price drop on the 2013 Leaf? Ghosn - the Nissan CEO has said in the press his Leaf price target in five years was the VW Golf price.  That's 17-28k so with incentives they are close but I would not expect incentives to last beyond the next two-three years, so eventually thats head to head.

Makes sense when you read industry analysis that Lithium ion batteries are rapidly dropping in price and are projected to drop tremendously during the decade. Makes sense, lithium turns out to be plentiful, easily recycled, and have several extraction options. While current production is low in the US it turns out we have large amounts. Oil shills pass around a dated study clearly backed by the petrol folks claiming we are hurting on Lithium. Not true and this bourn out by the price. Name me a scarce resource we are running out of whose price has dropped by 10% this year.

http://www.plugincars.com/lithium-ion-battery-prices-drop-160-kwh-2025-123193.html

Second topic is more serious. All major battery chemistries to date have limited lifespan and lose capacity.  This is true of Lithium. It's important the Leaf make it's stated goals of 8 year 100k mark with 80% capacity intact.  For me that means my 5 year loan has been over for three years and I've saved 10k for a replacement (hopefully improved!) at about half my current payments for three years.  Hey- its a plan. This isn't a problem for folks who lease or trade in but I tend to keep a car til it dies.

In Arizona though several owners of year old cars are reporting 10% loss in a year. They have 115 degree days and this appears to accelerate battery capacity loss. For the moment on any day predicted to be 100 or greater in Maryland I'm just charging to 80% which is one way to prevent loss with heat. Still it's worrisome as I'm counting on no more then 2.5% loss a year.

Will keep you posted on that - no one has yet to really research it but a lot of discussion is flying.

Drive on!

PS & BTW - They may be discounting 2012's as this continues - I'll post what I hear.




Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Competition?

Normally I welcome more car models to the electric fold and I'd be delighted to see improvement over the Leaf.  From anyone.  With the exception of Tesla though some of these 'new competitors' seem bogus.

Take the Ford Focus.  Still no numbers to speak of - a very tepid introduction. More to throw up a gauntlet to competition then to actually sell in numbers. As I noted before though - cute style if a bit small for my taste.

Honda Fit electric.  This one really gets my goat - think the Leaf is hard to get. Honda is working overtime to splash specs around and they sound good. Then you find out this car is almost as hard to get as their million dollar Hydrogen Fuel cell mirage.  A thousand over 3 years ~ 340 a year. Lease only - you don't have an option to own just like the EV-1. Leasing is fine if the car is real and an option to buy is out there.

At least the Tesla S if pricey is going to be in some sort of buyable numbers and is rolling off the line - you have to admire Elon Musk's moxie.

Well at 6 months and 6100 miles I'm happy as can be.  Zippy performance with very low monthly cost.  If this continues as is at 54 months from now paid off this will be almost a free ride.  At least until I start looking at battery replacement at the eight year mark.  I really enjoy the car more each day.

Now the key is the US production and upgrades on a Leaf that either toes the cost line or decreases a bit. When I hear about these phantom car - arrggh.  Come on Ford and Chrysler - get in the game with a real EV.  At least Chevy has the Volt which is a real plugin with promise and some range...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

An interesting option

For those interested in the Nissan Leaf but annoyed by the wait, Nissan just dropped the Leaf lease by a few bucks.

First a disclaimer - I'm not selling for Nissan or getting a kickback.  I have no leasing experience either.

Now I'm glad to have bought a 2012.  Given however the big upgrades coming to the 2013, a 39 month (Three and a quarter year) lease has some pros.  This is a $3K down ( most elderly trade in cars would cover  this ) and a $289 base model lease price. I would lease the base model.

Add $40 in electric a month and you are running. Now you have 39 months of electric driving for under $350 a month (with maintenance) and you can look at buying one of the improved EV's in 2016's model year.  Admittedly you loose the payments but if prices fall - the purchase of a 2016 could be quite a bit cheaper.

Three years of improvement in model years.  Given all the Nissan upgrades each year in the Leaf and all the competition coming on line - could be sweet.

Folks experienced at leases feel free to discuss the down sides.

Dave

Sunday, April 22, 2012

It's Earth Day and Here we come....

Happy Earth Day,

So for the four month mark at 4100 miles the Leaf is performing very well. Up until now for mere mortals ( you know - Tesla owners ) it's been the Leaf or the Volt - which we've discussed in previous posts.

Now - here come the Challengers -

1.  Toyota's plug in Prius.  Sort of a Volt 'light' with it's base of alternate models and excellent first sales it can't be ignored.  Like the Volt an internal combustion engine to take care and feed. VERY short all electric battery range - 11 miles.  Still if a plug is available at work this car could be very well - my current 13 mile one way commute with work charging (which I don't have) would be possible to be almost 90% electric.  Not cheap - $32K MSRP and high end model with Hud display and radar cruise $39.5K.Availability is pretty good for new model - almost 900 sold in the US in the opening month.  As a proven, no range worries model it should at least be considered.  Still $32k base and I think less incentives - a bit pricey for that battery size.

2.  Ford's Focus EV.  Full EV with a more normal body style.  Not quite out of the gate and somewhat limited in production this year - still 10 or so are out there.  A 23KWH battery and about $39.2K MSRP.  Claims of performance close to the Leaf but no independent comparisons yet.  Faster 6.6kw charging at 240V - 3 to 4 hours to full.  That's big - Nissan says the 2013 Leafs will have this vice current 3.3kw - 7hrs at 240V.  I think the Focus has promise if Ford can ramp up production.

3.  Honda Electric FIT.  Very promising specs but the most tepid introduction I've ever seen - Honda will only produce 1000 for the whole of three years (300 per year!) - then only for leases - shades of who killed the electric car.  Still vapor ware but worthy of mention that even Honda is getting its toes in the water.

4.  Mitsubishi iMiev - With 220 sold here its ahead of the focus but I really don't have much on it.  Maybe 62 mile range and wild styling - makes my Leaf look normal.  At $29.1K before full incentives worth a mention on price but a bit limited on space, range, and amenities.

Well that's the lineup - should be interesting in the coming year.

At 4K miles the Leaf has performed great.  I managed to scratch an inchworm sized gouge in my rear bumper - that first one always hurts but the vehicle is still looking good - in it's own homely bug eyed way.  Looking forward to my big 7500 mile maintenance, tire rotation, sometime this summer.

Happy Earth Day All!

Dave

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Volt and the Leaf

So what of the Volt?

It suffered a pretty rough smear campaign but sales appear to be on the mend.  March 2012 according to Bob Lutz is headed for a record month - hopefully that will end the temporary closure of the plant as sales catch up.  I note also the Volt in stock inventory has eased.

The fact that one unit suffered a fire three weeks after a crash doesn't trouble me.  Why is that?


Here are some GAS vehicle fire statistics:

· According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), one
out of five reported fires is a car fire. In fact, 18 percent of all
fires takes place on a highway or other road and involves a motor
vehicle.

· Also according to the NFPA, 33 car fires are reported every hour
across the country, with one person per day dying in a car fire
accident in the years between 2002 and 2005.

· According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were
258,000 vehicle fires in 2007 and 385 deaths. There were 1,675
injuries.

So the sad thing is someone may die in a gas fire because they listened to hype.  However the Volt does still have a gas engine and internal combustion components.  So typical gas risk may apply.

As a solution for someone that wants to drive long distances and do short electric commutes the Volt excels.  The slightly higher Volt cost over the Leaf is a factor but 3-5 thousand would probably be worth the ability to drive extended distance when needed.  Assuming Chevy wants to sell down the Volt inventory even more it sounds like deals are to be had. Leafs are tough on the East Coast to get below MSRP.

The key is can you live with 35-40 miles vs 75-85 miles electric range.  A one way 13 mile commute like mine - optimal and I could still visit Grandma 200 miles away on the weekend.  So the Volt could be a good choice.  I seriously urge you to consider the Volt as a possible way to reduce emissions and gas cost.

However for me, my 2003 Honda HCH with 160,000 miles already needs a second Catalytic converter - the first was $1500.  I'm no longer interested in maintaining a muffler, spark plugs, fuel injector, gas tank, emissions system, gas lines, filter, oil pump, oil filters - you get the idea.  I believe cost comparisons show these maintenance costs will cancel out the eventual battery replacement in 8-10 years.  Electric motors are extremely reliable for amazingly long lifespans and my experience with regenerative brakes only requiring pads at 80k miles in the Hybrid lead me to think those will be better to maintain then gas cars too.

So its a Leaf for me.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Resources and links

So you've waded through my writing and you're interested. Where else to find out about electrics?

In the Washington DC metro area we have a FaceBook group for Leaf owners and interested folks:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/capital.leafs/

For Leaf discussion and a place to ask owners your questions:
http://www.mynissanleaf.com/index.php

Robert Llewellyn is a British actor who writes and does a great video series on electric cars.
Some of his columns are here:
http://www.thechargingpoint.com/authors/Robert_Llewellyn.html

Tired of reading? - His video series - Fully Charged is here:
http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/fullycharged/id378690320
or look for 'Fully Charged' on youtube.  A Facebook link as well:
https://www.facebook.com/FullyChargedShow

Finally the best club for all electrics (car,motorcycles,you name it)  in the DC area is:
http://www.evadc.org/
You don't have to have an electric car to join - just be interested...  Great if you are deciding on a brand as they are vendor neutral.

Dave

Sunday, March 25, 2012

First con - still haven't bought a charging station

So lets examine one of the cons.

When I went to buy the Leaf I put off the charging station. What this means is I use a very slow trickle charger that came with the car. Very slow.

About 19 hrs is the published number - my experience with my new car is closer to eighteen but the simple fact is I rarely charge from anywhere near empty. If I can I opportunity charge from chargers that are mostly free around the area, and I mostly just plug in at home.  Unlike my charger which is a brick with 120v on one end and a J1772 on the other, most car charging stations are 240v Level 2.

I'm in a basement apartment where the 120 outdoor outlet is available under an overhang.  So unlike a lot of apartment dwellers I'm fine for a 120 volt 12amp outlet.  One thing I notice is the 12 amp requirement is serious - too long of an extension cord or a cranky breaker at someones house and - no or little charge.

I have two faster options I've haven't paid for yet.  The first is installing a Level 2 (L2) 240volt charger - this is like a dryer circuit in your house and cuts charging down to seven hours for a completely discharged Leaf back to full charge.  I can't take that with me if I move though - although my landlord is fine if I install the unit.  The original Nissan unit was 3-4 grand installed but on the net I'm hearing about people paying a grand for a charger and installations as low as another thousand for a about $2000.

Another option is upgrading the trickle charger to use a dryer or RV 240 outlet.  That is about 400 or so with a 16amp option and your original charger but is not UL covered.  I may go this route.

Sooner or later I'll have to look at this because in the fall my commute increases from 28 miles to 65.  Right now if I have an exercise class after work no problem.  In the fall though it will be more tricky with a trickle charger.

Generally though I always have extra charge now.  Even a trip to near empty gains ~ 44 miles back in the 8 hours I have to sleep - more then my commute.  As long as I always plug in when I get home - no worries.  Most days - when I take the car out it's full.  With an expensive car, putting off the charger has been helpful. I'm grateful Nissan has been including the trickle charger standard on the leaf. Decision time is coming though....

Dave

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Casebook - The Case of the Missing Tailpipe

So is the Leaf a case of no tailpipe or long tailpipe?

Clearly a gas powered car emits CO2 and other emissions as it burns, newer efficient cars producing less directly.  Now with catalytic converters with rare metals stopping more smog components then in the seventies.  However electricity clearly comes from somewhere - what about plant emissions?

A 9/22/11 US Department Of Energy study says mile per mile the Leaf is 60% less emission if we include the electric plant.  That is NOT including all the oil well to wheels emissions for oil/gas.  Just burning the gasoline on the car side.  So if my Honda puts 10 lbs of CO2 and I put out 4 lbs from the electric grid generation for the same driving - is that worth it?  I'd say so.

It gets better though.  For one thing I can replace the grid with solar panels at home - many Leaf owners have.  Solar costs have been dropping like crazy.  The standard electric grid though tends to be getting cleaner and more renewable with time.  It's centralized - clean up single problem plants and big gains result.  The most dirty source - US coal, is about 49% of the Maryland grid which is similar to the US average.  That source, as is most production of US electric, produced by US resources.  Some Canadian hydro as well.  So my vastly cheaper electric bill payment is staying stateside.  Not headed to OPEC.

Finally remember all unexamined cost of oil to gas to the pump that we have let stay hidden?

Lets examine just one - refining oil to gasoline.  The best estimate I can find is it takes 6kwh of energy to refine oil into a gallon of gas.

Right now my Leaf is averaging 4.1 miles per kwh (I've been driving less crazy lately - it was 3.8).

So *before* that gallon of gas is transported, stored, pumped in the tank - when it's *made* at the refinery.

I've already driven 24.6 miles.

When the leaf is paid off in five years and I'm still 3-5 years away from battery replacement, that's when I'll look at a small maybe 2kw solar setup.  Then I'll be driving on sunshine.

Electric cars win on this one.

Dave

Apologies to the insanely great Firesign Theatre and Nick Danger.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Why that goofy smile?

So I've talked about why the goals make worth having the electric car despite the cons.

Yet I've got a goofy grin in my car every day.  Shouldn't I feel serious in my self sacrifice?

A little secret.  At three months, my electric car is the best I've ever had.  The cost - offset by the $50 a week in my pocket that used to go to gas.  The range - plenty for my commute and 9 of 10 other trips.  On top of that it may take a while but I'm finding range extending chargers all over the place.

This quality was a quarter paid for by state and federal incentives.

Quiet.  Fast when I want it and tracks superbly with a low center of gravity.  Top safety ratings.  Top notch electronics and bluetooth.  Clean, no smelly exhaust, or soot under the hood.

I plug it in when I get home.  I unplug it before I leave with a full tank of electrons (ok it's a battery full) .  I tell my ipod touch to have it warm up while I get my morning shower.

I'm roughing it but I'm hanging in there....

Dave

Monday, March 19, 2012

Another word about goals

So if one of my top goals is to reduce emissions leading to global warming - how does buying one car help?  Especially early in the development of the mainstream electric?

Given that there will be discussion about the long tailpipe idea - which turns out to be mostly a minor emission point compared to the overall savings - lets for now grant the one car is an improvement.  How is it worth the cons we discussed.  Shorter range - that will probably improve, charging times that will shorten.  It's only one car's CO2 savings - but it's a major commitment of my finances to buy early.

Simple.  One of the oil industry strategies is to claim there is no demand for electric cars.  This was tried with the GM EV1 by those trying to defeat the electric car from within and without that company.

The Leaf for 2011/2012 is looking at less then 20K cars Nissan has allocated to the US and around another 20K to Japan and the world.  It's documented that all the Oppama Japan plant can make is selling.  It's critical these get sold so Americans can see the benefits of the electric car.  So myself and other first adopters are here to get in line.  Now if your household is ready for a second car and wants to help early - hey I'm there for you.  Get in touch.

( Quick note - I have no interest in Nissan or any car company.  I am grateful for them coming to Smyrna TN. and planning on making 150K 2013 Leafs and 200K advanced batteries in the U.S. ! )

Where we early adopters need the second wave is the 2013 Leaf.  Every indication is this will be nicely improved from 2012.  Let me be clear - I LOVE my 2012.  I think the extra year I have it saving on gas is thoroughly worth it.  The goal doesn't need you yet though - NISSAN sells these 20K cars no problem.  The real time for everyone is late calendar 2012 and beyond - which is the domestic made 2013 Leaf.   So - US made but a Japanese company ok? - Go for a Leaf 2013.  A plug in hybrid better? - a Volt - all US and with careful driving very improved emissions and mileage cost.  ( Or at least a plug in Prius - a little lame on distance but at least you have skin in the game. )  A US electric?  Perhaps the Ford Focus Electric will be available then...

The 150K Leafs will be small compared to the yearly sales of combustion vehicles ( ~ 12 mil ).  I believe this group will repeat the greatest rewards in terms of improved performance but still maximum incentives while they last.   However 1 - 1.1% of US sales is actually a serious goal - similar to the growth of hybrids.  We need everyone to consider the electric if it fits your lifestyle.

This is the vehicle to talk to your spouse about.  Perfect for a two car family.  Put plenty of low cost commuter miles on it and extend the life of that second long range car.  Initially expensive but competitive with incentives and lack of Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) maintenance - all in all very practical.

With the 100-200K electrics in service - economies of scale and research start to work.

Electrics start to make things better for everyone and are ready when the world needs an answer - rather then forever '5 more years' in the future.  You reap the bennies for thinking ahead

That's my goal.  You have time.  Start doing your research though - we'll need you soon.

Dave

P.S.  Ask to drive my car *

* Please be licensed, over 21, and reasonably kind to my car - grin.   I come along...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Quick request on courtesy and civility

Commenters,

I plan to have discussion with anyone and plenty of people have different views.

That's fine - if we disagree that's fine.

Name calling, over the top profanity ( i.e. BS is fine but much more isn't.) will get comments pulled and if I figure out repeat offenders and how to ban the owners I will.  Any kind of SPAM or attempting to post a canned comment over and over will also get pulled.  I reserve the right to be 'da judge' but I will try to let all voices be heard.  Clearly I'm no grammer king, so no problems there.

Fair Warning,

Dave

Motivations for Electric Vehicles (EVs)

I think as we examine electric cars it's useful to at least have some idea of why the source makes a particular argument or statement.

So start with mine.  Like with the hybrid in 2003 I want the freedom of a personal vehicle but I have been strongly motivated by these goals:

1.  Reduce my vehicle emissions accelerating climate change.

2.  Reduce the dependance on a finite resource.

3.  Reduce funds sent to oil producing cartels and unfriendly states.

and also enjoy these to a lesser extent:

4.  Improve vehicle reliability and quiet, peppy performance.  Safety too.

5.  Decreased cost and time at the pump and long term cost per mile.

6.  Cleaner - not just exhaust but soot, oil, grease are all reduced in the EV.

The pros of the above motivate me to accept some inconvenience that comes with this first generation of electric car.  Those cons include - range, limited charge speed, higher initial cost.  What I've found is in every case the pros make it very easy for me to accept the cons.

In fact if it was just the face of my teenage son, knowing I'm blazing an alternative trail that will help all families in American have clean choices in a few years, that is more then enough for me.

Will return to these points and the various objections of the opponents.  If you are too eager to wait, this one link has a number of good points for EVs:

http://www.sierraclub.org/electric-vehicles/factsheet.aspx

Have fun,

Dave

The First Quarter with an Electric Car - a few money points.

So a friend on Facebook asked me to keep FB up to date on my electric car.

Rather then share many pros and cons there on FB, I think a blog is a great place to discuss and gather information and links about electrics.  I'll try to give an honest appraisal of my direct experience with my electric car as well as other electrics.

12/18/11 - 3/17/12 - Miles 2880, 3 Months ownership.

The first overall experience is a tremendous pleasure at the car totally removing the gas engine from the equation. My last vehicle was a 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid which for a short time longer I still own for longer trips.  In three months it has received about a tank and a 1/4 or about 15 galons. About $60 for the quarter vs the $160 a month I used to pour into it. It's currently 3/4 full.   I now spend about $32 for gas.  So rough figures for this quarter, $160x3=$480 - $60 still filled = $420 - $100 electric is about $300 for the quarter. So:

Pro - $300 gas savings or $100 a month.  Most gas guzzler models replaced vs my hybrid will be way more.  My old gas car was an old HCH '03 hybrid but it still gets about 36-38 mpg.

Con - it's a more expensive car.  Like my hybrid (which eventually paid for itself when incentives were counted, especially in its 45mpg days ) the Leaf in the top line SL model with floormats, title etc, and destination is expensive.  With all destination charges and etc - $38,000 which in a very reasonable %1.79 percent loan is $663 for five years.

Salty.

Yet many of my friends with midline F150's,  BMWs, Crossover SUV's, and others are actually in similar cost brackets.  They pay premiums for hauling,  power,  luxury, safety, or space and size.  Plus some incentives turn this around a bit.  Maryland cuts out an exemption taken at the dealer for $2000 in excise (sales) tax.  The federal government if you were liable for at least $7500 in federal tax lets you keep more of your money - in my case $7500 regardless of AMT.  Was very nice getting that back.

So we are really more of 28,000 - 30,000 new car depending on base or nicer trim.  Immediately take off $100 - $200 monthly gas dollars you get miles from the plug instead.  None of which goes to OPEC.  Passing the pump lines - priceless.  All with me just plugging in when I get home.

Current rating - very happy - lets look at some more tomorrow.

Dave