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