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The American Conservative Case for Electric Vehicles (5 Reasons That Are Not The Environment)

Given the recent election results, it's very likely that there will be sweeping legislative changes in the areas of energy and environme...

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Ultimate Nerd Road Trip 2017

This summer I'll be taking the Model X on several road trips. One of them I've dubbed The Ultimate Nerd Road Trip 2017.

It's a road trip from Portland, OR to San Diego to attend Comic-Con. I've never been to Comic-Con. This should be fun. A friend and I are leaving from Portland. After a few charging stops, we'll arrive in San Jose to pick up our third amigo. After a night in San Jose, all three of us will continue south the next morning.

We'll spend several days at the con and in San Diego then head back north. While we're heading back, we have scheduled a tour of the Tesla factory in Fremont.

This will be my longest road trip in the Tesla Model X. I've made a page on facebook where I'll be posting photos and updates from the road, the con, and the factory (at least as much as the NDA allows). If you'd like to follow my trek, like the page here.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The 80-20 Rule of EV Driving

The Pareto Principle or as it's better know, the 80-20 Rule, has been applied to many things. The principle says that 80% of a business's sales come from 20% of their customers and that 80% of revenue is from only 20% of the products offered. The generalized version says 80% of results come from 20% of the causes. Among the things this rule of thumb has been applied to include wealth distribution, spending habits, and even infidelity.

80% of Driving Needs

Since this principle has such broad applications, I started wondering how this might apply to EV driving and charging. In the How Much Range Is Enough story<<Link TBD>>, we looked at how much range your EV would need. One of the big factors is will the EV be your only car? If so, how easy is it for you to make other arrangements if it will not work for you?... For most people, it is relatively easy to find an EV that will meet 80% of your driving needs. Almost no vehicle meets 100% of a person's transportation needs. So the question is, how much are you willing to pay for something that meets 90, 95, or 99% of your needs.

80% Charge

The first similarity is that 80% of a batteries capacity can quickly charge. Whereas the charging rate slows down for the last 20% of the charge. Technically, I don't think this is an application of the Pareto Principle, but it is an 80-20 rule for batteries.

Daily Drives

On any given day, about 80% of people drive less than 40 miles. For a long-range (200+ mile) EV, forty miles of driving will use about 20% of the capacity. There are multiple uses of the 80-20 rule here.

It's less wear and tear on lithium batteries to move energy in and out in the middle 60% of a batteries capacity. This is the reason that long range EVs have a trip mode and a daily driving mode. If the principle holds, 80% of the miles driven and kWh used, will come from the top of this daily drive region of the battery charge range.

Range Anxiety

When you have less than 20% charge left, you might start getting concerned that you could become stranded with a drained battery. This means that 80% of your battery is comfortably usable. Of course, this number is different for every person, but this is a good rule of thumb.

Home Charging / Public Charging

The Idaho National Lab studied 125 million miles of EV driving. The study included 6 million charging events. They found that 20% of drivers were responsible for 75% of public charging events. The other 80% of drivers charged primarily at home and rarely if ever used public charging.

What Can We Learn

There are many lessons to be learned from the patterns of charging and battery use. For example, the fact that most charging is done at home could teach us that efforts to pre-wire garages with high amperage 240 Volt outlets would encourage EV ownership better than deploying Level 2 public charging stations. Similarly, deploying charging infrastructure in multi-tenant dwellings may be the best way to allow apartment and condo dwellers to also become plug-in vehicle owners. This is just something that the data hints at and more study would be needed to confirm or reject this, but it seems intuitive that making home charging easy would make EV ownership simpler and more attractive.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

When Will Tesla Hit 200,000 Sales in the U.S.? [Q2 2017 Update]

We've been tracking Tesla's sales for some time now. Specifically, the sale of the 200,000th vehicle in the US is an important milestone since it will trigger the US Federal incentive to begin a phase out 3 to 6 months later.

There are hundreds of thousands of people with Model 3 reservations, the timing of the incentive phase out could impact many buyers, so it's an important question.

Earlier this month, Tesla released their Q2'17 sales numbers. They have now sold more than 130,000 vehicles in the US. The Q2 sales numbers were slightly lower than we predicted three months ago and lower than the Street expected and the stock price was punished accordingly. Although the Street was not happy with the Q2 sales, these lower than expected sales did not impact the 200,000th sale forecast significantly.

Here are the historical sales and our forecast.

Just as our forecast from 3 months ago, this new forecast predicts that the 200,000th US sale will occur in the second quarter of 2018. If that is the case, the incentive will phase out as shown in the below image.

Tesla Model 3 sales start with a token amount this month and depending on how fast they ramp, this forecast could change significantly. We'll have a much better idea where the 200,000th sale will likely fall by the end of this year.

Assuming that the above forecast is correct, the incentive would remain in full effect until the end of September of 2018. This would afford Tesla more than one year of Model 3 deliveries that would be fully eligible for the US tax incentive. This should include delivery of the dual motor all-wheel-drive and performance versions of the cars that are expected to start delivery in early 2018. So if you already have a reservation, there is a good chance that you could have your car in time to qualify for the $7500 federal tax credit.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Tesla Model 3 Countdown Begins

Thanks to a tweet from Elon Musk, we now have a date for the Model 3 event and it's the 28th of July. The first Model 3 owners will be handed their keys by Elon Musk on stage.

From the Tesla investor newsletter, we have even more details about the Model 3.
The first certified production Model 3 that meets all regulatory requirements will be completed this week...
Combining the above with Musk's statement that this is two weeks ahead of schedule and we can see that, so far, things appear to be on schedule for Model 3.

Other things we learned from Elon's tweets include, "looks like we can reach 20,000 Model 3 cars per month in Dec." Depending on how fast the ramp to 20,000 occurs, this likely puts the year's production in line with our earlier estimate.

My factory tour is scheduled for July 25th. I might be able to see some of the first full production Model 3s to be produced.

EV Range: How Much Is Enough?

With the Chevy Bolt EV hitting the sales floor, the affordable 200+ mile EV has arrived. The Tesla Model 3 will be arriving soon this year with two battery options that are greater than 200 miles. Nissan, BMW, and others are, at least for now, are sticking to EVs in the sub-200 miles of range category. Who is right? Which will customers choose?

How much range is enough?

In an attempt to answer this, all share my experience owning EV with ranges as low as 40 miles up to as high as 257 miles. I've had three EVs. My first one I drove for 4 years, it had 40 miles of range. My second I drove for 5 years, it had 73 miles of range. And my current EV has 257 miles of range.

Before we get into this too far, I'd like to clarify that there is no "one right answer" for range. Everyone has different needs, so the trick is to understand your own needs. Try resetting your trip meter and noting it each morning, then zeroing it again for the days driving. This will give you a good idea of your needs for a typical day. You might find that you don't drive as much as you think.

A note about what's right for you. When I was first shopping for an EV in 2007, I found a little 3-wheeled Chinese import EV. I went for a test drive. I was not impressed. It was slow, it had a short range. I complained about the slow speed and low range on a local EV mailing list. I was gently informed that I should end all of my complaints with "for my needs." As in "It is too slow for my needs." The gentle soul responding to me went on to say that she had one of these EVs and it worked great for her needs. She lived in a gated retirement community and it had more than enough range to get her to the clubhouse, her friends, the corner store and more. She ended it with "Mankind got around for many years on one-horse-power. It had four legs and was called a horse."

So with that in mind, I'll tell you about my experience with each of my various EVs I've owned and how the range impacted my ability to use (or not use) them. Your mileage may vary.

Infographic from Plugless shows how far you could drive in various EVs on the market today

40 Miles

My first EV was a Chevy S10 Electric truck. This was not a conversion. It's the little-known cousin of the GM EV1. General Motor had leased most of these truck, just as they had the EV1, but these trucks were intended as fleet vehicles. Some fleet managers refused to lease. They wanted to buy the trucks. GM reluctantly sold them. The Air Force bought some, a Georgia utility bought some, and mine came to me after it retired from service at Disneyland.

I drove this truck from 2007 until 2011. The S10e was only built in 1997 and 1998. There was a lead acid battery pack option with 16.2 kilowatt-hours of capacity or a nickel–metal hydride pack with 29 kilowatt-hours. By the time I owned the truck, the 19-year old nickel–metal batteries had severely degraded. The 40 miles of range they had remaining allowed me to drive to work and back (20 miles round trip) and run errands, but little else. Although similar batteries were being used in many hybrid cars, the restrictions put in place by the patent holder (Chevron) did not allow anyone to sell me batteries for a BEV, or so I was told repeatedly as I called dealerships and attempted to order batteries.

Given the 40 miles of range, the truck was relegated to my commuter vehicle. This was a fixed, well-known route. It worked well for the 20-mile round trip with a little extra to spare for errands on the way home. The truck bed was nice for jaunts to Home Depot (15-mile round trip). This was not a vehicle that I could drive someplace on the spur of the moment. I had to know where I was going and make sure that I could make it back.

40 Miles Is Good For: short commutes, errands, well-defined short trips.

73 Miles

In 2011, I sold the electric truck and bought a Nissan Leaf. Our Leaf had an EPA-rated range of 73 miles. This was nearly double the range of the truck. And the Leaf had a DC fast charge port. This opened up many more destinations for electric driving. With the charging spots of the West Coast Electric Highway, this was range was enough for trips within ~120-mile radius.

You might wonder if the car can fast charge, why I would limit it a fixed radius. At freeway speeds, the range is reduced, so you have to charge every 40 or 50 miles and too many back-to-back fast charges heats up the batteries and slows down the charging rate. Longer trips certainly are possible and have been done, but I would call a ~120 miles the practical limit.

There are those that would argue the above paragraph. But for me, it's what I've found to be true. Here is a story of one of our ~100-mile trips. We drove our Leaf 110 miles to Great Wolf Lodge. The EPA rated range does not hold true at freeway speeds. This meant that we had to stop three times to drive our "73-mile" vehicle just 110 miles. We might have been able to skip one of the chargers, but we didn't know if each station would be online or available. So until the final leg, we didn't let the charge get too low so we could keep going if one of the stations was down or blocked. This added about an hour to our otherwise 2-hour drive. Adding 30% time to the trip is not how I would want to take to take a 500 mile+ trek.

There should be a metric for charging overhead. E.g. for every 10 hours of 65MPH driving you need X hours of charging (at the vehicle's fastest rate).

73 Miles Is Good For: longer commutes (60 miles round trip or less), urban driving, short treks (120-mile or less) if you have DC fast charging available.

257 Miles

Six months ago, I began driving my third and longest range EV, a Tesla Model X. Ours is a 90D and it has an EPA rated range of 257 miles. This is by far the best (and most expensive) vehicle that I've ever owned. Rather than becoming distracted by some of the many great features, I'll stick to the range topic.

This is the vehicle that I drive to and from work. It can handle with no trouble and if I forget to plug in, even for several days, it is still ready to go and I don't have to worry about running out of charge.

We have made three treks in this vehicle. Two of them were from Portland, OR to Grants Pass and back. This is ~250 miles one-way, a four-hour drive. Again, with freeway speeds and the Cascade mountains, the EPA range does not hold true. This is solved by using the Tesla Supercharger network. We made one stop in Springfield for 25 minutes. This charging stop only added 10% to drive time. This is much better than the 30% addition to our trip time with the Leaf.

Our third trek was to the Oregon coast. This was a two-hour, 80-mile drive. We left the house with a full charge and arrived with more than a 40% charge. There was no need to stop and charge during the drive. This was nice. Again high speeds and mountain climbing (this time the coast range) meant that we did not meet the EPA rated distance. There are Tesla Superchargers on the Oregon coast, so one of the mornings that we drove into town for breakfast, we stopped at one of the Superchargers for 15 minutes to grab a few watt-hours.

This summer, when we are pulling our trailer, I might be hoping for another 20 or 30 kWh. But that is a story for another day.

Wrap Up 

More range makes everything easier. You don't have to budget the kWhs as carefully. Using 5 kWh for heat or AC is not a big deal from a 90 kWh pack like it is from a 24 kWh pack. If a charging station is down or blocked, you can likely continue down the road and charge at the next opportunity.

Of course, the drawback is the price. There is a big price difference between 30, 50, or 70+ kWh vehicles. Given this, it is important that you know what range you really need and how much you are willing to pay for the convenience and utility of more batteries.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Arcimoto Kicks-off $10M Initial Public Offering

Arcimoto is a Eugene, Oregon-based 3-wheeler EV maker. They refer to their vehicle as an FUV “Fun Utility Vehicle.” They have filed an SEC Form 1-A to start selling common stock shares under Regulation A. This rule allows the startup to raise capital and sets the stage for a future listing on the NASDAQ.

Regulation A is a relatively new way for startup companies, like Arcimoto, to offer equity to the general public. If you are interested in funding a startup, this is a much better option than something like Kickstarter. With Kickstarter you don't have any equity in the company. For example, Oculus had a very successful round on Kickstarter and was subsequently bought out by Facebook for $2B, but backers didn't receive any share of the windfall. They just received the rewards for their backing level. Many Oculus backers were bitter about being left out. IPO shares, like Arcimoto is offering, on the other hand, make you a partial owner of the company and are a better way for crowdfunding backers to join in the companies success.

Arcimoto was founded in 2007 to "catalyze the shift to a sustainable transportation system." The company's name means “Future I Drive.” They aspire to invent new patterns of mobility that are more efficient, environmentally-friendly, and affordable.

Arcimoto plans to replace the 4,000+ pound internal combustion engine vehicles that clog our urban and suburban roads with their FUV, the Arcimoto SRK. The SRK is a pure electric ride that's one-quarter of the weight, one-third the cost, and ten times as efficient as the average US passenger vehicle.

The Arcimoto SRK delivers an estimated 230 MPGe and has a target base model price of $11,900.

Arcimoto has taken the SRK from a napkin sketch, through eight generations of product development, to a refined design that is nearly ready for production and product launch.

“We inherently recognize that it is no longer sustainable for our wallets, our communities, or our environment to commute five miles to work alone or drive to the store to pick up a gallon of milk in a three ton, $50,000 SUV,” said Mark Frohnmayer, CEO and founder of Arcimoto. “At Arcimoto, we’re out to rightsize transportation. The SRK platform is exhilarating to drive, affordable for virtually everyone, hyper-efficient, and eco-friendly for our communities and our planet. We are delighted to bring this opportunity to everyday investors around the world via today’s filing.”

The Arcimoto investment web page and introduction video are here.

Much of the above was sourced from Arcimoto.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Tesla Model 3 Test Drives Are Coming

Telsa will hold test drive events for prospective Model 3 customers later this year. This is your chance to test drive Tesla's newest electric car. But unfortunately, there’s a catch.

Model 3 is one of the most feverishly anticipated cars in automotive history. Public interest in Model 3 has not relented since people stood in line to reserve them last year. Today, more than 400,000 people have put down a $1,000 reservation deposit to hold a place in line to buy the car. That’s a staggering number, especially since very few of these potential customers have seen the car in person, let alone sat behind the wheel.

This is an unprecedented way to buy a new car. And it is a big part of the appeal of Tesla, like Apple they "Think Different" and they also generate an Apple-level cult following. High tech features, online ordering, mall stores, no "dealerships"; Tesla is not like your grampa's car company.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the Californian car maker was ‘anti-selling’ Model 3, yet reservations have continued to grow. “We anti-sell the Model 3. But our net reservations continue to climb week after week. No advertising, anti-selling, nothing to test drive, still goes up every week,” said Musk.

The speculation is that the number of reservation holders is now over 500,000. However, Tesla no longer publishes the number of people in the queue as they said that the media will misinterpret changes in either direction of the queue's length. Tesla has lowered the price of many of their used car offerings in an attempt to attract buyers to the Model S or Model X vehicles that they can purchase today.

The upcoming Model 3 test drives are an apparent change in the company's tactics. This event could drive interest in the car, but the event is only for people who have a Model 3 reservation. Since the test drives start at the end of the year, Tesla should have several months of deliveries on the books by then and production will have ramped up and will be near full-swing. This could be the perfect time to start driving demand again.

Depending on where you live, the features you want, and when you placed your reservation, you could be waiting for up to 18 months to own your own Model 3. This test drive will hopefully temporarily satisfy those of the loyal Tesla fanbase that want AWD and performance features and are willing to wait for them.