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Plug In Drivers Not Missin' the Piston

This is the Kodak Moment for the Auto Industry. Electric vehicles are here to stay. Their market acceptance and growth will continue....

Saturday, December 9, 2017

10 Years of EV Driving (Part 4 - My First EV)

Our slow path to a 100% EV household.

In part 3, the documentary Who Killed The Electric Car? spurred me to shop for an EV. While EV shopping, I contacted my local EV club. One of the members said that he had a vehicle that would meet my distance and speed needs. I was cautiously optimistic.

I went to meet Don Blazer. Don was an EV advocate and had partnered with EV Bones to bring Chevy S10 EVs Oregon.
Chevy S10 Electric Pickup
The Chevy S10 Electric was not an aftermarket EV conversion. It was built as a 100% battery electric by General Motors. It was the cousin to the GM EV1. General Motors had only leased the EV1, but the S10 EV was intended for fleet owners. Some fleet owners refused to lease vehicles. They would only buy them. This meant that some of these trucks had escaped the crushing that claimed nearly all of the GM EV1s.
Crushed GM EV1s
Don was selling an S10EV that had spent its working life at Disneyland. When its days as a fleet vehicle had ended, it went to auction. EV Bones had bought it. They updated the batteries with Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) that had been salvaged from EV1s.

The truck had a top speed of 70 MPH and a range of 40 miles. This worked great for my 20-mile round trip commute.

In February of 2007, I bought it and I was, officially, an EV driver.

I loved it. The smooth, quiet acceleration, the simplicity of charging up in my own garage every night. Starting out each morning with a full charge for my day's drive.

For nearly any car model out there, you can find a group of enthusiast owners. Owning an EV was like that for me. I had never been a 'car guy' but suddenly I wanted to tell everyone how awesome it was to drive an EV.

I joined my local EV club and I started taking my electric truck to events all around the Portland area. I went to sustainability fairs, Earth Day events, 4th of July parades... and I started blogging.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Tesla Semi Truck Strategy

Tesla has held the unveiling event for their Semi Truck in November of 2017. It was clearly the biggest fanfare a semi truck reveal has ever received.

Tesla made some big claims about the truck's capabilities:
  • 80,000 pounds of load capacity (max allowed on US roads)  
  • 500 miles of range (at max load and freeway speeds)
  • Speed of 65 MPH while loaded and going up a 5% grade
  • 400 miles of recharge range in 30 minutes
There will be two price and range options for the Semi. The short-range (300 Mile) semi is priced from $150,000, while the long-range (500 Mile) semi is $180,000. These prices are far less than most were predicting.

Like Model 3, the Semi uses the Tesla 2170 battery cells from the Nevada Gigafactory. With 500 miles of range and about 2 kWh per mile, the long-range truck would have about 1 megawatt-hour worth of cells.

Is the Semi Profitable to Sell?

Depending on your source, the current estimate for battery production is between $140 to $280 per kWh. Assuming Tesla is on the low end of this estimate, the 1MWh size pack would cost $140,000 to produce. With the Semi priced at $180,000, that only leaves $40,000 for the rest of the truck and profit margin.

If you were only to look at things as they are today, the Semi would be a horrible business with little to no margin. However, Tesla will not start selling the Semi in any significant volume until 2020. Battery prices have been (and will continue) to drop. By 2020 and each year after, the profit margin that Tesla makes on each semi will improve.

And there is another thing to consider. Tesla will be selling energy to these trucks. When Peterbilt or Mack Trucks sells a truck, other than spare parts, the sale is done. They don't have a significant ongoing revenue stream.

Energy is the Ink Cartridge

For Tesla, supplying energy for these trucks will add up. Truck drivers drive an estimated 140 billion miles every year, and a single semi drives about 45,000 miles a year on average. According to the Federal Highway Administration, long-distance trucks travel upwards of 100,000 miles a year. Tesla has said that they will sell energy at the wholesale rate of 7 cents per kWh. Applying this to 45,000 miles. That is 90,000 kWh or $6300 each year for each truck. When there are 1,000 or 10,000 trucks on the road using Tesla energy, this will be a significant ongoing revenue stream for Tesla.

This is not unlike the printer and ink cartridge or razor and blade business model. If the truck generates an ongoing revenue stream, it is not paramount that the Semi is profitable on the day it rolls off the lot.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

My First Referral!

When I started driving a Nissan Leaf, I loved it. I took friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers out for rides and drives. I know that several of them bought a Leaf or another EV after that.

With the Tesla, I still take people for test drives and show the car at events, but I don't (or didn't) know of anyone that specifically bought a Tesla because of me. That is until now. I just received notice that someone purchased a Tesla using my referral code. This is great news. They will be driving an awesome car, they'll get free Supercharging for life, and I'll get the referral prize that I wanted, a Tesla wall charger etched with Elon's signature.

As I posted here, I've been using a simple 120V outlet to charge our Model X since we bought it over a year ago. This new unit will charge the car 5 to 6 times faster. The 120V outlet has worked fine, but there are times when faster charging would come in handy and this will allow me to leave the portable EVSE in the car, so I'll have it as a back up if I ever need it on the road.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Electric Lawn Mowers

Gasoline lawn mowers are serious pollution machines. If you drive an EV, then you already know the benefits of electric motors. These same zero-emission benefits apply to lawn equipment too.

In addition to the fumes that come from the mower, the EPA estimates that over 17 million gallons of fuel are spilled each year while refueling lawn equipment. Older less efficient two-cycle engines release 25-30% of their oil and gas unburned into the air. These fumes are smelly and carcinogenic.

If you are looking to replace your old gas mower with a new electric one, Amazon has electric mowers listed as part of their Cyber Monday Week Deals. Here are a few of them to consider (click on the link to see the Cyber Monday discount deal).

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Xmas Tree on a Model X

How we brought home our Xmas tree on our Model X. The affordable roof system we used, how it worked, and links to buy your own are at the bottom.

Thanksgiving is over and it's the time of year to go get a tree and put in your home so Santa has a place to put the presents after coming down the chimney. If you drive a Tesla Model X, you might be able to fit a reasonably sized tree in the back. But, a tree inside the car means a lot of needles and vacuuming after the hauling is done.

With most cars, the better option is to put the tree on the roof. The Model X does have a roof rack, so how do you haul a tree up there? And it had a glass roof; you certainly don't want to crack or scratch your roof.

Here's the hack that we came up with to solve this.

Tesla Model X with 3 glass grippers
I was looking for a suction cup mounted roof rack and there are several of them out there. Some of them were very expensive. I don't plan on hauling things on top of my Tesla very often, so the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on a roof rack didn't appeal to me.

Looking at other suction cup products, I stumbled on handles that were made for lifting and transporting glass and countertops. These were much more affordable than a roof rack and they were rated for 200 pounds each. I would not be using them for their intended purpose, but it might work. They are rated for use moving heavy granite countertops so a ~65 pound tree would be a lighter load.

Thinking about the entire process, I also bought a cheap moving blanket to reduce the potential of scratching the car as the tree went on and came off the car.

The stuff arrived and soon after it was tree pickup day. I attached the handles to the car before we went to the farm. I wanted to see if they would stay on during the drive there. This would give me some indication if they would stay on or not for the trip home. The handles were easy to use. They have a lever to suck them to the glass. I found it easy to tell if they got a good seal or not with the lever. If it was firm when you moved it, it had good suction. If it was easy to move, there was no grip.

The roof of the Model X is curved; this made it difficult to get a good seal with both of the suction cups. I found it easier if I adhered the far cup first; this allowed me to push down on the near side. Remember, this is glass, to push too hard and break it. Finally, all three handles were mounted. We probably only needed two handles, but they were not that expensive, so adding a third one to share the load and add redundancy seemed like a good idea.

I made sure to place all the grips on the same piece of glass. This way, if the falcon wing door were to be opened (not recommended) with the tree on there, they would all move together. It would have been a good idea to turn on the child-proof lock for that door to prevent accidentally opening it. 

The handles stayed attached for the drive there (so far so good). We picked out our tree (a 7' locally grown Nordmann Fir) and had it bailed. Bailing is key to making everything else easier. Once the tree was bailed, we wrapped it in the cargo blanket. A few twists of twine holds the blanket in place, then up onto the car with the tree. 

We actually forgot our bungees, but it all worked out fine. They had twine to hold the tree in place. Bungees would have been way faster. With the tree strapped down, we hit the road, heading home. The large window of the X allowed us to easily keep an eye on the tree as we traveled.

We made it home and unloaded the tree. Here is the tree ready for lights and decorations.

Xmas tree, ready to be trimmed
If you want to use the same equipment that we used to make your own ad hoc Tesla Model X roof rack, the links to the items are below. If you do this, you do so at your own risk, be careful to not break your roof glass. I would not recommend heavy loads or bumpy roads.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

10 Years of Solar - 70 Solar Powered Cannonball Runs!

In late 2007, we had solar panels installed on our house. For me, the motivation for solar was to "fuel" the electric car that I had started driving earlier that same year. The 4 kilowatt PV system that we installed provided enough energy to drive an EV to drive about 16,000 miles each year.

In 2015, we added a second PV system, bringing our total up to 12.1 kilowatts. This allows us to "fuel" about 48 thousand solar-powered electric miles each year; far more than we drive. To go along with our second PV system, we added a second electric car to our home fleet.

In addition to fueling our cars, the energy that our PV systems generate is used to power the bulk of our home energy needs, TVs, computers, air conditioning... In the summer, they generate about 130% of our home's energy needs. This means that (via the path of least resistance), we're powering some of our neighbors' energy needs too.

Here is the graph of our solar energy production for 10 years.

The blue part of the graph is our original 4 kW system and the red section is the 8.1 more that was added in 2015.

In this chart, you can see the summer/winter ripple in the production graph as it moves up and to the right. This summer/winter delta grows as you move north on the globe. We are just north of the 45th parallel. Our summer/winter delta is even more exaggerated with our new system since most of the panels are east facing. Our roof-line does not allow for south-facing panels, but we didn't let that stop us from installing them. As you can see, they are still effective.

During our 10 years of production, we've made over 56 MWh, that is more than 56,000 kWh. As I mentioned above, we first installed our PV to fuel our electric car. So how far could this 56 MWh get us? The answer is nearly 200,000 miles for a car like our Nissan Leaf. With this energy, you could drive the NY to LA Cannonball Run more than 70 times. For another comparison, assuming you could drive an EV to the Moon (obviously, you can't, although you could drive one on the Moon since it does not require O2 intake for combustion) this energy could get you ~80% of the way there. We have a goal to generate enough energy to complete this Moonshot drive.

If you'd like to know how big of a solar PV system you need to fuel your own EV driving with solar miles (or smiles), you can check out this article for references and help with the math.

Friday, November 17, 2017

10 Years of EV Driving (Part 3 - WKTEC Awakening)

Our slow path to a 100% EV household.

In late 2006, I was on a documentary watching kick and filled my Netflix queue with them. One particular weekend early in 2007, the DVD for Who Killed The Electric Car? arrived in the familiar red envelop.* 

Watching this movie explained why the Saturn salesman laughed when we called in 1999 to try to buy an EV1. The suppression this technology made me angry, and it did something else; it re-awoke my electric car dream. 

I knew that it was very unlikely that I'd convert a car, my attempt from 2001 never got off the drawing board, so I'd have to buy one. I took to the internet. After some searching, I had four candidates: the Corbin Sparrow, the eBox, the T Zero, and the Zap Xebra

I went down the list trying to find details about each. The Sparrow and the eBox were expensive. The T Zero looked great, but they had only made a few prototypes and had no plans to produce the car. This left the Xebra. Luckily for me, there was a dealership in Salem, Oregon within an hour's drive from my house. We made an appointment to see the quirky three-wheeler.

Zapp Xebra
The Xebra website said that it had a top speed of 40 MPH and a 40-mile range. The salesman was blunt and said that was not true. You could go 40 MPH OR you could go 40 miles, but you could not do both. I had a 20-mile commute and much of the drive was on a road marked at 45 MPH, but maybe I could take sideroads, it might work. I took it for a test drive and with two men in the car (the salesman and myself), it was sluggish. There was a hill on the test drive; while ascending it we nearly came to a complete stop even with the accelerator to the floor. We live on a big hill. This was a dealbreaker. The Xebra was not going to meet my needs.

We tried to buy an EV in 1999 and were rebuffed. Now in 2007, it looked like once again I would not be able to find an EV within my budget that met my needs. I turned to the local EV club and lamented about my inability to find an EV. I said that I needed an EV that could go 45 MPH and have a 40-mile range at that speed.

To my surprise, I received a reply from someone with an EV for sale that met my stated needs. I'll cover this in part 4.

* If you own an electric car or are interested in EVs at all (and I assume you are if you are reading this) then I highly recommend that you watch Who Killed and its sequel Revenge of the Electric Car.