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This is the Kodak Moment for the Auto Industry

Plug-In Drivers Not Missin' the Piston Electric vehicles are here to stay. Their market acceptance is currently small but growing...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Volt Stats!

Even if you don't have a Chevy Volt, "Volt Stats!" is an interesting place to browse. Here is one example from the Hall of Fame:

Details for Volt #2011-02161 (CT GM-Volt):

Car Information / Rankings

Location:Stamford, CT
Last Updated:12/22/2013 10:45:17 PM CST
EV Miles:24032.74#155 / 92.6%
Total Miles:24070.42#367 / 82.5%
EV %:99.8%#3 / 99.9%
MPG:10339.43#1 / 100%
MPGe:92.31#31 / 98.6%
MPGCS:16.19#2062 / 1.6%
Group Membership(s):

This is a 2011 Volt with 24,000 miles and it has been driven in EV 99.8% of the time. Wow, all but 38 miles were powered by the batteries. 

The obvious question is why does this person have a Volt instead of a Nissan Leaf or similar pure EV? Well, I have not asked him, but maybe he likes the Chevy brand, or even though nearly all of their driving is on electric, they are not ready to give up the safetynet of the gasoline back up until the infrastructure is more widely deployed. 

Whatever the reason, the goal is to having personal transportation powered efficiently and cleanly. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

EVs Enter The Zeitgeist

Google's 2013 Zeitgeist is out. It is a telling annual breakdown of our collective interests. There are lists for all kinds of things.

Among the lists are hybrid and EVs searches. Of course, all the usual plug-in players appear on those lists. This year, however, there was something I have not seen before: Plug-in cars top two of Google's general automobile trending lists.

Tesla Motors topped the Trending Car Companies list. Last year they were not even in the top ten. Second, the 2014 Chevy Volt topped the Trending New Cars list:

As plug-in vehicles enter the mainstream thinking, it will become harder to sell a vehicle without a plug. Given the options of Gasoline at 35MPG, Hybrid 50MPG, Plug-in Hybrid 80MPGe, or Battery EV 115MPGe; if they are price competitive the gas car will be collecting dust. Ω

Thursday, December 26, 2013

One Gallon of Gas

Exxon recently released a 'One Gallon of Gas' ad. You can watch it here: http://www.ispot.tv/ad/76i8/exxon-mobil-one-gallon-of-gas

In the ad (spoiler alert) they say that the energy in a gallon of gasoline could run your smartphone for 3000 days. How great would that be? A phone that I didn't have to charge for 8 years!

A gallon of gas would be a lot to carry around, but I would be happy with a smartphone that I only had to recharge refill once a week. According to Exxon's 3000 days for 1 gallon math, a week would be possible with less than half an ounce of gas.

So why aren't we all doing this?

So let's examine this a little more. They didn't mention pollution, environmental impacts, foreign wars, or other issues. These are important, but they only talked about energy, so I'll do the same here.

Since they are talking about running electronic devices with gas, let's see how much energy gasoline has in kilowatt-hours(kWh), since these are the units of energy that run smartphones and other electronic devices. Depending on the summer or winter blend, a gallon of gas has between 33 and 33.6 kWh of energy. Let's be generous and use the higher of the two values.

Ok, it is obvious that Exxon is not truly suggesting that smartphones run on gasoline. Reading the subtext, this is really a jab at alternative fuels and specifically electric vehicles (EV) on the market today.

So let's cut to the chase and compare vehicle fuels. Let's say you have 1 gallon of gas compared to its energy equivalent of a 33.6kWh battery pack.

Depending on the fuel efficiency of the car that one gallon of gas will get you from 18 to 60 miles. The average fuel economy for new cars sold in 2012 (the latest year with current data) was 23.6 miles per gallon on average. So a gallon of gas will, on average, get you less than 24 miles.

Now let's put that one gallon of energy (33.6kWh) in an EV. The EPA rates the 2013 Nissan Leaf at 3.45 miles per kWh (although I consistently get over 4). So, using the EPA numbers, this "one gallon" of energy would get you 115 miles.

There you have it, the electric car will get you more than 4 times farther on a "gallon" of energy.

That concludes cars, let go back and finish the smartphone case.

Exxon does not mention the efficiency of converting gasoline to electricity to run that smart phone. They don't mention that running something like a portable generator would mean that most of the energy in that one gallon would be lost as heat or go out unburned in the exhaust.

Looking at the spec sheet for a Honda portable generator, it is between ~13% and ~18% efficient depending on load. At peak efficiency, the 6kW Honda generator I looked at will produce 6.13kWh per gallon of gas. For completeness: the worst-case was 4.42kWh, and the median was 5.7kWh.

So now let's take another look at Exxon's claim. They said if you could use all the energy in that one gallon of gas, it would run your phone for 3000 days. Well, we cannot extract all of the energy, despite more than 100 years in engine research and advancements.

Using the median value of 5.7kWh of my example generator, that gallon of gas only has enough usable energy to run your smartphone for 500 days. Not bad, but you'd have to drag a gallon of gas and a generator around with you.

Whereas if you were to power your smartphone by charging it in your electric car, other than some minor losses from power converters and self-discharge, you would get nearly all of the energy back and truly be able to power your phone for thousands of days.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Is There a Viable Fee-Charging EV Recharging Business Model?

Car Charging group had only $40K in revenue from 679 EV chargers and lost $6 million dollars in the last three months.  

Maybe Tesla and ad-based Volta Charging have it right. 

Nissan Leaf Energy Flow & System Efficiency

Via My Nissan Leaf forum

Nissan Leaf Usable Capacity

My Nissan Leaf Forum • View topic - Leaf Spy and Leaf Spy Pro (previously Leaf Battery App): "Yes, the lower Wh figure per GID is to reflect usable battery capacity. The 80 Wh are stored energy, which is also what most of the instruments index. This is because it's difficult to estimate battery losses upfront. That depends on the discharge current and vehicle speed, among other things. When you multiply 281 GID by 77.5 Wh, you will get 21,777.5 kWh of usable capacity. It's worth noting that the last four or five GIDs are not accessible to us, which leaves us with 21,390 kWh. That's a very close match to 21,381 kWh NREL has determined in their tear-down analysis. Drivers typically use 21 kWh as the standard figure for usable capacity, which can be multiplied with energy economy for range prediction."

Saturday, December 21, 2013

EIA Foresees Fossil-Fueled Future for Transportation Navigant Research

EIA Foresees Fossil-Fueled Future for Transportation Navigant Research: "The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released an early version of its Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) for 2014, depicting an energy future overwhelmingly shaped by the development of new oil and natural gas reserves.  Cumulative production of natural gas from 2012 to 2040 in the AEO2014 report is about 11% higher than in AEO2013, reflecting the continued growth in shale gas production from increased horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing."

The Tesla battery swap is the hoax of the year | Watts Up With That?

The Tesla battery swap is the hoax of the year | Watts Up With That?: "fifteen months after Tesla started getting carbon credits for the battery swap. The company has already cashed out, probably for more than $60 million. Without building a single swap station, or demonstrating the feature in consumer cars, or bothering to provide any sort of explanation.

I have emailed them, written on their Facebook page, posted in their forum. Their only “reaction” was to kinda make the battery swap disappear from their website. It’s impossible to get an actual response from the company.

Tesla intends to shut up its way out of this mess.

The question is, how could a scam so brazen go unnoticed for so long?"

Thursday, December 12, 2013

How to Use the Electric Vehicle Chargers on Electric Avenue

Electric Avenue is a one block stretch of SW Montgomery St in Portland, Oregon that is covered with EV charging stations. It is flanked with CHAdeMO fast chargers on each end. There are eight car parking spots and Level 2 charging stations (the standard for modern EVs) populate the other 6 spots. Additionally there is a standard household outlet (Level 1) in the center area with bicycle parking where you can plug in your ebike.

This area is part of a 3 year study of charging habits and usage patterns. The project is currently 2 years old.

Below is a How-to Guide written by our friends at Electric Avenue:

On Electric Avenue, electricity to recharge your EV is free, but standard parking rates apply, until 7pm
How to pay for parking:

Buy your parking sticker at the tall green SmartMeter pay station, display the receipt in your driver-side window (because this is angle-parking). Electric Avenue is located in downtown Portland; downtown parking meters operate from 8am to 7pm, Mon thru Sat, and from 1pm to 7pm on Sun, unless otherwise posted; except for meter holidays. The current rate for on-street parking in the Downtown district, including Electric Avenue, is $1.60 per hour.

How to use the charging stations:

The two fast chargers, Eaton Level 3 and Kanematsu, do not require memberships, but you will need to interact with the charger screen and/or physical button on the machine -- follow the on-screen instructions to activate charging or to stop charging.

OpConnect (the short green machine) requires that you interact with the charger's screen -- when you plug in, your car will beep like it's charging, but this is just a 5-minute interim charge session; you need to then select from bottom of the charger screen which PORT you are using (either 1, 2, 3, or 4); then swipe your membership card -OR- enter your email address on the screen.  If you don't swipe card/enter email, the charger will only run for five minutes, and then shut off.

The GE, Shorepower, Eaton Level 2 and SPX chargers are all plug and play (plug car in and you're done).

A schematic of the chargers on Electric Avenue (which identifies them by Level 1, 2, and 3) is attached, or you can go to http://tinyurl.com/l8nfdem

This June 2012 schematic shows where on Electric Avenue the Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 chargers are located.
This June 2012 schematic shows where on Electric Avenue the Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 chargers are located.

Is There Any Business Model For Public Electric-Car Charging? Plug-In 2013 Report

Is There Any Business Model For Public Electric-Car Charging? Plug-In 2013 Report - GreenCarReports

smart Electric Drive deal for OEVA members

Drive an EV for less than your monthly gas payment. There is an offer on smart ED cars in Portland. Oregon Electric Vehicle Association (OEVA) members can get a 36 month lease on the new smart electric drive for $155/month (total including down payment and battery lease!) from the smart center of Portland.

If the range and size meet your needs, this is a great price for an EV. If you're interested, join the OEVA (just $20 per year), then email Bryce Nash:

Monday, December 9, 2013

81% of Electric Vehicle Charging is Done at Home

81% of Electric Vehicle Charging is Done at Home: "The initial findings from a survey of 3,247 individuals conducted by PlugInsights show that 81 percent of electric vehicle charging occurs at home.  Of course it does.

Further survey findings include:

7% of charging takes place at work
10% of charging occurs at public charging station
The remaining 2% of charging presumably occurs at some unlisted location like, perhaps, Area 57.

These findings would seem to suggest that public and workplace charging aren’t necessary, but we know that not to be true.

At home, public and workplace charging are all essential for the growth of the EV segment.  Even if 99% of charging occurred at home, public and workplace chargers would still be useful and beneficial to the cause of increasing EV adoption."

Sunday, December 8, 2013

EV Charging Station Comparison

My Electric Car Forums | Electric Vehicle Chargers:

Leviton EVB40-P5T 9.6kW Charging station for flush mountLeviton EVB40-P5T25 feet40 ampHard-wireIndoor/OutdoorRear
Leviton EVB40-PST 9.6kw surface mount EVSELeviton EVB40-PST25 feet40 ampPlugIndoor/OutdoorBottom
Electric Vehicle Institute wall mount charging stationElectric Vehicle Institute Wall Mount Charger16 feet32 ampHard-wireRear

Sunday, December 1, 2013

EV Charging at Home - What to Buy

A friend of a friend recently bought an EV and wanted to know what to buy for home charging. They asked me via email. Since I didn't know the person, nor their specific situation, I wrote some general guidelines to picking out a home charging station that might help you, a friend (or a friend of a friend).

First, a few brief things you need to know:

One, the charger is onboard your car. The charging station that you plug into your car is just a way to safely deliver power with a standard connector. That is why you will occasionally see charging stations referred to by their technical name of electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE).

Two, charging stations are rated by how much power they can deliver. Similarly, the onboard charger has a power limit. These limits are rated in kilowatts (kW). How fast your car charges is based on whichever is lower, the car's onboard charger or the charging station, so you'll want a home charger that is well matched to your car or your needs.

How to pick a home charging station

There are a lot of options for home charging. The right choice for you will depend on:
  • What vehicle you have
  • How much recharge time matters to you
  • How much you are willing to spend
  • How much of a DIY person you are
Note: I live in the US, so this will be US focused.

If you just bought a Tesla Model S, congratulations, and they have service reps that can help you with this decision, so I'll assume you bought a Leaf, Volt, Spark, or one of the many other plug-in cars that are now on sale.

Option 1 - Trickle Charger

Most new plug-in cars come with a Level 1 supply unit a.k.a. a "trickle charger". For some people, these alone are adequate. They plug in to any standard home outlet. They charge your car slowly, but they are easy to use and don't cost you anything extra. At a mere 1.3kW, they generally only give you 4-5 miles of range per hour, so they work well for overnight charging but don't expect to be able to drive to near empty in the AM and have a full charge after lunch. For a plug-in hybrid such as the Volt, Plug-in Prius, or Ford C-MAX Energi this could be enough. For a 100% battery electric such as the Leaf or Ford Focus Electric, this is not my preference due to the slow charging rate.

Option 2 - Portable Level 2

Whereas the trickle charger plugs into a standard home outlet, a portable Level 2 supply plugs into a 240 Volt outlet such as a dryer plug. Portable chargers are nice since you can take them with you on the road. You can charge up at campsites and I have thrown a cord out of my brother-in-law's laundry room window when I needed to charge up.

There are two portable Level 2s that I am aware of:

1) Clipper Creek's "On the Road" series
This option is ~$550 and you'll need a 240V outlet in your garage. If you don't already have a 240V outlet, it is generally less than $400 to have an electrician install one or you can do it yourself if you are handy that way. At 4.8kW, this will give you a max of 18 miles of range per hour that you're plugged in.

2) EVSEUpgrade.com
Option 2 is to have your trickle charger upgraded at evseupgrade.com. Depending on the charger you have, the upgrade prices vary, they are generally $250 - $300. The nice thing about this option is that you can buy adapters so you can use it at various types of 240V outlets (RV, dryers, welders...) and 120V outlets.

Option 3 - Wall-Mounted, Hard-Wired Level 2

The third option is a wall mounted unit. If you want advanced features such as timers, Internet connectivity, or energy reports, then this is your category. These are typically installed in your garage, carport, or wherever your car is usually parked for the night. They have the advantage of always being in the same place. It is highly unlikely that you'll pull into your own garage to find out that it has been borrowed by your neighbor for a cross-state EV road trip.

You can find many options for these at Amazon.com or Home Depot online. Just search for "EVSE". The prices range from ~$500 to over $2000 plus installation. Once installed, these are the most convenient to use. The two most important features to consider are the cord length and the power rating. There are options at 3.8kW, 7.2kW, 7.7kW, 9.6kW. Each 1kW will give you about 4 miles of range per hour. Remember, a power rating above the level of the car's onboard charger does not do anything for you. Assuming the car has a 6.6kW charger, a 6.6+kW unit will give you about 25 miles of range per hour.

Option 4 - DIY

The final option I'll offer is the home-brew maker option. There are Arduino-based and Kickstarter some-assembly-required charging stations. If you are the hobbyist type, you might consider one of these and I'll leave you on your own to investigate them.

Your Choice 

For me, I have a combination. At home I have a wall mounted Level 2. This makes it easy to charge up each night. Additionally, I have an EVSEUpgrade.com unit with 6 or 7 adaptors. These adaptors allow me to me to use nearly any outlet I may encounter. With the proliferation of public charging in the greater Portland area, this normally goes unused. It sits in my car's cargo area as a bit of assurance.

I hope this helps you understand the options and make a choice that works for you!