Sunday, September 23, 2012

Today's entry is short.

Happy 2nd Annual National Plug In Day. As advertised on the Nissan Leaf Facebook page, over 100 million gas free miles and 3975.6 of them are mine.

So that's roughly 42.74 miles per day. At an average miles/Kwh of 5.1 in turn gives you roughly $.022/mile energy cost or a total of $.94/day cost in energy to drive.

If I were to use my wife's brand new Prius instead that would be a daily fuel cost of almost <insert current price per gallon>. She gets just under 50 miles/gallon so I'm saving almost 1 gallon of fuel per day. I passed a gas station and a convenience store today and gas here is $3.79 and $3.85/gallon.

For a difference of:  $2.85/day. So for a full year that would be a difference of $1040.25. Interestingly enough, electric cost here is going to drop from 11 cents per Kwh to 10 cents per Kwh soon when we change from summer to non-summer rates. So I won't have to watch the fuel costs because it's really already determined and stable.

Well, at least until I get solar panels but that's a different post.

Again, happy Plug in Day America. I enjoyed mine did you enjoy yours?

Signing off for today
Try reading a book, it's a novel experience.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Range Anxiety...or not

Oooga booga... rrraannge annxiety...aiigh, please don't scare me.

'Range anxiety' is the term created to imply that ownership of a vehicle and the very nature of the vehicle will cause the driver concern about being stranded an unable to arrive at his/her destination. The only time I have ever encountered this term is in a negative connotation where the thrust of the comments were driven (pardon pun) to maximize the fact that an EV has limited range. 

So let's borrow Mr. Peabody's Wayback Machine and with my trusty boy Sherman at my side we will travel back in time to 2004. 2004, a time when gasoline vehicles roamed the prairies. I was driving westbound on I-70 just west of St. Louis in a 2002 Saturn SL when suddenly my low fuel light brightly illuminated the interior of my car. Despite the presence of my sleeping family I recklessly disregarded the illuminated warning and proceeded briskly down the unending ribbon of asphalt. Five miles. Ten miles. Twenty miles past the last gas station. Ever closer to the brink of despair as each drop of precious gas exploded into a miniature fireball and a noxious cloud of vapor propelled the car further into the heart of misery (pun intended). 

This is range anxiety at its finest. I truly began to be worried that I wouldn't make it to Columbia, MO where I knew there was a QuickTrip with that precious liquid to continue on our way home. I intentionally continued past a point where a reasonable person would say "Don't you think you're pushing it?". I went about 80 miles on 2 gallons of gasoline. As I got closer to Columbia I was truly concerned that I would be stranded on the interstate with my family and no cell phone.

Now to return to the present. I intentionally purchased a vehicle that has the following:

1. Limited range
2. Extended time to "refuel"
3. A limited number of possible locations to "refuel"

So based on the previous experience I should have a flaming case of 'range anxiety'. But I don't . Everyone has experienced the low fuel light and a low checking account light at the same time and continued to drive hoping the car makes it until payday. After a while you know how far you can drive. With my Saturn and my last job I knew that if the fuel light came on when I left the office that I could safely make it home and to the office and then back home again without worrying. With my current job and my old Escort I knew that if the fuel light came on that I was good for 2 full days.

Now with an all electric vehicle I live in the world of 'your fuel light is on' but it's always on. I really only have to worry when not only the Low Battery warning is sounded but there is also a Very Low Battery warning and that is followed by Turtle. I know that I'm only going to be a limited distance from the house so I know that it won't be a problem to get home. I also now have 3 months experience with the car and I know exactly how accurate/inaccurate the GOM is. Have I used range applications on my smartphone to check if I can go a measured distance on the available charge? Yes. Have I been concerned that an extra trip would deplete the battery? Yes. Have I done it more than once? Yes. Will I do it again in the future? You betcha. It's kinda fun in a twisted sort of way. Almost every day you can see someone on the side of the road because they ran out of fuel. So far I haven't seen a single electric vehicle stuck for lack of fuel.

The bottom line is that all cars have limited capacity to get you from point A to point B, C, D.... The fact that my Leaf lives in the short range is not a flaw in the vehicle it is simply one aspect of a car and an aspect I am willing to accept to free myself from the shackles of imported oil and environmental pollution.

When you get right down to it, learning the in's and out's of an electric car is fun. Right now everyone knows how to drive an internal combustion powered car. Everyone knows 'turn key, press pedal'. The opportunity to learn something new and play with a car is a lot of fun and in a future post I'll be discussing the 'video game' aspect of owning a Leaf.

'Range Anxiety' is a myth. There is only anxiety when you don't think about what you're doing and when dealing with heavy, fast moving vehicles you should always be thinking. I will leave you with this dirty little secret that is never mentioned by anyone on either side of the 'range anxiety' debate. Nissan Leaf's include at least 3 years of roadside assistance that includes towing your vehicle to the nearest charging station or the dealer. It's still embarrassing to run out of juice (I guess) but there is no anxiety as you know you're not stranded.

Signing off for today
Try reading a book, it's a novel experience.

So it was interesting this afternoon. On the way to pick the kid up at school what should I see stranded in the middle of the road? Yes, a Jeep had run out of gas two blocks past a BP station and half a mile from a Phillips station. I bet he had some range anxiety building until that last second when the car refused to run.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Definitions - part the first

As I was learning more about electric vehicles I found the language of EV's was filled with terms and acronyms that weren't familiar.  I feel it's helpful to have a primer to follow the discussion and so today's post is dedicated to the acronyms and words that I can remember surrounding an electric vehicle, its environment, its owners and anything else that I think is appropriate or necessary. I label this post as part one because I'm sure there are terms and acronyms that I will forget and need to add later.


EV (Electric Vehicle) - Hey, it's the basis for the blog so it should be first right?  =)  An electric vehicle is a car where the means of propulsion is an electric motor. The Chevrolet Volt is classified as an EV because the wheels are powered by the electric motor. The gasoline engine in a Volt is designed to charge the battery which will then in turn power the electric motor. Obviously the all electric vehicles, Nissan Leaf, Tesla Roadster, Tesla S, Coda, are completely powered by only electricity and have no gasoline "range extender".

PEV (Plugin Electric Vehicle) - I guess that's to differentiate it from the buses I saw in Hungary that were connected to the overhead power lines. This is an electric vehicle that you can/must plug in to recharge the battery pack. All the EV's I'm familiar with are also PEV's.

NEV/NHEV (Neighborhood Electric Vehicle) - These are EV's that are not only limited on range but are also limited on speed. They typically are limited to 25 mpg. They may also have limited safety components and are typically referred to as 'golf carts' even when they aren't.

PHEV (Plugin Hybrid Electric Vehicle) - This would be for "electric vehicles" with "range extenders" that run on gasoline. The best example is the PiP (see below).

PiP (Plug in Prius) - This is one of the latest versions of Toyota's Prius. The PiP has a receptacle in the back of the vehicle to plug in and charge up. The research I've seen puts the electric range around 12 miles. I believe the PiP also qualifies for limited federal tax incentives but it is not a true EV as the gasoline engine does provide direct propulsion to the wheels.

Leaf/LEAF (Leading Environmentally friendly, Affordable, Family car) - Ok that's the official acronym reference. To me it's just the model of my car.

ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) - Gasoline, Propane, Diesel, Ethanol, Flex fuel, Bio-diesel, any engine that ignites 'something' for the purpose of moving the vehicle. This may not be the dictionary definition but it works for me.

ICE'd - This is when an internal combustion engine vehicle is parked in a marked parking spot designed for electric vehicles.

EVSE (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment) - The device that takes electric energy and transfers from the electric line to the vehicle. This is the thing you actually plug into the car. It is frequently incorrectly referred to as the charger.

Charger - When people refer to a charger they are typically referring to a charging station or an EVSE. But the charger is a component in the car that receives plug energy and recharges the traction battery.

Charging Station - Typically the phrase 'charging station' refers to a public device where the driver of an EV can park and plug in. If you think of it as an EV filling station you would be correct. Around KC there are a couple of different charging networks with different price points for the energy provided.

Regenerative Braking - This occurs when a vehicle recovers energy when brakes are engaged. As far as I know, all EV's and many hybrids have this functionality to increase the available range of the vehicle.

Range Anxiety - Range anxiety a term that was coined to capture the concept the people have fear or anxiety applied to the idea that they will be stranded and unable to reach their destination due to lack of energy in the car. I will voice more about this concept in a dedicated post later.

Hybrid - It may seem out of place putting hybrid here but it's always best to have all the players listed when discussing technology even when it's a term "everyone" knows. So a hybrid vehicle is a vehicle where the primary propulsion is an internal combustion engine [ICE] but also contains an extended battery pack designed to recover energy on braking, power the vehicle on idle, and assist with acceleration. Hybrid vehicles typically get better city gas mileage compared to an ICE only.

FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) - Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt are the Three Horsemen of the EV Apocalypse. FUD factor is frequently the button pushed by parties interested in challenging the EV movement.

Leaf specific acronyms

DTE (Distance To Empty) - The gauge on the dash that displays the distance the car will go before running out of energy. See also GOM

GOM (Guess-O-Meter) - The commonly used reference to the DTE gauge because of the gauge's level of accuracy. See also DTE.

TB's (Temperature Bar(s)) - The gauge on the dash that displays the temperature of the battery pack. Due to battery capacity concerns, the temperature of the pack is important.

Try reading a book, it's a novel experience

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Number of cars per person

Ok, so I really didn't mean to update the blog again so recently. I also didn't really want to publish more than one post a day. I also really wanted to finish all the introductory posts.

But the best laid plans and all that. I ran across this posting on line as a link from the US Dept. of Energy:

I noticed reading the article that they are comparing number of cars to entire population. When you figure a hefty portion of the population isn't old enough to legally drive or is too old to safely drive then the US would likely average more than 1 car per licensed driver.

Scary when you think about it really.

Signing off for now,

Try reading a book, it's a novel experience

Monday, September 17, 2012


to the Wide Wide World of Electric Vehicles.

More specifically welcome to my world. As time allows, as my brain allows, as the opportunity allows, I will be posting my ideas and experiences surrounding Electric Vehicle ownership. I thought through several ways to start this and decided to go with a little explanation and history.

Around 2005 I decided that I liked the concept of an all electric vehicle. A car that in and of itself has no emissions. That has to be good for the environment right? A car that doesn't run on imported petroleum. That has to be good for national security right? Less dependence on foreign oil? And they are less expensive right? Ok, so I got that one wrong...sort of, we'll talk total cost of ownership in a  later entry.

So it's 2005 and I've made the decision. This shouldn't be hard. Go out and find an all electric car.

<insert crickets chirping>
<insert crickets chirping>
<insert crickets chirping>

The silence in the search for an all electric car was deafening. It's not like I completely failed but at that time you had two choices. You could pay to have your existing car converted into an electric car. This was tempting since two of the most expensive repair jobs on a car are replacing transmissions and replacing engines and you get both with a conversion so it's like getting a new car right? Well, no not really and then try to finance that? Well, good luck.

Option two is what is called a neighborhood electric vehicle. These are all electric but are governed so they can't exceed 25 mph although some were made that could go 35 mph. Getting close to functional at this point but safety features were limited and the entertainment features were non existent.

I decided that while I was right for the vehicle, the right vehicle wasn't available. At that point I promised myself that the first company that made an all electric production level vehicle would get my money. By production level I meant that it was an assembly line vehicle not a concept car or limited run vehicle. In other words, a real car.

I began to fall in love with the Aptera 2 series ( The idea of a 200-300 mile all electric vehicle that looked like a spaceship was just really a cool car. Unfortunately that was not to be as Aptera eventually failed to produce.

Around the same time GM was making noise about a car called Volt.

I was intrigued. An American manufactured all electric vehicle? This is promising. Oh, that's the same company that tried the EV-1 in the 90's then recalled them and crushed them? Oh, the Volt is now not all electric? Oh, it's a hybrid on steroids. Well, thanks for playing. The rule of the game was an ALL electric not partially electric with a build it "range extender" that is a gasoline generator for the electric motor. Don't get me wrong, the Volt is a great car but it isn't truly a game changer like it was touted.

Hmm...what's this? Nissan Leaf all electric. Advertised 100 mile range? This sounds promising. Oh, it's been on sale and working in Japan already? Available for sale in California in 2010? This continues to sound promising. First year sales in CA are good. People are happy. This continues to sound promising. Oh, now we're in 2011 and over half of the states in the Union have Nissan dealers who can sell the Leaf.

Since it's now 2012 you can guess which state was one of the last to have local Nissan dealers able to sell the Leaf.

Then in March I realized that "THE DAY" had arrived. I could place an order for my very own Nissan Leaf. I was now a member of one of the larger Leaf forums at . I was able to make an informed decision but was there a car to test drive?

I was anxious to actually drive the car. Was it comfortable? Did it have acceptable acceleration? I saw a Volt and it was smaller than I expected so how small was the Leaf?

Fortunately the Nissan site had a list of local dealers who were qualified to sell the Leaf and I visited one. The rest, as they say, is history.

The test drive was awesome.  All the things I learned online about the car were true. Roomy, yup. Acceleration, oh you bet. 100% torque available instantly the 0-30 mph is probably unbeatable. Comfortable, well maybe not a Cadillac but you know it wasn't going to be driven that far for that long so yes, it's comfortable. Oh, the seats are made of 100% recycled plastics? That's got to be good.

So yes Mr. Car Dealer please take my order. And thus began on of the most obsessive website checks of my life as I waited, and waited, and waited, and watched for updates to the delivery. First it was an estimated month for arrival, and then an estimated week, and finally purchase and take home.

Since that time I've driven over 3700 gas free miles. No smelly gas fumes, no exhaust, no oil changes, no muffler, no problems.

The next several updates will likely be close together and then updates as experience occurs. For the next update, a dictionary. What does all the alphabet soup that surrounds EV's (electric vehicle) actually mean.

Signing off for today,

Try reading a book, it's a novel experience