walkitout: (Default)
As you probably already know, if you have any kind of nerds in your environment (and if you don't, why are you reading my blog? Are you lost?), the Tesla Model 3 got 300K pre-orders (we're talking a grand a pop to Get In Line to spend $35K+ in a couple years on an electric car) within a few days of its announcement/reveal/prototype introduction.

Inevitably, whenever someone has an astonishingly successful promotion, someone has to come around and piss on it, to Show Them They Are More Clever. The weird part is that The Verge gave this thing space.

Ignore the headline. Yeah, I know there's a bunch of space in the article devoted to that thesis, but it's a foolish thing to even HAVE a position on. Let's take a look at some of the elements of the argument.

http://www.theverge.com/2016/4/8/11393278/tesla-model-3-vs-apple-iphone-sales-compared

(1) Tesla has quality control issues. They do. This is true.
(2) Tesla has made small numbers of very expensive cars. The Model 3 will be larger numbers of less expensive cars. Oh, wait, that's not the argument. Here's the actual argument:

"Consumers in the mass market are far more reliant on their cars than luxury buyers (for whom a Model S or X might be a second or third car), and thus far more sensitive to quality problems."

The rest of the argument is that ICE makers are better at fixing quality control issues because they are used to making lots of cars. Here, I'm not making this up:

"Meanwhile, existing automakers are rushing a flood of electric vehicles to market, at mass-market and luxury price points, and it will be far easier for them to improve their design and performance than it will be for Tesla to make the profound improvements in manufacturing speed and quality it needs to be competitive in the mass market."

(3) A lot of those pre-orders will be canceled, and Tesla may ultimately not ever sell even 300K Model 3s. Because Leaf.

This is particularly odd. First, the Get In Line ticket cost on the leaf was $100, not $1000, so qualitatively different there. Second, the number of people who paid the $100 to Get In Line for the Leaf was quite small -- much, much smaller than the number of Leafs ultimately sold worldwide. So this argument makes very little sense.

(4) It's not actually an affordable car, and those people who pre-paid $1K are gonna need their money back or at least not be able to pay up any more.

Here are the issues I have with this argument.

First and foremost, the massive, longstanding popularity of the VW in various configurations is proof that there is a slice of the population that will pay too much money for something that is terribly unreliable, for a host of reasons: proving they are Smart (in both senses), environmentally aware, and, basically, Cooler Than You. True, this whole diesel scandal may have finally killed the brand -- won't know for sure for a few more years -- but the crowd that overpaid for VWs has a lot in common with the crowd that is paying a lot for Teslas. And unless they've hidden an ICE engine in the Tesla somewhere, I don't see this particular well of money running dry any time soon. The price point on the VW in many configurations is in the same range as the Model 3. The marketing looks solid to me.

The preorder argument is insane. The scale of the preorder is qualitatively different (cost of ticket and number of participants). But even if it weren't, if you look at the total presales on the Leaf versus sales so far on the Leaf, and modeled Model 3 sales on that comparison, well, Musk is gonna have pocket change around for all kinds of silly projects for decades to come.

Finally, some people _will_ get their preorder money back. Absolutely. But it's difficult for me to imagine that more won't be getting in line, as well.

I don't recognize Niedermeyer or any of his previous work (if I find I've blogged about him before, I'll edit this later). But I have to say I'm kind of surprised and disappointed with The Verge for publishing this. I don't mind the click-bait Apple/Tesla thing, or even all the wasted words on that topic. But the underlying argument -- ICE manufacturers are going to magically start kicking Tesla ass when Tesla reaches down into the "mass market" segment (really? $40K cars are now mass market? who knew?), because Tesla quality control is so terrible and ICE makers are (going to suddenly become) so much better at making high quality electric cars in quantity -- is bizarre in the extreme.

The future is going to include a lot of makers of electric cars, just like the present has quite a lot of makers of ICE cars. There's space for a Bolt and a Model 3, just like there's space for a 3 series and an Escalade. I don't know why people persist in predicting the demise of Tesla. I test drove a Tesla and it was a nice car. I might have bought a Model X, except it wasn't out yet when I bought my i3 -- but I might one day replace my i3 with a Model X, because the range is so much better. I don't know. But I've got decades of virulent hatred of GM getting in the way of me ever seriously thinking about buying a Bolt. And I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person who feels this way.
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I'm going to be taking my daughter to gymnastics in about a half hour, but I want to at least get a stub in -- expect updates.

I ordered my i3 about a year and a half ago, and got it a year and a few months ago. After I bought it, of course, oil plunged to incredibly low levels and the price of gas eventually dropped as well, while Cushing filled up to the point where people started actively worrying about whether that presented some risks or not (seismic, terrorist target, etc.) and we're now apparently at a point where there is more oil stockpiled than any time since 1930 and people are renting tankers and parking them off the coast in various places, waiting for oil prices to rise so they can sell it and make a bunch of money. Of course, this will probably work (eventually, for someone), but that process means that EVEN MORE oil will come onto the market, keeping markets depressed for some time to come.

There are a variety of political factors which have prevented supply capitulation, however, the pain has become great enough that a deal was apparently reached between a couple of the biggest producers: cap production at January levels (I know, right? How does this _help_? Only after demand grows enough to soak up the continuing overproduction), and quota it out in a way that allows Iran to increase sales now that they are finally allowed to sell, or otherwise they won't respect any agreement.

I had a question, tho. We're near the end of the Northern heating season. From now until summer driving season, consumption drops. What happens if summer driving season comes, and people drive ... and consumption still doesn't increase? Factors which could result in this include: better fuel efficiency, hybrids, electric cars. (Factors such as use of public or shared transportation do NOT contribute to net more miles driven and thus aren't contemplated here.) Can that happen? A few years ago, consensus was clear. There was no way that plug ins would be adopted at a rate that was going to influence ... anything, really, if you took the predictors seriously. Here is a sample prediction:

http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/64436/102399.pdf

ON THE OTHER HAND, a quick look at the initial curves (the later curves predict even lower and slower adoption of plug ins and similar) suggests that as of the end of 2015, we've blown out the prediction by between a factor of two and three.

How did that happen (I feel like there's a dirty, dirty Dan Savage joke here, but I will refrain)?

My husband says: Tesla. Tesla basically took over all luxury car sales (an exaggeration -- but less of one that you might think). Nobody saw that coming! (<-- Also not true!) (Digression here about the impact of the Apple Watch on Swiss Watches. Poor Swiss Watch makers!)

I say: the Leaf. Nissan's commitment to moving the Leaf was quite incredible and very effective. In the middle, which we would prefer not to talk about, is the Volt. It is a plug in. You can -- if your trips are short enough -- drive it electric really quite a lot, and its overall gas mileage is very, very respectable. It sold in job lots. Enough said.

Meanwhile, I'm starting to see commentary -- and this is how I started thinking about this -- comparing the total ICE cars sold in the US vs total plug in cars sold. The thinking goes, look how teeny tiny the electric number is! That's so small! It can't influence anything! But when I saw it, it jolted me right out of my complacent yeah, this is gonna take years mentality, because that number was easily twice what I expected it to be.

There are now enough i3s on the road around here that it is still fun, but not unexpected to pass an i3 driver and see her (there's at least one other woman!!!) waving at me as we pass each other. We don't know each other -- we are just doing what everyone does when they drive a somewhat unusual vehicle and are happy to see someone Just Like Them. And i3s are _way_ down the list in terms of sales.

Where are the curves exploring the implications of CAFE regulations and car sharing and ride sharing and living closer to ones destinations and electric cars and wtf, where are the curves exploring the dampening effect on increasing demand for fuel? The increasing demand that is desperately needed right now (to destroy our climate! End life as we know it! Wait, that's sarcasm. Sorry!) to siphon up all that oil parked out in tankers off the coast, and sitting in tanks in Oklahoma, looking like a disaster waiting to happen (my prediction: it won't be seismic and it won't be violent: it'll be a bunch of leaks. Because that's what petrochemicals do. They leak.).

ETA:

An interesting look at how many households could adopt BEVs or PHEVs or wtf; from 2011 or thereabouts.

http://www.caee.utexas.edu/prof/kockelman/public_html/TRB12PEVuse.pdf

2015 look at the state of electric vehicles in Hawaii:

http://evtc.fsec.ucf.edu/publications/documents/HNEI-05-15.pdf

Hawaii was expected to adopt electric vehicles at significant rates:

http://www.autoblog.com/2013/09/17/coastal-states-will-lead-plug-in-vehicle-adoption-through-2022/

"Hawaii will have the highest number of plug-ins as a percentage of overall vehicle sales.

I was a little skeptical of this. Sure, the weather is great (cold weather reduces range. A lot.). But Hawaiian electricity is legendarily expensive.
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I forget precisely where I saw the observation, probably insideevs.com, but someone pointed out, possibly in a comment thread, that one of the most brilliant aspects of the i3 is that BMW used it as an opportunity to figure out how to build a car out of carbon fiber. They can later roll out carbon fiber throughout the rest of their vehicle line, which includes gasoline and diesel ICE, hybrids and will shortly include plug in hybrids. As Boston Consulting Group's papers noted, automakers who aim to meet emission standards in coming years, will have to lightweight and otherwise improve the efficiency of ICE vehicles, in addition to making and selling HEV, PHEV, BEV, etc. Kinda cool to get people with more money than sense to help finance the final testing of a new (to this category) building material. They (and the rest of the world) get to see the results of our inevitable fender benders and outright crashes, and how carbon fiber behaves in the real world, before building, say, the 3 series out of it.

I had not realized until the last couple of days that the reason for the 80% charge on DC fast charging was to preserve battery performance, and that was driven by a belief that DC fast charging inevitably degraded batteries. Turns out that might not actually be completely true.

http://green.autoblog.com/2014/03/17/dc-fast-charging-not-as-damaging-to-ev-batteries-as-expected/

If DC fast charging isn't that damaging (25% loss after 40K vs. 23% using level 2 charging), perhaps DC fast charging protocols will be adjusted to get closer to a full charge.
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Try, very hard, not to think about VHS vs. Betamax. It is a poor analogy.

The first thing you need to know about is SAE J1772.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAE_J1772

If you are on PlugShare, you'll see these everywhere. Everywhere. They are NOT fast chargers, unless they have some additional qualifiers on them, which, short form, they don't, yet, but they may soon have words like "ComboCharger" or "CCS" or something along those lines. AC chargers/fast chargers are sort of forever split because different regions have done AC differently, however, DC is DC is DC so in theory you could at least make the DC part a shared protocol (might be the wrong word).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combo_Coupler#Combined_Charging_System

I think that we can expect in the future to see a lot of Fast Charge stations that have Chademo (Nissan) and CCS hookups (which only BMW would currently make use of), in much the same way that each fuel pump currently has a bunch of hoses for different grades of fuel, and maybe a really different looking hose that is labeled Diesel. Open question how Tesla interacts with all of this.

ETA: And while all Nissan dealers seem to have some sort of charging station, they don't all -- maybe not even most -- have the Chademo fast charger. Nissan is exploiting the dealer network to provide a comparable service to the Tesla network:

http://theenergycollective.com/katherinetweed/427191/will-nissans-free-ev-charging-rival-teslas-supercharger-network

ETA: http://insideevs.com/180-nissan-dealerships-us-chademo-fast-chargers/

There really does seem to be a West Coast bias, but that's not surprising.
walkitout: (Default)
From January:

http://www.autonews.com/article/20140114/OEM05/140119794/teslas-global-sales-top-22000-in-2013-stock-rises-16

> 22K from Tesla, worldwide, in 2013.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/07/us-tesla-motors-results-idUSBREA460ZW20140507

So first quarter > 6400, second quarter they did succeed in delivering around 7500, putting them on track for their 35K target for 2014.

So call it 22K + 35K by the end of the year = 57K, throw in the Roadster years and it'll be around 60K Tesla on the road by the end of the calendar year.

Nissan Leaf hit 100K in January of this year, and in May, they broke 3K units in a single month.

http://green.autoblog.com/2014/06/03/nissan-leaf-sells-3117-may-climbs-over-3000-first-time/

The Leaf appears to be pulling ahead of the Volt month by month, but I won't be counting the Volt because it is technically a PHEV, rather than a BEV (it is not an all-electric drive vehicle; it is a hybrid drive vehicle. This has absolutely nothing to do with whether you run the gas engine or not; it's a technical aspect of how the car works.).

I think it's safe to say that there must be something like 200K BEVs driving around (globally -- not just here in the states). For reference purposes (remember, that 200K is a multi-year cumulative number, NOT a single year's sales), global car sales in 2013 were about 82 million and are expected to be a little higher this year.

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/global-car-sales-seen-reaching-85-mln-in-2014-ihs-2013-12-16

I'm not sure what to make of this. Perspective matters. On the one hand, annual global BEV sales may break one basis point fairly soon (that is, 1 in 1000 cars sold may soon be a BEV). On the other hand, 1% of global car sales looks a long, long ways away.

On the third hand, this looks really fucking hilarious right now, in the middle of 2014.

http://web.mit.edu/sloan-auto-lab/research/beforeh2/files/Cunningham_BS_thesis_2009.pdf

Nissan's Leaf is nowhere in any of the descriptive material, much less the charts. In conjunction with Tesla, 5 years on, it is producing numbers in the US sufficient to make this statement, in particular, look much less plausible in 2014 than it was in 2009:

"the BCG Scenario 2, BCG Scenario 3, and Deutsche Bank production projections could be seen as highly optimistic."

But you know, that person has an engineering degree from MIT, and I'm a middle-aged mother of two in Metrowest who went on three test drives last week and otherwise hasn't really given BEVs a ton of thought beyond, yeah, no, I don't want that one, either. This is the week where I changed my mind. There are usually a lot of sheep baa'ing along behind me, altho sometimes I find myself all alone and completely lost.

If you read some or all of the MIT paper, and are wondering, here is what isn't happening at Detroit Electric:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detroit_Electric

Reading that is even worse than reading about the Fisker Karma. You just kinda shake your head and go, what?

As for Th!nk, well, they were gone a couple years after the thesis was done, declaring bankruptcy in 2011.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_TH!NK

You wouldn't necessarily know from reading what I post here that I spend a fair amount of time whinging on about the Reality Distortion Field around Musk/Tesla, but I have to say, I have been _wildly_ unfair about that car/that guy. Elon Musk delivers on the projects he works on (that Hyperloop think was only ever a design idea), which is more than can be said for Detroit Electric and Th!nk. The Tesla may not be For Me, but it is growing numbers, producing supportive infrastructure and directly addressing the battery production ramp-up problem, altho I don't see any evidence that he's helping on the interoperability issue in terms of charging standards.

ETA: Here's the "BCG" scenario source, a paper from Boston Consulting Group about, well, actually completely worth reading, even five years on. (Rev date seems to be Jan 2009)

http://www.bcg.com/documents/file15404.pdf

They assume 9K miles per year driven, which is interestingly low compared to a lot of car analysis, but much closer to what R. and I do.

Altho I have to say, don't _ever_ take investing advice from these guys. They are unbelievably foolish when it comes to thinking about how and why new things are adopted. Their model is a pure-play rational model based on total cost of ownership. Yeah, because _that's_ what drives people to buy cars. [<-- Sarcasm. Heavy, heavy sarcasm.] The Tesla Model S doesn't fit _anywhere_ in their universe, much less the upcoming Model X, and if you read that paper, you'd have _no freaking clue_ that a big part of electric car appeal is performance under measures that absolutely _punish_ range and TCO.

I guess I think that the best way to imagine how many cars could possibly be non-ICE vehicles in 2020 is to recognize that we're right around 1 full replacement cycle away from 2020 right now. Sometime between now and 2020, most cars currently on the road will be replaced with something newer. And most cars, if I read the statistics correctly, are in households with at least one other car. So I think that means that about a quarter of the cars _could_ become non-ICE vehicles (on the premise that most people don't want to be in a household composed exclusively of BEV/plug-in hybrid, wtf vehicles, but almost anybody would be willing to have one of those around as a daily driver) by 2020. Given that oil has developed a real predilection for hovering around $100/barrel, give or take, over the last few years, there's a meaningful motivator for having a car that gets good gas mileage or other power metric equivalent. So about a quarter of the cars _could_ be PHEV, HEV, BEV, wtf, and mostly people would like that, so any estimate that is greater than a quarter needs to explain how people suddenly become that appalled at ICE vehicles and any estimate that is a lot less than a quarter needs to explain why people prefer driving extremely efficient ICE vehicles vs. a sexier hybrid like a Porsche Panamera (<-- to use a completely ridiculous example). BCG's estimate feels a little off to me, but not by a lot -- it's more their reasoning to get there that bugs me.

More from BCG:

http://www.bcg.com/documents/file80920.pdf

July 2011 date on this one.
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ETA: Short answer, Not Our Near Future. Build up that charging infrastructure, because that will still be in demand when children yet unborn are chomping at the bit to get their driver's license. And maybe for a while after that.

http://green.autoblog.com/2014/08/01/japans-prime-minister-likes-toyota-fcvs-pickup-zero-emissions/

The Prime Minister got to drive the Toyota FCV.

Fuel cells made it very tough to get hybrids and BEVs going earlier, because there was sort of this idea that battery tech was sort of awful and the range was horrible, and fuel cells were Right Around the Corner so why waste time on this shit? Naturally, this makes me suspicious of fuel cells at this point, since GM (and, for that matter, Ford) who were so negative on anything between ICE and fuel cells wound up abandoning fuel cells in favor of that interstitial generation they were so contemptuous of.

R. seems to think there's a power to weight issue with fuel cells. I, of course, am prepared to be picky about where the hydrogen comes from. Still working on the power to weight issue, but I am skeptical that there is an issue here.

A bit more in detail: http://www.caranddriver.com/news/toyota-fcv-concept-news

Honda has some competition that might be better, altho not as far along in terms of production:

http://www.caranddriver.com/news/honda-fcev-concept-news

Is this why they are retiring the Fit EV and the aging Insight? Or is this just a round of the Japanese making the same mistakes GM and Ford did a decade ago?

It looks like R. is correct in thinking that fuel cells require a ton of space in the car for all the stuff to Make It Go. There is no range problem (altho a fueling infrastructure is needed). I cannot even imagine parking some of these things, and of course there's just no room to bring anything bigger than your purse with you.

This explicitly asserts that R. is wrong about the energy density issue:

http://www.slashgear.com/toyota-fcv-sedan-gets-a-photo-op-launch-date-and-price-26335458/

And this guy is really not a believer:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2014/04/17/will-toyota-hydrogen-fuel-cell-car-be-a-success-and-be-sold-in-2015/

This isn't very encouraging:

http://automobiles.honda.com/fcx-clarity/home-energy-station.aspx

Where's the make-hydrogen-from-water-using-solar-panels option? Maybe that's so inefficient it is pointless?

Oh, wait, here it is!!!

http://world.honda.com/news/2012/4120327Solar-Hydrogen-Station/index.html

Oh, geez:

"Using Solar and grid power, the system is capable of producing 1.5kg of hydrogen within 24 hours which enables an FCX Clarity to run approximately 150km or 90 miles."

Ooooh, that's not good enough. 24 hours to get 90 miles of range. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. And with zero cargo space and limited passenger space in the vehicle.
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I asked R. which car he thought I should buy. He remarked that he thought I would be better served by waiting and buying something in a few year's. This is why I call myself a second rank sheep: I am _not_ an early adopter, but I tend to do things relatively soon after the early adopter phase has passed and before the great mass of Normal People have decided to participate.

But it is worth reminding myself why I never bought a HEV, a PHEV or, for that matter, the Fit EV, to assess whether those reasons might apply to the current plan to buy a BEV.

The Prius is heavier, more expensive and has less interior space for passengers and cargo than an ICE or BEV would have -- there's just more going on in there and it takes up room. And until you could plug one of them in, the best you could do with it was improve your miles per gallon. And honestly, the improvement in mpg versus buying the Fit (specifically, the Fit) was not impressive. So, no Prius. But why not a plug in? Well, by the time there were plug ins (that weren't people adapting existing hybrids, but manufacturer supplied), BEVs were pretty clearly on the horizon. Again, the battery only range on the PHEVs was pretty limited.

So why didn't I buy the Fit EV (which has recently been discontinued, as near as I can tell)? Because I distinctly remember being so excited about that that when I bought my current car in 2011, I asked them to put me on the list to call if/when the EV version came out. I got a postcard. I looked at it and said, W.T.Everloving F. Because you couldn't buy it, only lease it. It didn't have the Magic Seats. And the flat load was gone. Basically, it wasn't the car I know and love any more, it was just another cheap, uncomfortable subcompact that wasn't so cheap, had a drastically reduced range and was only available on lease terms which I found way too expensive compared to my preference which is to pay for a car without financing.

Why wasn't I on the Tesla waiting list? Too expensive for me to buy without knowing what other people thought about it. I got interested this time around because of all the Love -- but it turned out not to be for me.

Why not the Leaf when it came out? Or when some of the additional incentives became available? Range anxiety.

I remain unconvinced that BEVs, or even PHEVs will ever become widespread. They might -- they might not. If gas got _way_ more expensive, the calculus would surely favor BEVs and PHEVs. Fuel cells are tantalizing, particularly in conjunction with common rooftop solar installations via companies like SolarCity. OTOH, if you know anything about hydrogen, you have to sit there and wonder whether it's really that good of an idea to drive around with a bunch of it in the vehicle with you -- or how well you would sleep with a bunch of it stored in the basement after a full day of the solar panels collecting sunshine in the summer. Predicting more of the same is the easiest thing to do: hybrids will continue to sell well, PHEVs will become increasingly popular, the infrastructure for fast charging stations will get built out a bit more by companies like evGo and others, so it will become normal to plug in your car when you run to the store for groceries, and apartment buildings and employers will routinely offer -- for free, or for a price -- the ability to charge in their garages and parking spaces while you sleep or work. Perhaps ICE car sharing will become more common, as a way to handle range issues.
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Over the last week, I test drove three of the BEV's currently on the market. First, I drove BMW's new model i3. I'm going to assume my readers know about BMW. You can think of this as a $45K, give or take a few thousand dollars, depending on what state you live in and what options you order it with. It is an all electric drive car, which means no internal combustion motor ever drives the wheels of this vehicle. You can _get_ an optional ICE (internal combustion engine) and accompanying (tiny) gas tank. Here in the US, that is not under the operator's control regarding when it runs -- it kicks in when the charge gets low and recharges the battery, which continues to drive the wheels. Without Rex (the range extender), the i3 will go 70 or 80 miles, more or less like the Leaf and some of the other BEVs out on the market. With the range extender, you'll be pulling up to a gas station every additional 70 miles. I think.

Useful words: ICE, internal combustion engine, which is basically almost every car engine you've ever thought about until fairly recently, unless you are super nerdy. If you are super nerdy, I love you extra special more, just for that. BEV = Battery electric vehicle, which is what the i3 is, even tho it has that optional engine. Other types of vehicles include PHEV (plug in hybrid electric vehicle) and HEV (hybrid electric vehicle). You know about Prius -- that's a hybrid. There are hybrids (including some Prius) that you can recharge overnight by plugging them into the wall, and which if you don't drive very many miles a day, you can pretty much avoid every using the gasoline engine. A hybrid vehicle in general has _two_ power sources (the battery and the ICE) and a complicated drive system.

The second car I test drove was the Tesla Model S, which is a new American car manufacturer in California founded by Elon Musk, of PayPal and SpaceX fame, in addition to Tesla Motors. The cars are built in a factory in Fremont, CA, which is the same Fremont, CA factory described in such detail in one of the most popular This American Life episodes ever; listen to the podcast some time. It is absolutely worth it.

Here's the transcript: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/403/transcript

I have mixed feelings about Musk, but I expected to love the Tesla. It has much more range than any other BEV out there currently, and Musk/Tesla Motors is putting a lot of effort into building out an extensive fast charging network to support the vehicles.

I will now digress about charging. There are three quick charging systems out there in the wild:

(1) CHAdeMO, which is what Nissan's Leaf (the third car I test drove) uses.
(2) Tesla's SuperCharger (self-explanatory)
(3) SAE, which is what BMW uses

These systems are _not_ intercompatible. You cannot charge a Leaf at a Tesla station and vice versa. In general, you can charge your car at a dealer that sells your car (all Nissan dealerships seem to have fast chargers, type of thing). You can also use sites such as this one:

http://www.plugshare.com/

to find stores that have chargers. However, while you can find some sort of charger in a lot of places, often it is not a fast charger. It's closer to your home charging experience, and a full charge could take 3 or more hours. The quick charging systems located above can generally charge 80% in about a half hour (they're all impressed with themselves if they can get it down to 20 minutes -- I don't see a huge difference there, but whatev).

Needless to say, this is not like driving up to the Self Serve, swiping your car, letting money drain out of your account for a few minutes as the black gold drips into your tank, and driving away, safe in the comfort that you can drive 200-400 miles before having to do that again. The difference in refill time (hours -- or, in a best case scenario, a half hour -- vs. minutes) combined with the difference in distance before you hit E (75 or so miles, unless in the Tesla in which case 200+, vs. 200-400 in a typical ICE) creates "range anxiety": am I gonna make it to where I am going?

While ICE vehicles experience relatively minor degradation in performance (range, etc.) in cold weather, batteries suffer in the cold. Experience in this area is still being developed, but expecting a 10% or more reduction in range during cold weather seems reasonable -- it's not even particularly conservative. Unlike ICE vehicles, the faster you go in an electric drive, the faster you drain the battery/the shorter your range. Because the car doesn't really know how many hills you will be driving up, much less how fast, it can really only guess how much further the charge in your battery is going to take you. Driving a BEV requires some careful consideration and rewards detailed route knowledge and repeat trips.

If your life is relatively predictable (you tend to go to the same places within the same area) and you live in a densely developed area, the range of a BEV might look just fine to you. And the cost to replenish the charge in the batteries at typical electrical utility prices might look _really really awesome_ to you. Recharging at normal electrical rates is going to typically come in under $10. Well under $10. Not too many people have ICE vehicles they can fill the tank for that price, altho, to be fair, it's not quite such a screaming deal when you figure it mile-to-mile. But it's still really good. When a BEVs power consumption is translated into mpg, it usually is 100 mpg or better -- you'd have to ride a low-power motorcycle or scooter to get comparable mpg with an ICE. I drive a Honda Fit, but that's a lot better than my Fit gets, which is more than I can say when comparing the Fit to, say, a Prius. Of course, you could accomplish a lot of the same goals with a plug in hybrid, but the batteries on that have even shorter range, so trying to get all of your driving in electric mode can be difficult.

The next obvious question is, well, how about charging at home, or some other place that I can control? You typically get a cord with a plug at the end with these cars for "occasional use" that you can basically plug in anywhere. It will take a long time -- 7 hours or more -- to fully charge your car that way, but overnight should be just fine. You can set up a circuit that is more or less like a dryer circuit that will shrink that down to 3ish hours. The Tesla can be bought with an option that will give you _two_ cords, so you can charge it twice as fast, and each of those can be the fast kind of charge. There are some additional options as well, unique to each manufacturer (as near as I can tell, anyway). But you can't do any better than the 80% charge in 20-30 minutes than I mentioned above.

Executive summary for those whose eyes glazed over: every electric car out there can be recharged anywhere there is an electrical outlet, if you are prepared to wait long enough. If you want to charge your car most of the way, quickly, there are 3 incompatible charging standards, one for Tesla, one used by BMW, and one used by Nissan Leaf. The Nissan Leaf standard is the most widely deployed, altho that may or may not be true a few years from now. You don't _have_ to install anything special at home to charge your electric car, but odds on, you will want to. You can probably do most trips in a BEV -- but having a good plan in place for trips that will tax your BEV's range is important to reduce range anxiety ("Am I gonna make it?") and avoid buyer's remorse. That could be a second car in your household ("I'll borrow my spouse's minivan"), rental or a carshare membership, or purchasing BMW's Add On Mobility option (which is a sort of amortized rental system -- I may post about that if I can find someone to supply a meaningful level of detail).
walkitout: (Default)
Today, T. and I went to Marlborough to test drive the leaf. There, we met the nicest, calmest and easiest to work with sales person of the week. If you need to buy a Nissan in the Boston area, please go to Marlborough Nissan and ask for Kasey (KC?). He's fantastic and I predict you'll love doing business with him.

The Leaf is just an ordinary car, that happens to be a BEV. The shifter looks like a chopped off shifter, but otherwise in an unremarkable location. There's a parking brake where you expect it. The window controls, turn signals, windshield wipers, etc. are all where you think they will be. I did not experiment with the music system; there are some controls for it in the center of the steering wheel that are pretty similar to what I'm accustomed to (the source switcher looks a little novel to me, but well within range). The rear view mirror has some buttons on it, in part for auto dimming, possibly there are some garage door opener buttons there, too.

You will be using the brake pedal on the Leaf; there is virtually no slow down when taking my foot off the accelerator in the Leaf. Nissan drivers will not be surprised to learn that I perceived the Leaf to be somewhat gutless. This is not a bad thing. When you need power, you just depress the pedal more and there is what you need, if you are driving in compliance with the law.

The seats are comfortable - far more comfortable than my current car, which in turn is more comfortable than its predecessor, the 2007 Fit which honestly had pretty uncomfortable seats. The headroom is ample. The car is designed for a mostly upright seating position. The back bench is not as deep as the i3, but perhaps a bit deeper than the Tesla. T. thought it was comfortable; I did not try it. There is no frunk; the charger is located there instead. It think that is a reasonable design choice. The trunk/hatch has ample cargo space. The back bench folds down 60/40, albeit not particularly flat. That's okay. Back seats that fold down really flat are rarely comfortable to sit in so I'll take that trade off. The navigation screen is about what I'm used to in the aftermarket navigator in my Fit. It _may_ be possible to get it with speed limit information. It is definitely possible to get real time traffic information.

My sense is that the CHAdeMO charging network is probably currently the most developed -- certainly way better than the SAE network that the BMW uses. It's unclear how that will go in the future.

Between the $7500 federal incentive, the $2500 Massachusetts MOR-EV incentive announced in June, and possibly additional rebate from the manufacturer, the already economical (compared to the BMW i3 or the Tesla) Leaf drops down into downright inexpensive territory.

Alas, I have too much range anxiety to buy one. If I didn't have range anxiety, I would have bought one months ago, and I didn't. If you don't have range anxiety, though, you might give this one some serious thought. There's no Statement here. Just a practical, comfortable car that Consumer Reports expects to be very reliable, and which got a perfectly respectable safety rating in crash tests.

BMW i3 test drive (I'll be buying this one):

http://walkitout.livejournal.com/1146170.html

Tesla test drive:

http://walkitout.livejournal.com/1147864.html
walkitout: (Default)
I originally had a ton of time to get to the test drive, however, R. discovered that I wasn't the only person having trouble with the sleep/wake button on my iPhone 5. There is warranty work. So the phone is in the shop and I have a loaner (weirdly like cars), and that process got wedged into the time I had between T. getting home and the test drive.

R. came along, and if I had it to do over again, I might ask that R. get his own test drive, because I suspect that I wouldn't not have had such a profoundly negative test drive experience if I had not sat down in the back seat. But I _did_ sit down in the back seat. While there is adequate leg room, there is not adequate head room, and it there are some other problems as well.

First, a note about me. I am a bit over 5'7" tall, and as you would expect, I have more of that in my legs than in my head, neck and torso. In general, if I set down in the back seat of a car, I don't experience any kind of headroom issue, unless it is some weird sort of not-a-real-back-seat situation, but I haven't been in one of those since I was a teenager -- I don't think I'd considered this as a possible situation in the Tesla because there is optional _third row seating_. I will concede that the years have added additional padding to my ass, and therefore additional height while seated, but this is not actually that significant. I wound up leaning towards the middle of the back seat to avoid my head touching the ceiling. Strike one.

Second, I have some neurological problems that manifest in a variety of ways and a couple of them are relevant here. I'm prone to headaches in bright light, particularly if the light is coming in at a particular angle. At least this Tesla had, in addition to a sunroof, a smoked glass? or something ceiling/roof behind the sunroof, so it kind of was not possible for me to get fully out of the sunshine in the backseat. Ouch. In conjunction with a headache associated with too-damn-much-stuff-in-one-day, very, very painful. Strike two. Presumably, this particular issue is resolvable through appropriate options selection when ordering one.

Third, my husband's theory of test drive involved doing things to the car that makes being a rider somewhat unpleasant. If I hadn't been in the car while he was doing this, I probably would have enjoyed the test drive more. Not really Tesla's fault.

Okay, so I have a headache, am feeling a little crammed in, have had unexpected sun exposure, my son decided to sit in the middle seat in the back (not helping with the claustrophobia) and yell about a variety of things during the ride, so by the time it's my turn to drive, I'm not necessarily overjoyed. It's a nice car. The seats are okay, but by no means the Mercedes level luxury that the Mercedes level ride of the Tesla might lead you to expect. Because believe me, everything everyone said about what a joy it is to ride and drive this car? Basically true. That's a great screen. You really fucking _need_ that rear-facing camera, because the visibility in this car is more or less the shittiest I have ever experienced and I used to drive a CRX. The windshield is so heavily raked it distorts your view forward optically, albeit subtly. The rear view is forced right up against the top of it (along with the toll transponder). The visor is this weird, thin thing, because the amount of windshield you can block and still see out of it at all is extremely limited. I wear a brimmed cap to deal with sun in my eyes; when I turned my head, it bumped, even in the driver's seat.

Now, you might think (I know I did), well just lower the seat! Alas, I was already unhappy with the angle of my knees. Not as bad as when I owned the CRX -- but I was a decade (more than!) younger when I sold that car.

I will say this for the Tesla: you won't mind its limited range, because you'll get sick of sitting in the damn thing long before the charge runs out. Never in my life have I been so excited about something, and been so disappointed. It is a gorgeous piece of machinery, which I apparently find so uncomfortable I cannot imagine owning it. By comparison, it was a joy to sit back down in my Fit, even with its honestly inadequately padded, benchlike seats. My knees didn't hurt and my head didn't bump.

The i3, so far, is winning, but I have yet to drive the Leaf.

ETA: Here is the i3 test drive description: http://walkitout.livejournal.com/1146170.html

ETA: Here is the Nissan Leaf test drive description: http://walkitout.livejournal.com/1148073.html
walkitout: (Default)
Sudbury BMW called me today. The sales guy I initially set the test drive appointment up with wanted to know how it went. I said very positive things about the test drive, the people who helped us, and the car. I also said that, as I had already told him, I was going to be driving two other cars, one on Wednesday, and I was still waiting to hear back on the third. There was a brief pause, and then he asked if it would be okay to call back again in a week or two. I said that would be lovely (because it would be).

After I hung up, I contemplated my various car buying experiences. They have overwhelmingly involved flustered car sales guys who were having trouble dealing with someone who knew precisely what she wanted, the capacity to pay without financing through them, accurate knowledge of the effective price of the car (alas, always list, because the cars I've bought new are not available for meaningfully less than list -- I resold one of them for more than I paid for it 4 years later, which was really weird) and a desire to close the deal immediately, with a substantial capacity to refuse dealer treatments. They always made me wait a few days, for a shipment to arrive or a car to be transferred from someone else or whatever, which I also had no problem with. This is the first time I've been in to a dealer with a specific intention not to buy until I did research via test drives (yes, I bought three cars new without any kind of comparative test drive process. I was pretty happy with all of them, too). I guess, based on horror stories of buying cars that one reads or hears, that I expected more pressure. There really hasn't been any.

Not sure if that's because there's going to be a multi-month wait for delivery after this or what. We'll find out, I guess.
walkitout: (Default)
Since we will shortly have power being produced on our roof, I thought I would test drive some EVs and see what they are like. Yesterday evening, I went to Nissan and Tesla's websites and requested test drives. I had trouble with the BMW form (couldn't find the i3 on the mandatory model selector) so I called them this morning. T. and I drove to Sudbury (new dealership) to drive and ride in an i3.

We arrived early (we left a little early and then it took a lot less time to get there than I had anticipated) and spent some time sitting in the front and back seats of the i3 and looking at the cargo space in the rear. We looked at the wall mount device. We did not realize there was a small frunk, so I didn't look at it. I was pleasantly surprised at the general shape of the i3. I'm not great at understanding how a picture of a car will feel like when I'm next to it or in it, but this one was particularly hard to imagine based on photographs. There is lots of legroom and a good amount of adjustability. It is sort of a coupe, with no pillar between the doors. The back doors open backwards and you cannot open them without opening the front door. There seem to only be two seats in the back, with the space in the middle taken up by cupholders in what otherwise is a bench. It is an interesting choice. I have mixed feelings about the loss of that fifth seat, but R. seems to think that since we never have a fifth person in the car anyway, it doesn't really matter.

Our test drive started a little bit late. We met the person we talked to on the phone, the sales guy who backs him up, and ultimately took the test drive with a third man, who is the i3 expert at this dealership. He does not appear to be a sales guy, altho I am imperfect at detecting this. He was quite low key and calm. Later, I realized they didn't even ask to look at my driver's license, which is a little startling. I'm assuming they ran a relatively full background on me, since they had my first and last name with spelling, home address and both phone numbers; if a car dealership doesn't know what the credit bureaus and the DMV thinks of me based on all that, well, they just aren't even trying very hard.

We did not go on a freeway; this was a low speed test only. We spent some time in the parking lot after discussing how this -- and most EVs and probably hybrids, too -- differs from an ICE car. Basically, if I get this or a car like it, I'm never gonna touch the brake pedal again, because as soon as you take your foot off the gas, the regenerative braking slows the car quite dramatically. Obvs, because electric, great torque and a lot of power right away. When we were ready to leave the parking lot, the test drive guy ("dealer supervision") hung a dealer plate on the back, covering the backup camera. Fortunately, I had an opportunity to back up and around a corner in the parking lot (someone else was blocking our path) and thus I experienced the extremely video game like camera picture with superimposed green and red stripes to indicate where your path is. Later, when I backed up with the camera blocked, I got fairly close to another car (I knew this was happening) and thus had the opportunity to experience the audible indicator that I was getting pretty close to something else.

This car is the shit. I'm sure anyone who doesn't drive cheap cars (I've had two Honda Fits in a row, preceded by a 2002 WRX, which was fantastic, but very noisy and actually not that great on highways, and before that a used CRX) has already experienced wonderful technology in vehicle, but I have not. The camera was way better than the one in the 2007(?) Odyssey that my husband drives. The navigator is amazeballs and, if the Dealer Supervisor is to be believed, you can get the navigator with the option to show speed limits.

There's a compass (NNEESESSWWNW) indicator on the rear view mirror (which is not so obtrusive as to be annoying). You start the car by having the fob on or near you in the car, and then pushing the on/off button. There's a button to go into park, and then a gear shifter for DNR. I didn't use the horn and I didn't touch the wipers so I cannot speak to those. I did not use the sound system. There are climate control buttons, so you don't have to go through the iDrive for that, which is nice. The car locks as you gain speed. We did go over some bumps in the road. Compared to the Fit, the result is cushy without being squooshy (sorry -- my internal vocabulary. I don't know the Technical Terms for this). I suspect anyone used to riding around in, say, a Camry, would be bitching at the impact/stiffness. The seats were comfortable without being distractingly padded; again, this is compared to a Fit, so hard to know what a Normal Person would think.

I was surprised that there was any cargo space at all, honestly; I had low expectations. Of course it will be a huge disappointment vs. what I have now, if I decide to buy one. The roofline seems much higher than the Fit; not sure what I think of putting a bike rack on top of this. I may do some investigating.

The drive around town was very uneventful. As with my experience driving someone else's 3 series back in the late 1990s, it's easy to speed in a Bimmer.

The model I drove did not have the range extender; apparently you just cannot test drive them, partly because the US version is not "on demand" but kicks in when the battery is low.

The eucalyptus dashboard is pretty. The color range available for interior and exterior is really limited.

On balance, this is a car I would love to own and drive. I am not sure whether I would insist on the range extender. It's a tough call. It adds weight, and the engine's fuel economy is not as good as my current one. If I never used it, I'd be sacrificing performance for nothing. I have good confidence this thing will do my monthly trip to Mayberry without any problems, and while at book group, I could probably get permission to plug it in anyway. It is easily the most easy to drive car I have ever been in: no fine motor demand of inserting the key into the ignition (no, I'm not making a drunk joke), really only need the one pedal, the steering is incredibly precise and responsive. I feel like if someone learned to drive on this thing, switching to a typical ICE would be a big step, maybe not as big as driving a manual, but enough to maybe cause an accident. They are that different.

Amusingly, while I was parking the car back at the dealer, my phone rang with a Palo Alto number that wasn't in my Contacts. I said, I don't know who that is so I'm not going to answer it right now, but I actually did have a good idea who it probably was and they left voicemail. It was a Tesla person calling to schedule my test drive. T. and I will be going to Natick on Wednesday to give the Model S a try. T. is very committed to the i3 right now, but he has been similarly committed to the Tesla and the Leaf, so we'll have to see what he thinks. I've asked to at least get a look at/a chance to sit in a version with the optional third row seat, but they have made no promises. I did not specify engine size because honestly, I don't really care for test drive purposes because they aren't going to let me explore the relative performance on a test drive anyway.

I do not intend to test drive the Chevy Volt, because I'm a snob who thinks the all electric range of 38 miles on that thing is Not Serious. Realistically, I probably should just Get Over It; in practice, I don't see any reason to be realistic, since I don't have to be.

ETA: BMW does not intend to support a bike rack/roof rack for the i3. Hmmm. This is an interesting dilemma. Sure, you could fold the rear seats down (they fold flat! It's a true hatch!) and put one bike back there if you take the front wheel off, maybe a kids bike unmodified, perhaps even two. But yeesh. This is an issue.

ETAYA: Tesla options seem more extensive.

ETA some days later: Here is the Tesla test drive post: http://walkitout.livejournal.com/1147864.html

ETA even later: Here is the Nissan Leaf test drive: http://walkitout.livejournal.com/1148073.html

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