Evolution of Electric and Hydrogen vehicles – what is the future?

Toyota have announced a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle and claim this is the future of motoring. The name of the car, Mirai,  means future in Japanese. Is this really the future? To be able to answer that question first we must examine recent evolution of car technology.

First Hybrids

In 1997 Toyota introduced the Prius hybrid vehicle in Japan only.

During the 2000’s we saw the rise of the hybrid vehicle and Toyota quickly established the Prius as the market leader when it launched the vehicle worldwide in 2000. Initially ridiculed Toyota soon created a new vehicle segment and other makers followed suit with their hybrids.

First Plug-In Hybrids

In 2005 Prius enthusiasts part of CalCars.org began offering kits to convert a Prius into a plug-in hybrid. (Unimpressed, Toyota did not introduce a plug-in Prius until 2012).

Return of the Battery Electric

In 2008 an unheard of company called Tesla introduced the limited edition Roadster all electric plug-in sports car capable of 245 miles on a single charge.

Production Plug-ins introduced

During the 2010’s the rise of plug-in vehicles began, both battery electric and plug-in hybrids was heralded by the introduction of  the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF in December 2010. Tesla followed with the Model S in 2012 and many plug-in cars have since come to market.

Production Fuel Cell Car Announced.

Almost 20 years after introducing the Prius, Toyota will launch their first Hydrogen Fuel Cell EV in 2015 in Japan. The Mirai is essentially a Prius with a Hydrogen Fuel Cell instead of a gasoline engine.

So what does this mean for the future?

As I look back on recent vehicle evolution I see that we have quickly progressed from Internal Combustion cars to Hybrids to Plug-in Hybrids and finally to Battery Electrics.

Gasoline and Hydrogen Car Evolution

Gasoline and Hydrogen Car Evolution

In the pursuit of more efficient cars the Prius introduced a modest traction battery and motor to increase fuel efficiency to 50 MPG. To achieve greater fuel economy, adding a larger traction battery together with the ability to recharge via a plug allows drivers to exceed 100 mpg with cars like the Chevy Volt.

The final step in the evolution is to increase the size of the traction battery again and eliminate the gasoline engine altogether as Elon Musk did with the Roadster and then the Model S.

The Evolution of Hydrogen

The Toyota Mirai is a hybrid vehicle that runs on Hydrogen gas instead of gasoline. It is the first step in the Hydrogen car evolution as indicated in the diagram above.

Audi have built a concept plug-in Hydrogen fuel cell car, the A7 H-Tron. As with plug-in gasoline cars the plug-in hydrogen car will go considerably further on one kilogram of hydrogen since it can run on electricity for 30 miles before using any Hydrogen. The next logical step in the evolution is to increase the traction battery size again and eliminate the fuel cell altogether.

How about Diesel and Compressed Natural Gas cars?

The evolution is essentially the same.

Diesel and Compressed Natural Gas car evolution.

Diesel and Compressed Natural Gas car evolution.

Honda sells the Honda Civic GX, Compressed Natural Gas Car. It has been available since 1998 but sells in very small quantities, less than 100 per month in the US. Lack of public refueling infrastructure holds it back.

Notice that Toyota have announced a hybrid CNG concept vehicle as a special version of the Camry. Toyota certainly have an affinity for hybrid cars that run on a variety of fuels.

Audi have a concept plug-in natural gas car the A3 G-Tron that has a 30 mile electric range before using the engine. The next logical step is to increase the traction battery size again and eliminate the engine.

As with Gasoline cars, Diesel cars are available in many forms. Diesel only like the Jetta TDI. VW also make a hybrid diesel the Jetta Hybrid. Several years ago Volvo started selling the plug-in diesel V60 in Europe which can run on electric for 31 miles before using any diesel which increases its efficiency to 130 MPG. Next step? You guessed it, battery electric.

In Summary

Toyota are the world leaders at making hybrid vehicles. They make the Prius gasoline hybrid, the Camry Natural Gas Hybrid and now the Mirai Hydrogen Fuel Cell Hybrid. They live and breath hybrid vehicles. Producing the Mirai, is the next logical step to leverage their expertise in their mature hybrid technology. It doesn’t matter which fuel is dominant, Toyota have a hybrid vehicle to fit the need. As the world leader in hybrid technology Toyota are well positioned to leverage that advantage as much as possible. Hybrids are well established and profitable, Toyota sees hybrids taking over from conventional cars first and are banking on it.

Time will tell if they are reading the tea leaves correctly. It is also possible we will simply fast forward to plug-in cars, either plug-in hybrids or pure EV’s and skip over hybrids before the hybrid market has had chance to mature.

My Prediction

The hybrid gamble Toyota are taking has major risks. Gasoline hybrid’s leverage an existing vehicle platform and existing fuel infrastructure. Hybrids make something that already exists better. Building a brand new infrastructure for Natural Gas or Hydrogen doesn’t make sense when all along you plan to combine the new fuel with electric drive technology to make a hybrid.

The electric infrastructure is well established and it is comparatively cheap to add EV charging stations to the existing infrastructure at home, work, gas station or at the mall.

All roads lead to battery electrics. That’s the end game.

Posted in Electric Car, Opinion, SuperCharger, Tesla Model S | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NRG eVgo Fast Charger at Brentwood MAPCO now requires an RFID card

RFID Charge Card Trio

RFID Charge Card Trio

As of this morning (11/19/2014) I was prompted to tap my eVgo RFID card to start a charge at the Brentwood MAPCO station at Moores Lane. The firmware has been updated and this DC Fast Charger unit now charges for up to 30 minutes per session instead of stopping at 80%, that at least is a welcome change.

There was no indication if a fee was levied or not or how much.  NRG/eVgo’s website is not very informative. I have an account with them, but I could find no way to login and examine transactions against my account. I have sent an enquiry to customer service asking how I can check the balance of my account. No charges have hit my credit card yet so there is no evidence of direct billing. It’s quite possible that the unit now requires an RFID card but billing has yet to be established, it really isn’t clear. I look forward to a response from their customer service.

I also noticed while I was on the eVgo website that their “Network Access” plan which gave unlimited DC Fast charging for $49.95 per month is no longer available. I will probably subscribe to their “On the Go” plan which will give me discounted access to the DC Fast chargers for $14.95 per month plus usage charges.

Update 2014-11-24: It took a few days to get a response from eVgo customer service, not very quick at all and the feedback was disappointing. There is no way to check your balance online or any charges accrued. They simply email you a statement each month, which I expect I’ll need to pay. Here is the note I got from eVgo.

Hello Mr. White,

At this time we do not have an Online Account Management system to view energy used during charging sessions. You will receive an email every month with a summary that includes DC Charging, L2 Charging and any other fees associated with your account.

Thank you for contacting us,

Your friends at NRG eVgo

Brentwood MAPCO Fast Charge

Brentwood MAPCO Fast Charge Unit

Posted in CHAdeMO, eVgo, Level 3 EV Charger | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tesla Model S welcomed at Nissan HQ

Tesla on Nissan home turf - click to enlarge

Tesla on Nissan home turf – click to enlarge

A Tesla driver from Georgia was visiting Nissan HQ in Franklin TN this morning and he/she took advantage of the visitor charging stations at the Nissan HQ building.

The charge port is in the rear on the Model S, so the driver backed-in to the parking space. The cable has plenty of length, I wonder why the driver didn’t just pull in frontwards? Maybe Tesla drivers have got accustomed to reversing into parking spaces to charge. I have never seen a Model S plugged into a standard EV charging station and wondered if it needed a special adapter, the Tesla Plug is very different from the standard plug. I was surprised to see the standard plug fit the Model S without the need for an adapter. Tesla have designed a neat socket on the vehicle so that it can accept several different plugs without an adapter.

Model S charge port with standard J1772 plug inserted.

Model S charge port with standard J1772 plug inserted.

Nissan and Tesla are both committed global EV suppliers, so I am glad to see a Tesla driver come by to say hi!. Many other car manufacturers are less enthusiastic about EV’s and make just enough EV’s to satisfy regulatory requirements, such as California’s CARB. The only other manufacturer currently showing promise is BMW, and we saw a BMW i3 at Nissan HQ recently as well.

Update: 2014-11-12

The day after I posted this article the owner left a comment on Plugshare thanking Nissan for the charge and keeping his battery warm overnight. The Tesla is from Atlanta and took advantage of the Supercharger at Chattanooga to make the journey to Nashville and back. No word when Tesla will install a Supercharger in Nashville.

Here is the comment left on Plugshare.

Hitendra 8 days ago

Thank you Nissan North America. I was in Franklin, TN for a family wedding this weekend, and your corp HQ level 2 charger was able to keep our Tessie charged up (and the battery warm overnight during the freezing cold). ATL-Nashville is a breeze (using the Chattanooga SC to top up) now. Best of all, the charging is FREE.
Posted in Electric Car, Level 2 EV Charger, SuperCharger, Tesla Model S | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Nissan HQ evaluate BMW i3

BMW i3 parked at Nissan HQ in Franklin TN

BMW i3 parked at Nissan HQ in Franklin TN. Click to Enlarge

Nissan have either purchased or borrowed a BMW i3 for their employees to evaluate the competition. The corporate employee I spoke to who was driving the vehicle described it as “Very Different” and was glad another manufacturer was selling battery electrics nationwide. The driver referred to it as a ‘company vehicle’ which leads me to believe it has been purchased by Nissan so they can check out the competition. This is not just any BMW i3, but it is an “Electronaut” edition which were made for drivers of the BMW EV test vehicle, the BMW Active E. Some BMW Electronauts did not finalize purchase of the i3 after they were required to surrender their Active E’s. This appears to be one of them. One of 700 in the world!!

The Tennessee Manufacturer plates means that Nissan have either purchased this i3 or are test driving one from a local dealer.

The Tennessee Manufacturer plates means that Nissan have either purchased this i3 or are test driving one from a local dealer. Click to Enlarge

Good to see Nissan checking out the competition, hopefully this will embolden their desire to improve the LEAF to ensure it remains competitive and the market leading vehicle.

Interesting that the driver didn’t plug the vehicle in, which isn’t great EV parking etiquette. It was the last open charging spot :-(

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Choosing the right NRG eVgo DC Fast Charging plan in Nashville

NRG eVgo station in Nashville

NRG eVgo station in Nashville

Who are NRG?

There’s a new EV Charging company coming to Nashville, NRG eVgo. NRG are a large energy company with a focus on electricity sales and distribution. They have smaller divisions that do Solar Energy and EV charging infrastructure. It’s the only Electric Utility that I know of that tries to promote and grow the EV charging infrastructure.

What are they doing here in Tennessee?

What are they doing in Nashville? They have adopted 7 DC Fast charging stations at Nashville area MAPCO and BP gas stations and are in the process of converting them into their nationwide network and will soon start charging a  fee to use their stations. They offer three standalone charging plans and a charging plan that can be combined with their home charging stations.

Plan Compared - Click to Enlarge

Plan Compared – Click to Enlarge

Stand alone Charging Plans Compared

Which NRG fast charge plan is the best for your Nissan LEAF, Mitsubishi i-Miev or Kia Soul EV?

FLEX Plan If you rarely use a DC Quick charger it is still advisable to get a charging card from eVgo “Just in case” you find yourself short on charge and short on time one day. Their “FLEX” plan does not attract a monthly fee and is just $4.99 to setup and get an access card.

If you charge 1 or 2 times per month at MAPCO Stations, the best plan is the  “FLEX” plan.

“ON THE GO TOTAL” plan If you anticipate charging 3 or more times per month at MAPCO stations, then it makes sense to subscribe to their “ON THE GO TOTAL” plan. If you find yourself charging twice a month quite often it may be prudent to go with the more expensive “ON THE GO TOTAL” plan since a 3rd charge will cost much more on the FLEX plan, but the second charge is only slightly more expensive than the FLEX plan.

“LEVEL 2″ plan eVgo’s “LEVEL 2″ plan never makes sense in Nashville. There are no eVgo branded level 2 (240v) units in Nashville that I am aware of, just the DC Fast charge stations at MAPCO stations, so this plan isn’t favorable towards fast charging at all. In Nashville you should not subscribe to this plan regardless of the amount of fast charging you do or don’t do.

Charging Station plus “NETWORK ACCESS” plan

If you anticipate charging 18 or more times at a MAPCO station per month, then it becomes cheaper to rent an eVgo home charging station for $29.95 per month plus a $20 NETWORK ACCESS plan that provides unlimited public charging at no extra cost.

If you plan to rent an eVgo home charging station anyway, then you only have to fast charge charge 2 or more times per month for the NETWORK ACCESS plan to make sense.

Nissan “No Charge to Charge Customers”.

If you have purchased a new Nissan LEAF since May 2014 you are eligible for a Nissan plan and access card that provides 2 years of free public charging. NRG eVgo are participating in the Nissan No Charge to Charge program so it does not make sense to get an eVgo charging plan until the Nissan program runs out for your vehicle.

When is the right time to sign-up?

Sign up for the FLEX plan now. There is no official word when eVgo will start charging for the use of their stations. Currently they are free to use. Several of the MAPCO units have the NRG eVgo livery on them together with the addition of an access card scanner. I will sign-up for their “FLEX” Plan now in order to have a card and retain access to the units. There is no monthly fee or cancellation fee with the FLEX plan, so I can convert it to another plan later if I feel its to my advantage to do so. A one time setup fee of $4.95 is a no brainer in order to retain access in an emergency. My advice is sign-up for the FLEX plan now.

A few units also have customized software with the NRG eVgo logo and instructions how to use. The unit at Wedgewood Avenue is setup to limit charging to 30 minutes, the unit in Brentwood/Cool Springs is setup to limit charging to an 80% charge. NRG maybe experimenting with the best approach to limiting DC Fast Charging sessions in Tennessee.

Free Spreadsheet available showing analysis

The analysis I did is in an Excel spreadsheet. Feel free to download the spreadsheet here.

Membership Card takes 10 days to arrive in mail

The eVgo card and account setup takes about 10 days from ordering to delivery in the mail.  I ordered my card on the 16th September and received it on the 25th.

Don’t wait until NRG activate their card readers in Tennessee to order your card, you maybe stuck with a low charge and no easy way to get a rapid charge.

RFID Charge Card Trio

RFID Charge Card Trio

Posted in CHAdeMO, Electric Car, eVgo, KIA Soul EV, Level 2 EV Charger, Level 3 EV Charger, Mapco, Mitsubishi i-Miev, Nissan LEAF | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Highest EV Sales ever draws “EV’s have failed” articles in mainstream media

August 2014 was a landmark month for Battery Electric Vehicles. The electric vehicle press trumpeted these achievements, for example.


The mainstream media however had a different reaction. Here are some of the headlines 

How can the highest EV sales on record draw such negative remarks?


The conspiracy theorist side of me says that EV detractors want to drown out the real story and fill everyone’s heads with negative stories. Very few average citizens read EV press articles, but they do read the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine and the LA Times. The average citizen can be excused for believing EV’s have failed reading the headlines and articles. They will therefore be less likely to consider one in the future, why buy something that’s failing?

Facts or Lies?

The articles do quote statistics which show that the market share for electric vehicles dropped in August compared to July. Auto sales boomed in August so why didn’t EV’s boom as much or more?

The manufacturers are making as many EV’s as they can given their current EV factory capacities, because of this dealer inventories are very low compared to conventional vehicles. Due to higher inventories of conventional vehicles, peaks in demand are met more easily. Simply put EV sales have grown a lot in 2014 and manufacturing capacity has failed to keep up. BMW increased their capacity by 50% prior to launching the vehicle based on its pre-order backlog, even that increase is insufficient to meet demand. Manufacturers do need to step up capacity continuously while demand is strong or they will cause EV’s sales to stall out.

How Time Magazine explained away the record LEAF sales

LEAF Sales since 2010. Click to Enlarge

LEAF Sales since 2010. Click to Enlarge

The LEAF had its best sales month in its 3 year history, sales increased 32% year on year, here is what the Time magazine had to say about that record.

the increase in sales of the Nissan Leaf is mostly an anomaly

They went on and ‘blamed’ the record on Nissan’s recent marketing efforts offering a 2 year free charging program called “No charge to Charge”. Successful EV marketing is apparently an anomaly. Now that’s bias if I ever saw it!!

Nissan have experimented with several marketing campaigns since the vehicle introduction and appear to have found a winner with “No charge to Charge”. The program is currently on offer in just 12 markets in the US, it is not a national marketing campaign which shows its strength if it is able to push the needle on national sales figures.

What is really going On

Putting EV Adoption into perspective. Click to Enlarge

Putting EV Adoption into perspective.         Click to Enlarge

EV Adoption currently represents less than 1% of the vehicle market and apparently isn’t rising as fast as one might expect. Many articles have indicated we are at the tipping point where EV adoption will take off. This isn’t true and only serves to raise false expectations, we haven’t even entered the classical definition of early adopter yet!. Rogers in his book “The Diffusion of Innovations” described how innovations are adopted by the marketplace. The ‘Hockey Stick” increase in adoption can’t be expected until we reach the early majority stage. We are currently in the first stage which Rogers calls “Innovators”, early adopter stage comes when 2.5% of the market is attained. The increase in adoption in the early stages is very shallow as one can see in the chart above, our current position in the adoption process is indicated by the red arrow. Success in the market is not guaranteed in these early stages, a Chasm” exists that needs to be overcome to launch adoption into the later stages. It is quite possible that if demand for EV’s can be thwarted by Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) thus preventing transition over the chasm then EV’s may never achieve market dominance. There are powerful forces at work that would love to see the EV fail to achieve market presence.

Changing the car fleet from one technology to another will take decades, we have to learn to be patient and persistent.

Expect more negative articles.

As we come down from the summer car sales bounty I’m sure we’ll see more negative articles as EV sales moderate during historically lower car sales months. Just be sure to read between the lines.


Posted in Electric Car, Nissan LEAF, Opinion | 1 Comment

Blink increase cost of EV charging by 140% in Tennessee and many other states.

BlinkLogoStarting September 2nd 2014 Blink have changed their fee structure. In many states they are switching to charging per kWh, which is both fair and advantageous to owners of older LEAF’s that charge more slowly than recent models. In states that do not allow per kWh charging (which includes Tennessee) Blink will continue to charge by time. However instead of leaving the rates the same they are now billing per minute, anywhere from 4c to 6c per minute depending on membership status.

Previously charging was $1 per hour, rounded up to the nearest hour. Under the new scheme 1 hr of charge the EV owner will pay $2.40 per hour. (4c x 60 Minutes). To be fair to Blink the per minute charging does avoid paying for a full hour of charging if one remains plugged in 5 minutes past more than an hourly increment. But being more than double the rate; on average the consumer will pay considerably more. Assuming under the old rate structure the hourly rate could average out at $1.50 per hour due to rounding the rate increase is about 60%.

Rapid charging has also increased from $5 per session to $6.99 per session, a more modest 40% increase in cost. This translates to a minimum of 8c per mile for LEAF owners, with the benefit being closer to 12c per mile since cars are rarely empty when arriving at a charging station. Essentially the same cost as a gasoline car. At these rates, usage will be restricted to emergency charging only.

Blink (owned by Car Charging Group) no doubt are trying to charge a rate that makes their business profitable. The business model for a stand alone charging network is questionable. With the promise of longer range EV’s in a few years, public charging use will probably diminish further putting further financial pressure on the charging networks. I don’t see stand alone charging networks surviving long-term.  If charging networks fail financially or simply price themselves out of the mainstream market, the value of EV’s from Nissan, Ford, GM etc will go down in the eyes of consumers while the value of an EV from Tesla will go up thanks to the free Supercharger network they own and operate. Elon Musk was correct to build his own network that is not subject to the business models of others.

If the sticker shock is too much to bear, refer to a previous blog post I made listing free charging locations in Tennessee.

Below is the email received from Blink regarding the rate structure changes.

Blink email received September 2nd 2014.

Blink email received September 2nd 2014.

Posted in Blink, Carcharging, CHAdeMO, Cost Benefit, Electric Car, Level 2 EV Charger, Level 3 EV Charger, Opinion | 3 Comments