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?

Conspiracy?

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

Embassy Suites Hospitality Turns Sour

After six weeks of hospitality by the Embassy Suites I was asked to move on. Here’s the story.

Change of Office Location

You may find yourself edged out of a spot.

Here I a enjoying my new found charging spot – Click to Enlarge.

My employer relocated to Crescent Centre Drive in Franklin on Friday June 13th 2014. Co-incidentally my employer held its annual “All Hands” Meeting at the Embassy Suites also on Crescent Centre Drive. Since my commute was increasing another 16 miles total distance, I’d need to find somewhere to charge my car. Guess what? The Embassy Suites has 4 Blink charging stations. We had a nice lunch at the Hotel and a meeting in a separate auditorium later on. About 500 people attended the alll hands, I did some mental arithmetic multiplying $25 per head by 500 and realized we probably spent well over $10,000 with the hotel that day for this meeting. Amazing how it all adds up.

Super Hospitable Duty Management

I seized the opportunity at the all hands meeting to meet with hotel management.and ask if I could pay to use the charging stations daily. The manager I met was very friendly and thought about it for a few seconds and said “Just go ahead and use them, no charge!!”. Wow!! That was much better than I expected. The only caveat he added was that I should use a different unit each day and report any equipment failures to Blink so as to relieve him from having to do that. He went on to explain that since the Hotel lost its contract with Nissan or North America, the units sit idle most of the time.

First fault reported to Blink - Click to Enlarge

First fault reported to Blink – Click to Enlarge

Over the next six weeks I enjoyed the privilege of charging at the hotel and walking across the road to my new workplace. Two of the units developed faults during this time and reported both to Blink. You can see the acknowledgement from Blink in the image to the left. Feeling that this was “too good to be true” I made a point of popping into the hotel restaurant at lunch once in a while to buy lunch. It was the least I could do.

Lunch on the 24th July 2014

Lunch on the 24th July 2014 – Click to Enlarge.

The last time I ate lunch at the hotel was on July 24th. I only had 30 minutes between meetings and in Cool Springs its pretty much impossible to get lunch in 30 minutes. I knew that the hotel could prepare lunch to go. I did just that, giving a the staff a $3 tip (over and above the 20% guidance on the ticket).

Everything was going just great until………

Hospitality Withdrawn by General Manager

I parked as usual on July 25th. I returned to the car at lunchtime after my charge was complete and noticed an envelope under my windshield wiper.

You are no longer welcome here. Click to Enlarge

You are no longer welcome here. Never mind you spent money with us yesterday.
Click to Enlarge

The note told me that I was to no longer to charge my car at the hotel. It was polite and to the point. I figured this was a simple misunderstanding. There are several managers at a large hotel like this so I went inside to see if I could smooth things over with them.

The manager I met was very friendly and understanding. He took my business card and said the General Manager would give me a call. No such call took place.

I returned two weeks later and met the manager I had met the first time. He smiled and knew instantly why I was there. He informed me that despite the fact he gave me permission, he may have spoken out of turn and the issue was now being handled by the hotel’s General Manager. I gave him my business card and several documents to show I had kept my side of the bargain. I reiterated my willingness to pay, even pay for all the charges since June 13th. He said he would pass everything onto the GM, but it was clear that’s all he would do, he wasn’t going to do my bidding for me. 

Well an additional two weeks went by and the general manager has never attempted to contact me. Presumably he considers the matter closed, I am rather perturbed that he could not extend the courtesy of a phone call.

I realize any such arrangement on private property is a privilege and not a right or entitlement, but I did expect a little hospitality from the General Manager, if only to firmly send me on my way. I speculate the GM took umbrage unnecessarily and probably thought I was trying to freeload. Unfortunately since he won’t even say Hi, I can’t address any misunderstanding with the GM. Clearly not a matter he is willing to concern himself with during the daily demands he has as a General Manager of a busy hotel.

So it would seem you can spend tens of thousands with a Hotel chain as a company and geographical neighbor, and employees of that company spend time and money at the same hotel, but given a few weeks for memories to fade and it all amounts to a hill of beans. I was at least expecting a little goodwill thrown my way in light of me and my employer being good neighbors and helping to support their business. I was sadly mistaken.

I won’t be back

We are challenged for meeting space at our new offices and a colleague suggested that we go across the road to the Embassy Suites. As the team lead I said no and explained I was boycotting the hotel, we’ll go to “Egg and I” nearby instead for our offsite meetings. Sorry Embassy Suites, I no longer feel welcome as a paying customer.

If you are visiting Nashville and drive an EV. May suggest you stay at one of the following area hotels.

Holiday Inn Vanderbilt.
Airport Marriott.
Lowes Vanderbilt.
Hilton Garden Inn
Hutton Hotel.
Sheraton Nashville Downtown.

 

Posted in Nissan LEAF, Electric Car, Level 2 EV Charger, Blink, Customer Service, Carcharging | 4 Comments

3 Years and 50,000 EV Miles are behind me

My LEAF rolled over 50,000 miles just 4 days before its third birthday. So what have I experienced and learnt along the way?

50K Miles in 3 years

50K Miles in 3 years

Range

When I originally purchased my LEAF I had a 28 round trip commute. This has grown several times until recently I now have a 73 mile round trip commute. Fortunately my workplace is in Cool Springs Franklin TN where the Nissan HQ is located, so plenty of charging is available in the area.

When asked what a  reasonable commute is with a LEAF I often quote 55 miles as a comfortable commute with 65 miles being a ‘stretch’ if one is wiling to change driving style. So 73 miles well is past a stretch. Charging close to my work has been a boon, essentially doubling my range. In addition Nissan and its partners have installed a dozen quick charge station in the Nashville area allowing for a quick 15-20 minute recharge when necessary.

Even though my battery has degraded 20% in the last 3 years reducing my effective range from 73 miles to 58 I can still accomplish my commute with a charge close to work. So despite the reduction in battery capacity I have been able to cope with a commute more than doubling!!

When I got the vehicle I anticipated borrowing my wIfe’s Altima monthly to complete a longer journey. So I anticipated 36 journeys that could not be accomplished with the LEAF in my 3 year ownership period; the reality is that less than 6 journeys could not be tackled with the LEAF. Despite the limited range, its amazing what one can do with some forethought and planning. The buildout of charging infrastructure in Nashville played a big part in my success in using the LEAF for nearly all my journeys.

Reliability

Problems have been few and far between. A faulty speaker and a broken window switch and window track are the only problems I have had to get repaired. Just normal car problems, absolutely NO EV Technology issues at all. When I bought the vehicle I anticipated visiting the dealer on a  regular basis to deal with teething troubles with the ‘new technology’. The reality is electric motors and batteries are old as the hills and are very reliable indeed. With just one trip every 7,500 miles to the dealer for maintenance also minimises time off the road, half of the maintenance visits are just a tire rotation, that’s it! ‘Real’ maintenance tasks are every 15,000 miles.

Comfort

The LEAF is very quiet and smooth to drive. It accelerates quickly up to its maximum speed of over 93 MPH. The seats have plenty of adjustment and are comfortable even for longer drives.

Economy

I’ve kept a  close eye on my true savings to see if my estimates were accurate. They were quite a bit off as it turns out, instead of saving $10,000 over $100,000 miles I am actually on target to save over $14,000 over 100,000 miles having saved $7,000 already.

My cost to drive the car is 2.52 cents per mile. Put in gas car terms that equates to paying 63 cents for a gallon of gas.

Next time you fill up do the math and figure how much you could save each week if you drove electric instead of a gasoline car/truck/SUV.

Posted in Cost Benefit, Electric Car, Level 3 EV Charger, Nissan LEAF, Review | 3 Comments

Nissan tries new cable/connector for their CHAdeMO quick chargers

Yazaki branded CHAdeMO connnector at Nissan HQ

Yazaki branded CHAdeMO connector at Nissan HQ

At Nissan HQ at Franklin TN there is a new style CHAdeMO connector on the quick charge unit. This connector makes inserting and removing the connector from the LEAF much much easier. Notice in the photo how there is no longer a lever or catch. The new connector simply pushes on to the car until you hear a click. Removal is easy, press the yellow release button and pull the connector off the car. I noticed the connector is much lighter than before, in part due to the fact it is made of plastic rather than metal and also the cable seems to be of a much smaller gauge. Now there is no lever, stowing the connector is easier and the receptacle on the main cabinet is better designed to receive the connector.

I look forward to the time Nissan has the connectors and cable changed at its CHAdeMO units nationwide, this is a vast improvement over the earlier design, which is heavy and difficult to use.

Posted in CHAdeMO, Level 3 EV Charger | 2 Comments