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 | 1 Comment

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

1st Tennessee Fast Charger Closes; 1st SuperCharger to open across road

First Tennessee Chademo Fast Charger is now inoperative

First Tennessee Chademo Fast Charger is now inoperative

Murphy Express in Chattanooga was the first installation of a CHAdeMO DC Fast Charge Station in Tennessee. CHAdeMO fast chargers are compatible with vehicles like the Nissan LEAF, Mitsubishi i-Miev and Kia Soul EV. The station opened just over 2 years ago. That was then, and as they say, this is now. The station has been out of operation for 3 months. The latest statuses on Plugshare read

2 months ago

This is sad, Walmart should donate the equipment to the local EV club or chapter of the EVAA.
PlugSharer 3 months ago
Not working and they said they are not getting it fixed.
.

Apparently now the unit is out of warranty, the owner cannot afford the repair bill, so will allow the unit to sit fallow indefinitely.

SuperCharger opens across the street at Chattanooga Airport

Just across the street at Chattanooga Airport, permits have been submitted to build a Tesla SuperCharger location with 6 charging stations. Permits are still outstanding, but the location is planned to open mid August 2014 a full year ahead of Tesla’s original schedule for Chattanooga. (Update:2014-07-11. Chatanooga now shows as ‘coming soon’ on the supercharger map. Nashville is now showing as a 2014 install, previously it was 2015. Tennessee appears to have moved up in the list of Supercharger candidate installs recently).

Its rather prophetic that Chattanooga gets the first CHAdeMO station then the first Tesla Supercharger shortly after the CHAdeMO station becomes inoperative.

The CHAdeMO network of fast chargers depends upon a variety of entities to partner with equipment suppliers and car companies like Nissan to build and maintain the network. It appears the partnership model leaves something to be desired if a unit sits fallow for many months. Tesla by contrast is funding the building of and plans to maintain ownership of the equipment indefinitely. Planning and managing the network centrally is providing a more robust and reliable network.

How did this Happen?

How can a new company have a better managed quick charge network than traditional manufacturers. There are several factors at play.

1. Tesla are committed 100% to electric vehicles and their future. Other car manufacturers attention is divided between gasoline and electric cars. Tesla simply have more skin in the game.

2. Car manufacturers don’t own and manage gas stations, so why would they own and manage electric car charging stations?

Car Manufacturers are separate to energy companies. Which energy company is the EV equivalent to oil companies? Electric Utilities! Electric utilities have little to no interest in building an EV charging infrastructure, even though they could sell their electricity with the network just like an oil company sells its final products. The electric utilities are regulated and unlikely to take the place of the oil company, regulation standardizes but also kills innovation and progress. Tesla understood this from day one. Nissan are just getting the idea, they have started to build-out Nissan brand Fast Charge Units, and have worked with charging networks to partner with their EZ-Charge network which promises to simplify EV charging for Nissan customers. Other than Tesla and Nissan, no one is investing large amounts of money in EV charging (except government run projects).

3. EV Customers charge at home over 70% of the time, 100% of gasoline drivers gas up at the gas station.

This means there is less money in public EV charging compared to gasoline. Electricity is a comparatively cheap fuel as well. Public charging is less attractive to big business and investors.

The Road Ahead

What will happen when the oil finally runs out? Won’t gas companies have to settle for public charging anyway? Maybe, maybe not. If hydrogen cars become mainstream, oil companies can switch fuels from gasoline to hydrogen. The cost of building hydrogen stations will be a huge investment, however the alternative is for oil companies to watch 70% of their market or more vanish. As EV batteries increase in capacity as technology advances, drivers will need public charging less and less. Expect oil companies to partner with major car manufacturers like Toyota in pushing hydrogen vehicles and to derail the fledgling EV market.

Tesla made news releasing their patents recently. While Elon Musk released the patents for all the reasons he gave, I believe there is one reason he did not share. He cannot build a worldwide EV charging network single handedly in the time-frames he desires. My guess is he is looking for car companies to help build a network they all can benefit from. He’s got the best network and he will share if he can attract investment. Musk realizes the car companies are not his competition, its energy companies who want to keep us all tied to their pumps.

Hydrogen cars are basically electric cars under the hood with the addition of a fuel cell. We don’t hear Hyundai or Toyota making that obvious to their customers, indeed they seem to hide it.

The road ahead promises to be interesting.

Posted in Electric Car, Level 3 EV Charger, Nissan LEAF, SuperCharger | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

New entrant into EV parking space ‘Hall of Shame’ goes to a Prius!!

It isn’t unusual to find an SUV or large 4×4 truck parked in an EV designated spot, blocking access. It always seems to be the big gas guzzlers that have no concern for the EV driver. I’ve seen SUV’s parked in EV spots with the EV charging cord lodged in the grill in a sick type of joke.

Horror of Horrors. A Prius ICE's an EV charging space!!

Horror of Horrors. A Prius ICE’s an EV charging space!!

I was more shocked than all of this today by a Prius hogging an EV Charging Space!! I thought those guys were on our side!! With Toyota abandoning their EV program in favor of a Hydrogen vehicle strategy, one wonders if Prius drivers have now changed into EV detractors just like the “SUV Steve” and “Gun Rack Rick’s” of the world.

 

I’m much more used to the picture below with SUV’s and Mini-Van’s blocking the way!

Mini Van blocks the way. The red mini van is disabled in a disabled spot. Gave him a  pass.

Mini Van blocks the way. The red SUV is disabled in a disabled spot. Gave him a pass

Visit my hall of shame!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Mapco Installation makes 6 Rapid Chargers in Cool Springs Area

Second Cool Springs Rapid Charge Unit Installation

Second Cool Springs Rapid Charge Unit Installation Click to Enlarge

No prizes for guessing why Cool Springs gets so many Quick Charge Units which are compatible with LEAF (and Mitsubishi) vehicles. Yep its the home of Nissan US HQ. At Nissan headquarters there are three units on site, another Mapco has a Blink quick charge unit, Nissan of Cool Springs has a Nissan brand unit and finally a second Mapco location on Moores lane makes 6 for this area close to Nashville. The 6 units are within a few square miles of each other. Technically the Moores Lane Mapco is in Brentwood, but with Brentwood City Center 5 miles away and the Cool Springs Galleria just 1/2 mile down the road it is practically a Cool Springs gas station.

This unit is tucked away towards the rear of the convenience store where employees park, and they have kindly left the EV space open. It is a bit of a squeeze fitting between a parked car and the gas stations dumpster outhouse, but at least it will not get blocked (or ICE’d) by Mapco customers.

The Mapco has a large Deli inside and I picked up a tasty Roast Beef Sandwich for lunch for just $4.99. As with my other gas station stops, the car had completed its charge by the time I had finished my transaction at the convenience store Deli.

 

 

Posted in Blink, Electric Car, Level 3 EV Charger, Mapco, Nissan LEAF | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hendersonville Mapco Mart gets Quick Charge Unit

Hendersonville Mapco Quick Charge Unit

Hendersonville Mapco Quick Charge Unit Click to Enlarge

A very welcome addition to the Mapco Mart gas stations with Quick Charge units is the one at Hendersonville. It’s the Mapco that is at Catty Corners to Center Point Barbecue and Tractor Supply. The unit has been installed for a few weeks according to customers who came up and spoke to me about the unit. Going to a gas station to use a quick charge unit reminds me of when we first got the LEAF, a lot of people are interested in finding out more and walk up and ask you a lot of questions. The most common question is how far on a charge, which is about 80 miles for a new LEAF. Another common question is is it free to charge, which right now it is. In the time it took me to speak with a few customers and then to  buy from the Mapco’s ‘Beer Cave’ the car was already recharged from the commute from Brentwood to Hendersonville.

Hendersonville MAPCO

Hendersonville MAPCO

Nissan are readying to rollout a program on July 1st 2014 called “No Charge to Charge” which will offer LEAF buyers two years of free charging at Rapid Charge Stations like this and the more familiar Blink 240v stations dotted all over Tennessee. I guess when the program is introduced a charge will be levied for other LEAF owners. Anyone buying or leasing a LEAF after April 1st 2014 will be eligible to join the No Charge to Charge program starting in July.

Very close to this Mapco is a brand new Speedway Gas station that was built from the ground up. I wrote to them shortly after ground breaking earlier this year pointing out the benefits of attracting EV owners to their gas stations for up to 20 minutes at a time. I got a polite reply informing they had forwarded my comments to the ‘appropriate department’.

March 17, 2014

Dear JP White,

This is an acknowledgement of your email regarding Rapid Charge unit for electric vehicles.

I would like you to know that I have forwarded your request to the appropriate department personnel for handling.

Thank you for taking the time to write us.  We are always interested in hearing from our customers whatever the reason.

Sincerely,

Laurie

Speedway LLC Customer Service

Well Speedway opened the gas station last week, without a rapid charge station that I know of. So instead of stopping and buying goods at their convenience store today, I bought at Mapco!! The cost of adding a Rapid Charge unit to a new Gas Station rather than retrofitting in an existing station is much less and the unit can be placed well. The Mapco rapid charge unit here in Hendersonville is already getting blocked by cars, the customers I spoke with were surprised I got the space at a busy time of day.

Mapco are smart to encourage pure EV’s like the Nissan LEAF to stop by, their convenience store will get additional business thanks to the 15-20 minutes it takes to ‘Fill ‘er up’. All of the Mapco Rapid Charge units in Nashville are limited to 80% charge, to discourage drivers from hogging the units, the last 20% of a charge can take as long as the first 80%.

Apparently Brentwood and Murfreesboro Mapco stations also have a rapid charge unit recently installed. I’ll have to take a few trips to get photos and report back here and add to Plugshare so other EV drivers can find them. 7 Mapco Marts now have rapid charge stations in Nashville. Thank you Nissan and thank you Mapco!

 

Posted in Level 3 EV Charger, Nissan LEAF | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

EV Quick Charge Reliability in Tennessee

Taking an extended trip in an EV such as the LEAF depends on rapid charge stations, which are capable of topping off the LEAF’s battery in 20 minutes or less. Unlike gas stations rapid charging stations are few and far between, and more importantly there is often just a single device to charge the car with; a device failure can leave one without the means to continue the journey. By comparison gas stations are plentiful with most cities having more than one location and each gas station has multiple pumps providing redundancy against equipment failure or long lines.

So how is the reliability of the rapid charge network? Is it wise to plan a trip and ‘depend upon’ a rapid charging station being available? To find out I examined the ratings and reasons for failure which can be found on plugshare.com and the results were sobering. The network cannot be depended upon for an extended trip, there simply is not enough redundancy built into the network. The only exception is south of Nashville where there are over a dozen units within easy reach.

Here is a ranking of Fast Charge Units in Tennessee.

Rating Business City
10.0 Cracker Barrel Cleveland
10.0 Cracker Barrel Manchester
10.0 Cracker Barrel Murfreesboro
10.0 Nissan LEAF Factory Smyrna
10.0 Nissan North America Franklin
10.0 Nissan of Rivergate Madison
9.0 MAPCO Mart Franklin
9.0 MAPCO Mart Hendersonville
9.0 Nissan of Cool Springs Franklin
8.9 Cracker Barrel Crossville
8.8 Cracker Barrel Athens
8.6 Nissan of Mufreesboro Murfreesboro
8.3 Harold Matthews Clarksville
8.2 Cracker Barrel Kimball
8.0 MAPCO Mart Antioch
7.8 Downtown Nashville Nissan Nashville
7.6 Cracker Barrel Harriman
7.3 Sears Chattanooga
6.8 Cracker Barrel East Ridge
6.8 Mountain View Nissan Chattanooga
6.4 Cracker Barrel Nashville
6.0 Cracker Barrel Cookeville
6.0 Murphy Express Chattanooga
5.1 Cracker Barrel Faragut
4.5 Cracker Barrel Lebanon
3.3 Newton Nissan Gallatin
Juke ICE'd Quick Charge

Juke ICE’d Quick Charge

The Plugshare rating is calculated by the Plugshare website based upon the success of charging events reported by their users. Other factors that go into the rating are how many and how recent the reports are.

The two main reasons people report problems are Equipment Failure (51) and ‘Icing’ (14), where a gas car blocks the parking space. Blink Units are more prone to failure, however many of these units have been in place for over 2 years and there have been more charging events on their network.

Brand Device Failure ICE’d Business Closed
Blink 42 7 0
Eaton 2 0 0
Nissan 7 7 1
Grand Total 51 14 1

Nissan units are more reliable as they are relatively new, however placement for many of these units at dealerships has resulted in units being blocked by a gas car, sometimes overnight.

Brand Average of Rating
Nissan 8.20
Blink 7.77
Eaton 6.00
Average 7.86

If you are interested in a copy of the spreadsheet with the data I collated in it, you can download it HERE.

Tesla are building a nationwide Supercharger network for their vehicle the Model S. Several owners have made coast to coast trips in the Tesla’s without issue, while in Tennessee a trip from Nashville to Knoxville is a risky proposition.

How come Tesla have a more reliable network?

Redundancy is the simple answer. They build at least 4 stations per location and have planned the locations strategically to allow for long trips. By contrast the Chademo (LEAF compatible) rapid charge network hasn’t been centrally planned and the investment has been smaller. There are more Chademo locations nationwide than Tesla, but almost all have only one unit providing no redundancy. Tesla have a plan and are executing it.

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