Nissan HQ Upgrade more Rapid Charging Stations

Upgraded DC Fast Charge Stations at Nissan HQ. Click to enlarge.

Upgraded DC Fast Charge Stations at Nissan HQ. Click to enlarge.

Nissan recently upgraded two of their rapid charging stations located in their employee parking lot. The majority of DC Fast Charge stations now sport the new style push on / pull off connectors which are much easier to use than the clasp style that came with the stations initially. There are just a few dealers left with the old style connectors in the Nashville area, my guess is that they will be all upgraded soon.

Firmware was also changed to allow for a 90% charge in the employee parking lot  vs the 80% available charge at the visitor parking lot at HQ.

It’s good to see the DC Fast charge network get a little TLC. The DC Fast charge units have been very reliable in the Nashville area this summer. In past years they overheated in the summer months, equipment and maintenance modifications have all but eliminated the reliability issues.

Bad Etiquette from Nissan employee blocking DC Fast Charge Station. Click to enlarge.

Bad Etiquette from Nissan employee blocking DC Fast Charge Station.

Unfortunately some drivers choose to park their LEAF in a charging space without plugging in and charging their vehicle. This denies someone else from charging their vehicle. Tut Tut Nissan employee, you know better.

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

$6,000 to replace worn battery, Nissan say 100,000 miles for an electric vehicle is “phenomenal”.

Quote for new Battery. Click to enlarge.

Quote for new Battery. Click to enlarge.

For those of you following my LEAF blog you may recall I predicted that my LEAF would need a new battery within the year. Well that was a year ago and it needs a new battery, The fourth capacity bar went out at 88,000 miles. Even with a full charge the low battery warning goes off as I get close to work.  I used to be able to get 80 miles or more out of a full charge, 45 miles is about the limit now.

Dealer Horrified

My local dealer, Newton Nissan of Gallatin were horrified to learn that Nissan will not replace the battery under the 8 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty or the 8 year/100,000 miles extended warranty I purchased from them when the car was new. Having followed the LEAF forums and press articles this was no surprise to me.

Appeal made to Nissan Corporate

I decided to appeal the decision anyway and contacted Nissan Consumer Affairs and opened a case with them on the basis that if you don’t ask you don’t get. After opening the case I sent a letter explaining the basis for my appeal. Here is the letter… NissanLeafWarrantyDeclineRebuttal

The appeal went much further than I anticipated over a period of 10 days. The Consumer Affairs agent told me that the glowing reference my dealer, Newton Nissan of Gallatin gave of me as a “model customer” made a difference and they did seriously consider a goodwill action on my behalf. However the process did not bear fruit and the appeal was ultimately denied.

Nissan feel that since I have got 90,000 miles out of the car, I have got my monies worth. I respectfully disagreed with that assessment. More alarmingly the Consumer Affairs agent said that “for an electric car” 100,000 miles is phenomenal. Presumably if I had purchased a traditional gasoline car I could expect much more from my investment? So it seems Nissan do not rate the durability of their own electric vehicle batteries and that a $6,000 repair bill every 100,000 miles is OK.

By comparison – Chevrolet Volt, 100,000 electric miles with no signs of wear.

A Chevrolet Volt owner has over 280,000 miles on his vehicle of which 100,000 have been in full electric mode, with no reported signs of battery degradation. The Volt’s owner said “This is the only vehicle I ever purchased that I feel like I got more than I paid for”. It’s a shame I can’t say the same.

What Next?

Battery durability issues aside, the LEAF has been an excellent car with almost no issues to speak of. I prefer to drive electric and my next car will be electric. Once you have driven electric there is no going back. GM with their Volt have proven that it is possible for an EV to go over 250,000 miles without a huge repair bill.

I do have a reservation for a Tesla Model 3, but that will not be available for over a year at the earliest. I’m not sure I’ll be able to wait quite that long. A used Model S as also a possibility, however they are still a little expensive at $50,000 used.

Chevrolet are releasing their Bolt EV which will go over 200 miles per charge this coming October. Given Chevrolet’s durable batteries, this might be a good trade, if it comes to Tennessee.

$139 per month. Click to Enlarge

$139 per month. Click to Enlarge

Nissan are selling LEAF’s in California with $11,600 off with NMAC financing resulting in a lease cost of just $139/month. This is appealing given that I save between $100-$200 per month in fuel costs (depending on the price of gas). The availability of such a deal in Tennessee is unknown. $6,000 would pay for a lot of $139/month lease payments. At the end of the lease a good number of 200+ mile EV’s should be on the market, maybe even some pre-owned.

I plan to drive my LEAF to 100,000 miles on the small chance the battery fails altogether, in which case it will be covered under warranty. That will take me 4 more months, so I have some time to decide what to do. My employer plans on occupying a new office building in October which will cut my commute in half. “EV parking” has been promised. It’s not clear if “EV Parking” is the same as providing charging stations, one assumes so. I’ll find out soon enough. If there is charging available I should be able to make the 20 mile drive each way even with a degraded battery.

I may even decide to go ahead and replace the battery after 100,000 miles anyway. Here’s hoping for a price reduction.

Thanks Newton Nissan

Thank you Newton Nissan for being so supportive!! You have provided excellent service for my LEAF and my wife’s Altima over the last 5 years. I’ve enjoyed interacting with Jamie and David in service and Kelsey in marketing.

Posted in Electric Car, Nissan LEAF | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Charging Infrastructure Maintenance, even Nissan Struggles

DCFC at Nissan HQ Out of Order

DCFC at Nissan HQ Out of Order. Click to Enlarge

Keeping EV Charging equipment operational takes time, money and effort. Many of the charging stations are five years old now and showing signs of wear. Companies that are based solely on EV revenues struggle to keep up. Blink (Car Charging Group) is an example where revenues are inadequate for the company to keep its charging stations operational at all times; with units out of service for weeks, months and sometimes years.

Companies that don’t rely solely on charging revenue fare better but it still takes a commitment of time and money. At Nissan HQ, 2 out of 10 charging units are out of order in the visitor and adjoining employee parking lot and have been that way for several weeks. At Nissan HQ there are plenty of units so the redundancy reduces the impact of the failures, many locations have just one or two units which can leave a car without a charge.

HendersonvilleDCFC

Mapco Mart DCFC Out of Order for 6 months. and counting……. Click to enlarge

We’ve all seen gas pumps taped off and out of order at the gas station, stuff happens. However gas pumps rarely remain out of order more than a couple of days. At the Mapco Mart in Hendersonville TN, the DCFC charging unit there has been out of order since December 2015. When was the last time you saw a gas pump out of order for 6 months? Charging stations going weeks and months to repair reveals a reduced level of commitment or ability to repair the charging equipment. This stations owner, NRG eVgo is struggling to keep equipment running. Recently NRG energy spun the eVgo unit off as a separate entity. Charging revenue is inadequate and already the cracks are beginning to show.

Now the honeymoon period is over for EV charging networks (when the networks could rely on government sponsorship) keeping the charging stations up and running is going to be a challenge. Without the money, spare parts and desire to keep these networks up and running, they could fall into disrepair. And that would not be a good thing.

Level 2 Charging unit and pedestal have been removed in visitors section.

At Nissan HQ Level 2 Charging unit and pedestal have been removed in visitors section. Traffic cone covers stubbed up wiring. Click to Enlarge.

Update: 2016-06-23

A few weeks after I posted this article, Nissan have repaired both of the faulty units and are now back up to full strength. The CHAdeMO was fixed first by a Schneider Electric repair crew. The Level 2 unit near the front entrance was fixed on the 23rd June. I spoke with the repair crew who installed a brand new Aerovironment unit; apparently a visitor had driven over the parking space block and demolished the charging unit rendering it inoperable.

Posted in Blink, Carcharging, CHAdeMO, Electric Car, Level 2 EV Charger, Level 3 EV Charger, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Model S owner blocks ChargePoint EV charging space

IMG_20160523_111531

Tesla Model S 70 and Toyota TAcoma block both EV Charging Spaces at the McEwan building in Franklin TN. Click to enlarge

There is a brand new charging location in Franklin TN at the McEwan Building. It went live last week so I ran over there to check it out and see if there is a fee to use the stations or not (there isn’t they are free).

The Toyota Tacoma blocking one space was no surprise, however I was sorely disappointed to see a Tesla owner use the space as a parking space close to the buildings front entrance. The Tesla was neither plugged in nor charging. EV etiquette is to move your car after charging is complete. Parking in the space without plugging in denies another owner from getting a charge. Better signage would discourage a courteous driver from parking in the spaces. A driver may not notice the charging station if they are in a hurry.

The Tesla had temporary tags, so I assume the owner is new to EV’s and may not have learned EV etiquette yet. I returned after getting lunch at Whole Foods and the space was open so I tested the unit and it worked just fine.

The good news is that the stations are free to use (at least for now). The station is so new it doesn’t show up on the ChargePoint map yet. (Another reason to use Plugshare which is updated by the EV community faster than the station owners do).

CPSessionDetails

Charging Station is free to use!!

It’s good to see more ChargePoint stations come to Tennessee. Blink (owned by Car Charging Group) are slowly going bankrupt as did the networks previous owner ECOtality. ChargePoint have good reliable charging stations, a great website and you can start a charging session without one of their RFID cards if you need to with a smart phone or if you call them. One feature of ChargePoint stations I like is that the plug is locked and won’t release unless you initiate a charge session, this reduces the likelihood of petty vandalism.

Update: I’ve been by a few times in the past few weeks and every time the Tesla is in the space not plugged in. The owner is unaware of the EV etiquette or doesn’t care. I have a polite note for when a GAsoline car parks in an EV space. I’ll have to devise one for when an EV blocks an EV space.

Posted in Blink, Carcharging, ChargePoint, Electric Car, Level 2 EV Charger, Nissan LEAF, Tesla Model S | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Volvo XC90 SUV spotted in electric charging space

When I pulled into Whole Foods I was disappointed to see an SUV in one of the charging spaces. It always seems to be SUV’s that block EV charging spaces. Muttering expletives I pulled around into the next lane and parked in the space opposite the SUV. After plugging in my LEAF I had every intention of placing a polite “don’t park here” note on the SUV that I carry for these occasions.

IMG_20160429_121732

Volvo XC90 PHEV spotted in the wild!

It was as I was plugging in my car I noticed the SUV was plugged in!! This is the first time I’ve seen the Volvo XC90 plug-in hybrid vehicle in the wild. They cost about $70,000 so I don’t expect to see them littering the highway anytime soon. They were released in the summer of 2015 as the 2016 model. The vehicle gets about 25 miles of all electric range before switching to a 400 HP gas engine.

The car looks very nice, too pricey for my wallet as our second EV. Instead I’ll wait to see if Mitsubishi ever get around to releasing the Outlander PHEV which should be priced much more reasonably.

IMG_20160429_121707

Good to see electric SUV’s on the road. The fuel savings must be huge.

Posted in Electric Car, Level 2 EV Charger, Nissan LEAF | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Waze and LEAF Spy Pro – Say goodbye to Range Anxiety, gain Range Awareness

2013-nissan-leaf-08If you own or drive a LEAF you’ll want to take advantage of two smart phone apps. LEAF Spy Pro and Waze. The combination of these two apps will turn your range anxiety into a solid range awareness. You will get the maximum from your vehicle.

In this blog article I will cover why it’s useful to use these apps rather than  the instrumentation and navigation provided by Nissan.

Range Anxiety is real.

Range Anxiety is often cited as a reason to be wary of current day Electric Vehicles. The limited range of many EV’s, less than 100 miles when fully charged, does require an adjustment period before any anxiety recedes. Even so, when tackling longer journey’s range anxiety can return even to a seasoned EV driver if something unexpected happens on the road ahead.

The LEAF dashboard instruments can contribute to Range Anxiety.

The Guess-O-Meter

The Guess-O-Meter

The standard instrumentation in the LEAF shows the distance to empty in Miles or Kilometers which should be adequate to dispel any anxiety regarding current range. However the distance to empty reading on the dash has been renamed by the LEAF  community as the ‘guess-o-meter’. It is quite often overly optimistic when fully charged and pessimistic when driving on the interstate. It varies so much some owners find it both distracting and the cause of anxiety. Some go as far as taping a card over the meter so as not to even see it anymore. Other EV’s such as the Chevy Volt and Tesla Model S seem to have much more dependable distance to empty estimates. After 5 years on the market the LEAF’s distance to empty instrumentation is still erratic and has yet to be improved !

LEAF Spy Pro to the rescue.

LEAF Spy Pro

LEAF Spy Pro

A LEAF enthusiast set out to develop an android phone app that will provide much more information regarding the state of the battery. Initially the application examined the battery only but now the application LEAF Spy Pro tracks an amazing amount of data from the LEAF in real time. One key feature I find invaluable is the distance to empty capability. Using the LEAF’s average energy efficiency numbers from the dashboard (which is expressed in Miles per kWh) LEAF Spy Pro reliably predicts your distance to Low Battery Warning, or Very Low Battery Warning or Turtle. The distance estimates take into consideration the battery temperature, elevation and the outside temperature, all of which can increase or decrease available range. I find that the range estimates are very accurate indeed and are very dependable. As the seasons change and the LEAF’s efficiency increases or decreases I adjust the Miles/kWh in LEAF Spy Pro to calibrate it to the cars recent efficiency.

LEAF Energy Economy Display in Miles/kWh

LEAF Energy Economy Display in Miles/kWh

Knowing how much range you have left is great, but will it get you to your destination? The LEAF navigation system will tell you how far to your destination, so you’ll know if the remaining range is adequate or not. However the maps are updated infrequently by Navteq and it costs about $180 to update the maps.

Waze is the ideal replacement for the LEAF Navigation

Waze Logo

Waze Logo

Waze is always up to date. As with many navigation applications such like Google Maps, Waze guides you to your destination. The best features of Waze include dynamic routing and re-routing based on traffic conditions ahead, so you can avoid an accident ahead that hasn’t been announced on the radio yet. It also warns you of hazards ahead such as an object on road, accident or even police. You could use Google Maps, but I prefer Waze.

How I use Waze and LEAF Spy Pro together.

On each journey as I head out I will compare my current range on LEAF Spy Pro and compare that to the distance remaining to my destination. I know instantly if I can make it on the current battery charge or if I will need to seek out public charging.

As I drive Waze may alert me to a better route due to traffic congestion ahead. However diversions often add extra miles. If the diversion is much longer I may no longer have the range to make my destination. Is it worth adding a charging stop to avoid a traffic hold-up? To answer this question I get Waze to calculate and display the three fastest routes to my destination. If the new route saves just 1 or 2 minutes but adds 10 miles I may choose to drive the original route and put up with the congestion if it avoids making an extra recharging stop. If the new route is significantly quicker then I take the diversion and add a charging stop, typically at a convenient Nissan dealer or eVgo rapid charge location.

Example journey to work

Examine the next two images. Notice the range remaining to low battery warning as displayed by LEAF Spy Pro is 29.7 miles and the distance to work is 27 miles. I have 2.7  miles to spare. Doesn’t sound like much, but I am so confident in LEAF Spy Pro it’s as good as having many more miles to spare. I know I have an extra ten miles after low battery warning to empty, there’s the buffer to cope with the unexpected. I can focus on the drive to work without having to check my range or make any mental calculations.

29.7 Miles before low battery warning

29.7 Miles before low battery warning. Click to enlarge

Distance to work

Distance to work – 27 miles. Click to enlarge

Knowing with great precision at any instant what your current range is and if that is enough to get you to your destination via multiple routes is very useful. You get to use every mile the battery has rather than mentally create an unnecessary reserve you never use.

As you drive you may notice that you have a few extra miles to spare, and if you are in a hurry you can afford to drive faster to make up time. If however you notice the range isn’t quite adequate by 1 or 2 miles, you can slow down a few miles per hour and watch as the range converges on the destination distance as displayed by Waze.

Never again will you worry if you can make your destination or not, nor will anxiety cause you to make an unnecessary recharging stop. Information is powerful!

Other handy LEAF Spy Pro features

Tire Pressure – You may have noticed in the LEAF Spy Pro screenshot above that it displays the tire pressure for each of the tires. If I get a slow puncture (which has happened), I’ll know long before the low tire pressure warning lights up on the dash. Low tire pressure saps range and wears the tires prematurely. You may also notice I run my tires at a higher pressure than recommended. I set them to 40 PSI when cold instead of 36 PSI. I do this for two reasons. LEAF tires tend to wear out quickly at the edges, while the center tread remains good, more pressure will help even the wear across the entire tread extending the tires life. Higher tire pressures are more fuel efficient, extending the range of the LEAF further. Some LEAF owners run the tires at the maximum rated pressure of 50 PSI. I don’t recommend this, the chances of a blowout or a tendency to skid both increase at very high pressures.

Data Logging – LEAF Spy Pro can be setup to save all the parameters it tracks every 5 seconds to the smart phones memory. This data can be uploaded to your dropbox account automatically each day and examined using Excel or Google Sheets. If you don’t have dropbox the files can be transferred to your computer via USB cable or can be emailed. This data can be used for many purposes, for example vehicle speed, date and time are recorded every 5 seconds. If you are ever in an accident you have evidence if you are falsely accused of driving way too fast. This works similar to the black box devices insurance companies offer, but the main difference is you have possession and access to the data, not just the insurance company🙂.

Energy during Charging

LEAF Spy Pro shows the energy usage in watts. Not very useful while driving, but very useful while rapid charging. At the start of a rapid charge the charge rate is often 40 kWh but this soon tails off as the battery fills up. If the charge rate drops below 10 kWh you maybe wasting a lot of time to gain just 2 or 3 more miles. If you don’t need those extra miles, unplug and save yourself the wasted time at the charging station.

Its also useful to watch the distance to low battery warning during charging, once you have 3-4 miles more than you need, stop charging and move on!!

Battery Temperature – LEAF Spy Pro shows the battery temperature. This is useful in hot and cold temperatures. If the battery temperature gets above 115 F quick charging slows to a crawl, you are better off using a regular 240v charging station and its kinder to the battery. If the battery temperature goes below 32 F (freezing) you should not charge the car if that’s possible to avoid damaging the battery. Driving the car will warm up the battery, especially if you accelerate briskly. Note that it can be 15 F outside, but your battery temperature will often be well above freezing and safe to charge. Knowledge is power.

GID’s – A unit of battery energy is displayed as a GID in LEAF Spy Pro. The name GID is unofficial and was given by an early LEAF owner Gary Giddings. When examining the data provided by his LEAF, Gary noticed the battery energy was expressed in units ranging between 4 and 281. (Each energy unit represents 80 Watt Hours of energy). He called them GID’s. I find GID’s very useful when the LEAF range gets low. I know from previous journeys if there are enough GID’s to get me home if I take it very easy and hypermile. For instance I know that as I pass McDonalds near home, if I have 55 GID’s left the low battery warning will chime just as I pull up my driveway. The reason the miles left is less useful in this case is because I have LEAF Spy Pro set for an average speed of 60 miles per hour. If I drive carefully at 30 on side streets I can eek much more range from the car. GID’s are my hypermiling guide.

What you need to run both LEAF Spy Pro and Waze

It is possible to run both Waze and LEAF Spy Pro on the same smart phone, but this is less than ideal. You don’t want the distraction of switching apps back and forth as you drive. Safety first.

I use an old Android phone dedicated to running LEAF Spy Pro and wedge it in the cup holders where I can see the display at a glance. Some owners use an Amazon Fire Tablet, they are cheap and the display is large.

I run Waze on my primary cell phone and mount it to the windscreen so I can see the map and miles/time of arrival to my destination. Be sure to get a cell phone car mount to avoid fiddling with the phone as you drive.

Konnwei OBD II Adapter

Konnwei OBD II Adapter

For LEAF Spy Pro you need to buy a bluetooth OBD II device. LEAF owners have found the Konnwei  KW902 OBD device to be compatible with the application and it is only $20. Download the free version of LEAF Spy first to be sure you can get it working with your car, I recommend the Pro version once you are up and running.

For a step by step guide to installing LEAF Spy Pro and the OBD II device visit this WiKi.

Posted in Amazon, CHAdeMO, Electric Car, eVgo, Level 2 EV Charger, Level 3 EV Charger, Nissan LEAF, Opinion, Tesla Model S | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why Green Buildings discourage the adoption of EV’s

The Importance of Workplace Charging

Workplace Charging in action

Workplace Charging in action

A key driver to EV adoption is workplace charging. Workplaces that have EV charging facilities are reported to see double the EV adoption rate. The reason is clear, our top destination is work. Going to the mall in a car is great, but for work, a car is often a necessity.

One would think that Green Buildings and Green Cars went hand-in-hand. The reality is that new buildings often do not provide EV charging facilities, and its by no accident they don’t. More about that later.

LEED Certification – the Green Building Certification

LEED logo

LEED logo

LEED is a certification program that certifies commercial buildings based upon their energy efficiency. There are several degrees of certifications. Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

Reading up on LEED I discovered LEED awards points towards building certification for installing EV charging stations!!

Awesome I thought, I work in a LEED Gold Certified office building. I felt for sure that the property managers, clearly energy conscious minded, would be very receptive to the proposal to add EV charging to the building. My enquiries bore no fruit, I was told that not only would the property managers not install EV charging stations today, they would probably never do so (in other words, don’t ask again). Hmmm… That was unexpected.

LEED 2014 Platinum Logo

LEED 2014 Platinum Logo

Several new office buildings are under construction close to where I work in Franklin TN. I began to notice that at LEED certified buildings they often allocated a dozen or so parking spaces for “Low Emitting Fuel Efficient Vehicles”, but never a EV charging station to be had. Not one, despite the fact LEED points can be earned. Hmmm… That was unexpected.

I befriended a solar installer at a local EV meet several years ago, and he changed jobs to work for NRG/eVgo in Nashville. We met for lunch and he asked me for leads he could follow up on to offer eVgo managed charging stations at local businesses. I suggested the office building I worked at. He immediately asked me to suggest another lead, he explained that he had had no luck with property managers. He concluded that an EV charging station is just one more thing to manage, and property managers simply weren’t interested. Hmmm… That was unexpected.

I started to conclude that this was more than simple ignorance, or ambivalence exhibited by architects and property managers, there seemed to exist deliberate and active opposition to the installation of EV charging stations.

Hmmm… That was unexpected.

What gives with Green Office Spaces not supporting EV’s?

The reason that many modern ‘green buildings’ don’t have and seem to actively resist installing EV charging stations is quite simple.

EV charging stations use electricity.

Architecture 2030 Logo

Architecture 2030 Logo

Architects in the US have been challenged to “Architect 2030”. The goal for which is to reduce the EUI of buildings they design by at least 20%; the more the better. EUI is Energy Use Intensity, which is calculated as the number of kWh consumed per square foot per year. Adding EV charging stations will drive electricity consumption up, so why would an architect specify them if the goal is to reduce electricity demand per square foot?

Energy Reduction Goals by Building Type

Energy Reduction Goals by Building Type – Click to Enlarge

Reduction in EUI in Germany since 1950.

Reduction in EUI in Germany since 1950. Click image to enlarge.

The 2030 goal is great. 70% of electricity used in the US is used by buildings. Germany for instance has reduced its EUI from 500 kWh/sq meter/year in 1950 to less than 100 kWh/Sq Meter/Year today.

LEED certification encourages the use of efficient HVAC systems, better insulation, energy efficient LED lighting etc. Sure you can get a point or three for adding an EV charging station, but why would you? You can get the same number of LEED certification points for designating parking spaces for Fuel Efficient Vehicles as you can for an EV charging space. Cheaper to install, cheaper to maintain and they don’t impact the electricity consumption of buildings. Parking spaces it is.

Thanks to the laudable and well meaning energy efficiency programs for the design and construction of energy efficient buildings we find that building efficiency improvements are pitted against transportation efficiency improvements. Specifically against plug-in cars. (By contrast the Toyota Prius is encouraged, by premium parking spaces).

Will LEED Version 4 fix it?

LEED v4

LEED v4

A light at the end of the tunnel is that the latest version of the LEED certification program, version 4, won’t award points for simply providing parking spaces, instead EV charging will need to be installed to gain those points. But the simple fact that EV charging stations use electricity is still be a deterrent to overall energy efficiency goals. Maybe we will transition from active resistance to ambivalence. At least it’s a step in the right direction.

Posted in Electric Car, eVgo, Nissan LEAF, Opinion, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment