New Model S owner blocks ChargePoint EV charging space

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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 reduced the likelihood of petty vandalism.

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.

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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.

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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

Tennessee Rapid Charger Reliability

Average Reliability by Network and Equipment

Average Reliability by Network and Equipment Click to Enlarge

The numbers are in. Tesla takes the crown as the most reliable rapid charging network in Tennessee. The 3 “supercharger” locations in Tennessee are all less than 1 year old, so the equipment is brand new which partially explains the 10 out of 10 reliability rating. To their credit Tesla do build, install, own and manage their equipment which results in a better run network.

eVgo have done well in Tennessee, garnering a rating of 8.76 out of 10. eVgo took on units previously installed by Nissan at Nashville area MAPCO gas stations. eVgo’s equipment has already been through two years of Tennessee weather. The same brand units at Nissan owned locations fair worse achieving a rating of 7.68 despite being the same age. This means eVgo are being effective at  keeping the aging units working reliably, better than Nissan themselves.

Blink have the most rapid charging locations in Tennessee, however they came in dead last in terms of reliability achieving a rating of only 5.11. Blink CHAdeMo stations are the oldest. In addition Blink Networks installer and former owner Ecotality went bankrupt and Car Charging Group bought the assets. Car Charging group got off to a good start repairing many ailing units in Tennessee, but they too are struggling to keep their financial heads above water and reliability of the network has suffered as a result.

Location, Location, Location

The location of the Rapid  Charge Units did reveal some interesting patterns

Reliability By Host and Equipment

Reliability By Host and Equipment

I broke out Nissan Dealer Locations from Nissan Corporate Owned Facilities. Dealers often get a lot of bad press for blocking the Rapid Charge Units with new or service vehicles and not maintaining the equipment adequately. The data reveals they fair much better than Nissan Corporate facilities, the dealers achieving a rating of 8.45, very comparable to the eVgo network. Well done Nissan Dealers!!

Nissan corporate has had chronic reliability issues with unit at the Smyrna Factory Visitor Center where the LEAF is assembled. Ironically if you wish to visit the center you may want to leave your LEAF at home if you depend on a charge there.

Signet units at Nissan locations are showing better reliability compared to the Sumitomo’s. This maybe explained by the fact the Signet’s are relatively new and have yet to show signs of aging.

The Green Hills YMCA is the only non Tesla host to achieve a perfect 10. There is only 1 Rapid Charge unit at YMCA’s in Tennessee. There are other locations at other hosts that get 10, but other locations owned by the same host lower the average for the host overall.

Cracker Barrel locations fair poorly. This has less to do with the host and more to do with the ailing Blink network and equipment.

How I got the numbers

Plugshare has a very complete record of EV charging locations. Plugshare users give each charging experience they record on the Plugshare mobile app with a simple “Thumbs up” or “Thumbs down”. Plugshare aggregate the number of thumbs up and thumbs down over time and their ratings algorithm derives a rating on a scale between 1 and 10. 10 being best. A thumbs down maybe due to faulty equipment, but it could also be due to parking spaces being blocked or units being locked up at night and weekends.

Reliability ratings are therefore is a combination of equipment reliability and equipment availability.

To compile the Tennessee Rapid Charge charts I present here, I recorded the rating for every Tennessee Rapid Charge location and put the information into an Excel spreadsheet. I then created pivot charts to present the data in a more meaningful manner. Feel free to download the spreadsheet and slice the data any way your heart is content with. If you see a notable piece of information let me know and I may update this post with additional insights.

Posted in Blink, Carcharging, CHAdeMO, eVgo, Level 3 EV Charger, Mapco, Nissan LEAF, SuperCharger, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Yet to be announced – 2016 LEAF spotted in the wild.

Forged Bronze (Brown) LEAF

Forged Bronze (Brown) LEAF Click to enlarge

There have been plenty of rumors about the 2016 LEAF and its capabilities, such as a 25% bigger battery. Nissan however have made no announcements about the 2016 LEAF, no release date, no pricing.

I spotted a LEAF today that I did a double take on. The paint looked brown rather than black in the morning sunlight. Then I realized it really was brown not black. There is no brown available for 2015 LEAF’s at Nissans website. This is new I thought. Leaked information at Autobytel regarding the 2016 LEAF colors includes a new brown finish called “Forged Bronze”.

The LEAF I saw was parked at Nissan HQ in Franklin TN and had Manufacturer tags on it. The Tires are not new looking so the car has been on the road for a while. There is little to distinguish this 2016 car from any other LEAF. The Michelin tires and Navigation console means it is probably an SL or SV trim. The interior was dark cloth, not leather.

So this is evidence the rumors are true regarding a  new LEAF model. We will have to wait until the official Nissan announcement(s) as to what we will get and at what price.

Posted in Nissan LEAF | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

Blink Introduce “Post Charging Occupancy Fees” in some markets – Effective July 20th 2015.

Occupancy Fee Email

Occupancy Fee Email Click to Enlarge

In an email sent out on 7/13/2015  Blink announced they will introduce, starting on July 20th 2015, “Occupancy Fees” of 8c per minute to discourage EV drivers from leaving cars parked long after a car has completed its charge. The fee would start 15 minutes after a charge is complete.

I read closely to see if the new fee was specific to certain markets. Blink do vary their fee structure by market. There was no indication which market this fee applies to. In Tennessee Blink charge members 2c for every 30 seconds (4c per minute) both during and after charging is complete. I grew concerned that the 8c/min maybe in addition to the current 4c/min. It wasn’t clear from the email.

I reached out to Blink to enquire to see if the occupancy fee would apply to Tennessee Blink units. I got a very quick response from Blink. They assured me that no occupancy fee will be assessed for Tennessee charging stations since we already pay by the minute.

Here’s their response:-

Speedy Support Response

Speedy Support Response

Their email could have been more specific by mentioning which markets this applied to or targeted only to those who it would apply to. At least their customer support was very quick.

Posted in Blink, Carcharging, Electric Car | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment