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 twenty times the usual 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

Third capacity bar lost – Replacement battery anticipated within the next year.

Third bar lost this weekend.

Third bar lost this weekend.

This weekend saw the third capacity bar on my LEAF dashboard turn off. This is confirmation that the battery degradation is now quite advanced and I can expect to replace the battery within the next 12 months.

My LEAF is at 71,000 miles right now and I now anticipate the battery will need replacing by the time it reaches 90,000 miles. This is disappointing given that Nissan’s Mark Perry provided guidance suggesting 10-20% degradation by year 10. I do drive above average miles per year and anticipated 7 years at 120,000 miles to be the time for a replacement based on the original Nissan guidance, not 5 years at 90,000 miles. I suppose this is the price one pays being the first to adopt a brand new car model with new technology on-board. Hopefully Nissan have a solution waiting in the wings for the early adopters….

New Better Battery Available

The original LEAF battery has not been quite as durable as predicted. In some climates in Northern Europe LEAF’s have over 100,000 miles with minimal degradation and are beating the Nissan guidance despite being rapid charged very frequently. The determining factor appears to be climate, hotter climates are seeing shorter LEAF battery lives.

Nissan introduced a new battery that tolerates heat better in the summer of 2014 for the new 2015 model of the LEAF. Earlier models such as mine can use the new heat tolerant battery. The cost of a new exchange battery is $5,500 plus labor and tax. So the final cost will be north of $6,000.

Bigger Battery Maybe Coming Soon.

Interestingly there are a lot of rumors surrounding the 2016 model LEAF which maybe released later this year. The rumors suggest a new 30 kWh battery vs the current 24 kWh thereby offering a 25% increase in range.

Speculation has also extended to the possibility that the 30 kWh pack could be made available for the earlier model LEAF’s as an upgrade. Certainly it is easier to justify spending more than $6,000 on an upgrade vs a straight replacement.

Whether there is substance to these rumors should be known as we go into the fall. The alternative would be to trade to a newer vehicle; Tennessee have re-introduced a $2,500 point of sale discount making a trade more attractive.

Longer Range LEAF “2.0” promised ‘soon’ by Nissan

This year Carlos Ghosn of Nissan hinted at a recent shareholders meeting that  a redesigned LEAF (aka LEAF 2.0) will offer a significant increase in range. More than double the current 84 mile range has been hinted at. Exact timing and specifications are not available just yet. Some industry analysts predict 2017 as the introduction of the new 2018 LEAF. Ghosn’s comments are no doubt in response to GM’s announcement they will introduce a 200 Mile Chevy Bolt. The Bolt maybe available as early as October 2016.

Choices Choices – New Battery or New Car?

I will be faced with an interesting choice over the coming months, buy a new battery or buy a new(er) car. Depreciation has been above average for the LEAF making a trade financially costly. My current thinking is if the 30 kWh battery is made available for my LEAF at a similar cost to the current replacement pack, that is my best option until the new LEAF 2.0 comes to market. If a retrofit 30 kWH pack isn’t made available, leasing a newer LEAF for 3 years maybe my best option.

Posted in Electric Car, Nissan LEAF, Opinion | Tagged | 15 Comments

Mapco NRG eVgo Rapid Chargers activate instantly, but parking spaces often blocked during busy periods

Less than 20 minutes to get to 80% charge level.

Less than 20 minutes to get to 80% charge level.

NRG eVgo Rapid Chargers in the Nashville Tennessee area are very reliable and activate instantly using an RFID card and thankfully don’t rely on finicky touch screens. Other charging networks such as Blink also use RFID cards, but the activation process can take up to a minute, more if the touch screen is not working. The eVgo Rapid Charge units are can be activated for up to 30 minutes at a time which allows a Nissan LEAF to reach a full charge rather than stop at 80% as some units are programmed to stop at.

Fresh salad while you wait

Fresh salad while you wait

I’ve been trying out the eVgo stations at area MAPCO gas stations. There is plenty to do while you wait for your car to charge. In addition to the convenience store, MAPCO’s have a deli equipped to make fresh salads and sandwiches to order and a beer cave stocked with good variety of craft beers. I have taken to eating a yogurt/granola breakfast at the MAPCO in Brentwood, on the way to my workplace in Cool Springs.

More often than not, its an SUV blocking access to EV charging spaces.

More often than not, its an SUV blocking access to EV charging spaces.

While activating is instantaneous, getting access to the right parking space can be challenging. Judging by comments on Plugshare other LEAF drivers face the same challenges.

Other drivers comment about having trouble getting an open parking space ar MAPCO stations.

Other drivers comment about having trouble getting an open parking space ar MAPCO stations.

Thankfully the space often opens up within 5-10 minutes, though this can double the time you need to charge your vehicle. Better signage would help deal with access to the parking space, its not obvious that the space can be used to charge an electric car, the gas car drivers can be excused for not realising. Once you pull in you typically won’t back out even if you do realize you did something wrong.

Positioning charging units between two parking spaces would increase access to the charging station. In the photo below if the unit was between two parking spaces the Blue Pickup truck would not be an issue since the space to the right is free.

Truck blocking the space needed for EV Charging

Truck blocking the space needed for EV Charging

Posted in Blink, CHAdeMO, Electric Car, eVgo, Level 3 EV Charger, Mapco, Nissan LEAF | Tagged | 6 Comments

Forgot to Plug-In tonight – No big deal

I forgot to plug my car in when I got home this evening. No big deal, the car emails me when I forget. Went out and plugged it in at 8pm, in plenty of time for tomorrow’s commute.

How much does this reminder service cost? Nothing. Thank You Nissan!

Forgetting to plug-in isn't possible with a Nissan LEAF

Forgetting to plug-in isn’t possible with a Nissan LEAF

Even if the unthinkable happened and did forget and also ignored my emails I have two rapid charge stations within 10 miles of my home on my route to work.

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