Thursday, August 22, 2013

Being Green on Arlington Weekly News

Last week, my friend Denis Dineen and I were interviewed by the lovely Miriam Gennari for a taping of the Arlington Weekly News at the Arlington County Independent Media studios in, naturally, Arlington, VA to appear in one of her wonderful Being Green segments.  We were there chiefly to promote the International Plug-In Day event on 28–29 September of this year.  The episode is schedule to premier today, Thursday, 22 August at 18:00 (6 pm), with repeats Saturday, 24 August at 10:30 (10:30 am) and Monday, 26 August at 20:30 (8:30 pm) as well as 3 overnight airings.  Arlington County Independent Media can be recieved on Comcast Channel 69 and Verizon FiOS channel 38 for Arlington residents.

Denis drives a Chevy Volt and is always prepared to give folks advice about electric cars.  Feel free to email him at; he's more than happy to answer any questions as a Volt driver about how great it is to drive an electric car.  He has a wonderful information sheet he loves to share with folks that I should likewise share here at some point.  He often encourages me to write a similar sheet for CO2 Fre, but then, isn't this website enough??  ☺

1,500 mi (2,400 km) on just $25

In my interview I quoted my estimated mileage cost as 1,500 miles per month and a household electric bill on the order of $25.  My regular readers may remember my excitement for and analysis of the current Dominion Virginia Power Time-of-Use (ToU) power rates two years ago.  Since then, I've picked up my Nissan LEAF and driven over 34,000 miles in 21 months of ownership and have a much better handle on how much it costs to drive electric.  As I announced that October, I went with the Schedule EV dual meter rate plan.

A month at MOM's

Once I signed up for the ToU rate plan, I asked the electrician who installed my Clipper Creek CS-100 to split my EVSE's (Electric Vehicle Service Equipment) subpanel from the main subpanel in order to be hooked up to the second, electric-vehicle-only meter to be installed by Dominion, which would happen later.  MOM's Organic Market in Herndon had just opened, replacing the vacant suite that had many years ago hosted the only Hard Times Cafe near my home—I was gutted to see this restaurant go and for the space to be empty for so many years.  Had it been any other store than MOM's which would have replaced it, a boycott of the new occupant would most assuredly be in place!

Now, MOM's is a very EV (Electric Vehicle) friendly business.  Employees even get a $5,000 rebate towards a qualified electric car like the Nissan LEAF.  Part of MOM's commitment to EVs is that at most of their stores, including Herndon, they have free EVSEs where a patron can charge his electric car.  So I went over to MOM's and introducing myself and explained my situation.  That's when I met extremely affable and helpful store manager JP Exon who was more than happy to have me leave CO2 Fre plugged in over night while I waited for Dominion to install the second meter.  I needed the EVSE at MOM's because I drive almost 70 mi (113 km) a day, which is most of my Nissan LEAF's battery pack.  Because a wall outlet could only charge my car to about 90% of the amount used in a day in the 12 hours I'd have it plugged in at home, it meant I had to use a full, Level 2 EVSE with at least 3.8kW power.  Thank goodness, therefore, for MOM's!

So in early December of 2011, my EVSE was disconnected, after just over one month of at-home charging, and I started to plug my car in every night at MOM's in Herndon, then walk home.  In the morning, when I couldn't get a ride, I'd walk all the way back and then drive my car to work only to do it all over again the following night.  This went on for weeks while Dominion dragged its feet about installing my second meter.  As the year drew to a close, and Dominion still hadn't scheduled my second meter install, I started getting anxious.  After a number of calls and e-mails they finally installed my second meter just before the end of the year and I could finally plug in at home again.

20 Months of 30-minute ToU Data

As a part of Dominion's Time-of-Use EV Rate plan experiment, I'm able to view my electric usage in 30-minute increments in terms of both net energy and peak power since the meter installation.  Recall that the 2011–2012 Nissan LEAF has an inefficient 3.8kW charger that in turn feeds the battery at merely 3.3kW, meaning up to 500W of energy is wasted in the process.  Since the power is measured at the plug, these numbers don't reflect the energy the battery receives, rather they reflect the energy used including powering the EVSE and the LEAF internal charger.  Because the increments are in half-hour intervals, the total energy is half that used in an hour, or about 1.9kWh at most for a given interval.

As you can see from the chart, my power spikes at around 01:00 (1:00 am) because that's when the Super-Off Peak rate begins.  There's a small component before that when I want want to get a little extra charge to cover a severly depleated pack but for the most part I start at 01:00 (1:00 am) and finish by 06:00 (6:00 am) on weekdays, just before Peak rates begin, or 05:00 (5:00 am) on weekends, just before the regular Off-Peak begins.

One interesting aspect of my ToU data is there's always a gap at 02:00 (2:00 am) when Daylight Savings begins.  The data has blanks for the two periods from 02:00–02:30 (2:00 am to 2:30 am) and 02:30–03:00 (2:30 am to 3:00 am).  Interestingly enough, when we gain an hour by going back to standard time, there's no corresponding double entries for those same hours.  What my power utility and EVSE are doing then, I have no idea.

For any reader interested in the full, massive data set of charging events, please send me a note and I'll be happy to share it.

My Ride Just Keeps Getting Cheaper

One thing I've noticed over time, watching how my itemized electric bill has changed over the past 21 months is how in general, at least in the short term, my costs for driving CO2 Fre have more or less been steadily decreasing.  So while my fuel cost was $28.32 in January, 2012, my most recent, July 2013, cost only $23.61.  So while I may have averaged $25 per month early on, I'm now paying slightly less.  The following table summarizes all the Riders associated with my Electric Bill and how they've changed over time:

Dominion Virginia Power Electricity Riders
Description Rider Initial Current Change
Table 1: Schedule EV Distribution Constants
Basic Customer Charge EV $2.90 $2.90 Unchanged
On/Off Peak EV 2.5200¢kWh 2.5560¢kWh Increased on 2012-12-01
Super Off peak EV 0.0000¢kWh 0.0360¢kWh Charge instituted 2012-12-01
C1 EV 0.0110¢kWh 0.0000¢kWh Phased out on 2012-12-01
Peak Shaving Increment C1A 0.0000¢kWh 0.0070¢kWh Instituted 2012-05-01 at 0.0100¢kWh; Decreased 2013-04-01
C2 EV 0.0250¢kWh 0.0000¢kWh Phased out on 2012-12-01
Energy Efficiency Increment C2A 0.0000¢kWh 0.0460¢kWh Instituted 2012-05-01 at 0.0240¢kWh; Increased 2013-04-01
Schedule EV Supply Constants
On Peak EV 10.7690¢kWh 10.7690¢kWh Unchanged
Off Peak EV 1.4290¢kWh 1.4290¢kWh Unchanged
Super Off Peak EV 0.6840¢kWh 0.6840¢kWh Unchanged
Transmission EV 0.9700¢kWh 0.9700¢kWh Unchanged
Fuel Charge A 3.2890¢kWh 2.9420¢kWh Decreased 2012-07-01 to 2.6970¢kWh; Increased 2012-10-15 to 2.7060¢kWh; Increased 2013-07-01
Other ESS Rider Constants
Biomass Conversion B 0.0000¢kWh 0.0230¢kWh Instituted 2012-04-01 at 0.0120¢kWh; Increased 2013-04-01
Bear Garden Generating Station R 0.1460¢kWh 0.1470¢kWh Decreased 2012-05-01 to 0.1420¢kWh; Increased 2013-04-01
Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center S 0.3730¢kWh 0.4660¢kWh Increased 2012-07-01 to 0.4740¢kWh; Decreased 2013-04-01
Base Rate Credit BRC/BRX -0.1320¢kWh 0.0000¢kWh Decreased 2012-10-15 to -0.1850¢kWh; Ended 2012-12-31
Transmission T1 0.0000¢kWh -0.2670¢kWh Instituted 2012-08-01 to replace Rider T
Warren County Power Station W 0.0000¢kWh 0.1560¢kWh Instituted 2012-04-01 at 0.0660¢kWh; Incremented 2013-04-01
Tax Rate Constants
Sales and Use Tax Surcharge 0.0500¢kWh 0.0610¢kWh Increased 2013-01-01
Consumption Tax (< 2.5 MWh) Tax 0.001520¢kWh 0.001520¢kWh Unchanged
Consumption Tax (> 2.5 MWh; < 50 MWh) Tax 0.000970¢kWh 0.000970¢kWh Unchanged

Given that, here is the breakdown of my monthly electrical usage:

Table 2: Monthly Electrical Usage
Month On Peak (kWh) Off Peak (kWh) Super Off Peak (kWh) Cost
January 2012 3 95 296 $28.32
February 2012 7 79 351 $30.69
March 2012 0 60 330 $26.57
April 2012 2 44 351 $26.81
May 2012 0 41 376 $27.70
June 2012 0 37 350 $25.97
July 2012 0 33 376 $25.27
August 2012 0 30 324 $22.13
September 2012 0 17 175 $13.06
October 2012 0 30 356 $22.70
November 2012 5 34 342 $23.21
December 2012 7 47 354 $25.24
January 2013 7 29 224 $17.70
February 2013 5 29 219 $17.30
March 2013 7 35 322 $23.38
April 2013 7 37 364 $26.02
May 2013 7 26 275 $23.22
June 2013 7 22 343 $23.64
July 2013 7 15 340 $23.61
Totals 71 740 6,068 $452.54

Vampire Power

On 30 October 2012 I finally became a member of the EV Project.  My good friend and absolute favorite elecrician, Sean Ryan, came out that day to add a second circut to my sub panel and install the free Blink charger from ECOTality.  Obviously I'm biased but not a better electrician could I ever recommend, so thank you Sean!

Now the Blink unit is a great charger, apart from perhaps a overly flimsy connector.  With it, I can schedule a charge on the EVSE and leave the LEAF set to always charge when plugged in.  And I can schedule the EVSE timer remotely so if I need to make a change I don't have to walk down to the car, turn it on and fiddle with the timers.  The only problem is the LEAF doesn't realize it's plugged in and then sends me pedantic and eroneous text messages to tell me to do so; so bad is this that when I do forget to plug in I neglect the message because more often than not it's in error.  When I get up the next morning, let's just say the shock and horror on my face would make you think I was in the scariest movie possible.

Of course the disadvantage of being able to schedule a charge remotely is that the Blink EVSE is always on.  In itself this isn't a problem but the unit is even on during Peak Time-of-Use rates.  As you can see in Table 2, since the install I've consistently had to pay about a dollar a month to cover the cost of the EVSE's daytime power.  Since this is power I'm not actually taking advantage of, it's called Vampire Power, indicating that it's power being sucked out of my wall in order to feed a hungry device.

Interestingly, last week I plugged in CO2 Fre to find my Blink unit in a constant rebooting loop.  I called ECOTality to let them know about the issue and since then I've been using my Clipper Creek CS-100 again, so at least the Vampire Power should be low next month.  But now that I'm back on the car's timer, I need to be extra cautious to press the charge timer disable button when I want to charge at a public EVSE.

One year, 19,000 mi (31,000 km)

On 2 November 2012, CO2 Fre celebrated her first birthday!  🎂  For that entire year, apart from a fortnight spent visiting the favourite landing spot of the TARDIS, the birthplace of the Beatles and home of Nessie—for the first time in my life I got to watch Doctor Who live: Asylum of the Daleks and Dinosaurs… On a Spaceship!

Yes, this author is a huge Doctor Who fan and runs a mailing list, a facebook group and a meetup site dedicated to it.  Let it not be said I'm only interested in Electric Cars and I'm well aware and have been psyched about the fiftieth anniversary special, and have been since around the twenty-fifth and Silver Nemesis!  And for the record, Peter Capaldi is going to be the best Doctor ever.  All that said, my heart will now and forever still be with Project Kronosphere.

In any case, since my first 19,000 mi (31,000 km), I've added another 15,000 mi (24,000 km) for a total of over 34,000 mi (55,000 km).  And of course 19,000 mi (31,000 km) divided by 12 months comes to about 1,500 mi (2,400 km) per month of average driving, which is where my favorite statistic derives its other value.

$25 a month for 12 months does not equal near $200

Folks, this is a round-about way of getting to a correction I wanted to make in my broadcast interview.  I somewhat erroneously stated my annual electric cost was near $200.  Clearly $25 × 12 months is $300, not $200.  But then, as you can see from Table 2, I actually pay a little less than $25 per month, and thus less per year, which is why I was thinking about $200.  In fact, if you sum the last 12 rows of the table, you get an exact cost of $261.21, closer to $300 than $200, to be sure, but then that's what I meant by near, as long as near classifies about 31%.  ☺

$261.21 doesn't equal $486.66

Back in October of 2011 I estimated my annual cost to run CO2 Fre would be $486.66.  As you can see above, however, it's turning out to be substantially less than that.  Part of the discrepancy stems from not taking into account vacations like my UK trip or CO2 Fre's stint in the D.C. Auto Show earlier this year.  Falling Electric Fuel costs have also contributed, but the main effect is that I just drive less in my EV than I did in my old ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) Vehicle.  I do probably drive just as much or even more around town with my LEAF, but when you cut out the odd trip to New York or Asheville, NC, you cut out a lot of the miles I used to drive in my old car.  Those kind of trips are just too impractical in my LEAF.  I could, to be sure, probably make it to Rehoboth Beach, all be it with about a 5 hour layover on the way, maybe 2, but the number of 5 hours stopovers to get to New York are just not practical.  Maybe with more CHAdeMO, this'd be different—and thanks to eVgo more CHAdeMO is coming to the area, and quickly—but for now, my range is about 70 mi (113 km) one-way from my home for any comfortable day trip.  But even then, I'd not be charging at home so those costs wouldn't be reflected in my Dominion data.


I just hope even if you can't see my segment on the Arlington Weekly News that everyone, whether you have an EV or not, try to make one of this year's International Plug-In Day events!  This is your Northern Virginia PiD Captain, signing out—take care and let those electrons roll!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

International Plug-In Day! Bring out your Plugs!

Generous readers, I'm happy to announce it's that time of year again!  Time to show your friends, neighbors and general passers by our shared love for Electric Vehicles.  Yes, it's International Plug-In Day, the day we all go out and display our love for cars powered by the ubiquitous plug.

This year, Plug-In Day is a two day event, and here in the greater Washington, D.C. area, we're taking it to the neighborhoods!  So mark your calendars, 28 September 2013!

View Plug In Day 2013 in a larger map

Because we have 2 days of events, we've decided to have regional events on Saturday and one huge event in downtown DC on Sunday.  We hope everyone can show their support at their local Saturday event and then everyone come down to Washington for the regional event Sunday on the steps of the U.S. Capital.

Saturday, 28 September 2013, 10:00–14:00: Herndon, VA

Hello from your Herndon Event team captain!  As the organizer of this event, I hope it to be the biggest of all the regional events.  This is the only gathering scheduled for Northern Virginia.  As such, I hope folks from Arlington, Alexandria, Loudoun, Prince William, Manassas and even Stafford Counties and Cities can make it out to western Fairfax to join us in sharing our love for EVs.  Come and commiserate over our failed attempt for equal taxation regardless of propultion and the $64 tax we now have to pay for as both hybrid and electric vehicle owners.  We're planning to have LEAFs, Volts and Tesla Model S a plenty to show, as well as all kinds of electric vehicles.  Learn about Dominion Virginia Power's Time-of-Use Rate Schedules and the Green Option for energy credits.  And teach folks about the around 50% Personal Property Tax discount for Electric Vehicles in Arlington, Prince William and Loudoun Counties.  (Sorry fellow Farfaxians, we still have to pay full price for our tax in our unprogressive county.)

Saturday, 28 September 2013, 10:00–14:00: Waldorf, MD

Overall Waldorf event organizer and my friend Mark Czajka from MDVolt (the current source for LEAF Meetup events).  Ironcially, Mark doesn't own a Volt—he has a Ford Fusion Energi—but is an amazing event organizer and without him this year's Plug In Day wouldn't be nearly as amazing as it's turning out to be.  The MOMs in Waldorf is in a beautiful, new building and will be an amazing place to discuss all the exciting things going on for EVs in Southern Maryland.  This is a must-see event for anyone in the area, I guarantee.

Saturday, 28 September 2013, 10:00–14:00: College Park, MD

The College Park event in suburban Maryland, just on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., is at one of my favourite MOM's Organic Markets, being about half-way between work and the normal EVA/DC meeting in Silver Spring, MD.  Word of warning that the EVSE (Electric Vehicle Service Equipment) stations at this location, two out-of-the-way units around the left side of the building, are often either broken or occupied by a completely occupied by an often full electric vehicle.  However, anyone needing a charge just contact my friend and Team Captain Lanny Hartmann who will help you find a unit that's available and working as well as work to make sure these units are function come Plug-In Day and beyond.

Saturday, 28 September 2013, 10:00–14:00: Timonium, MD and Baltimore

The Timonium event is our closest planned event in the greater Baltimore Suburbs.  Located in Central Maryland, the event is just north of the Baltimore Beltway and just off of I85.  As such, I've never personally been there since getting my LEAF, which was before MOM's in Timonium opened.  However, my friend Barry Larkin is hosting this event and I've every confidence he's going to do an amazing job so please show your support Baltimore and bring out your EVs!

Sunday, 29 September 2013, 10:00–16:00: Washington, D.C.

For the regional Sunday event, we're extremely fortunate to be getting permission to have our display right in front of the U.S. Capital building, on Third Street SW, in front of the Reflecting Pool and near the US Botanical Gardens.  This is thanks in no small part to the work of Maryland's Senior Senator Barbara Mulkulski (D).  This website would therefore like to express their personal thanks to Senator Mulkulski.  We're working on sixty spots to display our EVs so that visitors to the Capital can see just how affordable, obtainable and ubiquitous Electric Cars have finally become!

Everyone Welcome

At each event, we hope to have opportunities to test drive our electric cars including, in Herndon and Washington, CO2Fre, yours truly's very own Nissan LEAF.  So come one, come all, see how easy it is to plug in your car at the 2013 International Plug-In Day events!  And if you'd like to show off your car, just click on the link at the start of each event to register with the Plug-In Website.  Hope to see you there, and thank you!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Changes for a Better EV Life: Trickling Gasoline

What would you do if every gas station in your area was limited to dispensing gasoline at only half a fluid ounce of fuel per minute?

As ridiculous as that sounds, that's what the average charge time for a Nissan LEAF or Chevy Volt is when compared to a Toyota Prius.  The math is simple when you consider the Prius may be getting 50 mpg or more (I got up to 66.6 mpg when I rented one while CO2 Fre was being repaired a couple weeks ago).  Compare that to about 4.0 mikWh in the average LEAF or Volt during Winter when our batteries are straining to keep their capacity.  When you consider LEAF and Volt both fuel at about 3.3 kW it's clear that 4.0 mikWh×3.3 kW is 13.3 miles per hour of charging.

Now, if that same 50 mpg Prius was fueling at a rate of 13.3 miles per hour, or 0.222 miles per minute, with each 50 miles representing one gallon of fuel, then 50 miles would take 50 mi÷0.222 mi per minute or 225 minutes (3¾ hours) to fill just a single gallon!  Since there are 128 fluid ounces in an American Gallon, dividing 225 by 128 gives 1.758 minutes for each ounce or the reciprocal 0.5688 ounces per minute.

And a 30 mpg car wouldn't fuel much faster (the more fuel efficient a car the less gasoline it needs per mile and thus the less time required to fill up enough to go that mile).  If we replace 30 mpg in the above equations we get:

(4.0 mikWh)×3.3 kW÷(30 mpg) = 0.9387 oz per minute.

And that's with a Level 2 charging station; at a standard, Level 1, US NEMA 5-15 wall outlet, 1.44 kW, the fueling rate diminishes to a mere 0.2458 oz per minute for the Prius or 0.4096 oz per minute for the 30 mpg Internal Combustion Engine vehicle.

Don't wait for your fuel, multitask!

If cars really took that long to fuel, no-one would question the EV Driver paradigm of park-and-fuel.  No-one wants to spend an hour to go just 10 or so miles.  Most cars sit for hours doing nothing, when they could be fueling.  Consider instead of going out of your way to get that ¼oz of fuel for every minute you wait when you'd much rather simply go where you need to go and trickle in your fuel while you're off doing other things, wouldn't you?

Many will read this and say that's why electric cars will never be practical.  But you miss the point.  Now you're imagining a small, fuel pump at every parking spot dribbling in fuel while you're at work, shopping, catching a movie, whatever.  Of course such slow gasoline dispensers don't exist.  But that's not true for an EV.  Remember, there are over 12,000,000 NEMA 5-15 or 5-20 electric plugs throughout the United States—there're only about 30,000 gasoline stations by comparison.  An electric car can trickle in fuel at any one of these outlets so park-and-fuel isn't just a pipe-dream, it's actually quite practical, and very inexpensive.  After all, standard electrical outlets are ubiquitous, not so gasoline pumps.

So really the only question is, why are so many places, like job sites and malls and movie houses so reluctant to allow EVs to charge given we can only fuel at less than a fluid ounce per minute equivalent and at only pennies per hour?  Sadly, this is chiefly due to misinformation about what it cost to charge an EV and miscommunication that we EV drivers are quite willing to pay those costs for the convenience of not idling our EV without multitasking a charge.

Allowing this basic, trickle charging access to an EV could mean hours saved trickling that same electricity, waiting, with nothing to do.  Because that's not the way EVs are supposed to be driven.  Park-and-fuel is all we ask, at whatever price.  Please don't waste our time waiting for the pumping of ½ oz of fuel per minute.  Thanks.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Open Letter: Eliminating the Gasoline Tax for the Commonwealth

McDonnell proposes eliminating Virginia’s gas tax

In a recent Washington Post article, Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell called for an elimination of the 17.5¢ per gallon of fuel Gasoline Tax and an increase in the annual registration fees payed by EVs to $100 per year—I personally just paid a little under $400 in registration fees for CO2 Fre Nissan LEAF up through 2015 with a $150 penalty for driving an EV for three more years.  While he also proposes a $15 increase in the annual registration fees for traditional cars, he plans to make up the rest of the Commonwealth Transportation Fund's decreasing income—due to fuel taxes that are not indexed to inflation—through sales taxes.  In effect, what the Governor is asking is for everyone to pay for Virginia's roads but for EVs and other alternative fuel vehicles to pay more on top of a general sales tax.

Part of the issue is Governor McDonnell trying to stay true to his Norquist pledge to never raise taxes and to only derive revenue-neutral income sources.  However, a fee is technically not a tax and certainly not based on income so I do feel even if the Norquist pledge is ludicrous that it can be satisfied by moving to a gross weight and miles driven fee assessed at ones annual safety inspection as a part of road certification.  This would in effect bring the fuel tax back in line with its original goal: keeping the Virginia Transportation Fund solvent by assessing fees most harshly on the heaviest vehicles and the vehicles that drive the most, which are just the vehicles that cost the Commonwealth the most in terms of maintenance, repair and infrastructure.  I thus submitted this opened letter to the Governor's office last night:

Dear Governor McDonnell,

I couldn't agree more with that goal Mr. Governor, but I think you've not provided a logical way to solve the revenue shortfall caused by more hybrid and fuel efficient vehicles on the Commonwealth's roads.  Adding an increase to sales tax may have the potential of being revenue neutral but it doesn't balance the cost of repair with those who do the most damage.

Basically, from a civil engineering point of view, the main cost to Virginia of cars on our roads is the gross weight of the vehicles and the number of miles driven every year.  As such, the best way to charge an infrastructure tax is simply to base it on those two variables.  And enough of this tying it to registration!  Do not charge alternative fuel vehicles a more expensive registration surcharge when gasoline fuel cars would end up paying no taxes!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I can't say that strongly enough because again it's about road damage and that's about number of miles driven and the weight of the car.  It has nothing to do with its means of propulsion!  Don't charge any registration penalty on a vehicle just because it doesn't use gasoline, especially if you're going to forsake any revenue you'd be taxing on that gasoline.  Don't tax the alternative fuel vehicles something if your going to tax the gasoline cars nothing!  That's bad for the commonwealth because the alternative fuel vehicles mean, for instance, with electric cars or methane (natural gas) vehicles, that that energy to drive them could be coming right from here in Virginia, very domestic and local energy and not from refineries in Mississippi for oil from the North Sea and Venezuela or Saudi Arabia.  We need to encourage the money spent on car fuel to stay in Virginia and that's why if anything EVs and CNG vehicle should never pay *more* tax than gasoline vehicles and probably should pay less because they help encourage Virginia businesses and create Virginia jobs!!!

So again, the best approach is to simply apply a scaled fee as a part of a vehicle's annual safety inspection.  At the safety inspection the Commonwealth has all the information it needs to make the correct taxation assessment.  The mileage driven in a year is already logged with the Safety Inspection and the Gross Weight is already defined for any original equipment manufactured vehicle and must be registered for any conversion or custom vehicle.  Even trucks could be taxed this way based their weight!

Please, Mr. Governor, this is how you can balance the Commonwealth's transportation needs.  It means the heaver cars, like EV and SUVs, will indeed pay more, but the Prius will pay its fair share too because it's about weight, not how fuel efficient you are because the roads don't care about fuel efficiency.  They just care about Weight and Miles.

Thank you!


Jeffrey C. Jacobs

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Open Letter: Electric Cars are not another Hybrid

Dear Senator Favola,

I drive an electric vehicle.  And Senator, I know what I'm about to say has fallen on so many deaf ears and it's not exactly the focus you've made as my duly elected representative, but please hear me out.

An electric car is most assuredly not a hybrid car.  12 years ago, when the Toyota Prius first came to America, this car was seen as expensive, barely tested domestically and were only available in a limited number of major dealer showrooms.  Now, the Prius is Consumer Report's pick for the best-valued car available, millions of miles have been driven in this car and other hybrids alike and you can pretty much walk into any dealer showroom and pick up a hybrid car of your very own.  That was yesterday's revolution and for taking that risk the Commonwealth awarded the privilege of Single-Occupancy access to Virginia's HOV lanes. Apparently for life.  What a wonderful reward!

But now hybrid cars are ubiquitous, and people have no concerns about buying one.  There are millions of hybrids on the roads today.  Do they really need an HOV subsidy on top of all this?

Over ten years of unequivocal, single-occupancy access to Virginia's HOV lanes is quite a benefit for a risk of that nature.

But an electric car is not a hybrid car.  Today, electric cars are expensive, barely tested domestically and are only available in a limited number of major dealer showrooms.  In short, electric cars are today where hybrid cars were 12 years ago.  Indeed, with all the sacrifices of distances practically obtainable and slow-to-arrive infrastructure, electric vehicle drivers are even more handicapped than hybrid vehicle drivers ever were!  And yet as far as the Commonwealth is concerned, an electric car is just another hybrid car.  No, it's worse than that, the electric car is seen as the millionth hybrid car, meaning it can't access I95 or I395 HOV, it can't even access I66 HOV with single-occupancy.  In effect, we're telling the people of places like Springfield and Arlington to please enjoy the reduced emissions of some hybrid vehicles but no, we don't want any zero-emission vehicles coming through your regions on your major highways.  We want you to be polluted with yesterday's technology.

Why does the Commonwealth not give the same benefit enjoyed by thousands of hybrid risk-takers, who've already had their day and then some, to those of us even bigger risk takers driving an electric vehicle?  Is that too much to ask?  Does it even seem fair to deny electric vehicles those rights enjoyed by hybrid cars just because they came later, as newer, better, revolutionary technology always does?

I hope now you can understand why I'm so saddened by the current state of affairs.  But I'm a pragmatist so I would like to ask you to make a motion in the Virginia Senate of the following nature:

  1. Enact a law which would issue a series of low-emission, adhesive stickers which are affixed to the rear of a qualified vehicle at a cost to the driver of approximately $25 per year.

  2. These stickers would only be authorized for cars which are plug-in electric or battery electric vehicles.  This non-exclusive list includes:

    • 2013 Chevrolet Volt 1.4L
    • 2013 Ford C-Max 2.0L Energi (not the Hybrid)
    • 2013 Ford Focus Electric[1]
    • 2013 Nissan LEAF[1]
    • 2013 Toyota Prius 1.8L plug-in
    • 2013 Tesla Model S[1]
    • 2012 Chevrolet Volt 1.4L
    • 2012 Fisker Karma 2.0L
    • 2012 Ford Focus Electric[1]
    • 2012 Mitsubishi iMiev[1]
    • 2012 Nissan Leaf[1]
    • 2012 Tesla Roadster[1]
    • 2012 Th!nk City[1]
    • 2012 Toyota Prius 1.8L plug-in
    • 2011 Chevrolet Volt 1.4L
    • 2011 Nissan LEAF[1]
    • 2011 Tesla Roadster[1]
    • 2010 Tesla Roadster[1]
    • 2009 Tesla Roadster[1]
    • 2008 Tesla Roadster[1]
[1](1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13) Battery electric, meaning no tail pipe emissions.
  1. On 1 July 2013, amend Virginia Code § 46.2-749.3 to disallow the transfer of Clean Fuel plates to another, newer vehicle if the vehicle being transferred from is one in the following list:

    • 2005 Ford Escape
    • 2005 Honda Civic
    • 2005 Honda Insight
    • 2005 Toyota Prius
    • 2004 Honda Civic
    • 2004 Honda Insight
    • 2004 Toyota Prius
    • 2003 Honda Civic (and earlier)
    • 2003 Honda Insight (and earlier)
    • 2003 Toyota Prius (earlier)

    These drivers will however have the option to purchase one of the cars in item 2 and obtain a low emissions sticker for that vehicle.

  2. On 1 July 2013, amend Virginia Code § 46.2-749.3 to cease Clean Fuel plate registrations for the list of cars specified in item 3.

    Thus anyone whose term for re-registration for any of these cars occurring after 1 July 2013 will be required to purchase a new plate without the Clean Fuel logo, and all HOV access will be rescinded for that particular vehicle.

  3. On 1 July 2013, allow all cars with the appropriate Low Emission sticker access to all of Virginia's HOV lanes as single-occupancy. Let part of the revenue generated from the adhesive go to the Virginia State Police fund for identifying vehicles qualified for single occupancy in an HOV lane.

  4. In subsequent years, phase out the rest of the clean fuel plates starting with the 2006 series, each year until Virginia Code § 46.2-749.3 is expired due to attrition and be replaces with the adhesive sticker system.

  5. Negotiate with Annapolis to come to a cooperative agreement whereby any vehicle with Maryland plates and the equivalent electric vehicle sticker is allowed the same rights as a Virginian in Virginia with the low emission sticker and that likewise Low-Emission be respected in Maryland for single-occupancy HOV access.[2]

[2]As most of Virginia's HOV lanes are near the border with Maryland, this would be of keen benefit to most who would be effected by this law.
  1. Annual engineering analyses shall be performed each year to determine if any of Virginia's HOV lanes are operating at a capacity no worse than the normal traffic lanes.  If the result be that the HOV lanes are near capacity, a second generation of stickers shall be issued which remove access to the most used HOV corridors.[3]
[3]Similar to what happened in 2006.

I believe this progression to be fair as it doesn't take away access for older hybrids right away and provides everyone with a way to be cleaner and allows an out for anyone who already upgraded since at least they're driving a cleaner hybrid rather than the dirtiest of hybrids from 2005 and earlier.  Engineering studies would need to be performed to make sure that the elimination of the older, clean fuel cars would make enough way for the Electric cars but if not perhaps in 1 July 2013 we could just give equivalent access to tier 3 clean fuel until such time that enough of the hybrid cars were retired to leave room for the electric vehicle.

In any case, thank you for reading and I sincerely hope you'll consider this in the upcoming General Assembly term.


Jeffrey C. Jacobs

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Washington D.C. SOC Meter Built-It Project

The parts list is derived from this MyNissanLEAF post and the tentative sources for each part is as follow: