Wednesday, April 15, 2015

302 Miles and a lot of luck: Part 1 - Road to Richmond

On 3 February, 2015, I had only two things I wished to accomplish: Attend Clean Energy Lobby Day 2015 in Richmond, Virginia and visit with some friends in Elkridge, Maryland.  On any given day, Elkridge would be tricky but doable and Richmond would be a trial but to do both in one day, some might call me insane.  Yet that's exactly what I did and thanks to LEAF Spy I can take you on that journey with me, through all the slow, meandering drive at 06:00 to the frantic search for the Richmond Omni Hotel to a relaxing sunset in Stafford, VA to the mystery of the South-West beltway to a dash to be home before midnight.  So come with me along an exciting journey of 302 mi (486 km) in one day in #CO2Fre Nissan LEAF.

In the maps below, not only is my route shown, but my State of Charge is indicated by the colour of the segment.  A green segment represents a near complete charge, a yellow segment a battery at 50% and a red segment is pretty much just the infamous turtle .

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I had intended to wake at 05:00 that morning but ended up oversleeping and was not on the road until about 06:00, much to my chagrin.  None the less, I knew it I could make it to my first checkpoint of Pohanka Nissan of Fredericksburg, 61 mi (98 km) from home.  Ideally, I could have gone farther but that was the last CHAdeMO before Ashland, VA—19 mi (30 km) from Richmond—which is 97.9 mi (157 km) from my home and thus to risky for #CO2Fre in my experience.  So Fredericksburg it was and to be absolutely safe I used ECO routing which meant, as you can see on the map, I avoided the Capital Beltway and stuck to the lesser roads in more or less a straight line.

I got stuck behind a couple school buses on the way there but fortunately I passed by one just before his lights flashed so no Class 6 Misdemeanor on my permanent record for me.  Other than that, the drive was uneventful and although I missed the turning and took a little time to find the CHAdeMO, I plugged in and set my timer for 30 minutes.  Little did I know these CHAdeMO units, unlike the NRG eVgo run units, will not stop after 30 minutes and can run until your LEAF is full—which is good because often times the CHAdeMO will cut off before reaching 80% because of the 30 minute timer.

Not charging to 100% in Fredericksburg, however, would lead to some dire consequences.

Wherefore Art Thou, EVSE

I was running late so I decided to forsake ECO routing and book down to Richmond as fast as I could.&nbps; For a spell I could see an unmarked car pacing me though so I avoided going too fast.  As I approached Richmond, ideally, a mere 53.3 mi (85.8 km) from where I started, I noticed my battery capacity dropping precipitously and began to slow my roll.  First, I slowed to 10 mph (16 kmph) below the speed limit.  As I lost another state of charge bar, I went down to 20 mph (32 kmph) below.  By the time I was down to my third bar I was going only 25 mph (40 kmph) on I95, desperate to make it.

I finally crawled into Richmond about 15 minutes late for my meeting with Delegate Robert Bell, and I still needed to park.  I had sunk to Very Low Battery by the time I got near the hotel and had only about 6 GIDs left according to LEAF Spy.  I just needed to find the hotel where I could charge my car using L2 since I planned to be in Richmond for several hours.

The LEAF navigation got me within about a block of the Richmond Omni Hotel so I knew I was close.  As you can see, I circled and circled East Cary Steet, South 12th Street, East Main Street, back down 10th Street and round again.  I eventually pulled into the Bank of America with the turtle clearly visible on my dashboard and LEAF Spy reading only 5 GIDs left.  I knew from experience that at 4 GIDs the LEAF goes dead and you need a tow and the last thing I needed was to be stuck in Richmond, meters from my target, late for my appointment, waiting for an hour for a free tow to the nearest charging station and the 2013 Nissan LEAF leaves little room between 5 GIDs and the deadly 4—if you see the turtle, usually it's too late.

I finally parked in the Bank of America lot and called the hotel for directions.  After going around the parking lot one more time, and paying for just passing through, I spotted a standard, NEMA 5-20 wall plug at the parking lot exit.  I pulled out my charging paraphernalia and set my custom EVSE to draw 16A from the 20A socket.  Unfortunately, because of the cord length, I ended up blocking the exit to the parking lot so when I car did try and exit, I had to pull out my 100 foot (30 m) extension cord and move my car to get out of the other car's way.  I parked in a reserved spot, ran the cord along the exit road and resumed charging.

Eventually, the Richmond Omni Hotel and I were able to work out where I was with respect to the hotel and so I unplugged at 6 GIDs again and made my way, finally finding the hotel on South 12th Street a block below where I was.  I rolled in and hotel staff directed me to the EVSE.  I was saved, but alas, was an hour late for my legislative meeting and ended up profusely apologizing to Delegate Bell's staff since the delegate had already left for a General Assembly session.

As I had some time to spare on the top floor of the legislative building, I decided I'd stop in to see my own Delegate, Tom Davis Rust, who gave a heartfelt speech a few days later when he announced his retirement this year.  Delegate Rust and I had a nice, social chat and I must say his staff, Shane in particular, was very helpful and I owe him a personal thanks too.  Delegate Rust and I didn't speak much as I had another meeting to get to, but I will say from the bottom of my heart, we may not have agreed on every issue, but I will say it's very rare you meet a somone with office with the integrity and intelligence of Delegate Rust, and I know I'm not the only one to feel that way.  We'll miss you, sir!

More to come…

Friday, April 3, 2015

Hybrid Drivers and their Holier than Thou FUD

It's funny how a coddled, privileged and very vocal Hybrid Car driver minority will do anything to make sure they keep every perk they've maintained for the past 20 years even to the exclusion of newer, greener technology like pure Battery Electric and Plug In Hybrid Electric vehicles.  Indeed, many of those drivers will do anything to maintain their sense of superiority by producing Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, FUD, in the face of obvious facts to the countary.  Recently my friend at Virginia Clean Cities had got a letter from a Hybrid driver who was worried about the I66 HOV in Virginia was going to switch from HOV-2 with a Tier 2 Clean Fuel exemption to HOT lanes with an HOV-3 requirement to waive the toll.  Or course when you're spoiled by a right that is discriminating against folks more worthy, you'll do anything to keep those more worthy out while wishing to maintain your undeserved right.

Don't get me wrong, I like the Single-Occupancy HOV easements, I just think we need to step out of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first.  Hybrids are yesterday's technology and EVs are the wave of the future.  They're cleaner, more energy efficient, cheaper, let you fill your pack in the comfort of your own home and also run on 100% domestic energy.  Yet Hybrid drivers are obsessed with making a case that EVs are as dirty as hybrids by citing the downstream sources of pollution when comparing EVs to Hybrids yet ignoring where one's petroleum comes from.

It took me a few minutes to calm down enough to respond to the FUD this coddled Hybrid driver was throwing in my face, but eventually, I tried to respond in the most reasoned way I knew how.  This is what I said:

Dear [name removed], please don't be blinded by the propaganda.  What you just said is naïve in the extreme because it posits the idea that some how petroleum comes magically to the pump with no consequences.  I know exactly what Dominion Virginia Power's energy mix is, an Electric Car can be powered by Solar and even if not a driver can buy a 1.3¢kWh Rider which requires Dominion to generate that much electricity from Renewables only.  But even in the worst case, the Prius is dirtier than a LEAF:   Even at 50 mpg the Prius is 14% more polluting than a LEAF on regular Dominion.  I'm sick of lemmings thinking they can compare where electricity comes from without taking into account the pollution from refining, disasters like the Exxon Valdez—when we're smack dab in the middle of the anniversary—as well as the deepwater horizon that nearly destroyed the shrimp economy of Louisiana, and folks clamouring for more of the same in the Alaskan Arctic and all the terrorism we're funding not just in the places you know but in places like Nigeria and Boko Haram.  You do realize that a plurality of the foreign oil used in this region is coming from Nigeria?

The long and short of it, I am greener, and can be much, much greener.  Can you power your car with photovoltaics?  I didn't think so.  And what's more, your car is just gonna get dirtier and less fuel efficient over time whereas Dominion is constantly installing cleaner power sources making even the worst case energy requirements cleaner over time, not dirtier.

Before you go spouting FUD, try to learn the facts first, please, dirty-prius driver.  Thank you however for being cleaner than a Ford F150.  Now can we move on without any more ad hominem attacks?

Okay, I'll admit it was a bit harsh of me to accuse a prius of being dirty.  It is, of course, probably the most fuel-efficient non-plug-in car available outside of diesel—oh, but what a hybrid diesel could be.  It's just that, clearly EVs are cleaner, from a little cleaner (on the standard Dominion Virginia Power fuel mix) to infinitely cleaner with a solar array.  So can we finally stop with the fuel source FUD?

Note: The above slides come from my failed February 4, 2014 lecture which I had been planning to give during the Electric and Hybrid Vehicles seminar for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute of George Mason University, however the slides had not been ready in time.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Domestic Energy Empowerment and Deregulation Act

One if the most frustrating aspects of electric car ownership is when the second tier of charging priority1, charing ones electric car at work, be prevented due to outdated regulations, one can be left with being forced into the uncomfortable third tier, namely going out of ones way to get a suplimental charge, waiting for 30–120 minutes to get enough charge to go home.  One of the biggest arguments employeers give against letting their employees charge their electric cars at work is that they'd be giving the electricity away for free, which is more than they do for traditional gasoline cars, even if the cars are only taking the equivalent of ounces of fuel.  Of course, most electric car drivers, myself included, sympathise with employeers facing this conumdrum.  Ideally, the employeer would see that providing $1.50 worth of electricity to an employee over the course of a day would hardly break the bank and would be a huge value-added benefit employees that helps retain your best and brightest workers.

However, what if your employer is the biggest employer in the entire United States of America?  An organization that employed an estimated 4.231 million people in 2013?  What about the United States Federal Government, including our men and women in uniform serving both domestically and abroad?  How do we get the federal workforce the right to charge their cars at work?  If we're not allowed to take a $1.50 of electricity for free, why can't the Government just shut up and take our money?

When it comes to Charge at work… Shut up and take my money!

After all, it's not like the House and Senate didn't give themselves that same right in 2012.  All I'm saying is what about the rest of us?

Well, thanks to Representative Zoe Lofgrin (CA-19), we almost got just that with her EV-COMUTE bill.  Unfortunately, this bill went nowhere in Congress and now, with the 114th Congress we start again with a clean slate.

Now, I live in a conservative district of the nation.  As such, the values and principles we have aren't always aligned with those in the more progressive parties such as the party which introduced the EV-COMUTE act.  The EV-COMUTE act wasn't written in any kind of partisan way, but it strikes me that perhaps it should have in such a way that a conservative could in fact support it.

It's about Empowerment

The biggest issue as I see it is an outdated regulation that prevents government employees and men and women in uniform from simply paying the treasury directly for the electricity our electric cars might be using.  I therefore propose the Domestic Energy Empowerment and Deregulation act, or the DEED act.  The act, as I propose would read as follows:

In order to allow the use of domestically-produced energy for the propulsion of privately owned vehicles used by the nation's Men and Women in Uniform and the Civilians and Contractors who make up the Federal Workforce.  Being that current Federal Regulations prohibit this workforce from paying the Treasury for the use of locally-sourced electrical energy which could be used to power these private vehicles. To remove all regulations which prohibit the use of electricity on Federal property and authorize any office of the Federal Government which owns or operates a parking area for the use of its employees to install, construct, operate, and maintain a battery recharging station in the area, and for other purposes, and to allow any such Agency which owns this property to bill and collect for any and all electricity used for which the Federal Government is already paying or has paid.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the ``Domestic Energy Empowerment and Deregulation Act'' or the ``DEED Act''.

(a) Authorization.-‍-
(1) In general.-‍-

The head of any office of the Federal Government which owns or operates a parking area for the use of its employees (either directly or indirectly through a contractor) or members of the armed forces may install, construct, operate, and maintain on a reimbursable basis a battery recharging station in such area for the use of privately owned vehicles of employees and service people of the office and others who are authorized to park in such area.

(2) Existing infrastructure.-‍-

The head of an office may carry out paragraph (1) by making use of existing parking infrastructure through the authorization of selected, US National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) 5 outlets or other electrical receptacles available and convenient to employee parking.  Use of existing outlets shall be considered optimal by an office head as the lowest-cost solution.

(3) Use of vendors.-‍-

The head of an office may carry out paragraph (1) through a contract with a vendor, under such terms and conditions (including terms relating to the allocation between the office and the vendor of the costs of carrying out the contract) as the head of the office and the vendor may agree to.

(b) Imposition of Fees To Cover Costs.-‍-
(1) Fees.-‍-

The head of an office of the Federal Government which operates and maintains a battery recharging station under this Act shall charge fees to the individuals who use the station in such amount as is necessary to ensure that office recovers all of the costs it incurs in installing, constructing, operating, and maintaining the station.

(2) Deposit and availability of fees.-‍-

Any fees collected by the head of an office under this subsection shall be-‍-

(A) deposited in the Treasury to the credit of the appropriations account for salaries and expenses of the office; and
(B) available for obligation without further appropriation during-‍-
(i) the fiscal year collected; and
(ii) the fiscal year following the fiscal year collected.
(c) No Effect on Existing Programs for House and Senate.-‍-

Nothing in this Act may be construed to affect the installation, construction, operation, or maintenance of battery recharging stations by the Architect of the Capitol-‍-

(1) under Public Law 112-170 (2 U.S.C. 2171), relating to employees of the House of Representatives and individuals authorized to park in any parking area under the jurisdiction of the House of Representatives on the Capitol Grounds; or
(2) under Public Law 112-167 (2 U.S.C. 2170), relating to employees of the Senate and individuals authorized to park in any parking area under the jurisdiction of the Senate on the Capitol Grounds.
This Act shall apply with respect to fiscal year 2016 and each succeeding fiscal year.

Won't you write your representative to introduce or sponsor this act?

1The first tier is charging at home while one sleeps, like a mobile phone.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Mr. TimeHorse's Wild Ride and how he tried to save the Virginia Environment

On Tuesday, 3 February, 2015, members of the Virginia Advanced Energies Industries Coalition (VAEIC) will be gathering in Richmond, Virginia for Clean Energy Lobby Day (CELD) 2015.  The event is in co-operation with Virginia Clean Cities and the Maryland, District of Columbia and Virginia Solar Energy Industries Association (MDV-SEIA)—who produce the rather repetitive and wordy Solar Flare newsletter.  A number of industries in the energy sector are also sponsoring CELD, including Dominion Virginia Power, Solar City, Prospect Solar, Standard Solar, and Columbia Gas of Virginia; a complete list of sponsors is available on the official CELD page above.

The Trip

Unfortunately, none of the bills under consideration in the Commerce and Labour committee solve the many problems Electric Car drivers face in the Commonwealth of Virginia, which I hope to summarize in a subsequent article.  None the less, it's my desire to be a part of events like this, but usually I need to be at the job and those silly AdSense ads (sorry about those) aren't gonna pay the bills.  However, due to some abuse I received at my job to which I reacted exceedingly poorly I happen to have the day off so it's absolutely my plan to be there tomorrow.  That is, to drive to Richmond… 115 mi (185 km) away… in #CO2Fre Nissan LEAF… which is lucky to do 80 mi (130 km) on a good day… at 05:00 in the morning… in 20℉ (-7℃) weather… and naturally no heater…

Not only that, but in the evening I'm planning to meet some friends in Laurel, MD—land of the $35 cab to go 3.5 km (2 mi).  Needless to say, if I'm to try anything as ambitious as 320 mi (515 km) in a single day, I'm gonna need some quick charging; I'm gonna need CHAdeMO.

Fortunately, thanks to the folks at NRG eVgo, various Nissan Dealers and Greenlots (not to be confused with Gringotts, though they can be just as pricy), I have some hope.  First, I plan to use ECO routing to get to Pohanka Nissan in Fredricksburg, VA.  From there I should be able to get straigt to Richmond, however, it's possible that the Level 2 plug at the Richmond Omni Hotel will be in use (I plan to call from Fredricksburg to make sure), so as a backup I'll hit the CHAdeMO at Mac's Service Center in Ashland, VA, which is part of Greenlots.  I should therefore arrive in Richmond around 08:00, or so I hope.  Fortunately, the Virginia General Assembly building should be about a 5–10 minute walk from the Omni.

I should be able to bring #CO2Fre to 100% charge at the Omni by 12:30, so if anyone needs the EVSE I'll be happy to move my car during lunch; I need enough charge to get back to Pohanka and have some left over for my next two stations.  Once I'm charged at Pohanka the second time, I plan to drive all the way up to the Alexandria, VA NRG eVgo CHAdeMO.  Then, it's all the way over to the Gateway Overlook in Elkridge, MD for a third CHAdeMO session.

My hope is, after the CHAdeMO in Elkridge, I should have enough energy to visit my friends in Laurel and then drive straight home.  At least that's the hope…

Relevant Legislation

Anyway, as I was saying, I'm planning to go down to the General Assembly on Tuesday, with a focus on a couple of environmental bills before the Commerce and Labour committee.  Specifically, I'm focusing on 2 bills before the committee.

HB2237: Electric utilities; costs of solar energy facilities

Electric utilities; costs of solar energy facilities.  Authorizes an investor-owned electric utility that purchases a solar power generation facility located in the Commonwealth consisting of at least five megawatts of generating capacity to recover the costs of acquiring the facility, with an enhanced rate of return on equity, through a rate adjustment clause.  The rate adjustment clause for recovering such costs may be based on a market index in lieu of a cost of service model. The measure also states that (i) the construction or purchase by a utility of such a solar power generation facility and (ii) planning and development activities for solar energy facilities are in the public interest.

The idea of this bill is to give an incentive to electric utilities which buy solar power facilities within the Commonwealth.  It sets a minimum capacity of 5MW so that trivial purchases don't qualify for these incentives.  The only problem is that it doesn't say much about third-party interests in terms of the initial construction of a solar generating facility.  But otherwise, this seems like a good thing and something I'm happy to support.

SB 1331: Natural Gas Conservation and Ratemaking Efficiency Act; cost-effective programs

Natural Gas Conservation and Ratemaking Efficiency Act; cost-effective programs.  Requires the State Corporation Commission, when determining whether a natural gas conservation or energy efficiency program is cost-effective, to base its determination upon an evaluation of a portfolio of programs as a whole and not upon an evaluation of a program or measure on an individual basis.

The idea here is that we want the elimination of non cost-effective programs to be based on whether their elimination would make the whole package of incentives and benefits more cost-effective rather than subtracting one element and because it's removed some other benefit is hindered and thus the net effect could be worse than keeping the seemingly single less-effective subsidy in place.  By allowing the State Corporation Commission to take the entire package into account, it's hoped that conservations programs can be added and removed with a guaranteed overall net benefit.  This is why I support this bill.

Of course, these bills aren't the only reason I'm trying to make this insane trip to Richmond, Laurel, and back again.  In July, I'm planning to go to my 5×5 joint High School reunion, up in West Hartford, CT, a 360 mi (580 km) journey with, hopefully, no 4½ hour stop-over like in Richmond.  Now that's gonna take some planning!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Elon Musk as a Simpsons character?

Coming this Sunday to a small screen near you!  Elon Musk is going to be on an episode of The Simpsons as announced by Simpson's Producer Al Jean.  Will Mr. Musk survive the wrath of C. Montgomery Burns?  Tune in Sunday, 25 January 2015 to find out!

And for fans of the game The Simpsons™ Tapped Out (on iOS or Android—Yours truly is plays under the moniker of TimeHorse, naturally), here's a picture of all three premium item Electric Cars modeled by one of the rarest of premium characters, Shauna, in her Halloween She-Devil outfit.

Alas so far most of my friends on the EA forum users stuck in ICEs or walking (forgot to put a no-car option because you can't get more environmental than that).

(Finger Tenting) Excellent.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Thinking of buying a Tesla?

Here some great reasons to buy and some important disclaimer for folks in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  It is my belief as an already electric car driver it behooves me to write the caveats in hopes that Tesla and I, once we get those papers filed and service center in Fairfax Country, Virginia on Tyco Blvd., can work together to break the backs of the hybrid lobby and show Richmond and Fairfax that Electric Cars are the future.

The US government offers a $7,500 federal tax credit when you purchase a new Tesla.
Yes, the tax credit is helpful, but only if you pay at least $7,500 in taxes.  As this would typically be someone earning $40,000 per year or more, I don't think it needs a caveat since no-one earning only $40,000 per year could *every* *dream* of owning a Model S at the equivalent of 2 years salary.
Alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) displaying the Virginia Clean Special Fuel license plate may use Virginia HOV lanes, regardless of the number of occupants.
Clean Fuel plates are grandfathered, meaning the hybrid drivers ate up all the good ones and all that's left are third-generation access that only allows HOV access on a toll road in Northern Virginia.  We need to work to wrest those first-generation Clean Fuel plates attached to dirty priuses and civic hybrids from those smelly, polluting, dirty cars and reissue them to the proper, truly clean, 100% cars like the Tesla Model S and the car I drive which I won't bother mentioning because I'm just here to promote Tesla and the Model S, even while I can't afford one.  But maybe this point is moot since most of the HOV lanes in Virginia are being replaced by toll-based HOT lanes where the Clean Fuel plates don't even qualify.
Local governments may reduce personal property taxes paid on electric vehicles.
Some local governments reduce your property tax burden by as much as 50%.  For example Prince William County, Arlington County and the richest county in the nation, Loudoun County, all provide property tax discounts.  However, the most populous and third richest county nationally, Fairfax, provides *no* property tax discounts what-so-ever, not for hybrids, not for electrics.  And the property tax on a Model S can be as high as $2,500 per year.  Though I suppose if you can afford a Model S, you can afford a property tax bill which represents your approximate fuel savings.  And let's not forget, Fairfax County is where the Tesla Showroom and future Service Center are located.
Virginia Dominion Power offers reduced residential rates for electric vehicle charging.
Dominion's rates are why I used to pay $2,500 on fuel before getting an EV and now pay less than $300 per year for fuel.  The electric cost per kWh out of pocket (including tax, generation, distribution and all riders) can be as low as about 6¢/kWh.  But there is a caveat for this too, since Dominion now requires you to put your whole house on Time of Use for this rate, meaning if you have a stay-at-home parent and kids you'll be running the air conditioner and if you have a heat pump the heater seasonally at peak rates, though the rates fall into 4 tiers so the evenings aren't too bad and the overnights are dirt cheap.  They used to offer a two-meter solution but having gone this route I will say for me it's hard to consider it worth it.  While the whole house solution has effectively no cost to the customer to install, the two meter solution added perhaps $1,000 more installation costs after EVSE tax credits, which would take years to realize in saving relative to the whole-house option.  Then again, I calculated this based on the fact that I don't have a stay-at-home parent in my house.
Electric vehicles are exempt from biannual emissions inspections.
True, but safety inspections are still required.  Let's not let drivers forget this lest they wish to get a ticket for failing to get their car inspected annually.
Most importantly… NEVER PAY FOR GAS AGAIN!
Again, true, but what anti-EV Richmond did, secretly in the dark of the Hybrid Lobby highly public excision of a $64 surtax is leave that surtax on Electric Vehicles, in addition to a $50 per year tax already imposed on Electric Vehicles.  So effectively, Electric Vehicles are taxed $114 annually for use of the Virginia Roads (fuel taxes) which is, as far as I can tell, the highest fuel tax in the nation on EVs.  Compare this to a 50 mpg Hybrid driving the average 15,000 mi per year.  This represents only $48.60 in taxes for fuel at the rate of 16.2¢gal as of 1 January 2015.  Thus, for 15,000 mi traveled per year an EV pays more than twice that of a hybrid in Virginia.  This is something which we need to fix.  Never should a hybrid be taxed less than an EV.  It's wrong for Tesla, and wrong for all of Teslas EV-driving supporters.

Thank you for reading

It's good to be back!