Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Coming to A Washington Area Dealership near you

If you're a Washington Area Nissan Dealership, you might be seeing this message in your FAX or e-mail inbox.  It is from me, the maintainer of this site, as my goal in fairness for all dealership to get the word out why we Nissan LEAF enthusiasts should choose you as our preferred dealership:

Dear Sir or Madam,

My name is Jeffrey C. Jacobs, and I maintain the Affordable Electric Car Now blog — aecn.timehorse.com — as well as the D.C. E.V. Electric Vehicle advocacy group on Facebook and am actively compiling information for the www.MyNissanLeaf.com forums. As a Nissan LEAF enthusiast and advocate in the Washington D.C. region, I am trying to give each area dealership the opportunity to publish their best offer to entice potential LEAF registrants to select them as their preferred dealership with incentives such as quotes below MSRP or discounted service for other vehicles or free state safety inspections.

I know that we are nearing the end of the sales month and understand if you cannot respond to this before 1 December when LEAF ordering officially begins in our area, but I will be happy to continue publishing your offers into the new month since I think most potential buyers won't have their dashboards opened on the first of the month anyway, giving them time to switch to your dealership.

Feel free to check my blog for the latest offers other area dealership are offering as I will be updating this periodically as I receive new lists.

If you wish to submit your dealership's special offers please feel free to send e-mail to nissan-dealers at timehorse.com or by contacting me on my cell at XXX-XXX-XXXX.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Nissan of Chantilly

14840 Stonecroft Center Circle
Chantilly VA 20151
(703) 889-3700

I just got off the phone with Justin, the Nissan LEAF specialist at Nissan of Chantilly, and wanted to pass on some of the perks you get for buying with him.  No, Nissan of Chantilly will not undercut MSRP; so far no dealers in the Washington, D.C. area have offered anything less than MSRP, but none have ever gone above it, which is natural because by Nissan North America Corporate rules, that can't. But, here is what Nissan of Chantilly is offering if you select them as your dealership:

  • Service Department opened 7 days a week
  • Free Service Loaners; Free Enterprise or Hertz loaners if no loaner cars are available at the dealership.
  • Discounted Oil Change for all customer's vehicles (6-cylinder or less): $7.95 before tax and disposal, $13.35 out the door.
  • Free Virginia Safety Inspections for all customer's vehicles.
  • Courtesy Concierge that allows you to drop off your vehicle without having to wait outside.
  • Courtesy Storage of your vehicle, for instance if you're going to Dulles Airport, you could drop your car off at the dealership and they would store it while you're away; you'd only need to take a cab from Chantilly to the airport, which isn't as expensive as from home for most people.

That said, certainly living as I do equally close to the airport, the last item doesn't really do much for me.  The list of perks are nice, to be sure.  By far the nicest aspect is the 7 days a week service department, but that's independent of the car purchase and really can't be considered a true perk.  The best offer IMHO is the free Virginia Safety inspections, which aren't all that expensive anyway.

Personally, I've decided to stick with Brown's Sterling Nissan in Sterling, VA.  That's not meant as a knock against Nissan of Chantilly, just that the offer doesn't make it worth it to me to change dealerships at this point.  Now if Pohanka Nissan of Fredericksburg can get LEAF certified and Kevin, my friend and fellow LEAF enthusiast, can get them to go under MSRP, I'll gladly buy from them, even though they're 63 or so miles from my house…

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Time-Of-Use Meter FAQ for the Commonwealth of Virginia

Q1: Who provides power in Virginia?

A: Dominion Virginia Power is the chief Power Utility in the Commonwealth, with a number in Northern Virginia using the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC).  I currently use Dominion.

Q2: Can I install a separate, independent meter?

A: Yes, as long as it doesn't enter the house or garage or any other structure already receiving electricity from another meter.  This is because of Chapter 2 of the NEC (National Electric Code) and IRC (International Building Code) E3501.2.  In the Commonwealth, we are on NEC 2005.

Basically, if you want a separate, independent meter, you have to mount the EVSE outside the house and basically park outside.  Not a very appetizing solution if you have a garage here in Virginia.

Q3: What if I just install a submeter?  Can I take advantage of the Schedule 1T or Schedule 1S rate then?

A: Unfortunately, no.  The problem is, the current contract Dominion has with the State Corporation Commission dictates that all metered and billed electricity entering a structure must be billed at the same rate.  I assume this was to allow submeters on apartments while protecting residents from having different rates per apartment.

Todd, an engineer at Dominion, tells me that they are looking into rebidding a new contract with the State Corporation Commission which would add in provisions for things like Electric Vehicles and other new Green elements and he would keep me informed of any progress with that.

Q4: State Corporation Commission?  How does that work?

A: Basically, Dominion makes a proposal for a new rate structure, then the SCC has a request for comments period and after the public comment period is over, the new rate schedule is voted upon and potentially ratified.  At this point Dominion can open up multiple accounts for the same residence, i.e. one on the (new) Schedule 1 and another on the (new) Schedule 1T — or some other schedule specifically for EVs.

Q5: How long could this take?

A: The last rate adjustment request took 9 months from submission to approval.  This request looks to be simpler and so may be quicker, but don't expect any change before about July 2011.

I should point out here that I truly am of the belief that we Virginians will be getting our Nissan LEAFs in July not April as we were previously led to believe.  Either way, I want to get my EVSE in place before 31 Dec for the Federal Tax Credit.

Q6: When the new rate schedule is approved, how much would it cost to install the submeter?

A: Not much, since it's just the meter and no new trenching would be necessary.

Q7: So the submeter would be below the current meter?

A: Not likely.  In fact, Dominion has been rolling out new smart meters that can have up to 3 outputs. It is more likely they would just swap your current meter for one of these smart meters where the first feed would be for the household and the second feed could be for an EV.

Q8: Why can't I just install a second meter? What does NEC / IRC E3501.2 say?


A dwelling unit shall be supplied by only one service.

The idea of NEC / IRC E3501.2 is to give the the marshal a single, master switch where he or she can shut off the power to an entire dwelling.  It is a safety precaution.

Q9: I read something about installing a plaque for the fire marshal so that he or she would know where the other meter was and be able to switch it off, is that true?

A: It's not in the 2005 NEC, which is what the Commonwealth follows, so no, that will not be sufficient.  However, the Commonwealth is looking at upgrading to the 2008 NEC in March, 2011.

Q10: What about installing a firewall between my attached garage and house?

A: Assuming you could isolate the power for each structure on either side of the firewall, this possibility should be allowed under the 2005 NEC since this is what town houses do.  Potentially up to 6 separate meters could be installed, but each area covered by a meter must only get power from that meter and be isolated by other areas with the 2-hour burn firewall.

Q11: So what EVSE are you buying?

A: I've ordered the Clipper Creek CS-100 with J1772 connect via the Electric Automotive Association member discount posted in the Clipper Creek thread of the My Nissan LEAF forum.  I've decided to go with W.H. Cullen Electrical Contractor for my installation.  I found him in the list of Electrical Contractors registered with the Better Business Bureau in the Metro Washington area on the list I recently compiled.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hold it there Electric Cowboy, not so fast...

Well, it looks like the Leviton Evr-Green EVSE isn't going to be available for Christmas this year after all. They've pushed their release for the EVB22-3PM back until January with the EVB45-3PD (the 7.6kW unit, and the one I want) hopefully out by April, but no guarantees doesn't look to be available for another year, well after I theoretically take possession of my LEAF.  But what Chris at Leviton explained to me with respect to the 2010 EVSE tax credit was even more distressing: simply wiring the home in 2010 would not qualify for the tax credit even if the EVSE wasn't available.  Zounds!  So I called my Congressman and left a message with his office to please please please do what he can to get the EVSE tax credit extended into 2011, when most J1772-compliant EVSE equipment will finally become available to the general consumer and when EVs will finally be made available to the general public.  I also asked for him to confirm the wiring restriction with respect to the tax credit.  Talk about catch-22: you can have the credit for an EVSE but no EVSEs will be available until that credit expires!?  I repeat, Zounds! And here I finally got my code together to scan the Better Business Bureau website for all the local Electrical Contractors with A+ ratings after a couple hours hacking last night, as can be seen in this Google Spreadsheet (Note: The month index is 0-based, meaning January is 0).  The code to do this had to query every sub-page of the 276 registered contractors and thus took quite a while to run, but here's the simple Python script I used to compile my data:

import urllib2, sgmllib, re
data = file('BBBData.csv', 'w')
data.write('Name,Address,Area,Phone,"Join Year","Join Month"'
           + ',Rating\n')

months = ['Jan', 'Feb', 'Mar', 'Apr', 'May', 'Jun', 'Jul',
          'Aug', 'Sep', 'Oct', 'Nov', 'Dec']
phone_pat = re.compile(r'phone:\s+\((?P\d{3})\)\s+' +
join_pat = re.compile(r'BBB\s+Accredited:\s+(?P' +
                      r'|'.join(months) +
rating_pat = re.compile(r'Based on BBB files, this business '
                        r'has a BBB Rating of ([A-F][-+]?)')

class SGMLParse(sgmllib.SGMLParser):
    def __init__(self, verbose=False):
        sgmllib.SGMLParser.__init__(self, verbose)
        self.div_depth = 0
        self.stores = []
        self.inentry = False
        self.inname = False
        self.current_name = None
        self.inaddr = False
        self.current_addr = None
        self.current = None
        self.inphone = False
        self.current_join = None
        self.current_phone = None
        self.last_href = None
        self.current_rating = None

    def parse(self, text):

    def start_div(self, attributes):
        self.div_depth += 1
        classes = [ ]
        attr = dict(attributes)
        if attr.has_key('class'):
            classes = attr['class'].split(' ')

        if 'StdList' in classes:
            self.inentry = self.div_depth
        elif 'StdListName' in classes:
            self.inname = self.div_depth
            self.current = ''
        elif 'StdListAddr' in classes:
            self.inaddr = self.div_depth
            self.current = ''
        elif 'StdListPhone' in classes:
            self.inphone = self.div_depth
            self.current = ''

    def end_div(self):
        if self.inentry == self.div_depth:
            # Collect data and append
            self.stores.append({'Name': self.current_name,
                                'Address': self.current_addr,
                                'Joined': self.current_join,
                                'Phone': self.current_phone,
                                'Rating': self.current_rating

            self.current_name = None
            self.current_address = None
            self.current_join = None
            self.current_phone = None
            self.current_rating = None
            self.inentry = False
        elif self.inname == self.div_depth:
            self.current_name = self.current
            self.current = None
            self.inname = False
        elif self.inaddr == self.div_depth:
            self.current_addr = self.current
            self.current = None
            self.inaddr = False
        elif self.inphone == self.div_depth:
            for line in self.current.split('\n'):
                match = join_pat.match(line)
                if match:
                    self.current_join = (months.index(match.
                    match = phone_pat.match(line)
                    if match:
                        if self.current_phone != None:
                            print 'Duplicate Phone Number'
                        self.current_phone = (match.
            self.current = None
            self.inphone = False
        self.div_depth -= 1

    def start_a(self, attributes):
        attr = dict(attributes)
        if self.inentry:
            self.last_href = 'http://dc-easternpa.bbb.org/' \
                             + attr['href']
            self.current = ''

    def end_a(self):
        if self.inentry and self.current == 'BBB report':
            match = rating_pat.search(urllib2.urlopen(self.
            if match:
                self.current_rating = match.group(1)
            self.current = None

        self.last_href = None

    def handle_data(self, data):
        if self.current is not None:
            self.current += data

    def start_br(self, attributes):
        if self.current is not None:
            self.current += '\n'

    def handle_entityref(self, entity):
        if entity.lower() == 'nbsp' and self.current is not \
            self.current += ' '

        return self.convert_entityref(entity)

BBBListHTML = urllib2.urlopen('http://dc-easternpa.bbb.org/'
                              + 'V2RosterByTob.asp?ID=10049')

p = SGMLParse()

# p.stores contains a list of dictionaries with each store's
# data
Note: Edited for line length

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The wheels are turning

Normally, I try to keep this blog to news-worthy items or advocacy rants, but I think this be the best place to start telling my own story of how I hope to become one of the first fully-electric capitol beltway commuters (and hope the hot lanes will consider EVs as paid). Anyway, so last Thursday, I scheduled my first electrical assessment based on a cursory scan of the Washington branch of the Better Business Bureau's web site.  I say cursory because when you request a list of Electrical Contractors in my area, you get no less than 276 entries, sorted by the very arbitrary criteria of alphabetical.  You then have to scroll through the daunting list to find any electricians in your area (in a city you know to be close to yours) and then click on their BBB report to see if they have a decent rating (preferable A+, meaning few if any outstanding complaints and complaints usually settled amicably). Anyway, so I selected Benjamin's Electric, LLC for my first contractor bid, a company with an A+ rating ().  I scheduled them for after 4pm on Thursday, fully intending to leave work at 3pm.  But as 3 o'clock rolled around, my team lead started finally paying attention to the trouble I was having and instead of being able to leave on-time I ended up being held back past 4.  At 4p17 or so, I get a call from Benjamin, where I apologize profusely and lay some choice words for my team lead which I know he could overhear. So, I called Friday to reschedule the appointment for 3pm that day, left work early and made it home with time to spare.  I met Benjamin and he was quite interested in the work, but since there's very few people in Northern Virginia using Dominion Virginia Power's TOU meter and Schedule 1T rate in Virginia, it's going to be very hard finding an electrician with experience installing one up here.  But I can't resist the lure of the 1.403¢ per kWh Off-Peak price rate!  My main concern at this point is the drywall patching necessary to run the line across the basement joists, since most of my basement is finished.  Once that run's made, it's through the utility closet and up and out to the garage with my NEMA 6-50P. I'm more or less happy with Benjamin without seeing his bid but I would like to get a few more bids before I make my decision, which I'll try to schedule this weekend if possible.  I know Virginia Power is a bit confused about the TOU meters so I guess that's why Benjamin has yet to make his bid.  In the meantime I'm left with a lot of clicking on the inconveniently organized BBB web site to find the close A+ businesses that are willing to do an evaluation on a weekend.