Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cost per Unit Distance

Back in May, I posted an article about some of the maths you can use to estimate the cost of owning an Electric Vehicle.  Although there was a lot there to absorb, the calculation of fuel economy in terms of miles per gallonequivalent means that you're using 2 estimated commodity prices to equate a value that does not include those in its calculation.  Instead, it was suggested to me at the time that a better calculation is to measure things in terms of miles per unit energy or unit energy per mile.  Of course, the energy of gasoline, released as heat, is not totally converted to car motion in the Carnot cycle within the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cylinder, but a theoretical maximum energy possible would be captured by the Higher Heating Value (HHV) of total reaction cool-down.  That said, typically the energy of gasoline is measured by the Lower Heating Value (LHV), which terminates the calculation of energy at 150℃.  However, in fairness to the ICE's best-possible score, I will use the value for Gasoline's HHV to equate engine fuel economy per gallon to energy.  Specifically, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory quotes 132 MJ per gallon of gasoline, HHV, where MJ stands for Megajoule, or 1,000,000 Joules of energy.  The corresponding LHV value for Gasoline is 121 MJ, 7.6% less efficient than the HHV.

Energy Efficiency

As I established in the earlier post, the inherent energy in electrical potential at a given current can also be quantified using the standard value of kilowatts of power exerted in one hour's time, kWh.  The equivalency is given by 3.6 MJ per kWh.  Again, this is an ideal, with the practical loss being an artifact of engine and transmission inefficiencies; the real value would be a small percentage less.  Thus, if we replace gallons with 132 MJ and kWh with 3.6 MJ we can put the 2 energy sources on near-even footing.  By converting everything to maximum available energy and comparing to how far that will allow the vehicle to travel, we can compare both ICE cars and Electric Vehicle (EV) fuel-based efficiency in the common terms of the energy required to go a certain distance for each engine design.

Energy Efficiency of Internal Combustion Engine Calculator

U.S. Units Metric Units
Fuel Economy: mpg l100 km
Energy per unit distance: Unknown, Unknown.
Distance per unit energy: Unknown, Unknown.


Energy Efficiency of Electric Vehicle Calculator

U.S. Units Metric Units
Total Battery Capacity: kW⋅h MJ
Driving Range: mi km
Energy per unit distance: Unknown, Unknown.
Distance per unit energy: Unknown, Unknown.


Energy Cost

The nice thing about evaluating all fuel sources purely by their inherent energy content is that it allows us to freely switch between each energy storage unit.  Indeed, if one simply considers the cost of a given energy storage medium, one can use these equivalencies to determine how much the cost of an object of equivalent energy storage would be.  We can then compare the cost of both gasoline and of the stored charge of a battery.

Convert Between Different Units of Energy

$ per gallon:
¢ per litre:
¢ per Kilowatt⋅Hours:
¢ per Megajoules (106 Joules):
Megajoules per $:


Travel Cost

Finally, we can compare the cost to move an EV and an ICE car by having each one take one of the 2 volatile commodity prices, gasoline or electricity, into account.  The result is the most practical question of all: how much does it cost for this car to go a certain distance.  Alternatively, we can answer the question of how far a unit of currency will get you in that car.  For instance, if you know how much it costs per mile of travel in your vehicle, and you know how far your commute to and from work is, you can simply multiply the 2 numbers and get your daily commute cost.  Do the same calculation in a high mileage ICE car and an efficient EV and see which will be cheaper to run.  Of course that won't include oil changes or battery checks, but as a day-to-day measure, it's a good way to budget your needs in these difficult economic times.

Travel Cost of Internal Combustion Engine Calculator

U.S. Units Metric Units
Fuel Economy: mpg l100 km
Fuel Cost: $gal ¢l
Cost per unit distance: Unknown, Unknown.
Distance per monitary unit: Unknown, Unknown.


Travel Cost of Electric Vehicle Calculator

U.S. Units Metric Units
Total Battery Capacity: kW⋅h MJ
Driving Range: mi km
Cost of Residential Electricity: ¢kW⋅h ¢MJ
Cost per unit distance: Unknown, Unknown.
Distance per monitary unit: Unknown, Unknown.



It's interesting to note that depending on your area, the price of energy in the form of gasoline may be very close to, if not cheaper than the cost of electricity.  For example, a rate of 7.033¢ per kWh represents gasoline selling for $2.57 910, a mere penny below the price I quoted back in May.  Seven months later, the price of gasoline is pushing $3.00 per gallon, but my electric rate has also fallen to 4.187¢ because demand in the winter months is much lower.  Needless to say, based purely on energy cost, gasoline is competitive with electricity, even if the later is still a bit cheaper.  The real advantage of an EV derives from the fact that an electric motor is much more efficient at converting energy to torque than an ICE.

Based purely on their efficiency of energy usage, a typical modern EV can get about twice the distance for a given unit of equivalent energy fuel in an ICE car with high efficiency.  This translates to a 50% savings in fuel cost for an EV.  However, it should be noted that although gasoline is not as efficient an energy source as modern consumer electricity in the U.S., it is still much lighter for a given unit of energy, as well as a lot more dense than the currently available EV batteries.  No vehicle is perfect in every respect and that's one reason why it's not a good idea to buy an EV if you're often traveling long distances.  While the extra weight of the ICE that isn't needed in an EV does allow some room for battery weight to grow, eventually that weight cannot equal the weight saving in storing your energy as gasoline.  Added weight in a vehicle means linear increases of Rolling Resistance as well as in the force required to climb a hill.  What's more, as the mass of a car increases, the energy needed to accelerate it increases quadratically.

But potentially the worst issue is increases in volume required to store fuel.  The volume can be engineered into a streamlined body so as not to introduce more drag into the vehicle.  However a lot of volume would require a lot of extra design and as such may lead to compromises in the aerodynamic efficiency of the car frame.  It's likely this would be heavily engineered away, but there is still the issue of cars being restricted by width and height on standard automotive routes and roads.  Any air resistance from the increased volume that wasn't engineered away would have the most detrimental effect of cubically increasing the power required to overcome drag.

But in the current crop of EVs, a balance has been struck that puts them out ahead of the ICE design meaning that, when that affordable electric car comes to your area, get it and get it NOW for instant savings during your daily commute!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Clipper Creek CS-100 EVSE Installed!

For once, the awful photographer that I am, I have none the less decided to give you a pictorial retrospective of install of one of the first EVSEs in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  So with minimal textual interruption, here is my adventure into the world of Electric Vehicle Service Equipment — click any image for a larger version:

The Box

Wee!  A package for me!  From Clipper Creek?  I wonder what it could be?

EVSE Inside

Woo hoo!  The Clipper Creek CS-100 Electric Vehicle Service Equipment, complete with J1772 e-hose and Charger!

Inside the EVSE

Ah, a sneak peak into the interior of this industrial strength behemoth!

The 90A Converter

The heart of the machine: the 90 Ampère, 220 Volt A/C converter!  At least, so my dreamy eyes interpret the mysterious box in front of me.


Gonna pump me some serious electrons with this puppy: the J1772 standard Electric Vehicle charge plug.

Ready for Install

Aw, isn't she sweet — or he, all buff, industrial and military?  Nah, I like my ladies tough!  So there she is, all ready for her rough and ready install!

Add a Breaker

Ample room in the circuit breaker box for a new lead for my sub-panel.  And a bit of trivia: notice the blue sticker next to the 20 Ampère breaker?  The plugs it's connected to aren't NEMA 5-20R, plus the wiring didn't look a sufficient gauge for 20A.  So when I bought the house we told the former owner to downgrade that to a 15A breaker; I'm still waiting…

125A Breaker

Ta-da!  Joe, the kind Electrician from Cullen Electric, Inc. has added the first link in the power chain to my new EVSE: the 125 Ampère, 2-pole circuit breaker.

4-Wire 125A Aluminium

And here is the 4-wire 1/0 SER Aluminium cable at the beginning of its journey out to the sub panel in the garage.

Patched Roof

Yep, Joe warned me he would need to make a hole in my ceiling to run that thick wire across the house, but all in all, he did a pretty nice job of patching it back up, don't you think?  Just need to sand down the gauze mesh and repaint!

Second Patch

This one caught me a bit by surprise but it's small and I didn't even notice it until Joe pointed it out; I assume the wire got caught on its way to the utility closet so he had to fish it half-way through and anchor it there.

Run Wire in Utility Closet

Here the cable comes out into the utility closet (more of a utility room under the basement stairs, really)…

Run Wire up into wall

Then the chord goes out again and up into the garage wall.

Panel Mount with 4-Wire Aluminium coming out

We're back in the garage.  Joe is on his lunch break so I thought I'd take a sneak peak at the new sub-panel before he put the cover on it.  As you can see, the 4-wire 1/0 SER Aluminium cable comes to the end of its journey here.

Sub Panel Fully Installed

Time-lapse… the sub-panel is now fully installed with a new 3-wire 1/0 SER Aluminium cable coming out above on its way to the final leg of the electrical odyssey.

Sub Panel Has 1 Breaker

And what do we have inside?  Another 2-pole circuit breaker, this one with a 100 Ampère rating.  Can I just say, I'm probably learning way too much about Electrical Codes and Pricing and Wiring and Regulations than I probably ever remotely should?

It's 100A and for My EVSE

Yep, that's for my CS-100 EVSE.  Squee!  Also, can I just say, should an adult male of my experienced age really still be squeeing like a school girl?  Yes.

A Bit of Fire Board Caulk to Insulate

Okay, I have to give a shout-out here to my best friend from preschool, Tony, as well as the Fairfax County Electrical Inspector for reminding me of the virtues of good, fire-retardant caulk.  That's 3M Fire Barrier Sealant CP 25WB+, with 4-hour fire resistance, and it's red.

And the 3-Wire Exits My Sub Panel

Now we trace the 3-wire 1/0 SER Aluminium cable from out of the wall, toward the other side of my garage.  Notice the NEMA 5-15R on the far left for reference…

Across the Garage to the EVSE

Look, off to the left!  EVSE ho!  And of course, now on the far right, there's that same NEMA 5-15R to guide our way.

Hooks In Under the EVSE

My EVSE is receiving power from below thanks to Joe's fine work installing the 3-wire conduit to it.  The J1772 e-hose now sits lonely, waiting for an EV or Plug-in Hybrid to charge.  NissanChevyFord Focus EVMini-ETesla?  Anyone??

And There's My EVSE Installed

Thank you Clipper Creek from one more happy, if untested, customer!

Finally, you may be wondering how much this cost.  Well, it wasn't cheap, but here's the breakdown:

Associations: $35.00

Materials: $3,272.05

  • $2550.00 (Clipper Creek CS-100 EVSE)
  • $267.30 (1/0 SER cable - 45 ft, 4-Wire Aluminum; from main panel to sub-panel)
  • $125.00 (125amp Siemans 2-pole 3 breaker)
  • $75.00 (100amp Siemans 2-pole 3 breaker)
  • $125.00 (16 space main lug panel with cover)
  • $64.75 (1/0 SEU cable - 25 ft, 3-Wire Aluminum; from sub-panel to EVSE)
  • $65.00 (Shop parts)

Shipping: $50.00

  • $50.00 (For the EVSE via UPS)

Labor: $680.00

  • $680.00 (Thanks again Joe!)

Permits: $250.00

  • $250.00 (Fairfax County, Virginia)

Taxes: $36.10

  • $36.10 (Northern Virginia Sales Tax at 5% on all materials but the EVSE itself)

Credits: ($2,000.00)

  • ($2,000.00) (EVSE Federal Tax Credit — Assuming no AMT in 2010)

Total cost to me: $2,323.15, assuming I qualify for the full EVSE Tax Credit and not get hit by AMT this year for the first time because of it.  Otherwise, it's a rather unpleasant $4,323.15 out-of-pocket with no money back and no return on investment for the next 12 or so months.

One question I still have is if I get a Smart Meter with TOU installed next year, as well as pay someone to fix the ceiling drywall, can I still qualify for the newly-passed 2011 EVSE 30% Tax Credit, capped at $1000.  I doubt the expenses that time would be anywhere near the maximum $3,333.33 for which the credit qualifies, but it doesn't hurt to ask.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Can I take a Cold Cabin?

The short answer is yes.  Ever since I've been looking into Electric Vehicles (EVs), I have been trying to do things counter-intuitive for a standard Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) to make me more comfortable for the switch to an EV.  Today I tried Cold Cabin Driving.  Cold Cabin driving is based on the idea that heating the entire cabin of an EV is very energy expensive.  For instance, the Nissan LEAF is said to have only 62 miles of range (100 km) at 14℉ / -10℃ outside temperature in stop-and-go traffic at 15 mph / 24 kmph:

Winter, urban stop-and-go, traffic jam: 62 miles

Speed: Average 15 mph
Temperature: 14 degrees
Climate control: On
Though the average speed is only 15 mph with stop-and-go traffic, the 14-degree temperature means the heater is doing a lot of work so you spend considerable time and energy heating your car rather than moving forward. Despite these conditions, it would still take more than 4 hours to run out of charge!

The reason for this abysmal drop in range is not specific to the LEAF and indeed is a common problem of all EVs.  In an EV, the engine does not generate much heat — it works by the more powerful force of Electromagnetism — so it can't take advantage of engine heat generated through the inefficiency of an ICE to otherwise efficiently heat the cabin.  Instead, an EV must use some form of active heating to generate the desired cabin climate, such as the heating coil and radiator used in the Nissan LEAF.  The operative point here is with climate control on.  However, one could conceivable drive with reduced (in the LEAF's ECO mode) or no climate control at all to achieve greater ranges under those conditions; driving using this technique is an example of hypermiling.

Hypermiling is the process of driving in such a way as to get the most bang for your buck, the most distance for a fixed amount of fuel.  It is possible to hypermile a standard ICE vehicle, an EV or a hybrid, however the techniques differ slightly for each one.  In the case of cabin heat, the ICE is using small explosions of fuel to drive the car forward, thus producing wasted energy through the heat dissipated by the reaction.  Thus, in an ICE, using the heater is actually more fuel efficient because normally the air used to cool the engine is just sent outside the vehicle to be lost.  By filtering it and sending it instead into the cabin, you're actually making use of heat energy that would otherwise be wasted.

Contrarily in an EV, it's expensive to heat a cabin.  In fact, it's a lot easier to just heat the driver through heated seats and steering wheel and a thermal blanket.  This is because heating via conduction through the seats and steering wheel is more efficient than heating by radiation from the atmosphere.  And the thermal blanket helps by keeping that extra heat in.

Now my current ICE doesn't have a heated steering wheel or thermal blanket, but it does have heated seats.  So I hopped in my car, turned the cooler down low and flipped on the heated seats to see how I fared during my commute.  I then repeated it this morning for an even colder test run.  And my verdict?  Bring on the LEAF!

But, I should point out one caveat: the Cold Weather Trims are so far not being offered on the 2011 LEAF.  The Cold Weather Trim is handy because it adds the Heated Seats and Steering Wheel and Thermal Blanket to the LEAF, which is required to fulfill the use-case specified in this experiment.  It is my sincere hope that, having to wait an extra 8 months for my car, when my appointed hour miraculously does arrive, I'll be allow to ordering the Cold Weather Trim for my very own Nissan LEAF.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hey, Washington, Your Turn to Test Drive is Coming!

Nissan has announced the location of the location of the Washington, D.C. region Nissan LEAF test drive.  It will take place the weekend of Friday 18 March 2011 at the National Harbor, which lies just East of the District border in Oxen Hill, Maryland.  The National Harbor is easily accessible from the Capital Beltway (I495) at the I295 interchange.  As I work very close to this location I will try to take some snaps and add it to this space.&nbps; In the meantime, Google is your friend — so is Bing.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

An Auxiliary Battery Plug

I'm not the first to bring this up, but how's this for an EV (Electric Vehicle) paradigm.  Normally, you drive around with a battery pack that is enough to get you to and from work; what you might call the commuter load.  But say you want to go to grandmas, a metaphor I like to use for the perennial great North American road trip.  Well, if you live in Montréal, PQ, Canada and your gran is in Toronto, OT, 550 km away.  You EV can't make it; it's only got a 160 km range.  You could of course rent an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) Vehicle to make the trek but renting a car is such a pain.

But what if you could extend your EV's range for those days when you're visiting grandma, but didn't want to lug around all that extra battery when you're just going to and from work?  Wouldn't it be nice of an EV came with some standard Auxiliary Battery jack in the trunk where you could hook up supplemental battery power special for your trip?

With an auxiliary battery pack, you could potentially quadruple your battery capacity with some extra cell packs in the trunk — properly cooled — which would add to the car's weight and thus decrease its mileage but would probably be enough to get you the entire 550 km to grandmas.  The question remains what you would do with the batteries once you've arrived.  One possibility is you just charge the factory and auxiliary over a few days and nights to bring them up to capacity for the return trip.  This would be the wisest decision of if you owned the auxiliary batteries outright.  But if you owned them, you'd have to worry about storing them and that could get inconvenient.  And what about the long-term storage of the auxiliary battery?  Who needs the hassle?

And alternate solution could be to simply rent the auxiliary batteries for the purposes of your trip.  You'd go to a battery rental place before leaving, and they would rent you fully-charged batteries.  When you arrive at grandma's, you go to another local battery rental joint and return the now-depleted batteries you rented.  You then repeat the same process when you're getting ready to leave grandma's.  Now, the auxiliary batteries don't have to be your standard lithium batteries that are in your EV.  Instead they could be high-capacity cells that can only be recharged with special equipment.  So you return the depleted battery and the technician takes it into the back room and hooks it up to the special electrochemical equipment that restores an electric potential to the auxiliary unit.  A few days later, that battery is ready to be rented again as fresh as the day it was first constructed — or at least nearly as fresh, depending on how the recharge process degrades capacity.

That's how I would solve the range problem with EVs.  You don't need a backup ICE or some other complicated equipment you need to lug around with you the 97% of the time you're just going to work for the 3% of the time when you're visiting grandma.  It's a simple, clean and efficient solution.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Nissan LEAF Tier 2 Ordering Information

I just got off an hour-long chat with the eminently helpful Patrick at Nissan North America's on-line chat.  There not much new here but it helps to have the questions asked even if they can't yet be answered.  Truth be known, Patrick really wasn't able to answer any of the hard questions because he's quite low in the Nissan Totem Poll.  I would be thrilled to ask these same questions in a 1:1 with Mark Perry, Nissan's director of product planning and strategy, but this blog isn't big enough to get that kind of access, I'm afraid.  (At least not yet…)  None the less, I did find the interview informative and I include here a transcript for your own edification.  In summary, the LEAF is expected to go into general release by the end of 2011 in the U.S. and 2012 across the world, including Canada.  I couldn't get any answer for the delay in Tier 2 ordering, nor how many new reservations would be accepted once they open up again, though they will be universally opened.  Patrick could not even confirm the Fall / Winter 2011 ordering schedule for the Forgotten 36, though the 2011 deadline would seem to indicate this schedule is still in effect.  No news on 2012 model availability or changes or whether the Cold Weather Trim would be added or a 6.6kW charger option made available.  All in all, it doesn't leave us with many answers, but that's all I've got access to so take it for what it's worth:

Thank you Patrick, so then I as I have not informed you of this intention until now, please consider everything we say from this point forward to be on the record. Just to confirm, the Tier 2 states of AL, DC, FL, GA, MD, NC, SC, and VA will be allowed to order a Nissan LEAF beginning late summer 2011, is that correct.
As I stated before we are advising the customer that it will be the summer of 2011. At this time we do not have a specific date.
And the model that will be available for order in summer of 2011, will that be the 2011 model year LEAF or the 2012 model year?
I do not have that information at this time Jeffrey.
Thank you Patrick. I appreciate your candor. Now, as for the remaining 36 states which have not been given a chance to order, are they still scheduled for Fall / Winter 2011? What about Canada?
At this time we do not know how the delay in the Tier 2 states will affect the ordering in the other 36 states. We are anticipating availability for all 50 states by the end of 2011 but this could change. As for a Canadian release, We are at this time still expecting a global release by 2012.
Thank you, Patrick. I appreciate you're researching this information for me. Now, as far as the Tier 2 orders, are they likely to see a normal production turn-around of 1-3 months, or the current expected turn-around of 4-7 months?
We are still going to be advising an anticipated turn around time of 4 - 7 months, with 4 months being the best case scenario and 7 months being the worst case scenario. Of course the turn around time could change once the plant in Smyrna Tennessee comes on line in 2012.
Do you have a more precise time frame for the Smyrna plant coming on line? Will it be early 2012? Fourth Quarter?
Even if i did have an project time table for the plant to go on line it could change do to unforeseeable factors, such as weather, union strikes, etc.
Thank you again for your forthrightness, Patrick. Now, as I understand it, the District of Columbia is one of the EV Project selected cities. And yet, with the Tier 2 pushed back to summer 2011, it seems that even if Ecotality can set up the EVSE infrastructure in the region, Nissan won't have any cars available until at least, perhaps, December 2011. Is this correct?
I can not confirm that. A late summer order date of July would have some cars on the road in November.
I see. And as the earliest cars would likely be at best November, isn't that about the start of a new Model year?
I did not say that that would be the earliest Jeffrey, I was merely pointing out that it was possible to get vehicles on the road in Washington DC before the December 2011 date that you speculated on.
I see. But would you agree that there would be no cars SOLD in Tier 2 in July, August, September or October 2011, correct? Possibly in November, December or January 2011 but not any of the earlier months?
I cant say that either Jeffrey. Since i do not have a specific date in the summer of 2011, and June is in the summer, then there is a possibility of an October delivery date to that area. I will say that August does likely seem not possible.
Thank you, Patrick! I greatly appreciate you clarifying the issue. My point was therefore that if October, November December or January 2012 (sorry for the typo before) was the first month LEAFs would be delivered in Tier 2, wouldn't that normally imply a 2012 model year release?
Dependent upon your order month, your vehicle could be a model year 2012.
Thank you Patrick. That makes sense. So, if we are to assume the Tier 2 group are to be ordering 2012 model year vehicles, is the 2012 model year going to include the Cold Weather Trim?
At this time we do not have information on the availability of the cold weather package. If it is to be determined by market demand, we do know that the demand is there.
Thank you. And is the same true for the current 2011 model year?
At this time the release date for the cold weather package will be announced in the future.
Thank you. What about the 6.6kW on-board charger? How about and even larger charger?
At this time we have not released any information in a larger charger to be included in the vehicle.
I see. And is it possible this may be added in the 2012 model year?
I can not speculate on the specifications of a 2012 model year.
So you don't know anything about potential changes for the 2012 model year?
That is correct Jeffrey.
Thank you, Patrick. Now, do you know when the new reservation window will open?
We do not have a date for the new reservations to open.
I seem to recall Spring 2011, is that correct?
We have been advising customers that want to make a new reservation that the reservations will open sometime next year as we do not have a specific date for them to open.
Thank you Patrick. And do you know who will be allowed to reserve at that time? Will it only be opened to the Tier 1 and Tier 1a states (AZ, CA, HI, OR, TN, TX, WA) or will everyone be allowed to reserve?
As with our reservations this time, anyone will be allowed to reserve. The availability may be different for individual states.
Thank you, Patrick! And how many new reservations will be taken before they are closed again, or will they be closed?
I do not have that information Jeffrey.
Thank you for looking into this, Patrick. So what has the turn-around been up to now in the current Tier 1 and Tier 1a states? What percentage of reservations have been turned into orders among those that have been offered a dealer quote?
I would not have that information available with out looking at all the reservation and compiling that information.
I see. Has that been published anywhere? Is the information publicly available as an official turn-over ratio?
I do not believe that the information has been publicly released at this time Jeffrey.
Thank you Patrick. And just to confirm, once the new reservation window opens, Nissan has no plans to close it based on any specific criteria, right?
I do not know that Jeffrey. We have not ye released the limits (if there are to be any) on the second round of reservations.
Thank you very kindly, Patrick. You have been very patient and forthcoming with me and I really appreciate that. Just a couple more questions from me, if that's alright, but these are going to be the hard ones.
Why was Tier 2 moved from December 2010 ordering to late Summer 2011?
Nissan is working hard to bring each customer the best possible product. Vehicle availability adjustments can be expected during new vehicle launch.
Do you know the reason for this specific change?
I do not have specific information available Jeffrey.
Do you know what, if anything, needs to change in Tier 2 to make it viable for the Nissan LEAF? Reservations in Florida don't require the cold-weather package and some residents in D.C. will qualify for the EV Project. Many states in the region offer EV incentives, such as Virginia's no Personal Property Tax on EVs or Georgia's $5000 rebate program. Power Utilities such as Dominion have either made changes necessary for the EV economy in North Carolina or are in the process of making them in Virginia. What more is needed from Tier 2, either politically or in terms of capital investment?
Each state is different and i would not be able to make a comment on that with out doing extensive research in to the readiness of each state's EV infrastructure.
Well, let's take Virginia, then. How is the Commonwealth of Virginia deficient?
I do not know the state of their EV readiness. As i said before with out doing research on that state any statement that i would make would be pure speculation.
I see. Now, as for the Cold Weather spec, isn't that supposed to be available on cars sold in Japan starting in April 2011? Surely the Japanese market has a need for this feature -- it gets quite cold during the Japanese winter. And if their time frame for release is April 2011, why isn't this feature also being offered on cars sold in the U.S. that also expect April delivery?
I can not comment on want is available for the Japanese market, as I only have information about the US marketed LEAFs.
I understand. And is the Oppama plant running to its expect quota at the moment? Has there been a slowdown in production below original estimates?
I do not have that information Jeffery.
So you don't know of any production issues at this time, right Patrick?
That is correct Jeffrey.
Thank you Patrick! That is all the questions I have at this time. You have been truly outstanding and I greatly appreciate your patience in answering all of my questions!
Do you have any questions about anything that we have discussed today Jeffrey?
No, Patrick. As I said, you have been outstanding and answered all of my questions and I appreciate being given the opportunity to share your helpful answers to the Affordable Electric Car NOW community.
Please feel free to visit our website often for updates about the Nissan LEAF, and encourage your friends to contact us with their questions. To help us improve our service, would you mind taking a brief survey? If you would like to do so, please click on the Exit Chat button below. Thank you again for contacting Nissan Electric Vehicle Customer Support
Please have a wonderful day, sir!

Visitor Jeffrey has ended the chat.

What about the Chevy Volt?

I recently received the following question on Twitter from a Mr. David Thompson that I think is worth responding to:

@TimeHorse diverting this to other markets makes a great deal of sense. Not that I like that answer. We need chevy volt now. Right?

I assume David is referring to the diversion and delay of the Nissan LEAF on the Southern Atlantic coast as I reported on earlier.  To be honest, I've not been paying much attention to the Volt, though, not because I don't think it a great car, but because it doesn't fulfill my needs.  In fact, I think you could honestly say I've not always been fair to the Volt, but part of that was just sticking up for the underdog.  Indeed, it's my hope that my heartfelt love and desire for success of the Volt shines through even when I'm not the kindest advocate.  The Volt may not be right for me, but it is most assuredly the perfect Electric Vehicle choice for some people.

But there are problems with declaring the Volt the solution to the Affordable Electric Car NOW problem.  For one thing, it doesn't even satisfy the original goals set out by this site, among them:

  • 80 mi (129 km) range at 80% charge.
  • Not much more than $33,000 MSRP.

Now clearly the Volt as built is closer to a 40 mile Electric range, not even the 60 miles quoted back in 2009.  And although the Volt is only $33,500 after the $7,500 EV Federal Tax Credit, not everyone will qualify for the full rebate and $41,000 is a pretty steep curve to overcome, especially given that the credit can't be claimed until ones taxes are filed, which could be up to a year after purchase — though that can be ameliorated through some skillful W-4 manipulation.  Of course this ignores the horror stories I've been hearing about excessive price gauging of the Volt.  I do not approve of such practices and am willing to judge the car based solely upon its MSRP.

As for the Nissan LEAF, I have to say it comes close to satisfying the criteria, though it doesn't quite hit it out of the park.  It really only squeaks through on technicalities.  Officially it has a 100 mi range with 80 mi at 80%, but that's under semi-ideal conditions; the EPA pegs it as closer to 73 mi at full capacity.  The MSRP for the SV trim is a shade under $33,000 with no options, to be sure, but I personally would be keen to have the SL trim with the CHAdeMO port (assuming the CHAdeMO connection becomes the official Level III Direct Current / Quick Charge standard receptacle), and that does put us above the $33,000 point.

Given all these issues, I'm willing to cut both cars some slack.  I'd be willing to say the Volt hits the price point as long as the EV Tax Credit remains in effect (though don't expect the lower-middle class to have access to this car if they're not even paying $7,500 in taxes at the moment).  Likewise, I'll cut the LEAF some slack, despite its imperfect EPA numbers and the bane of all EVs, the issue of battery capacity loss over time.  Where I won't budge is on the 40 mi expected range of the Volt.  That is simply not enough to make it affordable.  If a 40 mi round-trip range works for you, then by all means, please buy a Volt!  Chevy needs your business!  GM needs your business!  America needs your business!  But if you need more range than that, I'll still be fighting for you.  I won't rest until everyone in the United States and Canada has access to an Affordable Electric Car NOW!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Nah, No LEAF for You!

At least not until late Summer 2011 according to Nissan.  In an email sent out to all Tier 2 reservations, Nissan announced that they would have to wait an additional 6 to 8 months before they would be able to order their cars.  Tier 2, according to Nissan, consists of the southern states along the Atlantic coast: specifically Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and the District of Columbia.  Before this announcement, those states were supposed to be eligible to order the LEAF in December 2010.  However, 10 days into the month, the LEAF registrants received the following letter:

Hi xxxx, thank you for reserving your Nissan LEAF™. The response to this 100% electric car has been amazing.

Customers in your state will not be able to order until late summer 2011. In the meantime, we are working hard with our partners to further develop the charging infrastructure in your area so your entire ownership experience is of the highest quality.

If you have any other questions, please contact us through our Nissan LEAF live chat or by calling 877-NO-GAS-EV.

Upon receiving this letter, attempts were made to contact Nissan's friendly on-line chat service but they had apparently gone home for the weekend before the message was sent out.  The news comes on the heals of the feel-good story of the first Nissan LEAF delivery to occur this Saturday, 11 December in Redwood City, CA to a hero among his peers, an individual who goes by the handle Gudy on the My Nissan LEAF forums.  The cynical among us might therefore assume the timing this email corresponds with both hiding from customer repercussions as well as burying it under a very positive alternate story, namely the first LEAF delivery.

It's not clear at this time what reasons Nissan might have for the delay in the East Coast order schedule.  One possibility is to allow for the development of the Cold Weather Trim, but this doesn't make sense for places like Florida, where the weather rarely goes below 50.  Another possibility lies the company Nissan has contracted to do its installations for the Level-2 EVSE (Electric Vehicle Service Equipment) which can be used to charge the LEAF in up to 8 hours.  It is clear that no-one in the Tier 2 market has even been contacted by Aerovironment to schedule an assessment of the cost for installation of the EVSE which is a typical contingency for people ordering the LEAF.  However, many individuals in the Tier 2 market have already contacted Nissan requesting a waiver of the need for the assessment and installation of the Aerovironment equipment based on stories that earlier LEAF orders have told about inflated pricing.

However, the most likely answer seems to be over-estimates of demand and product availability as well as getting their dealerships LEAF Certified.  With the Yen currently trading at under 84¥ per $1 US, the cost to manufacture and import the LEAF into the US may be leading to negative profit margins on the vehicle.  This could be an indication that some of the initial LEAF production quota is being diverted to new markets, such as México as announced in a resent LEAF announcement on Twitter..  Clearly the capital, Ciudad de México, is a perfect place for the LEAF with its temperate climate, terrible emissions problems and robust middle class.  Another possibility is simply that manufacturing the LEAF is turning out to be more difficult and defect-prone than originally estimated and therefor Nissan has been forced to reduce the 2010 / 2011 production quotas.  As for the dealerships, at last check, of the 43 stores within 100 miles of me, 13 have yet to be LEAF Certified, including the rather large area chains of Pohanka and Darcars.  To become certified, the dealership must send people for LEAF training in Tennessee as well as install up to $50,000 in service equipment — an investment that is discounted under the EVSE Tax Credit by 50% up to twice that investment, but only until 31 December 2010.  Until we learn more, it seems probable that it be a combination of these factors which led to the decision.

One question still unanswered is if the $7,500 EV tax credit will be available if the late ordering window pushes back delivery into 2012, when the credit is set to expire.  Section 1141 of the American Investment and Recovery Act does not specify an expiration date for this credit but the new congress may see fit to add one.

Whatever the reason for the delay, one thing is clear: the Tier 2 ordering market will be followed closely by what is loosely called the forgotten 36 — a list of the states that are not in the first 2 ordering tiers for the Nissan LEAF.  And because a late summer order means, with a 4-7 month delivery window, as was quoted in recent correspondence from Nissan to people in the Tier 1 and Tier 1a markets (Arizona, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington), this would put both the Tier 2 and the forgotten 36 orders firmly in the LEAF 2012 model year.  What improvements may be added based on the first year of usage from people like Gudy receiving his car tomorrow may in the end leave those left hanging more fortunate for having waited.

All Dealerships have been contacted

I have finished my initial calls and e-mails inquires to the 30+1 area Nissan Dealerships which are currently LEAF certified.  I also have 2 old letters from a couple Virginia Nissan Dealerships that I hope to transcribe in the next few days, though clearly this is still a small fraction of the dealerships I've contacted so I hope to have a lot more reviews for you in the coming days.

Meanwhile, it is now 18:21 on 10 December 2010 and still my LEAF Request a Quote Dashboard has yet to be opened.  This is bad news for me, but good news for you dealerships because it still leaves time for the regional LEAF buyers to switch to your dealership before the official ordering period begins in our area.  So you have my inquiries, you know my details; have at it!

Chevy Chase Nissan

7701 Wisconsin Ave
Bethesda MD 20814
(301) 656-9200

I just got off the phone with Ron at Chevy Chase Nissan and must say it is hard to find a more pleasant and hard-working gentleman in the automotive industry!  The advantages of going with Chevy Chase Nissan on paper aren't much greater than other area dealerships but I'm sure you'll be as satisfied as I was after speaking with Ron.  A quick run-down of Chevy Chase Nissan's features are as follows:

  • Free Car Washes for any car owned by the customer
  • Free Oil and Filter Changes for the first 3 (THREE) years after purchase

Again, the second option is pretty useless when you buy an electric car, but there's more than just the car washes and pleasant demeanor at Chevy Chase Nissan.  In fact, Ron has told me that Chevy Chase Nissan is the first Nissan Dealership to sign the MSRP and Options pledge!  So congratulations Chevy Chase Nissan and I have to say if again it wasn't for the issue of buying the car across the state border I'd have already switch my preferred dealer over to you before I even got off the phone.

Frederick Nissan

7418 Grove Road
Frederick MD 21704
(301) 662-0111

Yesterday I spoke to the good folks at Frederick Nissan, a lovely dealership in the heart of historic Frederick, MD.  At Frederick Nissan, they treat every customer with respect and sensitivity and ask the right questions to try and put you in touch with the car of your needs.  I would encourage everyone in the greater Frederick, Maryland community to check them out and meet with one of their kind sales staff who will be happy to show you what Frederick Nissan has to offer and why they would be the best dealership to both sell and service your new Nissan LEAF.

Of course I, who live in the wilds of Western Northern Virginia am not planning to switch my Preferred Dealer to Frederick Nissan because of the hassle of buying a car across state lines that I'd prefer not to deal with, but I encourage everyone to check them out and see for yourself what Frederick Nissan has to offer.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A new Residential rate for EVs?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I detailed why unless you have a detached, unpowered garage, you couldn't get a TOU meter or sub-meter specifically for your EV in Virginia because Dominion Virginia Power is not allowed by the Commonwealth to offer a residential meter on a different rate schedule than the primary meter, as I unfortunately found out last month.

Well, last Thursday, I got a surprise call from Dominion asking me if a new EV rate schedule would be appealing to me.  I was of course very interested in this, and what Dominion is thinking is having this schedule be like the Schedule 1T, a Time-Of-Use schedule, but with potential blackout periods.  Upon further investigation, I determined that the idea would be to shut off power to the EVSE during certain very high-demand peak hours, typically during the day.  I said I have no problem with this at all since I would be charging my EV during off-peak hours anyway and as long as I had guaranteed power from 22:00 to 05:30 or so in the morning, I should be okay.  She also said they would probably be able to inform me 24 hours in advance if a shut-off was to occur, which would IMHO be enough notice in the rare instance where I felt the need to pay the Peak rate and charge my car during the day.  The only issue would be during the summer from 22:00 to 23:00 where she indicated they might need to shut off the power until that late in the evening, which would interfere with my necessary 8 or so hours of charging.

Of course, this would have just been in preparation of the State Corporation Commission bid, so the rate may change over time, but it is fascinating to see how this is progressing in real-time.  However, I should point out the other aspect of an EV rate is also potentially paving the way for usage costs at public charging stations.  Only time will tell…

Friday, December 3, 2010

What are the MSRP on the Nissan LEAF options?

Many sites on the Internet have written about the options available on the 2011 Nissan LEAF, such as in the My Nissan LEAF forums.  Rather than reiterate what each package entails, I think it would be handy to have a simple reference to the list that you can use when you order your LEAF.  Also note that although there technically are Cold Weather Package trims available, at this time it is unknown how much these trims will cost above their non-Cold Weather Package counterparts.

Nissan LEAF Trim Levels

Code Description List Price / MSRP Invoice Comments
17111 SV $32,780 $31,394
17211 SL $33,720 $32,293
17311 SL + ETEC $33,720 $32,293 Available only to customers who qualify for the ETEC program for a special Department of Energy grant
17411 SV w/ Cold Weather Pkg $33,710 TBD
17511 SL w/ Cold Weather Pkg $34,650 TBD
17611 SL + ETEC w/ Cold Weather Pkg $34,650 TBD Available only to customers who qualify for the ETEC program for a special Department of Energy grant

As stated above, the Cold Weather Package has yet to be enabled on any LEAF Ordering Dashboards, and as such the prices for these trim levels are not know, but hopefully this trim level will become available with the December / Teir 2 ordering wave.

Nissan LEAF Factory-Installed Options

Code Description List Price / MSRP Invoice SV Trim? SL Trim? SL + ETEC Trim? Comments
Quick Charge Port $700 $607 No Yes Free CHAdeMO interface / Included in SL+ETEC
TBD 6.6kW Level-2 Charger TBD TBD No No No Mark Perry of Nissan North America has suggested this may be a future option but nothing has as yet been released about it

Of course, the 6.6kW charger option is not yet available; Nissan is suggesting it may be an option when the Smyrna, Tennessee plant opens for 2013 model year vehicles.

Nissan LEAF Port-Installed Options

Code Description List Price / MSRP Invoice SV Trim? SL Trim? SL + ETEC Trim? Comments
L92 Floor Mats & Cargo Mat Area $170 $131 Yes Yes Yes
B92 Splash Guards $140 $110 Yes Yes Yes
M94 Recycling / Organizational Package $225 $178 Yes Yes Yes
M92 Cargo Cover $290 $219 Yes Free Free
M93 Cargo Net $20 $15 Yes Yes Yes Not available with M94 Recycling / Organizational Package
N92 Hologram Kick Plates $125 $99 Yes Yes Yes Not available with B93 Eco Design Package
B93 Eco Design Package $260 $219 Yes Yes Yes Not available with N92 Hologram Kick Plates
B94 Protection Package $225 $183 Yes Yes Yes
S92 Safety Kit $75 $63 Yes Yes Yes

Now there are also options that can be installed at the Dealership that would likely have the highest markup and profit margin if charged, such as Alloy Wheel Locks — though, as I pointer out there are some dealerships where that's a complimentary upgrade and shouldn't count against the unexpected options pledge.  I would also like to point out that IMHO dealerships shouldn't whine too much about sticking to an MSRP pledge because a fully-loaded SL trim at MSRP will still net $1,731 over Invoice.

Personally, I think it most likely that the set of options and trim I shall select will also be maximal with 6.6kW charging if available (after all, I'm getting a 17.6kW EVSE for the home, which is still nearly 6 times the capacity of the base-package 3.3kW charger build into the LEAF) as well as the SL with Cold Weather Package trim, which I very sincerely hope will become available with this month's orders and expected deliveries between April and July 2011 when I am able to order in the Late Summer of 2011.

Tischer Acura Nissan

3510 Fort Meade Road
Laurel, MD 20724
(866) 506-9690

A couple of days ago I was very happy to hear from Jerome at Tischer Acura Nissan in Laurel, MD, who, were he not so far from my house and with all the complexities of Maryland vs. Virginia sales tax and MVA vs. DMV, and not working for the NSA, I'm very sorry that I won't be buying from them.  Unfortunately, I was unable to write this up yesterday with all research into the MSRP guarantee that I missed in my first set of interviews, but I wanted to give a shout out to Tischer Acura Nissan first thing today to make up for my delays.  Here is what Tischer Acura Nissan is offering if you choose them as your Preferred Dealer:

  • Tires for Life Only at Tischer Nissan
  • New vehicle lowest price guarantee*
  • Free first oil change*
  • Free car washes for life**
  • Free loaner cars by appointment***
  • Free alloy wheel locks for new vehicles
  • First paintless dent ding repair free within 90 days of delivery****
  • 1-year/12k guarantee on service and factory parts
  • Free courtesy rides within 10 miles
  • Early bird/Late night drop off service
  • Value priced maintenance menus
  • Free overnight delivery for out of stock parts
  • Express oil change service(8am - 4:30pm)
  • Free notary service
  • Platinum VIP rewards card

Now, Tires for Life is a pretty unique incentive.  I usually get my tires from Costco but I wouldn't mind getting them straight from the dealer.  The car washes and loaners are quite nice too.  I should, however, point out that the emphasis of these things is Tischer's, though I agree with it.  I'm also quite fond Alloy Wheel Locks and having a dent and ding repair guarantee is a nice touch, IMHO.  The rest of the items are pretty standard, with the obvious note that no amount of discount on Oil Changes will affect the EV driver, since the EV driver has no oil.

As for the footnotes indicated by the sequences of stars, I don't have those at this time but will update this review when I receive them.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

MSRP / Options Guarantee

The MSRP / Options Guarantee for the Nissan LEAF

After some positive feedback from Leon at Mossy Nissan in San Diego, CA on the My Nissan LEAF forum, I've decided while I continue to catalog perks from the 13 dealerships I've already contacted, I'm going to try and get a promise from any dealership willing to give it, that they will not offer the LEAF at any price above MSRP and that when the customer takes delivery that no options will be added to the car beyond what was agreed to when the quote was accepted.

The following dealerships have made one of these promises:

I promise my customers that I will not ask for more than MSRP for the Nissan LEAF

I promise my customers that I will not add any options upon delivery that have not been previously agreed to when the customer requested a quote

The MSRP / Options Guarantee for other Electric Vehicles

In addition to the Nissan LEAF, I am keeping an eye on the various other greater Washington, D.C. car dealers  Chief among these at the moment is for dealers now selling the Chevrolet Volt; I will save the Smart EV for another post since that can't be purchased yet, only leased at the moment.

The following dealerships have made one of these promises:

I promise my customers that I will not ask for more than MSRP for the Nissan LEAF

I promise my customers that I will not add any options upon delivery that have not been previously agreed to when the customer requested a quote

  • None at the moment

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dealer Contact Update

It's December First and officially, orders have now begun for the Nissan LEAF in the Washington D.C. area.  I say theoretically because in fact I doubt any quotes have been sent out on the Eastern Seaboard today since historically new order groups are always entered at the tail end of the month.  Where as the waiting is hell, that is good for one thing: more time to contact dealers and give them a chance to pitch their store here for my reader, the D.C. EV Facebook Group and the My Nissan LEAF forums participants to consider switching to them as preferred dealers.  I've currently compile only 1 review, that for Nissan of Chantilly, with Browns of Sterling and Browns of Fairfax working with me to pitch their sister stores. Sheehy of Springfield has also contacted me, as well as Passport of Alexandria, but neither of them has submitted any form of an official pitch.

Now yesterday, I contacted all the dealerships in Northern Virginia.  Today, I added to that list the Dealerships between D.C. and Baltimore for a total of 17 stores contacted.  Over the next 2 days I will try to send out query letters to the rest of the 13 area dealerships from Richmond to the PA border to give everyone an opportunity to state their case.  And since we're already in the month of December, I've change the middle of the message I'm sending as follows:

I know that we have already begun the December sales month and understand you may have already sent out quotes to potential LEAF customers, but I will be happy to continue publishing your offers throughout the month since I think most potential buyers won't have their dashboards opened on immediately anyway, giving them time to switch to your dealership.

Batteries Batteries Batteries

It seems clear to me that although I personally think Nissan Motor Corporation is doing a stellar job with the roll-out of the Nissan LEAF — Aerovironment issues and the occasional opaqueness of the process not withstanding — one area I think they've dropped the ball with is in the Batteries.  Don't get me wrong, I think the 8-year / 100,000 mi warranty is laudable and quite right.  The biggest problem, though, is the issue of capacity loss.  Nissan has implied that egregious battery capacity losses would be covered under warranty, but has yet to define what extreme loss would constitute coverage.  They have already stated that they have an internal charge level curve that they will use to determine what is fair bleed-down of the battery, but have yet to release this curve to the buying public.  But that isn't my beef — they have a curve and will warranty beyond it and I doubt that curve would be outrageously unfavorable to the customer.

No, my beef is basically that there is no plan, even optional, for battery upgrade and replacement.  No battery insurance, like I suggested in one of the earlier Nissan surveys.  No swap-out program, like in Israel.  Now, I once calculated the battery capacity loss function on the My Nissan LEAF forum and based on some estimates by Mark Perry and in the Battery Survey, I came up with: capacity = 24 kWh × 0.83y5, i.e. a loss of 17% every 5 years.  That comes out to about 3.5% loss per year.

Now, I can't fault Nissan if they say any loss with that range is not covered under warranty since they more or less warned us as much already.  The question is, what can we do about it?  Ideally, if we're not offered Battery Insurance, we might be able to participate in a non-complimentary battery swap-out and exchange.  Indeed, it may be possible in 5 years time to make a new cell the same size as the LEAF cell but with even greater capacity than the original cell at peak.  Then, I at least might be tempted to pay a fair price to get more range and extend the life of my LEAF.  And what a nice way for the dealerships to make back some of the money they're loosing from us LEAF owners because we don't need oil changes and carburetor cleaning.  Just offer battery upgrade and replacements.  Have it in the parts shop, and make it available at any time at the customers' will.  And here's where a dealership could really offer VIP service to their RAQ customers today: if you buy with us, we'll offer 5% off your first battery upgrade.  Now that's an offer a LEAF enthusiast can take to the bank!