Thursday, January 24, 2013

Changes for a Better EV Life: Trickling Gasoline

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don't wait for your fuel, multitask!

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Open Letter: Eliminating the Gasoline Tax for the Commonwealth

McDonnell proposes eliminating Virginia’s gas tax

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

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

Dear Governor McDonnell,

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

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

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

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

Thank you!


Jeffrey C. Jacobs

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Open Letter: Electric Cars are not another Hybrid

Dear Senator Favola,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Jeffrey C. Jacobs

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

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

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