Monday, November 29, 2010

Our Plans for Home Charging, Part III

Now that we've decided on our plan for installing a home charger for our new Nissan LEAF electric car, things are in motion to make the plan a reality.  I've scheduled our electrician, Jason Wakefield, to upgrade our electrical panel from 100 Amps to a new 200 Amp panel next Tuesday, December 7.  I've also ordered a TED 5003 energy monitor for my Christmas present.  The TED 5003 will be installed in our new power panel and it will let me monitor our solar electrical production, our main household power usage and the power used to charge our new LEAF.  It still remains to schedule Aerovironment, Nissan's partner to install their EVSE (home charging dock).  I'm waiting for a few days to hear from Aerovironment on an updated quote.

The TED 5003 will not only monitor our power production and usage, but through a partnership with Google, the information will be sent to a web site that I'll always be able to view via the Internet.  Here's a link to Google's PowerMeter home site:

Southern California Edison's EV Charging Rate Plans

I was able to speak with analysts from SCE at the recent LA Auto Show about their EV charging rate plan, called TOU-D-TEV.  This rate plan has two pricing tiers and three time-of-day periods, with the Super-Off-Peak time period priced lowest to encourage customers to charge their EVs after midnight, when electrical demand is lowest.

I learned a lot about how the rate plan works, but a big question remains.  After much discussion on the My Nissan Leaf forum, I realized that in calculating our baseline allowance, our negative usage, that is the amount of power we send back to SCE's grid, is ADDED instead of being subtracted from the amount of power that we draw from the grid.  That means that as we make more solar power, we are pushed into the higher pricing tier for EV charging!  That should not happen.  I'm in contact with an analyst at SCE who will help to resolve this confusing issue.

What's Happening in the LEAF World?

1.  The first US LEAF delivery will apparently happen on December 11, when a Northern California man will receive his black LEAF, accompanied by lots of press coverage.

2.  It is rumored that about 50 LEAFs will be delivered in five states in early December.  The same rumor has it that another shipment will arrive in late December.  Forum members on who were able to order their LEAFs on August 31, the first day that orders were enabled, have been notified that their cars will be delivered in January.

3.  As for us, our Nissan online "dashboard" still shows a delivery date of "Pending".  I'm guessing that our car will be delivered in February or March.  Since my BMW's lease is up on January 13, I may be without a car for a few weeks.  I'll be talking with BMW dealers about my options.  I'd love to rent a Mini for a few weeks.

More on our waiting game and the progress on our new power panel in my next blog post.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Our Plans for Home Charging, Part II

In my last post, I said that I had a plan for our home charging dock wiring.  I had calculated that our utility, Southern California Edison's dual meter Time of Use plan would be the most economical for us, and I was trying to determine how I would be able to install a second electrical meter.

Since my last post, we've learned a lot more.  In talking to an SCE planner, I was told that we would not be able to use a space-saving small meter socket because they are not allowed, due to overheating and failure.  The other choices would be to use a second full size meter panel or to change our main panel and install a dual meter panel.  But there is no room on our wall for a full size panel and an electrician told me yesterday that a dual meter panel is also not workable due to available wall space and the higher cost of the panel.  So we've decided to eliminate the dual meter plan and go with SCE's single meter Time of Use plan.  This is not a huge deal, but it might cost us a few hundred dollars extra per year in higher electrical costs due to possibly entering a higher level rate zone at some times.

We have also decided to go ahead and have our crowded 100 Amp main electrical panel replaced with a new 200 Amp panel with more breaker slots.  There are a few reasons for this decision.  Our current panel has a lot of wiring, apparently added by a previous owner, that might not pass inspection if it were inspected today.  Without upgrading the main panel, I'm concerned that the current Aerovironment installation plan won't pass city inspection.  We're also concerned about going forward with a fully packed existing main panel with no room for expansion.  And lastly, I'd like room in the panel to install a TED ("The Energy Detective" monitoring system so that we can electronically monitor our solar power production, our SCE energy usage and the power used to charge our EV.  I currently record those numbers manually, and the TED would allow me to have the numbers automatically sent to a web site.

I've also decided to go ahead with Aerovironment (AV) to install their EVSE after the new main panel is in place.  I did take a look at the cost to have the electrician who'll do the main panel upgrade also do the wiring for the EVSE.  The AV solution will cost a few hundred dollars more, but it will be a simpler, one stop solution, that will keep me from having to look for the EVSE equipment from another manufacturer and have it installed.  It should also be able to be installed before the end of the year.

The total expected cost will be about $4,900, including $2,300 for the main panel upgrade and $2,600 for the AV equipment and the wiring installation.

Other News from the World of LEAF

* Rumors are swirling about who will get the first LEAFs delivered in the US, and when they will get them.  First, all of the buyers who were able to order and did so on August 31, 2010, had a delivery date of December 2010 appear on their Nissan LEAF online "dashboard".  Then most of those dates were changed to January of 2011.  Now, we hear that about 50 LEAFs will be delivered in December to a carefully selected group of early orderers.  There may be a second shipment arriving in December, also.  With our own order date of September 3, we may be looking at a February or March delivery.

* Though the Chevy Volt has been named Motor Trend Car of the Year and has received the Green Car Award at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the Nissan LEAF won Green Car Report's Best Car to Buy in 2011.

* Test drive after test drive and report after report, automotive journalists are saying the same things about the LEAF.  That it is a real car, not a science project.  That it is just like any other car in the same family sedan market segment.  It is peppy, fun to drive, silent, full of information displays to help you gauge your available driving range, and economical to drive.

We can't wait for our new LEAF.

In my next post, more details about the progress of the LEAF roll-out.