Another 1,000 Reliable Miles in April
Just a brief report on our LEAF this time. April saw another 1,061 miles of trouble-free and fun family driving. Our LEAF remains our family's primary vehicle and our vehicle of choice due to the usefulness of its four door hatchback design. It is my personal car of choice because it is so fun and enjoyable to drive.
You'll see from the numbers below that our driving energy efficiency has increased to 3.33 mi/kWh measured at our power panel ("wall"), compared with about 3.2 mi/kWh in earlier months. I attribute this to our choosing to drive more miles on moderate speed highways (50 mph average) than on freeways, where higher speeds sap efficiency, and to a generally more relaxed, serene driving style. My blood pressure is lower too. (Mild attempt at humor, but not far from being true.)
We're still very much enjoying being a family with an electric vehicle, and we're convinced that all of our future cars will be electrified in some way, either battery electric cars or plug-in-hybrids.
Still Attending Lots of Meetups
I haven't mentioned them recently here, but I continue to bring our LEAF to one or two monthly meetings with our local LEAF owner group, "The Southern California LEAF Branch". Our "Branch Manager" Gary, the founder of our local group, continues to plan and serve as the master of ceremonies at these very informal Saturday morning breakfasts at a Hometown Buffet restaurant, and many of us have become friends over the more than 18 months of get togethers.
A New BMW ActivE Joins our LEAF Group for a Breakfast Meetup in Santa Ana
At recent meetups, we had two visitors from the much larger and more organized "Bay Leafs" group from the San Francisco Bay area, and a chance to see a newly released EV up close. Howard and Kim from the Bay Leafs made time to visit with us during trips to our area, and they brought gifts and interesting news about their impressive group's recent activities. Scott, the driver of a new BMW ActiveE electric sedan came by to visit and shared his very interesting new ride with us. This kind of sharing with like-minded EV enthusiasts is really fun and it stimulates great discussions.
Trying a Diesel
A local VW dealer offered a free 24 hour loan of a VW Passat TDI diesel for a contest to see who could get the best mpg, and I took them up on the offer since I had never driven a diesel before and I was interested in the comparison with our Prius. Many diesel enthusiasts claim that diesels are a good alternative to hybrids and that they make more sense for many than Toyota's popular Prius.
We drove the Passat up to Claremont for a day of exploration in this fascinating and historic small college town, embedded in the Inland Empire of Southern California. We logged 45 mpg according to the Passat's on-board computer, very similar to our all-time average with our Prius. The black over tan leather top-of -the-line SEL that we borrowed was an impressive and luxurious looking car that reminded me of an Audi. The car was much larger and more luxurious than the Prius, and the rear seating area was more spacious and more comfortable than our Toyota's. Steering feel and overall driving manners were much better on the Passat, and the quality of the interior materials was better than that on the Prius. However the VW was slow to respond to the accelerator at a stop sign, and when that pedal was pressed harder, the car would lurch forward with an embarrassing squeal of the front tires. Regardless of that, I can see why there are many supporters of the view that diesel cars are a viable choice for those who are looking for an efficient car.
But most of the miles that we drove with the VW diesel were on the freeway, and at moderate speeds to try to maximize the mpg. When driven on city streets, and especially when driven with any vigor, the Passat's computed mpg display dropped quickly. This is different from the behavior of hybrids, whose mpg is usually a bit better in the city than at freeway speeds, and whose stop-start technology helps the economy numbers in stop and go driving. So prospective diesel buyers need to give some thought to the predominant types of driving that they do, in order to see whether a diesel truly makes sense for them as compared with a hybrid.
But if gas mileage is a push between diesels and hybrids, what about emissions? The EPA Fuel Economy web site shows that the VW diesel emits more than four times the pounds of smog-forming pollution and 70% more greenhouse gas emissions than the Prius. We own a Prius, and I'm familiar with the Toyota's tight interior and middle class accommodations, but personally, I wouldn't choose to swap our Prius for a diesel because that choice would not support our commitment to the reduction of pollution and greenhouse gases.
By the way, we didn't come close to winning the mpg contest at the VW dealership. One of the sales staff mentioned that he'd seen numbers like 56 mpg, and he joked that he thought that perhaps the car had been pushed along to get numbers like that and he was looking for fingerprints on the trunk lid (insert LOL smiley face here). A shout out to Capistrano VW for a very welcoming and friendly staff who helped to make our day with the Passat a real pleasure.
Electric Vehicle Symposium Meeting in Los Angeles: EVS26
The annual international Electric Vehicle Symposium was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center recently, and I was lucky enough to be able to attend the exhibits and the EV drive opportunity on the opening Sunday.
The exhibits at this event are primarily aimed at the EV manufacturers and OEM suppliers who provide parts and systems for these cars. Much of the information was too esoteric for me, or over my layman's head. But I was able to bring back some salient points from some of the displays.
- I was able to see the SAE DC combo plug for the first time. This was the public introduction of this newly proposed US standard for DC (direct current) quick charging that has been approved by eight car manufacturers. DC fast charging can charge an EV from empty to 80% full in 30 minutes, and widespread installation of these chargers is thought by some to be the most important factor in stimulating the acceptance of EVs by average car buyers. Nissan and Mitsubishi have cars on US roadways and many in Japan and Europe that are using the Japanese CHAdeMO DC charging standard. There are already CHAdeMO chargers in use in the US and the SAE has been slow to establish their competing standard, and this has been one reason why installation of DC fast charging has been slow in this country. The plugs that were shown at EVS26 were built to the new SAE proposed standard that has not yet been approved. Note that at this time there are zero cars on the roads that can take this new SAE plug, and there won't be any until (probably late) 2013. But GM is apparently leading an effort to halt installation of any more CHAdeMO DC quick chargers reference, even though the SAE combo plug standard hasn't yet been finalized, and no chargers are yet UL approved. This move would be detrimental to the success of the NIssan and Mitsubishi EVs that have already established a foothold here. My opinion is that the solution is to equip future DC quick chargers with dual plugs and hardware/software that will support both standards, and that the 200 new DC quick chargers that will be installed in California through an agreement between the State and NRG should be engineered to provide CHAdeMO charging immediately and additionally SAE combo charging when it is UL approved and implemented and when there are actual cars on the roads that can use it.
SAE (left) and CHAdeMO DC Quick Charge Plugs (photo credit JeremyW, MyNissanLeaf.com)
SAE Prototype Combo DC Plug
- BMW, one of the eight companies which have approved the new SAE DC charging design, showed one of their ActiveE sedans that had been modified to accept the prototype plug for a demonstration of actual charging on the exhibit floor.
Demonstration of SAE DC Quick Charging Installed on a BMW ActiveE Sedan
- The best news at the event was that several makers of DC fast chargers have said that they will offer chargers with both SAE and CHAdeMO plugs, making them usable by the existing Nissan and Mitsubishi cars as well as the future cars from the SAE standard signatory companies. This is not as simple as it sounds, however, nor is it inexpensive. DC fast chargers already cost an average of about $25,000 before installation, and electronics for the two different standards are different, so duplicate circuits would need to be built in to these dual-plug chargers, which would raise their cost even higher.
ABB DC Quick Charger with SAE Combo Plug
- At least three different companies were showing equipment that will provide wireless charging for EVs using magnetic induction from a device installed on a garage floor. One of the companies, Plugless Power, offers a system that can be retrofitted to a Nissan LEAF or Chevy Volt today. They said that the cost would be about $3,000 not including installation of the garage components. The other two companies build similar systems for installation by original car manufacturers.
Wireless Inductive Charging on the Infiniti LE Concept
Add On Wireless Charging from Plugless Power
- I was excited to see that Infiniti had their LE Concept on display. The LE Concept had only recently been seen for the first time at the New York Auto Show, so it was very exciting to be able to see this new concept car, an 85% reflection of the Infiniti EV that is expected to be delivered in 2014. I found the car really interesting to look at from most angles. While I'm sure that the paint that looks like liquid metal on the concept car won't be available on the production cars, I really liked the headlight and taillight treatments that may have a better chance to make it into production. I imagine that the glowing grille may be deleted, and I wouldn't miss it. The main thing that Infiniti has to get right, though, is to give this car a realistic driving range of 120 miles or so. Realistic to me means driving that includes freeway driving at 70 mph.
Infiniti LE Concept
EVS26 also had a drive event that allowed us to experience driving the very new Ford Focus EV and the BYD E6 SUV, as well as the more familiar LEAF, Mitsubishi i, Prius Plug-In, Volt, Coda and hydrogen fuel cell EVs from Mercedes, Toyota and Honda.
I found the Ford Focus EV to be a very pleasant and fun EV to drive. Though priced at a daunting $40,000 before incentives and rebates, the car is equipped very nicely and the driving experience is very sporty and enjoyable. The steering and handling are especially tight and sporty, and the motor is responsive to the accelerator. Being a conversion of an ICE car, there are compromises in space utilization. This is especially true in the luggage area behind the rear seats, where most of the batteries are placed. The seating in the Focus is less spacious than that in the LEAF in both the front and the rear seating areas. I did, however, enjoy the lower position of the driver's seat. Since the driver is not sitting on top of the main battery pack in the Focus, a lower and sportier driving position is possible.
I had driven a pre-production version of the Coda before, so I was interested to drive a production version. In comparison with the earlier version of the Coda, I found the production model to be better finished and I found the car to be more responsive and enjoyable to drive. However, I still find the Coda's design plain and uninspiring. Priced similarly to the LEAF but with a larger battery and driving range as well as a faster on board charger, according to the EPA, the Coda is, for some reason, quite a bit less efficient in energy utilization compared with the LEAF, 73 MPGe for the Coda versus 99 MPGe for the LEAF. That lack of efficiency means higher fueling costs than the LEAF, the Ford, or the Mitsubishi, though fuel costs would still be better than any hybrid in most regions.
The BYD E6 is an early prototype as far as US introduction is concerned. The car is made by a Chinese company and is one of the few electric SUV designs to be shown so far. The car boasts a massive 60 kWh battery pack, which should be good for over 150 miles of range. In driving, I found the E6 to be slow and unresponsive, lacking any pep in its acceleration. The car was spacious inside and seemed to have useful cargo capacity. If priced reasonably, this SUV might be a good choice for the US market. We were told that BYD plans a line of EVs and PHEVs for their US introduction within two years.
2011 Nissan LEAF SL Placed in Service: March 30, 2011
All Home Charging Done Using: 240 Volt Aerovironment/Nissan Level 2 EVSE
Home Solar PV System: 24 Sunpower 215W panels totaling 5.16 kW DC mounted on a 20 degree South facing roof.
Total Solar PV Power Generated for Net Metering Year Ended February 2012: 8,568 kWh
Month: April 2012
Total Miles at Month End: 12,310 miles
Miles Driven in Month: 1,061 miles
Electric Power Used for Charging in Month: 318.7 kWh (measured at wall power source, includes public charging)
Public Charging in Month, Power Use: 14.9 kWh
Charging at Home in Month, Power Use: 303.8 kWh
Energy Efficiency, Month of April: 3.33 miles/kWh (wall to wheels)
Energy Efficiency, Month of April: 3.99 miles/kWh (in car main dash display, battery to wheels)
Efficiency Wall to Wheels in Month at 240 Volts: (3.33/3.99) = 83.5%
Total Charging Energy Used, Lifetime: 3,838 kWh (Includes public charging)Energy Efficiency, Lifetime: 3.21 miles/kWh (wall to wheels)
Energy Efficiency, Lifetime: 31.15 kWh/100 mi (wall to wheels)
Number of Home Charging Days in Month: 24
Most Electric Energy Used for Charging in a Day in April: 23.7 kWh (6.2 charging hours, includes 9.8 kWh public charging)
Most Electric Energy Used for Charging AT HOME in a Day in April: 17.7 kWh (4.7 charging hours)
Least Electric Energy Used at Home for Charging in a Charging Day in April : 7.2 kWh (1.9 charging hours)
Average Electric Energy Used for Home Charging in a Charging Day in April : 12.7 kWh (3.4 charging hours)
Household Power Used for Month: 750 kWh (without car charging)
Total Power Used for Month: 1,054 kWh (includes car charging)
Solar PV Power Generated for Month: 796 kWh
Net Power Used or Sent to Grid for Month: 258 kWh net used
April Electric Bill, So Cal Edison, Schedule TOU-D-TEV: $31.06 (A charge in this amount will be added to our net metering total charge for the year.)
Solar Net Metering Year Total Cumulative kWh Used at Month #2: 628 kWh (Total kWh net used for the net metering year. This is total household and EV charging usage minus solar PV generation.)
Solar Net Metering Year Total Cumulative Cost at Month #2: $66.26 (Total energy and delivery costs for all power usage for the net metering year.)
Cost for Charging Car in April: $0.00
Cost per Mile: $0.00
Cost for Charging Car, Lifetime: $0.00
Cost per Mile, Lifetime: $0.00
(If We Didn't Have Solar Power, Est Cost for Charging Car in April: $39.49)
(If We Didn't Have Solar Power, Est Cost per Mile in April: $0.037)
Average (Mean) Miles per Driving Day in April: 35.4 miles
Average (Median) Miles per Driving Day in April: 31.5 miles
Longest Day's Driving in April: 89.5 miles (charging mid-trip)
Longest Day's Driving in April Without Mid-Trip Charging: 55 miles
Shortest Day's Driving in April: 2 miles
Number of Times we Took the Prius Instead of the LEAF Due to Low Charge: 3
Unexpected Low Charge and Unable to Reach Destination: Never