Tag Archives: BEV

ThinkCity- A Consumer No Brainer

Yesterday was a truly great day along the chronologic line of EV infiltration into popular transportation culture- along with some bittersweet aftertaste. Ten ThinkCity vehicles arrived from the now bankrupt Elkhart, Indiana company bound for Portland-Area owners, making our total allotment of cars at 100. This connection was fused through the efforts of PGE and its Business Development Director, Charlie Allcock, who convinced ThinkCity we could provide them all the buyers they needed- a prophesy borne out.  I enjoyed the chance to mingle with Jim & Liz Houser at their Hawthorne Auto Clinic, who has taken on the warranty and serving responsibility for the owners and wanted to host a special meeting with them.  My best estimate was that twenty of more arrived to visit and discuss the vehicle, plus others who were there to just check it out and see what they thought of it.

The ThinkCity is a two door hatchback with a range of 100 miles using an advanced lithium ion battery of 24kWh (the same size as the Nissan Leaf’s).  It has body panels and interior trim components made of 100% recyclable plastic parts whose color is molded into the material eliminating harmful paint emissions.  It costs 2-3 cents per mile to operate and comes with a three year warranty.  It has a maximum power of 45 hp and a highway capable speed of 70 mph.  It comes with ABS and airbags and has undergone and met all applicable US Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and has a three year warranty.

Oregonians can purchase it (after applying the federal tax credit) for $8500.  Yes.  You read that right. $8500.  Of course there is a sad part of this story fueling this pricing- bankruptcy.

The ThinkCity has been available for several months here, and has thus far shipped forty units, and with these additional shipments coming to the area, they will boost our PEV residential fleet by nearly one percent!  I also like their distinctiveness as advertising for electric drive technology needs to be made more conspicuous for the public to become aware of its burgeoning use.

My company, ClipperCreek, has provided the portable charging unit for many of these vehicles and, out of enthusiasm for their dispersement, I have offered a 15% discount on our residential Level 2 charger- the LCS-25 to those buyers who want one.  A recent California consumer study released this week, shows, among other interesting data, that over 90% of PEV owners opt to have home charging stations put in.  For an all battery electric vehicle (BEV), such as the ThinkCity, it is more likely necessary to have a level 2 charger.  A common question I have heard is whether it is necessary for the proper maintenance of the battery.  Speaking to some of the ThinkCity sales folks, I was told that they prefer that owners use a level two charger for baseline charging and reserve the level one for emergencies; this is actually referenced in the Owner’s Manual. I certainly suggest folks with this battery concern flesh it out more directly with the manufacturer.  I do believe, from my own experience, that most drivers will find that level 1 charging is too slow to handle normal usage (18 hours of charging time) and a level two charger allows the vehicle to charge at its fastest rate of 3.3 kw/per hour- nearly double the rate of a level one charger.

So, if you have purchased a ThinkCity and are interested in getting our ClipperCreek unit, call or email me, Barry@clippercreek.net, and I can get you a promotional code that can be entered during the purchasing process from our online store at www.clippercreek.com.  This brings the cost down from $795 to $675.75 and you get the best residential charger on the market!

Enjoy the celebrations of National Plug In Day-2012!  Get out and test drive an EV! And consider how an electric vehicle can meet your transportation needs and budget!

(Special Thanks to Joe Mayer for the Photo used of the Car Transporter)

Los Angeles Hosts 26th Electric Vehicle Symposium- Lessons Learned

 

I recently returned from the EVS26 Conference sponsored by the Electric Drive Transportation Association.  My goal was to see how Oregon compares to other regions and introduce myself to a plethora of charging station providers as a resource to help them in their business development and sales in the Pacific Northwest.  The quick profile might read like this- 47 Countries, 200 Exhibitors, Plenary Session speakers like Bob Lutz and Brian Wynne, ride and drive opportunities for twenty PHEV/BEV vehicles and  thousands of delegates from every continent.  Its easy to get jazzed from that degree of energy and stay jazzed for months.

My lessons learned:

For the first time the auto manufacturers share the same customer with the electric utility and charging station provider; the customer experience crosses all these business boundaries and one bad experience with one translates into a bad experience with all of them- in legal terms we call this joint and several liability.

Auto manufacturers are playing defensively with the EVSE/EVSP folks and each other by delaying and re-doing the charging connector standard for the DCQC.  While CHAdeMO is the current installed connector, the resistance to it by all the other major auto manufacturers  except Nissan And Mitsubishi seems designed to slow the roll-out and stay ahead of the infrastructure in order to control it.  It also signals market share in-fighting as GM tries to prevent Nissan from a commanding early market lead.  I am not pleased with the double connector aka combo plug because it is cumbersome, unwieldy, and women will not be able to handle it easily.  I also see the outcome of this defensive play as not promoting the value of standardization but rather the value of one product over the industry.  Can we afford to derail progress in infrastructure?  The real question is -What’s wrong with the CHAdeMO standard?  Has GM really answered that?

Oregon is well positioned relative to the other states- it will have 80 DCQC along its I-5 travel corridor by the end of the summer and be in a position to jumpstart other EVSPs besides ECOtality when the ARRA funding runs out.  It will create sufficient backbone to allow gap-filling by L2 Public chargers along its more heavily traveled spur roads.   Its regulatory streamlining continues to offer quick, cheap infrastructure permitting.  PSU’s Electric Avenue project shows how clustering creates buzz and an opportunity to learn about everything from signage to EVSE/Car communication issues.  Oregon is in a leadership position relative to other states and can begin sharing lessons.  Governor Kitzhaber is due to release his Future Energy Plan on June 1st, which is anticipated to further buttress state political support for transportation electrification.

EVSP have not yet demonstrated what the successful business plan will be for charging.  Many of them have overly aggressive hourly or monthly subscription rates relative to the amount of kWh to be purchased.  People will pay for fast charging and convenience, but the EV Project data shows many are relying on level one charging much more commonly then was originally forecast.  In fact, according to Britta Gross of GM, the Chevy Volt owners are charging their vehicles more than Leaf owners, perhaps reflecting their desire to avoid initiating the gas generator on board.  Will vehicles onboard technology continue to increase charging speed such that L2 become almost as fast as DCQC?  Do consumers want to just keep billing simple and pay as they go?  Do they want networks and subscription based plans? When the public funding ends for infrastructure, who will be left standing?

Nissan sold 27,000 Leafs worldwide last year, and projects another 40,000 this year.  Thereafter, it will reach capacity of 150,000 units per year when its plant in Tennessee opens in a few months, all of which should eliminate the supply issue for dealers and really test consumer interest and dealer marketing.  At the same time there will be 45 PHEV/BEV models released over the next two years, including the all electric Ford Focus, Audi e-tron and BMW.  With the range of choices, consumers can feel confident that this technology is road worthy and here to stay.

Battery costs/efficiencies will improve by 7-8% per year.  Battery technology remains the biggest hurdle to cost-effective pricing, although the new MSRP sticker will show fuel savings equivalents for the first five years of use.  This means you will see that the Leaf can save you thousands of dollars in gas over the short-term and help you to see how the upfront costs pencil.

European countries are pulling away.  Norway has 1000 leafs in circulation and they comprise 2% of all new vehicle sales.  Lisbon, Portugal has over 500 public charging stations.  Amsterdam’s new Car2Go fleet has over 300 BEVs and wants to see its EV reputation eclipse its reputation for hash bars and prostitution(!)

And lastly, I want to attend the next EVS27 in Barcelona, Spain in November 2013!

 

Reality Check- Four Months in with the Nissan LEAF

I bought (actually leased) the Nissan LEAF on September 17, 2011.  I have had it for over 3900 miles and four months. So, how is it going?

Interestingly, today is the first time I ever walked away from the car in a parking lot leaving it on without realizing it. This may sound strange but the car is so silent, and if you are distracted, as I was because I misplaced the key fob while two friends waited for me to join them on a five mile run in the Arboreteum, you can just walk away from it without noticing.  When I came back an hour later and opened the door, I immediately realized something was wrong as the interior was hot and the fans were running. I could have at least shut off the climate control! That said I still had plenty of charge to get back.

So, other than this mishap, I have not run out of “gas” nor have I experienced any buyer’s remorse.  What are notable observations?  I have applied the brakes hard twice to avoid a collision, when another driver pulled out directly in front of me- it stopped without a problem.  I have run the battery down to four miles or less of range- which did provoke range consternation, though not anxiety.  I still enjoy driving it because the torque is striking and responsive.  I could try to snow you about the performance, but, when it is in its regular D mode, it really is fast– 0-60 in 7 seconds.  I have inadvertently squeaked its tires while accelerating in a curve.

I wish there were more far flung public charging stations so I could use the car for extended travel.  Those charging stations that are out there need MUCH better signage.  I literally drove around an entire multi-level parking structure in Salem looking for two level 2 chargers and never found them, later to be told they were there. Still I do 99% of my charging at my residence which is a function of my typical mile usage during the day.  I seldom neglect to connect the charger at night.  When I do charge downtown, I tend to use the same public charging locations.  I miss having the gas station attendant clean the front and rear windows; if you don’t have to gas up, you don’t get any personalized attention.    I also tend to average 75 miles per full charge if counting highway miles and use of climate control.

When I now drive a combustion vehicle I immediately have to recalibrate my foot pressure on the gas pedal because I notice the ICE is not as responsive as the EV and requires more finesse to keep from accelerating in a herky-jerky fashion. EVs accelerate cleanly and evenly with foot pressure.

I have had only one person, a pedestrian, notice the “Zero Emission” decal while I was driving (in this case stopped at a light) and actually engage me in conversation.  Otherwise people are completely oblivious to the car and its message.

I tend to shut off the noise manufacturing device as it irritates me.

I can’t imagine the car yet being suitable for colder climate states.  I lived in Maine for ten years and I can tell you that this vehicle is not ready for the trial of a long winter- activating the climate control taxes the battery and reduces the range by 10-15% immediately.  Even pre-heating it while it is attached to a charger does not offer much advantage as the car chills down quickly when used; windows offer little insulation and the car does not retain heat.

Perhaps the most interesting change of driving awareness dynamic arises from the “fuel” gauge, which ostensibly tells you how many miles  remain on your battery.   For those who are video-game-minded, the whole point is to maximize your mileage.  So, while driving up a hill saps the battery by 7 miles, tapping the brakes (did I tell you it uses regenerative braking?) on the downhill puts you up by 1.  Driving becomes a game of terra firma give and take.  My goal is to return home with more energy than I left with.  Driving the Nissan LEAF, I find myself much more conscious of the influence of terrain on my driving experience.   Have you ever thought in those terms driving a combustion engine?