Its a long road ahead

Had another opportunity to take the Bolt out on the road and stretch its legs or rather the battery.

This trip was very similar in length to our last long drive; about 85 miles each way. The difference this time was that the weather was significantly colder and less EV friendly which means we’d have to use the heater. In addition we didn’t have the car filled with people; just 3 instead of 5.

The trip out started with sunny skies and upper 50s (F) temperatures. I was able to drive most of the way with the HVAC off and cruise set to 71 mph. This trip used a little less than half the battery with the guess-o-meter (GOM) showing around 120 miles left in the tank. The trip back, however, started in the lower 40s and ended in the upper 30s. I had noticed that the GOM’s range to go was dropping much faster than Google’s estimated distance to our destination so I started modulating the defroster trying to keep our buffer at around 20 miles (keep the GOM’s value 20 miles larger than the distance to our destination). This worked quite well and even kept the passengers comfortable. Arriving at our destination with 20 miles to go and the car complaining twice that we should plug in really soon now! Total distance on the trip meter was 175 miles.

We even had a fellow EVer for a travelling companion for part of the trip:

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Hey that’s a BMW i3. Oh wait I can see a gas filler..its an i3 Rex that’s cheating ! LOL.

 

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Its a long road ahead

Whats that on my window..

Yup its that time of year again: When my incessant complaining about cold weather begins LOL.

Today marked the first overnight frost of the season for us here in Southeastern Michigan. When I was driving the Focus Electric (FFE) this meant the beginning of some extreme measures to eek out enough miles for my commute.

The 70 miles of summer range of the FFE would easily diminish to half that on those really cold January and February days–even if I wasn’t using the heater (although the car would just to get the battery to operating temperature).

Now with the Bolt were talking 60kWh vs 23kWh so I have almost triple the battery capacity (easily 3x when considering the “usable” capacities). Even if heating in the dead of winter uses up 1/2 the battery I still have more than enough for the commute.

Better still are some cold weather features the Bolt has that the FFE didn’t. The only really nice cold weather feature of the FFE was scheduled preconditioning: I could set it to be a nice and toasty 80F right when I was ready to go to work (which would frequently melt off any snow on the car’s windows). The Bolt, on the other hand, doesn’t have scheduled preconditioning but it does have automatic seat and steering wheel heat. With the HVAC system on auto when I first get in the car on really cold mornings the driver’s seat and steering wheel heat is automatically turned on (this is a bit more efficient than heating the air and it does get warmer faster than the HVAC system). Granted that doesn’t melt the snow off the windshield though.

So this morning I find the Bolt covered in frost. A remote start while I’m getting ready and 10 minutes later no frost. In addition the seat and steering wheel is toasty warm. I didn’t have it plugged in so that 10 minutes sat there and consumed a bit of battery…but it didn’t matter I still had about 180 miles of range to go. Ah the joys of a big battery to overcome the lack of fire…

 

Whats that on my window..

Revisiting fuel costs

Now that I’ve had the Bolt for a few months (3) lets take a look at what its costing and some overall things:

The old Focus Electric would cost about $50/month over the summer months to drive about 1,000 miles a month. With the Bolt its very similar as I’m getting about the same consumption numbers as I did with the Focus (4 miles/kWh or 250Wh/mile) so I’d expect “fuel” costs to be similar.

Now if I look at the bigger picture it gets even more interesting: Before I drove electric I was driving a Super Duty pickup which would get me about 11 mpg and cost about $350/month in gas. At the same time my wife would also be burning through about $250/month in gas in her SUV. This meant that we were using a good $600/month in fuel alone.

Fast forward to now: I’m driving the Bolt and the wife has decided to drive the C-Max until its lease is up. The electricity costs for the month have only risen a little bit (to just over $60/month) and she now only gets gas about once per month (about the same I did in the C-Max). This means our “fuel” bill has gone from $600/month down to just shy of $100/month for both of us driving in about 5 years (we each drive about 1,000 miles a month).

Of course the math for this will change when the C-Max lease is up as we’re still trying to determine what we’re going to do about that. The equation will also change as the temps fall around here but that is for another post (or 2, or 10, or 100! LOL).

 

 

Revisiting fuel costs

National Drive Electric Week

Its that time of year again NDEW: Where EVer’s country wide gather to extol the virtues of driving electric. There were two events easily within driving range of the Bolt: Ann Arbor, and Toledo. Honestly I didn’t even think to do the Toledo event until it was too late–the Toledo event was the first weekend of the week, and the Ann Arbor event was at the ending weekend.

I dutifully charged up the Bolt and was off to the event in the mid afternoon.

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I’d say there was about two dozen vehicles there including some of the newer entrants to the EV world:

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At least two Model 3’s–I think there was a 3rd one lurking about as well.

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An I-Pace! This was one I wanted to see just to gauge the size of it (its billed as a SUV/CUV). Look at its size compared to the Bolt next to it–about the same height but a lot longer.

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Finally a new Leaf.

There really wasn’t much here: It’s been in the same spot now for the past few years–an empty field behind a local Whole Foods Market. I really didn’t see a lot of browsing and/or interested parties. No one even said hi or asked if I had any questions even as I was inspecting some of the newer EV’s. This could be because I was there later in the day, most likely after the big rush–if there was one.

At least I did see some test drives going on–mostly Tesla Model S’s.

 

National Drive Electric Week

A Ford EV Recall–sort of

Ford is recalling 2012-2015 Focus Electrics, 2013-2015 Fusion and C-Max Energi vehicles. This is due to the 120V EVSE included with the vehicles doesn’t have a sensor (thermistor) in the plug to reduce the charge rate if it detects that the plug (the wall side plug) is overheating. The idea is that not all households/buildings have the capacity to handle a sustained 12 amp draw from a standard outlet. In those cases the outlet may overheat and cause a fire. By including a thermistor in the plug the EVSE can detect this situation and instruct the car to reduce the charge rate down to 8 amps. This is a nice automatic safety feature in the EVSE (at least it is in the ones that have the thermistor).

GM handles this a little differently with the Bolt: When you use the included 120V EVSE the car will default to charging at 8 amps. If you wish to charge at 12 amps you have to go into a menu setting on the car and turn on 12 amp charging. Thus it takes manual intervention on the driver’s part to charge at the higher rate (in either case charging a Bolt to full on 120V Level 1 EVSE takes a looooong time–even Chevy’s charging guide doesn’t give you a value, only says 4 miles per hour–because it would take a whopping 60 hours–2.5 days–to charge!).

The recommended home charger for the Bolt is the Level 2 EVSE which brings the charge time down to something a little more reasonable 9.5 hours or “overnight”. For my usage I’ve been charging the car overnight when it hits the 1/4 tick mark. From there to “full” takes a little bit over 6 hours.

If you’re driving one of the recalled vehicles take the EVSE back to the dealer you’ll get a new one. Drive safe everyone.

 

A Ford EV Recall–sort of

What the FFE got right?

For the last few months I’ve been posting about various features of the Bolt and how they work (or how to work with or around them LOL). There are a couple that the Focus Electric (FFE) had that the Bolt doesn’t that I miss.

The first one is the ability to precondition on a schedule–I’m sure I’ll miss this one even more in the winter (oh yeah I haven’t even started my daily rantings about winter driving with an EV again LOL–I suspect the Bolt in winter will be easier to deal with than the FFE was due to the larger battery). In the FFE you could setup a daily schedule and temperature: “Have the cabin at 72F by 7:00 am M-F”. This was great, especially when I parked it outside. I got very spoiled walking to a 80F car on a cold February morning with 1″ of fresh snow everywhere–except the car’s windows because it had all melted off. Once the schedule was set you could just let the car do its thing and forget about it. Even the C-Max has the precondition schedule although it didn’t seem to work as well: The car didn’t feel like it was 80F or even 70F in the morning (It seems like the C-Max will only precondition for about 15 minutes where the FFE would precondition for a good 30 minutes). Now the Bolt does have preconditioning: There is a “Precondition” button in the app but you have to remember to press it; there is no schedule to setup somewhere to “have the car ready by X:XX time”. At the moment the Bolt is stored outside which means preconditioning will be necessary in the coming winter (to clear the ice/snow off the windows, etc.).

The 2nd feature the FFE had that the Bolt doesn’t is a tightly integrated navigation system. The Bolt has no navigation: it relies on Android Auto(AA) or Apple Car Play(ACP) for navigation. In most ways this is a good thing: both AA and ACP will have the latest version of maps, points of interest, etc. and they are both “free” (as long as you have the expensive smartphone). This is pretty smart on GM’s account as the smartphone navigation features tend to be a little better than the built in ones in cars. Except for the FFE: Ford had integrated the navigation system with the range of the car on the dashboard (I’m sure this was an effort to reduce “range anxiety”) but it worked.

I’m talking about the “Status” indicator on the FFE here. When no destination was programmed into the Nav system the Status indicator would show how well you are driving compared to the last “tank” of electrons. If you were driving “worse” the status indicator would show a negative value (the number of miles you’ll be short). If you were driving “better” the status indicator would show a positive value (the number of “extra” miles you’ll get). In the Bolt a similar display is at the very left of the range gauge–a bar graph showing how well you’re driving against your past driving style.

When a destination was programmed into the Navigation system, however, is when the Status indicator showed its true value. Since the car now knows where you’re going it can compare the range left in the battery with the distance remaining to the destination that calculation became the status indicator. This is the feature the Bolt is missing and can’t really do because the Nav is in your phone which has no knowledge of the car’s current range (they could do it in the Chevy app since it is talking to the car but that has its own list of bugs ! LOL).

I found myself frequently using this feature in the FFE. Now the Nav system has another use: Not only can you use it for directions (very rarely, in fact, in a car that only goes 70 miles) but you can also use it for the “can I make it” questions. I would program in a destination even though I knew how to get there because I could adjust my driving style so that I could make it to that destination (by keeping the Status value positive). This was especially useful in the winter when the car’s range would drop to 50 miles or less.

You could argue, however, that with the Bolt’s 238+ range that such an indicator isn’t necessary and I would agree with you most of the time. There are instances where knowing if you’ll make it or not would be nice especially if knowing you’ll make it means you can increase your speed or use extra A/C or heat. This would have been handy on our long range run we did a few weeks ago.

Of course both of these features are “nice to have” I’ll happily live with the Bolt without them (and if I never had the FFE before the Bolt I wouldn’t have even known about them), but it would have made the Bolt a little bit nicer to live with had they been there.

The real question I have is will the next Ford BEV’s have these features (of course if we ever see any of the Ford BEV’s they have been promising for some time now)?

 

What the FFE got right?

Driving with one pedal

One pedal? What? This is a “mode” many EVs can be put in to drive without touching the brake pedal at all. How does that work? This is accomplished with some very specific changes to the driving experience:

  • Creep is turned off–the car no longer inches forward if you take your foot off the accelerator.
  • The brake lights are automatically controlled by an accelerometer or some other system rather than a switch on the brake pedal.
  • The calibration of the accelerator pedal is changed such that the first few degrees of depression is regen (braking using the motor) instead of forward torque.
  • That accelerator regen is enough to bring the car to a complete stop.

Now the FFE did not have such a mode–being a first generation EV they probably didn’t think of that. Even so with the Focus’s blended brake you kind of got the same result by driving it in a conventional manner (the FFE would automatically choose how much regen vs how much friction brake to use when you hit the brake pedal).

All the Tesla’s have a one pedal mode–of course, I believe the i3 also has a one pedal mode (while searching to see what has one pedal mode I did find this article about one pedal driving; makes the point better than I do–but I’ll continue nonetheless LOL).

In the Bolt putting the shifter in “L” enables one pedal mode. Taking your foot off of the accelerator will bring the car to a stop on level pavement (the owner’s manual does say that if you’re on an incline you may have to use the brake pedal to ensure the car doesn’t move at the stop; it also mentions that the brake pedal should always be used at a stop as the brake lights will turn off once the car stops moving). The max deceleration with your foot off the pedal is 0.2G; if more is desired there is a regen paddle behind the steering wheel that will increase that to 0.4G. One pedal mode does work much better if you drive relaxed and start “braking” much earlier than you normally would–something I’ve already gotten used to thanks to the brake coach in the FFE. You can still use the brake pedal if needed–indeed you’ll still instinctively stomp on the brake pedal in a panic situation. Of course this means that the brake pads on the car will never wear out if all you do is drive in “L”.

Which is something I do; its just muscle memory now putting it into L for every trip. The car’s range increases somewhat when you drive in one pedal mode vs “conventional” driving–simply due to the fact that you are not regenerating nearly as much driving it conventionally. This also makes it fun hopping back into any other car as they feel like they are on ice when taking you foot off the gas (which just makes you instinctively hit the brake so adjusting back is pretty easy).

When I drove a family member’s Tesla I tried out one pedal mode briefly–not nearly long enough to get the hang of it. Now, though, I drive that way every day (in the Bolt, of course, not a Tesla LOL).

 

Driving with one pedal