Snow, and defrosting

With winter well on its way one often wakes up to a car covered in snow. Sometimes a lot of snow, but mostly 1″ or 2″ is what we get in Southeastern Michigan (lake effect snow from Western Michigan sometimes makes its way all the way across the state and peters out over the Detroit area).

With the Focus Electric (FFE) I had it set to precondition itself every morning. About 30 minutes or so before I would leave for work it would fire up the HVAC system in the car and heat the interior to a balmy 80 degrees (F). On weekdays with said lake effect snow this means I would wake up to only the roof and hood having a little snow on it. All the windows would be clear from the preconditioning (and the inside was quite warm).

The Bolt, on the other hand, doesn’t have such a setup. There is no way to schedule it to power up and heat up the car. I have to remember to remote start (or precondition as the app says) every morning–if I don’t then its the same as any other car: scrape the ice off. Now when I do remember to precondition the car does warm up: turns on the HVAC, seat heaters, and steering wheel heat. After a small snow and precondition the car will look something like:

This isn’t quite the same result as the FFE. Still works, however, as the snow on the windshield was melted enough to clear off with the wipers. The Bolt only seems to want to run the HVAC for only about 15 minutes before shutting it off (even though it is plugged in to the wall). I think I can get a 2nd chunk of time by asking it to precondition/start again.

Still not quite the same nice drive away ready condition the FFE was automatically left in. Ford: 1, GM: 0 (ok I’ll give GM a 1/2 point for having the heated steering wheel–that is pretty nice): GM: 0.5 LOL.

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Snow, and defrosting

New Charging strategy

Yeah ok its a cold weather post..got ya! Well not entirely…

A few things changed the past week to alter how I’m going to be charging the Bolt. To recap: Since I picked up the Bolt I was able to get about 250 miles or so per full charge. Of course this was all during the EV friendly summer months. This meant that I could charge up overnight and drive it for 3 or 4 days without having to charge again. A bonus since our C-Max would need to be charged every night.

Now that we’ve turned in the C-Max as its lease was ending and the weather has been consistently freezing overnight I’ve changed things up. Once again the Bolt can have exclusive access to our plug. The new/winter strategy is now: turn on the “Hilltop reserve” so that it only charges up to 85%-90% and plug in nightly. This will do two things: 1. Not charge to full preserving the battery a little bit (by getting a 2018 Bolt and not a 2019 Bolt I missed the nifty “charge to” selection on the dash), and 2. Allow the car to maintain the battery overnight (e.g. heat it) for those cold nights which is especially important for the Bolt as it spends its time outside of the garage (we’re still a 3-car family and I like to keep the Bolt accessible since its the car we drive the most).

I’ve been getting just about 200 miles a charge in this weather, well at least according to the Guess-O-Meter on the Bolt (which seems to be quite a bit more accurate than the one on the Focus Electric). I really only need about 50 miles or so a day of that which means I can run the heater all I want and still have range to spare. By plugging it in daily I’ll have all that for every day during the winter, and if the range drops further (which I would expect as our temps head relentlessly towards 0F) I’ll still have a significant buffer for my daily commute. Gone are the days of driving with the heater off, wearing a blanket, a sweater+winter coat, and cracking the window to keep the windows defrosted.

 

 

New Charging strategy

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.

 

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