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:

vlcsnap-2018-10-21-09h41m16s795resized

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

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

Get your (electric) motor runnin’; head out on the highway..

Since we have the RV if we were to take the Bolt on any really long distance trips–the kind where you’d need multiple charges and/or charge overnight–we would more likely plop the Bolt on the dolly and simply tow it. No quick charging required, not pre-planning of the route, etc. Of course we’d burn a lot of gas (yeah negating the “greenness” of having an EV to begin with–but the miles we put on the car that way is a small fraction of the total miles put on the car due to commuting).

Nonetheless I still may want to take a short road trip or two with the Bolt. Perhaps a trip or two may even come close to or be longer than the range of the car, what then? I guess first I’d have to know: for a road trip; how far can I drive it on a charge?

(Now about a week after picking up the Bolt we did have an opportunity to do such a thing: but the driver would have been our teenage son putting some miles in on his learner’s permit and the adult in the car wouldn’t have been me–so we opted to use a different car in that case. The mileage for this case was about 180 miles.)

There is a small town about 90 minutes North of the Detroit area: Frankenmuth. Its known for the Bavarian theme of the town and for yummy greasy chicken. For us its 93 miles from our door to the parking lot there. Perfect: A round trip comes to a nice 186 miles. I proceeded to ask the family if they were up for some greasy chicken (they were and then some…the son invited two friends!).

Doing my research on the net to see if the Bolt is capable of such a thing (you’d think so given that its rated for 238 miles right)? My searching revealed blog posts and news articles that all pointed to something like 180 miles of range with the cruise set at 70 mph (one blog post with graphs seemed to indicate close to 200 miles at 70 mph). Oh!? Hmm better come up with some contingency plans..

Plan 1: There is a campground in town within walking distance of everywhere we were going to go. Great I have a 20kW charge cable I can use at a campground. If I get there and the car is below 1/2 a “tank” of electrons I’ll park the car at the campground and let it charge up while we’re off for said greasy chicken.

Plan 2: Just in case the campground objects to us borrowing a site (I would offer to pay and we’ve stayed in that campground many times in the RV so they know us, but just in case) there are a couple of fast chargers along the route. We could stop at one and charge up for 10-20 minutes (would only need that much to get home anyway).

Ok, now we’re ready: Load the car up with us and two extra hungry teens, its 85F out, set the HVAC at 72F, and the cruise control at 66 mph, its 106 miles to Chicago, we have a full tank of gas, 1/2 pack of cigarettes, its dark out and we’re wearing sunglasses…hit it!

That’s funny, all the readouts about power consumption are doing much better than all the “180 mile” articles said the car would? The dash says 4 miles/kWh (or 250 wh/mile..that is really good, I used to have to work at that with the FFE).

Speaking of the FFE I had often planned this trip but never executed it because it would require 3 stops to charge at 3 hours each…oh well.

Well we pull into the parking lot in Frankenmuth and here is what the car said for energy consumption:

energytofrankenmuth

Wait? What? The battery level indicator was only two ticks below 3/4–ok so we only used 1/3 the battery for 93 miles, not 1/2. That makes more sense given the EPA 238 mile rating (note that I’ve also been getting readings of 250 miles of range on the guess-o-meter after a full charge lately). The car was showing 148 miles of range remaining.

Ok then, no contingency plans necessary. Park the car, have greasy chicken, walk around a bit, and drive home.

Here is the display at the end of the round trip:

roundtripfrankenmuth

The guess-o-meter was showing 56 miles to go, and 1/4 “tank” still available. Wow not at all what I had expected given my research.

My guess is that my 66 mph cruise control setting had a lot to do with the range we got, even though I kept increasing the speed the closer we got home since I could see we would easily make it. The last 10 mile leg of the trip or so the cruise was set to 70 mph.

Still after this experience I wouldn’t hesitate to take the Bolt on a 200+ mile trip somewhere (at least now with a new battery). Very interesting indeed.

 

Get your (electric) motor runnin’; head out on the highway..

Fill ‘er up…

Its about time I see if the CCS charger in the car works, right?

fastcharge3

Here we are at a local EVgo fast charger. Looks like this one is only 35kW (100A @ 350V). I know the Bolt is capable of fast charging a bit faster. Hmm take a look at this blog post about tapering (reducing charge rate) while charging. It is possible that the 35kW value was limited by the car and not the charger.

Lets look at something else: I only charged for a bit over 6 minutes (really didn’t need a fast charge, just trying it out in the car). Here is what EVgo charged me:

fastcharge4

So 3.46 kWh and currently the car says I’m getting about 4.5 miles/kWh so this means that in 6 minutes 23 seconds I gained 15.6 miles or so for $2.23 (I’m on the “pay as you go” EVgo plan as I don’t plan on using that often so don’t really want to pay the monthly flat rate when I can go months without charging from them at all). That is rather expensive and more expensive than gas in our C-Max (closer to the cost of gas in our Escape). No wonder that charge station remains unused most of the time! (Right next to it are two ChargePoint J-1772 chargers which are free and get more use.)

If we do some wild extrapolation: Had I sat there for an hour (and the car continued to charge at that rate) I would have driven away with an additional 140 miles of range…not to shabby considering the snails pace of J-1772 charging ! (Yeah I’m aware its nowhere near as fast as a Tesla Supercharger, but since the car only has a 60 kWh battery charging at 100 kW isn’t really necessary.)

 

 

Fill ‘er up…