EVs in the local news

Here is an interesting EV (well charging) article in Detroit’s local Free Press.

The Free Press has, typically, been a bit more friendly to EVs than Detroit’s other paper (The Detroit News). This article reflects that by being pretty balanced in its presentation (and its pretty long with some history to go with it).

In addition, AAA cited a study this week that said more than 30 million Americans are likely to buy an electric vehicle as their next car, although “more than half of Americans are hesitant to make the switch due to ‘range anxiety.'”

Note that I still don’t think “range anxiety” is a real thing–once you’ve owned and driven an EV you quickly realize what it can and cannot do. Therefore “range anxiety” just becomes something to fear for those that have never experienced an EV.

Companies like Ford and General Motors also tout their own workplace charging networks for employees. Ford says 1,600 employees have registered to use its campus charging network since it was launched in 2014, and that the company has 190 stations (164 in southeast Michigan with 20 more expected in the next month) at 50 locations in the U.S. and Canada. GM says it has more than 500 charging stations across more than 50 U.S. facilities.

Good on Ford–I’m pretty sure I posted about that when they made the announcement adding all the charging stations (at the time the only plugins available from Ford were, and are, the FFE and the Energi vehicles–about time they add some more eh?).

On the whole a pretty decent article (even providing resources to find charging stations)..take a little time to read it.

 

EVs in the local news

Feature request for Ford’s 300 mile SUV

Now that Ford is making a 300 mile SUV BEV here is a feature that I think would go a long way in making the battery last longer.

For the batteries in today’s EVs one of the killers is the number of cycles, and how long the battery is held at full charge (to alleviate the full charge problem many manufacturers really only charge the battery up to about 90%). On the Focus Electric (FFE) Ford also introduced “Value Charging”. Setup by location this feature allows the owner to basically set what time the car gets charged. Many FFE owners (including myself) used this feature so that the FFE would start charging early in the morning (in my case around 3:00 am or so) so that it was just fully charged when the preconditioning started (and just prior to leaving). On the FFE this was necessary because having only about 70 miles of range it needed to be charged up daily.

On an EV with 300 miles of range it may not be necessary to charge daily–in fact it is better for the battery if it only gets charged to full every 2nd or 3rd day (fewer cycles, and it isn’t held to a full charge for as long).

To solve this issue Ford should introduce a “minimum charge” setting to the value charge feature. This is an extra setting in addition to the charge window (e.g. charge from 3am – 9am). In fact the value charge feature could be tweaked slightly with a target time along with the minimum charge value.

Here is how it would work: Lets say you leave home to go to work every weekday around 7:00 am and your round-trip commute is 50 miles. You could set your home value charge settings to: 6:45am target time and a 33% minimum charge (33% battery = 100 miles or double your commute–giving you some extra driving miles).

This is what the car would do: If the current charge of the battery is above the minimum charge (say its at 45%) then the car would do nothing when plugged in (and if you have precondition set it would use the power from the EVSE for that). If, however, the car’s battery charge is less than the 33% minimum charge then it would charge the car during the value charge window (thus if the value charge window is 11:00pm to 6:45am it would charge the entire time). This would ensure that the car’s charge is above the minimum value set at the target time. It would also ensure that the car isn’t held at a full charge that often (there is no way a level 2 EVSE can charge to full a 300 mile EV in 8 hours).

Lets look at a few days: Suppose the car sat over the weekend and charged to full (since the value charge for Saturday and Sunday just says “charge away”).

  • No charging overnight Sunday-Monday
  • No charging overnight Monday-Tuesday as the car is at 75%
  • No charging overnight Tuesday-Wednesday as the car is at 45% (you did some extra driving around)
  • Charges overnight Wednesday-Thursday as the car was at 28%, but since it only charged for about 8 hours it only brought the battery up to ~60%
  • No charging overnight Thursday-Friday as the car was 35%

Ford should also keep the easy flip between Value Charge and Charge Now that the FFE has–that was really handy (my C-Max doesn’t have it and its a pain). The quick flip: When you turned off the FFE the right display would show a menu for a few seconds allowing you to flip the current charge location from Value Charge to Charge Now or back with a simple two button press (to do this in the C-Max requires a multi-step process on the center screen before shutting off).

As you can see above in the example this feature would reduce the number of weekly charge cycles from daily (7 or more) down to two or three and effectively manage the charge state of the battery automatically; all the owner would have to do is plug in every time they got home.  Easy peasy 😉

Feature request for Ford’s 300 mile SUV

You get electricity and you get electricity…woops

My 2nd post about combining two of my “hobbies”: EV Enthusiasm, and camping:

Since Ford forbids you from towing the FFE with even a single wheel on the ground I was never able to take it camping–except for one trip where the campground was within the FFE’s range (kind of boring).

The C-Max can be flat towed (we don’t have it setup for that) but that also means you can tow it on a dolly (what looks like the C-Max’s front wheel in this picture is really the dolly’s wheel–the C-Max is parked immediately behind the dolly).

What this also means is I finally get to try out my LCS-20p at a campground. Waaaay back when I first got the FFE I picked up the LCS-20p and made an adapter to work with the 50 amp plugs at campgrounds. (Our only camping trip with the FFE was before I wired up the adapter.)

Once we were all setup (as you see above) with everything plugged in and up and running I dug out the LCS-20p and plugged it in. It flashed all its LEDs as it went through the power on diagnostics and indicated everything was good–yaay that cable I wired up myself was correct.

With the car happily charging we went on with our business. Then about 30-40 minutes later…poof! No power. Uh oh? Was that me? Looking around all the breakers in the camper and out–nope they are all good. Hmmm. Then a neighbor pops their head up: “Do you have power?” “Nope” Wow multiple campsites are down? I don’t think its my cable? The car would not have been drawing much current (the C-Max only has a 3.3 kW charger, unlike the FFE with its 6.6 kW charger now that would have really brought down the system LOL).

A little while later the campground gets the power back up and running: A larger breaker blew for the entire lane we were on–right across the street from us. At this point I’m thinking: Ok it probably wasn’t me charging that caused it with it being a very hot & humid day but it is possible that my car was the little bit that pushed the breaker over the edge. So I decided to forgo any further charging on the car (it got up to 92% anyway more than enough for the weekend).

The next morning as we were getting ready to go out….pop! The breaker blew again. Ah ha! It wasn’t the car (wasn’t plugged in) LOL Knowing what was wrong I waited a few minutes for the breaker to cool, walked over and reset the breaker. A few minutes later a puzzled looking maintenance worker was asking everyone if they had power?? LOL

Now I’m ready for the next C-Max’ing camping trip… 🙂

 

 

You get electricity and you get electricity…woops

Good review of available EVSE’s

Green car reports recently did a pretty good review of available EVSE’s (charge stations).

You can read that report here.

I’m still using the JuiceBox that I won for this blog. My other chargers include:

  • An old Bosch/SPX unit that had a current issue (fixed with a new cable)
  • A Clipper Creek LCS-20 unit (I use that for charging at campgrounds)
  • The standard EVSE included with the car

If you are new to EV’s and looking to install a 240V charge station you’d be wise to go and read that article–it may show you some options you haven’t considered..

 

Good review of available EVSE’s

Value Charge–C-Max Edition

I think I have a handle on value charging C-Max Energi/Sync 3 style. In my list of bugs earlier I had indicated an issue with the car and MyFord Mobile accurately representing the Value Charge/Charge Now state.

Well I think I’ve settled on a solution to that. A bit of review first: In MyFord Mobile you can setup multiple charging locations. Once you’ve charged somewhere you can log in and set that location up to “Value Charge”–scheduled charging. On the FFE this worked quite well; I had a “Home” charging location that would start charging at 4am every morning (timed such that the car would be fully charged within about an hour of me departing for work). Doing this can prolong the life of the battery (since its only sitting for a short time at a full charge level) and takes advantage of the power company’s overnight rates.

When I got the C-Max Energi one of the first things I did was to setup the same charge schedule for the “Home” charge location. At that point is where things went kind of goofy. Every time I would check the two locations (Home and the default) either in the car or via web or mobile app I’d get a different setting for each location as far as Value Charge and Charge Now. I was able to get the car to Value Charge by checking on the setting in the car just before turning it off in the garage (ensuring that it was going to charge using the home location and it was set to Value Charge). After doing this a few days I started to notice that even though the screen said it was set to charge using the “Home” location it wouldn’t–setting the on screen prompt to Value Charge would sometimes set Default to Value Charge and leave “Home” at Charge Now…!?

On the C-Max Energi this is a bit more of an issue than on the FFE simply because of range and battery size. On the FFE when I’d come home after work I’d usually only use about 50% of the battery and the rest of the days driving wouldn’t take the other 50% thus most of the time I could leave the home location on Value Charge and be good (in addition, the FFE has a handy display on the dash that allows you to quickly flip between Value Charge and Charge Now after you turn off the car; this is missing on the C-Max). With the C-Max I’ll come home with a depleted “EV” battery and will sometimes want to charge a bit for further evening activities–thus I’m finding I flip back and forth between Value Charge and Charge Now a lot more frequently.

My workaround is this: I’ve deleted the “Home” location and setup a charge schedule for the default (the same as what I had before: start charging at 4am). Now the car has only 1 entry and switching between Value Charge and Charge Now will only switch the default. I’m not really concerned about having multiple charge locations anyway (on the FFE I only ever had the one “Home” one). Since the C-Max also has a gas engine it is unlikely that I’ll make as much use of public charging as I did on the FFE–it simply isn’t necessary.

 

Value Charge–C-Max Edition

Hungover, or Friday the 13th glitches?

Or neither? (The car, not me.)

I will typically check the charge state of the FFE in the morning right when I wake up (something similar to this has happened before so I started this ritual). This morning when I checked there were no notifications from MyFord Mobile that the car is charged, nor were there any indicates that it had started charging at all. Checking the app: as soon as the car responded to the update request it began charging (“Oh hey yeah I need to charge? ugh is it morning already?”). Stranger still was that it wasn’t done charging yet when it started to precondition for my commute (it was about 97% done).

This was really odd behavior for the car. I’ve seen it miss a charge once before but at that time I had to make it charge. This time simply updating the car’s status in the app began the charge cycle. I think I have to chalk this one up to a software glitch as it doesn’t happen very often, if ever (this is only the 2nd time its ever missed a value charge in the time I’ve had it). We did have some really strong winds yesterday and overnight (gusting to 50 mph)–I wonder if there was a brownout or two overnight.

Since I typically only use about 50% of the battery, checking when I wake up means I can get it close to full before I have to leave for work. Thus I was still able to make my commute without any hassles of needing to charge.

Hungover, or Friday the 13th glitches?

A couple of ARS articles relevant to EVs

One article details the dramatic price drop we’ve been seeing in the cost of Li-ion batteries. The drop has been faster than predicted and bodes well for future EVs.

The other, however, repeats much of the information from a recent study on “how much do EVs pollute”. This study is another in a line that attempts to calculate how much better (or worse) EVs are to conventional ICE cars. These studies are popping up now about once every 6 months. Some show EVs as being dramatically better, some show them as dramatically worse. Most of them have some flaws. At the moment I think the jury is still out (for some of the “EVs are worse” studies, though, there are some really obvious flaws in them). The one thing that is true, however, is that EVs will get greener as the power grid gets greener–that cannot be said for ICE cars.

 

A couple of ARS articles relevant to EVs