Winter is upon us…finally

Hey look a cold weather posting 😉

Here we are in the depths of winter and we’re finally getting substantially cold weather (this morning the Bolt’s thermometer read -5F, tomorrow’s low is supposed to be -15F–just about the coldest it gets around here). The news has been reporting that this is the coldest spell we’ve seen since the 1990’s. Interestingly enough if I check the archives it was -14F back in January 2014. That was when I had the Focus Electric (FFE) and posted a ton about it being cold.

Today and tomorrow a bunch of stuff around here is closed (and people are advised to stay indoors if they can). Thus I have no reason to be out and about–except to see how the Bolt handles the cold temps of course.

This morning with the -5F reading on the thermometer it was also only showing a 116 mile range to empty (this is with hilltop reserve turned on thus we could add about 10% or so to get the full range). Note that this is less than half the summer range and also note that since I don’t need to stretch the range like I did with the FFE I just leave the climate control on a nice toasty 72F all the time (this also means the graph showing where power is going to does show roughly 50% of the power going to climate control).

I have yet attempted any “extreme cold” driving in the Bolt as that is unnecessary for my usage. With the FFE to make my round trip to work and back I’d have to wear several layers, leave the HVAC on fan, and precondition the car to 80F. With the Bolt I just leave the HVAC on its 72F setting, precondition before leaving to go to work and go. Its a nice comfortable ride in. When I get home I usually have over 50% of the battery charge remaining..

I’ve also had the chance to drive the Bolt in the snow a few times. I’d say that it handles as well as the FFE did (or as bad as if you think the FFE handles bad in the snow). It has similar low rolling resistance tires and thus slips around about as much. I do find that when starting from a stop on snow/ice it does accelerate quite a bit faster than the FFE did (the FFE was the worst on ice from a stop–just barely moving). The only issue I noticed was that it seems the Bolt has lower ground clearance than the FFE did, but it can’t be by much. Even in rutted snow the Bolt moved along without issue.

Hopefully this is the worst that winter has in store for us in Southeastern Michigan, but I doubt it.

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Winter is upon us…finally

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.

Snow, and defrosting

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

Seen on the road..

Wow, two posts in one day…

Head on out to dinner tonight and come across an identical Bolt on the road. A nod to the driver and off we go our separate ways….

Now seeing another Bolt on the road isn’t that unique of an event; before I picked one up I’d see one around here every one or two weeks.

After dinner, however, we saw a much rarer beast: Leaving the restaurant I happen to notice a Ford charge port on the car next to us. After backing out the car is revealed to be a black Focus Electric (FFE)! I really don’t see many of these..even when I had one I think I saw one a year other than mine, and my coworkers. Given that these are that rare it is likely that I’ve seen this FFE before.

The real question, for me, is: Did they notice the Bolt and purposely park next to it….

 

Seen on the road..

There is a lot going on here

Check out the Bolt’s dash:

BoltDash

This is the “enhanced” view (there are 3 views: ok, better, and this one LOL). The enhanced view shows the most information of all the 3 views.

For the basics you’ve got the speed in the big digits top center (along with a compass above it). To the left is the cruise control’s settings (on/off, set speed). Below that is configurable; things like the radio display, trip meter (as seen here), tire pressure, phone, etc. (Note that there are only 25 miles driven on this charge in city streets so my miles/kWh value is much higher than I’ve been getting. Since I reset the trip meter at full charge its artificially high–I’ve been getting between 4 and 4.2 miles/kWh so far. May have to make another post about the kind of range I’ve been getting; perhaps when I put a few more miles on the car…)

The ring around that display (in grey here) changes color based on your current efficiency (this would be similar to “status” on the FFE except that its more instant efficiency–there is another piece in this display that is closer to the FFE’s “status” indicator; more on that in a moment). The ring changes from green to yellow based upon your current driving style/state. Most noticeably it begins to turn yellow when you go faster than about 65 mph and is full yellow at 70 mph (haven’t gone much faster to see if it goes completely red or not).

On the right is the power display. The number will tell you how much power draw (or generation) the car is using. It turns green for regen (and the little regen display animates). In addition to that the horizontal line just to the left of the 1 kW is a bar graph growing one way for power consumption and the other for regeneration.

Below that is the PRNDL display and the go/no go green car (similar to the FFE’s green “ready to go car”). On the top right is the parking brake indicator.

The left contains the “fuel gauge”: The green bar graph gives you a decent approximation of the % of battery left (with tick marks at the quarter positions). The three numbers comprise the car’s GOM (Guess-O-Meter): The top one is an estimate of your maximum range remaining if you drive as efficiently as possible, the middle one is your range based on your current driving habits/style/etc. and the bottom is the minimum range to expect if you drove it like you stole it. Now there is another gauge hidden here: That grey arc just to the left of the green bar graph. This one is the display that more closely matches the FFE’s “status” indicator (when no route is programmed in). This graph will display how well you’re driving against your past history. If you drive more efficiently a green bar will grow from the center towards the top; less efficiently a yellow bar will grow from the center towards the bottom. This gauge isn’t instant like the power meter at the right; its more of a rolling average–like the GOM itself–so it reacts slower. Thus you may be driving on the freeway at 70 mph and see the green bar grow and think: “what? how can I be more efficient at 70 mph”–its because its more of a trend over your trip instead of an instant value. My guess here is that it is an indication of which range to expect given how you’ve been driving. The closer the bar gets to one of the values (max, average, or min) the more you can expect that range from this charge.

To finish things off: the bottom left has the vehicle’s odometer.

Compared to the FFE’s dash; I like it. Sure it doesn’t display some of the things the FFE did (many of those values can be seen on the entertainment system’s display: like the proportion of energy devoted to climate controls instead of propulsion, electricity consumed since last charge, etc.) and in some cases you get more information (specifically a power value for regen–the FFE just had a twirly thing letting you know it was regenerating).

 

There is a lot going on here

Really coming to an end now..

No, not the blog… ! LOL

Focus Electric (and Focus, and C-Max) production in North America is coming to an end May 7, 2018 (see here). This is a bit of sad news: Knowing that there will no longer be Focus Electrics produced, that I can’t just order another..

As I write this Ford’s plans (at least the ones publicly announced) are to build the next generation of Focus in China and import those to the US (since the US market has really shifted towards SUV’s, cars are “out” these days). It is likely that there will be a Focus Electric produced there since China is really pushing EV’s hard–so it may not be the end of the FFE?

The C-Max Hybrid, and Energi, however are probably done forever. Simply because these cars (well the FFE too) are stepping stones to better plug-ins and BEV’s–at least you’d think. Ford seems lost in a fog these days (and its stock prices reflect that): They tried going old-school when the rest of the industry was marching head first into hi-tech…the stock market didn’t like that.

 

Really coming to an end now..

Focus Electric Fire sale

Hat tip to the Focus Electric Forums: Due to the 2017 FFE having >100 miles of range, the 2016 FFE will be pretty hard to sell. If you look nationwide on Auto Trader you find that there are a bunch of dealers offering them for less than $20,000. Combine that with the Federal rebate of $7500 and you could get a brand new electric car for around $12,000 (mind you a car that, less than four years ago, was selling for $37,000!). (Keep in mind, that if you buy the car, the Federal rebate comes off of your income taxes–you don’t get that as cash back at the time of sale. In addition, if your tax liability is less than $7500 you won’t get the full value. If you lease the car, however, the rebate goes to the leasing company and many of them pass on the savings in the lease.)

Granted this car comes with some caveats, but if you fit the profile it may be worth it.

The big thing to think about with the car is how far you have to drive and how bad are your winters. Start with your required max distance without charge (MDWC). I’m going to use this figure instead of something like “your commute” because people’s commutes vary wildly and some people may have access to charging at work. Thus your MDWC is a given distance in a day that you can be expected to go without having access to a charger.

The second factor to consider is your weather, specifically your winters (a secondary consideration is how hot it gets in the summer, but the FFE’s battery is actively cooled and cooling costs far far less in terms of battery range than heat does so we can neglect high temps to some degree here). If you have really mild winters (say you’re in Atlanta, or Dallas) you won’t have to worry about the lack of range in the cold. On the other hand if you’re a bit further North: Portland, ME, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, etc. you’ll have to consider that in your “can I use this car” calculations.

Time for some examples: I’ll start with my experience:

My MDWC was 30 miles (couldn’t charge at work, 30 miles is my round-trip commute), living in Detroit I had to be prepared for really cold winters. Frequently when the temps were

I can also use a coworker’s data: his MDWC was 50 miles. He determined the FFE would work–but just barely.

Now lets say someone is in Dallas and has a MDWC of 50 miles. In this case 50 miles really shouldn’t be that big of a deal, except for those rare days where its freezing or below.

The rule of thumb is: Determine how much heat you have to use. If you can get away without using any heat then your MDWC can be as high as 60 miles (or more). If you use marginal heat (the coolest temps your car will see are above 50F) then your MDWC can be as high as about 50 miles. If your coolest temps drop lower then that then your MDWC will also drop. When you get to temps freezing and below your realistic MDWC will drop to about 30-40 miles.

In addition, if you don’t already have a Level 2 EVSE, you’ll have to consider that as well. The FFE will take close to 20 hours to charge an empty battery on a normal 120V house plug. A Level 2 EVSE uses a 240V line (like a dryer, or electric range plug) and can charge up the FFE in as little as 3.5 hours. Prices for a Level 2 EVSE start around $500 or so and go up, and you have to add in any extra electrical work that may be required. You may be thinking that even 3.5 hours is a long time. Remember that is an empty battery. In my case, with my Level 2 I could put enough range back into the FFE to be usable while I cooked dinner.

If you’ve read this far and determine: YEAH! A FFE would be a great car for me, and I love those prices. Don’t be discouraged if the nearest dealer is 500, 1000, or even 2000 miles away. At those prices an extra $500 is worth it to get the car shipped to you.

I would imagine that you’d want to act fast on these if you are even thinking about it since at these prices the limited inventory of 2016 FFE’s won’t last long.

Focus Electric Fire sale