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:


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:


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..

Strange math

Here is an interesting, um, feature of the car: The car has a range display that shows gas range + electric range (when everything is full it will display something like 600 + 22 or so). The trip meter, on the other hand, will show you total miles, and “EV Miles”.

The way these are calculated is very interesting: The gas range value shows “hybrid range available” and “EV only” range available. The trip meter, however, shows total miles and “EV miles”. The “EV only” range is not the same as “EV miles” on the trip meter.

I seem to be averaging about 1000 miles a tank of gas, at least that is what the trip meter is telling me: ~1000 miles total, and 700 miles EV. Hang on doesn’t that mean I only went 300 miles on gas? Nope, this is where the strange math comes in. The “EV miles” on the trip meter simply measures how many miles the car traveled on battery power only. Now you can see the disparity: When running in hybrid mode the car will run the engine at its most optimum speed and store excess rotational energy in the battery (e.g. runs the engine faster than required to move the car and uses the generator to take up the excess speed above what the car needs to move). When the battery has stored sufficient electricity it uses the electric motor to drive the car and shuts down the gas engine (until the battery is depleted below a certain point). In this electric drive state the trip meter counts the distance as “EV only” because the gas engine is off, but the range meter counts this towards the gas engine range (presumably because the electricity came from the gas engine).

The net effect of all that is there is no way you can relate the range values to the values the trip meter shows you. Sure the range is a pretty accurate representation of how far you can go on your remaining fuel but there is no way to account for the differences between the trip meter and the range value.

Yeah I know: “This seems like a long blog post to be nit picking about some gauge values” and you’re right but I have to post about something now and then LOL. I really count this difference (and post here) as just an observation and not “nit picking” though as it doesn’t bother me that much: You are going to use the range and the trip meter for two different purposes and probably never will want to “do the math” to see how they relate anyway. All these different ways of calculating, though, really make it difficult to come up with a “true” mpg figure for the car though (it does show one in diagnostic mode but that is for another post).



Strange math

Updated Ford EV Videos

Ford produced another video this past week: “How to maximize EV range”:

I wonder if they just updated the video for Sync 3 (also note the use of “EV” when they are talking about their lineup of PHEVs: the Energi vehicles).

Update: They also recently published one about reading the gauges:

My 2016 C-Max Energi doesn’t show the +/- gauge shown in the video–I wonder if that is for the 2017’s?

How to use your charge chord, really? Ok the cover is a bit tricky (which they don’t even cover LOL):

Power flow display with Sync 3:

The interesting thing here is how to get to this screen on my C-Max is different from the video slightly. In my C-Max I hit Apps then Electric Vehicle then Power Flow (the video shows just hitting Apps and then Power Flow). Hmm?

But wait, there’s more: Understanding electric range in your vehicle:

Makes me wonder (since I’ve posted links to similar videos Ford has published before) if Ford just periodically updates these and republishes them so they look current (like updating them from My Ford Touch to Sync 3 for example).



Updated Ford EV Videos

A different kind of range anxiety

The terms “range anxiety” was coined as a derogatory term basically meaning that drivers of short-ranged EV’s would always be worried if they were going to get to their next destination or not. The pundit would go on and on about how drivers of such EVs would be always looking around the corner for their next charge not knowing if they could get to their destination or not, maybe that next charge station would be already filled up with other anxious EV drivers.

For me, reality proved to be nothing of the sort in the Focus Electric. It never once left me stranded (due to a dead battery or otherwise). Sure going places did involve a little extra planning, but that didn’t take an extra amount of time and, since I actually liked my EV, was kind of fun.

Now I’m driving around the C-Max Energi. This is a different animal all together. So far it gets me about 20+ miles on electricity alone and almost 500 miles on gas. This mixed behavior is where the other kind of range anxiety comes in..the gas kind LOL.

When driving around an ICE car you get in the habit of looking for a gas station when its at 1/4 of a tank or below. Modern cars typically will have a distance-to-empty gauge (DTE) and thus if you have one you start looking for a station with 50 or less miles or so to go.

What about a plug-in hybrid? When the DTE gauge is showing 50+20 miles to go (50 miles gas + 20 miles electricity)? You are kind of half thinking to yourself “ooh I’ve got only 50 miles of gas I should stop at a station” but then the next thought is “but I’m only 10 miles from home and can make it on electricity so I’ll just plug in there”. All week I’ve been driving around with this conflict: The C-Max has been showing well under 1/8 of a tank of gas but, since I plug in, I’ve been able to drive around a good 60% of the time using electricity only. Range anxiety backwards…LOL!


A different kind of range anxiety

Range View

Now that I’m really comfortable driving the FFE around (I should be after a year and a half! LOL) I figure it might be a good time to produce a few articles on some of the different displays/gauges available on the FFE.

Today’s gauge is the “Range View” gauge:

This view can be shown on its own or as the left side of the MyView display. For more on MyView watch this Ford video:

Note that the MyView video above is pretty old and does show some “views” that are not currently available on the dash of the FFE’s MyView. In addition here is another Ford video discussing the range view:

A quick discussion on the FFE forums revealed what I had suspected: Almost nobody uses this gauge. The scaling of the numbers seems to enhance range anxiety rather than alleviate it (calling out the last 10 miles of the available range). In addition the view doesn’t seem like it would be very useful unless you frequently drove the car to less than 10 miles remaining. The display does graphically represent the two numbers shown below it (the budget and status, or distance to destination and surplus).

When you program in a destination on the Nav screen the range view switches (like the other displays on the FFE) to distance to destination and surplus. The switch does make the display marginally more effective.

I’ve been driving around with this gauge setup for the past few days. My impression has been that, for my commute where I don’t need Nav and I use less than 50% of the battery, it isn’t that useful. It was rather interesting the one time I used Nav with it watching the graph slide towards zero as I approached the destination (the only place in the car showing such a graph even though the numerical value is shown in 3 different places in the car!).


Range View

Really extending the range of the Focus Electric

In a previous post I showed my spare vehicle I use for rough weather, hauling stuff, etc. when the FFE can’t cut it.

Well, we don’t have either of those anymore. At a recent camper show we kind of traded all that in on a new camper (the camper on the left):
Axis Motorhome

Mind you this guy still has a V-10 ICE in it (our third vehicle with a V-10 in it). In addition it also has a 4kW generator in it for dry camping and/or tailgating, etc. I can think of another use for it: Charging up my FFE while we pull it down the road (on a trailer, though, since the FFE cannot be towed with any wheels on the ground). All I need for it is a trailer (an aluminum one at that as the FFE by itself is close to the tow ratings of the Axis). Granted: since the genny is only a 4kW model I can only use the EVSE that came with the FFE–can’t use a level 2 with it. This shouldn’t be an issue as most campgrounds have 50A plugs, and sometimes we’ll be driving for a long time (and sometimes we’ll take the ICE Focus instead).

My Bosch/SPX EVSE is already installed with a plug so its really easy to remove and take with us (along with an adapter to use it at campgrounds plugged into the 50A 6-50 plug).

This combo is one of the reasons I created the “how far can I go” maps: I can map out how far from a given campground I can drive the FFE and still return if there are no charge stations in town.

Really extending the range of the Focus Electric

How far can I go?

Much like estimating power consumption along a route many people would also like to answer the question “Where can I go?”. Typically you would place a pushpin on your map and draw a circle around the pin the radius of your distance you want to go. This circle method has a drawback though: The distance is a straight line distance and does not reflect the actual driving distance from a given point. As an EV driver with limited range the actual driving distance is more important to you. To that end I’ve created this driving circle page.
Circle image
Enter in an address, or city name and a radius in miles and press “Calc Circle”. A transparent red circle will be drawn on the map. This circle is the linear distance from the given point. After about 20-30 seconds the green polygon will be drawn (I’ve had to put in some delays to prevent errors returned by Google). The polygon represents the area that can be driven to the given radius miles.

The polygon is calculated by dividing the circle up into 36 points. For each point the page requests directions from Google from the center to the point on the circle. It then walks the returned route stopping at the point when it hits the radius distance given. These end points are then used as vertices in the polygon.

Along a similar theme: Here is a version of the above page for drive times. On this page you enter in a location as above and the number of minutes you wish to drive (granted this page is more useful for going long distances). Here the red circle represents how far you would drive at 70 mph if you could drive in a straight line from the center point. The polygon is how far you’d go heading in that direction for the specified number of minutes. Again the circle is divided up into 36 points and Google is asked for directions from the center to each point. The vertices of the polygon are determined by following each route and calculating where you get at X minutes.

How far can I go?