The Truth About Cars » Electric vehicles http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 22:57:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Electric vehicles http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Wash. Governor Inslee Signs Pro-Tesla Legislation, Hackers Find Ubuntu Inside http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/wash-governor-inslee-signs-pro-tesla-legislation-hackers-find-ubuntu-inside/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/wash-governor-inslee-signs-pro-tesla-legislation-hackers-find-ubuntu-inside/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 13:45:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=797458 Ubuntu_GNOME_13.10_ScreenShot

Automotive News reports Washington state governor Jay Inslee signed legislation that would allow Tesla to continue with its direct-sales business model within the state while also clarifying current law that favors traditional franchise dealership networks by preventing other automakers from following in Tesla’s path. The EV automaker thanked the state government “for supporting a culture of innovation and ultimately making the right decision for consumers” with the introduction of the bill into law.

In other government news, the California Air Resources Board is considering cutting EVs priced at $60,000 and above from the agency’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Program as funding continues to run low, according to Capitol Weekly. Though the move would be temporary, the cap would push-out both the Cadillac ELR and Tesla’s Model S and upcoming X, a move that Tesla feels is disappointing:

[CARB] aims to paint Tesla as the sole purveyor of EVs (electric vehicles) to the wealthy, while disregarding the fact that individuals of similar affluence may still continue to receive a rebate by purchasing a different EV.

Finally, Autoblog Green reports a group of tech-savvy Tesla owners have dug into their EV’s console via its exposed Ethernet connector, discovering a subsystem powered by Linux distribution Ubuntu. The individual behind the dig, known only as ‘nlc,’ was contacted by the automaker through its service center, warning him that his exploration could void his car’s warranty should he persist.

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GM Adds 824k Vehicles To Recall http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/gm-adds-824k-vehicles-to-recall/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/gm-adds-824k-vehicles-to-recall/#comments Mon, 31 Mar 2014 13:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=785137 2009_Saturn_Sky_Redline_Ruby_Red_Limited_Edition

Over the weekend, General Motors called back an additional 824,000 vehicles whose ignition switches could slip out of the “on” position, cutting power to the engine, brakes and air bags. According to Automotive News, the recall now affects Chevrolet Cobalts and HHRs, Pontiac G5s, and Saturn Ions and Skys made between 2008 and 2011. The reasoning is that while those vehicles were made after the switch was improved in April 2006, some 90,000 vehicles may have received the faulty switch during repairs.

In addition, Detroit Free Press reports GM issued a stop sale order and recall of 190,000 2013 – 2014 Chevrolet Cruzes in the United States and Canada fitted with the gasoline-powered 1.4-liter Ecotec turbo-four. The right front axle half shaft could “fracture and separate without warning” under normal driving conditions, according to the automaker.

Meanwhile, 490,200 2014 Chevrolet Silverados and GMC Sierras, as well as 2015 Chevrolet Tahoes and Suburbans and GMC Yukon XLs and Yukons, are being recalled in order to fix a transmission oil cooler line that, if not “securely seated and transmission oil leaks from the fitting,” may cause oil to spill onto hot surfaces, resulting in a fire such as the one experienced earlier this month during a test drive in California earlier this month.

The few who purchased or leased a 2014 Cadillac ELR may also need to bring their vehicles in for service. Detroit Free Press says ELRs made between Sept. 26, 2013 and Valentine’s Day 2014 without adaptive cruise control may suffer from an electronic stability system unable to perform certain diagnostics that would alert the driver if the system was either partially or fully disabled, which then could lead to a crash. GM will recalibrate the electronic brake control module for free in their recall notice, set to be issued April 17.

Speaking of Cadillac, Automotive News reports brand chief and former head lobbyist Bob Ferguson has been sent to Washington, D.C. ahead of two separate congressional hearings over the 2014 ignition recall crisis, helping the automaker to prepare. Though insiders have speculated Ferguson could once again return to D.C. permanently as GM’s vice president of of global public policy, the automaker offered nothing more than what Ferguson was doing for them currently.

Bloomberg, Automotive News and Detroit Free Press report GM has had a difficult time with the ignition switch used in their small cars. The switch had been altered three times in five years, beginning with the inability to start 2003 – 2006 Saturn Ions thanks to a defect related to the car’s Passlock theft-deterrent system. The fix, which included a new part number, led to the headache currently being experienced by the automaker.

However, the fix that would have cured the new switch’s ability to accidentally shut vehicles down — such as the Chevrolet Cobalt — was cancelled in 2005 by GM on the words of a project engineering manager who cited costly tooling and piece prices as reasons not to press forward. The part was approved by GM in 2002, despite Delphi — who made the part for GM — noting the switch did not meet specification, nor did the 2006 ignition that, while preventing the slip issue linked to 31 crashes and 13 deaths, was still below what General Motors had requested.

As for the agency responsible for pushing this issue into the spotlight much sooner than 2014, Detroit Free Press says a review by the Associated Press of complaints made to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration between 2005 and 2014 found 164 drivers of 2005 – 2007 Chevrolet Cobalts experienced their vehicle shutting down with no warning; only the Toyota Corolla of the same vintage — recalled during the government’s investigation into Toyota in 2010 — saw more complaints.

In addition, an unnamed official who headed the NHTSA’s Defects Assessment Division recommended in 2007 an investigation as to why air bags in 2003 – 2006 Cobalts and Ions didn’t deploy, stating complaints made to the agency in 2005, along with early warning data gathered from related repairs and injuries, justified such action.

Bloomberg adds the cars linked to the faulty switch were marketed to first-time drivers, whose inexperience behind the wheel may have added to the chain of events leading to the number of crashes and fatalities documented thus far. Though GM stated in 2005 the driver could regain control by shifting to neutral and restarting, auto-safety experts and driving instructors, such as American Drivers Traffic Safety Education Association CEO Allen Robinson, said the scenario presented by the ignition failure would be hard to manage by most drivers:

It’s going to be a real problem and most people are not going to know how to deal with it.These sorts of mechanical failures are so infrequent that you can’t really prepare people for them.

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Tesla Hires Renault-Nissan Communications Director http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/tesla-hires-renault-nissan-communications-director/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/tesla-hires-renault-nissan-communications-director/#comments Thu, 13 Mar 2014 12:35:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=770985 tesla-model-s-10

In preparation to enter the Chinese market while battling state governments of direct sales, Tesla has hired Renault-Nissan communications director Simon Sproule to the role of vice president of communications and marketing for the EV automaker.

Bloomberg reports Sproule’s experience gained from stints with Microsoft, Jaguar, Ford and Renault-Nissan may be of benefit to Tesla, according to AutoTrends Inc. principal Joe Phillippi:

In many respects he’s got the perfect background. He’s been on the tech side, he’s been on the international auto side and he works for a CEO with peripatetic qualities who runs more than one company.

Sproule will be responsible for marketing Tesla to Europe and China — who aim to increase sales of its Model S 55 percent through exports to the two markets this year — while aiding in the fight with various state regulators over direct sales to customers, including this week’s blow-up between the automaker and New Jersey.

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Tesla Unveils $5 Billion Gigafactory http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/tesla-unveils-5-billion-gigafactory/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/tesla-unveils-5-billion-gigafactory/#comments Thu, 27 Feb 2014 15:10:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=755721 Tesla Gigafactory

After months of speculation, Tesla drew back the curtain on their most ambitious project to date, the Gigafactory.

Yahoo News reports the Gigafactory’s price tag would total $5 billion, $2 billion of which would directly from Tesla — including a portion from a proposed $1.6 billion convertible note offering that will also be used for future vehicle development — with current partner Panasonic and their partners fronting the remainder of the investment. Interestingly, Morgan Stanley announced it was expecting to collect underwriting fees from the note just one day after also issuing a research memo that called for a doubling of their price target for Tesla shares.

Four sites in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas are under final consideration for the site of the Gigafactory, and the finished project will employ 6,500 workers. The first goal for the Gigafactory is to begin construction this year in time to open its doors in 2017 at the same time the low-cost Model E is set to enter showrooms, with battery costs projected to fall 30 percent in the same timeframe. The milestone will be followed by a push to increase cell and pack outputs by 35 and 50 GWh/yr by 2020, where Tesla expects to move 500,000 units a year into showrooms around the world. Despite widespread reports to the contrary, Musk told Bloomberg that Panasonic’s participation “is not 100 percent confirmed“.

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BASF Investing In EV Battery Market Despite Industry Setbacks http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/basf-investing-in-ev-battery-market-despite-industry-setbacks/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/basf-investing-in-ev-battery-market-despite-industry-setbacks/#comments Tue, 25 Feb 2014 15:04:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=753761 BASF BMW M1 Procar

Though some electric vehicles have seen their share of woes, from fires in individual cars to bankruptcies filed by manufacturers, German chemical maker BASF is going in for the long game by investing in the EV battery market.

Bloomberg reports the world’s largest chemical maker will use a part of its annual $2.3 billion R&D budget on battery materials — one of 10 areas targeted for growth by BASF — in the pursuit of a better battery that will help EVs run longer. Company head of global business management for BASF’s battery materials unit Adrian Steinmetz says his employer is committee to making the battery materials focus a success, noting that newer and safer batteries with a higher capacity will prove beneficial to the overall EV market:

The battery can only be as good as the chemistry inside. It’s a very technically demanding field and you really need to understand the whole interplay between different chemical compounds.

To accomplish this goal, BASF has bought four companies, established a nickel cobalt manganese plant in the United States, and bought patent licenses from rival Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corp, one of three market leaders — the others being Sumitomo Chemical and Ube Industries — whose dominance over lithium-ion technology, aided by proximity to related tech industries, reigns supreme.

By 2020, BASF aims to be one of the top three battery materials suppliers, pushing overall market valuation to $20 billion in the same time frame. Part of this plan includes taking the fight to the home turf of their Asian rivals, already begun with the company’s establishment of a battery materials research and development center in Amagasaki, Japan. The R&D unit provides BASF with the majority of its Asian sales.

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Renewable Energy To Power Tesla Gigafactory http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/renewable-energy-to-power-tesla-gigafactory/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/renewable-energy-to-power-tesla-gigafactory/#comments Mon, 24 Feb 2014 11:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=752585 tesla-model-s-logo

Sometime this week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk will announce everything there is to know about the EV automaker’s Gigafactory, from location and price tag, to its heavy reliance on renewable energy sources.

Autoblog Green reports the Gigafactory will be “heavily powered” by solar and wind energy sources, with older battery packs storing the collected energy. Meanwhile, the factory will mass-produce finished battery packs from raw lithium sources, with the aim of generating 30 gigawatt-hours annually. By taking advantage of economies of scale, costs should be reduced by 30 to 40 percent in the same timeframe needed to bring the $35,000 Model E from the drawing board to the showroom floor.

As for where the $2 billion-plus factory will be built, one rumored location is Nevada. Aside from the obvious solar power available for Musk’s green aspirations, the state also houses the sole commercial brine pool lithium production facility in the United States at this time, though more could be brought in from Wyoming’s recently discovered underground lithium brine in the state’s Rock Springs Uplift formation if needed.

Finally, funding for the Gigafactory could come from a number of sources, including new stock and alliances with other companies interested in what the factory — and the future — has to offer.

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Beijing EV Licenses Ignored In Spite Of New Car Registration Difficulties http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/beijing-ev-licenses-ignored-in-spite-of-new-car-registration-difficulties/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/beijing-ev-licenses-ignored-in-spite-of-new-car-registration-difficulties/#comments Wed, 19 Feb 2014 12:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=748241 SCMP   28JAN13  CH SMOG

Though the municipal government in Beijing has set aside 20,000 license plates for electric vehicles in an attempt to offset their ongoing air quality woes, very few residents are interested, even if it means waiting a long time to own a gasoline-powered car.

South China Morning Post reports only 1,701 potential EV owners have filed applications for new vehicle licensing thus far. The figure is less than 0.1 percent of the nearly 1.9 million new vehicle licensing applications received by Beijing’s city government for gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles.

Though all 20,000 applications would be issued if more applicants entered their name in the lottery system used to issue licenses, most would rather wait until they received approval for a conventional vehicle. As a result, the city government recently tweaked their lottery to improve the chances of those 640,000 applicants who tried their hand over 25 times to buy and license a non-EV vehicle, resulting in a 2.4 percent chance of success for those who applied more than 37 times.

The reason for the lack of enthusiasm in Beijing for EVs? A lack of supporting infrastructure for charging the vehicles, and a perception of poor performance and unreliability overall, with taxi drivers complaining of limited range and long-wait times to charge in regards of the 1,000 taxis and the 500 charging stations in the city to keep the taxis moving.

Beijing aims to alleviate the issue by installing 1,000 stations within city limits by the end of 2014, extending into the suburbs by 2017. City officials also aim to bring 1.7 million EVs to the road by 2017, as well, with subsidies of up to 108,000 yuan to help encourage more residents to buy electric.

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Tesla S Goes AWD, Comes With Cheaper Batteries, Upgraded Firmware http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/tesla-s-goes-awd-comes-with-cheaper-batteries-upgraded-firmware/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/tesla-s-goes-awd-comes-with-cheaper-batteries-upgraded-firmware/#comments Mon, 10 Feb 2014 16:03:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=738425 tesla-model-s-03

During a Tesla townhall meeting at the automaker’s European headquarters in Amsterdam, CEO Elon Musk announced to owners that an all-wheel drive version of the vaunted S would arrive in showrooms by the early months of 2015 at the latest.

The arrival comes on the heels of the Model X SUV, which will come standard with the AWD system when it makes its showroom debut in 2015. The system utilizes two electric motors, each driving the front or rear wheels while pushing the electric SUV from 0 to 60 in under 5 seconds for the Performance option. Power for both the X and S models will come from higher-capacity battery options, eventually including those made with cheaper batteries from Tesla’s “giga factory.”

Planned to be the largest battery plant in the world, the factory will be built in the United States sometime soon, and will be able to recycle older battery units in-house with refitting visiting Teslas with newer packs. The eventual goal is to drive battery costs down by as much as 30 percent to 40 percent while pushing 30 gigawatt-hours of production capacity, just in time for Tesla’s $30,000/200-mile EV debut in the near future. More information will be announced in March, when Musk will also divulge the location of the new factory.

For current owners, a firmware upgrade will be available in a few weeks: Version 6.0 adds real-time traffic data, more control over ride height and suspension settings, and other improvements. Down the road, owners can also upgrade their seats for greater comfort, while future owners of S and X models will have those seats as standard equipment.

Finally, owners will be able to go coast-to-coast thanks to Tesla’s Supercharger stations, whose transcontinental network was completed recently — with a transcontinental road trip to celebrate the occasion — and is now adding capacity at a rate of five of the charging stations coming online per week. The chargers are expected to recharge batteries at a max of 135 kW current.

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BYD Coming to America in 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/byd-coming-to-america-in-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/byd-coming-to-america-in-2015/#comments Tue, 07 Jan 2014 05:41:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=693713 BYD Qin

Backed by Warren Buffet and his investment company Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.,Automotive News is reporting that Chinese automaker BYD plans to deliver four models to the United States in late 2015.

This move comes after BYD founder and chair Wang Chauanfu spent the past three years reorganizing his company, cutting the number of dealerships under the automaker’s banner while narrowing losses with their solar business with help from state incentives.

In turn, investors rewarded the changes with a 63 percent surge in the share price — currently holding around $5 USD — though nowhere near the peak of $11 BYD saw in October 2008; Berkshire Hathaway paid around $1 per share for 9.9 percent ownership of the company back in that year.

Though BYD has yet to bring over any of their cars to the U.S., they will begin manufacturing of their K9 electric bus in March at its factory in Lancaster, Calif.; a plan to sell the e6 electric hatchback by the end of 2010 was postponed.

Leading the charge will be the Qin (pronounced Chin) plug-in hybrid, which already arrived in local market showrooms last month. The $31,400 (before state subsidies) sedan books it from nil to 60 in under 6 seconds, and possesses a 43-mile range in electric-only travel.

That said, the Qin, along with its electric brethren, may be a better sell in Los Angeles than in Beijing, as high prices, safety concerns, and a lack of supporting infrastructure have held back China’s goal of 5 million alternative-energy vehicles by 2020.

However, the state government unveiled a new program last September which is supposed to alleviate the issue through heavy promotion of new-energy vehicles in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou using subsidies through 2015, which should help BYD in local adoption of their plug-in and EV offerings.

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New Face of 2015 Ford Focus Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/new-face-of-2015-ford-focus-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/new-face-of-2015-ford-focus-revealed/#comments Mon, 06 Jan 2014 15:07:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=693449 2015 Ford Focus

Three years ago, Ford unveiled the third-generation Focus to the excitement of American enthusiasts who thought the second-generation model lacked “zazz,” to say the least. Come 2015, the Focus will have a new face, and that’s only the beginning.

Debuting at the Geneva Auto Show in March, the 2015 Focus not only has a new, more Aston-Martinesque mouth — bringing it in line with the Fiesta and Fusion — but also a reshaped hood, front spoiler, and rear bumper. Inside, the “mobile phone”-inspired morass of buttons on the current model will soon be replaced by a more sensible, conventional layout featuring updated climate controls.

For the big gun of the collection, the Focus ST is expected to have more aggressive bodywork than the rest of the Focus lineup, along with improvements to the suspension and steering for sharper handling.

Under the hood, however, engine options will be carried-over into the 2015 model year, ranging from the 1-liter EcoBoost pumping out a minimum of 98 horsepower at the low-end, to the 247-horsepower 2-liter monster under the ST. Russian, Chinese and Brazilian markets will see 1.5-liter gasoline and diesel compliance engines as part of their engine choices.

Green enthusiasts will be pleased to know that plug-in variant (in the vein of the C-Max Energi) is in the offing; thus, expect a similar total output of 192 horsepower from its combined electric/gasoline power with 20 miles of electric-only travel. The all-electric Focus will still be available, as well.

The price of admission should more or less hold for 2015, so expect to pay anywhere from around $17,000 to $35,000 depending on model of choice

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Gasoline Power To Dominate U.S. Highways Through 2040 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/gasoline-power-to-dominate-u-s-highways-through-2040/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/gasoline-power-to-dominate-u-s-highways-through-2040/#comments Fri, 20 Dec 2013 13:30:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=684682 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

The green warriors who hoped EVs and hybrids would be the dominate force on the highways of America may need to wait a bit longer: the United States Department of Energy predicts gasoline will be the fuel of a generation until at least 2040.

In fact, the DOE’s Energy Information Administration states in a report issued earlier this week that 78 percent of all vehicles on the road in 2040 will still burn fossil fuels, though more efficiently; the EIA predicts an average of 37.2 mpg at that point in time. While 42 percent of all vehicles will use some form of advanced fuel-saving technology, plug-in hybrids and full EVs will each account for only 1 percent of sales.

As for the pump, the EIA believes a gallon of gas will rise to the equivalent of $3.90, with diesel tagged for $4.73. The agency also predicts 30 percent increase in miles traveled from 2012 through 2040, and overall fuel consumption in the nation’s transportation sector to fall by 4 percent.

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Chevy’s Next Volt Shooting For 200-Mile Range, $30k Price Tag http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/chevys-next-volt-shooting-for-200-mile-range-30k-price-tag/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/chevys-next-volt-shooting-for-200-mile-range-30k-price-tag/#comments Wed, 18 Dec 2013 12:30:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=682802 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-002

Prior to stepping down as CEO of General Motors, Dan Akerson made a few mentions about an EV similar to the Volt that would possess a 200-mile range on a single charge with an on-board generator that could run on gas, diesel or natural gas. He also hoped the car would sell for around $30,000.

What wasn’t reported, however, was that Akerson wanted this car to be GM’s moon shot in order to surprise the competition, namely Tesla with their proposed $30,000 Model E, set to debut in showrooms as early as 2016. With the upcoming Cadillac ELR helping to bring more EVs to the road (along with the funds to develop the Volt Mk. II), GM could end up planting their flag next to the Chinese telescope left behind in the Bay of Rainbows. Only time will tell, and with 2016 approaching, there is little of it to waste.

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Hamster Heart, Electric Soul http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/hamster-heart-electric-soul-kia-soul-ev-in-north-america-soon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/hamster-heart-electric-soul-kia-soul-ev-in-north-america-soon/#comments Tue, 12 Nov 2013 13:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=648482 Kia Soul EV

If you’re into EVs but find theTesla Model S too expensive, and the Leaf too jelly bean, then Kia would like to offer you something with a bit of soul. An electric Soul, that is.

The Soul EV will be the first EV sold outside of South Korea, with experience gained from the development and limited introduction of the Ray EV to government and rental fleets in their native market. Though no specific date has been set for the Soul EV’s North American rollout, Kia says to expect the electric hamstermobile to arrive in showrooms sometime in the second half of 2014, possibly bearing a 2015 model year designation.

If you’re lucky enough to be introduced to the Soul EV next year, expect drive away in a vehicle made for the city without looking like an electric wizard. Under the hood will be an electric motor pushing 109 horses out through the front door while providing 210 square-pounds of Whole Foods Market-pulling torque. Zero to 60 takes about 12 seconds, and you’ll be able to go back to the future with the Soul EV’s top speed of 90 mph.

The Soul EV will utilize what Kia calls the Virtual Engine Sound System, or VESS. At 12 mph or less, or while backing out with those organic goodies, the VESS will emit an audio alert of some sort to warn those hipsters to move out of your way in an ironic manner.

As for range and charging, the Soul EV is definitely meant for commuting to and from the hip neighborhood you call a home, with a target range of 120 miles per charge. While putting in your time at that awesome startup that will revolutionize the way you play with running vicious candy farmers, the Soul’s 27 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack will take five hours to charge on a standard 240v outlet, or 25 minutes on fast-charging through a 100 kW outlet.

Finally, the Soul EV is not only eco-conscious on the road, but is totally granola on the inside as well: the materials used are composed of biomass, from the foam in the seats to the dashboard holding the instrument cluster and 8-inch display.

The price of admission to feel like an electric hamster? Unknown as of this time, though word on the street is that it might be sold for around $35,000 on our shores. Like the Fiat 500e, this is strictly a compliance car meant to appease regulators. Hyundai’s corporate direction for ZEVs will be based around fuel cells, not electric vehicles.

In the meantime, enjoy this brief spy shot gallery with some bonus meta-commentary on the idea of “exclusivity.”

Soul EV Spy Shot 01 Soul EV Spy Shot 02 Soul EV Spy Shot 03 ]]>
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BMW Focused On i Subbrand Over Short-Term Monetary Gains http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/bmw-focused-on-i-subbrand-over-short-term-monetary-gains/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/bmw-focused-on-i-subbrand-over-short-term-monetary-gains/#comments Tue, 05 Nov 2013 14:25:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=642577 02-2014-bmw-i3In lieu of short-term monetary gains over their competitors at Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen (via Audi), BMW is spending its earnings on building up their i sub-brand through the city-focused i3 and the plug-in hybrid supercar i8.

As a result of their focus on the cutting edge, and in spite of demand for the brand’s 3 Series, the German automaker posted a 3.7 percent decline in third-quarter earnings, pulling in $2.6 billion this time around. In an effort to stay ahead of their hard-charging competition (both of whom aim to bury BMW in the sales war by the end of this decade), BMW will introduce 25 new models during the 2013 and 2014 model years, 10 of whom are completely new. In contrast, Mercedes aims to release a baker’s dozen of all-new Teutonic goodness by 2020, while Audi plans to add a few more numbers to its Q series of SUVs.

Regarding the i3, 8,000 orders have already been sent to dealers in the United States, Europe and China, prompting BMW to make more of the EV in time for its debut in European showrooms November 16; American and Chinese customers will get theirs sometime in the first half of 2014. The price of admission for the i3 on our shores will be $41,350, with an optional 650cc 2-cylinder engine — whose sole purpose to keep the electric power going for an additional 80 to 100 miles on top of the 80 to 100 miles the electric-only model travels — priced around $4,000.

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Elon Musk Buys 007 Submarine, Will Attempt To Make It Functional http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/elon-musk-buys-007-submarine-will-attempt-to-make-it-functional/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/elon-musk-buys-007-submarine-will-attempt-to-make-it-functional/#comments Fri, 18 Oct 2013 13:42:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=626753 800px-TSWLM-LotusEsprit

Elon Musk, the real-life Tony Stark of our times, has quite the extensive résumé: Founder of PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla Motors; billionaire investor of projects and businesses such as SolarCity and the preservation of Nikola Tesla’s lab; inventor of the Hyperloop rapid mass transit concept; 007 cosplayer…

Yes, you read that right: Musk is a huge fan of the man who loves his martinis shaken and his women to have double entendre naming schemes. So much so, in fact, that he now has one of Bond’s most awesome vehicles ever conceived.

In a double exclusive with our friends over at Jalopnik, the secret buyer of the Lotus Esprit Mk I-cum-submarine from the 1977 Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me” was Musk himself, who paid nearly $900,000 for the privilege of owning one of the most famous vehicles in the history of film, beating out another bidder in a duel worthy of a Bond film (or so we would hope). The star car — or, rather, the star submarine — was originally lost in storage limbo, then discovered, spruced up, and put up for auction by Canadian auction house RM Auctions in early September of this year.

Alas, Musk was a bit disappointed that all the Esprit did was look pretty and float, but since this is Musk we’re talking about (via Tesla’s PR department)…

It was amazing as a little kid in South Africa to watch James Bond in “The Spy Who Loved Me” drive his Lotus Esprit off a pier, press a button and have it transform into a submarine underwater. I was disappointed to learn that it can’t actually transform. What I’m going to do is upgrade it with a Tesla electric powertrain and try to make it transform for real.

If his SpaceX can successfully dock with the International Space Station, and his Tesla can make EVs cool (the first was based off the Lotus Elise, no less), then Musk can make this impossible dream possible. We look forward to seeing his car arrive at San Diego Comic Con 2014 via Pacific Beach in all of its glory.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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Toyota City’s “Ha:Mo” – The Harmonious Mobility Network http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/toyota-citys-hamo-the-harmonious-mobility-network/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/toyota-citys-hamo-the-harmonious-mobility-network/#comments Fri, 11 Oct 2013 15:33:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=621401 Click here to view the embedded video.

Earlier this week, as I was looking for photos to illustrate my Vision of the Future, I stumbled across a photo of the Toyota i-Road, a three wheel electric vehicle that tilts its way through corners in the same was a scooter or motorcycle might. The i-Road debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in 2012 and despite what I am sure must have been a great deal of attention at the time, I had never heard of the vehicle. As I read more about it I found information about the Toyota “Ha:Mo urban transport system” that is currently undergoing trials in Toyota city and was stunned to find that, with a few notable exceptions, the program bears a striking resemblance to the future I had laid out in my previous article. The future, it seems, is already here. Too bad it is going to fall flat on its face…

Ha:Mo, which is Japanese shorthand for “Harmonious Mobility Network” is Toyota’s vision for the future of transportation; a combination of public and private transportation that relies upon public transportation, shared electric vehicles and a computer network that relays traffic information directly to drivers in real time. The crux of the Ha:Mo system is a Zip Car like system that allows you to check out a vehicle at your starting point and then drop it off at a station near your destination. Toyota appears to be serious about making the idea work and the company is dramatically expanding the program by increasing the number of electric assisted bicycles already available at Ha:Mo rental stations and by opening and additional 17 new sites close the city’s main train stations. Their website states that vehicles can be rented for just 200 yen for the first ten minutes of use and for 20 yen per minute thereafter. Sounds promising, right?

As a guy who has kicked around Japan a lot in my life, including an exchange trip to Toyota city where I lived with a local family for several weeks, I am left wondering how this can actually work. Efficient, effective public transportation is already plentiful in Japan and most Japanese cities are already built around it. Look at a satellite image of Japan and you will quickly note that most train lines are surrounded by a sea of houses. The population drops dramatically as you move away from the rail lines and people who live further out commute to the train stations by bus, bicycle or scooter. Almost every train station, large and small, offers some sort of secure bicycle and scooter parking for a modest fee and so it seems silly to me that someone would rent a vehicle for their commute when they either don’t need one or are already using their own.

Visitors to a Japanese city who need to travel outside of the downtown core will generally use the subway, be met by friends or take a taxi. Taxis in Japan are not cheap, but they are safe, convenient and clean and almost always have drivers who have extensive knowledge of the local area. I rode in a lot of taxis while I was in Japan and my average fare was about 1200 yen, usually 580 for pick up and some slight charge per fraction of a kilometer, and for my money I got a worry free ride, the chance to look out the window and door to door service. When you account for the fact that there is no tipping in Japan it’s a real bargain.

My conclusion then is that Ha:Mo will fail in Japan because the country already has an effective public transportation system. It is, I think, also doomed to fail in the United States for the exact opposite reason. Most cities offer no effective public transportation system and, the way things are going, never will. Seattle is a great example. Seattlites have been clamoring for a light rail system for just about as long as I can remember. There have been numerous schemes put forward, millions of tax dollars have been expended for planning and today they only have a link between the SeaTac airport and downtown to show for all their efforts. Sure, people can drive over to the main rail links and ride the full-size Sounder commuter trains into downtown, but as long as I have to drive my ass into Everett I might as well stay warm and happy and drive the rest of the way to Seattle. Having the ability to rent an electric bicycle or scooter isn’t going to make the experience any better.

photo-18

If I can figure out that Ha:Mo is dead before it starts, it seems like the pros at Toyota who actually do this sort of thing for a living should have reached the same conclusion the first time it came up in a meeting. Why they failed to kill it remains a mystery to me. Despite my experience in-country, I can’t claim to have any special understanding of the Japanese mind but I do know that Japanese industry is replete with projects like this. It is one of those odd peculiarities of the Japanese, they are always looking for the next latest, greatest thing and their companies aren’t afraid to use real money to back a long shot. For now, Ha:Mo lives. The only question that remains is whether or not I can get my ass back to Toyota city and score a ride in an i-Road before they pull them off the rental lots.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Tesla Stock Gets Double Whammy From Analyst Downgrade and Model S Fire http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/tesla-stock-gets-double-whammy-from-analyst-downgrade-and-model-s-fire/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/tesla-stock-gets-double-whammy-from-analyst-downgrade-and-model-s-fire/#comments Fri, 04 Oct 2013 12:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=600089
The price of Tesla Motors stock took a double hit this week as an influential analyst downgraded the company’s investment potential almost simultaneously with the viral spread of a Model S electric car burning in Washington state after running over metal debris in the road. On Wednesday morning, the Robert W. Baird company changed its rating on shares of Tesla from “Outperform” to “Neutral”. Around the same time Wednesday, Jalopnik posted a cellphone video of the burning Model S. As the video spread throughout the online automotive community and Baird analyst Ben Kallo’s report spread through the financial community, Tesla stock prices declined all day on Wednesday, finally finishing down 12.05 at $180.95 on volume that was higher than average for the stock.

The Baird report said that Tesla stock had peaked in value and that changes in the investment structure of the EV startup made the stock less attractive to investors. Kallo’s report said, “Although we continue to be bullish on TSLA’s long-term prospects, we think the stock appreciation reflects its technological leadership and several milestones that could contain execution risk. We would look to become more constructive on execution related pullbacks or significant advances in battery technology.” With the stock’s 470% gains and the end of the year approaching, institutional investors may have taken the report as a signal to secure their gains and cash out. Another report on Tesla from Bank of America said that pension funds and other large investors were exiting Tesla. CNN reported that small investors were buying those shares, a move seen by analysts as negative.

Regardless of the stock fluctuations and a drop in market value of approximately $3 billion analysts say that Tesla should still have no problems securing financing for current operations and for the development of the Model X crossover and the mass market EV that Tesla CEO Elon Musk has promised. Still, as a maker of only electric powered cars, Tesla is far more exposed in the event of problems with EVs than those established car companies that are exploring electrically powered cars and trucks.

Tesla cars have been driven for a combined 113 million miles, according to the company, and the Washington state fire was the first case of a Tesla battery pack burning, which puts the rate of burning Teslas at 1/10th the rate of fires in conventional gasoline or diesel powered cars. Despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of cars and trucks catch fire one way or another every year in the U.S. with little attention, isolated fires involving cars such as the Chevy Volt, Fisker Karma, and Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV and the lithium ion batteries used in the new Boeing Dreamliner have drawn considerable interest and possibly created a marketing obstacle for electric cars. Those few EV fires followed recalls by Apple for far more numerous fires involving the lithium ion batteries used in laptop computers. Though the most successful of the EVs and hybrids, the Toyota Prius, uses nickel-metal hydride battery cells, the automobile industry has been moving to lithium-ion, as used in the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf and Ford C-Max. Li-ion batteries have better energy density and discharge characteristics. The are also lighter than NiMH batteries

After releasing his valuation report and the video of the fire going viral, Ben Kallo considered the impact of the fire. “Tesla’s a very controversial stock and this will give fodder for the bears. They’ll say this is going to slow down sales.” While short term the fire may hurt Model S sales, Kallo and other analysts still expect that Tesla will see strong demand going forward.

On their part, Tesla officials said that the battery and the car worked as designed, keeping the fire under control and allowing the driver time to pull over and safely exit the vehicle. “The fire was caused by the direct impact of a large metallic object to one of the 16 modules within the Model S battery pack,” Tesla spokeswoman Elizabeth Jarvis-Shean said. “Because each module within the battery pack is, by design, isolated by fire barriers to limit any potential damage, the fire in the battery pack was contained to a small section in the front of the vehicle,” she added. Panasonic Corp., which makes the Model S’ batteries, declined to comment.

While Tesla insisted that the burning Model S worked as designed, Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety, said that there has to be a “design issue” with the Model S if an object striking the bottom of the car could lead to a battery fire.

Tesla’s battery pack uses standard form factor lithium-ion battery cells similar to those used in laptop computers. As a result, the combined battery pack takes up most of the underside of the Model S. By comparison, EVs from established car companies use custom sized battery cells so the finished battery packs can be packaged more compactly as in the T-shaped battery pack located in the middle of the Chevy Volt.

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Saab 9-3 Back in Production http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/saab-9-3-back-in-production/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/saab-9-3-back-in-production/#comments Thu, 19 Sep 2013 11:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=523065 Saab re-starts production

After years of rumors and speculations of the will they/won’t they variety, a brand-new Saab 9-3 has – finally! – managed to roll down the assembly line! Don’t be fooled by the fact that this new Saab looks just like the 2009 models the company was building when it was spun off from GM’s bankruptcy, however. This car features all-new components designed by Saab engineers and manufactured in Trollhättan, Sweden.

Saab, now owned by the National Electric Vehicle Sweden company, promised its new cars would reach production in 18 months. That was in September of 2012, so they’re about 6 month ahead of schedule. That on-track message puts NEVS-owned Saab in a decidedly different league than faux car-makers like Detroit Electric and Elio Motors, who’ve spent more time justifying delays than they have building cars. Don’t take my word for that, though, check out the well-appointed assembly line and experienced Saab assembly workers in the photo gallery, below, and start getting excited.

Saab’s back, baby! All we need now is a new Saab 900 revival and we’ll really be in business!

 

saab saab_3 saab_2 New Saab 9-3

Sources | Photos: Saabs United, via WorldCarFans; Originally posted to Gas 2.

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Tesla Dodges A Legislative Bullet http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/tesla-dodges-a-legislative-bullet/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/tesla-dodges-a-legislative-bullet/#comments Mon, 24 Jun 2013 12:30:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=493103 450x307xTesla-Japan-Picture-courtesy-cleveland.com_-450x307.jpg.pagespeed.ic.XfzUsQfxqK

A proposed law that would have eliminated Tesla’s ability to sell cars in New York state has died on the vine, after lawmakers adjourned their legislative session without taking any action on the bill.

The bills, introduced in both the lower house and state Senate, would make it illegal for an auto maker to operate a dealership in the state, and any current licenses would be ineligible for renewal, save for those issues prior to July 1, 2006, which would be grandfathered in. Tesla has faced various legislative battles in Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, Massachusetts, and Minnesota and has so far succeeded only in Minnesota.

Tesla would have had to close their three stores and two service centers in New York if the bill passed. Lee Zeldin, a Long Island Republican who sponsored the bill in the upper house, reportedly proposed a separate measure to make an exception for Tesla, echoing a “compromise” from Mark Scheinberg, the head of the Greater New York Auto Dealers Association. Scheinberg told Automotive News that he had offered to extend the grandfathering date, but Tesla refused. Even so, he denied trying to put them out of business, since, after all, Tesla could still establish a franchised dealer network.

According to AN, Tesla denied ever receiving the compromise – and even if they had, they would have rejected it.

 

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Tesla Is Into Swapping While Nissan Is Watching http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/tesla-is-into-swapping-while-nissan-is-watching/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/tesla-is-into-swapping-while-nissan-is-watching/#comments Fri, 21 Jun 2013 13:23:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=492892

Now that Better Place went belly-up,  Tesla  joined the battery-swapping lifestyle.  As promised, Tesla unveiled a system to swap battery packs in its electric cars.  According to Reuters, Tesla “will roll out the battery-swapping stations later this year, beginning along the heavily-traveled route between Los Angeles and San Francisco and then in the Washington-to-Boston corridor.”

“There are some people, they take a lot of convincing,” Musk told the wire. “Hopefully this is what convinces people finally that electric cars are the future.”

The swapping transaction itself needs a little polish. Says Reuters: “A battery pack swap will cost between $60 and $80, about the same as filling up a 15-gallon gas tank, Musk said. Drivers who choose to swap must reclaim their original battery on their return trip or pay the difference in cost for the new pack.”

The technology garnered attention from an unlikely corner: That of Nissan, maker of the Leaf.  The swapporama was featured in today’s issue of “The Week in Autos,”  featuring the always elegant Coco Masters and the dapper Ian Rowley, both of Nissan’s global newsroom, and both familiar faces on TTAC.

Interestingly, their series does what other makers rarely do: Talk about the competition. They even talk nice about the other guys. Tesla is partially owned by Nissan’s rival Toyota, which makes the matter even more interesting.

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Living With an EV for a Week – Day Seven (EV death and resurrection) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-seven/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-seven/#comments Wed, 05 Jun 2013 22:05:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490939 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior-004

It was the end of the line for the orange creamsicle Fiat 500e dubbed Zippy Zappy. She and I covered some 675 miles together during our seven-say odyssey (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, click over to Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6 before coming back to the saga, I promise we’ll wait for you.) As I ended my afternoon commute by rolling silently through my forest, I looked down at the power gauge. 33% left. It had been a hot day so I had the A/C on, cruise control set to 74 MPH and Toby Keith was blaring on the radio. My range anxiety was gone. But had some EV mystique been lost in the process?

When the LEAF floated down to the forest floor for the first time in early 2011 it truly was the start of something new. Where this 21st century EV adventure will take us is anyone’s guess, but the LEAF represented the first viable electric car in nearly 100 years and single-handedly boosted EV sales in America to the highest numbers since 1914. Yes, I am discounting the EV1, the original RAV4 EV, Honda EV Plus and the S-10 EV. Why? Well, being horrible cars doesn’t help their case, and aside from that, put together they totaled around 3,000 over eight model years. Talk about dismal sales. Oh wait, most of them weren’t sold, they were leased as “experimental research vehicles.” Before we end our EV week, we need to talk about the 1990s EV blip.

Who killed the EV in 1999? Nobody. Sorry Chris Paine and the other conspiracy theorists, the EV was stillborn at the end of the 20th century and all the zapping from MagneCharge paddles couldn’t get that dog to hunt. (Oh how I love mixing metaphors.) What was the real issue? Let’s start at the beginning.

ev12.jpg

The EV1 was dreadfully ugly. Ugly cars don’t sell well. The EV1 was also a two-seat coupé. Two-seaters don’t fly off showroom floors. Toss in shopping cart like handling when the market clamored for go-kart manners, limited range, ginormous/expensive home charging stations, and lead-acid batteries that have a limited lifetime and you had a car no sane shopper would want to own. So GM leased them for $399-$549 a month ($576-$793 in 2013 dollars). The Gen II EV1 (why didn’t they call it an EV2?) landed in 1999 with NiMH batteries. GM traded the lead battery weaknesses for higher energy density (30% more capacity for the same weight) and a different set of problems. NiMH batteries were all the rage in the 90s—our Motorola cell phones and “luggable” laptops used them—but they “self-discharge” far more rapidly than other battery types and are more fickle about charging temperatures. Because of the nature of NiMH packs a beefier cooling system was needed to keep them happy while charging. Charge times doubled from 4 hours to 8 hours at 240V and the 120V “opportunity” charger had to be abandoned since the car’s new battery cooling system consumed nearly 1,000 watts meaning you could run the cooling, or charge. Not both. Toss in huge losses on every car sold, no desire to extend losses by making out of warranty parts and GM killed the endeavor 1,117 cars later. Thank God. Who killed the EV1? Who cares? It was a mercy killing and I believe in euthanasia.

How about the RAV4 EV? 0-60 in 18 seconds, a top speed of 78MPH, limited range and a steep $42,000 price tag ($60,680 in 2013 dollars = ouch). Following the death of the EV1 program, GM sold their battery division which held key NiMH patents used by automotive battery makers. Regardless of the conspiracy theories surrounding the Chevron ownership of patents and the closing of the large battery division, so few EVs were being made we can never be sure about the motivation for stopping production. Does it matter? Probably not since the market for a slow, heavy compact 2WD trucklet that cost more than twice the base price of a gasoline version was limited to say the least. In addition, the home charger for the EV1 and RAV4 cost $2,500 in 1996 ($3,611 adjusted for inflation), lease payments were steeper than a Cadillac, and gasoline cost $0.99 a gallon. Which would you have picked? The fact that any of these cars got off the ground in the first place is a testament to two things: 1. California’s legislative powers can move mountains. 2. There’s an ass for every seat.

2013 Fiat 500e Charging from ChargePoint J1772 Charging Station, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

What does that have to do with my week in Zippy Zappy? I’m amazed how far we’ve come in just 16 years. Battery technology has improved by leaps and bounds thanks to the boom of portable widgets in the last 10 years. Batteries aren’t just more energy dense, they are more durable, safer and have faster charge/discharge rates. These improvements allow EVs  to be made that don’t weigh substantially more than a regular car, can handle like a regular car, look like a regular car and drive like a regular car. Thanks to other improvements we have lower charging times and smaller connectors. We also have 240V home charging stations that cost $450, one eighth the cost of the EV1′s funky paddle system and use up 1/20th the physical space.

Much of what was learned in the EV programs at the end of last century has been applied, not just to modern EVs from Zippy Zappy to the Model S, but to hybrid cars and normal cars alike. Hybrid cars accounted for 3.4% of new vehicle sales last month and 6.5% of new car sales. (Pure EVs? 0.54% of new car sales in May.) Those hybrids have built on EV lessons, from battery-powered climate control systems to aerodynamic improvements and power management systems. The next big thing (if you listen to some people) will be fuel cell vehicles which will build further on the EV lessons learned. Fuel cells are exciting in many ways but they need batteries because fuel cells work best when delivering a constant flow of power. The cells depend on the “ballast” ability of a battery to supply peak loads like going up hill or accelerating rapidly.

The Leaf battery pack

The more I drive EVs, the more the veil has descended. EVs are wrapped up in green clothing, range anxiety, conspiracy theories and more, but at their heart, they are just a regular car with a cord and a small fuel tank. If (and when) people begin to see EVs for what they are (and what they aren’t) I think we’ll see more of them on the roads. They won’t keep minke whales from being hunted down on Whale Wars. With our current power generation make up they are unlikely to have much of an impact on greenhouse gas emissions. But as long as they fulfill the promise of reduced overall emissions and low operating costs, they will have a home with commuters looking for silent running. Next time I need a new car, an EV will certainly be on my list. Where on the list? Good question.

Looking for the other installments? Here you go:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

 Day 6

]]> http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-seven/feed/ 87 Living With an EV for a Week – Day Six (Don’t honk at me, I’m saving the planet) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-six-dont-honk-at-me-im-saving-the-planet/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-six-dont-honk-at-me-im-saving-the-planet/#comments Tue, 04 Jun 2013 22:07:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490709 Rainy forest, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Day six brought a typical Northern California morning: it was 41 degrees, foggy and raining in my forest. But because I was driving an electric vehicle, a squirrel greeted me at the doorstep to thank me for saving his home and a group of hummingbirds dried my charging cable with their tiny wings so I wouldn’t electrocute myself as I unplugged. Then I woke up. But it was still 41. And foggy. And raining.

If you’re just checking in, catch up by going to Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5 before coming back to the saga, I promise we’ll wait for you.

Because I got up on time and I didn’t drive the orange Fiat 500e (Zippy Zappy) much on Sunday, I was greeted by a full charge. Via the smartphone app I commanded cabin heat since I had become soft and given into the temptation that is a warm cabin earlier in the week. Doing causes the cabin heater to turn on at a low-level to heat the cabin. It puts out as much heat as a regular-old space heater: not much. Given enough time it will get the cabin to a normal temperature. If your battery is already fully charged, using this feature will preserve range because you won’t use battery power to bring the interior bits up to temperature. This is not only in the name of battery life, but efficiency as well. It is more efficient to suck off the 120V/240V charging teat than to charge the battery and discharge it. Everything about the modern crop of EVs is designed around efficiency, even the sporty Model S. Increase efficiency and you reduce emissions.

Say what? How can you reduce emissions on a “zero emissions” vehicle? You thought EV equals zero emissions? Au contraire! Where do you think the power comes from? We’re all adults. We know by now the ATM doesn’t “make” money, and what powers our appliances has to be made somewhere. If that somewhere is in the United States, then on average half of it (49.6%) comes from coal. Average is an important thing to keep in mind, power sources vary wildly from zip code to zip code. If you’re in New York, rejoice because you have the cleanest power in the country as long as you’re in the camp that thinks nuclear power is clean. While not quite as squeaky clean as NY, California, the “Pacific Northwest” and New England are the cleanest places to power up your ride. If you live in Colorado or one of the other square states, your EV is a novelty coal-powered car. (Some portions of Colorado are nearly 75% coal.) Brings a new meaning to “clean coal” doesn’t it? In those coal heavy states, depending on which study you believe, driving a Nissan Leaf (one of the most efficient EVs) will produce similar greenhouse gas emissions to a 30MPG car. Ouch. If you live in Denver and drive an EV, you are making the forest sprites weep. Indeed, even the ginormous Toyota Avalon Hybrid (below) is 20% cleaner than your electric anything in The Centennial State. (And cheaper as well.)

2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

 

What about the rest of us? Well, it is comforting to know that 32% of EVs are being sold in California with Florida at 6.6%, Washington 5.7%, Texas 4.3%, New York 3.5% (so much for those liberal Yankees being into left-wing propulsion and Texans loving oil.) Ohio, Illinois and North Caroline all come in at 3.1% with the other states trailing. That’s not surprising when you consider CA accounts for 11.1% of US car sales with others falling roughly in line: TX 9.6, FL 7.1, NY 5, IL 3.6. The stand out is the environmentally conscious Washington, third in EV sales but eighth in overall vehicle sales. If you want to check out where your power comes from, just click on over to the DOE’s nifty website. Or, for the reader’s digest MPG conversion, there is a very nifty map created by The Union of Concerned Scientists. The map below shows you the equivalent MPGs you would have to get in a gasoline car to be as clean as an EV that averages 0.34 kWh/mile. Zippy Zappy has been averaging only 0.25 kWh/mile, so adjust your figures accordingly. That model S? 0.38 kWh/mile.

Power MPG map, Picture Courtesy of www.ucsusa.org

The trouble with these numbers (aside from the fact that they are confusing) is: there is more going on than just greenhouse emissions. We have nitrous oxide (known as NOx because it refers to both NO and NO2) to think of. Upon closer inspection that seems to be a non issue because the average vehicle emits .001438 lbs of NOx per mile and a LEAF in Colorado (consuming 74% coal electricity, the worst in the USA) only puts out 0.0000096 lbs. Cross that one off your list. What about particulates? The claim is most forms of power generation produce less than the same energy in a gasoline vehicle. But what about the intangibles? How do you feel about hydro power and the effects on fish populations? Wind power and birds? Nuclear power and the insane people who think it’s going to make them grow 5 eyeballs? Think Solar power is your answer? If you charge at home off-peak (after 6pm for most of us) you’re in the dwindling return part of the day for solar in the summer, and in the dark in the winter. That means you may have put clean solar power into the grid, but at night you’re sucking down nuclear power and the other forms of generation that provide constant forms of output. (That’s as opposed to gas and others that can ramp up production quickly to meet spikes in demand.)

One must also consider the extraneous factors involved in the EV game. Recycling of the lithium-ion battery packs on the scale required is a current unknown. How about that EV charging station at home? How long will it last? How much of an environmental impact is buying an EV and not investing that money into home improvements to cut your utility expenses? How about buying local products and produce, etc.? I don’t have the answers to any of these questions, but I think they need to be resolved in my mind before I can say without a doubt that driving an EV is saving the planet.

2014 Fiat 500 Electric, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

But on the other hand, does saving the planet have to be your EV goal? Is driving an EV because it reduces certain expenses and is exciting  technology enough? How about if your employer subsidises your EV charging in an attempt to be green? (Plenty do.) How about that HOV lane access? How about those crazy-cheap lease deals? I’m seriously considering an EV as my family’s next car purchase, but it has more to do with the financial and “time away from home” incentives than purely altruistic environmental concerns. Looking at that map above, if you feel truly inspired to protect the environment, then some of you will have to skip the EV holy grail and drive a 50+ MPG Prius C. Slowly.

My time with Zippy Zappy is drawing to an end. Tomorrow she will go back from whence she came to be primped and charged for the next journalist. With one final drive ahead of me in the morning, I oscillated between driving ZZ like I stole her and like the future of every forest creature depended on my frugality. I suspect I’m not alone with my personal struggles on the EV front. On the one hand an EV is an enormous gadget, perhaps the ultimate gadget. On the other, EVs don’t make a sound financial argument in terms of “saving” anything. The steep purchase price washes out much of the supposed savings vs a Prius. Being no closer to a conclusion, I plugged ZZ in one last time and noted my state of charge was 33% with an estimated time of completion 16 hours hence.

 

Looking for the other installments? Here you go:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 7

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Living With an EV for a Week – Day Five http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-five/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-five/#comments Mon, 03 Jun 2013 22:55:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490683 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Charging Plug, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Day five in our week-long look at living with an EV started once again with a full battery. If you’re just checking in, catch up by going to Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4 before coming back to the saga, I promise we’ll wait for you. Since I’m still afflicted with religion, and because the Episcopal denomination despises change, my Sundays have taken me to the same church, the same building and the same pew for over 33 years. It also means driving 22 miles each way because finding something closer would involve change.

This aversion to change isn’t unique to my religious sect, it’s practically an American virtue. The real impediment to EV proliferation isn’t the range, economy, economics, or availability, it’s change. The average American commutes less than 6 miles in each direction a day. Even with a lunch break where you head home and back to work again we’re talking 24 miles. If you consider the adage of 12,000 miles a year (according to the US census) that expands to a still-manageable 33 miles a day. If we look at the ownership demographics by household, 9.1% of us don’t have any cars, 33.8% of us own one car per household leaving the 57.1% majority owning 2 or more cars. Indeed the “average” household owns 2.8 cars. While I’m of the firm opinion that EV’s can’t fit everyone’s needs, they can satisfy 90-95% of our needs and could easily be that second or third car in the garage. But that would require a change in how we look at transportation.

Right now the car is a freedom device. We know that if we wanted to, we could hop our car/truck/SUV and drive from California to New York. It doesn’t matter to us that we never do, we know we could if we wanted to. The car is more than just transportation, it’s liberty and adventure on wheels. Part of what allows this freedom is the near instant fuelling ability and the range of around 300+ miles. Whenever there is a car that strays from this norm, we point it out. We praise a car if it gets 500 miles of range and damn it to failure if it manages “only” 200. This is part of the reason cited for the slow development of natural gas infrastructure, Americans can’t stomach a 5 minute fill-up every day let alone a multi-hour charge.

It's a plug. (courtesy bornandbreded.files.wordpress.com)

That fallacy is further fuelled in some respects by the EV makers by not including a home charging station in the car’s price tag. (Advertising them like a “normal” car doesn’t help either.) Speaking with EV owners, many of them started out thinking they could live with the 120V plug that came with the car only to end up spending around $2,000 to get a home charging station later. That penalty has dropped rapidly and 240V EVSEs are down to around $450 but they are still overlooked by many. By having one of these stations, your EV would always leave home charged. Even if you had a late night of partying and rolled in a 3AM, the average EV would be completely full by 7AM for you to head into work with a hangover. That helps range anxiety, but doesn’t address the fact you have 100 miles of “freedom” per charge.

I am not one of the bunch that thinks Tesla’s Supercharger network is the answer to this problem. Yes it will allow you to get your Tesla from San Francisco to New York, but based on 30-35 minute charges every 200 miles the trip would take you an additional 8 hours. 8 hours isn’t a huge deal when you’re going across the country, but many still see it as a limitation. I think the answer is that other car you have in your garage. I think it’s lovely that there is a group of environmentalists out there that have a purely EV garage, but I don’t think that’s palatable to most of us. I also don’t agree with the legislation that allows EVs in HOV lanes, but since the law exists I tell people looking for a second car or a commuter car that they can’t overlook the value of that sticker. When I had the Honda Civic Natural Gas for a week, I saved 35 minutes of commute time a day and didn’t have to take as many “shortcuts” to avoid traffic. The savings to my sanity and the increased time at home have to be factored into your decision as well.

2014 Fiat 500 Electric, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

As the briefest drive yet in Zippy Zappy came to an end I started to realize that if I was willing to give up the sense of freedom that comes with a gasoline powered car, it would be possible to integrate an EV into my life. Maybe that thought would have occurred to me earlier if EVs were advertised with a commuter car or second car angle. I’d be interested to hear from our readers about their daily commutes, average numbers of miles and exactly how often you deviate from the norm.

 

Looking for the other installments? Here you go:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 6

Day 7

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Living With an EV for a Week – Day Four (can we get a charging standard please?) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-four-can-we-get-a-charging-standard-please/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-four-can-we-get-a-charging-standard-please/#comments Sun, 02 Jun 2013 19:18:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490456 2014 Fiat 500e Under The Hood, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

If you’re just now reading this series, here’s what’s going on. Because reviews of electric vehicles (my own included) seem to be 1/4 review and 3/4 whining about EV related issues, I decided to divorce the review from the “EV experience” and post daily about driving a car with an 80-95 mile range. You can catch up by going to Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 before coming back to the saga. Don’t worry, we’ll wait for you. Day three ended with my battery at 15% because I drove the orange creamsicle Fiat we have named “Zippy Zappy” over 175 miles. I don’t have a 240V charging cable at home so the car told me it would be 24 hours until the car was charged at 120V. Good thing day four was a Saturday.I woke up and debated whether I should shirk my weekend chores and head to the beach. After all, I had discovered the beach was equipped with a 240V station. No dice, I looked up the station online and it was occupied, probably because charging is free in Capitola By The Sea. Looking at the ChargePoint station map it’s obvious to see how the landscape has changed in a year. The SF Bay Area now has 781 public charging stations on the ChargePoint network,  172 on the Blink network, 23 DC “Fast Charge” stations that deliver 90 kW (nearly 14x faster than the onboard charger in Zippy Zappy or the 2014 LEAF). Of course Fiat hasn’t signed onto the CHAdeMO bandwagon yet leaving the LEAF and iMiEV the only cars capable of sucking down electrons at such a speed. No, I haven’t forgotten about Tesla, we’ll talk about that later.

In addition to those stations there another 980 private 240V chargers in the Bay Area that are part of PlugShare, a deal where you let random EV people charge at your home using your juice. Last time I had a LEAF, I decided to use a PlugShare station, so I looked one up and followed the directions. I texted the guy who was sharing his station and he told me to just drive up and plug my car into his station in his driveway. I was so blown away by thig I interviewed him. He told me he thought of PlugShare as”EV random acts of kindness.” How sweet. Let me ask you all a question to put this in perspective. How many of you would sign up for “GasShare.com” a place where you keep a 5-gallon gasoline can in your driveway so you can share it with your fellow neighbors? Anyone? I suspect that as EVs become more popular and the charge rate increases fewer people will be willing to let strangers park in their driveway and suck down $10 worth of electricity.

2012 Nissan Leaf, Exterior, charging connector, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

About that Tesla. The charging standard situation  is like a VHS/Betamax battle with only one player on the Beta side: Tesla. I do understand the logic with the new charging connector, it is without a doubt superior into the J1772 that every other EV and plug-in hybrid uses. It is also better than the CHAdeMO DC charging plugs on Mitsubishi and Nissan EVs. Finally it’s way, way more attractive than that funky SAE combo connector the society is pushing.

How is Tesla’s cord better? First off the connector is smaller. I’m not convinced this is a big deal since every car has a fuel door and so far nobody has  told me they hated their fuel door because it was too big. But the electrical side of the connector? Tesla rocks. J1772 started out with a 30A max draw, later amended to 80A in 2009 (although I have yet to see an 80A capable station). If your car supports J1772 AC charging and CHAdeMO quick charging, you have the ginormous connector above shown above ( on the left of the J1772 connector). It’s HUGE. Now we really do have a size problem because  you can’t hide the two of them together behind a normal fuel door. Tesla went another way and (we can only guess at some of this because they haven’t shared their charging standard with anyone) and combined the AC and DC charging onto the same pins. (You can see the Tesla connector below.)Even though the Tesla connector is smaller it’s just as beefy with a Model S drawing 80A if you buy the 20kW charging option. That’s over 330% faster than a LEAF, Focus EV or Fiat 500e. The only problem being that your home needs to support that and my home has only a 100A service so I would have to choose between charging my car and using the oven. If that’s not fast enough you can stop by a Tesla “Supercharger” station and suck down power at 100kW (400 volts at 250 amps) 10kW faster than CHAdeMO.

The problem with this charging superiority is that it’s exclusive to Tesla. With the adapter that comes with every Tesla model S, you can use the 1,933 J1772 charging stations in the Bay Area, but you can’t share your home station with a LEAF driver. If you’re a multi EV family with a Model S and a 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV (powered by Tesla ironically), you will need to either use a J1772 station and deal with the slower charge in your Tesla or have two stations at home. (You know, aside from the fact that you’re going to be nearly maxing out your 200A service.) More vexing than that is DC quick charging your Tesla. Yes, I freely admit CHAdeMO is an enormous chunky plug, but there are already 23 CHAdeMO stations in the Bay, 28 in Tennessee, 18 in Portland, 6 in Seattle, 19 in Phoenix and several in Southern California. (Not to mention hundreds in Japan.) Right now there are only eight Tesla Supercharger stations in the USA growing to some 50+ stations by the end of the year. Great. But as of now you can’t charge your Tesla from the existing CHAdeMO stations and you can’t charge your CHAdeMO car from a Tesla station. If we cared about the EV landscape and wanted EVs to succeed, we need to use the same connector. How would it go down if Honda came up with a new Accord and used an all-new and all-sexy fuel filler neck that was incompatible with anything but a Honda gas station unless you used a funnel? A comparison to Apple is usually drawn here, but even Apple has always used industry standard NEMA power cords.

socket4, Image from blog.widodh.nl

This this is all about Tesla vs Nissan? Think again. There is so much indecision in the industry over what charging standard to support that most manufacturers do nothing, which is probably worse. That means you can’t fast charge your RAV4 EV, a car that really needs it, or your Focus, 500e, Fit EV, Mini e, A3, Active e, iQ EV, fortwo, Spark EV, or Transit Connect Electric. What do the car companies say? “We are waiting for a standard to emerge.” Funny, I’d call the hundreds of DC stations already installed in America a standard that has emerged.

After 15 hours of charging, the wee Fiat was ready for a trip to civilization as we had a party to attend. We pre-planned and carpooled with some friends so we could leave Zippy Zappy plugged into their garage outlet for a few hours. There was zero range anxiety this time with an 84% charge. The EV Fiat proved amusing to drive quickly on the winding mountain roads we traversed. EVs add a fair amount of weight to any conversion like this, but because the battery pack is positioned low in the vehicle, it improves the centre of gravity and weight balance when compared to the gasoline 500. Four hours of partying later, the 500e was a minor celebrity with all manner of people wanting to see it/sit in it/ride in it. Even though you see EVs driving around all over the place in N. CA, they still have a novelty factor that makes people interested. Saturday was a slow day with only 49 miles going on the Fiat and an estimated time to a full charge when we rolled in of 9 hours even at 120V.

Looking for the other installments? Here you go:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

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Living With an EV for a Week – Day Three (and why MPGe is stupid) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-three-and-why-mpge-is-stupid/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-three-and-why-mpge-is-stupid/#comments Sat, 01 Jun 2013 21:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490098  

Fiat 500e LCD Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Day three dawned with a nearly full battery, the exact level seemed unimportant to me. Perhaps it’s the Range Anxiety patch I ordered online for three easy payments of $9.99, or my new-found confidence in tripping across EV stations. Either way I decided bold action was required. I set the climate control to 68 and headed up the hill.

How far would by battery get me today? That’s a good question. Since trip computers aren’t intelligent, they can’t make adjustments for terrain like we can. For instance, I know that the freeway without traffic that’s flat the whole way is the efficient route while the possibly shorter mountain road is going to consume more energy. There’s a problem with Zippy Zappy however, she doesn’t display “fuel economy” in terms of the fuel that’s actually being used, instead the silly display shows you how many Miles Per Gallon equivalent you’re getting. MPGe is stupid.

My apologies for calling the Fiat 500e the most efficient EV available, I was misinformed and I must fall on my sword. The Scion iQ EV is the most efficient EV with a combined rating of 121 MPGe. There’s that MPGe thing gain. Everyone say it with me: EVs don’t drink gasoline. What would be helpful to me as I’m driving down the road is how much energy it takes to move my car one mile, just like a normal car. What I want is mi/kWh. The LEAF and s few other EVs give you this information, but there is no standard and with the EPA heading off in the weeds with MPGe it’s only complicating things. If you bought electricity in MPGe it would be different, but we don’t.

C-MAX Energi

The reason MPGe exists must be to confuse everyone, and confuse it does. I have seen Chevy Volts advertised as 98 “MPG” (without the e), and when people look at the window stickers of EVs, they ask, “but I thought it was electric?” Starting with the 2012 model year cars needed to display a standard way of communicating efficiency to the customer. Because the EPA gets wrapped up in their own red tape easily, they decided that the American public was too stupid to think in terms of mi/kWh or kWh/100 miles. So what they did was they sat down and calculated how much energy burning one gallon of gasoline would produce. The answer was 116,090 BTU or 34.02 kWh per US gallon. Then for some reason the EPA picked 33.7 for the official exchange rate. That’s lovely, but again I ask: where exactly do I buy electricity in MPGes? Nowhere, that’s where.

We can take something away from this MPGe nonsense however, it is obvious how inefficient internal combustion engines are. If one gallon is equal to 34.02kWh, ZZ’s 24kWh battery pack “holds” around 7/10ths of a gallon of “gallon equivalent” and will transport you 80-95 miles. If something running on real gasoline was that efficient, that  20 gallon gas tank would get you from California to Florida on one tank.

With some range experience under my belt I decided to set the cruise control to 74, climate control set to 68 and zipped to work like I was driving any other car. The only thing to report is I got the same scornful looks from the LEAF drivers as I did in any gasoline car as I passed them in the pack of commuters eager to get to work on time. There’s just one thing, ZZ has a top speed of 88 MPH instead of the 130 you can do in the Abarth or the 120 in the regular $15,995 500 Pop. Despite having a stout 111 HP and 147 lb-ft of twist, the A/C motor under the hood of the little Fiat can only spin so fast. The same goes for gasoline engines of course, but they have multi-speed transmissions and torque converters, that all reduces efficiency. Instead the “single” speed transmission in most EVs is nothing more than a reduction gear and a differential. Need to go in reverse? Just spin the motor backwards. Since motors deliver excellent torque at near zero RPM, there’s no need for an efficiency robbing torque converter. There are compromises when picking that reduction gear ratio and the Fiat engineers favored efficiency, hence the 88 MPH max speed. The Tesla Model S uses a motor that can spin faster (it’s a more expensive car so it can have a more precision motor) and since it competes with the Germans in the luxury market, a 130MPH top speed was required. I’m not sure how fast that Tesla’s motor spins at 130 but it’s bound to be singing.

Charging Port, J1772, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

When I arrived, my newly discovered charging station was once again available, so I plugged in and sucked up $7.84 worth of electrons (16 kWh) in two and a half hours. My battery was full before lunch time. For lunch I jammed three passengers in the wee Fiat, depleted my battery by 10% by engaging in EV shenanigans (instant torque makes for entertaining one-wheel-peel) and figured I’d top off the battery the slow way with the free 120V juice from the office. Except I forgot to actually plug the car in. My bad. I discovered my error when I went to unplug ZZ from her umbilical. Never mind, 90% is enough to return home and then some, so I cranked the A/C (it was 89 degrees) and took I-280 home as a happy medium between the flat and efficient US-101 with bad traffic and the traffic-free but decidedly inefficient Highway 35.

When I got home I had 33% of my battery left and I was informed that we were to go and visit my cousin-in-law. No problem, a quick numbers game in my head said that 33% plus a 20 minute stop at the 240V charger at the grocery store on the way (had to get some wine anyway) and mooching off their power with the 120V cord once we arrived would leave us with battery to spare. Unfortunately when we got to the store my “Plug Rage” reared its ugly head once more. I had 30% of my battery left (thanks to the 11 miles to the store being mostly down-hill) and there sucking off the only electric teat in the lot was a Ford C-Max Energi. I was incensed, she didn’t need the power as much as I needed it. Didn’t she know there was a gas station around the corner? Here she is sucking down the electrons I needed to get home when she could just burn some gasoline and we could all get home. We started the errand running and I kept a watchful eye on the ChargePoint app (it really needs a feature to notify you when a station becomes available now that 99% of stations on the map can no longer be reserved). My waiting was rewarded and I got a 25 minute charge. After a 3-hour dinner party and 3.1 kWh courtesy of my cuz, we made it back up the hill with the car flashing, beeping, whining and whimpering that it had 14% of its battery remaining. This made us ask: what happens when you run out? I wasn’t brave enough to find out.

Day three ended proving that thanks to ZZ’s 6.6kW charger you can put over 175 miles on your 500e in a day without too much stress. Charge at home, charge before lunch, charge after lunch, charge at the grocery store. By thinking of your EV as a 1990s cell phone where you were always hunting for a charge, you’ll be fine. Just ask me. Sadly we will have to wait 21 hours for day four to dawn because I don’t own a Level 2 charger.

 

Looking for the other installments? Here you go:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 4

Day 5

 Day 6

Day 7

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