Thursday, June 21, 2012

EV Expectations: You get what you expect!

Can we really expect there to be EVSE stations everywhere in our lives?  At home, at the office, at retail locations?  Expectations have to be set, and reset, by those who choose to forge ahead in a new technology.  In the EV world, that means that those of us who choose to be early adopters have to change our own expectations in order to change the expectations of those around us.

For example, I have been negotiating to lease new office space for my firm over the last three months.   We have submitted various offers with various property owners.  Each offer has included a provision that requires the landlord to install at least two public EVSE's at their location.  I don't ask that the EVSE's be for my exclusive use--indeed I want them to be publicly available.  I also don't demand that the power be provided free of charge--they can charge a reasonable amount if they like (although I recommend free charging to promote visitors to the building).

When I first told my broker that I wanted that provision included in every lease proposal that we sent out, he had never heard of such a demand.  And yet, so many of the lease terms and provisions included in a proposal are quite standard.  Things like tenant improvements so new offices can be built, or a few months of free rents--all typical.  Requiring the installation of EVSE's--not typical.

But if we all started to change our own expectations, and expect that EVSE's are standard in a lease proposal, then it won't take long for that provision to work its way into many of the documents realtors use for office leasing.  Once that occurs, expectations change and the world becomes a far more EV friendly place to live...and work.

Of the three proposals we submitted, two property owners were interested, but not willing to commit to installing EVSE's.  The third offer committed to installing at least one EVSE, and possibly two depending on the cost.  We chose the third offer.  They even stated that the EVSE would be for my exclusive use.  I'm flattered.  But just between you and me, I plan on making the EVSE publicly available.  

It's time to raise our EV expectations.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Emotional E: Fun vs. efficiency

The Active E guru (sensei, maestro, etc.) Tom M. set out a list showing how the consumption rate (which is expressed in miles per kilowatt-hour or "mls/kWh") translates into the expected range of the Active E.  The more efficiently you drive, the farther you go on a single charge.  It is based on usable battery power of 27 kWh (the E has a 32 kWh battery pack, but only 28 of those kWh's are available to use and about 1 kWh is apparently held in reserve).  The list went something like this (I say something because now I can't find the list, but this should be the same since its based on 27 kWh):

          2.2 mls/kWh = 59.4 mile range
          2.7 mls/kWh = 72.9 miles
          3.0 mls/kWh = 81 miles
          3.3 mls/kWh = 89.1 miles
          3.8 mls/kWh = 102.6 miles
          4.0 mls/kWh = 108 miles
          4.4 mls/kWh = 118 miles

Knowing your range is important, but how does the Active E make you feel?  There is an emotional connection that everyone feels almost instantly when riding in, and especially when driving, the Active E.  It's quiet, has smooth, instant acceleration, and can beat just about any car off-the-line.  It moves without a drop of gas nor a hint of exhaust.  And it handles like a BMW.

I notice myself struggling between an all out urge to hit the accelerator and have fun (efficiency be damned) or feeling the serene nirvana of achieving the best in efficiency the car has to offer.  So I thought it might be interesting to translate the mls/kWh into the emotional feeling that accompanies it:

         2.2 mls/kWh = whoo hoo, I'm having the time of my life
         2.7 mls/kWh = trying to be serious, but still having fun
         3.0 mls/kWh = moderate restraint, not happy, not sad
         3.3 mls/kWh = repeat with me "must not floor it, must not floor it, must not..."
         3.8 mls/kWh = I am turning into a robot...
         4.0 mls/kWh =  come on! You're killing me!
         4.4 mls/kWh = I am at peace with efficiency.

Choose your level of fun vs. efficiency and drive accordingly.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Four New EVSE's in Downtown Riverside: With or without ICE...

Riverside has stepped-up its support of our EV community with four new EVSE's installed in three different parking garages throughout downtown Riverside.

1.  4090 Lemon Street, Riverside, California.  This is a brand new Chargepoint EVSE installation.  The power is free, but you have to pay the parking rates for the garage.  The spot was ICE'd when I visited it today, but signage is supposed to be installed soon (according to the parking attendant).

The parking garage is adjacent to the County of Riverside  building.  The building's address is 4080 Lemon Street, but the parking garage is addressed as 4090.  The EVSE is on the first floor of the parking garage near the back of the building.

2.  3535 12th Street, Riverside California.  These are two EVSE's, newly installed by Chargepoint, inside the parking garage.  This garage is across the street from the various courthouses in downtown Riverside.  Power is free, parking is not.  But the spaces are nicely marked, not blocked, and the units work well.

3.  3403 10th Street, Riverside, CA.  This is actually on Lemon Street, but the address is 10th Street.  The space was ICE'd, but it is a new install and they plan on marking the space as EV only soon.

You can find each of these locations marked on

Friday, June 8, 2012

Eco Pro vs. Eco Amateur: Do I have what it takes to beat the ActiveE at its own game?

Driving efficiently is the name of the game in trying to squeeze every last mile of range out of an EV like the Active E.  On most days, I don't need that much range, so no need to be efficient.  Besides the E has a nice feature called "Eco Pro" where it manages the amount of electricity being used by the electric motor and all the other electric components of the car (including things like the air-conditioning, heater, and heated seats).  Eco Pro helps boost the efficiency of the E without you having to worry your pretty little head over it.

And yet, I wonder...can I be as efficient without the help of a professional?  I had to find out.  Eco Pro (the car) vs. Eco Amateur (me) in a head-to-head competition to see if I had what it takes to beat the E Professional.

First, for some factual assumptions.

In order to make this contest a little more even, I chose to measure the E's driving efficiency (which is measured in miles per Kilowatt Hour (or mls/kWh)) over the course of two days.  On day one, I drove without the Eco Pro engaged from home to work, a trip of 16 miles.  I used only side-streets--no freeway driving--because the flow of the freeway is unpredictable over the course of two days (especially here in Southern California).  More stop-and-go traffic means more efficiency for the E, and I wanted the amount of stop and go to be about the same both days.  By taking city-streets to work I had a more consistent trip between the two days.

I also did NOT use the air-conditioning.  Since the Eco Pro setting manages the amount of power being used by the air conditioner, something I cannot do myself, I choose to measure the efficiency without using air at all.  On both mornings the outside temperature was about the same (64 degrees on day one and 60 degrees on day two).  Finally, I took the exact same route and stopped measuring in the exact same location both days.

The Results.

Eco Amateur: Here are my results on day one, where I (the Eco Amateur) tried to manage efficiency all by myself:

I averaged a respectable 3.7 mls/kWh.  Not bad for an amateur.  My average speed was 29.7 m.p.h. and the trip took 37 minutes to complete.  At 3.7 mls/kWh, you can expect to reach an overall range of around 100 miles--assuming you could maintain that same efficiency for the day.  That is not likely because as the day gets warmer, a/c is a must--and that would take more power.  With Eco Pro that power could be managed, but during this "amateur hour" of driving I can't manage the a/c other than turning it off (or setting the climate control at 80 degrees--no thanks).

Eco Pro: Here are my results on day two using Eco Pro:

I averaged 3.9 mls/kWh, with an average speed of 31 m.p.h.  And the trip was a bit shorter at 35 minutes (a result of my higher average speed).  At this level of efficiency you could expect around 105 miles of range, assuming you could maintain the same level of efficiency for the entire trip.  Again, it may be hard to maintain 3.9 mls/kWh for an entire trip, but with Eco Pro engaged the electronic systems--including a/c--would use less power.

And the winner is:  Eco Pro!  But not by much, which is surprising.  I have done the same trip using Eco Pro before and obtained an efficiency of 4.0 mls/kWh (my highest efficiency rating ever).  Slow, steady starts is the friend of efficiency--such as this:

The more you can keep the needle from moving past that first hash-mark to the right of "Ready", the better.

But the car's ability to zoom off the line (leaving every other driver looking surprised when seen through the E's rearview mirror) is the enemy of efficiency.  And yet, I it never gets old.  So if you are going to drive efficiently, don't do this:

Notes and Conclusions:

A couple of observations.  First, was I driving more conservatively on day one when trying to measure my efficiency without Eco Pro (how dare you accuse me of that!)?  Yes, I was.  Not intentionally, but overall I clearly was driving more conservatively on day one, which is why I had a lower average speed on day one than I did on day two.  I am not sure if it is even possible to drive exactly the same over two days, but taking this into account means that Eco Pro is probably better than these numbers show.

Further, Eco Pro would definitely be more efficient when using the air-conditioning or the heater.

Is there any reason to drive without Eco Pro when trying to be efficient?  Not really.  There are times when I will start without Eco Pro so as to cool the car faster in summer, and I know others who drive without Eco Pro to heat the car faster in Winter.  The E also has the ability to precondition before unplugging from a 240V power source--which means that the car will cool or heat itself and its battery to optimal temperature before departure.  This is a real power saver.

Overall, however, there is no reason to drive without Eco Pro when trying to be efficient--unless you want to see if you can best the Eco Professional.  Even then you may learn, as I did, it's hard to beat a Pro.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

California Cruising: The Electric Glide Never Changes

Driving a pure EV takes some getting used to.  Its not just that the car functions differently, it's the behavior and movement of the car that we (the motoring public) have come to anticipate, yet no longer holds true in an EV.  For example, if I hit the accelerator to speed up, my years of driving ICE'd vehicles tell me that I should anticipate a slight pause as the transmission downshifts, and then an increase of horse power as the engine roars from around 2,000 RPM to 4,000 RPM.  It is a process we have all felt so many times before.

None of that happens in the Active E.  Instead, the car instantly accelerates without pause and without a power curve.  That means if I am not prepared to change my anticipations (so that I expect a very fast acceleration), I just might find my E resting comfortable on the bumper of the car in front of me.  

In the Active E, even the cruise control is not as anticipated.  I have used cruise control many times before in a gas-powered car, and the car usually is set at whatever speed you choose (let's say 70 mph) and the car has no problem maintaining that speed on a flat surface.  But when you encounter an incline, hill, etc., the speed drops below 70 mph for a bit and then the car tries to compensate by downshifting without warning and speeding up to the desired speed once again.  On a downhill slope, the car speeds past the desired speed and there is no way for the car itself to slow down, so the driver must apply the brakes or tolerate the increased speed.  It's a bit like a see-saw going back and forth around the desired speed, but never maintaining it exactly.

Contrast that with the cruise control of the Active E where something truly amazing happens--it stays on one speed...always.  When you set the speed at 70 mph, it stays there, no matter if traveling over hill or dale.  That's because the electric motor can both increase speed smoothly (and without downshifting) and that speed/power is available from the moment the car chooses to accelerate.  So if the car determines that it is loosing speed on the hill, it takes only a fraction of a second (something completely imperceptible to the driver) for the E to add some acceleration--smooth, fast, done--the car stays at 70 mph.  Going from a flat stretch into a hill has no perceptible effect on the set speed--70 mph is maintained without a drop in speed.
You won't see the needle budge off 70 mph until you disengage cruise control

On the downhill side, the E also has an advantage as it can engage the regenerative braking system on its own to slow the car down enough to maintain the desired speed.  

Thus, the E maintains a constant speed when in cruise control and never waivers from that setting.  Not impressed?  It may not sound like much of a difference, but when you ride in the car and feel the effects of this difference while cruising, it is a great (and comfortable) feeling.  Just one more change in anticipated behavior.

Friday, June 1, 2012

What's So Active About an "E"?

Far be it from me to criticize BMW's car naming abilities.  They have been in the car business far longer than I and have come up with iconic car names using words such as "7"..."5"...and the ubiquitous "3."  So I guess their first attempt at naming a car using something other than numerical nomenclature shouldn't be too harshly judged...but what exactly is an "Active E?"

The "E" part I get, it stands for electric (no applause please, I figured that out on my own).  But what makes it Active?  It's active electricity?  That doesnt mean anything to me. 
Now "Mobile E" that would be good because it's electric mobility.  That I would get.  But it kinda sounds like a mobile home and that has a rather bad connotation.

How about E Drive.  It actually says that on the side of the car, but that's more of an adjective, not a name.
Time for some brainstorming.  

Here's some of my best ideas:

E licious

E delirious

E power 

Electric car (a little obvious, but on point)

So maybe naming a car isn't so easy after all.  Just what do you call a car that presents a glimpse, even a promise, into the future of mobility, something so striking that it could change the world from transportation to energy consumption, environmental impact and even world politics?  How about:

"The earth shattering new electric BMW that has no gas powered engine whatsoever," subtitle: "take that al Qaida."

Well it's a bit long, but what it lacks in brevity it more than makes up for in descriptive power. 

O.k., so Active E it is then.  What a wonderful name for this outstanding car. 

Park, Plug & Play: Free Electrons in Old Town Temecula

One of the great things about electric vehicles is the cost of traveling 100 or so miles is a mere fraction of what it would cost to travel the same distance using gasoline.  And that cost can be zero when you plug in at an EVSE with free-flowing electrons.  Right now, its not uncommon to find either a Chargepoint or Blink EVSE at retail locations and they tend not to charge for their power.  But you do need to have a card to active the EVSE.

In Old Town Temecula, they have two clipper creek EVSE's that require no card, and take no payment at all.  They offer completely free electrons for the taking, and so I partook.

The two EVSE's are located at the back of the public parking lot on 6th Street just off Old Town Front Street.  Parking is free, and so is the power.

In fact, it was the first extend range trip I have taken in the E.  Temecula is 40 miles from my home, I usually then drive another 40 miles to my office in Riverside and then a final 18 miles back home to Corona/Norco.  On this day I drove a total of 101 miles.

That would have been a stressful trip with plenty of range anxiety for me, but not so when able to charge the E back to full in Temecula.

This is good news for people who live in Orange County, the Inland Empire, or even San Diego--all of which are in range of Temecula.  You can drive to Old Town, where they have plenty of shopping and restaurants, and just park, plug, and play.  Then off for wine tasting!