Electric Car Owners Poised for Bottom-Up Movement in 2012

By · October 21, 2011

The world's first Nissan LEAF owner, Olivier Chalouhi (right), gets into his brand new Nissan LEAF for the first time with Nissan's North American President, Carlos Tavares (left).

We're approaching the one-year anniversary of when the world's first Nissan LEAF owner, Olivier Chalouhi (right), received his brand new Nissan LEAF.

The critical role of rank-and-file EV drivers in making sure electric cars are a big success was the subject of two articles I wrote for the Autos section of last Sunday’s New York Times. Every where I turn, I’m seeing more signs that it’s everyday drivers—not big corporations overspending on advertising hype, or start-up companies flush with government funding—that will pave the way to an electrified auto future.

The subject of the main story in the Times was engineer-activist Phil Sadow, who working from a garage showed that the Nissan LEAF’s portable charging cord can be modified to carry a 240-volt charge. This modification is a move of heroic proportions.

As I wrote in the article, Phil’s work calls into question the cost-effectiveness of an Energy Department program that provided $115 million to ECOtality to install 14,000 EV chargers in 18 cities in six states and Washington. As we’ve covered on PluginCars.com, the EV Project has been slow and disappointing. (I was reminded of that this morning when I glanced at the DC Fast-Charge port on my Nissan LEAF, which will probably go unused for half the duration of my three-year lease, despite the fact that the Department of Energy paid $700 for the item.)

Phil’s portable charging cord upgrade, and other EV innovations are growing from the bottom up, in owners’ groups, like the Bay LEAF group featured in the other NYT piece. It’s refreshing to see that Nissan is not only aware of these grassroots activities, the company is paying close attention, in detail, to what LEAF owners are saying. Kudos also to BMW, which has enlisted Tom Moloughney—the MINI-E driver with the most experience behind the wheel of that electric car—to help guide future product. If you didn’t catch it, see Tom’s most recent report about BMW’s next EV, the ActiveE.

The EV Spring (in 2012)

The question on my mind is how much the burgeoning EV movement can and should grow from the streets and garages—in day-by-day steps—rather than overblown top-down projects with big budgets. The EV Project is not the only disappointment. The glacial pace of Chevy Volt sales—after four years of a GM hype-machine in overdrive—is a letdown. The 20-mpg rating, while on gas, just assigned to the six-figure Karma plug-in hybrid—from Fisker Automotive flush with a half-billion dollars of government money—is another sad example. Like anybody who lays eyes on it, I think the Karma is gorgeous and powerful. But it does seem irrelevant to the building of an EV future. It also appears that a follow-up car from Fisker will be delayed, just like the Karma has been. Then, there’s Tesla, which has done wonders to raise the profile of electric cars in the public consciousness, but I worry about how long it will take to produce the Model S in significant numbers.

As the end of 2011 approaches—painful or not—we need to take a step back and start assessing the successes and failures of the inaugural year of the modern mainstream EV era. We need to acknowledge which cars and which EV infrastructure projects are truly making a difference—and which are trying to cash in on the EV movement (or greenwash) and should be called to task. This assessment needs to come directly from the folks who are driving electric cars—some with months of experience and others with years. Government funding for EV incentives will be placed under a microscope in this coming election year. Meanwhile, EV owners clubs, homegrown modifications, and last week’s National Plug In day are all signs of a movement and a market on the move. This all suggests that 2012 could be a make-or-break year for electric cars. The honeymoon year for electric cars is almost over.

Comments

· · 3 years ago

While California gets a lot of attention, and has done a lot for the EV movement, it is not the only place where there is demand. If EVs are going to take off, they need to be available nation-wide, and with multiple options. My good friend owns a Volt, and he constantly gets people asking about it. This is the kind of bottom-up "buzz" that will really capture people and get them thinking about EVs as a true alternative, not some fancy idea for 10 years from now. Many people are weary of the media buzz with no products to show. To them, the EV is already DOA.

· Norbert (not verified) · 3 years ago

Re: "Then, there’s Tesla, which has done wonders to raise the profile of electric cars in the public consciousness, but I worry about how long it will take to produce the Model S in significant numbers."

The Roadster is still one of the best EVs ever produced. The plan for Model S hasn't changed at least since Tesla's IPO: 5,000 in 2012 and a capacity of 20,000 in 2013. The Oct 1st factory event showed that Model S manufacturing is making good progress, and AFAIK there is no reason to have doubts about the official schedule.

· · 3 years ago

Speaking of Ecotality's slow progress at installing "chargers" and everyday drivers making a difference, I'd like to encourage everyone to sign up for PlugShare, even if you don't have an EV yet. We can build a sizable charging network overnight just by sharing our plugs and charging docks within the EV community. If you're willing to share an outdoor charging dock or 240 V outlet, so much the better.

Other than the fact that my outdoor J1772 plug is available in PlugShare, I have no affiliation with that organization. You can access PlugShare on the web (it's not just a smartphone app) at http://www.plugshare.com.

Also, there is a group of LEAF owners in San Diego starting to discuss the possibility of forming a nonprofit co-op to install DC Fast Chargers in their area. See http://www.mynissanleaf.com/viewtopic.php?f=24&t=5690

· · 3 years ago

Here in Silicon Valley, I see Leafs every day on the highway. There are at least 11 Leafs, including mine, at my office. Though only 8 trickle charging spots.

I occasionally see a Volt or a Tesla Roadster.

I've even seen a Volt with Ron Paul stickers, so I'm not the only Libertarian EV fan.

@Norbert: "The Roadster is still one of the best EVs ever produced."
I would say it is *The Best* EV ever produced.

· · 3 years ago

About infrastructure and the comparison to gas. People have to go out of their way to fill up a gas car. The way I see it, electricity is everywhere, it simply needs to be extended to the parking lot. If every parking lot had EV charging available, then you don't have to go out of your way to charge, you simply charge when you stop to eat or when you arrive at your destination.

Malls certainly have incentive to provide ev chargers, what better than a captive audience at a mall.

In any case, that should be the goal: ev chargers in *every* parking lot, whether 120 or 240 or 480, both for profit and for free (cough, for your captivity). Sounds like a mission statement for a new business to me.

· · 3 years ago

My portable EVSE was the first Phil ever converted. Having mine poked and prodded gave him the insights needed to commercialize the first generation of the modification, which delivered 240v at 12A. I even sent my unit back to Phil for the second generation 16A modification, when it became available just a couple of months later.

I've always felt that Nissan missed the boat somewhat when it comes to interaction with LEAF owners. Most of my own discussions with Nissan folks in Tennessee, where I've gone to great pains to advance the idea of someone being a conduit between owners and corporation, have been met with polite indifference. I know Nissan folks are lurking on sites like mynissanleaf.com, but it's difficult to know what they are taking away from the discussion. Kudos to BMW for the more direct approach!

· Warren (not verified) · 3 years ago

I am waiting for the Model T of EV's, or better yet, the MGA.

Thanks to cheap energy, cars have turned into motorhomes. A 5,300 pound hybrid is an abomination. Whether fueled at distance by coal, and natural gas, or gas burned right in the car, a world of 7 billion people can't afford to be carried around in vehicles of 10-25 times their weight!

· · 3 years ago

@Warren
"A 5,300 pound hybrid is an abomination"
"a world of 7 billion people can't afford to be carried around in vehicles of 10-25 times their weight!"

Adding to your point, more like 10 - 53 times their weight.

I do believe market forces will bring the weight down when needed (by making energy more expensive). Of course it pays to plan ahead and choose a lighter car, as well as invest in renewable sources of energy.

· · 3 years ago

Excellent article, Brad. I'm old enough to remember a thriving aftermarket industry geared to street rodders and performance car enthusiasts, where intelligently engineered products were developed and sold to consumers . . . products that the OEMs simply were afraid to offer. The word "rodder" has been replaced with "hacker" these days, but the sentiment is the same.

Folks like Phil Sadows and Gary Giddings and their modifications (respectfully) of the Leaf's stock 110V portable charger cord and dash charge indicator display are among the ones who are going to make next year - and the years that follow - very interesting ones for EVs. The OEMs with give us the proverbial 98% perfectly conceived cars (the Leaf, more so than others, currently) and the final 2% of perfection will come from the technically adept end users.

As for the Ecotality charger rollout debacle, I got a lot of interesting scuttlebutt on that subject from members of the local Electric Auto Association chapter, who I spoke with while organizing Tucson's National Plug In Day event. Many there think that the federal money allotted to Ecotality/Blink was a big waste and would have been better spent if Aerovironment and/or ChargePoint received those grants.

· · 3 years ago

@Benjamin
I don't think the problem is unique to Ecotality, it's about incentives. Why would they work for their money if they don't have to.

While I am against government meddling in the private sector. If they're going to do it, they should at least try to do it right and consider both incentives and unintended consequences.

You never pay a contractor the full balance up front. You pay some to get started and some more at each milestone. I don't know if this particular contract was structured that way.

That said, it seems there was a conflict of interest with Ecotality's connections to government. Another reason the government shouldn't meddle in the private sector, there's usually a conflict of interest.

· Tom Thias (not verified) · 3 years ago

Mr. Berman,

I was stunned to see your blog from Friday on the plugincars.com website.

"The question on my mind is how much the burgeoning EV movement can and should grow from the streets and garages—in day-by-day steps—rather than overblown top-down projects with big budgets. The EV Project is not the only disappointment. The glacial pace of Chevy Volt sales—after four years of a GM hype-machine in overdrive—is a letdown."

While you make many good points about owners modifying these cars for the better the slam against General Motors, Chevrolet and the Volt were uninformed, biased and uncalled for.

The slow rollout has happened by calculated design. In a sense with over 2,000,000 lines of computer code, the Volt represents a whole new concept of transportation for the masses. What has occurred over the last 11 months has been a massive effort in Beta Testing and Social Engineering on a worldwide scale.

Beta Testing/ Beta Release of The Amazing Chevy Volt EREV

"Beta (named after the second letter of the Greek alphabet) is the software development phase following alpha. It generally begins when the software is feature complete. The focus of beta testing is reducing impacts to users, often incorporating usability testing. The process of delivering a beta version to the users is called beta release and this is typically the first time that the software is available outside of the organization that developed it."

"Beta version software is often useful for demonstrations and previews within an organization and to prospective customers. Some developers refer to this stage as a preview, prototype, technical preview (TP), or early access."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_release_life_cycle

Production and Availability:

Here is a statement of 2011 production from Doug Wernert-GM Volt Team-
July 20 2011.

http://gm-volt.com/forum/showthread.php?8451

Hi everyone,

This is Doug Wernert from the Volt team. Hope I can help clarify:

Our Detroit-Hamtramck plant built 3,975 2011 Chevrolet Volts since start of production in November 2010. To date, nearly 3,200 have been sold to customers through Chevrolet dealerships, roughly 550 were delivered to dealers as demo units and about 150 held for internal purposes (marketing and engineering). The remaining 97 units are still available for sale. The 2,745 number you may have read are for the 2011 calendar year, not the model year.

One note: the Volt's delivered to utilities throughout the United States are refurbished pre-production units and total sales to fleets were fewer than 200.

July 20, 2011

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The terms Beta Testing/ Beta Release best describes the rollout of Chevrolet Volt EREV since its November 2011 release. Unlike a traditional software beta release the testers or Early Adopters had to have enough confidence with the product and concept that they put up their hard earned cash.

For as little as $350.00 a month, $12,600.00 over 3 years, the net of lease payments for the base Chevy Volt, plus around 7% up front, plus monthly use tax, these Early Adapters were the Beta Testers of this amazing electric car.

Granted with a theoretical reduction of gasoline expense at around $200.00 a month, their net out of pocket could approach $6,300.00 over the course of the 3 year lease, plus use tax and 7% up front. Still this was a chunk of change to put up on an untested consumer product.

As the rollout spread out over the last 11 months the Chevy Volt availability grew from the original limited 7 market target late November 2011, to only 14 states as of August 2011, with Oregon, Washington State, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware added to the rollout mix.

In September, 2011, one month ago the States of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine began to finally receive their Volts after almost 10 months on the market.

And now the rest of the country.

Nearly one year after the first Chevy Volt rolled into the 1st owners driveway, Dealers in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Nebraska, Minnesota and Canada are now beginning to stock, order and sell this marvelous machine..

With in excess of 2,500 Chevy Volt Teaching/ Demonstrator units now deployed nationwide that cannot be sold until 6 months in inventory, the education of the general public, auto blog writers, news groups and the skeptical has begun.

Following the owner blogs and postings at gm-volt.com, MyVolt.com, Plugincars.com and many more owner sites, it can now be assured that the 2011/2012 Amazing Chevy Volt Extended Range Electric Vehicle rollout has been near flawless!

As of right now this car is technically Sold Out. As Fox News reported in a slam article from September 2nd, 2011:

"Is The Chevy Volt Out Of Gas? "

http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2011/09/02/is-chevy-volt-already-out-gas/

"supplies at dealerships -- where Volts reportedly sit on the lot for less than 10 days, about as quick as a car can be processed and turned around for a customer -- have been tighter than usual."

So please Mr. Berman, you who have done so much to promote the concept of electric propulsion, please do not toss or publish out disparaging remarks that can be used by EV Detractors and their minion to discredit any legitimate contender in this infant industry.

Lets get the Electric Vehicles on the road !!

Tom Thias
Lansing, Michigan
AmazingChevyVolt@aol.com

· · 3 years ago

Tom Thias,
I can't speak for Mr. Berman but, I as an EV supporter will not hesitate to slam GM for whatever they seem to be guilty of. It is their job to prove themselves after what they have done in the past and the certainly have not done it yet.
They also tend to continue to send out mixed messages about the Volt, similar to what they did with the EV1, indicating to me that they are trying to leave the option open to declare it a failure.
When I see GM truly promoting EVs, then I'll start holding back the bad things and only saying the good things (I do defend the Volt occasionally). In the mean time and probably for the next decade or so, GM is still going to be playing catchup.
BTW, if they hadn't deviated from their plans for a simple serial-topology, they would not have needed so many lines of software and so much beta testing so I don't put much stock in that argument.

· · 3 years ago

Your suspicion of all things regarding government incentives is well known here, Jose. I'm not going to attempt to fan the flames further other than to say that we agree to disagree on that point. I don't think it's always that cut and dried.

Waste and corruption can happen in the private sector without any government involvement. Often, when the consumer's interests are compromised by the private sector's more egregious intentions, its the government who often has to act to protect the consumer's best interests.

My understanding of what's wrong with the Ecotality deal (and I should emphasize that this is word-of-mouth advanced to me from a group of home-built EV enthusiasts, not anything I have hard documentation for) is that Ecotality - or at least their parent company - has their interests spread across the energy spectrum. In short: they're basically an oil company wolf in EV sheep's closing.

They had the most money to spend up front to install a charging network and this is probably why the government trusted them to do so. If EVs didn't pan out fast enough, Ecotatlity's controlling interests could simply let the charger installation plan peter out and move their money to other interests they happen to be involved in (CNG, ethanol, etc.)

If the above empirical observation proves to be true, government can be faulted for naivety and a large business can be blamed for what amounts to fraud. Who ends up being the bigger culprit at the end of the day?

· · 3 years ago

The other "missing piece" is for the automakers to realize the valuable resource they have in their customers/drivers -- the best sources of information and the most effective advocates for their vehicles.

Tom Thias is right when he said in that long post (a quote and URL would have been OK), that the new plug-in cars are effectively in a beta stage. Beta in Silicon Valley means a time when makers of new products devote substantial resources and attention to their users' experiences.

The Volt and Leaf are magnificent machines. As the automakers figure out how to improve their cars, it takes a lot to redesign HARDWARE. But it's a measure of the misplaced self-confidence of both GM and Nissan that after 11 months, including service recalls for minor issues, neither has delivered a SOFTWARE upgrade to address the most obvious shortcomings we read about all the time at plugincars.com, mynissanleaf.com and gm-volt.com and in other media!

As an owner of both,who still pinches himself every day that we have these cars, my biggest peeve is the lack of numerical state-of-charge info. Here are two other examples cited by many, that programmers could have fixed last January:
* Volt: to silence the radio, I need to turn the volume; if I turn it off, it comes back on as soon as I touch a display button.
* Leaf: The only way to know how far I've driven since my last full charge is to remember to manually reset the trip computer.

This is part of a larger problem: by and large, automakers building neew types of vehicles are acting like traditional companies in their relationships with customers.

If plug-in vehicles are to reach their maximum potential levels of popularity and market penetration, we'll need too see the transformation already under way in the design, engineering, and production departments accompanied by a similar evolution in marketing and corporate planning.

-- Felix Kramer, Founder, The California Cars Initiative (CalCars.org)

· Sufiy (not verified) · 3 years ago

Electric Cars are under mass media attack these days - we are on the right track!

Lithium Charge: FOX: Betting Big on Electric Cars
"We have a great endorsement for the Electric Cars from FOX as usual...All recent mass media cry about Electric Cars which are not selling, polluting and ugly in general; makes us think that they are coming even faster than we have expected. Kerosene lights must be providing the long shadows for these kind of EV haters - this technology will not be stopped - it is happening and it is happening right now.
Just look across the pond, where UK is the front runner for all the monetary QE experiments. Recent QE program was announced just couple of weeks ago and petrol prices there are at the record high now. The ugly truth is that there is simply no more cheap Oil left around. Are you still horrified by 4 dollars per gallon - try UK with 8 dollars per gallon prices now!"

http://sufiy.blogspot.com/2011/10/lithium-charge-revenge-of-electric-car...

· · 3 years ago

"As I wrote in the article, Phil’s work calls into question the cost-effectiveness of an Energy Department program that provided $115 million to ECOtality to install 14,000 EV chargers in 18 cities in six states and Washington."

Looking back - I've to say the home EVSE installs were not that useful. Most of us would have bought Leaf irrespective of Blink for free or not. Those 900 extra L2 EVSEs installed as public chargers (or better still 90 fast chargers) would have encouraged so many more people to look at EVs.

· · 3 years ago

@Tom - I think it's totally legit for EV supporters to experience some disappointment when its warranted. It only serves to strengthen the movement toward electrification if legitimate criticism comes from drivers, speaking from real-world experience--rather than the typical anti-EV talk from media folks who have never driven one (except maybe for one test drive).

I was at the very first media event in LA for the Volt, which took place in late 2006, prior to the unveiling at the 2007 Detroit auto show. (If memory serves me, re dates.) So, I've been right there through five years of GM pushing the Volt as a revolutionary vehicle. The term "game-changer" was used over and over again. As good as the car is, and as much as we should pat GM on the back for its efforts, it's not feeling like it's fulfilled that "game-changer" buzz. Still, I'll be patient, and wait to see if the Volt (and other possible vehicles that might use it's system) really roll out in any decent numbers--and has the impact that was portrayed.

· · 3 years ago

Brad,

I agree with everything you wrote except the bit about the glacial pace of the Volt. Maybe I'm just a little sensitive because I have a Volt and love it more than any other car I've owned (almost certainly a fanboy). But as far as I can tell, GM has met its production and sales estimate exactly as they predicted. Their strategy was to make a limited number of first run vehicles, then improve on them. They did exactly that. give their business and production strategy a chance first.

It's surprising that you aren't more cynical of BMW's continued limited lease strategy. How is lease only anything but green washing?

Also, I'm not sure if you are aware of the amount of feedback GM has requested of Volt owners, but it is substantial. They have employed numerous marketing firms that have sent me at least 6 detailed mail surveys and requested at least 5 in person focus groups, not to mention the monthly calls from my Volt advisor to help me with issues and note any feedback we might have. While I have not seen a 2012 Volt yet, they appeared to have addressed many of the issues us 2011 owners gave them feedback on. GM is keeping a close eye on what is happening on the ground in an impressive way.

2012 may be a make or break year for continued government funding of EV projects, but I don't see it as making or breaking EVs generally yet. Fuel economy standards will force auto companies to produce EVs and consumers will slowly catch on, especially as mass battery production brings the economics into no brainier territory.

Look, I appreciate valid critical view points here and think they are helpful to the industry. But at the same time, let's not give the Fox News conservatives any further ammunition just because your "gut" doesn't feel right.

· Steven (not verified) · 3 years ago

I promise someday soon to write up my experience “Mountain Climbing with a Nissan LEAF”. But this article calls for an off-the-cuff response. I would probably have gone ahead with my LEAF lease / purchase even with my government-provided charging station – because I thought I actually had 21 hours to charge my car and wouldn’t mind running out and checking on the state of charge and manually unplugging. BUT IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A MISTAKE! And my government-provided ECOtality charging has certainly made me feel better about the financial (ir)rationality of my LEAF lease.

That said, it seems to me the whole concept of public charging stations is a huge waste of money and/or a terrible business idea – with the exception of employer-provided stations. Who is going to cut their state of charge so close they can only make it one way to mall, bookstore, whatever and then hang out for however long it takes to charge up enough to get home – assuming you can even get to the plug? Any taxpayer provided charging stations should definitely be of the fast-charge variety.

As for “where to from here”, I really hope both Nissan and GM will take care of its “beta testers”. Nissan has admitted they made some mistakes like the electronics in the LEAF that double the 240 volt charging time for the US grid and perhaps rushed the first generation LEAF, with its lack of active temperature management for the battery, to market. At a minimum I would hope they will offer to correct those mistakes with second generation technology, if possible, at cost.

I am particularly interested in the battery which will supposedly double the LEAF’s range. The essence of my “Mountain Climbing with a Nissan LEAF” post (in case I never get around to writing it) is that Nissan’s claim of a 100 mile range borders on fraud – when the first 30 miles involves a 5500 elevation gain as is the case ascending Mt. Lemmon from the valley floor in Tucson. This is a mission-essential requirement for me and for anyone interested in escaping summer desert heat and breathing un-air conditioned air for a while.

It took a couple of attempts before I worked up the courage to even ascend the 30 miles to the top of Mt. Lemmon. Remembering the tempest in a teapot fury over the LEAF’s lack of a numeric state of charge indicator, I was reluctant to push the number for the estimated remaining range, particularly with a passenger. But after the first descents I noticed the LEAF actually gained a couple of bars on its NON-NUMERIC state of charge indicator. I’ve made the ascent 7 or 8 times now. It is still too early to tell but after about four months driving I think the battery may already be showing slight signs of degradation. (I would be interested in suggestions for tests that can be conducted by a non-engineer to confirm this.)

In any event, making the climb without undue stress and anxiety requires charging the battery to 100% - on some days even just against the contingency I MIGHT want to go up Mt. Lemmon. And yesterday, when I ran out of time and had to hit the road with say 95% I got my first taste of the LEAF’S panic mode. Taking control of the display screen to show you your location and the location of the nearest charging station might make sense in the city - if public charging stations made sense. But descending a steep mountain miles from anywhere it is more of a bitter joke. (One of these days I’m going to push it too far and / or the LEAF’s regeneration capability will degenerate. There won’t be any point in stopping if you see me by the side of the road except maybe to offer your cell phone. I don’t and won’t ever have one. They are the work of the devil!) The bottom line, given the current state of the LEAF’s battery technology, is that there seems no alternative to stress-testing its ability to fully charge and discharge.

Wish list:
1. a battery with a 200 mile range – or 60 miles up Mt. Lemmon grade mountain roads. (It’s a reasonable request. What is that – ascending a mere 14,000 ft peak?)
2. a road-trip towable trailer, - a Volt-like range extender you don’t have to tow around all the time and could possible hook up to your home PV grid and share with your local electric utility in full confidence they won’t be messing with your life.
3. the commercialization of ‘rechargeable electric gas’ a la the MIT students. This would be number 1 even though it won’t benefit me personally unless Nissan does some serious retrofitting.

(Sorry about the length)

· · 3 years ago

Fascinating post, Steven. I also live in Tucson and I'm very familiar with that drive, although not in an EV. One would hope that there would be a public Level 3 charging station someday near the Tanque Verde / Catalina Highway intersection, as many who travel to or live on Mt. Lemmon would want to "fill up" there. But you are essentially saying that the 80% charge available at such a station isn't sufficient to make the 60 mile round trip on such a steep grade?

Something tells me that there are no public Level 2 stations up at Summerhaven or at other popular destination on the mountain top (and there won't be anytime soon.) Assuming, then, that a Level 3 charge - or a 95 to 100% Level 2 charge at your home - is enough to make the 30 mile climb up, this is where one of Phil Sadow's modified portable chargers would be the perfect accessory, as I'm sure standard 220V outlets could be easily installed up on the mountain where AC is already flowing (and for considerably less than installing Level 2 terminals.)

· Steven (not verified) · 3 years ago

@ Benjamin

I just don't think public charging stations anywhere are the answer. You have to be able to take it with you when you go. The 'ideal' location for a charging station or a bank of 220 volt outlets would be at about the 6500 ft elevation level, roughly the Palisade Ranger Station & Visitor Center. It is a nice place but I'm not sure I'd want to hang out there 4 - 5 hours waiting for my LEAF to charge. And then, assuming you could get someone to spring for the cost of stringing a backbone sufficient to handle the demand of up to say 100 simultaneous recharges, who is going to pay for the power? The only thing the US government seems to be interested in paying for these days is war (and, to be fair, my charging station).

· · 3 years ago

@Steven - "Nissan’s claim of a 100 mile range borders on fraud – when the first 30 miles involves a 5500 elevation gain"

I think Nissan was reasonably clear that range depends on conditions. Have you ever measured how much gasoline a typical car burns climbing Mt. Lemmon? I'm sure it's not pretty!

I live at 6100' elevation and have been driving my LEAF down to the "flatlands" (1200' and lower), and back up, roughly once per week for the last six months. The odometer is at close to 6200 miles and I haven't yet noticed any degradation. In hilly and mountainous areas, I advise ignoring Nissan's "guess-o-meter" range estimates and instead getting to know your "fuel gauge" (the twelve battery charge bars) really well. Also keep in mind that there are normally at least several miles of "reserve" after the last charge bar has disappeared.

· · 3 years ago

I'd like to add that it's about 23 miles from where we shop "down the hill" at ~ 1200' to our mountain home at 6100'. If we finish shopping with about 75% SOC, and I drive as slowly as traffic permits, we generally arrive home with around 20% SOC. Using ~ 55% to drive home doesn't seem bad at all. Actually, the 46 mile round trip requires only about 45% SOC since I normally start the descent at close to 65% SOC and do lots of regen. (I have an aftermarket SOC meter.)

And yes, I'd love to see more public charging stations down in the valley, especially where we normally shop.

· · 3 years ago

@Steven
I understand that in situations you are often faced with, public charging makes no sense. However, I think you go to far in saying it's not the answer anywhere. Level 3 public charging can be a terrific solution in more densely populated regions, such as here in the North East, or in California. For example, the NYS Thruway would be a perfect place for them. There is a rest stop every 35-40 miles, and if you put a couple of L3 chargers in each one, you would be serving millions of travelers. It is easy to spend 30 minutes at a rest stop. Heck, just stopping with two kids to use the restroom takes that long.

· · 3 years ago

@Steven,
" That said, it seems to me the whole concept of public charging stations is a huge waste of money and/or a terrible business idea – with the exception of employer-provided stations. Who is going to cut their state of charge so close they can only make it one way to mall, bookstore, whatever and then hang out for however long it takes to charge up enough to get home "
I think you have a point at least with the Leaf. It's pathetically slow Level 2, 15 amp (3.3 kW) charging rate (the slowest of all production EVs ever built) means you really do have to sit somewhere for a long time to charge if your destination is beyond the pathetic battery range. You have to realize that the EV1 and RAV4EV charged at twice the speed and the Tesla charges at almost 5 times the rate.
I'm sitting here near a public charger after taking a drive through the mountains north of LA and realize that I'll have to sit here for about 3 hours just to complete my trip from Pasadena, CA over the Angeles Forest Crest and Highway to Santa Clarita, and back to Pasadena. Fortunately, there is a Panera Bread with WiFi and food to spend the time.
I think that much faster (like Tesla's 70 Amp), Level 3 or DC Fast charging really makes the only real sense for opportunity charging. The only place I think there is any use for the slow 15 Amp charging of the Leaf is what I call Destination charging, somewhere you plan to spend a significant amount of time. probably 95% or more of destination charging is at home or work. I suppose amusement parks, beaches, resorts, or other places where one plans to spend all-day or at least a half-day would make sense too. It will, of course require a whole bank of these slow chargers though as the cars proliferate. I'm waiting for all of the hate email because 1st generation Nissan Leafs waste so much time blocking public chargers while more intelligently designed cars could have charged and moved on.
Yes Nissan, your heart is in the right place and I appreciate your building the Leaf but you are STUPID MORONS bordering on being self destructive - maybe that's why you are ranked so low in overall market penetration.
As far as suggestions that I'm just feeding EV detractors: I deny it. Instead, I contend that Nissan fed them by dumbing down the Leaf's range and even less excusably, its charging speed. I'll also credit our federal government with its incompetence in awarding contracts to deploy Level 3 or DC fast charging stations to non-performers such ecotality.
See, if charging was at reasonable speeds, I wouldn't be sitting here so long with nothing to do but complain and badmouth Nissan.

· · 3 years ago

My thoughts, Steven, would be to have Level 3 charging - 80% capacity @440V in about 20 minutes via the CADeMO port - available at the entrance to the Catalina Highway (putting this into perspective for folks who don't live around here, that's pretty much the edge of the urban area right before heading off into a mostly rural surrounding.) That sort of charge should easily get you to the top of the mountain with a fair amount of electricity left to spare. After you get up there, top it off via Level 2.

So, no J1772 stations up there yet? Well, that's where the Sadows modified portable charger comes in . . .

http://evseupgrade.com/

Find a store owner in Summerhaven who will let you tap into their 220V outlet. Slip them a few dollars for their trouble. Even with the Leaf's current generation charging interface (and keeping in mind you've still got about "half a tank" left over from the drive up,) your EV should be charged up enough to make a safe drive back down the mountain within a couple of hours on Level 2.

Level 3 terminals are going to be expensive . . . tens of thousands of dollars per unit as opposed to low 4 figure amounts for a public Level 2 units. As a taxpayer, I'd rather see government funding go towards putting, say, 10 or 15 Level 3 chargers around metro Tucson than hundreds of Level 2 units. I agree that hundreds of Level 2 public terminals would be a waste of government resources. Level 2 charging is going to happen mostly at home and - thanks to the affordable Sadows chargers - in far off locations on the road, where installed charging terminals are going to be scarce but standard 110 and 220V AC has existed for years.

Ultimately, your idea of 200 mile range batteries is spot on. We'll be there in a few years. At that point, you can trade in your current Leaf for a new EV that goes longer on a single charge. Then, I'll buy your old Leaf off the local used lot, get rid of my very old ICE vehicle and I'll have an EV too. :-)

· · 3 years ago

In much the same way that we now have aftermarket modifications available to turn the stock Leaf 110V charger into a 220V one, isn't it safe to assume that some enterprising individual or small company will make available to early Leaf owners a 6.6 kW interface? Is the current Leaf's 3.3 kW "bottleneck" confined to a box under the hood or a few isolated electronic components located near the J1772 port, ex-EV1? Or would it be a more comprehensive retrofit that involves swapping out the existing batteries? Just curious . . .

· Anonymous (not verified) · 3 years ago

@ Benjamin
I just don't understand the logic of putting a charging station a few miles from the point of origin for many people making the trip up Mt. Lemmon, I.e. their homes. If you want to give people ammunition for criticizing government support for EVs, go ahead and build it. Who is going to drive 15 or 20 minutes and then wait an hour or two. - assuming they can immediately get access to a charging port - before making a 45 minute trip up the mountain??? It will never get used.

I don't want to have to trade my LEAF in for a 'new, improved model in a couple of years. And I don't want to buy after market upgrades or mods from third parties. I want to buy them from Nissan! I did lease and I will turn it in if Nissan doesn't come through for us 'beta testers' with affordable technology refreshments.

Is there anywhere I can read about meeting schedules for local EV advocates? If so, please respond to this post within the next two years and 9 months so you can have a shot at my LEAF in case Nissan doesn't come thru.

· · 3 years ago

@Anonymous: An "L3 charger" (aka. DC Fast Charger) will give folks the needed charge fairly quickly, as in half an hour to go from close to empty up to 80%. If you're only "topping off" after 20 min. of driving, then you might only need 10 min. on the charger.

Yes, the first generation LEAF has a limited range, arguably necessary to keep the car as affordable as possible. To extend the practical range to closer to 150 miles (or less if climbing mountains), all we really need is a good network of fast chargers. Investing in fast chargers makes sense, as they will continue to be useful when EVs have more range, enabling real road trips. And the first generation LEAF needs no aftermarket modifications to do fast charging.

While I agree that it would be best to focus spending on fast chargers, L2 (240 volt) charging does have practical value away from home, even at the current LEAF's slow rate of 3.3 kW. Plugging in for an hour while at a store or restaurant will add 15 miles to one's range without schedule disruption. That's not much, but it will help, especially with older battery packs. And those very same L2 charging docks will work with newer EVs capable of double the charging rate.

Public charging, plus the grassroots PlugShare network, gives EV owners the confidence to drive further. When we go shopping down the mountain, it is comforting to know that L2 chargers are available in case we run lower on charge than expected. Chances are, if we end up needing more charge, it won't be that much.

@ex-EV1: I'm surprised you didn't either take your Tesla or drive more slowly on that excursion through the mountains. I agree that waiting three hours for a charge is a long time. A Fast Charger in Santa Clarita would have been very, very helpful.

· · 3 years ago

a 6.6 kW interface
Its a lot more complicated to modify the onboard charger to handle 6.6 kW or more charging than it is to tell the onboard charger that its ok to work with 240 volts just as it was designed to do.
You're going to have to build a fairly sophisticated electronic device that has to have a lot of intimated knowledge of the battery's characteristics and internal workings.
Remember the EVSEupgrade.com folks simply spoof the signal telling the onboard charger that it is ok if it sees 240 volts. It just overrides a safety mechanism in the charger. It still only draws 15 amps. Remember that wire size is determined by the current. Insulation is determined by the voltage. The insulation in the Nissan 120v EVSE is probably ok at 240 volts. I can't confirm this but I hope that EVSEupgrade.com has.
Changing the charging power will require putting in an entirely different charger to charge the batteries. The charger will take AC from a J1772 inlet and convert it to the correct DC voltage that the battery needs to charge. It will take a lot of software and sensors (temperature, voltage, current) to be able to dynamically vary this in the way that the batteries need. Getting the correct characteristics of the battery will be very difficult. The control may need to know temperatures, voltages, and currents of each cell or block of cells in the battery pack. Even a low-overhead garage operation would probably have to charge over $3,000 for small quantities of these (based on the Manzanita PF-30 which is far simpler). For a large liable company to build a few thousand UL listed ones, it would probably cost between $5K and $10K.
I also don't think it makes sense for Nissan to provide an upgrade. It will cost them a lot and they need to be focusing on future sales, not retrofitting their 1st generation equipment.
Realistically, we're all stuck with what we have just as original iPhone users couldn't upgrade to iPhone 3G. You can tell the pioneers: They're the ones with the arrows in their backs. Folks who can't handle this probably should stay home where it is safe and let us more rugged, rough and tumble types take the glory :-)

· · 3 years ago

@Anon . . .

I think Abasile did a fairly good job restating my thoughts regarding the placement of a Level 3 unit where I described. It's on the northeastern-most edge of town and packed with both retail businesses and residential neighborhoods. But it's also the starting point of a mostly rural highway that takes you 30 miles up the side of a mountain: a well-traveled getaway destination for folks around here.

Tucson is a big spread out town, though That proposed Level 3 station is a good 15 miles from my midtown home and quite a bit farther for the hundreds of thousands who live to the south and west of me within the city limits. We would all charge at home first, but top off at the Level 3 by necessity, if we want to make the trip with confidence. Honestly, it's an ideal place to put one.

You don't want to trade your current Leaf for a "new and improved" model in a couple of years? Well. nobody is forcing you to. But realize that Nissan already announced that next year's Leaf will have the improved 6.6 kW charging rate and it's only logical to assume that longer range batteries are on their way further down the road. A certain percentage of early adopters (ie: 2011 Leaf owners) will undoubtedly want to upgrade right away. Others might wait 3 or 4 years to do so . . . some even longer than that. Regardless, it's all good news for used car buyers wanting an EV.

As for well engineered aftermarket accessories for cars - not just EV related electronics - I'm surprised you can't see the free market potential in such things. If the factory doesn't do it to the satisfaction of vehicle owners and an aftermarket supplier does, demand is created.
Demand translates to businesses starting and growing, with more money being pumped into the economy and new jobs potentially being created. The more astute OEMs eventually upgrade the accessories in question on their newer models to something similar, if they don't want to be caught standing still and letting others pass them by.

There was a time when owners of Detroit iron bought Edlebrock manifolds with Holley carbs for their small block Fords or Chevys, to get an extra performance edge that the factory might not have offered initially. Likewise, the Euro car fan would often slip on some Blisten shocks or Pirelli radials for better handling, to replace lesser units that came on their factory Triumph or MG.

This is nothing new. Aftermarket electric starters were available for Model Ts in the 1920s. An aftermarket upgraded portable charger for a Leaf? Same kind of thing for a different era.

· · 3 years ago

Thanks, ex-EV1, for that detailed technical description. I never assumed that Nissan themselves would want to retrofit older Leafs to 6.6 kW charging, but that an aftermarket concern might. One would have hoped that the charger box in question would have been less than $3000 (about a tenth of the price of the car, brand new.) If something like this could be dropped in for, say, a third of that amount, there might be a demand. And, yes, Nissan will be selling 2012 model year Leafs with 6.6 kW chargers soon enough.

· Steven (not verified) · 3 years ago

@ Benjamin
We should probably be having this conversation off-line but since you've given readers a pretty good idea of the lay of the land around here it might be relevant elsewhere. I could see a Level 3 charger in the proposed location for people in your geographical circumstances. Actually I think it would need to be multiple Level 3 chargers. Otherwise, the resulting queue on weekends would make the gas lines of the 1970s look like the good old days. But realistically, it is not going to happen unless the price of those chargers falls dramatically. And even then who is going to pay for the electricity?

As for the free market potential for well engineered aftermarket accessories for cars - not just EV related electronics, it looks to me like Nissan and other OeMs of EVs may have a 'natural monopoly' like Bill Gates with MS Windows - IF they are smart enough to exploit it.
Even if Nissan were required to divulge its 'source code' for the LEAF, I don't see any way they could be compelled to accept liability for aftermarket products they didn't design and manufacture. I have a 2006 Prius - which I will be retaining throughout my LEAF lease if for no other reason than to be able to comfortably make it up Mt. Lemmon. At one point I considered having it modified to a plug-in Prius with an aftermarket, third-party add-on. But Toyota would have, not unreasonably, voided the warranty.

The 'good old days' of the world being able to build and discard cars every three years based upon minor style - or EV electronics charger - changes are OVER (if they were ever justifiable in the first place?) The evil ICE car makers were supposed to have killed first generation EVs out of concern for profits from aftermarket sales and service. It would seem there is potentially more profit in selling technology-refreshment products - for an intelligently designed, upgradable "Windows OS" - than whole cars anyhow. Most people don't change computers for minor improvements in things like peripheral bus speeds. But they have no problem plunking down sometimes significant sums of money for add-in hardware. (Maybe Nissan could make some money charging aftermarket developers for a "Nissan-approved" hardware upgrade?)

· Samie (not verified) · 3 years ago

Seems to me that the cats out of the bag with EVs. Ford will have a Focus EV that competes with the Leaf, and lets hope GM makes significant cost and technology improvements to the Volt. We also have Tesla coming out with the Model S. What I like about the upcoming Tesla vehicle is that a consumer will have the option of battery range. Anyways, the whole point of this is to show that market forces are forcing auto-manufactures to make and improve upon EVs, granted at a turtles pace.

As for the EV Project, good intentions but bad use of government. What else can you say about that. I think of this like the original CARB regulations, though we may have never gotten the EV1 or Prius... I often defend many uses of government but that means it must aid markets and innovation, without creating ineffective programs that can be attacked by those who want Solyndra 2.0.

· · 3 years ago

Lots to chew on here, Steven. I know that there's a Tucson Leaf Owners meeting coming up on Saturday, November 5, at Sky Bar on 4th Avenue. I'm going to try to attend. I don't have the time yet, but I'm guessing that details will be eventually posted here . . .

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tucson-LEAF-Owners/113277628772111

Regarding who will pay for Level 3 charging terminals: I would hope that some of the government money already set aside for multitudes of Level 2 terminals could be used . . . a Level 3 for every ten Level 2s not installed would probably pay for it.

As to who pays for the electricity, I suppose we'll get to the point where EV owners will. As to exact details on how this would transpire, I don't have a written plan. But people will certainly shell out something if they know they can do a complete recharge in a reasonable time frame (minutes, not hours.)

It's also reasonable to assume that slower Level 2 charging will still be available for free or near-free. I'll use the water analogy . . . taking a sip from a water cooler in a store and it usually costs you nothing. But getting a gallon or more to carry away typically demands some sort of premium.

Eventually, when we have a lot of EVs on the road and the existing Level 3 terminals are always backed up with lines of cars, private industry will be compelled to build the next generation of chargers . . . just like they do now with gas stations. The early government-owned Level 3 terminals could also be leased or sold outright to private concerns.

Meanwhile, next generation EVs will have longer range battery packs. The placing of - or the number of charging terminals per location - on early generation Level 3s may be rethought over the years. But moving and reinstalling those terminals should be easier than digging up the big underground tanks found at today's gas stations.

· · 3 years ago

Level 2 charging isn't limited to 3.3 or even 6.6 kW, it supports up to 19.2 kW. At that rate, a LEAF could be charged empty-to-full in a little over an hour, and top-off opportunity charging becomes incredibly useful. A car with a highway range under 100 miles is probably never going to be a great road trip car, but having faster level 2 charging goes a long way toward getting more out of any EV.

Our 2002 Toyota RAV4-EV has a highway range over 100 miles and charges twice as quickly as our LEAF. When charging at home, it doesn't matter, but away from home it's a big deal. In California where there's a network of RAV charging stations, drivers can easily travel beyond their single-charge range and never have to worry about running out of charge. If you can just charge when you park, and choose to patronize the businesses that are near charging, EVs become even more useful.

It is a shame that the first model LEAF only support 3.3 kW Level 3 charging and extremely frustrating that the millions of dollars the feds are investing in EV infrastructure are limited to 6.6 kW charging stations and only support two EVSE vendors (and their business models).

· Muchos Huevos (not verified) · 2 years ago

At one time Dr Tesla considered for his turbine to be able to power everything, including aircraft. At least somebody is dusting off on his ideas, being an engeneer, he may be able to
replicate Dr Tesla's electric car, all he has to do is USE THE COMPONENTS WE HAVE AVAILABLE TODAY, instread of the so called vaccum tubes, etc. etc.
Enybody else outthere who might be able to take the challenge??? I am sure as hell that would save us a few oil barrels we would not have to import, and do not make me say from whom.

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