Even grandmothers can be rEVolutionary! (or Welcome mom to the rEVolution!)

As long-time readers have noticed, I’ve been testing a lot of other EVs in preparation of for being forced to handing in my Active E at the end of the two year close end lease.

Aside from the Tesla Model S, which is the current front-runner, I have driven a Chevy Spark EV, Chevy Volt, Coda (no longer being made), Fisker Karma (no longer being made), Ford Focus EV, Honda Fit EV, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, and Nissan Leaf.   Well, it would seem that my many other test drives have given way to being used for something other than eliminating other EVs in contention of being my “next” EV.

Let me present you with the latest member to the rEVolution…  My mother…  She’s in her really late 60s (not really, she’s older than that) and was convinced by the cost of gas and the recent Honda Fit EV promotion to consider moving to an EV for her primary vehicle. She will still be keeping her ICE minivan so that she can run a hybrid garage (like we do) and in the off chance that she has to shuttle her clients with larger families, she can still fit them in her minivan. I fully expect that she will do the thing that most EV drivers do once they get used to their EVs and user her minivan less and less.

Here she is signing taking delivery of OB-8 (Not Obi-Wan, but OB-8), she likes the number eight and OB for Ocean Blue (as well as the rather oblique Star Wars reference.)

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The guys at Nissan of Duarte, specifically Jeb Loberiza Martinez (He can be reached directly at (626) 710-8445 or at the dealership at (626) 305-3000), took great care of us on top of getting us the car we wanted at the deal that made sense for us. Though the trim level we originally specified was not at the lot, they were able to trade for it and get us OB-8 with all the important things that we desired. They even delivered the vehicle to her house the next day (as the car had to be brought back from another dealership.) The current lease models that are available for Californians and the lucky few states that these vehicles are available in make it a bargain to jump in and go EV. I am of the belief that folks that are considering jumping into their first EV and are somewhat reluctant should consider a lease to ensure that the lifestyle is for them, if one is fearless OR getting a Model S, then jump right in, the water is fine!

She was committed to getting an EV that on Tuesday of last week, a full two days before we were set to go pick up an EV, we went ahead and ordered an EVSE for her home so that she can charge at 240V (30A) when we get her car. We decided to get her the Aerovironment 30A with removable plug from Amazon because they have a local presence in the Los Angeles area, on the off chance that we would require service in the future.

What were the other candidates for her first EV? We had originally desired the Honda Fit EV. However, as anyone else on these waiting lists can tell you, the chances are slim to none to get the “killer” $259 unlimited mile three year close end lease. With that option practically out, we narrowed down the choice between the Ford Focus EV and the Nissan Leaf SV. Interestingly enough, the evening before we would go and finalize the acquisition of her EV, I got a call from several dealers of the renewed availability of the Chevy Spark EV, and we decided to go ahead and give that a try.

Here is the Spark EV that she tried out

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She had a great time driving the Spark EV. She liked the availability of Quick Charging in the future, but we could not get a straight answer from most folks regarding what Chevy meant by “Future Availability” on the 2LT model she was considering. Whether this meant it is because there are no J1772 Frankenplug chargers deployed or whether this is an add-on that would need the car to be brought back to add when the faster J1772 Frankenplug becomes deployed. In the end, this lack of certainty, the charger at 3.3 kw vs. 6.6 kw for the two top contenders, and the lack of a fifth seat eliminated the Chevy Spark EV. All was not lost however as we found a very helpful gentleman from the Glendora Chevrolet Internet Sales Department, Roy Schafhuizen (909) 636-6700. He was very attentive and communicative. He would be a good person to see if one is in the market for a Chevy Spark EV or a Chevy Volt. He was not an expert on the Spark EV, but he was ready, and willing to help us.

With that welcome distraction out of the way, we soldiered on and had to decide between our two finalists. In the discussions with my mom, it seems that the access to a faster charger is very important. My mother is a realtor and she also requires seating for at least five, so that eliminated the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, though out of all the models that we drove, she was most comfortable in its simplicity and seats. It reminded her of the minivans that she has been driving for decades. She actually is rather nervous and does not like proximity keys. She would much rather have a physical key to insert and turn in place of the start button. So this desire for a “standard” key would’ve eliminated both the Focus EV and the Leaf. Luckily, this factor came to pass.

The aesthetics of the Focus EV appealed to mom because it looked “like a normal car.”

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Additionally, she enjoyed the storage space in the Focus EV and “felt” that it held more cargo than the Leaf, though I would think that this is actually not the case.

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Lastly, Ford was a brand that she was very comfortable with. She felt that they are trustworthy. Additionally, even with all the problems that I’ve had with MY Ford Focus EV experience, we finally found a Ford dealership in Southern California to recommend to potential EV buyers. The Internet sales team at Advantage Ford in Duarte were knowledgeable and helpful. I especially appreciate both Tom Grossman (626) 358-5171 and Sarah Ocampo at (626) 305-9188 and both can be reached at (626) 359-9689. The team was very easy to work with and nothing is more telling on how a car dealership treats is customers than when one brings in a 60+ year old woman to the dealership lot to purchase a vehicle. They were a pleasure to work with, and had mom decided on the Ford Focus EV, they would’ve won our business. Alas it was not the case and they get honorable mention and our recommendation should you be in the Southern California area shopping for a Ford Focus EV.

What was against the Nissan Leaf for mom. She didn’t like the “Christmas Tree” rear light set-up. She felt the car was too futuristic looking. In the end, those things didn’t matter, because to off-set the aesthetic things she didn’t like, she really liked the Ocean Blue color of OB-8.

So, how did mom choose her 2013 Nissan Leaf SV. Aside from price. It really had to do with several items.

1) The Nissan Leaf has been produced for three years and she felt more comfortable with the track record that Nissan has had in its EV sales leadership. The Chevy Volt was eliminated earlier on as this was going to be one of two cars and she can choose to go ICE on an as needed basis (also the seating for four is a deal breaker.) She remembered that over two decades ago we had good experience with a Nissan Sentra hatchback in the family and was made more comfortable in this knowledge.

2) Nissan’s recent upgrade to 6.6kw in the 2013 model made it a “push” vs. the Ford Focus Electric. (This 6.6kw base charge was also the reason for the Nissan Leaf SV vs. the Nissan Leaf S.)

3) The increasing availability of CHAdeMO chargers in the Southern California basin (even at Blink’s expensive $5 proposition) gives her the comfort of being able to get to the required charge quickly.

4) The storage for the Leaf is less than her minivan, but still felt like she can carry enough of what she would do so on a daily basis.

5) She loves how quiet and smooth the ride was (then again she noticed this on ALL the EVs that she test drove.)

6) For me, I wanted to ensure that she got Carwings with her EV.  She uses an Android phone and is quite technical, so it is important for me that she is able to communicate with her car on state of charge and the cabin cooling features that are available only on Carwings enabled Nissans.

So, why did we go to Nissan of Duarte. Quite simply, the customer service and attentiveness of Jep Loberiza Martinez (who can be reached directly at (626) 710-8445 or at the dealership at (626) 305-3000). As far as the pricing went, they also beat the prices of about three other dealerships that we had visited AND they went to look for the specific trim that we wanted. I can only mention the relative displeasure I’ve had in dealing with Glendale Nissan and Puente Hills Nissan. It is a pity that she does not commute to Los Angeles from the City of Industry Metrolink station, otherwise we could have used the rebate and other items that folks get from that specific location. The folks at Hooman Nissan in Long Beach were very good, but did not have the trim that we wanted and the price was higher than Duarte.

Nissan of Duarte found us the all important Ocean Blue color and the SV with the Quick Charge and LED Headlights without the Premium Package (Mom did not need, nor want the 360 view camera and upgraded stereo system (and thus the expense of such an option.)) Additionally, as of the writing of this post, several days later, Jeb not only delivered the car to her at her home, he also came back to give her some valuable training to familiarize her with specific relating to her car.

So, please welcome my mom and OB-8 to the EV community.

Here’s a link to more photos

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Since she intends on using public charging, I gave my mother some quick EV training tips, including setting her up on a Chargepoint account, requesting a Blink Network account, as well as train her on Plugshare. We drove around having her plug into a Chargepoint chargers with her Fob as well as the Clipper Creek and Aerovironment fob-less chargers that are around as well. We visited the nearest Quick Charger to her home (less than six miles away) and showed her the difference in the two ports, as we were close to 90% at the time, we opted not to throw $5 to Blink to get use the CHAdeMO, but intend to have her get a quick charge at some point. Most importantly, I have also armed her with the requisite EV card from Plug-In America and explained to her the protocol that we all use for that as well as teach her how to check into Plugshare when one is using a public charger.

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So, hopefully you will give her a friendly welcome as she and OB-8 drive around Southern California with the smooth, silent drive of an EV and to prove that even grandmothers can be rEVolutionary!

The dangers of high mileage EV use… Battery replacement!

One of the folks that I like to read often is Tom Moloughney’s blog (Aka Electronaut One) and he’s been writing about Battery Capacity loss and giving some hints on how to help mitigate it. As many readers know, it would seem that I am one of the higher mileage Active E drivers. I’m currently a little over 30,000 miles in a little over 14 months. And I find it hard to follow some of his advice as I tend to have to drive the mileage that I do and can’t really get to where I’m going comfortably if I decide to only charge to 80% SOC, so… I don’t. Regardless, the dangers of high mileage EV use is Battery Replacement! So at a little over 30,000 miles these past 14 months and change on the EV portion of my hybrid garage.

Some of the things to consider as we’re nearing the second month of samples of my Volt inspired sample of my hybrid garage. In my initial month, I did approximately 85% Electric vs. 15% Gasoline. This past month so far, I’m closer to 70% Electric vs. 30% Gasoline and a lot of that was because I decided to be a little more Rage Sane than Range Insane to my drive to Morro Bay.

Regardless. If folks decide to look deeper into my samples, they would notice that I haven’t driven my approximately $0.20 to $0.25 per mile BMW X5. This was originally because of choice than anything else. I didn’t really need to haul anything larger, pick anyone up at the airport with lots of luggage, or just feel “bigger” than the rest of traffic. So, the car sat at the garage. Well. It’s a nearly 12 year old car. A couple of weeks ago, I figured to start it… And Lo and Behold, it wouldn’t start. The battery was dead. The last time I bought a battery was less than six years ago, but one of the dangers of running a hybrid garage is IGNORING your ICE vehicles. Granted, this was the same challenge when my HOV capable vehicle was a Honda Hybrid Civic. But that car was not nearly as fun to drive as ANY of my BMWs. So, I drove the X5 a little more than we do now.

The Morro Bay drive went convertible top because the weather was ideal for it. We could have easily spent more money and gone with the X5 because we were headed into Santa Barbara and Central Coast Wine Country and could’ve opted to have space for a few cases, comfortably.

Regardless, the battery died. It had to be replaced. Luckily, the last replacement still had nine months left on its warranty and we got a 9/72 partial refund on the older battery to make our replacement approximately $120 after taxes. Basically the refund covered $17 of a totally brand new battery.

This experience has gotten me thinking of Tom’s write up and battery replacement in general. Tesla has just released an enhancement to its service and repair program that includes an enhancement to the coverage of the battery pack. They’ve already spelled out the cost for the 60 KwH and the 85 KwH battery packs ($8,000 and $12,000 respectively, I believe.) The Nissan Leaf’s battery capacity warranty has been spelled out in terms of what to expect over time and mileage I believe. i.e. 80% SOC on year 5 or something like that.

BMW i needs to do the same thing for the battery packs for the i3 and i8 when the cars are released or even slightly before the release of the car. As Tom champions, I second the motion. Potential purchasers of the i3 (of which I continue to hold on to hope that our second EV will be, though that Fiat 500e sure looks aesthetically pleasing to me… even though the Fiat does remind me of a gumdrop, but I digress,) will need to be able to compare EVs to each other. However as the aforementioned Tom Moloughney wrote, the Fiat 500e and the i3’s battery systems are identical, so I don’t really need to compare these specific cars (unless there’s a change in how each company regulates the temperature of each vehicle.) for what the expected battery loss figures would be. It’s not just EVs that lose capacity/capability as it ages, ICE cars also lose power as the cars age. That’s just entropy in action. It’s just front and center to EVs. I don’t necessarily like to lease my cars, regardless of what fuel motivates it. I would much rather own it outright and just pay for the things that keep it moving.

So, barring such information on battery replacement from most manufacturers, it would just be the responsible thing to do to put away some of the “gasoline savings” aside into a fund for a rainy day. Whether one save approximately $10,000 (the figure between the two Model S published numbers) or less is entirely dependent on the EV owner’s resources and ability to save. I think that it is prudent to put aside half of what a future EV buyer saves on gasoline toward purchasing a replacement battery pack in the future. I didn’t come to this number through ANY analytical means, just a guess, if you will.

Minimizing gas use…

So, about a month ago I was inspired by an article, on Plugincars.com regarding BMW’s plan to allow i3 drivers the ability to rent a traditional gas (internal combustion engine/ICE) BMW when they need it, to figure out how often my family uses ICE vs. EV.

Seeing that there are two of us who use vehicles in the family, I figured to count the FAMILY’s usage of Gas vs. Electric.

So, I decided to log my mileage of use for the period between March 6 and April 5, 2013. It was a rather interesting log. We travelled a total of 2,948 miles in this period of which we did 2,499 miles Electric vs. 449 miles on gasoline. I anticipated a heavier gasoline use this past month as we were going to help our nephew move. Ended up not using the X5 for this and he only needed a few items which fit our ActiveE, so, score 1 for the EV use.

However, as things do tend to go to the mean, the 328i ended up with a recall. Of all things, in the electric wiring of the vehicle. As a result, had to do almost 100 of those miles gasoline and 22 of the approximately 100 miles was using a 5 series loaner.

Good thing the BMW ActiveE folks were not planning on the Morro Bay FB meetup until tomorrow, otherwise, I would be adding another 460 miles on gas as I’m not crazy enough to wait the hours needed to charge the Active E on the drive north and south to the meet.

Hats off to some of my fellow electronauts who live a fully electric life, I’m not sure if I can quite do that yet.

These brave souls all live fully electric, or at least nearly so – check out the blogs of Todd Crook, Peter Norby, and Pamela Thwaite

Todd is impressive because the whole family uses the ActiveE, solely! Peter has both an ActiveE and a Honda Fit EV, and Pamela Thwaite‘s family has 3 Electric cars. A Tesla (roadster, I believe), Active E, and a Mitsubishi iMiev for the kids.

Still, at 85% electric vs. 15% gasoline. I think I’m doing well… Saving a lot of money and enjoying the ride!  Figuring that my 2499 electric miles is closer to $21.64 and my 449 miles of gasoline is closer to $85 (using an inflated approximate $0.19 per mile as I do not have the cost per mile for the 5 series vs. my $0.17 per mile calculated convertible 328i cost.)  If I were to extend $0.17 per mile to the 2499 electric miles, I’m saving about $400 on not buying gas.  (not even factoring in $100/hour per the currently controversial articles on Tesla’s leasing program.)

When we get a Tesla Model S (unless BMW comes out with a more aesthetically pleasing i3 or cheaper i8 BEV, not hybrid) and with that range, we would probably not need to drive as much gas as we do now.

Mea culpa

I did it…

I was hoping to wait until April, but this darn price increase forced me to commit earlier than I wanted to.

What was it that I did…

I put my deposit down for one of these –

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What can I say? I really like BMWs, but the styling of the i3 leaves much to be desired.

The i3 4 door is ok, it just doesn’t look like other BMWs.

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The newly unveiled i3 Coupe looks even better, but I do want the four door functionality!

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I was hoping to put down the deposit by April to take delivery of the Model S by the time the ActiveE lease ends and I am forced to give back the car, but Tesla’s price increase and the inevitability of it all got me off the fence.

This isn’t to say that I won’t be getting an i3, but it does mean that the deal has to be that much better to get me to one as well. A deposit on a Model S at this time