Announcing… The new blog title


Since I first started publishing my thoughts on this blog, I had chosen the title

My ActiveE made me Accidentally Environmental

The trials and tribulations of a BMW ActiveE driver in Southern California

Well…

As I indicated in a previous post, we’re adding to our focus…  I would have been happy to pursue more experiences with the Active E, solely, alas, I am finally letting go of the idea that I may be able to keep my Active E.  The i3 is launched and scheduled for delivery in the United States (if my source at one of the local LA dealerships is to be trusted) on March 18, 2014.  (Yes, the day after Saint Patrick’s Day.)

So…  Without further delay…

My ActiveE made me Accidentally Environmental

And Tesla made me a rEVolutionary!

It was either that or

And Tesla Model S is the vehicle that BMW should have made

The importance of Telematics…

After over twenty months of driving electric vehicles (EVs). I was thinking of advantages that EVs have over internal combustion engine (ICE) cars.

One of the things that I feel is critical to have in a production Electric Vehicle is proper telematics. Telematics is the intersection of telecommunications and information. The ability to monitor and get feedback as to the status of the vehicle is a feature that I think should be supported by all EVs.

What are some baseline features of Telematics that I would like to see from EV manufacturers.

1) Support for Multiple Mobile devices as well as the Web.

2) Near real-time status updates of the vehicle and its current state.
A) Battery Charge Level
B) Charging/Not Charging (Plugged/Not Plugged)
C) Estimate of how long charging will take

3) At least several years of access to the systems should be included with the price of the car.

Granted, this post is occurring before we’ve picked up our Tesla Model S, so I’ll have to provide an update with that one later.

As many of you know, I recently installed the Open Vehicle Monitoring System on my wife’s Roadster. So, I can now compare BMW’s My Remote with the OVMS system on a Tesla Roadster 1.5. Additionally, I have been experienced with the Nissan Leaf Carwings system as a function of being “tech support” for my 60+ mother in her 2013 Ocean Blue Nissan Leaf SV (OB-8).

First, I will be using the iOS version running on an iPod Touch and/or iPad, unless I specify otherwise.

So, how do they compare?

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First, the My BMW Remote Application and Active E.

1) BMW has an application for iOS and Android. No access via the web or Blackberry.

2) Near real-time status updates of the vehicle and its current state.
the My BMW Remote provides good feedback of this status on the iPod Touch version by giving the user the “Status from: Date and Time” on the upper right of the application. The iPad version only gives the “Status from: Date” on the same location. It makes the iPod Touch version an edge even between the same mobile OS.

As above, the iPod version

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and the iPad version [NOTE: I edited out the map on the left corner for the location]

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A) Battery Charge Level

BMW does provide this, but it’s been somewhat unreliable. For example, most recently, I was unable to get any of this status on the iOS application from October 23, 2013 to October 29, 2013. It finally started working again.

if the status is frozen, have to hit the refresh button to get a refresh. And it’s hit or miss whether that works.

B) Charging/Not Charging (Plugged/Not Plugged)

The My BMW Remote does show this status and enable one to change the scheduled time of charge as well as initiate a charge directly. It also monitors whether or not the car is plugged in at the location.

C) Estimate of how long charging will take

The My BMW Remote does a good job of providing this feedback in the same manner as the vehicle does as far as when it expects to complete the charge to 100%. It Actually provides the hour:minute estimate of how much time is left to complete the charge. However, this algorithm is actually toward 99% charge and not full stop as the slow down for the last few minutes can last a while if the user wants to unplug when the car is completely stopped its charge.

3) At least several years of access to the systems should be included with the price of the car.

This is not an issue on the Active E as the close end lease from BMW will run out before access to these systems are in place.

OTHER FEATURES AND OBSERVATIONS.

The My BMW Remote App requires the end user to enter a PIN code every time the application is launched. This can be annoying, but the more paranoid would enjoy the security of such a feature.

Additionally, the vehicle’s GPS coordinates will be provided ONLY if the vehicle and the mobile device are “close” to each other (

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Older versions of the application allowed the end user to unlock the vehicle, this has since been removed. [added 2013-11-07 The feature still shows up but directs users to CALL BMW Assist]

The end user can start preconditioning of the vehicle remotely, once again the challenge is the actual connection between App and vehicle can be unreliable. [added 2013-11-07 The end user can also SCHEDULE the preconditioning and charging behavior through the App, but it is somewhat unreliable, I personally set these before I leave the vehicle which is why I had an oversight.]

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It’s nice that the Application tells the end user the battery temperature, the outside temperature, and the inside temperature of the vehicle. In SoCal, this is used to COOL the cabin down before picking up the car, I’m sure in other parts of the country it is used to HEAT the cabin before getting to the car.

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[added 2013-11-07 The user can also link their vehicle to their Google account and send Map destinations to the vehicle via the registered email address of the car. I believe this is a capability of newer BMWs, not just Active Es. I use this feature sporadically, as the others which is why I had the oversight. The Address is received by the vehicle as a “Service Message”]

Lastly, the end user has the option of loading the office and home locations and the application automatically computes whether the end user has enough range to get to either location with the SOC of the vehicle.

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Second, the OVMS Application and the Tesla Roadster

The Open Vehicle Monitoring System was launched approximately two years ago (November 2011) and constant improvements have been occuring. In fact, there is a thread on Teslamotorsclub.com that discusses the Technical improvements to OVMS.

I recently chronicled my install of OVMS on the blog.

I installed the formerly current release I believe it was 2.3.2 (prior to the release of 2.5.5 on October 28, 2013) of OVMS firmware in our Roadster 1.5. The behavior and features available to each instance of OVMS is constrained by the vehicle that you connect it to and the firmware release of OVMS.

More information on OVMS can be found on openvehicles.com.

1) Support for Multiple Mobile devices as well as the Web.

OVMS has Apps for iOS and Android. Additionally, it can be configured, controlled, and monitored using SMS.

2) Near real-time status updates of the vehicle and its current state.

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OVMS tells you on the upper right hand the status of the data. Live means within a minute of looking at the app. The product updates to a server graciously donated by the teslamotorsclub.com for folks to host their OVMS status. When the antenna is green and lit up, it’s good.

A) Battery Charge Level
B) Charging/Not Charging (Plugged/Not Plugged)
C) Estimate of how long charging will take

OVMS does a great job on A) and B) but C) is constrained. This is probably a vehicle by vehicle challenge as I don’t remember seeing whether our Roadster tells us how long it will take to charge to “full” (i.e. based on the mode that you have the Roadster set to (Storage, Standard, Range, or Performance).)

3) At least several years of access to the systems should be included with the price of the car.

Nothing is free on OVMS except for the development effort (which one should really support AFTER purchasing the necessary pieces, etc.) Give what you can to the guys. They really made the Roadster a more modern EV with the Telematics that was added.

I’m still discovering what we can do with it and I do enjoy the difference in the interface between the iPod and iPad. In the iPod, the screens are paged to three different pages. On the iPad, it uses the whole screen.

iPod screens –

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and on the iPad

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Showing progress on the better half’s drive on the way home…

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Note that the car icon shows that her lights were on while she was driving in the evening (on the iPad version.)

OVMS also uses the feedback available on the connection to the vehicle to alert the user via text message or the app when the car stops charging unexpectedly. This is useful when one needs to ensure that one gets a full charge. The BMW My Remote does not do this and I often rely on Chargepoint or Blink’s networked EVSE to provide this intelligence rather than the vehicle’s feedback.

The support on teslamotorsclub.com by markwj is top notch. He single-handedly beats out BMW on the Telematics support. As I mentioned between October 23-29th the App was inoperative without a peep to the user community and Mark replies within several hours (the guy is in Hong Kong, so please be cognizant of when he “should” be sleeping.) Recently, we had a connectivity issue that was reported [starting with my post here and resolved in subsequent posts] on teslamotorsclub.com and the user community was able to give feedback to each other to ascertain that the problem was NOT to our individual instance, but something “in the cloud.”

Top notch product and service. Yay user community!

We still have not taken delivery of the Model S, so I’ll have to update on that when we do (coming soon…)

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Third, CarWings and Nissan Leaf.

1) Support for Multiple Mobile devices as well as the Web.

Carwings is deployed on iOS, Android, AND Blackberry. It’s kind of cool in that. However, the command structure seems to employ either SMS or a query/response system between the user App, a server, and finally the vehicle.

2) Near real-time status updates of the vehicle and its current state.

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As a result of this query system, one must be cognizant of the Updated field in the middle of the application to see when the status was polled from the vehicle.

If you do not set the Application for auto-poll at start up, you need to initiate one.

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Then wait for the response to get the update.

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A) Battery Charge Level
B) Charging/Not Charging (Plugged/Not Plugged)
C) Estimate of how long charging will take

Aside from the pause, stop, start, nature of a manually requested polling system, the Leaf and Carwings knock A – C out of the park. It gives a status on what speed the vehicle is charging at, an estimate of how long it will take to charge over differing conditions, it lets you know easily whether the car is plugged in or not, whether it is charging, or not, etc.

3) At least several years of access to the systems should be included with the price of the car.

At time of lease (this is my mom’s vehicle that we’re reviewing.) CarWings was included for three years. Nissan has announced that European ones will be free past their initial period, I have not really paid attention to the US Nissan program, so I really shouldn’t comment on that.

I really enjoy the configurations for Carwings to NOTIFY the user via email and text messaging of the charge status whether the charge was interrupted or not. Additionally, the user can configure the vehicle to recognize (via GPS) when the vehicle is near a preferred parking location that it should plug in at. For example, since my mother is >60 years old, we have it set to notify her (and me) when she’s home and forgot to plug in.

This particular feature combined with the stopped charging notifications that we set up on the car enabled me to remotely diagnose when my mother’s 2013 Nissan Leaf started to exhibit the 6.6kw charger problems that was reported with earlier batches of the vehicle. This then enabled her to take the time to get the vehicle back to Nissan for service.

My mother loves the ability to remotely engage the cooling (warming) features of CarWings so that she can initiate cabin control when she is a few minutes away from her vehicle.

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Telematics is an important part of the EV experience. It is this feedback experience that enables EV drivers to be more “in tune” with their vehicles than their ICE counterparts and allow EV drivers with a superior experience on the road.

[added 2013-11-07 In the interest of covering other EVs, here are links to Jamie Mueller’s Ford Focus EV blog for what Ford allows its EV drivers to do:

It’s refreshing to see such capabilities demonstrated on so many vehicles.]

DIWHFOC… Or… Welcome our Roadster to Telematics enabled EV driving.

So, DIWHFOC… (or Do It with help from online community) project for the Tesla Roadster is the implementation of the OVMS (Open Vehicle Monitoring System).

Had some challenges with the initial install, specifically in getting the SIM card to run on GPRS. Thanks to the folks that have created OVMS it was really quite straightforward.

So, what were my challenges.

First, I picked up a SIM card from AT&T and activated it on the Pay as You Go 10cent per minute plan. I tested on an original iPhone, which was a mistake because it defaults to try to connect as a smartphone, so that doesn’t work.

Second, I forgot to activate the 200 message plan (for configuration). Each command uses TWO text messages as you send a command and the box replies (using two messages), if you forget to buy the $4.99 200 message plan, you end up using $0.40 per command.

Third, the GPRS stops allowing access to the commands when you reach $5 or less. So, the combination of forgetting to activate the 200 text message plan AND finally trying GPRS after the balance fell below $5.00 meant I was stuck sending commands, but NOT being able to use GPRS.

After I recharged again (to go above $5.00), then it started to work.

Any useful hints… Instead of using a cell phone to text commands to the OVMS Module at setup, you might want to consider using Google Voice or some web based SMS program. The reason for this is this will allow you control of the module from your registered number via various devices easily rather than passing along the syntax of COMMAND PW in a text message. There are arguments both ways about whether this is secure or not, the most secure thing would be to unplug OVMS when you don’t want to use it. Then again anyone can text command your Roadster if they know your number and password.

So, a picture IS worth a thousand words.

Here is what it looks like before AND after the install (on the passenger side)

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Here is a picture of the box installed at the footwell of the Roadster.

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Here is the link to the full set.

I opted to follow the instructions to install the antenna behind the passenger seat. So, I did tuck the antenna wire around the door and up to behind the seat.

Here is where I plug in the DIAG port to the OVMS box.

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Tucking in the DIAG port and OVMS cable back in the trough between the driver and passenger.

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Ran the antenna cable as decribed in the guide. I installed the antenna behind the seat and ran the cable back to the box through the gasket and door panel. It is a little tough to pull the panels, but it does give way and come back.

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Tuck the slack around the space before you plug the antenna into the OVMS bug.

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Then tuck it all into place.

Test on the app, and it should all work.

National Plug in Day 2013… Over 200+ EVs in Long Beach

Been on a trip for a few weeks and finally had the time to do my homage to National Plug in Day… Apparently, this is the third year of the event, so I’ve attended three of these events over the past three years… However, I did TWO events last year, so not really the same, is it.

In 2012, I went to two events in two different locations in the same day. The El Segundo one and the Cypress one. This year, I had a flight to catch to Dubai later in the evening, so I could only attend one event.

So, I picked the one in Long Beach.

They did a really cool thing at this event and had a space in the front of the event to highlight one of each vehicle that came by for the event.

National Plug-in Day 2013 - Long Beach 2013-09-28

National Plug-in Day 2013 - Long Beach 2013-09-28

It was definitely much bigger than either event last year.

The event was well attended and well organized. Adopt-A-Charger was opening a new sponsored charger at the California State University Chancellor’s office in Long Beach. They were demonstrating the Tesla Roadster that was listed on eBay as a donation to Plug In America. It’s a pretty sweet little red Roadster.

National Plug-in Day 2013 - Long Beach 2013-09-28

National Plug-in Day 2013 - Long Beach 2013-09-28

There was also a Nissan Nismo Racing Leaf in attendance. Didn’t get to drive it, but got some cool pictures of it.

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There were speakers, including Plug In America’s Paul Scott (also known as the guy who was given his money back when he publicized what he would spend to speak to President Obama).

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and EV Advocate Chelsea Sexton

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and others (this year, I got to meet the “other” Lowenthal that represents me in Long Beach, Bonnie Lowenthal whose ex-husband, Alan Lowenthal, was at last year’s event in Cypress.)

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It’s reassuring to have representatives of my district both in State and Federal level be “EV” friendly. Here’s to hoping that more will represent us in other parts of the country.

The challenge with being in such an EV friendly location is that it skews ones perception of the “challenges” of EV adoption. I suppose, “act locally and think globally” is an appropriate slogan here. However, let’s contrast this once again to the EV situation in the Middle East. It would be foolish to think that we would convince folks in the Middle East to abandon oil. However, there is no reason for the middle of the United States to be as devoid of EVs as the Middle East. However, it is important to note that the challenge will become similar to the Middle East situation as the United States becomes one of the larger net producers of oil and gas with the discoveries of oil reserves throughout the Bakken, Barnett, Eagle Ford, Marcellus Shales and others.

Oh, and for the full flickr set… Click Here

EVs in the Middle East?

So… I was going to post about my Plug In Day 2013 experience in Long Beach this year, but I had a funny thought as I sit in the Club Executive Lounge at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai waiting for my ride (probably a fully kitted out Lincoln Navigator) to the airport to catch my flight to LAX via London.

I was in London for business last week and was disappointed at not seeing any EVs in the Congestion Charging zone and being within a few blocks walk of the Park Lane BMWi dealership. Business does get in the way of my EV obsession.

So what was the funny thought…

I wondered where the nearest “official” Plugshare charging station was from my hotel. I was wondering whether it would be within a BMW Active E, Tesla Roadster, or Tesla Model S range…

Turns out, yes, just not easily!

Plugshare Map of the Middle East ex. Israel

Have to cross borders and find other “un-official” places to charge, but the AC power in the countries in the region would have charged any of the cars as well as any other country, one just needs to carry the EVSE with you. This ability is another thing that Tesla Motors does better than other US EV manufacturers. I say US EV manufacturers because in Europe, they actually carry their plugs with them, so, I suppose that’s similar to the Tesla method.

What do you get when you carry your plug with you? Well, you get to plug in to many different sockets. The Tesla Roadster UMC or Tesla Model S MC are adapters that handle between 110-240v of charging at amperages that go from 12 Amps to 50 Amps continuous. The Active E used to be rated to get 7.2 kw per hour charging from a compatible J1772 station (this has since been hobbled via software to ensure compatibility with more public charging stations.)

So, have I seen any EVs in Dubai. Expectedly not. However, I was disappointed in not seeing any in Central London. My British EV friends really need some help to convince their fellow countrymen to step up.

UPDATE FIVE HOURS AFTER INITIAL POST:

Nissan Leaf ad inside Dubai International Airport

Saw an Advertisement for Nissan Leaf at the Dubai International Airport Departures Terminal 1… Strange… Then again, they may be advertising CarWings… (does Nissan use Carwings on ICE vehicles?)

Tour de Tesla 2013

So… No Active E coverage on this post… ALL Tesla!

What fun things can one do with a Tesla Roadster…

Well, this past Sunday, September 8, 2013. I took the time to join some fellow Tesla owners on a 52 mile drive around Los Angeles County whilst escorted by 12 police cars. It was a fun drive that started off at the Tesla Supercharging station.

We took a great route starting off at the Hawthorne Superchargers…

Panoramic view of the Tesla Run.

There were a lot of Model S

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and a few Roadsters

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The route took 125 Teslas about 50 miles around LA and a fun time was had by all.


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The difference between Active E drivers and Tesla drivers is sheer numbers. There are 700 total Active E Electronuts and at this event, there were 125 Tesla drivers. Some came as far as Arizona and Oregon. I think I overheard that someone flew in from Belgium for the event.

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However, I have to say that Tesla folks are also Electronuts! It was nice to meet some folks and I took on a passenger, Jim, who is awaiting delivery of his Black on Black P85+ Model S that I’m going to have to get him to show off when he gets it.

Here is a link to my pictures.

Here is a link to pictures from a thread on www.teslamotorsclub.com.

[edited 2013-09-04… Added this link from my passenger Jim and his friend Mark… Still waiting for Jim’s P85+ to arrive from the factory!]

AND Finally…

Five Days with a Tesla Model S P85+ compared with an Active E

Our Roadster is ready for pick up… So, we’ll be getting it back later today.

So, I don’t know if it’s normal or not, but I was hoping that Tesla would send an update to the P85+ loaner from firmware 4.5 to the latest, but it did not get it during its five days with us.

Aside from the lack of a hook for a jacket or dry cleaning…

So, a few more nits and revisit a nit and positive… Let’s start with combining these two from the three day post:

“4) This might be because it’s a loaner, but I can’t sync my contacts nor recent calls on the car. It is ALWAYS refreshing. I just disabled it. As a result, I have to dial by number or launch the call from my phone. Once again, the car IS a loaner.”

So, these two might be related… But inconsistent. The lack of sync might be a “privacy issue” and ensures that folks with loaners don’t leave their contacts on the car…

However:

“3) Automatically remembers places that one has charged (and what level charger to set up for.)”

This is not consistent because my home (and presumably other homes) are cached in the car.

Lastly, I am unimpressed with how well the guesstimator for the Model S functions. I like to drive in rated range rather than ideal range. This is just too much car to drive at 55 mph.

As a result I compare my rated range with my actual consumption. I find that the Tesla is still too optimistic with my expected range. Now, the effect is minimal considering how big the battery is, however, the Active E is more precise. For example after a few days back from service and consistent duty, the Active E will predict a certain range and when I consume the mileage, the range left over is consistent. Whereas the Model S would be lower than the consumed miles.

I would expect Tesla to have better prediction algorithms than BMW, but it does not seem that way.