Update to back of napkin math using first month’s SCE Time of Use Tariff

It’s time for an update.  As a response to my $0.31 per kWh price for charging my ActiveE on Southern California Edison’s Domestic Tariff, I signed up for Electric Time Of Use (TOU). Now there are TWO flavors of the TOU tariff.  One requires a separate meter, the other does not.  The approximate cost for the separate meter and installation at my house was an additional $2,000 to $4,000.  Since, we were not sure if we would be staying on Electric after the two year closed-end lease of the ActiveE, we decided to go with the one offered for customers with a single electric meter.  At this point, barring the lack of good choices after the 2 years, we probably will go ahead and get at least a replacement electric vehicle.

So what did we find out after the first month on the new tariff.  First, let me spell out what assumptions were made to calculate the amount of energy used by the AE.  I could have gotten more detailed (counting ALL the emailed kWh usage identified by my Chargepoint EVSE, but decided that I did not really want to do all the calculations and since most of my charging is done at the super-off peak hours and very few outside of these times, that I would overstate the amount of energy and calculate based on the total super-off peak usage AND 10% of off-peak charging to come up with my model.) but I would’ve run out of room on the back of the napkin.  Bottom line, in the new month, I came up with $0.12024 per kWh to charge this past month under the winter rates.  This assumption puts me at the cost to fill up at home at $1.20 per day

So, using the 70 mile number – from my electric cost per mile last month is approximately $0.01714 per mile.  After two months of driving, I have noticed that my average roundtrip is actually a little higher than the 70 mile number.  Let’s call it 85 miles…  So, using this mileage, I was able to recalculate this cost down to $0.01412 per mile.

Using the revised mileage numbers, 407 miles is $5.75 vs. $60.00 approximately 1/12th the cost of ICE.

Folks with lower kWh pricing obviously come out a lot more.  In fact, it’s practically free for those that are on solar power, though not really free, since installing solar DOES cost money.  Now that BMW got a nice group discount at 35%, but still not “free.”

Of course the subsidized power may disappear as electric cars gain greater traction, but there’s a lot of room to go before it gets close to the same level as an ICE car of a similar caliber.  Additionally, it would seem that my rates are bound to go up when Summer Rates kick in, so I will have another update when those bills come in.

Inane disclaimers on cars…


So, I was a little bored and thought to look at some of the things around my ActiveE, and I started reading this disclaimer sticker on the front windshield of my car.

I am especially infuriated by “…telephones (including operation of any portable cellular phone from within the vehicle without using an externally mounted antenna) … may cause extensive damage to the vehicle, compromise its safety, interfere with the vehicle’s electrical system or affect the validity of the BMW Limited Warranty.”

Talk about your inane disclaimers.

My cell phone, which works with the Bluetooth system so much so that I can access MAP messages on it could invalidate the warranty because it does not have an “externally mounted antenna”.  Last I looked, the BlackBerry Bold 9900 was too new and not on the “approved” list.  This is one of the most senseless disclaimers around.  It ranks up there with the caution of a hot beverage that one gets with a disposable cup (yes, I said disposable and no, even for the 10 cents saved at Starbucks, I do not reuse my coffee cups. ONCE AGAIN, it’s ACCIDENTALLY ENVIRONMENTAL and 10 cents a cup wasn’t enough to move the needle with me on this issue.)

So, yes, my fun car may handle like a dream, but it too has some stupid things attached to it.

Range Anxiety and the Longest One-Way drive so far!

I’m sure others have done longer and I’ve had longer days (with multiple charge stops… personal record – 175 miles in one day (two charge stops)) however, aside from Las Vegas, folks around LA normally think of driving to Santa Barbara, Palm Springs, or San Diego to be a long drive, so I figured to try one out.

Since we live in the Southern Tip of Los Angeles County, it seemed best to pick San Diego as the destination.

Trip planned, remote charger identified.  Time to conquer range anxiety…

Our planned stop – The North County Transit District stop in Oceanside.  Ideal choice because on May 6, they were running extra trains for the weekend (Cinco de Mayo was just the day before and there were still festivals and a Padres game going on).

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This is a 65 mile journey one way, of which around 25-30 miles near the end there were not only NO public chargers listed on any of the Apps, but no gas stations Between San Clemente and San Onofre, so even ICE vehicles were warned of “no services for the next 20 miles” .

The plan was to get to the Train Station and hop on the Coaster to get down to San Diego.  Blink Network and the North County Transit District had both installed 6 chargers at the station and taking the train from here would provide a day’s worth of entertainment.

I debated as to using the cruise control and setting it at a moderate 67-68 miles per hour on the ActiveE (it overstates it’s speed and that would get me around 65) but opted to enjoy the drive and use the pedal manually.  I decided to go Eco Pro and also was not driving as aggressively as I normally do and found myself being passed by many cars (that last stretch by San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant tends to be a really fast one)

Though the navigation had recommended that I use the toll road around the El Toro Y. I opted around it as that route has a lot more hills and I decided on staying on the 405 to the 5 freeway as it is considerably flatter and I wanted to arrive at my destination with as much charge as possible (to minimize the charging time for a full charge.)

This conservative driving worked wonders for my range.  I ended up at the train station with 25 miles left and State of Charge (SOC) around 20% (the car did its customary warning at 27 miles to go).  However, plans #1 and #2 for the day was shot as I arrived at the chargers only to see the Coaster pulling away from the station and the Amtrak soon after.  There were five chargers available as one was being used by a Leaf and I decided to plug in and charge.

Luckily, we had a plan #3.  Four hours to charge the car and a few miles away was the Carlsbad Premium Outlets.

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So, we decided to jump in a cab ($23 one-way, $25 with tip) and get down to the outlets to do some shopping. This is a smaller outlet a stone’s throw from Legoland.      It has a lot of the same stores one finds at other outlet stores around Southern California, but it does have a nicely stocked Crate & Barrel Outlet, not that we ended up getting anything there.

The shopping center was well attended, but not crowded and the sales were actually very attractive.  Ended up picking up a few items that more than off-set the round-trip cab fare ($50, I did $25 with tip on the return cab trip as well.)  Additionally, the food choices near the outlet stores were quite good (namely a PF Chang’s, and BJ’s across the street and Ruby’s Diner in the outlet stores) and it helps that Starbucks had the Frappuccino Happy Hour going to recharge during our 4 hour shopping trip (that’s about 3 3/4 hours longer than the better half can stand).

We made it back to the ActiveE right as the blue light stopped blinking.  I literally saw the car blinking when the cab arrived at the train station, and stay off as I walked up to the car to get it disengaged from the Blink Network charger.

Having the confidence of making the range on the Southbound trip earlier, the Northbound trip was a lot more pleasant.  I stayed on Eco Pro, but definitely drove a little more aggressively.  I stayed OFF the Toll Road route as I wanted the opportunity to get off the freeway at any of the cities in between.

The roundtrip was approximately 135 miles with a single 4.25 hour charging session in between.  I arrived home with about 30 miles left on the car and about 25% SOC.

Charge It! – Great food near public chargers #1 in an ongoing series

One of the things about charging my ActiveE at public chargers is trying to figure out what to do while I wait for a couple of hours.  Shopping center public chargers are great ’cause there’s a ton of stuff to do at shopping centers. However, as much as I like to shop, it gets boring.

So, I figure that one thing that would be very helpful for readers of the blog is figure out what great food places there are around some of the public chargers that I use. The ActiveE has provided me with nice opportunities to slow down and enjoy life at times.  So, rather than fast food, some great food near chargers (read walking distance).  Though ever since I got this car, I’ve found myself walking more and more. (the L2 charger nearest my office is 3/4 of a mile away.) So I get a mile and a half walk most work days (for non-SoCal readers, that’s a long walk for Southern Californians.)

So, without further ado…  Let’s go with the first one…  Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so I figured to choose my first location accordingly.

The Helms Bakery District

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This place is great. Two Clipper Creek J1772 L2 chargers are available and parking is free.  So, you can always shop for furniture and other home stuff at this location.  But, how often does one need to buy a new couch, table, bed, or chair.  At the prices that they are sold at the Helms Bakery District, not too often.

So, it makes it the ideal spot to grab something to eat.  The question is what time of day are you at Helms Bakery.  Breakfast or a snack at La Dijonaise is always great.  I’ve found it a great place to grab a cafe au lait and a macaron. They make some of the best macarons that I’ve ever had.  The one pictured below is a coffee flavored macaron. They have several different flavors, and the coffee is my favorite, the chocolate is pretty great as well. I’ve tried a raspberry, orange, almond, and others and the worst is better than most places macarons.

A little pitstop to recharge myself and my @BMWActiveE at the Helms Bakery charger...  Enjoying a Cafe au lait and Macaron!


This one was a little too tart..


Just tried today – Chocolate Eclair..  It was good!

Chocolate Eclair at La Dijonaise

Really the only other thing I’ve grabbed at La Dijonaise has been a raisin roll.  So, I can’t comment on the other food, (one of these days I will, just not today) but they really do the baked goods well.

Dinner or lunch (on some days) another popular place to go at Helms Bakery is The Father’s Office. I’ve been there once. The burger is good and it is very popular (there seems to be a good crowd at The Father’s Office making it a good place to hang out). It has been considered one of the top burgers in LA. However, I’m the wrong guy to pick burgers. I can tell good from bad, just not good from great nor any other superlative to describe burgers.  According to experts, this burger is really good, so I take their word for it.  If you prefer the reviews of others, it does pretty well on Yelp as well not too bad on Zagat either.  In all, breakfast, lunch, or dinner, Helms Bakery is good.

The J1772 chargers and easy access 24×7 makes it a good place for an Electronaut or any other EV driver in LA to stop by the Helms Bakery.  This place is a good place to go and charge it! (and get yourself a fill up as well).

The Concours de Claremont 2012

I’m not really a car guy… Never was… probably never will be. I somewhat understand the rudimentary concept of horsepower, torque, all that stuff.  However, I basically know that it’s time to switch mechanics when they try to charge me for “changing the air” in my tires… Needless to say, not a car guy.

When I primarily drove ICE cars, I was fine with my old station-wagon, dubbed the Red Bomber by my friends in college. It served my purpose. I got from point A to point B and loaded the car with a bunch of stuff or friends. As I got older, and started to get nicer and nicer cars. I can appreciate the power that “the ultimate driving machine” gave me. Additionally, my lack of car knowledge makes me the ideal consumer to have the included manufacturer service plan for new and CPO BMWs. This fit has made it that BMW has become and continues to be my favorite car manufacturer. This is one of the reasons for trying to get into the ActiveE program. Lastly the fact that the ActiveE DOES drive like all my other BMWs makes me a big enthusiast for this car.

So much so that I did something this past weekend that is very uncharacteristic of me. I entered a car show.

Yes, you read it correctly… I entered a car show.

My alma mater had its Alumni Weekend this past weekend and Sunday morning was the 2012 Concours de Claremont. Having seen old pictures of the event, I figured what the heck. The ActiveE is 1 of 1100 worldwide and 1 of 700 I’m the nation, that’s pretty rare. Additionally, I wanted to help promote the fact that being Accidentally Environmental has its benefits.

So, I entered the car show.

I didn’t know what to expect and I had a lot of fun. To draw attention to the fact that the car is electric, and to ensure that I got to downtown LA (my next stop for the Lakers Playoff Game 1 Round 1 vs. Denver Nuggets), I asked that the organizers arranged to get me a 110v location to plug into and grab a few electrons on slow charge during the few hours that I participated in the Concours de Claremont.


The only unfortunate thing was I had to park a little apart from the other participants of the Concours de Claremont –


As you can see from the flickr set, I was the sole electric vehicle there.  The cars were a fun eclectic bunch.  One guy from the 1960s brought in his first car (1960s Volkswagen Bug)

and his ninth car, a very nice Benz


I was impressed with 1991 Lotus Élan, a vehicle that was even more rare than the AE (563 in the US).



Lot’s of car guy talk, which I politely listened in on and participated when I could. Many of the usual questions about the car and the program. Of course, the BMW Electronaut welcome packet with its easy to hand out cards arrived a few days after the event. But it’s definitely more fun talking to folks.

The younger generation were definitely more open to the overall idea of electric cars, but the older guys were definitely impressed with the savings and performance of the car.

Thanks to John and Steven for putting together an enjoyable Sunday morning to help me show off my ActiveE in the Concours, my only regret was that I had to take off early to make it to the Lakers game at Staples Center! (Luckily the Lakers won that game, so it was a very good Sunday indeed.)

Checking out the lower end of the electric car range… Introducing the Coda

Active E and Coda parked side by side 1


Active E and Coda parked side by side 4

A couple of weeks ago, I was walking the Century City Shopping Center –

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And ran across the Coda Experience Center… Having only driven my ActiveE, I wanted to have a frame of reference on what makes the ActiveE a fun electric car versus other electric cars. Granted this is like comparing a 328i with a Honda Civic…  But I thought what the heck.  I’d like to check it out.

Before I did the behind the wheel test.  One of the things that I noticed at Coda was the price – $37,500 USD without any incentives.  The other was the included battery pack – 31 KwH…  That’s 4 more than the ActiveE’s usable charge, this means a longer range…  They claim 125 miles on the current model whereas a previous model was 150 miles… Lastly, trunk space – it has it!



So, I went out on a test drive with one of the Coda Associates and it drives ok.  The regenerative braking felt non-existent.  My Civic Hybrid felt stronger on the regen.  The power was akin to a Civic and it definitely does not fall into the “fun to drive” category that the ActiveE and other BMWs fall into.

Seeing that this vehicle really wasn’t targeted to the BMW or Tesla pricepoints, it took time to have to keep my biases from clouding my test.  One of the positives that was touted for this car was that it charges at 6.6kWh not 3.3kWh as the Leaf.  Of course, the AE goes at least as fast as this car, if not faster to charge, but the pricepoint is also much cheaper for the Coda.

The picture below shows why this car charges at twice the speed as the Leaf, it has two of these things vs 1 on the Leaf

IMGP6069One shortcoming of the demonstration vehicles that I tested was the GPS/Battery management system on the vehicles were non-functioning, and thus had to rely on testing it at the “experience center”.  Looks nice below, but couldn’t tell while I was driving the demo.

Needless to say, I wasn’t overly impressed.  The car has an old stlying, perhaps in the 80s, so as not to be so old as to be classic a la re-tooled Thunderbird or Mustang.  I like the range in the vehicle and the faster L2 charging than the Leaf, but it is just too plain for me to want.


During my test drive, my sales associate mentioned that the batteries are a different chemical composition than other electric car manufacturers and that the company sells the cars with a 10 year warranty on the batteries.  This is impressive, but I can’t really see myself wanting to drive this car for 10 years, whereas the 2 year lease on my ActiveE just seems TOO SHORT.

The Coda seems very smart to target a more “affordable” electric car segment than Tesla or Fisker, so in that manner I feel that they are smart to target that segment.  However, the equivalent trim in an ICE vehicle would probably be less than half the $38k that Coda is asking for, so I don’t know how many folks would cough up the $38k for a utilitarian vehicle like the Coda.  Frankly if they styled the car to be less utilitarian and more stylish, folks might like it better.

Just my opinion.

If you find yourself near the Century City Shopping Mall and have the time to take your own test drive, I suggest you do.  It was definitely useful in reinforcing my love of my ActiveE and my continuing quest to figure out what my “next” electric will be.

For more pictures, click on the link to the Flickr photostream.

Link to Coda’s corporate website

Second napkin math for those that use an SUV…

In the vein of my earlier post comparing our ActiveE with our 328i.  Since it was time to fill up our 2001 X5 I figured it would be the time to compare the math vs. the math previously computed for the ActiveE.

Here’s the back of the napkin math. The fill up was for super unleaded at $4.239 per gallon (price of gas is dropping from the time I did the 328i comparison) and I filled up with 20.070 gallons for a total of $85.08. The range says 430 miles, since I zero out the odometer after each fill up, I know I did 358.4 miles since the last fill up. This is about 10 gallons of gas more than the last fill up (9.761 gallons previously).

So, I figure that my cost per mile (using Super Unleaded) is approx $0.2374 per mile.

As with the original calculations on the ActiveE, I’m heavily subsidized… I fill up at many locations where the electricity AND parking is free, the only place it costs to fill up is at home. I do about 35 miles each way to/from work and I charge for free 3/4 of a mile from the office, assuming 10 kWh of energy at home that I fill up and pay for on the average (some fill ups more, some less) to get me to full. I have yet to pay my Time of Use Tariff, so I’m defaulting to last month’s Domestic Tariff for Electricity, which tops off at $0.31 per kWh, so that’s $3.10 per day of fill up, 10kWh is about 1 day in 70 miles roundtrip…

So my electric cost per mile last month is approximately $0.0443 per mile.

So, 430 miles would run $21.71 vs. $102.07 on the X5… or 1/5th the cost of energy for the X5.  However, the X5 can fit a LOT of stuff vs. the ActiveE, so, it really is not a fair comparison.  Additionally, I use the two cars quite differently from the other.  However, I’ve found that shopping trips to Costco on the ActiveE is A LOT CHEAPER than with the X5 as it lowers the likelihood of impulse purchases of larger (both size and ticket) items.

Side note, Still waiting on the Time of Use bill, so I’ll update later when that comes up. But as I noted previously, I’m guessing that this new tariff drops my cost per kWh to between $0.10 to $0.16 per kWh (depending on Tier 1 or Tier 2 of usage). So, the next month’s cost will probably be closer to $0.0222 per mile.