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.

And now a break from Active E coverage… The Smart Car 3rd Generation “smart fun drive”

For Earth Day 2013, I thought I’d do something fun. I test drove the soon to be released third generation Smart Car Convertible. Smart is touring the vehicle and allowing the lucky registrants test drives. The Los Angeles area run (at Santa Monica Place Mall in Santa Monica, CA) will be ending on the 28th of April. See here to register.

A $28,000 EV Smart car with some upgrades from previous generations. The most notable one is the $28,000 version is a CONVERTIBLE. Yes, you read correctly, the first production line convertible EV. Living in Southern California has its advantages. One of which is the fact that it is one of the locations where it actually does “make sense” to own a convertible. You definitely get enough perfect weather days to drive with the top down! Now, it’s funny to me to drive a Smart convertible because I think that the Tesla Model S with the Panoramic Roof opens up to practically the same amount of open space as a Smart Car convertible, but I believe you can buy three Smart Cars for the price of the Model S.


The instrument cluster for state of charge (SOC) and others are analog


The car comes with 17.6 kwh capacity and a stated 60-90 mile range. The onboard charging is at 3.3 kwh per hour, so a full charge on L2 from empty will take 6 hours. It does come with a convenience 120V charger, but that’s slow as well (like the ActiveE’s where it could take a day from empty.)


same picture with charger packed away.


And finally with the rear closed.


The car does not have any other drive modes than the single gear EV drive, so no Eco Pro or B mode that the Active E or the Nissan Leaf has. So, it really is up to the driver to adjust his or her driving style to maximize the range. The stated 0-60 mph is around 11.5 seconds, but it is rather peppy from 0-30 mph. The test drive was only on city streets, so I was unable to try it faster than the stated speed limits around Santa Monica Place.

As you can see in the pictures, I test drove the convertible. The hardtop is available for $3,000 less at $25,000. Now the Smart representative that accompanied me on the drive mentioned that this is the first of the three generations that customers can buy. The car was warranted for 4 years and 50,000 miles including the battery. To alleviate battery worries, Smart is introducing battery leasing to the USA and I did not get the details as, again, I drive a ton of miles and would probably hit the mileage cap on any capped lease in no time.

No DC Fast charging, just J1772 and, as I mentioned before at 3.3 kwh per hour.


The lit instrument cluster –


As a bonus for the test drive Smart will entertain you on the second floor of Santa Monica Place and provide free “beverages”. Additionally, you get entered into a drawing to win a two year lease of the vehicle and get emailed an offer for $500 off any Smart car that you decide to pick up.

A few pictures from the lounge on the second floor –






More pictures at flickr.

Would I buy one… Probably not. It was a fun, little car though. Drove much better than the ICE version of the Smart Car. Now, I’m waiting for that Fiat 500e. That looks like a fun, little car. More akin to the i3, but less functional, and more aesthetically pleasing.

30,000 Miles…

One less than 30,000 Miles:


and finally, 30,000 Miles:


So, what’s been up.

Well, I TRIED to meet up with the West Coast Active E Facebook folks in Morro Bay on April 7, 2013. However, since I was busy on Saturday and didn’t head out for a Range Insane 240 mile drive from home to where the meet up is, I decided to ICE it with my BMW 328iC. I guess we run what is known as a hybrid garage and I figure that to supplement the Active E, a convertible and SUV are definitely two types of ICE vehicles that are not quite EV ready (as of April 2013).

So, to match some of the capabilities of the Active E, I had to wire up my portable Sirius radio to the convertible and wired it up.


As I documented in other locations, the dangers of going to a FB meetup when I don’t have FB is that when plans change, I may not be updated. So, after driving 240 miles one way, I missed the Active E folks by about 15 minutes. I actually got to see Mariel and Edison drive by as I spoke to Tom Moloughney to see if he can get me in touch with the West Coast guys. At least it was a beautiful California day and my wife and I had a fun drive with the top down for a bit of the journey!

The day after the meetup, dropped off the car for 30,000 mile service, a little early at 29,650.


This service took a little longer than the 25,000 mile service as I actually had a transmission malfunction a few weeks ago that required me to go to the battery switch to reset it. Unfortunately, even after four days in service, they didn’t find anything “wrong” with the car.

So, got the car back.

Did a little driving around and got to 30k.

So, what have I learned this past 10,000 miles… I really enjoy EVs and I am really intrigued by the new Fiat 500e and so happy to live in California where Fiat is offering this vehicle.

Minimizing gas use…

So, about a month ago I was inspired by an article, on 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.