Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Early Days

These are definitely early days with respect to electric vehicles. Level 2 (240v) and Level 3 (480v) public chargers are few and far between. For the most part, EV owners are charging at home and limiting their trips in order to make it back home before running out of stored energy.

Within a few years, the situation will be quite different. Two federally-funded programs (The EV Project and ChargePoint America) are busy installing public charging stations in major metropolitan areas. Electron stations will soon be nearly as ubiquitous as gas stations.

Remember, the automobile existed before gas stations. Back then, you bought your fuel from a druggist or grocer. If you didn't plan your trips carefully, you hired a horse to tow you to the next town, accompanied by the usual comments of "Only a fool would buy an automobile." "A horse never runs out of fuel, there's grass everywhere."

The difference this time is there already exists a nationwide distribution network for EV fuel. It's called the grid. Electricity is everywhere. So although filling up at a high power charging station is more convenient, it's not required. Simply pull out your 110v trickle charger and ask the nearest homeowner if you can borrow a cup of electrons.

Monday, April 04, 2011

LEAF update

Another uneventful month of driving with electrons. Our EV Project-supplied Blink EVSE arrived this month, so now we get all kinds of statistics (see above). The Blink was installed on the 7th, so this is roughly 75% of the monthly total. Mileage isn't shown, but was 650.5 for the same period. Extrapolating for the entire month would put us at 870 miles and 280 KWh, for an average of 3.1 miles/KWh or $0.038/mile. If we were buying gasoline instead (at the current local price of $3.90/gallon for regular), it would be the equivalent of 100 MPG.

But I didn't want to talk about cost. As I said before, if you were buying a car on purely economic grounds, you wouldn't -- you'd get a bicycle or a bus pass. We bought the LEAF because the idea of an electric car was just so cool. We missed out on EVs the first time around, so I wanted to make sure we were part of the renaissance.

Completely unexpected was how much fun this car would be to drive. Nissan really did their homework. Gen 1 electric cars (and golf cars, and forklifts, and drag racers) gave you 100% torque instantly. Kind of a hard shove in the small of the back. But once you've got your torque, that's it. You don't get any more. So you have this sensation of the car running out of steam as the speed increases.

The LEAF builds up torque quickly, but continues to add more even as the speed increases. If you step hard on the accelerator, you think "V6 sport coupe", not "overpriced golf cart". All good things must come to an end, and the torque eventually levels off, but from 0 to 40, it's the quickest car in the morning grand prix.