Sunday, April 16, 2017

Water Pump Dead=DOA? Not In A LEAF!

Normally I only charge just before going to bed. Its one of the last things I do and normally do it while I am brushing my teeth.  But the other day, I had a planned light day and had about 40-50 miles of range so didn't plug in that night.   But as life normally does, I had decided to do something with my time off that was a bit of a drive so I plugged in at home.

After about 2 hours, I went to the garage to retrieve a food item and noticed a faint high pitched squeal.  It was so faint, I couldn't tell where it was coming from but eventually determined it was the car.  So I popped the hood and it wasn't really that much louder but I immediately realized what I wasn't hearing.

In my previous LEAFs, I could hear a faint sound of rushing water. The water is used to cool the Inverter while it converts AC power from the wall into DC power that can be stored in the battery.  This was again very faint and easy to miss if you are not listening for it. In fact, many long time LEAF owners swore up and down that their car did no such thing....that is until they went out to check.

Now, I was concerned.  I do know that in some instances, the water pump turned on immediately and sometimes it took a while but I had been charging almost 2 hours and with my fastest charging option yet, my Clipper Creek at 24 amps! (previous options were EVSEupgrades at 12 and 20 amps)

So I put my hand on the PDM (its the valve cover looking thing) or power distribution module which houses the inverter along with several other components, and it was warm. I was immediately shocked. In all the times I have charged including during 100+º  heat, I have never felt anything resembling warmth before.  In fact, the underhood area is so cold that even Mice avoid it!

I unplugged the car right away thinking water pump failure but knowing this DOES NOT MEAN BEING STRANDED like a gasser would have been. That pretty much put a smile on my face for the rest of the day. My mood got better and better as the day went on. I think my making a point to everyone I talked to that my water pump went out and I was still driving the car and watching their reactions might have had something to do with it... :)

Anyway, as luck would have it, I was working in Bonney Lake which meant driving right past Bill Korum Nissan in Puyallup and the best LEAF tech in the region, Aaron McAfee!  This was simply too convenient!

So called up their service dept, set an appointment for 2:30 and kinda hoped that I would be close to making that time. I was on a Rep client job which means I have to work at their pace which usually means slowly and inefficiently and this was no different. And we were doing 3 locations to boot.  Luckily I was able to get out on time despite taking a 45 minute lunch 2 hours into our day. Since the first two jobs were in Puyallup, I was less than 2 miles away from the dealership and had a brief thought of running down there early to see if they could fit me in but in my previous experience with dealerships combined with the fact that I would be a first time customer there, I figured there was no way.

Anyway, after the job was completed, I went to the dealership arriving 15 mins early. I pulled up to the service area and sensors automatically opened the service bay doors. As I was exiting the vehicle, I could hear Aaron being paged.  I guess they were expecting me!

My total time at the dealership was roughly 20-25 mins. This included check in,  brief explanation of what I was seeing and what I suspected and the diagnostics which included collecting data to confirm and the MOST time consuming part of the visit. BSing with Aaron over the general state of EV affairs and the LEAF.  In reality, I could have been easily out of there in under 15 minutes if I was in a hurry. I have never seen a more efficient process along with a service department that valued my time more.  I know I am preaching to the choir here but if you want the best for your LEAF, take it Aaron at Puyallup Nissan!

Anyway, Aaron plugged the car in then started monitoring temperatures and it was confirmed that the pump was running but not moving much water. The squealing sound was likely the pump running at full speed.  The pump was also vibrating meaning one of the impellers was likely broken. He mentioned he had already seen a few of these.

This could be a concern.  There was no codes thrown and this could eventually lead to inverter failure which is a much harder part to get. (Water Pump should take a day or two to arrive)  Now, before anyone freaks out, the BMS would slow the charge rate down if the temperature got too far out of control but I wasn't really willing to take the risk and with NCTC, I was ok with shifting most of my charging (well, kinda already was... :) ) to DC only until the pump was replaced.

Either way, I think this is something LEAFers should check on just in case. Better to be in front of this then to be stranded, right!

Monday, April 3, 2017

March 2017 Drive Report; Battery Health Update

This month was unusual for several reasons. I am still trying to collect as much data on battery cooling as I can by checking the pack at random intervals between fast charges.  To reduce outside influences as much as possible, I am only collecting measurements when there was no L2 charging during the interval.

This meant a lot of charging on the road with charging before and after work common.  I soon began to realize that someone living in a situation where home charging was not practical could actually get away with all public charging with just a few well placed stations.  Yes, I did get out on the road early a few times and no there isn't as much to do in the morning to cover that time (other than Facebook, etc.) but early is something I do often so it was mostly a question of sitting at home before work or sitting at a charger before work.

The afternoons were easier because every job requires work at home and I simply did it while charging. Since this is a billable event,  I am getting paid and it does lessen the work I need to do when I get home so its a wash on time demands. All this really means that my weird work schedule simply gets weirder.

For the month, the LEAF traveled 2501.3 miles costing $32.65 or 1.3 cents per mile. My home costs dropped from 9.2 cents per kwh to 8.9 cents per kwh.  I collected 365 kwh from NCTC. I had 9 days over 100 miles driven which includes one 300 mile day and two 200 mile days.

Battery Health Update;  No changes from new 7980 miles.

My pack balance is more than twice the delta of my 2013 pack but only went to "L2 full charge" seven times during the month but only once (the 300 mile trip) during the 2nd half of the month.  With balance averaging 20-25 mV,  not extreme but a far cry from the frequent single digit readings my 2013 pack normally displayed.

All this got me thinking about just how effective pack balancing was when sitting in garage all night and I found that it... well wasn't.  No improvement overnight in the balance. In many cases it was worse in the morning than it was the previous night.  Now, I know there is a lot of noise in these readings including temperature, recent charges and discharges, etc but even when allowing car to sit for at least 4 hours before taking baseline measurements, I was still seeing no changes.

But when the car is on and running or charging (remember, I have a LOT of recent experience with the latter!) nearly all my shunts are active. Generally, I see 5-20 blues so nearly all red all the time so what are these shunts doing cause the results seem pretty slim??

So I decided to see if I could determine how many were active after the car had sat a while. Well, problem is that without the pack connected, LEAF Spy doesn't show everything but it did allow me to see that the shunts come on in waves.

So now the question becomes what are we seeing here?  There is really only two plausible explanations;

1) The load of the car turning on is enough to initiate balancing among all the red cells

2) None of the cells were actively balancing until the car was turned on and the traction pack engaged. It was only after the BMS was active that the pack started sending out balancing requests.

Now first off, yes I know that there were a few red ones right off the bat but LEAF Spy shows old data until new data is read so what you see initially is primarily previous readings from the last power down or last time LEAF Spy was logged off.  Yes, we see codes running in the background but I think those are related to the other stuff like tire pressures, charge counts, etc.

Now when the car is turned on we notice first the reset to all blue and 11 mV delta but as the red ones come on, the delta increases accordingly.  I had everything off and unfortunately, LEAF Spy does not measure loads, it only parrots back what the LEAF is telling it so all we had active was a "standard" 200 watt accessory load which is not actually measured according to Phil (Peef at or Engineer (sp?) at the creator of

Either way, there is evidence that supports both explanations above so I need your help. I know there is someone out there that has already answered this question so chime in so we can all find out (or at least allow me to be the last one to come in from the cold)

I guess my other option is to simply power up the car, turn off as much as I can and let it sit a few hours or so to see if there are any demonstrable improvements in pack balance which is what I am actually doing this very minute.  I would have done it sooner but opportunities for this have been slim lately!

So let me know!
Oh wait!.. almost forgot. The Corolla went 62.7 miles costing a few bucks or something like that.  In reality it was my plan to have ditched that car by now but Chevy is simply not allowing that to happen so probably have to tolerate its presence in my driveway for another 7-8 months or so!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Bolt Verses LEAF; Is Twice The Range Worth Twice The Price?

We are on the eve of the official Bolt launch for Washington State and the excitement is ahhh...well, anyway I thought this might be appropriate for people considering their next EV option.

In a few days, the premise of this article might simply be completely different when the Bolt arrives in Washington State on April 1st (hopefully no pun intended...) .  Bolts have actually been at a handful of Dealers here for most of March and I recently found out that they were transferred from California Dealers who apparently ran out of room to store them, or something.  And despite an expanding market, sales of the Bolt dropped significantly in February but then again, February is typically sluggish for most automakers.  But what about the "Volt" and the LEAF? Both of them saw huge sales in February.

It is now looking like Chevy overestimated the new product excitement.  Both the Volt and LEAF are seeing most if not all of the $7500 Federal Tax Credit applied to lease contracts which is leading to prices well below $20,000 if the leaser decided later to buy out the car.

Why does this matter you ask?  Some EVers don't qualify for the full $7500 tax credit in a single year and it can't be rolled over to later years. (Not all of us are as lucky as trump...) So whatever you can't claim is lost.  So the best option is to lease, realize the discounts immediately, then purchase the car outright or better yet, wait till the lease is nearly complete and see if you can negotiate a discount off the residual which lowers your price even more. I am in this category.  I would be paying thousands more if I purchased an EV over leasing. Since Nissan generally waives lease termination fees if you purchase along with their near zero "Money Factor" (essentially the interest rate on the lease payments) resulting in a very low "Rent Charge" (interest payments on lease term) which in my case totaled $29.20 over the 3 year lease.  So there is minimal risk to leasing with maximum benefits of the $7500 off the top.

Bottom line?  If I decided to simply buy the LEAF after my zero down drive off on Nov 12, 2016 the day after I brought it home from Magic Nissan in Everett, it would cost this minus $149.75 (check received for over billing of licenses, etc)

IOW, I would get roughly half the range for half the price, right?  Well, since I am not likely to get near the max federal tax credit, I would have to go the lease way and as luck would have it, the lease calculator recently became active for WA Dealers (my local dealer has nothing btw but I am just in the State Capital, hardly an important area of the state.)  FYI; this was a great deal on Veteran's Day but I am now seeing SV's going for $1000 less!

So figuring with no federal tax credit from Chevy, its not looking good.

So if I leased at this rate today and decided to buy it tomorrow, it would be a total of

$4150 down
$14,436 in payments
~ 21,000 Residual (based on 54%)
Total $39586 plus fees so basically over $40,000.

So without the Federal tax credit considered, its much more than twice the price. If I were to buy it, my tax credits would drop it down to just about half the LEAF price.  Primarily because the Bolt being new, Chevy is trying to maximize profits, they are literally adding $7500 to the cost of a lease.   On the Chevy Bolt forum when I brought this up, I heard all kinds of excuses and twisted logic on how "Chevy was doing us right" but nothing made any sense to anything but Chevy's pocketbook.

But everything comes with a price and longer range is definitely worth a lot in time, convenience, and stress so now the question becomes;

Is twice the range worth twice the price?

First off, I need to add a few tidbits of info on what 25% more range can do.  I moved from a 24 kwh LEAF (range about 90 Summer miles for me) to a 30 kwh LEAF (range probably about 120 or so) fort the price listed above. It was a zero down, drive off $245.99 a month bill. This is 24 cents higher than my previous LEAF so essentially zero impact on my finances. Now there has been a LOT of talk on social media about how lame this was for Nissan to do this. The general perception is that it was a near useless bump in performance. After all, what difference is 6 kwh or roughly 20-25 miles or range really going to do?

And I have to admit, I was halfway towards this attitude as well but I was in a time crunch and the deal was good and the Bolt was simply too far off so I did it.

But the benefits of this slight bump in range was much greater than anticipated. Below a tale of two charges.

 2013 24 kwh LEAF Fast charge  April 2015; 33.4 min charge time, SOC 30 to 82%, Charge rate drop from max currrent at 38%.  Battery health  96%

2016 LEAF with 30 kwh pack  March 24, 2017;  > 30 min charge time, SOC 22-88%. Charge rate drop from max current <80% SOC. Battery health, 100%.

Now unless your an EV Nut (like me) a lot of what you see here is probably not making a lot of sense but in a nutshell, my 24 kwh LEAF after a 30 min QC was giving me maybe another 50-60 miles of range which basically made it a challenge to skip chargers on the West Coast Green Highway on the 2nd or later charges during Summer when my range was greatest.

In my 30 kwh LEAF,  I was charging MUCH less than 30 mins and able to skip chargers with ease. In my previous blog I drove over 300 miles with 4 stops (could have done it in two) of 18, 22, 28 and 13 minutes during the rainy season!  In fact; the fast charge profile was faster than me. I stopped to grab a quick bite and went to check the status of the car after about 29 minutes and the charge had already completed! I had spent less than 25 minutes in the restaurant!  UNREAL!  But the bottom line was even with 20 minute charges, I was rolling out with nearly 90 miles of "Winter" range!

But fast charging is only convenient if you can do it.  NRG is by far the largest CCS provider in the area and despite being the fastest growing public charge provider as well, they have a long way to go to come close to providing adequate coverage even for a 250 mile EV.

Result;  LEAF wins!

But range is important as we all know. My LEAF is losing range daily as we speak. It has not been noticeable or recordable due to LEAF Spy limitations, Nissan instrumentation limitations or whatever but the loss will happen. But my track record (and the favorable Northwest climate) has been good to me and I don't expect that to change much.  Either way, with NCTC I will definitely find out if excessive fast charging is detrimental to long term health!  For all we know, the Bolt for all we know could still have over 90% of its range in 10 years.  One thing we do know is charge cycle counts is a prime degradation factor and the Bolt being able to travel twice the distance on each charge cycle definitely means it will be better setup for the long haul

Result; Bolt wins.

So its a toss up, right? Either you want that range or you can live without it.  The reason that Bolts from California are in WA early has to be two things; perception that there is a pent up demand for longer range EVs and simply dealers in CA giving out great deals to dealers up here. Soon we will have sales reports for March and I am expecting the LEAF to continue clearing out the lots and the Bolt to hold its own which is not all that great especially considering very large East Coast markets are now in play. This might give Chevy a wake up call to reevaluate their lease terms or it may not.  In November, if Chevy had been giving out the full federal tax credit on leases, I would likely be driving one right now.

But the financial commitment is pretty extreme and in calculating my personal TCO, I can't ignore the fact that a Bolt requires me to pay for that range every day whether I need it or not.  Weighing the pros and cons here becomes very subjective so for anyone investigating the Bolt over any other car, a real evaluation of need is the first order of business.  I still have trips I wouldn't do in my LEAF on a time crunch, namely the Washington Coast. Charging there is L2 at best and not much of it so a high chance of a queue making a day trip a very long day. A Bolt would breeze thru that trip.

But my age says that the old days of driving 5-6 hours straight without stopping are long gone. I hate to drive as much as an hour at a time without stopping.  During my 300 mile trip, only the Astoria stop was made for charging only. The other 3 stops would have been done in any car and only the Castle Rock trip was extended due to charging (sort of. I actually had plenty to do... updating Facebook and other important tasks...)

So now the Bolt's additional range is more convenient for quick freeway blasts. Its convenience in Seattle area traffic a bit lessened.  We have so much congestion here that I frequently got over 100 miles of range in my 24 kwh LEAF not because I had to but because traffic allowed me no other choice!

So in a nutshell;

More public charging support
Free charging for first two years.
Easily justifiable TCO AKA getting home with a bunch of range left means you paid too much!

Range; I did not touch on the drastic reductions bad weather can have on an EV or even something as minor as changing the type of tire (John) but in a vehicle with super high efficiency, everything matters.

Public Charging Support; If WA follows the CA model for the VW settlement money, we should have several dual format chargers coming hopefully in the next year or so.  With 240 miles of range, The Bolt really only needs a little bit of help but with more CCS based cars coming out, queuing looks to be an issue as well.  Maybe being on the "black sheep" standard is not such a bad thing...

Performance; Bolt has it and I could care less about it.

Familiarity;  LEAF has it and I could care less about it. I like trying new things and the Bolt promises to teach me things I didn't know.

TCO; Again, the big challenge. Ignoring the sticker price, right now I am realizing a lot of benefits in free public charging.  Granted, not everyone's cup of tea but it currently provides me little inconvenience especially when half the time, I can use the time to get work done that would need to be done at home anyway. Besides (I mention this only because its a question that constantly comes up) charging publicly most of the time means having my LEAF never sitting at full charge. With the additional range I can charge publicly, go home, get up the next day, make it to the job then charge on the way home.  I actually went 2½ weeks never using my home EVSE (hopefully PSE won't be mad paying me $500 towards my EVSE for home use)  In reality, I can afford the Bolt but at this time, I simply cannot see the justification of blowing out all my emergency cash so the option is large down payment on a lease and what?? Don't know. Hope for a  $7500 reduction in my residual?  Sounds crazy right?

Well it is... as long as you are not talking to a current LEAF lessee  :) ...

Well the above is the perfect final statement but I just have to say something.   The Federal tax credit was designed to give the consumer the incentive to get an EV at a reasonable price and allow the manufacturer to charge a price that would allow profit for this new technology and I must tip my hat to Nissan, Tesla, BMW (finally) along with the others who have passed this credit rightfully to the leasers who have taken the leap to help contribute to widespread Electric Vehicle adoption.

But for those manufacturers who have chosen to keep all or part of the credit for themselves, this is nothing but profiteering, plain and simple.  The sad part is that they are actually getting away with it with some consumers.  As mentioned above, I have heard some crazy justifications for what Chevy is doing and I am shocked that no amount of explaining is shedding any light on this pathetic situation.

It is my hope that Chevy will understand the err of its way and fix it and fix it soon.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Road Trip; Adventures of a 9 TB Journey!

For those wondering; "TB" is LEAFspeak for the "Temperature Bars" gauge that indicates how glowing red your battery pack has become after that last fast charge.  As promised, I did make my LEAF road trip and it was quite frankly rather uneventful. No range anxiety at all.  On my last blog, I was mentioned a Bolter who was having issues making a 238 mile trip (I kid you not!) which just happened to be his EPA rated range but he was only making it 170 miles before having to stop and charge.  Granted, its Winter, rainy, cold, and all that range robbing stuff and this would be a non issue except that there is no CCS fast charge options on his route, a route that is lauded by many to be part of one of the best designed fast charge networks in the country. (Well, at least I think so) So when an opportunity to use that very same network came up, I simply could not pass it by.

My destination was Ilwaco, WA and I could have taken the route to the coast and down which would have been about 115 miles or take I-5 then across using the WCGH (West Coast Green Highway) that includes the Oregon extension to the coast.  It was a no brainer. It was longer at 243 miles but I literally had all day to complete two jobs with each job taking less than an hour so had plenty of time to drive!

Planning was easy.  I mean with a network like this, you really had to work hard to make it go wrong! I would only be skirting the OR/WA border but you get the idea!

But smooth sailing took a hiccup almost immediately as my LEAF Spy phone failed to power up. Not sure why but looks like my Pixel XL will be doing double duty. A bit disappointing as I had hoped to have continuous logs for speed, etc. but that is not likely to happen now.  Damn phone is barely 5 years old. They just don't make em like they used to!

The Beginning

First order of business was a job in West Olympia near Capital Medical Center. Finished that around 9 AM so hit the road headed south on I-5 with 10 miles of my 300 mile trip completed. 

Passed a few fast chargers and finally stopped in Castle Rock for a charge and some food from the Cascade Market Deli.  I could have skipped this station along with Tumwater and Centralia, but the deli simply wouldn't allow that!

Arrival Castle Rock, WA AV QC; OAT 48º, batt temps; 63,62, 59

18 minutes, 13.12 kwh, a bathroom break and ¾ lb of Jo's later, I am off.  Batt temps now 83, 80, 76.

As you can see, the interruptions in the graph makes using one phone for both life and LEAF Spy something I could never understand.  From Day One, I have always used a 2nd phone and this is why!

Leaving Castle Rock stuffed (maybe I should have only gotten a ½ lb of Jos...) The weather was still sunny and dry but that ended less than 10 miles down the road.  At first the rain was pretty hard but then slowed to windy drizzle. As much as I could, I had cruise control set to 65 MPH which was easy on I-5 but that was only going to last a few more miles.  

I crossed the Columbia on Highway 30 at Longview and began a series of hill climbing followed by hill coasting.  I know driving conservatively helps keep your batteries cooler but at the same time, on a single lane highway, the best opportunities to pass are when going uphill. During this stretch, my driving alternated between 8-10 power circle climbs and...oh wait?  I only have 8 power circles. Oh well maybe it was an 8 power circle climb wishing I had 10!...  The other side was coasting in neutral up to around 75 mph then slowing down with regen to about 60 or so and doing it again.  Now all this climbing didn't come without any benefits.  There were some pretty cool views. 

Overlooking Longview WA from Highway 30, Oregon

One thing for certain, my batteries were not going to cool down much driving like that but, it was kinda fun, so why not!   After about 65 miles, I stopped in Astoria to charge again and sure enough, the batt temps went up!

Astoria, OR Charge stop; mile 131

Here was simply too many things to see so I had to remind myself I was working, so 22 minutes, 16.37 kwh later and about 25 pix later, I was off to Ilwaco!

Batteries heating up now! Again the charge graph not very accurate
 since I was using phone for pix taking. Actual charge time 22 mins. 

Leaving Astoria and crossing over the Astoria-Megler Bridge that crosses over the outlet of the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean. One big LOOOONG Bridge!  Ilwaco is a short 18 mile jaunt from Astoria and some very cool scenery.  I took a pix of the Bridge but you have to piece together two pix. I will tell you why in a sec.  

Here is pix covering the first 1½ miles of the Bridge.

Here I am approximately where the first pix cuts off. 
As you can see; I still really can't get it all in the pix

According to Wikipedia; It is the longest continuous truss bridge in North America. Well, I am convinced!

I arrived at the jobsite in Ilwaco and it literally took me 30 minutes to finish.  So now that I had extra time, I wanted to do some sightseeing but it was WIIINNNNDY!! and the rain wasn't helping either. 

Ilwaco, WA; Halfway!

The following is filler so this post won't look too short. :) 

Well, it was getting to be time for food! (what can I say? JoJos just run right thru me!) Next stop on the agenda was Westport OR and the AV charging station located in the parking lot of the Berry Patch Restaurant!!

Notice batt temps dropping? I went from 8 bars to 7

Now the "one phone for all" issue was a nuisance but really hadn't hurt me so far but that was about to change.  I plugged in, set my timer with the goal of checking it in 30 mins.  I went in and missed the Hot Turkey lunch special. But it was 2:30 and they closed at 3 so was kinda feeling lucky I had made it on time.  I ordered food, ate most of it and finally decided to check the car. Probably had enough already so I go out there and only 29 minutes after the charge had started, it had already stopped! Oh oh, not good. I thought I might have overheated it.  I turned on the car, no warning lights and... Holy crap! It was full! 94% SOC. I finally found something that could eat faster than me!!

Charge time 28 Mins?? 20.74 kwh. Auto shutoff AV DCFC 94% SOC

Now, not having a charging log was really pissing me off. I felt like going home and beating on my LEAF Spy phone! Oh well, no time for pie. On the road!

As I drove, I kept looking at my distance to home and the GOM.  The GOM was 4-10 miles ahead of my distance to home but LEAF Spy  was a steady 3 miles short. Well, we all know what that means. So next stop was Centralia. By now the rain was coming down pretty good and the OR adventure was over. I was back in my neighborhood. So, now it was time to get home, I kicked it up a bit and my steady 4,0-4.1 miles per kwh soon settled in around 3.8 miles per kwh. But again, it was not me, it was the rain!  

I was in Centralia basically long enough to use the bathroom and leave picking up 10.05 kwh in 13 minutes. 

Centralia stop

Centralia Departure. 121º!! 

Home Again!

Got home about 5:30 PM and other than about 90 mins of L2 at 24 amps, it sat in the garage for the night. Ambient temps in mid to lower 50's.  

12 hours cooling off. Down to 5 TB's.  GREAT improvement over previous 24 kwh packs! 

Previous packs generally took 24+ hours to cool down, sometimes 36.  But this time, I was back within ambient in less than 18 hours so not only does the 30 kwh pack go farther, charge faster but also seems to shed heat quicker as well.

Conclusions; TBD

But this trip really illustrated how much more effective the 30 kwh pack worked for longer trips.  I had done a trip of similar distance using many of the same chargers in my 2011 24 kwh LEAF and found that my 85 mile range was really only 50-60 miles after a two 30 minute sessions due to the quick ramp down of power.  After the 2nd charge despite chargers being roughly 25 miles apart, I found it difficult to skip chargers without some very careful driving. But the 30 kwh LEAF, I was able to leapfrog 2 of them stopping every  90 miles and as seen above, none of the charge sessions lasted 30 minutes despite my best effort.  When I did stop at every other charger, I was could be back on the road in 15-20 minutes with plenty of buffer on a windy rainy day.  A HUGE improvement!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Bolt Winter Range; Where Is The CCS Network Going to Come From?

Bolt Winter Range 170 miles on OR Coast

Recently a new Chevy Bolt owner complained he was not able to make his trip in his Chevy  Bolt easily. He stated a range of 170 miles while driving the Oregon Coast. Most of the trip was at highway speeds that were likely 50-60 mph. I have driven this route and its two lanes so rare passing opportunities if behind slower vehicles and plus stretches of twisties and turns also makes fast driving highly unlikely.   I suspect a lot of his issues were the headwinds.  So guessing he would do much better on his return trip but the real issue was lack of fast chargers that support the Bolt.

His story is just another twist on the question of "how much range is enough?" and if its concerning EVs? Well, infinity "might" do it!  But that is not going to happen and the common perception of "200 miles is all I will ever need" will be hitting the immovable wall of reality as more longer range EVs hit the streets for the less informed buyer.

I found that as much as my 30 kwh LEAF was more useful than the previous 24 kwh versions, I now still charge publicly but on 175  or 200 mile trips instead of the previous 150 mile trips that seemed  like such an accomplishment. But this is something I have mentioned time and time again; even a 500 mile range gasser will have issues if gas stations were 400 miles apart.

Why you say?  400 miles is plenty close enough if the car has a 500 mile range.  Yeah, but... Gas stations that far apart will be crowded so expect a wait. Don't expect to have a 100 mile buffer either if stuck in traffic idling away the fuel while going nowhere, during snow and rain, or simply being on the wrong side of a windy day!

But all this will soon be for naught right? Nissan has finally announced a timetable for LEAF II. Details are sketchy but expect 200 miles on the biggest battery option, etc. So now we are golden, right?  Wrong.  The fact is our public charging network is falling farther and farther behind every day.  As the range increases, EVs will become much more popular and no matter how far they can go, for some, it will not be enough.

The irony in the story above is that a lowly 100 mile LEAF could breeze thru that trip because of the multitude of Chademo QCs spaced along the route.  OR has likely one of the most developed networks for State wide travel of any in the country.

The above filters out CCS (IOW, about 2 blips removed...) Tesla SC and any other QC format.  As you can see, there are few if any real stretches for a 100 mile EV in the central or coastal regions.

The problem now becomes where is the money for the CCS stations going to come from?   Obama is gone. The big initial government cash stash is spent. To say that little is expected from the current regime is a huge understatement.  Chevy is not selling the Bolt as it was expecting to.  What appeared to be Chevy moving up its delivery timeline now appears to be excessive California cars being shipped to other states.  So whether that is true or Chevy is moving up the time line,  both imply that Chevy is getting desperate.

But CCS based EVs are growing the fastest. Ford, a new entrant, with its soon to be released longer range Focus EV will have CCS. VW promising a huge EV footprint soon along with penalties for its emission scandal promises several charging stations. Obviously dual format stations ala NRG would be the best but to my knowledge, none have been installed yet  and guessing VW has little incentive to help out Nissan, Kia and the other Asian manufacturers clinging to the chademo platform.

Furthermore; Tesla has announced plans for the biggest expansion of the Supercharger (SC) network to date. Partially to prepare for the huge uptick in Tesla's on the road when the T3s start rolling off the line later this year (maybe) and partially I think to put the seed of doubt into anyone who is thinking about jumping ship to the immediately available and longer range Bolt.  Its hard for me to believe that American and European manufacturers are sitting back thinking they can still sell a car that has no public charging support.

So I am fully expecting a big announcement; a partnership to install stations or at least smooth the way for the installs. Dealership based installs have been a shaky option thus far and there is quite frankly not enough of them in many areas to make an effective network.  Also dealerships have not proven to be good hosts. Either thru restricting who can charge, lack of 24/7 access, ICEing the stations or simply being too slow to address maintenance issues.

Either way; something big needs to happen or the Bolt may flounder. Don't get me wrong; Its 240 mile range will cover the needs of a lot of people but without public support, it still falls short of mass acceptance.

Finally; Tomorrow, I will be testing the viability of  the network in my LEAF.  Not quite recreating the trip from above but will still be doing 300 miles.  I will be doing the Oregon Coast but will be waiting until the renovations at the Tillamook Cheese Factory is completed first!

**EDIT**   Just found out VW has submitted plans on how the money will be spent and its still primarily on public charging and it looks like it will be dual mode stations so CCS will be coming from at least one manufacturer! (this makes it easier to understand why the others are just sitting back observing)

Saturday, March 11, 2017

February 2017 Drive Report

Well this was the "calm before the storm" as work is generally slower in February because of the massive rush of work right before and after the beginning of the year so the LEAF only traveled 1189.4 miles costing me $15.37 or 1.3 cents per mile. This total does include a public charging fee of 44 cents for an emergency Blink stop.  What can I say? I did not take into consideration the very heavy headwinds of the day!  

NCTC did help me get "some" of that money back. I did help myself to 189.4 KWh of free juice for the month.  The light driving was evident with 10 days of 20 miles or less driven plus 2 days the LEAF never left the garage.   Contrast that to the first 10 days or March where I have gone over 100 miles 5 times including two days over 150 miles.

To make my math more simple, I have decided to start a policy of getting gas for the Corolla on the last day of the month. (or as near to it as possible) This simplifies the monthly cost calculations and takes into account months where the price of gas changes dramatically which I think is going to happen more this year than the recent past.

The Corolla went 271.1 miles costing $17.86 (more than the LEAF in case you didn't notice... :) ) or  6.8 cents per mile despite getting over 39 MPG.

There were no maintenance costs for either vehicles. I did rotate the LEAF tires at the 5,000 mile mark but did that on my own costing me nothing but time. I am getting older cause it took me almost 45 mins to finish the job which is a far cry from the 25-30 mins it used to take me but then again, I was in no particular hurry either. Since it was rainy, I did it while parked in the garage which means a lot less space to work in which naturally slowed me down a bit.

Other than that, Nissan has spoken! They are so secretive and low key about everything LEAF its really pain but their latest announcement has generated the most excitement since the LEAF was introduced.   Nissan promises LEAF II to exceed expectations in price, value and range. So we shall see.  I have said often that I would buy a 40 kwh LEAF but it all depends on price!

Bolt sales down. Despite an expanding market, sales dropped for February. This was somewhat expected as lease terms for the Bolt are either pathetic or non existent.   WA State is seeing Bolts earlier that then slated April launch with deliveries earlier this week. Maybe Chevy is trying to take advantage of EV hotbeds and pent up demand for more range?   Chevy; you can fix this by doing us Leasers right!

Finally, for all of you who think I am taking advantage of NCTC to the extreme (well, partially maybe...) you B WRONG!  I am doing it in the name of science. (and cheapness!)

Remember I am collecting data on how differently the 30 kwh pack charges over the 24 kwh pack. Earlier I related one crazy incident at the Tumwater AV where I charged at 40 KW past 83% SOC! Well, as mentioned, I suspected it was simply my LEAF BMS sleeping on the job and apparently that was correct.  My excessive use of the free juice train was an attempt to reproduce those results and I have so far failed... several times!

Looks like if starting at a lower SOC, the station will run at full or near full speed until 75% SOC. If starting at a higher SOC, the rate starts dropping below 70%. Doesn't matter if its a 50 KW charger or a 40 KW charger.   I have yet to notice any temperature differences and although most of my charges have started at lower temps with cells in the low 50's or so, I have done a  few twice a day QCs with the 2nd charges starting with temps in the 70's and have seen no change in the patterns.

But I just have to post this log of the Tumwater event....only to show it really happened. As anyone with LEAF Spy knows, the logs are packed with info so I have removed the extraneous stuff so you can see the basics.

As you can see, the GID count was at 312 by the time the charger dropped below 40 KW.  Completely different than these.

Remember these are just previews! Still working the charging things. Notice the black lines for pack temps?  Pretty flat.  I have to guess the temps are displayed in C and they apparently aren't sampled much. Notice the jumps?  Weird eh? If anyone knows how to address this, let me know!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Shocking Prelim Data On 30 KWH LEAF Pack Temperature Management...Maybe

As mentioned MANY times in the 3 months I have had my S30, I have noticed the pack does not seem to retain the heat as much as my previous 24kwh LEAFs.  Now, it was a very warm Veteran's Day when I picked up the S30 but the weather has been pretty cold ever since. In fact, this Winter ranks as one of the coldest of this Century!

Anyway, me being cheap me (as usual) was avoiding home charging if I was even remotely going to be going by a free fast charger and the other day was no different.  But free was not to be! For one thing, it was very cold in the morning and I had a detour and defrost issues (I forgot my wiper. Took it inside to set over a heat register to dry it and forgot it!) so I basically had to stop at a Blink to gather enough juice before making it to the Tumwater AV so that was 44 cents down the drain!

So to put it mildly, I was in need when I got there. Unfortunately there was already someone there who was at 75% when I arrived but took another 28 mins before finishing.

So I plugged in and did random nothings and after 20 mins, I checked LEAF Spy to see how I was doing and pleased to see I was still over 40 KW charging (Ok, so I caught a temporary dip...)

**NOTE** GIDs = 77.5 wh

Either way, I only had about 30 miles or so for the day planned so decided at this point I would unplug when someone else arrived or when I dropped below 20 KW. 

I then noticed I was at 7 TBs for the first time ever in this car.  The Sun was out so some solar radiation would be contributing but I was only in the 102ºish range so not too bad. A coolish Spring day in Phoenix really... :) 

But the unthinkable happened.  The temperature started dropping! This was completely alien to everything I thought I knew about charging and TMSless LEAF battery packs! I was still charging over 20KW so how was this happening??

The Sun was still out so that wasn't it. I was so engrossed with what was happening I got a near full charge from the Chademo not unplugging until I was at 15 KW charging rate. The temps were still dropping now down to the mid 90's.  So I took off from the charger and about a minute later... I dropped to 6 TBs!

Final Stats (from LEAF Spy Log) GIDs 352,  charging speed; 14.7 KW.  SOC on dash would have been about 97%. I have to say, I am fairly confident I have never seen charging that fast at that high of an SOC!

So again, very preliminary and despite a sunny day, the air temps were still in the mid 40's that day but still VERY interesting observations. 

FYI; Tire rotation #1 in the books which means my new LEAF is "officially" no longer new... 

To clear up some confusion, I am in no way whatsoever implying that my LEAF has TMS. Notice the the title says "Temperature Management?"  TMS is used when manufacturers can't solve the problem.  Nissan chose to tackle the root cause instead. Have they found the answer?  Doubtful, but if the above can be repeated it would be obvious they are on the right path. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Jan 2017 Drive Report

LEAF went 1160.4 miles costing $23.08 or  1.98 cents per mile. NCTC pitched in 105.92 Kwh for the month. A bit too early to start reporting battery stats as far as highs and lows.  Other than one day (in Feb actually) all my stats are still the same as new which is to be expected since I only have 4800 miles on the LEAF.

The Corolla traveled 531.8 miles costing $40.05 or 7.61 cents per mile. Winter range degradation hit the Corolla hard averaging a "career" low under 35 MPG. 

Anyway, in other news, My 2016 is still sucking on the efficiency meter but becoming more and more convinced every day that the previous LEAF instrumentation was simply inaccurate.  LEAF Spy allows me to estimate my range based on my expected performance and I use 3.3, 3.7 and 4 miles per kwh as a guide depending the weather conditions. First thing I realized is those numbers still work. So... pretty much just another reason to ignore the GOM.

I am continuing my data gathering on how well the 30 kwh pack dissipates heat. If you didn't see it earlier, I noticed that the 30 kwh pack simply does not heat up as much nor does it retain the heat when it does.  I have consistently seen the heat from a fast charge completely dissipated in less than a day including several times in roughly 12 hours.  This means at least one temperature sensor is within 2º of my ambient garage temperature.  IOW, no I am not leaving my LEAF out in the cold overnight to help speed the cooling process.  So far the results have been encouraging.  Anxious to see how she does when its over 80º!

For all current LEAF leasers; the deals are still flying! Do not be discouraged when NMAC does not discount your residual!  Although NMAC owns your car and does actually provide any discounts off your residual, you MUST go thru a dealer! Why is this?

Uhh, well, that is actually a very good question and anyone who knows for sure, please chime in but I suspect its done this way because the dealer incurs costs to handle your return and its another way for them to get a little money out of the deal so does this mean that you might not get a good deal on a lease to purchase if the dealer is too greedy?

Well there is very little evidence of that and the reason is likely due to the fact that 2014 was Nissan's best LEAF sales year ever so that means a lot of lease returns due back and Nissan doesn't want them so guessing there is perks for everyone. So what can you expect?

Well again, you simply need to beat feet to your dealer to find out!  Some dealers are very helpful in this regard but the "deal of the week"  a person just bought out their 2014 S with charge package and had 3 months lease payments waived. So total cost to them (without $2500 state incentive that not all of us qualify for) was  $16.7K!! (yeah that means just over $14,000 in real terms!)  IOW, the deals are getting better and better.

Finally; its Winter and sometimes our best estimation of our range might not be as accurate as we had hoped. If you find yourself just a little teeny bit short of a plug, your best bet is to shut the LEAF down even if you are less than a mile away. Look at your power circles on the dash for guidance. Don't go below 5 if you are more than a few hundred yards away.  You run a strong possibility of killing your 12 volt battery and if you do, its tow time!

But if you shut down just before that point, your LEAF may be able to rest up enough to make it that extra mile down the road to the charger.  Your LEAF will shutdown when the weakest cell in your battery pack hits a certain point. Resting the LEAF allows pack balancing (which is pretty much going on all the time) to boost that weak cell and it might just be enough for you to make it.  It might take an hour of sitting and balancing but then again, how likely is it a tow truck will be there in significantly less time?  Not very in most cases!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Public Charging Effectiveness; There Has To Be A Better Way!

The Chevy Bolt trickled into existence last month (December.... This blog was started MANY weeks ago but I was derailed by several life things.  FYI; 98% of my blogs are conceptualized, written, and published in less than an hour...)  but that trickle promises to become a flood as the pent up demand for a 200 mile EV under $40,000 is unleashed to an unprepared public charging network already overburdened by Nissan's fire sale of the remaining 2016 LEAF stock.

Add to that, a half dozen promising new EV entrants for the first half of 2017 and I predict we will see a renewed "turf" war emerging between the 100% battery cars and the "half as.." I mean the plug in's over whose need is more important.  I have already seen a few Bolters who have done 2 consecutive 30 min fast charges!

But there is some light at the end of the tunnel. A new wave of announcements for new stations and partnerships to build, propose or encourage private businesses to invest in stations is addressing areas that have had little or no public support previously.

But there is still a basic realization that many providers have not come to grips with and that is how to allow multiple cars to access one charging station?   Too many times I will see 6 chargers occupying 6 consecutive parking spaces.  IOW; unless there is a space at either end of the row, you can't get better than a one to one ratio.

One hurdle is clear. It costs money to trench and install new power equipment especially when the power requirements are this robust so putting the stations adjacent to the power feed saves a ton of money.  This almost always means they will be located on the edge of the parking lot or against a wall which means access on one side only.  So this is a cost cutting move that makes sense.

But what about the process of bunching the stations all together?  How much more money does it cost run to spread the stations farther apart if they are all running parallel to the power feed?  Nearly every station now has a cable that is more than long enough that 3 LEAFs can easily reach one station.

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Above we have the same six stations but instead of being able to charge or queue 6 to 8 cars,  we can now have 18 cars ready to roll, right!  In those rare cases when the stations can be put in the middle, we would have two rows of parking spaces meaning 36 cars can potentially access the 6 stations!

Well this would make the network much more effective but some states have ICEing laws where an EV parked in an EV charging space can be fined if not actively charging.  So this could be a problem... IF the law was actually being enforced.  In most cases, it is not. I am only aware of a handful of incidences at most where a ticket has been issued and all those instances likely only happened thru monumental efforts on another EVer's part.  IOW; if only relying on the diligence of the local constabulary, we be screwed!  So how to sort that out?  How can we tell if a car is waiting to charge or is simply wanting to park 25 feet closer to the entrance? 

SemaConnect stations have LEDs  that provide status of the stations.  Blue means available, flashing Green means charging, Solid Green means charge complete, but more importantly Blue also means the car parked in the spot NEVER attempted to charge.  One thing that is impossible to know is whether someone who is plugged in, ever charged at all. What's to stop someone at another station from simply plugging in the car and not starting a session to avoid a ticket? or at least consternation from the EV community? 

Obviously the ideal solution is each station having 3 cords allowing queuing between the 3 cars in question. This would not be cheap but would be cheaper than adding more stations.  This also opens up the possibility of upgrading the stations to higher outputs and possibly load sharing between the 3 vehicles.  Park and ride situations really need this. The bulk of the traffic in and out happens in the morning and afternoon with little action in between or even possible.  This means cars parked 9-10 hours.  Having 3 cars queued up can mean that all three could be at their desired charge level when owners return.  

But bolstering the network will take time, money and motivation, all of which is in short supply. The other much easier idea is financial disincentives.  But parking fines as mentioned above has not been enforced for the most, can be tough to determine sometimes and simply creates too much hardship for some drivers in park and ride situations.  But one idea that is gaining traction is variable rate billing to encourage sharing and more turnover.

The University of Idaho has installed at least one charger on the Moscow, Idaho, campus The Spokesman-Review (Embree, December 5, 2016) reviews. Charging costs  $2 per hour for the first three hours, after that, the rate goes to $3, 8 to 5 during the day. After hours charging costs $1 per hour for the first 3 hours, then goes to $2 per hour.

It has now been over two months since starting this blog entry and one thing is certain; EVs are gaining a lot of ground. Be it better range like the Bolt, versatility like the Volt or simply crazy discounts like the LEAF,  the battle for plugs will escalate and quickly.  We need to start moving on adding more plugs.

Finally; an interesting situation that I just have to share.  As we all know, fast chargers are the prime time destinations for people on the go. 80% in 30 mins just barely fits in most people's day so a slower option would be completely out of the question, right?...not always.

NRG EvGO at Tacoma Mall, WA

A few months ago, I reported that the L2's at Tacoma Mall were free. I observed people just pulling up and plugging in without scanning their cards.  So I was in need of a charge Friday (Yes, it was one of the 8 GID days!) so I pulled in with the idea of getting my free 30 minute fast charge courtesy of NCTC and then testing the free L2 on the way out.  Well, I got there and these two cars were plugged in and both drivers were in the car. I didn't think much of it. This is a common sight here.  I plugged into the DCFC and headed inside the mall to powerwalk for my usual 28 minutes. I returned and found the same two cars sitting there.  So my test of the free charging had to be put on hold because all the L2's were occupied while the fast chargers sat empty.  I have to say in 6+ years of publicly charging my LEAF, this was a first for me!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Used Nissan LEAF Buyers Guide

2014 was Nissan's best sales year for the LEAF which means the 2nd half of 2016 and most of 2017 will be the best buyer's market for used LEAFs coming off 2 and 3 year leases.

But Nissan has realized the market is saturated so the thought of selling any but the cream of the lease return crop is not looking well in what has become very much a buyer's market. Prices are simply that low. "Too good to be true" is not working!... or is it?

To the uninformed wannabe EVer the market seems to be flooded with "can't miss" deals but not everything is as cut and dried as one would think.  Hopefully I can provide a checklist every used car shopper needs if looking at a used Nissan LEAF.

We all have enough experience with batteries to know that they fade away. Sometimes quickly, sometimes not. We have gotten better at preserving them with smarter chargers, better charging profiles, habits, etc. but that only delays the issue.  Since this is a "used car buying" guide, we will only briefly mention what you need to be concerned with and that is location.

The warmer the climate the car was in, the faster and deeper the degradation will be. Even with this knowledge, the range of user reported experiences can vary widely in just a few miles.  So even location can only be taken as a point of consideration.  For example; Los Angeles varies from moderate near the coast to desert-like 25 miles inland.  This means that not only is the home of the car important but also the area the car likely commuted to on a daily basis.

The Nissan LEAF dash has two gauges that at first glance looks like one.  More commonly known as the "GOM." Guessometer is so named because of the digital representation of range expressed in your unit of choice of miles or kilometers.  The "guessing" part stems from the fact that the LEAF calculates your efficiency over the very driving history assuming it won't change for the remainder of the charge left in the car. It should not be taken literally and it does not account for other uses for accessories, climate controls, etc.  It is basically the "fuel gauge" designating how much of the battery pack is charged and able to provide driving range represented with 12 long bars or segments. 12 bars is "fully charged" and 1 bar is nearly depleted. Like any fuel gauge, these bars are not a linear representation of range or remaining charge. The bars at the top represent more range just as there is hidden range or reserve at the bottom. IOW, just like any gasser gauge.

On the right, you see the 47 mile estimate that is the GOM, the 6 long segments is the charge level meter (or gas gauge for those you still early in the conversion process) and the capacity gauge which is the 12 little bars on the far right.  Before you ask, No that is not a gas pump symbol!!

The 2nd gauge is just to the right of the GOM is the "Capacity" gauge representing how much of the original capacity is remaining from the car when it was new and represented by short adjacent bars or segments.  It is also not linear but "somewhat" defined.  In the original iterations of the LEAF service manual, the 12 segments were designated as 15% for the 12th bar and 6.25% for the 11 bars below it.

First thing that we should realize is that only accounts for  83.75% of the capacity.  Part of the 16.25% we don't see is the reserve and part of it is the part of the battery not accessible for use. This is done to increase the life of the batteries. Discharging too much or charging too much greatly shortens the charge life of the cells.   FYI;  The reserve on the GOM is a blinking "_ _ _ " a very disconcerting sight for the new LEAFer which brings us to the next section.

Unfortunately the dash is limited in the information it can give you especially when the first capacity bar represents 15%.  There is also a possible issue that is much less likely now due to a huge awareness campaign by the LEAF community to make the issue known is that the quirk of "capacity bar resetting" that causes lost capacity bars to show back up on the dash. This DOES not bring back any range.

Because of the widely varying rates of degradation from one area to another, a device to provide measurements of the pack is recommended. For the shopper, I would recommend simply borrowing one to check your possible purchase with.  LEAF Spy was developed by an early LEAF owner and provides a TON of information that is vital to know when evaluating purchase options.  It is also an essential tool for the LEAF owner that can be had for under $40.

LEAF Spy is an app installed on your Android or iphone. It works in concert with an OBD device plugged into the CAN port of your LEAF located under the dash just to the left of the steering column.

You will not find a more economical way to get around than an EV. Even in areas with high electricity rates, charging off peak can still save you a bundle of the cost of maintaining and driving a gasser. But it takes time to charge and that can range from a little to a lot depending on your options.

Charging options are generalized into 3 categories; L1, L2 and L3.

L1; 120 volt based charging. Nissan provides a EVSE (Electric Vehicle Service Equipment) cable that you plug into a dedicated 120 volt circuit (dedicated means a circuit that has no other load on it. If you are not sure, best thing to do is plug something into every outlet in the area, turn on all the lights then turn off the breaker observing what goes off with it)  Generally 12 amps is the most you will get.  This creates power to the car at the rate of 1440 watts or 1.44 kwh determined by multiplying the voltage by the amperage or 120 volts* 12 amps.  Do be aware that Nissan BMS (battery management system) takes some of that power to monitor the charging process, keep the AC/DC inverter from overheating, etc.   Generally you can get roughly 4 miles of charge per hour. IOW, not a good option unless you have a lot of time on your hands.

L2; 240 volt based charging and what most public charging stations provide.  Amperage received will be based on the charger in the LEAF. 2011's and 12's only had 3.8 KW chargers capable of receiving no more than 16 amps at 240 volts.  2013+ that had the charge package (generally identified with 2 charge ports instead of one) "generally" came with a 6.6 KW charger capable of up to 27 amps.

The slower charger would give 12-14 miles of range in good driving conditions. The faster 6.6 KW charger up to 25 miles of range but beware several public chargers will not provide this much power. Blinks are common for this with many turned down to prevent overheating.  Most however will give 5.8 KW or higher. For general purposes, 20 miles per hour of charging is a good guideline.

L3; DC based charging. This is the ritz of public charging where the famed "80% in 30 minutes" slogan started. In reality, your charging speed depends on a dozen different things so expect your 80% to take a bit longer than half an hour.

 By far the toughest thing to advise so I can only say you really need to take a look at where you need to go, where you want to go and what kind of support you have available to you.  IOW;  Plugshare!!

Plugshare is an app and website and is THE MOST VALUABLE TOOL FOR ALL EV'ERS!  so as you may have guessed by now, it cannot be over emphasized!  Plugshare is a user supported database of public charging stations in your area. It is FREE!! and shows station locations, pricing, number of plugs and also recent charging experiences. Hopefully I got the point across that you should already be half way to DOWNLOADING PLUGSHARE TO YOUR PHONE NOW!

The Range; There are simply too many good deals out there to take a car that is missing any capacity bars but again sometimes the price is too good.  So things to consider is that as the batteries degrade, not only is the range reduced due to capacity but it will be reduced due to lower levels of regen available. Regen is the process where kinetic energy is transformed into electrical energy and stored back to the battery.  It happens anywhere from a little (constant speed driving like on a lightly used freeway) or a lot (AKA as real life) when there is a lot of speed changes involved. This can add a significant amount of range  back to the car.

The Weather Summer is the time to drive! AC uses a lot less energy than heat does so the hit on range will be much smaller but other factors are involved.  In Winter, cold air is simply denser (which is why your feet are more likely to be cold because they are at floor level where cold air hangs out!) which means more energy needed for your LEAF to push it out of the way.  There is also road conditions. Snow and rain also require more energy so expect anywhere from 10 (for the people willing to bundle up) to 25% loss of range in Winter.  Obviously, this applies to people who have Winter. For those whose seasons consist of Fall, Spring, Summer and Hell,  you have other things to worry about!

In the used car game, its a process of elimination and comparison. By now we should already be armed with our driving needs, locations of public charging we would likely be using and at least an initial evaluation of where and how we will be charging the LEAF at home. So first off;

The Eliminations;

Location; Unless its a super duper unreal giveaway of a deal, stay away from cars from the Southwest. Phoenix, Needles, Las Vegas and any other place that brags "its a dry heat" should be avoided!  How much value should be assigned to this?  Good question and will be addressed again!

Degradation; 12 capacity bars! Remember, its the short ones on the right, not the long ones on the left!

Models; Nissan has a program of continuous battery improvement that has been in place since day one. Generally this means the newer the car, the better the chemistry, longevity, etc.  But there are still some significant points to consider.  Avoid first gen! 2011's and 2012's had the worst chemistry and worse yet, no more manufacturer's warranty and very little (if any) battery capacity warranty left.

Lizard packs; In response to severe degradation in He... er...uhh, I mean Phoenix, Nissan worked on developing a more heat tolerant battery. Well results in Phoenix may seem small but other areas of the country saw huge improvements. Officially Lizard packs started for the 2015 model year but there is strong evidence that many latter 2014's also had them. Considering that the 2014 Model year was one of the shortest in the history of the automotive industry, that does not eliminate many 2014's.

Build Dates; You can determine the build date from the inside plate on the driver's door. It will be listed in 2 digit month/2 digit year.  This is critical for the 2013 Model year since there is strong anecdotal evidence among owners that later build (May 2013 and newer) had better, more robust batteries.

The usual; Its always a good idea to check Carfax for not only location of previous owners but for accidents.  Unlike other EVs, Nissan has the most secure battery storage system in the Universe.  Yes, Tesla's do occasionally wreck and the batteries crisp the car.  This is not a Nissan issue! There have been some LEAFs in horrific accidents including one less than 10 miles from me when a LEAF was sheared in half when the driver hit a bridge abutment.  Despite not be recognizable as a car, the battery pack remained intact. Say what you want about Nissan's decisions on battery management but one thing that is completely unassailable if the level of safety designed into the car.

Shopping; Ok, so now we are browsing online and see a car that might work. Problem with used LEAFs especially if not at a Nissan dealer is that you probably know more about the LEAF assuming you read my previous blogs (shouldn't take more than a few weeks!) than they do.  So this is where you need to tread carefully.

Most have found that insisting on testing the battery with LEAF Spy  has scared several dealers into thinking they are going to walk out to see their car in parts scattered across the parking lot.  My take; Don't tell them what you plan to do.  It takes all of 20 seconds to plug in the OBD and get a reading. You will be done before the salesman even knows what you are doing. When new, 24 kwh LEAFs read about 67.36 ahr.  The values you want are this, Hx and SOH  both displayed as percentages, which are all conveniently located on one screen. (GIDs are useless if the car is not fully charged)  Best part is after the read takes place (about 3 seconds) you can freeze the screen. unplug the OBD and you are done. As mentioned, you can do it in 20 seconds. (FYI; if you are interested in a competition, call me when you have cut this time in half because that is where you need to be!)

OBD I use

Probably not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with the CAN port location. I can now easily locate and plug in OBD without looking. Benefits of a "3 LEAFer" I guess.

Ok so you got the basic foundation to make and informed purchase decision right?  LOL!! Cmon, we all know life is not that easy! 

Nissan, under pressure added a capacity warranty (FYI, don't bother comparing theirs to others in the EV World) which states they will replace pack if your capacity gauge drops to 8 capacity bars in less than 60,000 miles or 5 years from the original in service date which means my advice above to not consider LEAFs that don't have 12 capacity bars remaining stands, BUT....

Sometimes if the price is right and the car has suffered a lot of degradation and still has a ways to go to hit 60,000 miles and its 5 year in service date, you might be better off to get the car, put up with the now pathetic range and work towards losing that 9th capacity bar. 

Ok, so there you have it. Strongly recommend browsing the links provided in the blog or at least seeing what they are about. The best weapon you have in the used car market in knowledge.  Posted below are other links to blogs that you might also want to consider as well