Saturday, December 15, 2012

Why Your Neighbor Should Buy an Electric Vehicle (EV)

 I will begin by conceding to the reality that an EV is not for everyone.  At least not yet!  Maybe the range isn't long enough, the style doesn't suit you, or perhaps you can't justify the initial cost (even if the long-term cost is lower).  But that's no reason not to convince your friends or neighbors that it isn't right for them.  What's in it for you?  Why should you take up the EV cause?  Will it be the lowered environmental impact?  Will it be the hope that as the early adapters demonstrate there is a commercial soundness to EVs, the price comes down and advancement to the technology results in range increases?  No.  Your motivation should be much more direct and personal.  Your motivation should answer the question, "What's in it for me?"  How do you stand to gain from others buying and using EVs?  Simple.  LOWER GAS PRICES!  It's simple supply and demand, really.
One need only to look at Hurricane Sandy.  It was a devastating natural disaster that many people are still struggling to recover from.  What does this have to do with EVs?  It's true that 320 Fisker Karmas were destroyed at a port in New Jersey due to flooding.  And 16 of those had caught fire after salt water damage caused a short circuit to the low-voltage Vehicle Control Unit in one car that spread to the others due to the high winds.  But that has nothing to do with my point.  So back to the supply and demand reasoning.  There were some that were speculating that this natural disaster, like so many others, (and especially Hurricane Katrina) would be cause for the price of gasoline to spike, or at least increase.  But just the opposite happened.  Why?  There were far fewer commuters in the areas that were effected and therefore there was a decrease in demand.  One could almost draw a parallel to the numerous times people have tried to organize "don't buy gas days".  The theory was that, if as a nation, people chose one day to not buy gas, the result would be gas stations having excess inventory.  That would force them to lower prices as they would have to sell what they had prior to new inventory arriving.  Maybe others have different "effects", but the common goal was to get gas stations to lower the price of fuel.  The hurricane was able to achieve what loosely organized social experiments were not able to accomplish.  The price of gas decreased.
So this is where your friends, relatives, and neighbors come in.  If they buy and regularly use an EV on a daily basis, then there is more gas for the rest of us.  Why do I include myself as a beneficiary?  Well, in addition to my Mitsubishi i-MiEV, I also own a beautiful and functional work of art known as the 2006 Jaguar XJ Super V8 Portfolio.  I could fill pages about what I like about that car also, but that would have to be another blog.  And some might consider it boastful or arrogant.  I also have a motorcycle and a Mazda Miata which is now only 5 years away from qualifying for antique plates.  So, I too, would be happy to see the price of gas go down. 
Just because an EV isn't the right car for you, doesn't mean you can't be an advocate.  Convince your extended family members that it would be the best vehicle for their high school student because the limited range would be sufficient to get them back and forth to school, but wouldn't allow them to take unauthorized extended road trips.  Convince you boss that the financial incentives would have a positive effect at tax time.  And, if the company installs an ESVE (Electrical Vehicle Supply Equipment) Charger at work, he could recharge for free while the company gets "green" credit for caring about the environment.  Persuade your neighbors that the cost of charging is around 2-4 cents per mile (depending on local utility rates) compared to 13 cents per mile (for a car getting 25 MPG at $3.25 per gallon) for a gas powered car.  You won't have to worry about hearing their exhaust as they're coming and going at various hours of the day, or worry about the fluids their car leaks.  And when it comes time to head out to dinner with them, you can talk them into driving.  They can use that time to thank you for enlightening them about the benefits of EV ownership and they can show off how much they enjoy various features.  You can smile contently and silently thank them for helping to lower price of gasoline.  Who knows, maybe one day in the future, they will convert you as well.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

i-MiEV as United States Post Office vehicle

Should this be the next United States Post Office delivery vehicle?

The problem:
The USPS is losing money.
The solution:
Replace gasoline powered local route vehicles with electric powered Mitsubishi i-MiEV Cargo models.  I'm not trying to suggest a 100% replacement without consideration of limiting factors.  I'm suggesting that the scenarios of different cities and routes be evaluated and a determination made on the merits of each on an individual case.  Here are the reasons why this makes sense. 
·         The distance a for a postal route is a known factor.  Not every route is the same length.  But a driver typically drives the same route each delivery day and should know how far they need the vehicle to transport them.  One source states that delivery vehicles are driven an average of 17 miles per day.  Even if that distance were doubled or tripled, the Mitsubishi would be able to handle the trip.  Carrying the extra weight of the mail will lower the 62 mile estimated range of the base i-MiEV.  I don't believe it would lower it below 34 miles though.
·         City vehicle.  Once delivered, the car wouldn't have a need to travel away from its base of operation.  It won't have to worry about going hundreds of miles in a day to go on vacation.  It also won't have to worry about keeping pace with other cars on the highway.  It is almost as if the car were designed from the beginning to fit this purpose. 

·         Right Hand Drive.  The car was originally created for the Japanese market where citizens drive on the left and the steering wheel is on the right.  This means that the parts are in place to make a Right Hand Drive vehicle to meet the postal requirements without having to engineer a costly conversion process. 
·         Regenerative Braking.  The driver may have hundreds of stops in a day.  If the car is able to generate energy when the brake is applied, that will add to the vehicle range.  And the benefit over gas powered cars is "doubled" since braking in a gas powered car is an indication that too much fuel was used and was "wasted".
·         Dedicated use vehicle.  Unlike a private citizen debating about purchasing an electric vehicle and having to determine if the car will fit a wide range of needs, the post office pretty much has one use.  The car won't have to accommodate flats of mail one day and then have to carry four passengers around town the next day.  It has to carry the driver and carry envelopes and packages. 
·         Parked/charged every night.  There is concern among some people about the demands on the power grid that would be "increased" by charging electric vehicles.  The areas of the country where an EV would make the most sense are places that have a mild winter.  Those are places that also tend to have very warm summers.  Luckily, the i-MiEV would be out on the road (and away from the chargers) during the peak of the day's temperature.  This means it won't be getting charged at the same time there is high demand for customers of the electric company that are using air conditioners in their buildings.  The EVs would be recharged at "off-peak" hours.
·         Lower long-term operating costs.  True, the initial purchase price could be higher than some other gas powered options, but the cost over the life of the vehicle would be far lower.  And with some estimates that gas-powered replacement vehicles could be around $30,000 each, the argument for an electric vehicle around the same initial cost becomes that much stronger.  The cost for electricity is far lower than the cost of gasoline.  Fewer mechanical parts means fewer opportunities for issues.  There wouldn't be oil changes or exhaust system repairs, and the regenerative braking would also mean fewer brake pad replacements.
·         Lower environmental impact.  Being lower-cost doesn't come with the sacrifice of being more harmful for the environment.  True, not every kilowatt of energy produced is produced in the most environmentally beneficial way.  But it also takes electricity to create gasoline!  So not only is the burning of gasoline an issue, the creating of gasoline uses more electricity than the operation of an electric vehicle.
·         Tight turning radius.  The stock vehicle has a short wheelbase which lends to a tight turning radius.  It is 133.6 inches long overall.
·         Cargo compartment.  The dimensions of the interior rear are 53.1 inches wide by 46.4 inches deep and 43.3 inches high with a flat floor.
·         Made in the U.S.A.  Not yet, but what better incentive for a company to expand operations state-side than to entice them with a long-term contract for thousands of units?

Electric vehicles for the Post Office is not a new and radical concept.  It has been tested off and on for over 100 years.  Here is a link to some of the other Electric Vehicles that have been tried. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

1000 Miles in the Mitsubishi i-MiEV

It has taken just over 3 months to reach 1000 miles.

What are my impressions?

The first thing I would expect people to want to know is "Do you like the car after having spent that amount of time with it?"  The answer is, "Definitely!"  A rough-average use is 10 miles per day.  That is based on 1000 miles after around 100 days.  Most days are closer to 4-5 miles if I just drive back and forth to work only.  So there are plenty of days where the driving is much higher than 10 miles to bring the average up that high.

It is encouraging to have spoken with many open-minded people about the advantages of owning an electric car.  I don't think I've been able to convert anyone I know to electric yet.  Hopefully I've been able to lend some helpful insight to those who are reading this.

When I drove one of my gas powered cars regularly, fuel efficiency was on my mind.  But is was mostly when refueling that I gave it the most consideration.  I would fill the tank and compute the average gallons by comparing the amount of fuel added to the trip odometer.  I didn't stay conscious over the range of the tank about getting the best economy out of the car.  Maybe this is more a reflection of me, but my mentality was to make sure traffic wasn't getting in front of me and slowing down my progress.  I would analyze the traffic ahead and behind to make sure I wasn't going to get "boxed in" by surrounding cars.  Now I find myself content to behind someone driving at a reasonable pace and grateful that any finger-pointing for holding up others in traffic will be directed their way.

The range I've experienced to date has been 4 miles per kilowatt hour.  The range has been on the decline since colder mornings in Illinois have meant using the defroster on the way to work.  I expect the "winter" range to decline to a number closer to 3 miles per kW hr.  The other factor for my range being around 4 miles per kW hr is my usage of the Eco driving mode for most of my accelerating and selecting "Brake" mode while slowing down.  I'm a little surprised that I am still trying to achieve a higher range and haven't given in to enjoying the thrill of using all the torque available when accelerating.  Perhaps "in the name of science" I will try to determine how low the range can go when accelerating aggressively and using the climate controls with reckless abandon.

Some other Likes

If a person doesn't want to like the car, the style is an obvious target.  However, if a person is seriously considering an electric car, then my conclusion is they will be impressed by the fact that the car is not overloaded with features that add weight without adding benefit.  An extreme example that comes to mind is the fitting of high end RV's with quarried tile floors.  I'm not trying to say that an RV shouldn't have marble floors.  My point is that in a vehicle like the i-MiEV, it wouldn't be justifiable.  Mitsubishi has done a good job of keeping the weight down, which is critical considering that energy consumption and therefore range is impacted by the amount of energy that is required to accelerate a mass.

I like the small physical footprint the car is able to achieve while still maintaining a cabin roomy enough for a driver that is 6'3" (about 2 meters).  Others may think it's too small.  Of the looks the car gets, I often wonder how many are due to the style of the car and how many are from people that recognize it is an electric vehicle?  Honestly though, I think most people are noticing the style because most people I talk to are amazed to discover it is 100% electric.  There was one guy that comes to mind that may have realized it is electric.  My wife and I were watching him from our table inside a restaurant.  He circled the car a couple times and bent down behind the car to look for a tailpipe. 

I like the fact that I am not reliant on remote charging to get around.  Along with that comes the satisfaction that my cost to recharge is just under 2 cents per mile.  Which is another reason I'm surprised that I pay such close attention to the cost.  Given that a car getting 25 MPG with a cost of gas at $3.50 per gallon is paying 14 cents per mile for fuel; I could pay 4 cents per mile and still be 3.5 times lower for the cost of energy per mile.  Maybe in the back of my mind I'm trying to get to a self-imposed break-even point versus gas powered cars for the purpose of either defending myself against critics or for promoting electric to an accepting audience.

And should things change in the future to where I was driving distances that required recharging before returning, I would like the fact that the recharging infrastructure is steadily growing.