Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Tesla's Elon Musk announced tonight that Telsa has plans to deploy a Supercharger Network across the US, lower Canada, Asia and Europe. The plan for the Supercharger Network, which can juice up a Tesla battery at a rate of nearly 100 KW, is hardly a surprise. The real kicker is in the details.

Location - NOW. There are already 6 Superchargers installed across California, enabling current Model S owners to travel the entire state with one or two half hour Supercharges. Current locations are:
  • Folsom
  • Gilroy
  • Harris Ranch
  • Tejon Ranch
  • LA
  • Barstow
Additional stations will be installed in key locations around the country by the end of 2012, and more generally across the US and lower Canada by 2015.

Energy Source - Many people have (incorrectly) asserted that driving an electric car is just as dirty if not dirtier than driving a gasoline car.  Since the power much be generated somewhere and is in fact often generated by coal in some of the dirtier electric grids around the country, some people argue that the "greeness" of EVs is a myth. Rather than try to prove them wrong, Tesla circumvented the whole issue. Supercharge stations will be solar powered, with panels and installation provided by SolarCity. The panels will be oversized for the charging need of the cars and so will have a net negative electricity use. While this was Musk's claim, I'd be curious to see it in action. As we know, netmetering laws often limit the amount of electricity you can sell back to the grid. Even still, being able to drive electric and charge so quickly with electrons generated by the sun is pretty impressive.

Cost -  Tesla also went after the EV nay-sayers in regards to cost. Rather than concern itself with the appropriate pricing schemes for solar generated electricity, Tesla decided to forgo payment entirely. All Supercharging will be available free of charge for vehicles equipped with a Supercharger. While Musk mentioned that onboard Supercharger equipment is an additional cost option on the Model S 65 KWh, the current Tesla vehicle configurator actually has the Supercharger "option" as a standard no-cost feature. We'll see if that is still the case when it's time to purchase the vehicle.

While details about the Supercharger network have leaked out over the past several weeks, it was still exciting to finally hear the facts and get a visual. Now let's see how quickly the rest of the country gets blanketed in Superchargers. With some luck, Tesla may even overtake Blink (only half kidding.)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Tesla Get Amped Model S Tour

It's here. It's real. It's... well read on. This should be 2 posts. Just read halfway and come back  ; )

Financial "Planning"

Back in May I did some mental math. I've been pining for a Tesla Model S. You've seen the other blog posts here and here. I'm obsessed. It's not healthy. 

So I had a decision to make. The opportunity cost of reserving a Model S was something like $25. That's roughly how much the deposit money would earn in interest sitting in my savings account for about a year (the expected wait time for delivery). Sure, there is a risk that Tesla will go belly up and take my deposit money with it, but I think there is a reasonable chance that Tesla will live for another year. At this point in my attempts to justify making a reservation, I was being really persuasive - to myself.

Unfortunately, though, the total cost of the Model S, even after incentives, is pretty steep. I live in NYC. I have access to 24/7 gypsy cabs, 14/7 yellow cabs (they seem not to make it to my neck of the woods too long after dark) and 3 different express subway lines. Not to mention that I'm 10 minutes from the commuter rail. PLUS, my 12 year old Mitsubishi Eclipse, occasionally referred to as Grimmie XP,  sits parked on the street 5 days out of the week. I often don't even move it for street cleaning rules (Don't tell Bloomie!) So, I guess you could say I don't need a car. Especially since, even if I rented a car every weekend of every month, it would still cost less than monthly Model S payments and a garage. So, no, I don't need a car, much less a new car. I definitely don't need a new Model S.

All true. But I want one. On May 25th, Tesla opened a new store in White Plains, NY.  As it happens, I was driving up to Boston that weekend. Somehow, I detoured, stopped at the White Plains Mall, and left with a Model S reservation.My girlfriend didn't leave me. We had bad mall-chinese food from Panda Express (or similar). It was sorta awesome.

Even if I don't actually go forward with a purchase, which I probably won't, for $25 of lost interest plus $5k in the Bank of Tesla I get to pretend I WILL buy a Model S. More importantly, I was invited to the Tesla Get Amped Model S Tour to test drive the Model S in Mahwah NJ on July 21st. What a drive it was!

Capacity Planning

The Model S seats 5+2 when you include the optional pair of rear facing jump-seats. The passenger row holds 3 people and Tesla was more than happy to have a driver and three passengers. I invited my girlfriend, my brother and his wife. The three of them fit comfortably in the back seat. My Tesla appointed Co-Pilot happened to be Mike Sexton, who you may know, is not a short man.  All in all, the Model S handled a full load (minus two screaming kids in the rear-facing jump seats) remarkably well. My passengers all commented that they were comfortable in the back row, and the lack of the central "hump" in the floor made even the middle seat quite comfortable. The only concern was the rear passenger seatbelt which was not locking. Mike assured us it was specific to this pre-production/early production car. (Alpha -. Beta -> Pre-Production -> Early Production -> Perfection?)

Wedding Planning

Perhaps by coincidence, perhaps by shear marketing genius, there happened to be an Indian wedding with 400+ guests at the hotel in Mahwah where Tesla set up shop. Dozens of guests flocked to the Model S to ask questions and press the rear hatch button while 6-foot-tall reservation holders sat in the rear jump seats. Never fear, a Tesla rep quick stopped the hatch from sandwiching the hapless future owner before he was smushed in much the same way a city garbage truck compresses trash.  Several Tesla reservation holders hovered around to watch the wedding as it progressed. It seemed like a lot of fun. There was loud music, dancing in the streets, and a groom on horseback with a baby in his arms. Not bad for a Saturday in Jersey.

The Drive

In retrospect, I wish I had been a bit less excited. I might have taken the time to soak in some of the features and nit-pic a bit with the design and workmanship.  But I was giddy and eager to put the Model S through its paces. It performed like a champ. Acceleration was predictably smooth and linear. Handling was steady and controlled, though I only just started getting comfortable as the drive was coming to an end. I can vouch for how well the Model S hugs the corners though, as I pushed it 45-50 MPH on a 25 MPH rated curve, then accelerated out of the turn onto the running lane to merge into freeway traffic. I was in the standard model, not the sport, and I was still impressed with the seemingly limitless power I had available. I thought I detected a bit of oversteer, but again, I didn't have enough time in the vehicle to really test it out. Also, it's not like I do this for a living. Maybe it was just swooning.

Perhaps even more than the acceleration, the regenerative braking was amazing. You read about this regen braking in blogs and reviews and somehow they don't really capture it. Yes, it's a bit like 2nd gear in a manual, but second gear causes a car to lurch as the engine brakes the vehicle, and then gradually fades as the car slows. In the Model S, the deceleration persists even as the vehicle slows. It definitely took some getting used to, but not in a bad way. It was just something new. My passengers were amazed that I was able to slow almost to a stop at an intersection without touching the brake. So was I!

Maybe if I save, work really hard, and move out of NYC I'll have a Model S by next Summer. I'll settle for another test drive and my $5k back. 

I'm working on getting video edited to share. In the meantime, enjoy some more pics!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Panel on Electric Vehicles: "EVs in NYC: What Roll-out Strategies Work Best for the Big Apple?

Tonight, Clean Energy Connections (www.CleanECNYC.org) held its sixth event, a panel entitled "EVs in NYC: What Roll-out Strategies Work Best for the Big Apple?" The event brought together speakers and panelists from NYC and Lower Hudson Valley Clean Communities, NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), Greentech Media, Green Charge Networks, Loews Corporation, Smith Electric Vehicles, and Con Edison.

PHEW! That's a long list of heavy hitters in the industry. I took a gamble and did NOT attend,. Instead I watched the webcast from home while eating leftovers. While I've attended several of Clean Energy's other events and thoroughly enjoyed them, I had a nagging suspicion I wouldn't gain too much from the event itself (though I imagine the networking would have been great.)

Turns out, I was right. The content of the panel was still very much EV's 101. I think that information about things like comparable fuel pricing for EVs versus ICE and payback periods for EVs is very important. The more the general public learns about these things, the higher adoption rates will be. However, I think I'm ready for an advanced discussion, and that just wasn't what took place.The audience's questions weren't much better, with quibbling about the location of the EV charging stations being the highlight. Might I suggest LMGTFY.com?

I think the most educational and thought provoking part for me was having access to a full-sized keyboard and screen with which to do research and a follow the twitter feed. One tweet from @JaclynPatrice and a few subsequent PMs actually helped me learn bit more about the batteries in EVs. In short, she stated that the batteries would end up in landfills when they were depleted. Eager to unconditionally support EVs, I tried to explain how they could be repaired, reused, or recycled... but I realized I didn't know if they could be recycled. So I did a little research and found this blog post which made me think Lithium Ion batteries destined for our landfills. Until I read the comments. Two glorious smackdowns.

Some other comments during the panel and some more googling helped me learn about AAA's roadside assistance for EVs based on Green Charge Networks EVRoadside.

So, while I support the Clean Energy Connection events, and the general education of the public about EVs, I hope to one day attend an event where we discuss things like "What Roll-out Strategies Work Best for the Big Apple?"

Ahh, that would be nice...

Update: Here's a the video:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Model S Beta - Classic Car Club: Manhattan

On Sunday October 30, after a fun filled night of Halloween activities, I shot over to the Classic Car Club: Manhattan on Hudson near Canal in NYC. Having previously worked in the area for a while, I'm used to seeing impressive old Mercedez and Porches outside. On Sunday, there was an R8, an M5 and a Nissan GTR, all parked on the sidewalk completely unconcerned with any laws they might be breaking. As exciting as those cars are, I was there for something a bit less... noisy.

I've previously seen the showroom mint-green Tesla Roadster and the Model S at the event in Princeton, NJ, but this time it was different. Tesla has launched a tour of North America featuring the Beta version of the Model S. While the event in Princeton has the Model S prototype, built on a Mercedes chassis, this tour features a purpose-built Model S Beta on a Tesla chassis, and is said to be 90% production intent. Also different, this time we could touch- we just had to wait in line for 20 minutes.

Mike Sexton of Tesla worked the crowd, doing a great job of answering the questions while we all waited in line. Mike highlighted how aware Tesla is about getting charging stations set up along important corridors. Most impressively, I think, is that they are talking to their customers to help define these corridors, not government studies or marketing hype. It's the reason they've placed a charging station in the Omni Hotel in New Haven, CT (great write up here) as well as in Philly- so Roadster owners can make the NYC to Boston and NYC to DC trips with a single recharge. Tesla kept that same approach during the event, taking feeback from all of us about the shape, about the seating, and about that pesky slamming hatch - twice it came down with a loud BOOM as curious people tried to close it and let it go too soon.

The interior of the Model S was spacious and comfortable. We noticed the AirCon was on and the Tesla rep commented that the car had been on the whole time. The center console touch sensitive screen dominated our attention, though. Currently running on Linux, the rep suggested that Tesla is still considering having it run on microsoft, Linux or even a custom OS from Tesla. I'd prefer not having to reboot- Linux please.

As beautiful as the Model S is, I wasn't particularly fond of the dashboard. As the place (other than the road) that a driver will likely spend the most time looking, the dash was surprisingly bland. While it provides all the essential info, there isn't any texture or character to it. It's just a flat digital screen. For a car that has done such a great job merging form and function, the dash is decidedly functional. Definitely disappointing, but not sure it's a showstopper.

Here's looking forward to a few more close encounters- maybe on a test drive?

A few more shots:

My shutter was a bit to fast for these -

Some exterior shots

Monday, October 17, 2011

Plug In Day: NYC 2011

On Sunday October 16th I  headed out to Pier 54 in Manhattan for the first annual National Plug In Day. From Hawaii to New Hampshire, in 26 cities across the country, electric vehicle owners, city representatives and the inquisitive public came together to learn and share. It was interesting to hear how far along NYC is in the push to clean up its vehicle fleets. Agencies such as the Department of Sanitation, the NYPD and the Parks Department had vehicles on site to showcase the city's commitment. I was also impressed that the Department of Long Term Planning and Sustainability is being so proactive in its outreach to help educate consumers, even if their website (http://www.nyc.gov/html/ev/html/home/home.shtml) is a bit difficult to find (try searching for the Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability...)

Next time, I'll center the pic,
and leave Mike in the shot!
While it was good to see all of the positive energy and interest, I'll admit, the highlights were mostly geeking out with some EV enthusiasts. I first chatted with Mike from ev-propulsion.com . He showed off his converted Miata and shared how he'd help someone convert a Mitsubishi Eclipse a while back. I started wondering if that was the best way to venture into EV ownership - to convert my 2000 Eclipse (affectionately known as Grimmy XP...don't ask), but then I noticed Mark from EnerTrac and his bikes.

If you can live without the roar of ICE motorcycles and instead want to focus on the freedom and speed, Mark can probably help you. The bikes he builds at EnerTrac are sleek, fast, and have variable regen braking! As always, range varies with your credit card limit, but they are still pretty compelling. Even with the more modest lead-acid battery packs, the range is still more than I could get for the same money on a conversion of the Eclipse. No surprises there- the Eclipse is a surprisingly large car - though you can't tell from inside. I thought I had it all figured out. I'd get a bike to weave in and out of NYC traffic, head up to Bear Mountain, it would be glorious...but I'd be alone. No passengers... On to the Mini E and Tesla Roadster...

I've already started planning
for my witty vanity plate

If you follow any EV blogs, Tom's Mini E #250 blog should be on your radar. It was great to be one of the many people who caused Tom's voice to go hoarse (see his coverage of the event here). While his Mini E could definitely hold at least one passenger, my girlfriend seems none-too-fond of the Mini (or Smart Car, or Fiat. See a trend?). So Michael Thwaite's Roadster seems like the likely winner for me- at least for now, while I am still in the dreaming stages of EV ownership.Nevermind the price tag or the fact that they've gone out of production. This is a day-dream blog entry. Leave real life for the next post.

It was great seeing so much interest from the public and chatting with so many great members of the EV community. Here's to a great kickoff event for National Plug In Day in NYC!

Oh, and thank you weather-gods. It was, indeed, beautiful out.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The sounds of driving

I was reflecting today on the first time I heard a Tesla Roadster power up- just this past weekend. It made me think of the BMW runs I went on back in '07, and my friends' BMW 645 with the modified exhaust. Then I came across this:

And now I have to say- I'm going to miss the sounds of driving. I fully intend to have an EV, sooner or later. But when the Tesla rep "fired up" the Roadster this weekend, all it did was click. It reminded me of the sound a ICE powered car makes when the battery is dead and you first turn the key. Nothing but a few electrical clicks. Probably relays of some sort. I think there was also a whirring sound from the battery cooling system. Yay.

Whatever the noises in the Roadster were- they were NOT sexy. They didn't make me giddy with anticipation of what was to come. In fact, they were quite laughable. I think Tesla and the other manufacturers should try to mask that sound. I'd rather hear nothing than giggle.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Portable EVSE? Inexpensive EVSE? You got it

Typically, electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) is installed at a specific location- in a garage. It becomes part of the home's infrastructure. This is an additional expense that drives up the cost of owning an EV.  Add the $2500 EVSE plus installation to the cost of buying a $10k battery, and potential EV owners probably get a bit discouraged. In addition, when he considers the limited public charging infrastructure, the would-be EV owner is likely abandon hopes of freeing himself from the grips of gasoline dependence.

Leviton and some clever modders have other plans.

Portable EVSE

As Nick Chambers reports over at plugincars.com, Leviton has released a portable EVSE that can plug right into a standard 220V receptacle. The Evr-Green Home Charging Station  This in effect means that EV owners will have access to a 120V portable charging as well as a portable $1049 level 2 EVSE thanks to Leviton.  Admittedly, owners do need to have a properly installed 240V NEMA 6-20R or NEMA 6-50R, receptacle, but the Evr-Green will provide additional options.

Inexpensive EVSE

And then there is the tuner's market- where people tinker and dabble until they come up with something quite impressive - a modified Nissan Leaf EVSE that can charge at 240V instead of the standard 120V.  Current stays the same at 15 amps, but you effectively get almost level 2 charging using a Level 1 EVSE.  Not bad for $239. Add in $25 for the 120V adapter (so you can still use it as a Level 1 EVSE) and you are pretty much set.

But wait, there's more! If you buy now you can also get a $48 upgrade to the EVSE's firmware that will allow the Nissan's onboard charger to pull 16 amps at 240V. So for $312 plus shipping, you can get Level 2 charging. Not bad, considering installing a standard Level 2 EVSE (not the Leviton mentioned above) could take months of permitting and cost upwards of $2500.

How is this possible? Many believe that the EVSE is a charger- that it actually controls the charging of an EV's battery. NOT SO!!! If that were true, we'd call it a charger! Instead, it is called an "electric vehicle supply equipment" because, well, it supplies power to the EV. The EV has an onboard charger that is responsible for making sure the batteries don't blow up. So why do we need these very expensive EVSEs? Because electricity is almost as dangerous and 15 gallons of explosive liquid swishing around behind your childrens' bottoms. So the EVSE does things like make sure that the EV's onboard charger only pulls the amount of juice that is safely available, and that when your clumsy self trips over the power cable, you don't set  yourself on fire or give yourself some serious palpitations. EVSEs are really just 99 cent extension cords with a $1000 computer attached.

And for those of you without an existing 240V line, I submit to you the Quick 220 Voltage Converting Power Supply

Just combine 2 independent 120V lines and, well, you're running out of excuses not to buy an EV...