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...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Urban Solar - Take 1 Post 3

No, I didn't give up. Well, sorta. It became painfully obvious that I have VERY quality cells. I'm getting very little power out of them. Even if I don't break any more and get them all strung together, I won't even generate enough juice to activate my grid tie inverter.  Seems like a lost cause. I'm going to sell the cells on ebay (with an honest description!) and buy some new ones. This project is taking a back seat to my job search and home improvement projects, but isn't dead. I'll update again soon.

Model S Prototype - Princeton NJ

Today I had the privilege of viewing the Tesla Model S Prototype in Princeton NJ. Tesla has had the car on display for several months, and it was in Connecticut about a week ago, but I wasn't able to make it to that showing. So instead I sat in Jersey traffic for 45 minutes and eventually made my way out to D&R Greenway Land Trust where the showing was being held.

My initial posts about solar panels (I'll continue those shortly) highlighted a new interest of mine. As I've continued exploring various aspects of the green economy, I've become a bit of an EV nut. Tesla is an American company based out of California. They only make one car right now, the Tesla Roadster. It will stop being sold in September. The next vehicle will be the Model S. It is sick. 

The Model S is a 4 door luxury BEV sedan that boasts impressive (low 5s) 0-60 acceleration and comes with three battery pack options: 160 mile range, 230 mile range, and 300 mile range. Each pack upgrade adds about $10k to the base price of $57k. The option list is currently unavailable.

Things I learned today:
  1. The prototype Model S is built on a Mercedes chassis.  The production vehicle will have a roomier interior. 
  2. Tesla vehicles are equipped with GSM communication systems that allow the car to send diagnostic info to Tesla. If your car has trouble, Tesla will likely call you before you even know about the problem!
  3. The report that Tesla will be making battery swap/rental available seems not to have made it to the marking folks I met with today. Although they did confirm that Tesla is working with A Better Place to potentially come up with some solution to the range question. 
  4. Tesla is also working on plans to potentially build out DC fast charge stations along high traffic areas. I threw in a vote for the I95 corridor, specifically in the NYC area.
  5. Tesla batteries in the Roadster need to be kept around 72 degrees. If they get too hot, the car goes into limited power mode. Something to consider if you will be driving hard in hot climates.
  6. All of the first year's production (with the exception of the Signature Series) have been sold. Sounds like the earliest you'd be able to get one is 2013.

Here are some pics of the Roadster that was onsite. People who had reserved a Model S were permitted to drive the Roadster- once its batteries cooled down. Since the ambient temp was about 95 degrees, the batteries stayed warm for a long while. here you can see the rep plugging in the car to a standard 110V outlet in order to try to force the car to cool down the batteries and get the car out of Performance Limited mode.