Saturday, May 27, 2017

Road Trip - Zoomin' in the USA (2/3)

Day 5 – Switching cars and heading to Waterbury, Connecticut

After switching cars in the morning, leaving the Nissan Leaf and picking up the blue BMW i3 Rex, we prepared the trip to Connecticut, as there would be more than one car travelling, the smaller i3 would be the cargo van, so we filled it with three suitcases and other smaller bags.

After lunch, the battery was again charged and it showed a scarcely believable 150 miles (240 kms) electric range! I hadn’t really driven the car a lot, so I was really doubtful of these numbers, but because the trip was only 105 miles (170 kms), I thought it could be possible to reach Waterbury only in electric mode, if it wasn’t, there wouldn’t be many miles running on gas, I thought.

And off we went, profiting from the mild temperatures (16ºC / 60ºF) we left the A/C switched off and the first miles confirmed the different character the BMW i3, it had heavier steering and a sportier stance, it felt even smaller next to those 18 wheelers on the Freeway and the iDrive multimedia system was starting to get on my nerves, as the menus and button settings were less intuitive than the touchscreen system of the Leaf.

But those thoughts soon passed as we joined the New York congested traffic, where the handy-size, instant torque and kart-like drive of the i3 helped to explore the small spaces left in the compact traffic.

Soon after the George Washington bridge, a silver Mercedes on our right side started honking at us, to our surprise he was happily looking at the car and giving us thumbs up on it…

“Great Car!” – He said.

It was the first (But not the last) time we saw the star-like attraction that the little i3 creates.

After a couple of scares (Was it just me or are NY drivers nuts?) and a lot of stop and go traffic, the I95 finally was free of traffic and we reached cruise speed, where the i3 proved to be quite stable and powerful, even at speeds that could have been well above the legal limit…

Stopping midway for some refreshments, a small kid with his parent pointed at the car and said: “Uau, that thing looks like a toy car…Cool!!!”

Reaching close to our destination, we made a wrong turn and we tried another big plus of the car, a ridiculously small turning radius, basically we just turned the steering wheel completely and…Voilá! We had switched to the other direction without any other maneuver.

We arrived home and in fact the car not only did the whole trip in electric mode, but after 105 miles, most of it in highway speeds and some occasional A/C use towards the end of the trip, it still had 22 miles to spare.

Days 6, 7, 8 – Running around Connecticut

During these days visiting friends and family, the BMW i3 was a big attraction, with plenty of reactions:

1.       What car is that? I never saw this BMW…It’s electric? Really? I didn’t knew BMW made EV’s…

2.       Wow, this thing can go! Mom, you should get one of these! (Father’s answer: “Yeah, but she likes to speed, with a thing like this, she would get speeding tickets everyday”)

3.       Mmm…This is great as a commuter car.

4.       This BMW is electric? What is the range?

5.       Is there an electric minivan? (Answer: There’s the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, has 30 miles electric range on top of the gas range). Nice…

The fact is that around Connecticut I didn’t saw a lot of EV’s, besides the usual Teslas (Around two per day), I only saw three Chevrolet Volt (One Gen 1 and two Gen 2), and…That’s it.

Where are all the Nissan Leaf? Do they only exist in California? – I thought.

In this state the people mindset regarding EV’s isn’t much different from New Jersey, they divide electric cars in two categories, the first is Tesla, mentioning the brand coolness and the Autopilot as more important than the fact that they are electric. All other EV’s fall in a second category, where they are pictured as slow, low range and expensive.

The good thing of the BMW i3 is that is shatters two of the three previous preconceptions. Now the price it’s a different story… People still correlate price with size, so the little i3 suffers in that regard.

Regarding infrastructure, I took the opportunity to try a free 22 kW charger in New Haven, while I noticed that CCS fast chargers had a better coverage (If not perfect) in CT than Chademo, which is virtually nonexistent in the state.

On the last night, after having dinner at some friends house, we arrived at the car and we saw three teens staring at the BMW from close.

I switched on the car presence lights and the kids gave a step back, looking at us:

-          Is it yours? It’s so cool!...

After making a small introduction to the car, they were surprised by the fact that it was electric and by the pick-up truck-like doors.

When I started the car and started moving, one of them said:

-          Hey, it doesn’t make a sound! Awesome…

That night we had a couple with us in the back seat and he was 1,9 meters (Six foot two), despite this, he was surprisingly ok in the back, not only in height (Hey, I didn’t hit the floor!), but also on knee space.

The i3 doesn’t stop surprising…Hell, even the iDrive system started to make sense!


Day 9 – Waterbury, CT to Westerly, Rhode Island

One would think an 85 mile trip would be an easy thing for the i3, right? And despite a cold (7ºC / 45ºF), rainy night, that remembered the worst of winter in Lisbon, it actually was a fairly easy thing to do with the Bimmer, despite being light and Rear Wheel Drive, it didn’t had the smallest sign of aquaplaning, behaving on the highway like a “grownup BMW” in these gruesome conditions.

Because the car wasn’t fully charged and the A/C was permanently on, the last 10 miles were done using the range extender, inside the car the only difference was a hum coming from the back and a few vibrations, not much different from a regular gas car, but noticeable in the previously serene i3 loft.

Day 10 – Westerly, RI to New Bedford, Massachusetts

A 70 mile trip through some really scenic back roads of Rhode Island, with a stop in posh Newport, which proved to be an EV friendly place, where I saw my first Chevrolet Bolt, along with two Tesla and a Cadillac ELR (Beautiful car, BTW).

After arriving to the car in Newport, ready to resume the trip, the driver on my right said:

-          New Jersey nameplate? That is a looong way for an electric car!

He got even more amazed when I told him the final destination was Massachusetts…

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Road Trip – Zoomin’ in the USA (1/3)

The idea for this series of articles came one night while discussing with Zach of CleanTechnica my  trip to the Northeast of the USA to visit relatives, at the time he asked me:
Z – So, are you going to rent an EV while you are there?

J -  Yeah, i thought about it, but it is really expensive, around twice as much as a regular Ford Focus rental…
Z – Really? Let me see if I can help you with that…
And so he did, after pulling some strings and connecting to the right people, Zach helped me to have not one, but two EV’s for my two week stay in the US, a red Nissan Leaf 30 kWh for the first days, followed by a blue BMW i3 Rex with the new 33 kWh battery for the remainder of the journey.

But before I start, I want to signal my deepest appreciation to the people of Nissan USA and BMW USA, for the dedication, professionalism and sympathy in the vehicle delivery, assistance and pick up process, you rock!

Image result for jfk airport

Day 1 – Arrival to JFK airport and heading to Newark, New Jersey
After a complicated arrival, complete with border control hold ups (Apparently, I was mistaken by another person with a criminal record in the US…), we got to the scheduled place with only three hours delay to pick up our top of the range Nissan Leaf.

Driving the Leaf was kind like meeting an old friend, you haven’t met him for a while, but you know how it all works, you know what to expect, including the annoying foot brake.

The big surprise (To me, at least, used to the 24kWh version) was the increased range of the thing, showing 101 miles in the guess-o-meter with 77% charge, equaling to some 130 miles/210 kms with a full charge.

210 kms! To have that kind of range on the 24 kWh units, I would have to go downhill AND have tailwind helping me out…

Day 2 – Running around Newark, NJ

Full day running around the whereabouts of Newark, visiting friends and family, and shopping. Looots of shopping! (Hey, it’s New Jersey, what else would you do?) I took the opportunity to escape the Stores Via Sacra and try out the local charging infrastructure.

And it was then that I realized how fortunate we are in Portugal for having an ATM-like system of charging cards, where you can have an “A” charging card, but regardless of that you can use it in the “B” charging network, or “C”, or…whatever network that provides electricity for your car.

After all, for the end buyer, what you want is to charge your car, regardless of whoever does it, right?

Well, not in New Jersey. I had a Chargepoint card, but turns out, the closest Fast Charging station belonged to EVGo, which actually allowed for other customers to charge, as long as they had a valid credit card (Check!) and a valid local telephone number (What?!? Why?!?!).

I then understood the frustration of my German friends, which carry a bunch of charging cards, one for each company…

So, no deal there, which left me no solution but to ask my temporary host to do an overnight charge at home, at 110 Volts.

One thing that struck me on the first full day in the US, was that everything was super-sized regarding Europe.

A small drink in the US is a medium-sized choice in Europe and the same thing happens regarding cars, with seemingly half the houses in suburban Newark having a big pick-up truck and a seven-seater SUV on the garage entry, my Nissan Leaf didn’t look like the family car it is Europe, but something more…Compact.

Now I understand why the Leaf is classified as “Compact Car” in the land of Uncle Sam.

Day 3 and 4 – Catching the subway to New York

After the overnight charge, the 100% mark was achieved, just in time to commute to the subway station with a full charge, with the guess-o-meter recording 130 miles (210 kms in metrical speak), which meant I had made the same energy consumption that the car had before coming to my hands, beating the EPA range in a sizeable manner, and I wasn’t even hypermiling, no ECO mode, using (Occasionally) A/C in a city / highway drive mix…Not bad. Not bad at all…

Sure, the 250 kms range (155 miles) announced by the NEDC were still a bit far off, but then again, I didn’t had the pink unicorns that help out EV’s doing the European testings…

Or maybe I’m just being mean, if you always run in ECO mode, never use Air Conditioner and drive like a nun, maybe, just maybe, you can reach the announced 250 kms range.

And what about EV’s? Did you saw a lot of them running around? – You may ask.

Actually I thought I would see more, apart from the random Tesla (Mostly Model S), we really needed to have an eagle eye to spot them, I saw a white BMW i3 (Being driven by an attractive 30-year old girl, BTW), one Second Generation Chevrolet Volt and…That’s it.

Except for Tesla, that has a special aura that surpasses the fact that it is electric (Auto Pilot, fast acceleration, etc), this area is not especially EV-friendly, including New York, that also disappointed a bit when it came to spot EV’s.

I guess it will be up to the Tesla Pick-Up Truck to finally win the Regular Joe mindset into EV’s. Hurry up with that one, Tesla…

At the end of Day 4 and with the delivery of the Nissan Leaf scheduled for the next day, it was time to do a list of Likes and Dislikes of the Nissan model:


-          Range! With over 100 miles range it was really easy to use it on urban environment, with no sign of range anxiety, so I could drive it pretty much anywhere in the NJ area without looking at the guess-o-meter every two minutes or monitoring my driving style;

-          Ease of use, maybe because I am most used to it, or because it is a straightforward car to drive, the fact is that it was really intuitive to drive it, with easy to use multimedia system and no major secrets. It just works how we want it, and that’s a big plus for people new to electric vehicles;

-          Family friendly vehicle. Space is not an issue in the car, be it in the front, at the rear seat or in the trunk. And we really used it, after all, there was a time when we were five in the car and the trunk had plenty of shopping bags…


-          Foot Brake! It is sooo annoying and clunky, if there is one feature I would like to change for the upcoming Leaf, is that Nissan finally ended the foot brake nonsense and made a regular Parking button, like regular EV’s have. I mean, for a car designed to look the 21st Century future, the foot brake seems like a 19th Century relic!

-          Cable storage. Sure, the trunk had no problems swallowing shopping bags, but should we use the full capacity of the trunk, we would have to remove the cable storage suitcase from the side and place it…Somewhere. This is not the ideal solution, BMW solved it in the i3 by placing it in the small front trunk. I think Nissan could have found a better place to store the cables. Maybe in the next Leaf?

China April 2017 (Updated)

BAIC EC180 dashboard

BAIC EC180 leads rise of Microcars

The Chinese market had more than 32.000 new EV's zooming the streets last month, a 49% increase over the same month last year, with the EV market share up to 1.2%, as the year proceeds and sales expand, expect the market share to rise above last year result (1.45%), maybe reaching North of 2%.

This is a highly protected market, where 93% of sales belong to domestic brands. Of the 7% left for foreign brands, 6% belong to Tesla, with the remaining 1% divided by all other auto makers.

If BAIC won the once again the winner on the models ranking in April, thanks to its EC180 golden boy, this time the monthly manufacturers title went to BYD, with over 6.000 units registered, which means the last year winner is back on its feet and ready to chase Beijing Auto in the race for the Best Selling manufacturer. 

Here’s April Top 5 Best Selling models individual performance:

Image result for BAIC EC180 price
#1 - BAIC EC180: Winning the Best Seller status for the third month in a row, this model is making a revolution on the Chinese EV market, as this is probably the first (Only?) little city EV that private buyers should be proud to have, with decent specs (eg, 20 kWh battery) and interiors/equipment for a somewhat low price (152.000 Yuan, or $22.000), the 4.352 units sold last month were a new record for the tiny EV and confirms it as the strongest candidate for this year Best Seller trophy, which would be a first for BAIC and the first time since 2013 that a BYD didn’t won the trophy.

Image result for zhidou d2
#2 – Zhidou D2 EV: If the EC180 can be considered “cute”, the bare-basics city vehicle doesn’t inspire anyone. Nevertheless, they continue to be sold in large quantities (3.709 units in April), possibly due to a combination of bargain-basement prices and big fleet deals. This vehicle is sold as a Quadricycle (Think Renault Twizy class) in some European countries, with the following specs: 12 kWh battery, 120 kms range, 90 kms max.speed, all this for some 16.000€.

Image result for Kandi K17
#3 – Kandi EV: A major player a while back, from 2016 Q3 to 2017 Q1 Kandi  management restricted production of EVs(1), so one would think it would see its life as an EV maker terminated. Apparently not, as the 2.586 units delivered in April were its best result in 10 months.

Image result for 2017 geely emgrand ev
#3 – Geely Emgrand EV: The first true car in the ranking, by delivering 2.586 units in April, this compact sedan (Think Toyota Corolla) is set to become one of the Best Sellers of the Year. Main specs: 253 kms range, 95 hp, 250.000 Yuan (36.500$).

Image result for 2017 BYD e5
#5 – BYD e5: The current BYD best seller is the low key e5 sedan, that delivered a record 2.512 units last month. A favorite among taxi companies, along with its e6 older brother, the plain-Jane looking e5 actually has a lot going for it, spec-wise: 305 kms range from a 48 kWh battery and a healthy 218 hp, all for 230.000 Yuan (33.400$). A wolf in sheep’s clothing, isn’t it?

Image result for 2017 JAC i ev 5
JAC i EV 5

Year-to-Date Ranking – Geely and BYD reach the podium

Below the top two positions there was a lot to talk about, with the Geely Emgrand EV and BYD e5 jumping to the podium, followed by the Kandi EV, now in Fifth Place, confirming the renewed success of tiny EV’s here.

A reference for the JAC iEV5, jumping into the Top 20 at #13, thanks to a record 1.670 deliveries in April. Was it a one time thing or will it be something to go on in the future?

Looking at the manufacturers ranking, BAIC (19%, down 4%) is seeing its leadership under threat, now followed by a recovering BYD (16%), with Zhidou now in third Place, with 10% share.

Zhidou D2 EV
Geely Emgrand EV
BYD e5
Kandi K17 EV
BYD Tang
JMC E100
SAIC Roewe eRX5
Zotye E200
Tesla Model X e)

BYD Qin EV300
SAIC Roewe e550
JMC E200
Tesla Model S e)
Chery eQ
BYD e6
Changan Benni EV

TOTAL Market

(1) - According to an information of an insider source: "From 2016 Q3 to 2017 Q1 Kandi management restricted production of EVs.  This was unrelated to the subsidy investigation and directly related to the delay by the PRC in reimbursing PRC mandated subsidies to all EV manufacturers, that those manufacturers had previously advanced to buyers.  The PRC owed subsidies from July 2015 onward.  Since Kandi only manufactures EVs all of its revenue has a subsidy component.  Kandi was effectively lending the PRC government about $7,000 with every EV it sold.  This resulted in a dangerous cash flow situation".

On the previous mention of "fraud", the same source explains:  "(In 2016) over 80 companies were implicated as having infringements, and that was about 90% of all NEV manufacturers.  This included BYD and all the other major manufacturers including Kandi  No serious penalties resulted from these infringements which were largely due to ambiguities in the subsidies law.  There was no suggestion of fraud by the PRC government. 

In Kandi's case the problem was due to its 2013/14 models being designed for quick battery exchange with 2 in the car and 2 in the charging rack.  This was a PRC government approved system, that they called Kandi Mode.  In 2016 subsidy inspectors determined it was not compatible with current subsidy law that required all batteries to be in the car and battery ID #s to match the records at the date of sale.  The problem was fixed to the satisfaction of inspectors in March 2016 but that left Kandi in the list of companies with infringements.  Since the fix was achieved in 2016 the PRC determined that the 2013/14 models qualified for subsidies at the 2016 rate."

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

China New Models April 2017

April saw the arrival of two models that have potential for a Top 20 position and represent a new chapter in each automaker commitment with EV's.

BYD Song PHEV - Landing with a relevant 218 units, this is the first plug-in version of the all-important Song / Yuan crossovers to reach the market, their job is to replicate the BYD Tang success, but in a smaller size and with the option of BEV and PHEV versions. As always with BYD, specs are impressive, with 80 to 100 kms electric range, thanks to a 18.4 kWh battery, and a 0-100 kms/h in just 4.9 seconds, all for only $45.000. 

I believe success is pretty much garanteed, just as a Top 20 (10?) feature, with the fiercest competition coming from in-house: After all, the buyer can choose not only between the BEV and PHEV versions of the Song, but the cheaper and smaller Yuan BEV / PHEV versions could also steal some customers...Should BYD be up to the task and make a large quantity of these "Dinasty" EV's on top of the existing portfolio, then the Chinese brand will have a killer second half of the year, not only becoming the biggest Chinese EV maker of the year, but possibly* the largest in the World. For the third time in a row.

* - The only true contender to BYD for the World Ceptre is Tesla, should all go for the best for the American brand and they could reach some 200.000 deliveries this year, same as the BYD goal for 2017.

Buick Velite 5 - A China-only fancier version of the Chevrolet Volt, the Buick Velite is the first serious attempt by General Motors to crack the all-important Chinese EV Market, sharing the specs with the more mundane Chevy Volt allows it to present an outstanding electric range for a plug-in hybrid (116 kms) all while being pretty fast (0-100 kms in 7 seconds), and the best thing is that because it's locally made, it doesn't cost a fortune (266.000 Yuan, or 38.500 USD).

Will it be successful? Being a good product in its own right, the GM product has failed in its first Asian venture (Sales in South Korea average 15 units/month), let's see if the strength of the Buick name in China makes it jump into three (four?) digit sales and steal some customers from the similarly-specced, but cheaper (190.000 Yuan) BYD Qin PHEV. Registrations in the landing month: 67 units.