Future cars / Driverless cars

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David Greene
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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby David Greene » July 6th, 2017, 9:12 am

After driving a BEV for a year and a half I''m much less concerned about the urban charging network. Range is enough these days to do all the driving you need in the city and charge at home. We literally have never charged anywhere but at home. In fact we've never done anything but level 1 charging (110V). I can count on one hand the number of times I wished we could get a quick charge, usually when Julian has fallen asleep in the back seat and we need to drive around a bit.

I suppose our behavior might change if we could get an 80% charge in five minutes but I think within the city the benefits are marginal. That kind of charge station is needed for longer distance trips. We'd love to take the LEAF to Grand Marais but it's just impossible now because there is no quick charge north of Duluth along 61. The Bolt could maybe make it but I'd be nervous.

EDIT: After thinking a bit I do think faster charging could be useful for select metro-oriented trips. For example, the LEAF could probably make it to Afton state park and back but it'd be close. William O'Brien is out of the question. So we need to use the gas car for those because it's just not worth the 30 minute (1 hour total to/from) wait to charge. The Bolt would make it easily, though, so even that use case is going by the wayside.

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VacantLuxuries
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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby VacantLuxuries » July 6th, 2017, 9:22 am

I think for people who are really passionate about BEVs are going to be fine with the urban network that exists now. But there's a ton of 2012-2017 Leafs on the used car market with a range near 100 (that might be dipping down as their batteries age). I'd rather see a network here that allows people in the city (including many Millennials like myself who don't want to ever buy another ICE again) to purchase them with confidence as opposed to watching them rust on a lot as a "necessary stepping stone" to the electric cars everyone actually wants.

That, and people in the suburbs/exurbs who are used to the convenience of gas stations along every route they might care to take need to be considered. For EVs to have any sort of effect on pollution or climate, citizens of sprawl also have to be on board with the plan. And even once we switch to electric, they're still going to want SUVs that get worse range. Because Costco.

I think most people on this forum probably wouldn't need an urban charging system to get the most out of a BEV. But we aren't most people either.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby David Greene » July 6th, 2017, 10:01 am

That's a good point about the used car market. There are some really affordable LEAFs out there but as you say they will have reduced range.

I wonder though if current charge rates are enough for people doing urban driving. It'd be a huge pain to have to stop for 20 minutes during your commute to charge. If we cut that in half it gets much more interesting.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby acs » July 6th, 2017, 10:06 am

Reduced battery capacity also means reduced charging time, no? Maybe as the EV fleet ages we'll hit a sweet spot where charging time is reduced and range is still good enough to make it more practical for commuters.

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Re: RE: Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby David Greene » July 6th, 2017, 10:49 am


acs wrote:Reduced battery capacity also means reduced charging time, no?
Not necessarily. Quoted charge times are generally for 80% charge as pushing the level beyond that significantly increases charge time (charging slows as the battery fills). Lower-capacity batteries are more likely to need to go to 100%, so charging could actually take longer. I don't know if a battery with, say, 20% lost capacity takes longer to fill than a full-capacity fill to 80% but I'm sure someone has done the experiments.


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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby Silophant » July 6th, 2017, 10:56 am

David Greene wrote:
July 6th, 2017, 10:01 am
That's a good point about the used car market. There are some really affordable LEAFs out there but as you say they will have reduced range.

I wonder though if current charge rates are enough for people doing urban driving. It'd be a huge pain to have to stop for 20 minutes during your commute to charge. If we cut that in half it gets much more interesting.
It would be, but if your (general your, not specifically you) commute is long enough to require a charge midway through, an EV probably isn't for you just yet.

Really, I think a wide-ranging rollout of Level 2 chargers at office buildings and factories, so that commuters can drive an EV to work and have it fully charged at the end of the day, is a more critical first step than a a metro-wide Level 3 charging network. A four-hour charge is no problem if it's time the car would be parked anyway.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby David Greene » July 6th, 2017, 11:59 am

Good point. Another issue with chargers is availability. They could be full with other EVs of course but right now the biggest problem is non-EVs parking in charging spaces. This happens all the time at Como, for example. We've submitted comments about it, but no change. Those spots should be reserved for EVs.

And while it would be awesome to have a "reserved" spot right near the carousel, those spots should be restricted not just to EVs but to EVs actually charging. Chargers usually have time limits and people should move once the charge is complete.

Another common problem is people insisting they need to charge to 100%, which takes at least twice as much time and blocks the charger from everyone else.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby Silophant » July 9th, 2017, 9:17 pm

Great minds think alike, apparently.

As per usual, I disagree with Garafolo, and this is exactly the kind of thing the government should be investing in if we're serious about keeping our Paris commitment. But, on the other hand, this kinda thing is a no-brainer for utilities to invest in. The easiest way to weather the rooftop solar onslaught is to make it as easy as possible for people to buy a car that shifts 30% or more of their total energy use from gasoline to electric. I mean, I'm by no means the average Xcel customer, living in a one-bedroom apartment without electric A/C, but charging a Bolt only 3x a month would at least double my power consumption. It's a win-win.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby David Greene » July 10th, 2017, 2:56 pm

Unless your solar array is going to fully power the car. :)

Ours won't, but it comes surprisingly close during the summer. If we had a more favorable house shape we could very well cover all of the house and car needs.

I've seriously toyed with the idea of building a new garage specifically designed to maximize solar panel area. I figure it will be like some sort of extreme saltbox.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby MNdible » July 10th, 2017, 3:25 pm

David Greene wrote:
July 10th, 2017, 2:56 pm
I've seriously toyed with the idea of building a new garage specifically designed to maximize solar panel area.
I've been going through the exact same mental exercise...

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby RailBaronYarr » July 10th, 2017, 3:30 pm

I think I've brought this up before, but.... why not just subscribe to a community solar garden? So far since February, my share has produced more energy than I've used each month. We'll see how my June-July bill looks since we've been using AC, but it may be canceled out by the better insolation. No, we don't have an electric vehicle to plug in, but I doubt even a maximized house+garage roof pitch on a Minneapolis lot could cover that much anyway.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby David Greene » July 10th, 2017, 3:57 pm

It's intangible, but I think there's benefit to people actually seeing physical solar on rooftops. It gets them thinking they they can go solar too. I can tell people we have a solar EV and they can do it too! As you point out, there are different ways to go about it. We're using Made in Minnesota credits, so it also spurs Minnesota's solar industry.

I'm also not sure how quickly solar shares can be implemented and we got the Made in Minnesota grant this year so we had to use it or lose it. This way some public money is directly going to increasing our solar base. I believe public money should be going into changing our electrical infrastructure. It's something I'm glad my taxes pay for.

For me, it basically comes down to a moral argument. We have the advantages and capability to do it and thus we should. Given the aforementioned inspiration capital and investment in Minnesota industries, it seems more powerful overall to contribute physically to the creation of our distributed solar generator network.

Maybe not the answer you were looking for, but it's what I've got.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby David Greene » July 10th, 2017, 3:58 pm

MNdible wrote:
July 10th, 2017, 3:25 pm
David Greene wrote:
July 10th, 2017, 2:56 pm
I've seriously toyed with the idea of building a new garage specifically designed to maximize solar panel area.
I've been going through the exact same mental exercise...
I'd be interested in collaborating/stealing any designs because we seriously need to replace our dilapidated garage in the next few years.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby Silophant » July 10th, 2017, 6:11 pm

David Greene wrote:
July 10th, 2017, 2:56 pm
Unless your solar array is going to fully power the car. :)
True enough, but roadside chargers (and multi-unit buildings) are still going to need a grid connection. I'm surprised to hear that you're getting that close - I didn't realize that a (Minneapolis roof-sized, not McMansion roof-sized) rooftop array would generate that much power without specifically designing it to maximize solar production.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby David Greene » July 10th, 2017, 6:43 pm

I'll have to go back and double-check. I know that we were well over our needs during the summer pre-EV. Putting panels on the garage really boosted the capacity, partially because the usable area on the house is smaller than some other buildings. I think a lot of people don't put them on the garage because of the trenching involved, which of course increases the cost.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby Silophant » July 10th, 2017, 10:51 pm

Oh, I totally believe that you're getting there, especially with a sizable array and, if I remember correctly, an EV that isn't used for a daily commute.

Really, I think the mental block that keeps a lot of people who would otherwise be all about EVs from getting one is that they realize that it takes 4+ hours to fill the tank (equivalent) from empty and stop right there, without realizing that, unless you're too lazy to spend 30 seconds plugging it in when you get home, the tank is always full, every single time you pull out of the garage. Like, I saw some interview with a Chevy bigwig saying that their goal was to get to 200 miles of range, since that would let the average commuter go a full week on a single charge... and I couldn't figure out why that would matter, unless plugging the car in is such a chore for this hypothetical commuter that they simply must devote an entire Saturday morning to the task.

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VacantLuxuries
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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby VacantLuxuries » July 11th, 2017, 8:26 am

I think it really comes down to these companies have no idea how to market a car to anyone who doesn't get hot and bothered by glamour shots of cars driving past redwood trees or zooming by on a test track.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby David Greene » July 11th, 2017, 8:40 am

VacantLuxuries wrote:
July 11th, 2017, 8:26 am
I think it really comes down to these companies have no idea how to market a car to anyone who doesn't get hot and bothered by glamour shots of cars driving past redwood trees or zooming by on a test track.
OMG yes.

When we were shopping for our LEAF, we had salespeople actively steer us *away* from it, even though we said up-front that that's what we wanted. I could not believe how much resistance I met from people who did not want to sell us a car we were ready to purchase *that day.* Easiest sale in the world. They kept telling us we wouldn't be happy with it, that we should lease instead of buy because we might not like it and would want to trade it in soon.

Some of this may stem from the fact that the LEAF and EVs in general greatly reduce dealer profit due to the lack of maintenance needed.

I mean, there was definitely ignorance on how to sell it, like not being able to explain charging levels or the whole "it's full at the beginning of the day" thing. No talk about maintenance savings and total cost of ownership reductions. No explanation that not having a gas engine and all of its attendant necessities that have tendencies to break reduces complexity and thus long-term cost.

It was that along with *active resistance* to selling the car.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby mattaudio » July 11th, 2017, 8:47 am

I've never been in the market for an EV, but I've rolled my eyes plenty at a few car salesmen (yes, they were all men) over the years. Salespeople who kept trying to sell me "cool" or "power" or "luxury" when I knew what I wanted (a boring and efficient and affordable Japanese car, thank you very much). No, I *don't* want a V6 engine, how hard is that to understand?

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby David Greene » July 11th, 2017, 8:49 am

Silophant wrote:
July 10th, 2017, 10:51 pm
Really, I think the mental block that keeps a lot of people who would otherwise be all about EVs from getting one is that they realize that it takes 4+ hours to fill the tank (equivalent) from empty and stop right there, without realizing that, unless you're too lazy to spend 30 seconds plugging it in when you get home, the tank is always full, every single time you pull out of the garage.
That's definitely part of it. People also overestimate how much they drive.

To be honest, I was completely shocked when our 110V outlet charged the car fully overnight. I was expecting to need an L2 charger. We're going to have 220V put out to the garage when the solar array is installed, since they need to trench anyway. But that's just future-proofing. We don't need it at all today. So that's another expense most EV owners can just forget about for now. As capacities increase, the need for stronger chargers also increases, which is another reason not to buy more EV than you need.

Today, I would probably buy a Bolt, not because we need the range today, but because over time as the battery degrades, we could hang on to the car longer. I am a "run 'em into the ground" kind of car person. The LEAF is only the second car I've bought. So anything that helps us keep a car longer is good because I hate car payments. But most people are not like that. They like to change cars every seven years or so. That being the case 100-150 mile range is perfectly adequate for metro driving. It's also why used LEAFs are a great option.

I'm actually really curious to see how long the LEAF lasts. I expect we'll run out of battery capacity long before anything else critical breaks, but we'll see. I'm encouraged that after 18 months we still haven't lost any bars on the capacity meter. If there's an upgrade to a higher-capacity battery by the time we need one, I might consider it.


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