All posts by Kyle Field

Tesla Model S EV Annex Carbon Fiber Upgrade

Originally posted on CleanTechnica

The good folks over at EV Annex have the shelves stocked deep with custom designed and built Tesla accessories like the Center Console Insert and the Cubby Compartment that really fill in some the functionality gaps. They also have a wide variety of custom designed and built accessories that offer a different take on the design aesthetic of the Model S and X.

spoiler

Carbon Fiber Blade Spoiler

They sent a few of their carbon fiber accent items over to spruce up the exterior of my Model S. Unfortunately, I’m no professional installer but thankfully, all of the interior products I have tested out to date have been easy and straightforward to install. This time around, I was happy to find that their exterior products follow suit, while adding nice touches of class to the exterior of the Model S — a challenging feat considering how great it looks already.

For starters, adding the EV Annex Blade Spoiler adds an amazing pop of class to the car and does so at a much more approachable price point of just $589 compared to the Tesla version which will set you back a staggering $1500. Granted, the Tesla version includes installation, but even if professionally installed, the EV Annex version comes in at a much lower price point and with quality that is nearly indistinguishable from OEM.

The addition of a carbon fiber spoiler to the Model S stands out in contrast with the smooth lines and uniform color of the car, with a flash of glossy carbon fiber. It takes the rear of the car from smooth to standout with a bold new line that cuts away from the car, often inciting a double take to catch the extra pop of flair.

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Carbon Fiber Nose Cone Applique

Up at the front of the Model S, the EV Annex guys created a carbon fiber nose cone applique that cuts around the Tesla emblem with such precision, it looks almost as if the carbon fiber were poured in around it as a liquid (it wasn’t).

While the carbon fiber that the spoiler is made from is rigid, the applique for the nose cone, while also made with real carbon fiber, is comprised of a flexible layer of carbon fiber covered with a protective rubberized coating that serves a very similar function to the clear protective paint coatings many high end cars come with (like opticoat). The front of the car is extremely prone to chips in paint — or in this case, a carbon fiber applique — so I was happy to see that it came with its own protection.

Speaking of protective coatings, I chose to remove my protective paint coating prior to installing to ensure the best bond with the car. After all, this new beauty would both improve the aesthetics as well as protect the car. so it was a win-win. To remove the coating, I worked my way to the edge of the upper nosecone section to where the coating ended and just started pulling it back, like a large vinyl sticker. After a few minutes, it was off.

spoiler

I gave the nosecone a quick cleaning with window cleaner, then some alcohol, to ensure a tight bond with the new piece, and was ready to apply it. I read the instructions once more (read twice, apply once :)) and was ready to go. I removed the backing on the rear side to expose the adhesive, and from there it was a simple matter of taking my time to fit the piece onto the car. It went surprisingly quickly and fit like a glove.

spoiler

I stepped back to admire it and was extremely pleased at just how quickly and easily it upgraded the look of the front of the Tesla. The carbon fiber nosecone applique adds a nice pop of class to the front of the car, which is especially nice for Teslas with the old nosecone.

Check out the gallery below for a full array of shots of these beautiful pieces on my “No Gasmobile” and head on over to EV Annex to check out the Carbon Fiber Blade Spoiler and the Carbon Fiber Nosecone Applique for the Model S.

If you are looking to purchase a new Tesla, feel free to use my referral link (here) which will save you $1,000 on the purchase while also helping me to write better content for the site. 

All Images Credit: Kyle Field 

Residential Energy Pilot Explores Use Of Storage To Balance Neighborhood Solar Generation

Originally posted on CleanTechnica

A new residential energy storage pilot seeks to better understand how batteries installed in homes can be used at the neighborhood level by grid operators to absorb solar power generation excesses during the day and discharge them when needed later in the day.

A partnership between battery manufacturer Moixa, electricity distributor Northern Powergrid, and the community energy company Energise Barnsley aims to put the idea to the test with a new pilot. Specifically, 40 homes will have Moixa lithium-ion batteries installed, including 20 x 2 kWh batteries and another 20 x 3 kWh batteries.

Simon Daniel, CEO of Moixa, said:

“Solar homes with batteries can halve their electricity bills, and this solution will become increasingly popular as costs of storage and PV fall.

“We are working closely with Northern Powergrid and this project will deliver insights to develop incentives which we hope will allow us to roll out solar plus storage to tens of thousands of homes in their region, by creating a business case for homeowners to invest and also by increasing the number of solar connections allowed on each substation.”

These 40 batteries and homes will be linked into a Virtual Power Plant (much like what Next Kraftwerk is doing today but on a smaller scale) which the utility can then utilize to absorb power when solar production is peaking. Conversely, at night when the sun isn’t shining on all those glorious solar panels, or anytime demand exceeds production, the utility can tap into this Virtual Power Plant to supply power to the grid.

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Most of the homes in the pilot already have photovoltaic (PV) solar installed (30 of the 40 homes) which will allow the pilot operators to better understand how residentially installed solar PV can play well with residentially installed lithium-ion batteries.

In this pilot, the batteries will be installed at no cost to the residents, with all funding provided by Northern Powergrid in an effort to support the masses of solar being deployed by Energise Barnsley.

Andrew Spencer, System Planning Manager for Northern Powergrid, said:

“This partnership is one of a number of ways we’re working to explore innovations that can benefit our customers and the communities we serve.

This pilot probes some of the potential solutions for problems grid operators around the world are quickly encountering as more residential PV solar is brought online and as battery prices continue to drop.

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Does it make more sense to install and subsidize solar at the utility level or residential? Is storage better for the grid at the utility scale or residential, or when residential installations are pooled together into a virtual power plant?

The future for residential storage and PV solar is packed with opportunity and it’s great to see progressive utilities and energy companies working together so closely with manufacturers like Moixa on neighborhood-scale pilots like this to work out the kinks.

Source: Moixa Press Release and Solar Power Portal UK

Images Credit: Moixa

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The Durabulb LED Lightbulb Delivers Improvements In Unexpected Places

Durable and lightbulb aren’t two words that usually come up in word association challenges, but in the case of the new Durabulb LED lightbulb, those two have been married together and it turns out, they play very well together.

durabulb

The central reason for the Durabulb to exist is the fact that lightbulbs are typically very fragile. Lighting Science, the company behind the Durabulb, wanted to build a product that would excel in all environments including those where a fragile glass bulb would not fare well or could pose a safety risk. Specifically, industrial applications, garages and areas with workers underneath that could be hit by glass if an overhead bulb were to shatter are perfect for the Durabulb.

Beyond just a parlor trick for niche lighting scenarios, the Durabulb’s durability brings some serious potential when it comes to shipping. Traditional glass bulbs are packaged in bulky cardboard packaging designed to prevent them from breaking during transit. This results in a rather inefficient shipping density.

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With the Durabulb being so rugged, none of that extra packaging is required, allowing it to be shipped in a much tighter formation and eliminating any possibility of breakage. The two sample bulbs that were shipped to me were just tossed into an envelope and dropped into the USPS.

Higher density shipments, less worry about breakage during transit, no need to “handle with care,” and no need for shipping materials that don’t actually add value to the customer in the first place makes for huge wins all around when it comes to moving these things around the world.

At first, a durable lightbulb may seem like a minor innovation beyond the traditional glass bulb…until you unpack all of the benefits that the consumer doesn’t typically have to think about and you realize that the Durabulb represents a step change improvement in lighting while providing the same look and feel from a bulb that consumers have grown accustomed to.

durabulbFor me, I’m excited to get a few of these to put in the rooms where my kids play so I don’t have to worry anymore about them throwing something into a light ever again.

Check out the Durabulb over at Lighting Science or head on over to Amazon to read some reviews and maybe pick up a few.

Images credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

If you’re looking to buy a new Tesla, feel free to use my referral link (here) to save $1,000, which is the only discount offered on new Tesla vehicles.

ChargePoint Delivers Fast Charger Of The Future At CES

At CES today, ChargePoint raised the bar for DC fast charging with not just one new charger but a paradigm shift in DC fast charging that redefines the entire product category.

The ChargePoint Express Plus family revolutionizes DC fast charging by looking to the future and embracing the inevitable increases in charging speed demand with a modular design that allows hosts to upgrade as demand for faster charging speeds increases.

ChargePoint has 400 DC fast chargers (DCFCs) installed out in the field today, which are a mix of units from other manufacturers and ChargePoint units. The ChargePoint team has taken all of the learnings from those and rolled them into this new product family, which the EV company is confident can support the next several generations of EVs.

The Design

The modular design is built around the idea of individual power modules which invert AC from the grid and puts out 31 kW of DC to the charging cable. At the most basic DC Fast Charger installations for this family, each charging station can hold 1 or 2 power modules to support speeds of 31 kW and 62 kW, respectively.

Installing and linking two stations next to each other allows them to share these power modules — or power blades — much like pairs of Tesla Superchargers do today. If both chargers had two power modules, that would allow one of the chargers to charge a car at 124 kW. If another car connected to the other charger, the speed for each would drop down to the single station rate of 62 kW.

Charging … Cubed

Exciting, right? But that’s just the beginning. Adding more chargers allows them to play together in a larger group. 8 chargers can hold a maximum of 16 blades (2 in each), which can and will dynamically allocate the maximum available power to as many EVs as are charging at any given time.

If those chargers are in an apartment complex that is limited on power that it can supply to the chargers, they will dynamically allocate the available power to whichever car is connected and using power. One caveat is that the chargers can only allocate power in single-blade units — so, in 31 kW increments.

ChargePoint liked this modular design but had even bigger plans and took a chunk of 16 blades and dropped them into a cube which was then connected to a bank of chargers. Now those 8 chargers (or however many are connected) can share that pool of 16 power blades in addition to the blades that are built into the chargers.

Each blade is still the same 31 kW … but now the system has a LOT more blades in the pool to play with. Need more speed? Add another cube. Each charging station can go up to 400 kW using blades from other chargers or from a cube. Each cube can contain up to 500 kW of DC and can feed from 1–8 charging stations per cube.

Basically, this flexible, future-proof design allows system owners to start small with 1 or 2 chargers with a blade in each and provides flexibility for owners to add more blades or cubes with blades as customer demand grows for faster charging speeds.

The Power of the Network

For those familiar with virtual computing stacks, these power blades operate much like blade servers. The power modules can be hot swapped. They can communicate back to ChargePoint at the individual blade level for predictive maintenance and will automagically fail over to other power modules in the pool in the event of an unplanned failure.

One of ChargePoint’s strengths is the network which comes with a full set of tools and support for owners to configure and tune to deliver the customer experience they are looking for.

Summary

If I sound excited about this innovative new product line, I am. This truly feels like the charging system of the future. Yes, there are still a ton of variables that impact the viability of a charging location — installation costs, utility capability to supply such a massive amount of power in a given location, demand charges, customer demand, site host willingness to commit real estate for cubes, etc., etc., but just the fact that the product exists on the charging side to support faster charging speeds is huge.

I will break this family down in more detail in a future post but wanted to start with the basics of the new family to share this exciting news in a bite-size chunk. If you’re hungry for more information about it NOW, check out the official ChargePoint Express Plus page.

If you’re looking to buy a Tesla, feel free to use my referral link (here) to save $1,000, which is the only way to get a discount on a new Tesla.


Faraday Future Shoots For The Stars With The FF91 Concept

Tonight, Faraday Future unveiled what it believes is not just the next step in the evolution of the automobile. No, the team at Faraday Future have stated that the FF91 is a complete step change. It is a new species. Huh? Yeah, me too. Faraday Future has always acted a bit differently, talked a bit differently, and done things a bit differently, so maybe this is just another Faraday Future thing, but don’t take my word for it — they unpacked a ton of details about the FF91 in the big reveal tonight.

The Outside

The FF91 exterior had been teased for so long by the Faraday Future team that it was almost anticlimactic seeing it revealed tonight, but at the same time, it’s a completely new beast. I can’t shake the feeling that it looks just like a Range Rover Evoque with a full suite of sensors on it, but maybe that’s just me. Even with two different prototypes driving past, it was hard to get a good feel for the car, as the masses were packed in so tight around it for the vast majority of the night.

The UFO line! FF mentioned this mysterious “UFO line” at the reveal of the FFzero1 in January last year and continued that talk tonight. The UFO line manifested itself in the FF91 in the form of a horizontal line about 1/3 of the way up the car that quite honestly doesn’t feel unique or creative, nor does it add anything unique to the exterior of the vehicle.

What it does do is to sound strange. I’m not sure how a company starting out from scratch (albeit, with a fully stacked team) thought it would be a good idea to add such an odd label to a rather unassuming design cue, but hey, there it is. The UFO line is here to stay folks.

Richard Kim, Head Designer at Faraday Future, took the stage to talk about the various styling cues that were integrated into the design of the car and broke the FF91 down into 3 sections — the black section, which includes the tires and rolling chassis (like the Tesla skateboard); the silver section, which is the lateral panel of silver that wraps the car (presumably metal?); and the glass section, which creates unique spaces for each of the passengers in the vehicle (why talk about a driver in an autonomous vehicle?).

Looking towards the rear of the car, there’s a fin on either side of the exterior of the car that reaches up from the silver section into the glass section of the FF91. It creates a very fun effect from the rear, as it creates a gap between the glass and the metal, much like the rear quarter panel section on the BMW i8 (which I love!). It’s not clear that this helps or hurts the drag coefficient of the car, but with it already down at .25, it’s clear that aerodynamics was a priority in the design of the FF91.

Fins

Comparisons

Tonight, Faraday Future talked about the FF91 as a production vehicle. That’s tough to swallow, as this car is still so far from being in production that the title just doesn’t stick. There’s literally not even a factory that can build it let alone a final vehicle for the factory to build. The blatant comparisons between the still-in-development FF91 and a car I can buy today — the Tesla Model S P100DL — frankly seemed disingenuous:

→ 0–60 MPH in 2.39 seconds … just a hair faster than the Tesla Model S P100D (2.5 seconds).

→ 1050 horsepower as compared to Tesla’s  760 horsepower.

→ 200 kW charging as compared to the ~130 kW charging speeds of Tesla Superchargers (though, Tesla recently indicated plans to increase that dramatically)

→ 130 kWh battery (optional) as compared to Tesla’s max pack size of 100 kWh

→ 378 miles of range … versus 315 miles of max Model S range

→ with the ultimate comparison being the in-person drag race between the FF91 and the P100D where the FF car beat out the Tesla Model S P100D by .01 seconds at the event (2.59 vs 2.60).

Looking back on the presentation and the stats shared by the FF team, it’s even more clear that the entire presentation was one big statement that “FF is better than Tesla in every way.” I wish all the best for the FF team but there’s still a long ways to go before the FF91 gets into the hands of consumers.

It’s also odd that the Variable Platform Architecture that FF touted as groundbreaking at CES last year is effectively the same skateboard design that Tesla has for the Model S, just with a better graphical representation when the pack gets larger or smaller.

The FF91

We knew the FF 91 would be autonomous and Faraday Future is still using that language. It’s a tough commitment to make because mandating that it be autonomous at launch can easily delay the car months if not years, as each state and every nation has unique laws governing autonomous driving that need to be worked through before the car could hit the streets.

Shifting to autonomous driving allows all of the passengers to engage with the car via the in-built WiFi hotspots that bridge the “multiple CAT6 LTE modems” into a WiFi network for passengers. Having a high-quality internet connection is critical in the next (unannounced) part of the story — the interior — which is sure to be packed with LeTV-style content consumption options.

Rolling all of this together, the FF91 is a powerhouse of technology mixed with a slew of new EV bones underpinned by the largest battery ever put into a “production” electric vehicle.

The Name

While this is yet to be confirmed by Faraday Future, we have it on good authority that the name 91 (“nine one” … not ninety one) is an amalgam of what Faraday Future calls the best number — 9 — and then 1 for the first version. So, it amounts to the first version of the best car, which is actually pretty neat. It was strange that Faraday Future presented the name of the car without explaining it, but perhaps there was too much to fit into the already bloated agenda and the explanation didn’t make the cut. Or perhaps Faraday Future wanted it to remain a bit mysterious.

What’s Next?

Faraday Future will open up reservations for the FF91 shortly, whereby potential customers can thunk down $5,000 to reserve their very own FF91. That’s a large chunk of cash for a vehicle that has no sales price announced (though, it will likely be up around $100,000), no factory to build it, and no timeline to back up the actual production of the car.

I really do hope the best for the FF team and the FF91 looks great to me … but there are a lot of gaps in the data — large, obvious gaps — that call into question what’s actually happening behind the scenes. Was the presentation this year just a ploy to get potential customers to drop a few thousand, so that FF could use that as capital seed money to build the factory? Is FF a shell company for LeEco? Will the FF91 ever have an actual production run? How much will it cost?

There are a lot of serious questions that beg for more than vague, futuristic answers, but FF seems content to leave potential customers in the dark. There is one thing we know after tonight — time will tell if FF will succeed … and based on the rate at which it was burning through capital in 2016, we’ll know sooner rather than later.

For more information on the Faraday Future FF91, check out the official website and the official press release.

Images credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica 

If you enjoy my articles and are looking to purchase a new Tesla, feel free to use my referral link (here) which will save you $1,000 on the purchase while also helping me to write better content for the site. 

Leveraging Technology To Settle The Climate Change Debate

Originally posted on CleanTechnica

The Backstory

Climate change is a challenge unlike any other ever faced by humanity. It is the slow creep of change starting as a result of actions taken by humanity, building industries that helped hoist us out of thousands of years of toil into decades of technology-enabled prosperity.

But that prosperity exacted a toll that amassed into a series of inconvenient realities that have begun to confront humanity in ways we never could have imagined. Further complicating an already unenviable scenario, the fortunes extracted from the earth were redirected on humanity to intentionally obfuscate the truth, to intentionally introduce doubt to the equation.

These “Merchants of Doubt” had vast funds at their disposal and leveraged past experience to skillfully muddy the waters of truth, converting millions over to the opposition. These factually challenged fellows fight for the old way. They fight for antiquated methods and gladly embrace the blindfolds that keep them in the dark.

The Problem

The great iron of the climate change challenge is that the solutions humanity needs to leverage to reduce emissions at a rate necessary to avert catastrophic climate change already exist. We can generate power in renewable, sustainable ways that are more than sufficient to provide for our current needs and even well into the future.

Electric personal transport, mass transit, and bulk commerce solutions exist and are already being deployed around the globe. Adding insult to injury, many of these technologies are cost competitive with legacy power generation and transportation solutions today, without government subsidies. Change, it turns out, is not easy.

Distilling the problem down to the core issues and pairing them up with respective potential solutions has already been done for many cities, states, and even whole nations.

The missing technological development is not, in fact, another clean technology. We don’t need another 10% efficiency improvement in photovoltaic solar panels or another 200 miles of range in electric cars or even lower-cost lithium-ion batteries for cheaper grid-scale battery installations.

The Solution

What we need is to get clear on the facts. As President Obama recently stated in an interview with Bill Maher, because of this obfuscation, “people have difficulty now just sorting out what’s true and what’s not.” With the explosion of social media over the last 5–10 years, the way people get their news … and the facts that it should contain … has radically changed.

Now, one zinger headline on a clickbait article or picture with a catchy caption can provide a critical mental linkage that reinforces a social or political bias subconsciously. What’s scary is that, as the 2016 US election proved, the facts don’t even matter too much. You read that right — it doesn’t matter if the article, headline, or picture is true.

We latch onto them and share them out to our friends and the echo chamber effect continues. Obama triaged the struggle to communicate the facts, asking “How do we create a space where truth gets eyeballs?” He closed the segment with the summary problem statement: “Let’s agree on facts then argue about means after that.”

Ultimately, this single item — developing and leveraging technology to communicate the facts to the public in a way that is universally accepted — is the largest challenge facing climate change. The day we can communicate truths and facts to the public in a way that’s meaningful and believable is the day the masses will start working in earnest to make the required changes to avert catastrophic climate change.

We already have the technical solutions we need to solve the problem. But it’s all for naught if the people don’t take action.

All images by Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

If you’re looking to buy a Tesla, feel free to use my referral link (here) to save $1,000, which is the only way to get a discount on a new Tesla.

91% Of Tesla Owners Would Buy Another Tesla, Tesla Takes #1 In Consumer Reports Survey

 Originally published on CleanTechnica

Consumer Reports finds itself between the proverbial rock of its own creation — the low reliability rating of Tesla vehicles — and the cold, hard reality that is the uber positive opinions of thousands of Tesla owners. The 2016 Consumer Reports Owner Satisfaction Survey found that Tesla owners were amongst the most satisfied and that 91% would purchase another Tesla.

That puts Tesla #1 in owner satisfaction … by a landslide. It beat #2 Porsche (84%) by a whopping 7 percentage points and #3 Audi (77%) by 14 percentage points.

I have to admit that I do not come into this news as an outsider, but rather, as a veteran owner of a Tesla Model S. My first year of ownership was well documented in our ongoing long-term review, with a more refined summary in my recent “year in review” article.

The results of the Consumer Reports Owner Satisfaction Survey put Tesla far above well established brands such as Porsche, Audi, and Subaru — an impressive result to say the least, especially in light of the well documented reliability issues that persist, particularly in the Tesla Model X.

Rank Brand Would Buy Again
1 Tesla 91%
2 Porsche 84%
3 Audi 77%
4 Subaru 76%
5 Toyota 76%

The Consumer Reports Owner Satisfaction Survey was looking at overall owner satisfaction, with a specific focus on whether they would definitely buy the car again:

“Our brand rankings represent owner sentiment across each brand’s product line. (Model satisfaction is determined by the percentage of owners who responded “definitely yes” to the question of whether they would buy the same vehicle if they had it to do all over again.) To determine brand love—or disdain—we took a straight average of the satisfaction score for each brand’s models.

“Our survey revealed that the TeslaPorscheAudi, and Subaru brands remained in the top four spots again this year. Some other brands were on the move. Lincoln climbed from 21st place last year to 12th this year, and Hyundai shot up to 13th from 24th, based on the strength of new and recently redesigned models.“

While this is only one data point, it highlights just how important the improvements are that Tesla has delivered to consumers (zero emissions at the point of use, electric drive, smooth ride, quiet interior, user-friendly tech, Supercharger network, great customer service, not treating service centers as profit centers, manufacturer owned dealership experience, etc., etc.) when weighed against less-than-stellar reliability that is inevitable in a new mass-market vehicle.

On the flipside of the electric revolution, slow adopters and dieselgaters (cough … VW) didn’t fare so well in the survey:

“Meanwhile, Ram, a brand that sells just pickup trucks and vans, took a huge tumble from last year’s 5th place ranking to 17th. Other brands that fell in the rankings include BMW (from sixth to 14th place) and Volkswagen (from 16th to a dismal 24th).”

Hat tip to Curt Renz over on the Tesla Motor Clubs Forums for highlighting this gem.

If you’re looking to buy a Tesla, feel free to use my referral link (here) to save $1,000, which is the only way to get a discount on a new Tesla.

All images by Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

Tesla Model S – Thoughts After 1 Year of Ownership

Originally published on CleanTechnica

In December 2015, I hatched an admittedly convoluted plan to purchase a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Tesla Model S some 2,600 miles away in Columbus, Ohio; fly out to pick it up; … then drive back to my home in California with a few fun stops along the way. Thankfully, just about everything worked out flawlessly and I made it home safely.

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Picking up my Model S in Columbus, Ohio

Having owned the beast for a year now, I took some time to step back to think about what it’s been like to own a Tesla Model S as compared to our 85 mile range Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive — as well as what ownership is like compared to more conventional gasmobiles.

Summary

Taking a 30,000 foot view of the last year, it has truly been phenomenal. The car drives like a dream. It’s quiet. Thanks to the skateboard design of the battery pack, it has an amazing center of gravity which is a key contributor to great traction, which doubles up with the super intelligent traction control system that all but prevents the wheels from slipping and “burning out.” It’s packed with technology making an IT geek like me smile every time I get in. And it has enough range to make range anxiety a thing of the past.

The Power of the Supercharger

While on my road trip, I vetted the Tesla Supercharger network, which I found to be more than sufficient for long-distance road trips across the arterial highway routes in the US, and with more Superchargers being added seemingly every week. Coming from a year of driving my wife’s electric Mercedes and a few months in a Nissan Leaf of my own, the Tesla Supercharger network truly was a game-changer.

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With CHAdeMO and SAE Combo Level 3 chargers (aka DC fast-charging stations), there are usually only one or two chargers per location. On top of that, they aren’t fast enough to add enough range to truly enable anything even remotely resembling a road trip. On the Chevy Bolt, for instance, stops will have to be ~60 minutes to get a 20–100% charge. Yes, that’s not terrible, but it’s also less than half the speed of a Supercharger, which will add ~170 miles of range in just 30 minutes.

On my road trip and many long-distance trips since, the Superchargers provide the perfect balance of a pit stop — time to go to the bathroom (which are typically in high demand after 2+ hours of driving with my family), grab a coffee or a bite to eat, stretch my legs, and get back on the road. Extending that to an hour adds quite a bit of idle time to the agenda. Yes, it’s still possible … but it’s going in the wrong direction.

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Supercharging is a game-changer for today’s EVs and becomes an absolute “have to have” for EVs with 200+ miles. This single fact will become evident as the masses of Bolt owners hit roads around the US over the next few months.

Service

For better or worse, I was able to experience Tesla service firsthand a few times over the last 12 months. I had my door handle extending mechanisms replaced, which took a ranger appointment and an in-house visit to fix completely. Initially, they were only going to replace the one … but when they were at my house fixing it, they confirmed that the others needed to be replaced as well. To Tesla’s credit, the process was painless and they came out and picked up my car, brought a loaner to me, and vice versa to return my car to me.

Everything about how Tesla processes service requests to how the services are scheduled to the unique approaches to repairing vehicles is a vast improvement over conventional dealerships. For the first door handle, Tesla offered to fix it in my garage with the Ranger service. That meant no dropping my car off, no waiting an hour at the dealership, no hassle of loaner cars … I opened the door and they went to work while I went inside and made dinner. It was great.

For the seatbelt recall earlier this year, Tesla staffed service techs at Supercharger locations to perform the quick 5 minute recall check in order to make it even easier for customers. This was a great example of how Tesla can and is leveraging its unique differences to improve the customer experience.

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In another interaction with Tesla service, I received a proactive call from Tesla Service to schedule a replacement of an electrical switch for the battery that wasn’t performing up to Tesla’s high standards. There was no impact to me and I received a loaner for the duration of the check. It took all of 1 day and I actually enjoyed getting to try out a different configuration of the Model S for a day.

This shows how Tesla is thinking of the vehicle as more of a smartphone than a car. Remote monitoring of vehicle health including diagnostics enables a level of preventive maintenance that simply does not exist in other car companies. This is just one more example of how Tesla doesn’t just have the longest range EV on the road but has exceeded current vehicles in just about every way.

Finally, in my most recent service experience, a notification popped up in my car that my 12 volt battery needed to be replaced. This was a known issue but it happened 2 days before Thanksgiving — for which we were planning to drive several hours a day for the entire weekend. I called Tesla and in under 5 minutes on the phone Tesla had confirmed that the battery needed to be replaced (again remotely, with no action required from me), confirmed that the battery didn’t need to be replaced immediately (had 2 weeks of life left), and had an appointment booked for early the following week.

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Overall, my Model S has had more service issues in 1 year of ownership than my Prius did over 6 years, but frankly, because of how much better the car is than any other car out there, AND just how painless Tesla Service is, I don’t mind it one bit. In fact, I enjoy calling them about an issue because they’re just so darn good at doing service.

A point of caution moving forward: it will be challenging to deliver the same high quality of service as they do today when Model 3 … and Model Y come online. I fully expect service staff to grow over the next 2 years and for the number of service locations to increase accordingly.

The Best Jerry, The Best*

My favorite part of owning the car is the rearview mirror. It’s no technical marvel — though, it is photochromatic, meaning it gets darker when bright lights (headlights) are shining in it, but that’s beside the point. I love seeing the people behind me pointing at my car and having little discussions. In addition to being in a Tesla, which draws looks by itself, my license plate is “NOGAAAS,” which helps close the gap for folks who aren’t as familiar with Tesla or electric cars.

I imagine what they’re saying and can honestly tell when they are talking about the car. I love that the car gets people talking about it. They may just know that Tesla is a nice car or a fast car or a high-tech car, which gets people excited about it … but it’s also an electric car, and to have people excited about electric cars and to get them talking about them is a huge win.

The car starts the discussion and I’ve swooped in many times to fill in any gaps in knowledge about it — dozens of times over the months I’ve owned it. For people I know, I’ve had several dozen people drive it. Again — it’s a sexy car and that draws people in and gets things going. Perhaps unsurprisingly, nobody was asking to drive my LEAF when I owned it … or my wife’s electric Mercedes. The Tesla is a different beast.

*This subheading refers to a somewhat obscure scene / character from the popular sitcom Jerry Seinfeld. 🙂

Put a Bow on It

In summary, this is the best car I’ve ever owned. When combined with the Supercharging network, it definitively puts range anxiety to rest once and for all. It packs more tech than any car I’ve seen in a way that’s more intuitive than I would have thought possible. It drives better (and quieter!) than any other car out there, and is faster to boot.

The Tesla app on my smartphone gives me all sorts of fun control and visibility of what it’s doing that has been helpful to me more than a few times. It can even unlock and turn on the car, allowing it to drive without a key in it. My wife — who’s not the most tech-friendly person and not a huge EV fan — feels comfortable driving in it with minimal instruction … which is great for my stress level and our marriage. 🙂

The only downside is the price … and that’s going to improve by leaps and bounds in another 12 months.

If you’re looking to buy a Tesla, feel free to use my referral link (here) to save $1,000, which is the only way to get a discount on a new Tesla.

All images by Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

Maxem Adds Intelligence To Residential Home Electric Systems

Originally published on Clean Technica

Transitions Now was founded by Jan-Willem Heinen with a very simple goal that is summed up on its homepage: “we build cleantech companies.” After a bit of research into Transitions Now and the companies operating within, I had seen enough to want to dig in a bit further, and seeing as how I was already planning to be in Amsterdam for a few days in July, I arranged for a visit to the office.

After a bit of searching and a fair amount of exploring the new city on bike (aka, getting lost), I found the offices tucked away in a modern neighborhood in northeastern Amsterdam. Stepping into the office, I could feel the excited energy of the place as if it were almost tangible. People buzzing around in all directions, huddled around desks, fervently working on the latest challenge or development … it was clear that progress was being made, the common goal was being moved forward.

I was primarily interested in the one startup underneath the Transitions Now banner, Cohere, and its flagship product, Maxem. Cohere was launched in 2011 as the brainchild of Jan-Willem Heinen, who saw a gap in the current EV charging offerings when it came to enabling homeowners to charge at home on the often current-limited home electricity grid connections that are typical in Europe.

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A Connected, Intelligent Solution

Maxem is an end-to-end solution that revolves around a small piece of hardware that taps into the home electric box as well as key large power users in the home like EV chargers, the heat pump, home energy storage, and residential power generation units like solar or wind.

With all of this connectivity, the Maxem solution maximizes the synergies between the various systems with a focus on first measuring consumption and generation, then applying its intelligence to control the individual appliances on the home grid. The ultimate goal of Maxem is to help the electricity appliances in the home work together to reduce peak energy pricing costs, eliminate the need to pull power from the grid, and, ultimately, to reduce the carbon footprint of the home.

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Dynamic Scaling

Maxem speaks in kilowatt-hours as the universal language of energy and can dynamically scale the power consumption of these major consumption units to smooth out the power pulled by the home.

For example, if the EV is charging during the middle of the day, the power from the rooftop PV solar system can be directly funneled into the EV instead of pulling from the grid. In markets where net metering accommodations are not available or are not consumer friendly, keeping PV generation on site is a big benefit.

The system also dynamically balances home energy usage and EV charging draws to stay under max loads. When home energy usage drops, Maxem intelligently funnels the unused capacity to the EV and, conversely, will slow down EV charging if the home energy usage increases.

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The Dashboard

Underpinning the Maxem hardware is the brains of the operation, which the owner interacts with through a streamlined, modern software dashboard that shows with beautiful simplicity the work being done by the system. Key metrics include Solar Generation, Home Usage, EV Charger Usage, % Sustainable, and other key metrics.

For me, this is data that I pull manually and dump into my home energy tracking spreadsheet, so having an intelligent, beautiful system pull it for me would be a huge win. The metrics are all presented in a “single pane of glass” with obvious color coding that makes it clear how the home is performing vs. the ideal state.

Check out the very recently launched beta of the dashboard here (that actually went live when I was there!) to see what it looks and feels like.

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Availability, Pricing, etc.

The Maxem solution is currently available throughout Europe, with global deployments in the works. Due the hardware connectivity of the solution, each region is being assessed individually to ensure the tightest integration possible.

The solution is currently priced at €595, which includes installation by a certified professional. This is sure to be another challenge for the solution, as building a network of certified, trained installers takes time — though, on the upside, the solution install appears fairly straightforward and is something most electricians should be able to tackle.

The Tesla Supercharging Crisis On The Horizon

Originally published on CleanTechnica

With several affordable vehicles on the horizon that will be capable of 200 miles or more of all-electric range, the last major problem for EVs and EV manufacturers to truly solve is super fast public charging, or what we have dubbed Level 4 charging.

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Image courtesy Redditor Dakujem

Tesla is currently the only automaker to offer reasonable long-distance charging with its Superchargers running at ~135 kW, but that infrastructure is about to be pounded into the ground by hundreds of thousands of Tesla Model 3 owners unless something changes.

In the Model 3 unveiling last week, Elon Musk shared that Supercharging would be included with the Model 3 but stopped short of claiming that it would include free Supercharging, as has been the case with the Model S and X. This is a divergence from previous statements that Supercharging would be free for the Model 3.

Tragedy of the Commons

Looking at Supercharging, one of the key challenges is that it’s free. When humans can get something for free, even when it’s just a few bucks worth of power, we act irrationally and selfishly, which is a behavior captured in a theory call the “tragedy of the commons.” Per Wikipedia, the tragedy of the commons is:

“an economic theory of a situation within a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently and rationally according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting that resource.”

Stories of wealthy Tesla drivers using Superchargers every day as their main charging solutions are on the forums and are evidence of this behavior. Spending 30 minutes every day to sit around to save $3 in electricity at home is not a logical behavior for someone driving a $100,000 car, and results in charging stations being unavailable for long-distance drivers.

Tesla has already reached out to frequent … excessive … abusive … and even some infrequent Supercharging users, asking them to take it easy … and this is just with the Model S putting load on the Supercharging network. Imagine when we have 2 more years of full production volume of the S and the X weighing down on  it… Tesla Superchargers could be in for a world of hurt in no time, as defined by long lines and general unreliability of the Supercharging network.

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Supercharging in Redondo Beach | Image Credit: Kyle Field

Why Supercharging

Fixing Supercharging doesn’t mean that all of a sudden everyone has to pay for Supercharging. Stepping back from the problem to look at why Supercharging exists in the first place helps us to understand what levers can be pulled to improve the system.

Tesla developed and deployed Supercharging to fill a functionality gap for EVs and to enable long-distance travel. That’s the base use case and in these early days of Level 4 infrastructure deployment, the key reason for Level 4 chargers. This is not saying that Superchargers are not great for a quick topup or for filling up after a long day of driving around town … but that’s not what Tesla built them for.

As Supercharging networks continue to grow, there will be a natural evolution of the system to support additional use cases, but in the meantime, there is an opportunity to leverage system controls to optimize system availability. Long-distance travel and fast charging become much more relevant considerations as EVs with more than 200 miles range become the norm — as long-distance travel with sub-100 mile range EVs is painful in most scenarios anyway.

The Radius Model

Finding the sweet spot in keeping the system functional while also assuring availability is a delicate balance but is not unsolvable. Implementing a system wherein charging closer to home is not free provides an incentive for EV owners to charge at home and lightens the load on the distributed public charging network that otherwise becomes clogged by the tragedy of the commons effect we typically see with free charging.

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Great availability, low utilization | Image Credit: Kyle Field

For local charging within 50 miles of home, it is critical to bill for EV charging, as this is where 90%+ of all driving takes place. When local charging is not regulated, EV drivers gravitate towards utilizing public charging stations instead of home charging, which consumes charging spaces that could otherwise be useful for long-distance travelers. A healthy price point for local charging would be to use peak electricity rates.

For mid-range charging at ranges of 50–100 miles from home, an EV driver can still round-trip a destination on a single charge, so public charging at these distances is not absolutely required. Charging pass-through rates for power at mid-range charging stations strikes a balance that allows EV drivers to charge remotely without a penalty but clearly removes the incentive to “convenience charge.”

For long-range charging over 100 miles from the home, Level 4 charging can remain free as this is the intended use-case.

Implementing a radius model to govern charging ensures that chargers are available for the base use case while also giving EV drivers the freedom to utilize public super fast charging stations if needed, with minimal penalty. For EV drivers without home chargers, workplace chargers provide the best balance between cost, availability, and charging time.

As the Level 4 charging network catches up with EV sales growth, models can be adjusted to strike the right balance between cost, availability, and charging time. Currently, the balance is tenuous at best, but with Tesla being the only EV manufacturer to truly invest in a Level 4 charging network and ensure integration with its fleet of EVs, the balance is sure to deteriorate as Model 3 comes online.

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Tesla Model 3 on the test track | Image Credit: Kyle Field

At the Model 3 unveiling last week, Tesla shared plans to double the Supercharging network by the end of 2017, and a parallel effort to improve the destination charging program with a planned four-fold increase in the same timing.

Building and managing Level 4 public charging is a key step to ensuring robust EV charging that meets the needs of EV drivers, but with Model 3 on the horizon, it is at a critical junction as EV adoption moves from the Early Adopters to the Early Majority and the volume of EVs on the road ramps up significantly. Left unmanaged, the volume of vehicles would quickly overwhelm the current and planned super fast charging network and render it effectively unusable.