Category Archives: Electric Vehicles

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 

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.

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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. 

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

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.

EV Charging — The Time For A Single Fast-Charging Standard Is Now!

Originally posted on CleanTechnica

The EV charging network is the gas station network for EV owners — the only place to fill up and top off when out on the town, driving around the fringes of an EV’s range. What’s more, charging up an EV takes longer than fueling up an ICE vehicle, so the quantity and availability of charging stations makes a huge impact on the functionality of EVs. To further complicate matters, the growing fleet of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) that don’t have the same “need” to charger can frequently be found charging at public EV charging locations, blocking out battery electric vehicle (BEV) drivers that, as a result, might not be able to get the charge they need to continue to their destination.

As BEVs and PHEVs increase in popularity, the current public EV charging infrastructure will also need to be scaled up to support the fleet. The lack of an EV fast charging standard further complicates the landscape, fragmenting the already struggling infrastructure with several standards competing for dominance, and manufacturers are drawing lines in the sand and picking teams to determine which standard will reign supreme.

Where We Came From — Level 2 Charging

With the initial deployment of EVs, what we now call Level 2 chargers were deployed far and wide to incentivize the public to purchase electric vehicles. These chargers provide charging rates of 6.6 kilowatt-hours for each hour of charging. In a Leaf, that equates to around 24 miles of range per hour of charging. These chargers were a fantastic start at developing a public charging network and gave early adopters the confidence to purchase a $30,000 vehicle with a reduced range.

Level 2 public chargers allowed people to extend the practical range of their EVs with just a few hours of charging required to top off their charge before heading on to another destination. Level 2 chargers are now installed in garages of many EV owners and the public network of chargers has only continued to grow as EV adoption has increased.

Building a Better System — Early DC Fast Charging

To complement these chargers, Level 3 chargers — or DC fast chargers — have started popping up. Level 3 chargers brought a significant advantage to the table in terms of charging speed and were able to push ~19 kWhs in a 30-minute session, equating to the addition of roughly 80% of the charge or an extra 76 miles of range. Charging rates slow as the battery nears the 90% full range, so, your mileage may vary.

DC fast chargers have grown into the gas stations of the EV charging network in most areas, as they allow ~80% charge in the time it takes to enjoy a cup of coffee or grab a bite to eat.

Similar to early Level 2 chargers, Level 3 chargers are expensive, with installations requiring significant electrical infrastructure in addition to a hardware cost upwards of $100,000 each in the US. Due to the high capital cost required to install Level 3 chargers, early installations have been slower and mostly implemented by companies dedicated to charging infrastructure likeNRG EVgo and ChargePoint. These chargers started popping up in major cities, then made their way into smaller cities across the nation.

DC Fast Charging Today

Which brings us to today. In the southwestern United States, we have a healthy network of Level 2 chargers supported by a sprinkling of Level 3 DC fast chargers. On top of this mature network, EV sales have ramped up and are weighing heavily on our primarily Level 2 charging network. Many modern EVs are equipped with fast charging capability, with many supporting higher speeds than the current networks even provide. As we approach the next step change in EVs — with ranges of 200 miles requiring batteries of 60 kilowatt-hours and more — we are again approaching a point where even our fastest chargers today will not meet the needs of the masses.

CHAdeMO

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Kia Soul EV CHAdeMO Adapter (on right) | Image Credit: Kyle Field

CHAdeMO plugs are the size of a large firehose, making its charging cables unwieldy, and it is the fast charging adapter of choice for the Kia Soul EV, Citroen, Mitsubishi EVs, Peugots, and of course, Nissan and the established Leaf (as an option). CHAdeMO offers charging speeds of up to 70 kW, with real-life 30-minute charging sessions delivering just over 19 kWh of charge or around 75 miles of extra range (on a Nissan Leaf). CHAdeMO is seeing extremely rapid adoption in Japan, with around 5,500 stations deployed today (crazy considering how small Japan is!). The US — specifically, California — is ramping up deployment of CHAdeMO stations quickly as well, where over 1,300 stations have been deployed.

SAE Combined Charging Solution

Competing with CHAdeMO for the DC fast charging crown is the newer SAE Combined Charging Solution (aka SAE Combo, or CCS), which is a standard J1772 plug with 2 additional DC fast charging ports below it (hence the combo moniker). This newer standard is the fast charging standard of choice for Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Porsche, and Volkswagen. Most notably, this port can be found on the BMW i3, the Chevrolet Spark EV, and the Volkswagen eGolf. Combo adapters are similar in size to CHAdeMO, though due to the utilization of the existing J1772 plug, only require a single port on the car, whereas CHAdeMO requires 2 separate on-vehicle ports.

These Combo plugs offer maximum speeds of up to 90 kW (DC Level 2) with theoretical speeds of up to 240 kW. In real life, SAE Combo charge rates are comparable to CHAdeMO, delivering roughly 80% of the range of ~100 mile EVS in a 30-minute fast charging session.

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Tesla Supercharger in Oxnard, CA | Image Credit: Kyle Field

Supercharged

Finally, the Tesla charging format supports all charging levels from Level 1 (normal wall outlets at 110 volts) up to the Tesla-only DC Supercharging network which boasts the fastest broadly available charging speeds, cranking up to 400 miles of range per hour (design rate) with a real-world miles delivered in 30 minutes of Supercharging sitting at 170 miles. This does not scale up linearly (170 x 2 = 340 miles of range delivered per hour), as charging slows when the battery approaches capacity — but it’s still extremely impressive and much faster than any other fast charging standard with a substantial deployed footprint.

The Tesla charging standard is also much more compact than the other standards and can be used for all charging speeds — from 110v wall charging @ 15 amps all the way up to Supercharging.

The Road to the Future

Where to from here? Ultimately, the market will decide which manufacturer and, thus, which standard prevails. Manufacturers are realizing the negative sales impact the current, scattered public charging network is having and building out branded charging networks. Much like the VHS vs Beta or the HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray battles of the past, fragmented landscapes rarely last for long. We will likely converge on a single standard, but the longer the transition is drawn out, the more consumers — and EV adoption rates — will suffer. We need a fast charging standard now to give manufacturers and consumers confidence in EVs long into the future.

Several clear paths exist — though, with sides having already been chosen, no option will be pain-free. An NGO or charging alliance could be formed as a neutral self-governing body to select a dominant standard moving forward. Though, this is challenging as these organizations cost money and offer little financial upside for participants. Government mandates can also create results and that feels like what may be required to unify manufacturers as an effort to protect consumers from non-value-added infrastructure fragmentation.

Whatever the path forward, the time for action is now. Consumers are calling out for a single EV fast charging standard to carry us several decades into the future….

My Epic Tesla Road Trip

Originally published on CleanTechnica

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Upon rolling out of the Tesla Dealership… er… Service Center in Columbus, Ohio, a few things hit me right off the bat: The new-car feeling, realizing that this was my car. The realization that now I really was pretty much on the other side of the country and actually had to drive back across the ~3,700 kilometers at around 33 hours of driving. The fact that I only had one room booked between Ohio and Vegas … and what the heck, I just bought a Tesla!?!

I wanted to take off like a bat of hell and drive 120 miles an hour down the road, tearing up the asphalt… but I’ve been there and done that and tickets (and accidents!) are expensive no matter what state you’re in. So I calmed myself down, took a sip of the coffee CJ had so generously hooked me up with, set the cruise control for 65, and pointed the wheels to the west.

The next day, after a few hours of rest, several stops at Superchargers, hundreds of miles, and too many cups of coffee, I had a good feel for the car and how it worked on long road trips. While the car generally met my expectations, a few things stuck out to me about the car that I hadn’t expected.

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Supercharging in Columbia, MO

Automagic Unlocking

Locking the car, for one. The Model S automagically locks (it’s an optional setting) when the driver walks away with the key fob. At first, I would nervously look out at the car from the gas station, coffee shop, or lunch stop to confirm that the handles were in, lights were off, and all that. After several stops, I realized that it just works. Put it in park, get out, walk away, and you’re good. It’s awesome. No parking brake, no locking or unlocking the car… easy.

Power at Your Fingertips

The power of the car is also amazing. With a single-motor, non-performance version of the Model S, I was not expecting amazing performance, but it blows me away. I used to have a ’97 Pontiac Trans Am, which I had done some work on, so I’m familiar with performance cars, but the smooth, torquey power of the Model S is a different beast altogether, and a lot more fun in my opinion.

Going 30 but want to go 65? Done. Going 65 and want to pass the smoggy diesel pickup in front of you? No problem. It’s something I’m still working on dampening, as it just begs to go faster than most laws allow. My favorite is pounding the pedal while cruising at around 20–30 miles per hour. It jumps like nothing else… okay, except may be a P90D with Ludicrous Mode :D.

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Supercharging in Colorado

Supercharging

I will go into more detail about Supercharging in a separate article, but suffice it to say that it blows the competition away. Triple the speed of the next fastest charger, predictable, built into the navigation, and easy to use. It’s great. I loved being able to punch in whatever destination I wanted, however far away, with the confidence that the car would navigate to the nearest charger automatically.

Most of the Superchargers were located at hotels, gas stations (of all places!), shopping plazas, and otherwise near facilities that could occupy 30 minutes of a day, which was nice. A few stops required a bit more creativity to answer the calls of nature or get a bite of food. I found the ability of the car to keep the heating on while charging to be a great feature that I took advantage of extensively on my journey.

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My favorite Supercharger — at a BP gas station in Effington, IL

Indecisive Navigation

One glitch that I noticed in the navigation is that, after topping up at a Supercharger then heading down the highway, the navigation would occasionally try to route me back to the charger I had just left (after charging for the amount of time it told me to charge for).

This even happened a few times after I was 20 minutes down the road like it suddenly realized I needed more capacity to make the next charger. It did not make sense to me, as I typically had 50–80 miles of “spare” range above and beyond what was required to get to the next charger. It was not a deal breaker and I was able to manually navigate through it by turning off charging stop recommendations, but it seems like a bug in the logic that could be corrected.

Navigation Range Estimation

Along similar lines, the navigation is conservative, but with caveats. First — it is conservative as it tries to ensure that you have WAY more charge than needed to get to the next destination. If I’m going 65 miles to the next charger, it wants me to have at least 110 miles of range to move on.supercharging

The caveat to the estimated range is that external factors like elevation gains, climate controls (heating/cooling), driving speeds, and outside weather can (and did!) have large impacts on range. It was not clear if the navigation was actively taking those factors into account — or at least for the static, predictable factors — but it seems like it could more accurately describe why it wants more charge at certain times.

On my trip, I drove over the Rocky Mountains (very steep, cold mountains in the Western United States), drove in sub-zero temperatures, and as a result, used the cabin heating frequently. I was aware of the impacts these would have, but an unfamiliar driver, not realizing the interrelationships between these factors could easily end up stranded in their Tesla. These factors are also present in gasmobiles, but with gas stations on every corner and most freeway exits, it is less of an issue. Growing pains…

The video below details some of my jumbled learnings from the road. I was happy to find that the speedometer display was the right angle to capture this specific angle with my phone, making it easy to record videos and video chat with my kids while out on the road. Technology is amazing.

All images and videos by Kyle Field