Gordon Rodda

A new mass-market SUV comes to Western Colorado

A new mass-market SUV comes to Western Colorado
from caranddriver.com/volkswagen/id4

When I talk to prospective EV buyers on the street, I find that positive responses fall into two broad categories: 1) I like going really fast and boy do EVs rip!, and 2) EVs are so efficient that they enable me to travel with very little burden on my pocketbook or planet, especially if I drive moderately. The latest entry into our EV market will likely appeal most to the second group.

VW has announced that it will soon be shipping their ID.4 all-electric compact SUV to US buyers. Our closest VW dealership is Grand Junction VW (970 255-6677). There are already two SUV class cars in our area: the Tesla X full-size SUV ($80-100K) and the “compact” or “crossover” SUV Tesla Y ($50K and up). The AWD variant of the ID.4 (comparable to the Tesla Y in size and drive wheels) is projected to sell for about $45 K (before tax rebates) when it becomes available in 2021. The rear-wheel drive (RWD) variant of the VW.4 may start to arrive this year (2020). Because VW is new to the BEV market in the US, it is still eligible for a substantial federal tax rebate (up to $7500 as of now); buyers in Colorado are also eligible for a state tax rebate (up to $4000 presently). After rebates, the VW enjoys a substantial price advantage (up to about $15,000) over the Y. The other feature in which they differ is the ability to tow: the RWD ID.4 will tow up to 2100 pounds, the AWD ID.4 will tow up to 2700 pounds. The Y is not set up to tow. Frankly, I’m a bit skeptical that the RWD ID.4 (201 hp versus the 302 hp of the AWD version) could do justice to our mountain roads towing a 2100 pound trailer, but I also question why a year-round resident of Colorado would be happy with the slightly less expensive RWD version, when the AWD one is right around the corner. The range of the ID.4 is estimated to be 250 miles (I don’t believe the EPA assessment of range has been released); the Y variant currently for sale is EPA-rated at 316 miles, substantially better than the ID.4.

In other respects, the competing “compact SUVs” are fairly similar. Charging rates, storage capacity, and superb autopilot features are roughly the same. For example the ID.4’s cargo space is claimed to be 64.2 cubic feet (with the back seats down); that of Tesla’s Y is 68 cubic feet. VW does not claim over-the-air software upgrades. The VW comes with 3 years of free charging at Electrify America fast chargers (a rapidly expanding network, mostly along the interstate highways in Colorado); Tesla buyers have (paid) access to the Tesla network. On what basis might one choose? One Durango buyer prefers the VW because it is a “normal car which happens to be electric. Not an electric car that is made such that it doesn’t appear to the general public because of all the compromises.”

The VW has three features that worry me: 1) Across the full width of the dash the ID.4 has a light bar that flashes in various patterns to communicate, especially warnings, to the driver. If a deer runs across the road in front of me, the last thing I would want is for the whole dashboard to start flashing and draw my attention away from the road. 2) The VW is very reliant on touch screens, as opposed to knobs and switches. I have a lot of trouble with touch screens at the best of times, and they are a particular annoyance in the winter when I might be wearing gloves that do not conduct electricity. For example, the VW has a touch screen on the driver’s arm rest to select whether a tap applies to opening the rear windows or the front windows. I don’t want to have to look down at the armrest while I’m driving; I want to feel for the pattern of switches and choose the appropriate one. 3) The rear brakes on the VW are drum brakes, not disks. In our mountains, especially when towing, I would be more comfortable with disk brakes all around. VW says the drums facilitate regenerative braking.

Finally, a few niggling details about charging. VW prominently notes that the ID.4 can charge from 5% to 80% of full charge state in 38 minutes. This is true when using a sufficiently powerful fast charger (125 kW), but buyers should be aware that they might not always have such a capable charger. For example, the new fast chargers planned for downtown Durango (and at 50 mile intervals along US 285 to Denver) are rated at 125 KW if a single car is attached, but only 62.5 kW if two cars are hooked up at the same time. Similarly, at home the promised charging rate (11 kW) requires a 50 Amp circuit, but many homes do not have such a circuit. If the 82 kWh battery in the ID.4 were completely exhausted prior to recharging with a home 11 kW charger, it would take about 8 hours for a full charge, but if your home supported only a 30 Amp circuit, the maximum charging rate would likely be about 5.8 kW, requiring 15-16 hours for a full charge. At the present time, when charging rates are not standardized or well understood, it is prudent to do some wiring “homework” prior to taking the manufacturers’ claims of charging rates at face value.

Overall the ID.4 (and Tesla Y) are solid “compact” SUVs that will power drivers through most snowy and mountainous driving year round in our area. Neither is a candidate for off-roading. Either could replace an aging Subaru that is unavailable in electric. The Y has a little more range and a little bigger price tag. The ID.4 will tow.


How has covid affected EVs so far?

How has covid affected EVs so far?

The covid pandemic has battered companies worldwide, especially automobile producers. The glaring exception has been Tesla, whose global sales have soared even while the majors tanked (especially in the second quarter of 2020). For at least one month, sales of the Tesla’s Model 3 in California exceeded those of any other model – gas or electric – by any manufacturer. This may account in part for the aggressive behavior of Elon Musk in attempting to exempt his US manufacturing plant from covid workplace restrictions. Globally, Tesla is now the unchallenged leader in EV sales, with first half 2020 model 3 sales exceeding those of all other models by a factor of about ten (the second place model is one sold only in Europe). Sales of EVs of other manufacturers have held up better than those of internal combustion engine (ICE) models, but only marginally so. The Chevy Bolt is doing okay, but is not in the same league as sales of the comparable Tesla model 3.

To what can we attribute the phenomenal sales record of Tesla? It isn’t their network of local dealerships (the nearest are in Albuquerque and Denver). The chatter in the automotive and investment magazines has focused on the technological prowess of Tesla engineers. Many have mentioned the cult-like allegiance of Tesla owners, and the over-the-air software updates. Investors have shifted vast funds into the purchase of EV stocks, with the result that Tesla is now arguably overpriced (at one point the nominal value of Tesla exceeded that of the other major car manufacturers and traditionally mighty enterprises such as Exxon-Mobil and Microsoft). Today the price of Tesla’s stock has fallen back to a still extraordinary level, and it is paralleled by soaring evaluations of companies that have yet to produce an EV: Rivian and Lordstown for example.

I am awed by the success of Tesla, and wonder what is behind it. My hunch is that Tesla’s long-lasting batteries, cool features, and over-the-air software updates are only part of the story. Furthermore, post-purchase consumer feedback suggests that Tesla may have the highest rate of assembly flaws of any car manufacturer. The J.D. Power survey of 2020 model-year purchasers found an average of 166 problems per 100 vehicles over all manufacturers, but 250 problems per 100 Tesla vehicles (cnbc.com/2020/06/24/tesla-lags -auto-industry-in-qualiy-finds-new-jd-power-study.html). And Teslas can be pricey. Certainly, Tesla gains from its notoriety, but I think car buyers are holding back from buying the other brands of EVs because those do not come with a network of fast chargers for cross country travel. The other car manufacturers are waiting for the public (i.e. tax dollars) to build the needed charging infrastructure; Tesla invested. What do you think is responsible for Tesla’s success? If you have an idea, please add a comment to the box following this article; civil opinions will appear on the site after cursory screening for relevance (we get a torrent of spam).


New fast chargers in our area

New fast chargers in our area

The daisy-chain of high-speed chargers planned for the US-285/US-160 corridor between Cortez and Denver is finally springing to life. Pagosa Springs (445 Pagosa St.) has a new fast charger with CHAdeMO and CCS/SAE connectors (adaptor required for Tesla). The new chargers are right downtown, overlooking the river, next to the existing level II chargers. There are two stations, each with both types of connector; if both connectors for a given station are in use, each connector will deliver 62.5 kW, but a single user will receive 125 kW. The full amount will charge most pure electric vehicles to 80% of full charge in 30-50 minutes.

Next in line is Durango, where a similar Charge Point fast-charging station is planned for early 2021 at the transit center (250 W. 8th St.). Further west there are existing fast chargers in Bluff UT and Monticello UT; further north there are similar but slightly slower (62.5 kW) chargers in Lake City CO and Creede CO. The Tesla Superchargers (150 kW) in our area are in Farmington NM (4200 Sierra Vista Dr.) and Blanding UT (12 N. Grayson Parkway).


Reminder to EV owners in the LPEA service area (La Plata and Archuleta Counties, Colorado)

On 1 July LPEA initiated a “demand charge” for residential electricity users. The point of the new charge is to “bend the curve” of electrical demand down at the time of day when high use is straining the capacity of the grid. EV owners are exceptionally well placed to assist in this endeavor, because most can automatically shift their charging time away from the peak demand period (4-9 PM) until later at night, when surplus electricity is available. Regardless of the new charge on our electric bills, this is a great idea, as shifting EV charging to times of power surplus will reduce the need to build more power plants. In most cases, this will not inconvenience EV users in the slightest; on the rare occasions when it might (you need to drive again in the evening after arriving home with a dead battery), tap the “override” button on your car’s charging display when you plug it in, and it will charge immediately.

The charge works as follows: LPEA calculates which single hour of a billing month you used the most electricity between 4 and 9 PM. It then charges you a high rate ($1.50/kwh) for that hour. Note that LPEA’s power supplier (LPEA has an electricity bill to pay too, for purchasing bulk electricity from Tri-State) charges 460 times more for the one hour of highest usage per month than it does for power used at other times. LPEA is passing a tiny fraction of this surcharge along to the consumer in an effort to nudge residential customers into shifting their usage to other times of day (https:\\lpea.coop/rates#collapse-accordion-173-4). Note that this extra charge does not apply to residential users that have already adopted time-of-use billing. Most EV users that do not have their own generation (e.g., photovoltaic [PV] panels) are likely to benefit from time-of-use billing. Most residents with PV panels with not benefit from time-of-use billing.

To automate your car’s charging schedule, open the charging options screen on your car’s dash and set the hours of 4-9 PM to be a “peak electricity” billing time, set the charging schedule to prioritize charging during off-peak hours, and then set the other options to ensure that your car will be charged by the time you are likely to next need it (typically 7 or 8 AM). All EVs have some menu choice to easily override this charging block-out, on specific occasions when overriding is desired. For example, on my Volt, a window pops up when I open the charging port, and the button across the bottom of the screen allows me to “override this time.” EV owners’ ability to shift electrical use to non-peak hours is one of the primary reasons why electric utilities love EVs.


Thinking about a new Bolt or Leaf; now is the time

Once a year the Durango-based organization 4Core (Four Corners Office for Resource Efficiency) puts together a “group buy” for electric cars sold at a sharp discount. In exchange for placing a large order, the dealers drop prices for those buying through 4Core (contact: Laurie@4CORE.org). The Durango Nissan dealer has consistently reduced prices by thousands of dollars for those buying a Leaf, and most non-Tesla EV owners in the Four Corners are Leaf-owners as a result. This year, in addition to great discounts on Leafs ($3000 off from Nissan, $1000 off from Nissan of Durango, and eligibility for a federal tax credit of up to $7500), Laurie has cajoled Morehart-Murphy Chevrolet into offering impressive discounts on 2020 Bolts: $8500 off from GM; $1000 off from Morehart-Murphy, and eligibility for a Colorado tax credit of up to $4000. These are exceptional discounts, unlikely to be repeated, available through the end of July


EVs under threat from COVID?

Today’s New York Times (10 March 2020) contains two articles about EVs. Although the articles appear independently, they speak to each other. In the automotive section is one entitled “Tesla’s Success in Europe Catches Industry Off Guard”. It notes that the Model 3 is, after only a few months on the European market, the third-highest selling car in Europe, “outselling competing models by BMW, Mercedes, and Audi.” In contrast, the coronavirus news section of the Times highlights the slowing economy and European government efforts to stimulate demand: “Oliver Zipse, the chief executive of BMW, said last week that European governments should put less pressure on automakers to stop selling cars with internal combustion engines….The most important thing the government should do is not prematurely rule out some kinds of propulsion.”

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Novel Colorado legislation would allow direct-to-consumer sales of BEVs

Tesla is already doing this, but apparently there is a general prohibition against direct-to-consumer sales of cars that new Colorado legislation would alleviate, but only for BEVs. This may be a response to recent opposition of the car dealers (and support by the car manufacturers) to Colorado’s Zero-emission Vehicle standard. Here’s the message we got today from the Denver EV group:

Last Thursday Senate Bill SB20-167 was introduced and assigned to the Senate Transportation & Energy Committee. The bill is titled: “Electric Motor Vehicle Manufacturer & Dealer” – Concerning increasing consumer access to electric motor vehicles by allowing manufacturers to sell their own electric motor vehicles directly to consumers.

The bill Summary is as follows: “Current law states that, with certain exceptions, a motor vehicle manufacturer may not own, operate, or control any motor vehicle dealer or used motor vehicle dealer in Colorado. The bill creates a new exception that allows the ownership, operation, or control of a motor vehicle dealer that sells electric motor vehicles of a manufacturer’s line-make. An “electric motor vehicle” is a motor vehicle that can operate entirely on electrical power.”

The hearing for this bill will be this Tuesday (2-18) at 2:00 PM in the Old Supreme Court Chambers at the State Capitol. If you can’t testify in person and would like to share your views with the Committee, you may email the five committee members. They are:
Senator Faith Winter, Chair faith.winter.senate@state.co.us
Senator Kerry Donovan, Vice Chair kerry.donovan.senate@state.co.us
Senator Mike Foote mike.foote.senate@state.co.us
Senator Dennis Hisey dennis.hisey.senate@state.co.us
Senator Ray Scott ray.scott.senate@state.co.us

As a courtesy to the committee members, you may want to put “SB20-167 For” or “SB20-167 Against” in the Subject line. Also include a brief reason for your view in the text of the email. This legislation might be especially germane to the Four Corners insofar as so few dealers in the Four Corners are supporting EVs.


A solution for parking garages lacking chargers

Volkswagen is promoting (https://newatlas.com/automotive/volkswagen-autonomous-electric-vehicle-charging-robots/) a new twist on the problem of building difficult or expensive charging ports into every parking space: robots that bring the juice to the needy cars. We know of apartment complexes in Durango that are flummoxed by the problem that every parking space is assigned to an individual apartment, and there are no extra spaces that could be devoted to charging EVs. Even if there were a few such extra spaces, there would be conflicts over how many dedicated charging spaces to create and who is the reprobate responsible for leaving their fully charged car in the space overnight, preventing others from charging.

VW’s solution is a autonomous charger that, when requested through a car owner’s smartphone, hooks the car up to a battery wagon that the robot guides from needy car to needy car. The wagon can be hooked up to several cars simultaneously, and the robot will switch hookups as needed to ensure that all the cars get charged.


Federal tax credit reinstated for 2018-2020 EV purchases and chargers

Chevy Bolt taking care of Christmas.

Current EVents (Jan 2020, the magazine of the Electric Auto Association) reported:

Receive a federal tax credit of 30% of the cost of purchasing and installing an EV charging station (up to $1,000 for residential installations and up to $30,000 for commercial installations) with this retroactive credit.

Previously, this federal tax credit expired on December 31, 2017, but is now retroactively extended through December 31, 2020. The full details can be viewed on the U.S. Department of Energy website: https://afdc.energy.gov/laws/10513.


December 2019 EV Policy Updates

by Gordon Rodda 0 Comments

Utilities join CA & CO against plan to force states to abandon Zero Emission Vehicle Standards

There is a very complicated legal fight underway pitting California against the Trump Administration (covered in: www.eenews.net/climatewire/2019/12/05/stories/1061727197). We have a dog in this fight because Colorado has chosen to follow the California rules on sales of zero emission vehicles (called the ZEV standard). It was in the news today (12/5/19) because a suite of electric utilities known formally as the “Power Companies” (Consolidated Edison, New York Power Authority, etc.) joined the legal battle on the side of California/Colorado, arguing that “ ZEV standards — regardless of changes in political leadership at the federal level – [have] provided the long-term certainty needed for the Power Companies to incorporate electrification of the transportation sector as a critical component of their business models and investment strategies.”

In other words, the electric utilities would like to promote electric vehicles, but the Trump Administration’s proposed rule would undermine the adoption of electric vehicles and therefore hurt electric power sales. This legal battle has major implications for global air quality, and will likely be fought all the way to the Supreme Court, unless Trump loses the upcoming election and the new President vacates the suit.

Compiled and summarized by Gordon Rodda