There are a bunch of fun stories in this one!
We’ve gotten out of the habit of posting the Denver Electric Vehicle Council (DEVC) monthly newsletter. We want to get back in it! You’ll find the pdf below.
There are a couple of interesting articles in this month’s DEVC issue on batteries – new advances in energy density, an update on battery recycling, and a new EV (Lucid Air) which touts a battery with higher energy density than Tesla’s (reprinted from ev4corners!)
For a comprehensive overview of why battery recycling and technology improvements are so important, see David Roberts’ (Volts) story on problems related to minerals needed for the clean-energy transition. You don’t have to be a scientist or economist to understand the information provided in this article. Mr. Roberts does a really good job of breaking it down for those not as technically minded, as well as giving plenty of concise information of interest to those who are.
The DEVC newsletter also includes some articles on changes to the schedule in retiring some of the San Juan Generating Station’s coal-fired generation units, which are relevant to us in the Four Corners area (San Juan Generating Station is located not too far west of Farmington, NM.)
Enjoy the newsletter! Better yet, go to www.devc.info and sign up to receive it yourself. DEVC is the Colorado affiliate of the national Electric Vehicle Association. They are one of the oldest national electric vehicle volunteer organizations. “The Electric Vehicle Association educates and advocates for the rapid adoption of electric vehicles.” To join them, and DEVC, to https://www.myeva.org to become a member. When you sign up, you can choose DEVC as your affiliated chapter.
Part 1 discussed what is required to use the home backup feature sold as an option for the upcoming Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck. While researching that article, I spoke with Dominic May, the Energy Resource Program Architect at the rural electric cooperative (co-op) serving my community in the southwest corner of Colorado, La Plata Electric Association (LPEA).
His answer to the F-150 Lightning question was pretty simple; you can read about it in Part 1 of this post. What was more interesting were the incentives LPEA may make available for all their EV-owning customers. LPEA is now gaining experience with their first-in-the-state electric school bus as a Vehicle to Grid (V2G) source of peak-hour energy. Now they’re turning their attention to possible V2G incentives for all their EV-owning customers.
That’s the dream of V2G, that we can multi-purpose this big fleet of batteries out there in our service area.Dominic May, the Energy Resource Program Architect
What is V2G again?
V2G uses a specific kind of charger, a bi-directional charger. It allows the grid to fill your car’s battery with electricity. It also allows, at pre-set times of the day, the grid to pull electricity out of your car’s battery. Under a V2G program, the electric company doesn’t just provide electricity to you. You also provide electricity back to them at the specific times when it saves them the most money: during peak energy use hours of the day.
How does the little bit of energy my EV can provide save an electric company enough money to make V2G worth it to them or me?
In southwest Colorado, the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association owns and maintains the large power plants and transmission lines that bring electricity to all the area electric co-ops. Tri-State charges LPEA a monthly demand charge of $20 per kW of peak demand. That means every month, Tri-State looks at the one hour of highest demand from the LPEA service area and charges $20 for all the kilowatt hours delivered during that hour. If LPEA as a whole uses 100,000 kW during its highest hour in a month, Tri-State charges them $2,000,000 for that month’s demand charge. That is addition to the price LPEA pays at lesser rates for electricity supplied during all the non-peak hours.
LPEA is a winter peaking, evening peaking utility. It’s pretty much never fully dark until 5 PM, even in the depth of winter. Our peaks usually happen between 6 and 7 PM. It’s about an hour after dark, everything’s gotten quite cold and all the heat is coming on, everybody’s home, dinner starts getting cooked, et cetera. All the devices in the house come on.Dominic May, the Energy Resource Program Architect
If your 80 kWh battery EV rolls into the garage at 5:30 PM with 60 kWh left in the battery and plugs into a V2G charger, it could supply 40 kW to the grid between 6 and 7 PM to allow having 20 kWh left in the battery in case of a night emergency. (Most EVs on the road today could get 60 – 80 miles on 20 kWh.)
The EV could then easily regain the 40 kW it sent out by more slowly pulling it in overnight, when electricity rates are lowest. While you ate dinner, relaxed at home and then slept, you helped save your electricity provider 40 kWh x $20/hr = $800. Since electric co-op members include all your neighbors and everyone in their service area, you’ve helped everyone in your community save money. Your electric co-op or company will want to find a way to make that worth your while.
LPEA recognizes people participating in a future V2G program would need to expend some money to be able to take part. Bi-directional chargers are significantly more expensive than your basic Level 2 home charger. EVs are still more expensive than comparable petroleum-fueled cars.
LPEA is working on creating a battery storage program for customers with home back-up batteries, like Tesla Powerwalls or LG batteries. We hope to learn from that and extend the same incentives to customers who want to participate in a V2G program. The V2G program will need to include an aspect controlling the time the customer is willing to participate, and how much of their battery capacity they are willing to contribute each day.
We want to pass as much of that back to the customer as we can. We’re considering upfront rebates for V2G equipment purchased and annual credits based on energy sent back to the grid, things like that.
Right now, we have the small demand charge of $1.50 per kW we pass through to non-time-of-use rate members, but that’s obviously not reflective of the $20 the whole membership pays. Equity is a big consideration for LPEA. We will need to balance the price signals we offer to the V2G participating members so we don’t punish lower- and fixed-income members with electrified homes.Dominic May, the Energy Resource Program Architect
If you live in LPEA’s service area, keep an eye out for upcoming battery storage programs offerings. If not, contact your local electricity provider and ask them if they have any plans to implement a home battery storage or Vehicle-to-Grid incentive program in their service area. Let them know you’d be interested in participating.
People served by rural electrical co-ops can have a strong influence on the board members of those organizations. Encouraging them to look into these types of programs may be just the push they need. Investor-owned utilities also might be influenced by their customer’s interest in taking part in V2G programs. If you are served by an investor-owned utility, such as Xcel Energy (CO), PNM (NM) or Rocky Mountain Power (UT), check their website or give them a call to find out what their plans are. The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) is unique as the largest multi-utility enterprise owned and operated by an American Indian tribe. If you live in their service area, give them a call to find out if they are investigating how they can use distributed battery storage resources to bolster their electricity distribution system.
When a V2G or home battery program might become available in your neighborhood: Two caveats
- Most EVs currently on the market and on the roads don’t have the internal hardware that would enable them to participate in V2G programs, even if they do install a bi-directional charger at their home. While V2G programs are currently operating in Europe with EVs capable to participate, car manufacturers have not provided US models with that functionality yet.
- Administrative hurdles remain to be solved before LPEA can actually implement a V2G program. Tri-State policies may need to modified so both Tri-State and the co-ops it serves can use customer-owned batteries to their full potential.
Finally, if you are unclear about what peak demand is, why it costs so much, and why we should all be doing what we can to reduce it, I recommend reading this article by David Roberts on Canary Media. Rooftop Solar and Home Batteries Make a Clean Grid Vastly More Affordable.
Finally, here’s a nice short video to sum up V2G from Nuvve.
Ford F-150 Lightning as Home Backup Generator: The Lowdown on What It Takes (Part 1) and What It Could Give (Part 2)
Word on the internet has it that Ford will open their ordering process for the F-150 Lightning this Thursday, January 6, 2022. It seems a good time to do a deeper dive on Ford’s home backup power option available for their much-awaited electric pickup truck.
This is Part 1 of a two-part post. Part 1 discusses the specifics how much this option will cost, how it will work, and can it live up to Ford’s promises.
Part 2 will discuss other things you can do with a big electric truck’s battery, to both help your community and save some money for yourself. It’s called Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) and it could be coming to your neighborhood sooner than you think.
Here’s the home backup promise on Ford’s website:
In Part 1, each part of this promise will be discussed. In Part 2, we’ll learn how one SW Colorado rural electrical co-op plans to work with customers wanting to use the back-up power feature to provide benefits not just to EV owners, but to all co-op customers.
The Three Things You Need to Use the Ford F-150 Lightning as Backup Power For Your Home
Extended Range Battery
The backup power option is not available for all F-150 Lightning models. In particular, it will not be available on their lowest priced PRO model, which has a base price of $40,000. To take advantage of the backup power option, you must purchase an extended range battery model, the lowest cost of which appears to be the $74,000 XLT.
80-amp Ford Charge Station Pro
Ford’s website indicates the 80-amp Ford Charge Station Pro comes standard with extended range battery models. The Charge Station Pro is an extra piece of equipment which will allow your F-150 Lightning to both draw electricity FROM the power lines feeding your house to fill up the truck’s battery AND allow it SEND electricity INTO your house when those power lines are down. It is what’s known as a bi-directional charger. It allows peak charging power of 19.2 kW, much higher than the typical 7 kW a home Level 2 charger provides.
The 32-amp mobile charger which comes with all the F-150 Lightning models will also be included. This charger sends electricity in just one direction: from a power outlet to the truck’s battery. The charger is delivered, coiled neatly in a canvas travel case, as an electrical cord with a charge plug on one end. At the other end there is a choice of two adapters, one you can use to plug into a regular 120V outlet and another you can plug into a 240V outlet.
Good for emergencies away from home, too.
You can use the 32-amp charger wherever there is an outlet, from a regular 120V outlet on a friend’s porch to an electrical hook-up at an RV campground, which delivers as much power as a Level 2 charger.
Carrying this mobile charger in the truck with you could come in handy if you wind up stuck on any road that has closed due to winter storm conditions (as recently happened in Virginia) or an accident. If you can get off the highway, you could plug into any wall outlet (120 V) and heat your vehicle without running down the battery until traffic was able to move again. If you have an F-150 and a full battery, other EVs could plug into your truck’s 120V outlets to run their heaters until traffic gets moving again.
Electrical work done at your house
To use the home backup feature, you will need to get a professional electrician to install the 80-amp Ford Charge Station Pro and an automatic transfer switch at your house. The transfer switch automatically disconnects your home from the grid when the power goes down. That is necessary so your F-150 does not feed battery power back out on the power lines at your house during a power outage, which could cause a severe hazard to power company workers working on the lines.
You will need an 80-amp circuit installed to serve the Charge Station Pro. This won’t be a problem for most homes, but some with older electrical systems may need to upgrade their service with their electric company to carry that many amps.
In May 2021, Ford announced they had partnered with a company called Sunrun to:
facilitate the installation of Ford’s charging stations and energy integration system for residential customers.https://www.pv-tech.org/ford-selects-sunrun-as-installation-partner-to-make-new-f-150-lightning-backup-power-source/
At Sunrun’s website, they list all of the Four Corners states except Utah as states where they operate. I am not aware if Sunrun currently operates in the Four Corners area. Before your F-150 Lightning order goes to production, you’ll want to confirm what company, Sunrun or a solar contractor local to you, would be able to work with you to install the 80-amp Charge Station Pro and install a new, or modify an existing, home solar system.
Does your electric company get involved in any of this?
No. It is basically the same as if you were adding a new electric appliance to your home. You usually don’t have to notify your electric company to do that. However, the electrician who does the installation work at your house will check to be sure your current electrical panel and service can handle the amount of power the F-150 Lightning would both pull from and push into your home’s wiring. They will let you know if any upgrades need to be made, and if so, how much they will cost.
Can the F-150 Lightning really supply my home with electricity for up to 10 days?
Yes. Ford recently announced the F-150 Lightning extended range battery will have a capacity of 131 kilowatt hours. For comparison, a typical Tesla home battery used for home backup power holds about 13.5 kWh. However, remember any energy your home uses out of the truck’s battery will decrease the number of miles the truck will be able to drive before getting re-charged.
If your home has solar, you may be able to modify your electric service so the solar array could send charge into the F-150 Lightning’s battery during a power outage, along with powering your other household electric needs. Your solar array would need to be sized to provide enough power to cover both your home’s needs and have power to spare to supply the truck with extra energy to allow you to drive it around during the blackout, if needed.
When Will I Get My F-150 Lightning?
Ford received more than 200,000 reservations for the Lightning, which were made at a cost of $100 each. Starting in January 2022, they will begin sending invitations to the reservation holders to order at staggered times. If the system works as it did for the Mustang Mach e, it will cost $1,000 to place an order. Once the order is placed, it will likely take 6 months to a year before you actually get the truck. According to communication sent recently by Ford to reservation holders:
Now, this kind of demand means many of you won’t get a 2022 F‑150 Lightning™ truck, but rest assured we will hold your reservation so you’ll have a chance to order a future model year.Ford communication to F-150 Lightning reservation holders
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post. I plan to get it published in a week or two.
Part 2 will discuss other things you can do with a big electric truck’s battery, to both help your community and save some money for yourself. It’s called Vehicle to Grid and it could be coming to your neighborhood sooner than you think.
The University of Colorado Denver is conducting research on how electric vehicles (EVs) can be fully integrated with power grids. We’d love to hear from you about how you may charge your EV. The results of this survey will inform our recommendations for public policies related to the Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) and Vehicle-to-Building (V2B) technologies.
As a thank you for sharing your input, 10 completed survey respondents will each receive a $50 Amazon gift card. This survey only takes 8 – 13 minutes. The survey is closed on November 12, 2021. You must be 18 or older to participate.
TAKE THE SURVEY: https://ucdenver.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_d0ZSdrrhCuwFgN0
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What questions do I expect to be asked?
A: You will be asked where, when, and how you may charge your EV using a bidirectional EV charger, which allows EV users to not only charge the batteries of electric vehicles but to also take energy from cars. Bidirectional charging enables the vehicle-to-grid (V2G) or vehicle-to-building (V2B) capability, allowing EVs to inject energy into the grid or a building.
Q: Who is conducting the study?
A: The University of Colorado Denver is conducting research on how electric vehicles (EVs) can be fully integrated with power grids.
Q: How will my answers be used?
A: Only the aggregated results will be used to create an infographic of the findings, several short reports, and several presentations hosted by the University of Colorado Denver.
Q: Who will see my responses?
A: Privacy is of the utmost concern, and all respondents’ data will be anonymized and de-identified as the first step in the analysis. Only the Principal Investigators (Hilary Haskell and Serena Kim) holding current certification in human subjects research will have access to individual-level survey responses. Individual responses are not shared with any other individuals or groups.
Q: Will any of my information be used for marketing purposes?
A: No. This project is non-commercial — responding will not subject you to any marketing.
Hilary Haskell, University of Colorado Denver
Dr. Serena Kim, University of Colorado Denver
Durango, Colorado’s 9-R school district will soon be the owner of a brand-new, all-electric Bluebird bus. Thanks to a grant from the Regional Air Quality Council’s ALT Fuels Colorado program and southwest Colorado’s La Plata Electric Association (LPEA), the school district is getting the bus entirely for free. This was made possible by the state grant funding, which covered much of the $210,000 difference between the cost of a diesel vs electric bus, but also by LPEA’s initiative in penciling out how both they and the school district could benefit from nascent vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology.
It will be the first use of V2G technology with a school bus in the state of Colorado. LPEA aims to demonstrate how electric school buses can provide benefits and savings to everyone in their service area. I spoke with Dominic May, LPEA’s Energy Resource Program Architect, to learn more about the bus, V2G and the benefits.
V2G gives LPEA a return on their investment
LPEA contributed about $150,000 to cover the remainder of the cost of the bus and to install a 60 kW bidirectional charger at the school district’s bus barn. Bidirectional chargers are at the heart of V2G technology. They take the AC power provided by LPEA’s electrical grid and turn it into DC power which fills the bus battery. They can also go the other way and change the DC power in the bus battery into AC power, which can then be sent back into LPEA’s electric grid.
The bus and the bidirectional charger are now owned by the school district, but they have an operational agreement with LPEA which allows LPEA control of the battery for the coop’s benefit.
V2G is the big reason I got interested, in addition to finding a project that could be entirely free for the school.Dominic May, Energy Resource Program Architect
How can the school district and LPEA both use the same bus?
We have an operational agreement that we will run the battery to perform energy arbitrage in the background. The school district will never notice we’re doing it but will always charge at our cheapest off peak rate.Dominic May, LPEA Energy Resource Program Architect
The bus battery holds about 175 kWh of energy. It will charge overnight and during mid-day when the bus is back at the bus barn. On the commercial time-of-use rate LPEA provides, these are the cheapest times of day to use electricity.
After it returns from its morning route at about 9 AM, the bus will need about 3 hours to refill the battery. It arrives back from its afternoon route at 4:30 or 5:00 PM. LPEA’s evening peaks usually occur at about 6:30 or 7:00 PM. They will recharge the battery up until the evening energy use peak starts ramping up. As the peak 15-minute period approaches, LPEA will signal the bus battery to push 60 kW onto the grid. (60 kW is the maximum rate the bidirectional charger can discharge at.) When the peak is passed and peak rate time is over, the bus will continue recharging into the night.
What’s in it for LPEA?
LPEA’s supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, charges LPEA a monthly demand charge based on their peak monthly usage. For every kilowatt LPEA uses during their peak 15 minutes in each month, Tri-State charges $20/kW. By reducing their peak with the bus battery, LPEA realizes 60 kW x $20/kW = $1,200 savings a month. Says May, 60 kW of demand “that’s like a dozen houses or more coming off the grid during the peak hour.”
Just selling that off-peak energy, we don’t make much more than $0.02 per kWh and it would’ve been close to a 400 year payback period, but doing demand managing with the V2G system turns it into about a five to eight year payback period.Dominic May, LPEA Energy Resource Program Architect
After that, the savings will accrue to LPEA’s membership.
The bus is free to the school district, but is it cheap?
The electric fuel for the bus will be one sixth the cost of diesel. The electric motor and drive train require much less maintenance than gas or diesel buses. No oil or coolant changes, no air filters, no tune-ups. LPEA’s use of the battery doesn’t require any changes to the regular schedule the bus would run. They only use it when it would be sitting at the bus barn anyway.
A diesel bus will have to be sacrificed as a condition of the state grant dollars. The school district’s oldest bus must have its axles broken or its engine cored to ensure it is permanently disabled. The intent of the state grant is to reduce air pollution by taking old diesels, which have very dirty exhaust, off the road.
What else can you do with a school bus full of cheap energy and V2G technology?
Provide mobile electricity sources during blackouts.
Any school or other buildings designated as emergency shelters would need to be outfitted with a bidirectional charger, and the electrical infrastructure to support it, to be able to receive the energy in the event of a blackout. Once installed, these chargers could also be used as fast chargers for any electric vehicle in non-emergency circumstances.
They definitely can serve as an emergency generator. One of the cooler things they could do is come up and power something like a FEMA shelter. However, the caveat is the places have to be wired up to receive this and infrastructure will need to be built to support it.Dominic May, LPEA Energy Resource Program Architect
Demand management is getting bigger and bigger, especially as renewables come on the grid. You have this extremely cheap and clean energy, but it’s intermittent. So, anything you can do for storage is really what this is all about. That’s the dream of V2G – that we would multi-purpose this giant fleet of batteries that are out there to make the grid cheaper, cleaner, and more resilient.Dominic May, LPEA Energy Resource Program Architect
Does the electric school bus help decrease greenhouse gas emissions?
On some grids, the power used at peak times is dirtier than at other times. For example, on a grid which has solar generation, and uses natural gas “peaker” plants to provide energy during the peak evening hours just as solar is waning, energy used at peak times will have higher carbon dioxide emissions per kilowatt. By decreasing the amount of kW used at peak times, those higher emissions are avoided.
On our current fuel mix, the school bus will reduce carbon emissions by about 2 ½ times its weight in carbon dioxide every year.”Dominic May, LPEA Energy Resource Program Architect
When greenhouse gas emissions are decreased, the other pollutants associated with burning petroleum are also decreased. Diesel engines emit particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and numerous toxic volatile organic compounds.
The bus is expected to arrive in Durango by the end of October 2021. It’s now at its final stop, getting outfitted by a company on the front range to the school district’s specifications.
Join southwest Colorado’s La Plata Electric Association on Tuesday, July 27th at 6 p.m. for the second webinar in LPEA’s Beneficial Electrification series focused on electric vehicles (EVs).
- EV models
- Financial incentives for EVs
- EVs vs. standard vehicles
- Batteries, batteries, batteries
- Charging options
- Local EV infrastructure
- A “day in the life” of an EV driver
- EV road-tripping
- Q & A
Advanced registration is required: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_YAx0dfXfTj2JXR4Rr_4ZmA
No joke. The 1971 VW Fastback pictured above is powered by a 2015 Nissan Leaf powertrain.
The powertrain of any vehicle includes the mechanisms which transmit engine power to a vehicle’s axles, and the axles spin the wheels. In petroleum-powered car, it includes the engine, transmission and axles. In an EV, power flows from the battery directly to an electric motor on the axle which spins the wheels.Definition of powertrain
Many of us have loved and lusted after certain classic vehicles from years gone by. For Mick Longley of Durango’s Busaru, those vehicles have been Volkswagens.
Recognizing the huge impact burning fossil fuels has on our planet’s climate, some of us regret we can no longer drive those cars or trucks. Or we’ve driven an electric vehicle and experienced how vastly superior they are and don’t want to go back to the cost and inconvenience of petrol power. For Mick Longley, this was a problem he could solve.
Mick’s love for classic VW’s started in the mid 2000’s when he picked up a VW Westfalia camper to travel around in. He moved out to Durango, Colorado in that van and started BUSARU, the VW to Subaru engine swap business. He had been holding onto the 1971 VW Fastback for a few years – awaiting a project.
I was initially going to put a Subaru engine into it but got re-inspired by the EV conversion scene. I had converted a 70’s Kawasaki motorcycle and a slough of classic bicycles back in the day, even had a small business doing that in CA called zombiEVintage.Mick Longley
- The most difficult part was mounting the battery and motor in the old VW, but he was able to find a solution which allowed keeping the LEAF battery completely intact, including all its safety mechanisms.
- Removing the internal combustion engine (ICE) equipment is actually a ton of fun!
- LOTS of experience with electronics packages for the do-it-yourself (DIY) Subaru-VW community helped with navigating the electronics and wiring diagrams for the LEAF-based conversion.
- Will he convert your classic car into an EV?
- He’s definitely interested in taking on projects once he gets more experience converting his own vehicles.
- He’d love to hear about other people’s EV projects. Let him know what dreams you’re cooking up.
- He plans for Regen EV’s to offer kits for DIY tinkerers to more easily retrofit their VW Bus and Vanagons (and possibly other vehicles) to electric power.
For a deeper dive into Mick’s work on the Fastback, check out his YouTube channel video below and continue reading below the video!
As Mick expected, the mounting of the battery and motor were the most challenging parts. Most VW conversions rely on using the VW transaxle and adapter plate to mount an aftermarket motor, and batteries mounted in the cargo areas.
Since I wanted to use a mass-produced donor vehicle to keep costs low and reliability high, it brought up some unforeseen challenges. In a way, the VW chassis made the battery location decision for me. The floor pan was rotten with rust, which needed to be replaced anyway, so I just cut all of it out and built a frame out of rectangular tubing. This allowed me to keep the LEAF battery completely intact, including all of its safety mechanisms, as well as providing a structural component for the car – the many benefits of keeping the center of gravity low in the chassis! Once the battery was mounted it took a few days of playing with different drive unit mounting schemes. In short, once the battery was figured out, everything else came together pretty easily.Mick Longley
What was the biggest challenge in starting this project? It was believing it could be done!
Parsing the overall project into smaller projects really helps. Removing the internal combustion engine (ICE) equipment is actually a ton of fun. You get to see how cars are put together without the pressure or fear of breaking something you’ll need. In the case of the Fastback project, I knew I wasn’t going to be using any of the VW ICE equipment, including the transmission, so it was pure fun removing the old rusty grease-caked parts to make way for a clean EV drive unit.Mick Longley
In a Subaru engine conversion, the most intimidating part of the project for do-it-yourself DIY folks is the electronics. I have completed nearly 1000 electronics packages for the DIY Subaru-VW community and that experience really helped me navigate the electronics and wiring diagrams for the LEAF-based conversion. With the electronics mystery figured out, the conversion became more and more fun to work on, and a great learning experience. The next conversion will benefit greatly from what I learned on this one.”MIck
Does Mick plan to do more EV retrofits?
I want to get a couple more personal EV conversions finished before taking on customer work. These include a 1973 VW Bus (LEAF conversion) a 1965 GMC pickup (Tesla conversion), and a 70’s vintage Ford Bronco project that I’m converting for a friend.Mick
I am definitely interested in taking on projects once I get a little more experience converting my own vehicles. I like to experiment on my own vehicles first! I love to hear about other people’s EV projects though, so let me know what dreams you’re cooking up.Mick
Does he have plans to make EV retrofits of classic cars part of his regular business?
Yes, like with BUSARU, I plan for Regen EV’s to offer kits for DIY tinkerers to more easily retrofit their VW Bus and Vanagons (and possibly other vehicles) to electric power. I’ll keep supporting the VW community (especially the camper van VW’s) because they really represent the spirit of adventure and travel, and there’s nothing like cruising to an adventure destination on battery power!Mick
We bought our 2018 Chevy Bolt in 2018, feeling assured the 238-mile range advertised for the vehicle would meet our daily needs and make our most common weekend trips. Knowing Electrify America was making steady progress on installing DC fast chargers on interstates from coast-to-coast, we figured the Bolt would also allow cross-country trips on the rarer occasions we needed to make them.
Battery and Range – What You Expect
Therefore, our decision to buy the car was based on two things: the size of the battery and how the battery management system (BMS) functioned.
- The size of the battery determines the maximum distance you can travel between charging stops.
- For the Bolt, that distance is about 238 miles in mild weather, with no extremes of cold or hot temperatures.
- The BMS determines (among other things) how often you can use a DC fast charger each day and during periods of high or low temperatures.
- The Bolt’s BMS includes a liquid cooling system. When you use a DC fast charger to add electricity to your car’s battery, the battery’s temperature increases. The liquid cooling cools the battery quickly enough it can accept another full charge by the time you need one. You can DC fast charge multiple times a day, regardless of the outdoor temperature.
- In contrast, the 2018 Nissan Leaf used only air cooling. It could not cool the battery fast enough to allow more than one fast charge a day on a hot summer day. So range is significantly limited on hot summer days.
What Chevy Bolt, Kona Electric and Ioniq Electric Owners Got
Our Chevy Bolt Story
On November 13, 2020, six weeks after we returned from our 3,200 mile round-trip road trip from Durango, CO to the top of Michigan’s mitten, Chevy recalled our Bolt due to concerns about the battery catching fire.
Chevy recalled a “select number” of 2017-2019 Chevy Bolts built with:
“high voltage batteries produced at LG Chem’s Ochang, Korea facility that may pose a risk of fire when charged to full or very close to full, capacity. As an interim remedy, dealers will reprogram the hybrid propulsion control module 2 (HPCM2) to limit full charge to 90%.”https://my.chevrolet.com/how-to-support/safety/boltevrecall
We had DC fast charged four or five times a day for each of the 3 days of the trip both coming and going. At several of those charging stops, we’d had to charge to greater than 90% so we could get to the next DC fast charger with some cushion.
No one wants to consider being trapped in their car, trying to slow down from highway speeds so you can bail out because your car is on fire. (Know that fires are far more likely in petrol-powered cars than EVs.) If we’d had to stop more frequently, what was already a really long trip due to charging stops would’ve been even longer.
Chevy’s interim fix is a BMS modification. We got the car reprogrammed right away, and as of 3/2/21, we’re still waiting to hear what the final fix will be.
Two things every EV owner should be aware of when it comes to battery-related recalls:
The federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) initiates recalls for SAFETY reasons.
A recall is issued when a manufacturer or NHTSA determines that a vehicle, equipment, car seat, or tire creates an unreasonable safety risk or fails to meet minimum safety standards.https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls
- In other words, under federal law, there is no protection for EV owners if a safety fix causes a reduction in vehicle range.
- If Chevy proves limiting the charge capacity to 90% fixes the safety issue, the NHTSA recall can be closed if that limit is made permanent by the BMS software. Owners would have to band together and sue based on the loss in value of the car due its reduced range. It seems unlikely that after the lawyers were paid there would be much left for those of us still owning these vehicles.
Finding Fault: Battery Manufacturer or Car (BMS) Maker?
Chevy Bolt Not Alone with Battery Fires
The cause for the fire hazard in the Chevy Bolt is not yet settled. The Hyundai Kona Electric and Ioniq Electric are also on recall for battery fires right now, with batteries also manufactured by LG Energy Solutions, though at a Chinese facility.
- Hyundai has claimed the fires were caused by defective manufacturing (a misalignment of an anode tab) of some battery cells on LG’s part.
- GM (Chevrolet) has stressed the Bolts’ batteries use a different cell separator than Hyundai and so the two recalls are unrelated.
On 2/24/21, LG stepped into the fray. In a statement on the Kona EV recall, LG states the Korean agency responsible for confirming the cause of the fires has not been able to confirm the problem is misalignment of the anode tab. They claim Hyundai misapplied the BMS fast charging logic proposed by LG. They are cooperating with the “relevant authorities” to discover if that had any connection to the fires. LG also says damage to the batteries’ cell separators has been confirmed as unrelated to the fires by a joint investigation team.
So, for Chevy and Hyundai, and Bolt, Kona and Ioniq owners, the question is: Do the batteries need to be replaced or is it a BMS software fix?
Hyundai has had more fires in their affected vehicles and their recall covers a larger number of vehicles. Rumors are circulating that for Hyundai, all battery packs may need to be replaced. Kona Electric owners are suing for depreciation the issue has caused. Chevy owners haven’t organized on that front yet, but I would not try to sell or trade in our Bolt until this issue is resolved. I think most buyers would hesitate to buy a Bolt affected by this recall.
How do you Fix it? What Chevy Says
I called the Chevy EV concierge on 2/27/21 after reading the following on Chevy’s Bolt Recall webpage:
A team of GM engineers has made substantial progress in identifying the root cause and potential remedies for this issue. They are in the process of validating state-of-the-art software that can diagnose potential issues early and restore 100% charge capability. A final remedy for this recall is anticipated for April 2021. Until that time, if you have not already done so, we recommend scheduling a service appointment with your dealership to update the vehicle’s battery software to automatically limit the maximum state of charge to 90 percent.https://my.chevrolet.com/how-to-support/safety/boltevrecall
I asked the concierge how a software fix (a BMS fix) would solve the problem. Would it detect changes within the battery and provide a warning to the owner if changes occurred which might lead to a fire? Then the battery could be repaired or replaced before a fire could happen?
The concierge said it has not yet been determined the final fix will be software. He said it hadn’t gotten to the point of even discussing if a warning system would used or required. They don’t yet know if it will be a software fix or a battery replacement. We might find out earlier what the fix will be, but the fix won’t actually be available until April 2021.
It seems GM appreciates the importance of maintaining the range promised to buyers at the time the vehicle was purchased. A ten percent range reduction may not sound like much to a judge behind a bench, but when you’re sitting in the dark, gravel parking lot in front of the I-70 diner in Flager, CO at 11 PM, hanging in there for yet another 20 minutes to be sure you make it to your motel in Colorado Springs two hours away, it seems like an awful lot indeed. GM would do well to keep their EV early adopters in mind as they plan for their all electric future. I hope they won’t leave us furious with the cure to this recall, whether it be for the battery or the BMS.
For good, in-depth reporting on this issue, check in at InsideEVs.com where reporter Gustavo Henrique Ruffo has been following the issue closely.
Can you drive from SW Colorado to Michigan in a 2018 Battery Powered Chevy Bolt? YES YOU CAN! Part II
As promised, here are answers to the more basic questions about doing a long-distance road trip in a mid-distance, 235-mile range, Chevy Bolt EV.
Was it cheaper than paying for gas would’ve been?
At home, where DC fast charging isn’t necessary for us, driving the Bolt is about 40% less expensive to fuel than using gasoline for a comparable car. On this 1,600 mile trip, we charged four to five times a day on high voltage, DC fast chargers. Assuming we would’ve driven a car getting 30 mpg, it cost 15% more than we would have paid at gas stations in the Midwest, where gas was running about $2.10/gallon. The electric fuel cost us $135 for the one-way trip, about $20 more than gas. We charged overnight at hotels for free on two nights, waking up with a full tank.
In Iowa, local electric companies MidAmerican Energy and Alliant Energy provided free fast charging at all their stations. We used two of them. These were slower rate fast-chargers, with top potential of 50 kW, unlike the 62.5 kW we would start with from the Electrify America chargers. They were pleasantly located with grassy areas and picnic tables nearby.
How much extra time did it add to the trip?
On the days when we drove more than 500 miles (10-11 hours of driving time), we spent four to five hours charging at four to five different fast chargers. Yes, that is a lot of time. The 2018 Chevy Bolt is slow to accept charge. No matter how fast a charger is able to provide electricity, the 2018 Bolt will accept a maximum of about 53 kW. It drops off in a step-wise fashion after the battery gets 55% full until it gets down to 25 kW when the battery is at 80%.
In contrast, a Tesla Model 3 can take a maximum of over 100 kW, depending on the power of the charger being used. Over a 30-minute Tesla Supercharger session it will accept power at an average of 85 kW. That said, the Model 3 long range version cost about 50% more than a Chevy Bolt in 2018 when Chevys’ were still getting the full federal tax credit while Teslas’ was phasing out.
Driving the Bolt for this trip was inconvenient. It was not pleasant to spend more than an hour in a Walmart parking lot 100 feet down-wind from a truck-stop hosting at least 50 idling semi trucks. Yes, a lot of time is spent in big parking lots on today’s cross-country EV road trips.
However, there were a fair number of very pleasant charger locations. There was the brand-new station in Saugatuck, MI, where the parking lot was shaded by thick deciduous forest. The charger there faced an open, grassy sculpture garden and was next to a REALLY good breakfast restaurant.
In the case of the free Alliant Energy charger at Grinnell, Iowa, we were able to park about 2 miles from the freeway at a quiet Alliant office surrounded by corn fields and several acres of preserved prairie with a walking path mowed around it. We spent about 75 minutes there, walking and picnicking, wanting to fill up a bit more than usual because it was our last fast-charger stop of the day.
While at this stop, in the nearby fields we noticed all the corn, which was still green and had been quite tall, was laying down flat on the ground with fat, full ears still attached, unharvested. It turned out three weeks before our visit an extreme straight-line windstorm with winds up to 126 mph tore through a large section of central Iowa. It destroyed 7- to 8-million acres of corn and beans. It crushed many empty silos, setting the state’s farmers up for problems finding grain storage this fall. Four people were killed. 1.9 million people across several states lost power, some for as long as thirteen days.
If you’re curious about what it was like to be hunkered down in a suburban Iowa home during this storm, take a look at this video. Note the contrast of the idyllic scene at the beginning with what happens after minute 14. Not very pleasant.
This extreme weather event was more than inconvenient for Iowans. It threatened life and livelihood. Climate events of this magnitude are becoming so common, it barely made the news. We are at the point where government action has taken too long to adequately slow emissions down. Individual actions, such as buying an EV if you can afford it and turning a long 2-day road trip into a more relaxed 3-day road trip, are among the most immediate actions one can take to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Were the charging stations working and available?
In short, yes. They were all working, though we had significant difficulty getting the Electrify America (EA) fast chargers to initiate charging at the Flagler, Colorado and Colby, Kansas locations. We were eventually able to charge at all of them, but only after spending 20-30 minutes on the phone with an EA representative. That was very frustrating knowing we had to spend another 45 minutes to an hour at the station once the charging finally started. EA also, through an error in their software, double-charged us at every station on our trip out. The problem was fixed by the time we returned home a couple weeks later, and EA completely refunded all the fees for those charging stations. The effect of those refunds is not reflected in the $135 spent on electricity given above. That value is the cost on the way back when we were charged the correct amount at all the EA stations.
What would we do if we arrived at a charger to find it in use by someone else?
This did not happen to us on this trip. The fast-chargers we stopped at usually had room to charge two to six vehicles at a time. We only had even one car pull in while we were charging on three occasions.
While we never had to wait to charge, we did block a station for another person at the single fast-charger station on the Tollway south of Chicago for about half an hour. It was a 50 kW unit, so slower to charge anyway, and we needed enough charge to make a long jump to the next station which was located in Michigan. As we lounged on the grass under a shade tree, we watched a guy pace back and forth for half an hour waiting for us to be finished. It was a friendly encounter, but we felt bad about it, knowing we’d be sad to be in his shoes with the final 300 miles to go in our trip.
Let me take this moment to beg whoever is empowered to increase the availability of faster public fast chargers in south-east Illinois and north-west Indiana, please get busy. After having no trouble finding fast-chargers across Nebraska and Iowa, it was a slap to have so few options on this urban major interstate route. Between Geneseo, Illinois and Michigan City, Indiana, over almost 200 miles there is only one non-Tesla fast charger available and in working order, and it is a single, slow 50 kW unit at a Tollway rest stop. ComEd and Indiana Gas & Electric, can you help get some public EV fast-chargers on I-94 please?
How was it better than a long trip in a gas-powered car?
There were some pleasant surprises. The EV trip was three days of more relaxed driving. The pace was easier to take. We used the stops to stretch our legs walking and to eat without having crumbs fall in our laps. The trip felt less stressful because we weren’t pushing for maximum miles. We arrived at our destination less achy and irritable. The inconvenience was vanishingly small when compared to the climate-related catastrophes being suffered by people coast-to-coast on a now yearly basis.
Person-by-person, mile-by-mile we can make a difference. YOU CAN DO IT!