We cannot shape the future to our needs if we cannot see where the technology is headed. What are the benefits of driverless autonomous vehicles (AVs), assuming that they develop as the futurists have suggestedRead More
Or in long form: A One Year Review, Ford Mustang Mach E, All Wheel Drive, Extended Range, Living in the Four Corners Area
Our first EV, a 2017 Nissan Leaf, taught us we loved driving an all electric car, but the Leaf’s range was too short (135 miles). Our second EV, a 2018 Chevy Bolt, confirmed long range road trips were possible, but we wanted a faster fast charging rate. With our third EV, the Mustang described in the title, we’ve found our best fit EV (short of an electric AWD pickup truck or true SUV). The short story – while it’s not the perfect car for us, it’s nice enough that we won’t mind waiting until the perfect EV SUV at the right price point comes to market.
Why the Mustang Mach E?
I’ll start with the short comings of the Bolt which were enough to get us to pay 50% more for a car than we’d ever paid before. The Bolt cost about $40k off the lot. The Mustang cost about $60k. (Both prices not including the still generous state and federal tax credits we were able to benefit from.)
- The Bolt’s EPA range was about 230 miles and the Mustang’s is about 270 miles. This is enough to give a larger margin of safety that you will make it to the next available fast charger on a long road trip. However, it’s not quite large enough that you could skip a fast charger in areas of the country where chargers are sparse.
- The Bolt had a maximum fast charging rate of 50 kW. The Mustang’s max charge rate is 150 kW. This means fast charging stops in the Mustang are 30 – 45 minutes long. In the Bolt, they were 45 – 75 minutes long. Both cars got us from Durango, CO to northern lower Michigan (our longest road trips to date), but the Mustang meant less time sitting in the Walmart parking lots where so many fast chargers are now located.
- The Mustang has more cargo capacity, by just enough that it makes a difference.
- The Mustang, with its higher price point, is just a higher quality car. The cabin is very quiet. The ride is exceptionally smooth. The sound system is better. The seating is more comfortable.
Trotting Around Town and Country Close to Home
As a day to day cross-over, the Mustang does great for active mountain living. The range varies from about 170 miles (at 100%) during the coldest days of Durango area winter. This year and last, that has been low single digits at night and 20-30 degrees F during the day. Even at its lowest range you’ve got enough miles to get to the next fast chargers from Durango to the east (Pagosa Springs, Wolf Creek, Del Norte), the north (Purgatory, Ouray, Montrose), northwest (Telluride), southwest (Gallup) and southeast (Pagosa Springs, then on to Santa Fe.) And if you can get to all those places, you can also get beyond them with the current fast charging infrastructure. The obvious piece missing for those in Durango is Albuquerque. Hopefully New Mexico will find a way to get a fast charger along Hwy 550 soon! For now, the easiest way is to go down through Santa Fe. Or stop at Aztec and have a long lunch at Rubio’s while charging at Aztec’s town level 2 charger.
In summer, our 2021 Mustang gets 240 to 275 miles depending mostly on outdoor temperature and how it’s being driven. Higher speeds and lots of quick accelerations drive range down the most in warmer conditions.
Durango Truck Accessories installed a Curt hitch receiver on the back so we can use our Kuat bike rack to carry two bikes. This has served well for both local and long distance trips. When the rack is on, we have to disable the safety feature which automatically hits the brakes if the car’s cameras see something behind the car when backing up. The disabling is easily done with a couple taps on the touchscreen inside the car. We haven’t noticed any drop in the range with the fully loaded bike rack on the back.
The Mustang’s ground clearance is 5 inches. That’s almost four inches shorter than a Subaru Outback. The ground clearance has been no problem on graded dirt roads. I wouldn’t hesitate to take it on rougher roads if I knew I could drive around the rough spots. However, I wouldn’t take it up anything really rough and rocky.
On snowy days the car has done well on plowed roads and it handles icy conditions really well. I backed it into a bank of heavy snow 6 – 8 inches deep to challenge it and the all-wheel drive kicked in immediately. The front and rear axles quickly alternated to inch the car back on to the snow-packed driveway. This was despite the summer tires the car was delivered with, which are not recommended for use in the snow. I didn’t even know summer tires were a thing! We’ll replace them with all-weather tires as soon as they wear out.
Camping – not Kidding
I took the Mach E to visit friends in Tucson, AZ and then spent a night camping in it on my own down at Patagonia State Park. This is mainly because two people wouldn’t fit in the back for sleeping. I’m 5’10” and on the thin side. I just fit, a little curled up and sideways. The back seats fold down very close to flat. It was actually very nice for one! I’d plugged in at the RV part of the campground because I needed to charge there overnight. I could’ve had the heater on all night if I’d needed it. The AWD extended range Mustang comes with a glass roof. I was lucky to be able to watch a full lunar eclipse through the roof in the middle of the night while lying cozy in my sleeping bag.
The only trouble with camping was I used the key fob to close the rear gate once I got in and to open it to get out. The car would honk once each time I opened the rear gate. I’m sure my RV neighbors didn’t appreciate that when I went for midnight and early morning outings.
Galloping Out on the Open Road
Long distance road tripping in the Mustang is great. The car’s comfort, quiet cabin, super smooth ride and very good climate control help take the suffering out of long hours in the car. Ford’s Trip Planner (which you can use from an app on your phone or through the navigation screen of the big screen on the dashboard) generally does a good job of choosing mapped routes with chargers identified at the right intervals. We’ve driven it twice to northern Michigan, to Flagstaff and Tucson, Arizona, to Santa Fe and Albuquerque and to the Denver area both by way of 160 & 285, and up through Grand Junction then east on I-70. The car’s 2 – 3 hours of driving range and 30 – 45 minutes per fast charge are a perfect balance for us. After 2 – 3 hours we’re both happy to exit the car and walk around a bit, even if it is just at a Walmart!
Clouds on the Horizon?
There has been a recall on our model-year for a problem which has resulted, in a small percentage of cars, “bricking”. In this case that means giving a “Stop safely NOW” message before completely and suddenly losing all power. It was not a comfort to learn of this problem just as we were preparing to leave for our second trip back to Michigan. Since then, a safety recall has been issued, which resulted in a “fix” which consisted of a software update. This isn’t exactly comforting either, because the problem was found to be with the electrical system.
Currently on the Mustang Mach E Forum, they have the following recommendations:
- Back in to all parking spots
- Back in to the garage
- Install tow stickers (see here) (purchase here)
- Keep a tow card in the car (see here)
- Know the procedure for a dead LVB jump (refer to the manual here) – Page 267
- Know how to emergency tow the vehicle. Don’t rely on the tow company. (refer to the manual here) – Page 271
The only place we’ve found these recommendations is on the www.macheforum.com. (See: Stop Safely Now (HVBJB): Mach-E Owners Biggest Fear – Facts and Info Thread.) We never got any official communication from Ford with these recommendations. We also learned it is a real pain in the butt to jump start the low voltage battery (LVB)! It involves first using jump power to just get the frunk open, and then you have to remove these big luggage compartment covers which involve unscrewing a number of awkwardly located screws so you can access the 12 volt (low voltage) battery. And the reason they recommend backing into parking spots is that it’s more expensive and needs a special type of tow truck to tow a Mach E backwards.
So far, no problems with our Mach E, but we remain prepared to deal with it if this problem occurs. We figure it’s part of being early adopters, and Ford has in all other ways treated us well and built a wonderful EV. Recall problems are not uncommon with fossil fuel powered cars either.
EVs can provide energy storage to expand grid use of renewable generation; an example from a private household in Durango, Colorado
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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.
Design contest: How best to design an EV from scratch, taking full advantage of the benefits of electrification?
EVs are often designed by the same thinking that turned carriages into “horseless carriages” without fully incorporating the advantages of automobiles. What EV advantages can be improved by redesigning the automobile? Send us your ideas for our design contest.Read More
Lucid invents new efficiencies to produce an EV with 520 mile range and 20 minute recharging, surpassing Tesla
With its new entry in the BEV high performance sedan, Lucid has revealed exciting new efficiencies to make 520 miles without a charge, and add 300 miles of range in just 20 minutes.Read More
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.
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.
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