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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.

Image from Ford

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.

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Rural Electric Co-op Will School Colorado On How To Make The Most Of An Electric School Bus

Rural Electric Co-op Will School Colorado On How To Make The Most Of An Electric School Bus

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
FROM: https://www.cleantech.com/ev-charging-software-and-grid-services/

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

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.

 https://www.canarymedia.com/articles/ev-charging/time-shift-how-to-make-ev-charging-as-clean-as-possible

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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SW Colorado: LPEA EV Webinar Coming Up

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).

Topics include:

  • 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

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There’s a New EV in Town: It’s 1971 VW Fastback

Mick Longley’s 1971 VW Fastback now driven by a Nissan Leaf powertrain

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.

From www.busaru.com

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

Short summary:

  • 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
Mick’s Leaf-Hearted VW Fastback

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
Could it be an EV?!?
By Andrew Duthie from Nashville, TN, USA – Ford BroncoUploaded by oxyman, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12853385

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
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Battery Fires and Range Fury – EV Battery Recalls

Chevy Bolt Battery Photo by Jeffery Sauger for General Motors, April 5, 2016

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
  1. In other words, under federal law, there is no protection for EV owners if a safety fix causes a reduction in vehicle range.
  2. 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.

Also see: https://aju.news/en/kona-recall-was-decided-but-hyundai-motor-lg-inevitable-conflict-over-responsibility-and-cost.html

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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).

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