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A One Year Review: Ford Mustang Mach E, AWD, ER, Living in the 4C!

Or in long form: A One Year Review, Ford Mustang Mach E, All Wheel Drive, Extended Range, Living in the Four Corners Area

Trying to get it to slip up Forest Road 576 along Hermosa Creek. It wouldn’t.

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.)

Bringing the baby home from Albuquerque.
  • 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.

Taking the bikes on a road trip.

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.

Driving down an unplowed alley

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:

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.

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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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Ten Big EV Developments That Transpired During Covid (2020 – mid 2021)

1) Tesla sales soared globally and nationally, jump-starting the EV revolution and attracting big investments in EV companies. Tesla dominates the global market for BEVs; no other manufacturer has even a fifth of the global sales of Tesla. At one point Tesla’s model 3 sales in California made it the single most popular new vehicle model bar none. As Tesla stock soared in price (at one point giving Tesla a market valuation greater than that of all the legacy car manufacturers combined), investors sought out other firms in which to plunk their money. Rivian raised several billion in new funds. Other investors were not so lucky. Nicola apparently fudged the numbers and collapsed after the Securities and Exchange Commission went after them. Lordstown fibbed when they said they were ready to begin sales, and its stock also collapsed, in part because Ford announced that Ford was to market to exactly the same niche market (electrical utility fleets) that Lordstown had bet its future on.

2) The major legacy car manufacturers got into a publicity arms race over promises about the future of EVs, but didn’t actually produce many. Most announced they were going to spend X dollars pursuing electrification, and that they planned to have Y percentage of their sales electric by date Z (or cease selling regular vehicles ICEs (Internal Combustion Engines) by a certain date. Given their inability to meet any of the previously announced EV sales deadlines, one has reason to be skeptical, but the fact that they feel compelled to (over?) promise may be better than inaction.

3) VW may be an exception, as they committed billions of their own money to ramping up charging infrastructure. Whereas VW was legally obligated to spend the fines leveled as a result of the diesel cheating scandal to construct the Electrify America EV charging network (by the end of 2021: 800 sites in the US, featuring 3500 chargers), VW recently committed to spending about $2B of their own unrestricted funds to more than double the size of the Electrify America charging network. To put their claims in context, the US presently has about 41K charging sites and 100K public chargers. By 2025 Electrify America intends to have 1700 sites and 9500 chargers. Electrify Canada will be similarly expanded, and VW expects to spend $86B by 2025 to pursue electrification. This one-upped GM, which had only promised $35B for the same time period. So there!

4) Tesla announced a vague plan to someday share its charging infrastructure with others, which will double the infrastructure for non-Tesla EV drivers. The financial details remain to be worked out. Presumably the fillup cost to non-Teslas will be higher than those to Tesla owners, though the costs might alternately be borne by the other car manufacturers (as being discussed in Europe). Regardless, when you find yourself somewhere with a nearly drained battery and a handy Tesla supercharger, the cost differential might be immaterial. How this would work physically (who needs to buy which conversion cables) remain to be determined. With the rapidly dwindling number of CHAdeMo connector users, this portends a glorious future in which the connectors become uniform and interchangeable. However, some car manufacturers (e.g., Porsche) are pushing for a doubling of the fast-charging voltage standard (from 480 VDC to 960 VDC), which might complicate things and raise the cost of building fast-chargers.

5) Biden targeted EV infrastructure for a massive buildup, but so far the Republicans have stymied it; the White House has plans for covering some of the blocked buildup using budget legislation. Political inertia is with the Democrats, but political power on the Hill is very close to gridlock. Stay tuned.

6) EV sales have spread out from sedans to SUVs and crossovers. There are now many all-wheel drive vehicles (AWDs) at mid- or higher price points, though availability is somewhat limited in some places. Among the car models with at least an AWD option are (ordered by base MSRP from low to high) (see link for pickup trucks):

Tesla Model 3

Ford Mach-E

Tesla Model Y

Polestar (Volvo) 2

Mercedes EQC-400

Jaguar i-Pace

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model X

Porsche Taycan

7) EV pickup trucks were supposed to emerge in 2020, but did not. First at bat is Rivian, but for the last year this new manufacturer has been promising deliveries in about “a month or so.” Ford and Tesla are teasing mass-market EV pickups, but no firm sale dates have been announced; Ford will sell them to electric power company fleets in 2022. GM is teasing a $117K Hummer EV: that’s a little rich for me, but the day of capable AWD electric pickups is nigh. I expect to see one locally in September.

8) Policy makers have woken up to the cost and complexity of rapidly expanding clean power generation and delivery of electrons for EVs, but no coordinated response is evident. For most, the major expenses have been penciled in for “later”. Texas ran into catastrophic grid failures during a winter cold snap, in part due to their inability to obtain power from neighboring states, which had power (Texas is the only continental state with a stand-alone grid). Texas legislators are now patting themselves on the back for bold new initiatives long adopted by other states (e.g., requiring the utilities to cold-harden their generators), but connecting the Texas grid to the rest of the nation is not on the table.

9) Climate-related natural disasters make the front page almost daily, but most media outlets cry for money to build structural defenses, not prevent climate change. Record-breaking temperatures, unprecedented wildfires, smoke plumes reaching almost all of North America, chronic coastal floods, record-setting deluges around the world, and agriculturally debilitating droughts would seem to be enough to get the worlds’ attention, but media coverage has focused only on mopping up the mess.

And locally:  
10) The city of Durango and La Plata Electric Association (LPEA) wrote a seminal EV readiness plan, but near-term changes are underwhelming. For example, in the “lead by example” element, LPEA committed to buying two Ford EV pickups when they become available sometime in 2022 (or 2023). Meanwhile, fast charging (DC) has finally reached the local area, with Pagosa (2020), Durango (July 2021), and Purgatory ski area (late 2021) acquiring moderately fast-charging capability. Those chargers should boost visitation by tourists and provide solace to local EV owners who might suddenly need to go a long distance. The EV readiness plan has put all the right processes in place; the heavy lifting – you guessed it – comes later. Stay tuned.

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Established car manufacturer Volvo to join the upstart EV producers in selling EVs online only

Established car manufacturer Volvo to join the upstart EV producers in selling EVs online only
A serious entry into the mid-range SUV market

In a surprising move, Volvo announced that it will transition its sales offerings entirely to electrics by 2030 (no ICEs or hybrids after that date), and that it will sell the electrics online only. This online-sales only announcement is a surprise because Volvo has an established car dealer network (though the nearest to the Four Corners is Corley’s Volvo Cars in Albuquerque) and a majority of states prohibit non-dealership sales of new cars. My source is an AP wire report Mar 2, 2021 by Matt Ott (accessed from Greenwire – eenews.com – which is unfortunately behind a paywall).

Volvo did promise that dealerships “…will remain a crucial part of the customer experience and will continue to be responsible for a variety of important services such as selling, preparing, delivering, and servicing cars. However, a Four Corner’s buyer would be inclined to take purchase locally, and seek service locally, rather than have to return a potentially disabled car to Albuquerque for routine service.

The prevailing business model for car sales is that new cars are sold with minimal profit in exchange for creating a captive audience of owners beholden, or at least greatly encouraged, to use the dealership for highly lucrative service. This business model is under threat from EVs, both because so many upstarts (Tesla, Rivian, etc.) are not following the plan, and EVs themselves need very little servicing.

In response to previous economic threats to dealerships, several states, including Colorado and New Mexico, have restrictions or total bans on the non-dealer sales of new cars. Colorado recently amended its laws to allow several additional manufacturers to permit in-state sales of cars without dealers (Tesla has a dealership in Denver and is therefore exempt). Volvo’s plan may run afoul of the dealership-protection laws in some states.

In addition to shaking up the business relationship between manufacturers and dealerships, Volvo’s push into EVs is startling in its ambition. Volvo has stated that it expects 50% of global sales to be fully electric by 2025 (US sales of pure electrics are about 2% now; about 100,000 of Volvo’s global sales of about 600,000 vehicles per year are in the US). Volvo’s first entry into the all-electric field, the XC-40 Recharge (crossover SUV) is currently held up in ports of entry, as an essential software update is needed before they can be sold to the public. That hiccup aside, Volvo is getting good technical reviews for their EVs.

Although Volvo’s timeline for the phase-out of ICE (internal combustion engine) cars is among the most aggressive of the major manufacturers, others are not far behind. BMW expects 50% of its global sales to be all-electric vehicles by 2030 (versus 2025 for Volvo). BMW has not announced a date for completing the phase-out of ICEs; they expect to sell hybrids for some time. GM is more aggressive for the end of the phase-out of ICEs (2035), but GM expresses it more as an aspiration than a commitment. Jaguar, on the other hand, has promised the earliest phase-out (2025), but of course, if you could afford a Jaguar, why would you settle for anything less than an electric.

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