Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Are EVs in the dial-up phase?

Several comments on my x-country EV roadtrip travelogues questioned whether the growth in the charging network can possibly keep up with increasing EV sales (a question also posed in this CNBC article).

This is where the lesson from Moore's Law comes in handy: We should expect battery capacity and range to increase exponentially, concurrent with network growth.

There was a time when the internet was shiny and new that we connected to it via dial-up. (If you're old enough, you'll undoubtedly remember the noises your modem made and how loooooooong it took to connect!) Back then we had no clue about the next-gen technologies – connectivity accelerants such as Broadband, Bluetooth, WiFi – that would soon emerge and radically change how we'd access the web.

The point? It's risky to predict the future based on today's technologies and infrastructure.

Monday, June 6, 2022

X-Country in an EV: Day 5...the home stretch!

Today is Day 5 – and the home stretch! – of my x-country drive in an EV. 

I set out to see firsthand if “range anxiety” is a valid pain-point that will stop broader EV adoption.  After five days driving from Detroit to SoCal in my Mustang Mach-E, EV range and the ability to easily recharge is not a problem. 

Charging stations are everywhere.  

Electrify America and Walmart have partnered well to ensure a fast charger is never out of reach.  (Though there’s so much opportunity to upgrade the CX at the charging stations, as I’ll outline below.)

The connectivity between the FordPass app and my Mach-E’s NAV system is seamless – the app mapped the route and charging stations and sent that itinerary to car’s NAV system.  

Oh yeah, my “fuel” bill is cut by more than half!

But let’s face it:  Driving an EV long distance requires more stops.  

The Mach-E has a 270 miles range, yet I never stretched it to that limit, opting instead to charge every 200 miles or so.  This added time to our trip, but having additional short breaks made the trip less tiring. 

There is so much opportunity to improve the quality of the CX at charging stations.  

I’ll focus on Electrify America, only because, thanks to their network, every single stop I made across the country was at EA, and predominantly at Walmart Supercenters.

Electrify America’s charging stations are well branded, clean and easy to use.  But there are steps they can take to improve the experience and help OEMs scale EV adoption:

Reduce the failure rate:  We typically found two out of eight chargers were not working. That might be an acceptable fail rate, but not if the two that aren’t working are the only two 350 kWh fast chargers.  (To be clear, at no point did we pull in to an EA charging station and not find a working charger.)

Improve night time lighting:  Journey Mapping will likely show that people charging at night find themselves in a remote area of an empty parking lot.  How might EA help people feel secure, perhaps through brighter lighting, a 911 alert button, etc.

Add (and monetize) amenities:  Minimally, vending machines. Ultimately, a waiting lounge with TVs, WiFi, etc.  With eCommerce on the rise, therefore fewer people in the parking lots, I would imagine the shopping center owners will be open to new revenue opportunities. 

For those of you that followed this travelogue, thank you.  I’ll spare you more posts about the EV odyssey.  

Now you’ll just have to suffer through posts about my electric mountain bike.  :)

Sunday, June 5, 2022

X-Country Drive in an EV: What's unfamiliar is actually familiar.

Welcome to Day 4 of our cross-country drive in the Mustang Mach-E.

Austin is in our rear view mirror this morning, destination El Paso.  

A great foodie and music town, Austin remains one of my fav cities in America, bringing back tons of fun memories with Bob and Stuart from when we’d visit our clients at Dell. 

Sarah and I took this southerly route to visit my sister and Tesla-driving brother-in-law, Denise and Steve, who planned a great night at Llama Kid, an off-the-chart delicious Peruvian restaurant.  As an added bonus, Sarah got to spend time with Leah and Craig who were up from Houston for a wedding.  

And as much as Bailey is a great roadtrip companion, it was great to take a break from sleeping in dog-friendly hotels. (Bailey is eyeing me with scorn as I type this…)

Days 2 and 3 took us from Nashville to Dallas, followed by yesterday’s short hop to Austin.

I think I learned more about driving an EV these last two days than I had in the last two months. 

For example, late Friday night, somewhere along the long, dark stretch between Texarkana and Dallas, I experienced for the first time the frightening sight of the LOW BATTERY alert.  My palms started sweating.    

Then I recalled how many times the LOW FUEL alert in my gas-powered car would tell me I had only 50 miles of range left in the tank.  Same with the battery alert – 50 miles left.  The alert came on again at the 25 mile mark, and even though I knew this was simply information and not a dire warning, I was on high alert.  

I know what you ICE lovers are thinking:  “Sure, the range warning lights may be the same, but I have gas stations everywhere.”  True that.  But with the Mach-E, the App and NAV system conspire to get your car to a specific charge station with a pre-determined reserve of battery range.  So far, this hasn’t failed us.  (We made it to the Electrify America charging station in Royse City with 15 miles of range remaining – just as the App and the Mach-E had planned.)

There are other parallels to EV and ICE “fuel economy.”  Want to stretch your range in a gas-powered car?  Well, don’t speed, nor do you accelerate fast or brake hard.  Same in an EV.  

The one difference I encountered was the impact of hilly terrain on EV efficiency.  (Is it different than an ICE vehicle?  Not sure, but I know I hadn’t factored this in). There were parts of Arkansas and the Texas Hill country where the power efficiency dropped. (Our midwest friends will never have to worry about that!)

Now, I do recall in my first post from the road that I promised to talk about the “robots.”  We’ll get to that tomorrow, when we witness Sarah’s first experience with hands-free, autonomous driving.  

That, and what Sarah and I believe was a UFO sighting.  (How’s that for a S1E4 cliff-hanger?)

Friday, June 3, 2022

The Elephant in the EV Room: "Range Anxiety"

 Day 2 of our cross-country drive in the Mach-E.

We made it to Nashville from Detroit, but before launching into EV roadtripping, I have to give a huge shout-out to Nashville – such a beautiful and fun city! As a music lover and writer, I have no clue why I never spent time here. Sarah and I enjoyed great music and hanging with a bunch of aspiring musicians. (Bailey was solely focused on the BBQ.) We will return!
Which brings us to today’s EV update. Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room – “range anxiety.” We made yesterday’s 550 mile drive from Detroit to Nashville with only two stops to recharge, each stop lasting around 35 minutes. EV charging stations are everywhere. Before owning the Mach-E, I never noticed them because, unlike gas stations, they’re not on all four corners of an intersection. Where they are is in your local shopping center parking lot. Electrify America, which has the most ultra-fast DC chargers across the country (ChargePoint has the most

chargers overall) seems to have chosen Walmart as its location of choice. Both charging stops yesterday, as well as today’s upcoming stops from Nashville to Dallas, were at Walmart Supercenters.
Before starting out yesterday I was admittedly worried about range. We packed light to reduce weight in the car; thought we’d have to limit AC usage (which draws on the battery); and drive the speed limit (horrifying!). But in truth, none of that was necessary. The app plans when and where to charge. The car displays current battery range and distance to the next pre-planned charger, leaving nothing to worry about. And if you don’t want to plan ahead, the NAV system finds charging stations as easily as it finds your Latte fix. On the back half of yesterday’s drive I lost all range anxiety and switched the Mach-E into “unbridled” mode. The performance mode didn’t degrade efficiency and range all that much. Today’s leg will be a bit longer as we travel from Nashville to Memphis to Dallas…fully unbridled…with AC turned up to 11. 🙂

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Zen and the art of an EV roadtrip.

I remember the anxiety I had when I cut the cord and switched from Cable TV to streaming.  Could I still watch live sports? Would I get all my favorite programs? Sure enough, with YouTube TV, the answer was a resounding yes to both questions. 

Now I’m cutting a new cord — the gas pump — as I take my new Mustang Mach-E on a cross-country trip.  And like the time I cut Cable TV, I'm experiencing the same questions.  Will it have the range for a long drive?  Will I waste hours recharging along the way?

Well, today is Day 1 on the Mach-E's first ever long distance drive, as we say farewell to Detroit and head to La Quinta. 

For those of you thinking about buying an EV, I’ll be sharing daily posts to help alleviate so-called “range anxiety.”  (Trust me, in pressing the start button this morning, I’m taking a big trust-fall to shed the comfy muscle memory of ICE vehicles.)

Today’s cool feature:  The FordPass app which plans the route and most efficient charge points, then sends the trip plan to the car’s NAV system.  I’m placing my full trust in the robots! (Including the robots that will drive the Mach-E the majority of the trip.  More about them later.)  

PS:  Robert M. Pirsig's book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, had a great impact on me.  His story about growth and discovery while on a long-distance motorcycle ride still resonates with me today.

Bailey loves the “Frunk” where we’re stashing all her worldly possessions, such as kibble & dried sardines.