Sunday, May 24, 2015

vs gas car

Before I got SparkEV, I really didn't understand EV. As an engineer, I knew about motors, batteries, electronics, regenerative braking and so on. But to have a car that performs poorer and costs more didn't make sense to me. Tesla performs better, but I can't imagine spending 70K on a car. EV could never make up for the price difference even with fuel (energy) savings. That was until SparkEV.

SparkEV is different. It performs better AND cheaper than gas cars. I'd like to paraphrase George H. W. Bush: Read my lips: wide acceptance EV revolution has been lit in Apr. 2015 with SparkEV push by GM. I was welcomed to the revolution with sparks flying in its performance, both of the car and the sales figure. I hope GM does the right thing and stay humble in continuing the good engineering with good prices to save money for everyone. No more Iron Duke Camaro, and Bolt for $38K is too high.

It's cheaper at $15K MSRP (as of May 2015)

SparkEV MSRP is 25K and change, but the actual MSRP is 15K when you factor in 7.5K federal income tax credit plus 2.5K CA rebate. When Chevy offered 1K rebate, it was even cheaper at 14K. So when discussing SparkEV, one should compare cars of comparable cost: 14K/15K.

It never fails to amaze me how people can cling to a belief even if that's non-factual garbage. This applies to EV hating gas people (gas bags!) when they crow EV price and subsidy. "Oh, well, that price is with subsidy" or "if it's so great, you don't need subsidy". These same people have no problems taking subsidy for their mortgage interest payment; they don't question that their house value could be up to 50% less without subsidy; they don't question that if their house is so great, their buyers don't need subsidy.

Fact is, EV subsidy is here and now. If they discontinue EV subsidy, government won't give you the money back nor will they improve other services. If you don't take advantage of it when EV can save you money overall, then you are a fool for giving more money to the government to waste it on some other mumbo-jumbo that will suck even more life out of you. Until recently, EV performance and cost really didn't make sense to me even with subsidy, but SparkEV is different. If you're even a little upset at the waste government is doing with your tax money, the least you can do is take some of it back by buying SparkEV that will save you time and money compared to gas cars (and other EV, too) while taking advantage of the subsidy to the fullest extent.

Now that price is settled, let's see how SparkEV performs in similar price category compared to gas cars. Comparison to other EV was in my previous post. There are few criteria that matter: 0 to 60 time (fun factor), smog check (save your mental health) carpool lane (freedom to choose), maintenance (aka. money saved), MPG or mi/kWh (aka. money saved), time saved (aka. money saved), range per drive (aka. time equivalent of money saved). Obviously the range is lacking in SparkEV, but that's more than made up by others, and it's not as big an issue as it seems as you will find out later in this post.

Quickest 0 to 60 mph under $20K

SparkEV is rated 7.2 to 7.8 seconds in 0 to 60 mph time. Assuming 7.5 seconds, there's no car under 15K that will out accelerate SparkEV from 0 to 60. Here's one link that shows 8.0 seconds for the fastest cars under 15K.
 1. 2013 Hyundai Accent GLS ($14,645)
0-to-60-mph time: 8.0 sec
Highway: 38 mpg

But more important for typical EV driving condition is 0 to 30 mph time as every traffic light is where 0 to 30 is compared (raced?). This data isn't readily available for gas cars, but SparkEV does quite well: 3.2 seconds. By comparison, Accent is 3.4 seconds: not a whole lot worse, but enough to show respect to quicker SparkEV.

It's not cool to beat up on cars not as expensive as you, so let's look at more expensive cars under 20K.
 1. Mitsubishi Lancer GTS (2.4L)
Base Price: $19,035
0-to-60-mph time: 7.2 sec
Highway: 34 mpg

This is from old 2009 article. Prices of cars have risen since then while performances not so much, so SparkEV is at a disadvantage. Still, SparkEV holds its own against cars costing 3K (or 5K) more in best case number. Using newer data, from Dec. 2014 for 2015 model cars,
1. Volkswagen Jetta
Base Price: $18,995
0-to-60-mph time: 7.4 sec
Highway: 34 mpg

Jetta is quicker if you assume medium figure for SparkEV. For case best number, SparkEV is 0.2 seconds quicker than even the fastest car under $20K. The author gives nod to SparkEV at the bottom of the article. I don't know why he didn't put it in second place or first place at 7.2 seconds in the main article. It's clearly biased (he'll argue subsidy BS)! Let the record show that SparkEV is quickest 0 to 60 mph car under 20K.

No smog check

One of the biggest hassles about gas car is smog check. Sure, new cars are exempt for about 5 years. Every time car is sold, an additional smog check is required. But SparkEV is exempt for the life of the car, 5 years or 20 years.

Every time I go to get smog check, my heart races and blood pressure rises in fear of it not passing. If it doesn't pass, and heaven forbid that it's labeled as gross polluter, I have to take it to bunch of other places for repair at state sanctioned places and get it checked again at other special places and repeat as necessary. The repair cost could be easily over $500. More importantly, amount to time wasted, even if one's time is $7.50/hr, could approach thousand dollars. Even more important is ill health effects from all the aggravation, even if it passes.

Until 2015, Prius and other hybrids were exempt from smog check. That is no longer the case. Now even hybrids have to haul their ass into specialized smog stations to get it checked every two years. If it doesn't pass, then even more specialized places have to fix it, wash, rinse, repeat until some a-hole who thinks he's an environmental deity let you drive it.

Just to avoid this nonsense is well worth having battery electric vehicle. And while you're at it, you might as well get the best bang for the buck, which is SparkEV.

Carpool lane freedom

By now, most people know hybrids were allowed in carpool lanes, but no longer. As of May 2015, only plug-in cars are allowed. But there's different sticker for plug-in hybrid vs pure EV. There's only limited number of plug-in hybrid stickers, which is green in color and rapidly running out. Pure EV get white stickers, which is also limited, but abundantly available. This may not be the case forever, but as of now, I have a peace of mind to know that I don't have to worry about not getting the sticker.

Compared to gas car, ability to drive in carpool lane is yet another option available to me (at lower cost!). Having this option and saving time is worth something, more for those who value their time. I had the Prius because the time value of money saved in carpool option was well worth the Prius premium. With SparkEV, I actually pay less to be able to drive alone (usually with dogs) in carpool lane.

Some gas bags would poo-poo that carpool is clogged, too. Well then, SparkEV has the option to take regular lane. I didn't want to dignify such stupid nonsense, but this always seem to come up; simple fact is SparkEV increases your freedom to choose which lane to use where as gas cars are restricted.

Lower maintenance cost

Maintenance on SparkEV is spartan. First 2 years of maintenance is included in price, but maintenance only consists of tire rotation. At around 40K miles, brake is checked. Seeing how the brake rotor seems almost new with cross hatch pattern after over 900 miles of mixed driving, I doubt it'll be anything more than just a check. Thank you regenerative braking!

About the biggest cost will be the battery when it dies after 8 to 12 years. Cost is unknown, but Nissan Leaf battery of 24kWh costs $5500, so SparkEV's 19kWh should cost less. Prius battery was over $10,000 when it first came out, but it's only $2300 now (installed=$3600). Based on this, and in conservative estimate, let's assume 1/2 of current Leaf price after 10 years. One may need to replace coolant and other sundry maintenance at battery replacement. They should be close to minor / major maintenance of gas car, but as conservative estimate, let's assume very high end of $500.

Battery: $2750 + $1250 labor = $4000
Other stuff : $500
Total : $4500

This should let the car last another 10 years of battery, assuming you still want to drive a 20 year old EV. In contrast, gas car needs minor maintenance every 5000 miles, medium every 15K miles and major every 30K miles. Assuming going to 200K miles in 20 years like SparkEV and dealer cost, it's roughly

5K service: 200K/5K * $50 = $2000
15K service: 200K/15K * ($250-$50) = $2667
30K service: 200K/30K  * ($450-$250) = $1333
= $6000

It's not that simple, of course. EV battery interval is abrupt and upfront after a decade or so, but gas car needs regular maintenance at smaller incremental cost. One can sell a gas car before shelling out for 20 years of maintenance, and only pay what he's used whereas SparkEV at 10 years must pay for another 10 years of battery life. Cost of used SparkEV with partially used battery isn't clear, but it should be comparable to gas car, so this is probably a wash.

One can do gas car maintenance at discount shops or himself after warranty expires, which reduces gas car maintenance cost. On the other hand, gas cars have more stuff to go wrong, such as timing belt, fuel lines, catalytic converter, oxygen sensor, EGR valve and so on. Let's assume those repair costs offset the lower maintenance cost done by discount shops so the total is still $6000. SparkEV is cheaper by $1500 out of pocket.

Then there's the time value of money by not going to the shop as often for maintenance. Let's assume your time is worth close to minimum wage of $10/hr. Assuming 1/2 hour to drive to dealer, 1/2 hour to pick up after, and time in shop is doing something productive (ie, back to work, lunch break), that's still $10 per trip. Unfortunately for me, time is almost always wasted during maintenance (watch TV, browse web), which could be anywhere from 1 hour to 8 hours depending on how busy the dealer service department happen to be. Now we're talking $20 to $100 per service visit. That is if your life is only worth $10/hr (equivalent to $20K/year salary). My time is worth more, and I'm sure yours is, too.

Hybrids are even worse. They must have all the gas engine maintenance AND they have to replace the battery at roughly the same interval as SparkEV. Frankly, I don't see why people buy hybrids anymore when SparkEV is so much better when DCFC are abundant. Ford and others are focusing on hybrids, and that will be their downfall.

MPG or mi/kWh

As for MPG, there's really no contest. As of today, gas prices around here are $3.90 for 87 octane regular. That puts SparkEV at 92 MPGe for typical driving as shown in my MPGe chart in previous blog post, and highway would easily exceed 100 MPGe as shown in my "freeway efficiency" post. You can do the math to figure out how long it will take to recoup the EV premium on price by better MPG (hint: it's negative number, meaning you actually save money from day 0). So much for the old myth about EV being expensive when it comes to SparkEV!

Time saved (no gas station)

Now that I've been driving SparkEV for about a month, it's a strange feeling not going to gas station. Sure, I've stopped at a charger near Jack In the Box for 10 minutes to get a boost using DCFC from 60% to 90% while I ordered the lunch to go (JITB won't allow eating in with dogs). But by and large, I haven't spent any time standing around while charging the car. I was always doing something else: eating, sleeping, working, blog, walking the dogs. This means time to recharge is essentially 0.

By contrast, gas stations always require time diverted from schedule to drive there and get back on track. If the gas station happens to be on the way, one saves extra drive time, but most people stand there and monitor fueling. I suppose one can get AM/PM hot dog and eat, but I don't see much of that.

Meanwhile almost every EV charging is done when people are away from the charger doing something else. As bizarre as it sounds when public EV charge time is 20 minutes while gas fueling time is 5 minutes, or 10 minutes in case of my truck's giant dual gas tank, overall time saved is far more for EV than for gas simply because EV is not dedicated time.

Range per drive

Once charged (or filled up), SparkEV range is lacking from gas car at only 82 miles or 94 miles if driven carefully in freeway (see my "freeway efficiency" post). While this seems awful, it's not as bad as one would think. How often do you drive more than 82 (or 70 miles to give margin) per trip? For me, it's two or three times a month. Vast majority of the time, I just recharge at home while I sleep or DCFC while having lunch to go which incur practically zero wasted time.

On those rare times I need to travel further, I use public fast charge station while I have coffee and/or bathroom break from previous coffee break to give 60 to 70 extra miles in about 20 minutes. That's about 1 hour of additional freeway driving, or about 140 miles with one break which covers 99.7% (3 sigma) of my travel. That's the best case; actual is about 130 miles due to non-optimal DCFC locations and avoiding busy locations to avoid waiting.

I covered DCFC in previous post, but let's go over the example again. Let's assume 65mph average speed while driving and each DCFC give 65 miles range. Let's assume gas car has 325 range with one tank of gas. In gas car, this would be 65 mph average for 5 hours of continuous drive (assuming bladder holds that long). With SparkEV, first 65 miles (with 17 miles margin) is 65 mph average, but if one assumes 0.5 hour to find and charge (see my DCFC post), subsequent miles are

For 1 charge to 130 miles : (65 + 1*65 miles) / (1 +  (1+0.5)*1 hours) = 52 mph on average
For 2 charges to 195 miles: (65 + 2*65 miles) / (1 + (1+0.5)*2 hours) = 48.8 mph on average
For 4 charges to 325 miles: (65 + 4*65 miles) / (1 + (1+0.5)*4 hours) = 46.4 mph on average
For infinite miles: 65 / (1+0.5) = 43.3 mph on average (thank you, L'Hopital)

I can get to anywhere in the world with SparkEV at 43.3 mph if there's DCFC along the way. Unfortunately, it's only popular in southern California and San Francisco area for now. Chevy dealers across America, here's your chance to pull in EV drivers to your show room to show off your other cars (like Corvette's 2.95 sec 0 to 60 mph time): install public DCFC at your Chevy dealer location!

If I need to get there faster than 43 mph on average for many charge cycles or there's no DCFC along the way, I can always rent a gas car. So far, I haven't had to rent a gas car nor have I driven my gas car (Astro/Truck). I think I'll drive the Astro van just a bit to keep it running; it's not good to let a gas car sit for too long.

It's amusing how some gas bags claim they must have 500 mile range or they can't drive the car. How often do they drive 500 miles in one sitting? 7.7 hours at 65 mph without pee break? Really? If it's once a month or few times a year, and all other times are under 80 miles, it's cheaper to just rent a gas car for that rare long distance drive and save money with SparkEV. But if their drive is over 80 miles daily and they don't want to charge for 20 minutes during lunch, by all means, spend more money on gas car.

Table has turned; with SparkEV, gas car is now slower and more expensive than battery electric vehicle. Welcome to the revolution.

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