Friday, February 12, 2016

The great trans California EV race

There are many videos of Tesla P90D doing drag race against much more expensive and/or powerful gas cars. While that's amusing, it's not something practical many would do. Far more interesting would be using EV to travel long distance using multiple DCFC. This hearkens back to the days of old when early gas cars were racing across long distances in their putt-putt cars. It would be fun and adventurous, and good PR for EV all at once, though I doubt regulators would ever approve of any kind of "race" today.

In this post, I present a fictional idea for a race across California. Because I'm no community organizer, this is simply an interesting idea that's fun to think about. Imagine the early days of gas cars, instead they had today's EV. I can just picture silent movies with people charging using DCFC and sipping Starbucks coffee instead of carrying around gas cans if this actually happened 100 years ago.

The Race

Below is a picture from of all DCFC locations from San Diego to Sacramento.

While it would be nice to get to the Oregon border, there aren't enough chargers for 80 miles range EV to quite make it that far. For CCS cars like SparkEV, the only route is the western one with single station at King City ($0.39/kWh!) between Monterey and Pismo beach. For Chademo cars like Leaf, only route is the eastern one along interstate 5 with big gap between Bakersfield and Visalia.

Sticking to these charging points, it should be possible to make it from Mexican border in San Diego all the way to Sacramento, a distance of about 600 miles, ideally with 8 DCFC sessions. At average freeway speed of 65 MPH + 30 min for DCFC (43 MPH average), it should take 14 hours with 4 hours of breaks. Because of frequent breaks with EV (about every hour), driver is not likely to get fatigued. In fact, a short power nap while DCFC would be possible.

In contrast, if gas cars need 30 min break (eat, pee, nap) after about 2 hours of driving, they would need 9.5 hours drive + 2 hours = 11.5 hours. If EV can charge 160 miles in 20 minutes + 10 minutes to get off/on freeway, they'd be pretty much the same convenience as gas cars.

Because there is at least one "choke point" in the race, the charging plan would have to center around that. For CCS, that would be King City. Then two charging points around that at San Luis Obispo and Salinas will be needed. But outside of those three, the driver is free to choose charging spots. If the driver speeds too much, he'd lose range, and more charging sessions will be needed, resulting in lost time. If the driver is too slow, of course, he'd be slow. It will be a careful balance between speed and charging location selection.

People in NoCal might want to visit SoCal (and vice versa), so the race could be both ways simultaneously. Their drive back home could be at their leisure, or they may decide to drive to origin of the race at leisure and scope out the charging spots before hand.

The Rules

First and foremost, this race is to strictly obey all laws. How to enforce this isn't clear; one can use GPS and/or OBD plug to keep track of vehicle speed / location and disqualify for any infraction. But given that many (most?) cars on the highway exceed the speed limit, this might make it more hazardous than keeping up with the flow of traffic.

One idea to prevent speeding might be to have gas motorcycle as "pace car" that precedes the leader by few car lengths (separate lane) and obeying traffic laws. All other cars would have to be slower than the gas motorcycle. Could this result in all EV having the same time? In CA, you get stuck in traffic, stuck in red light, stuck behind some dumb truck, select DCFC that happen to need waiting, any number of things could happen for different travel time.

But even without that, this is where the EV shines. If one speeds much, he will get far less range, and lose time, or worse, get a ticket (automatic disqualification), or even worse get stranded before reaching the next charger (also disqualification). As such, speeding much more than traffic flow may be counterproductive. It will have to be a balance of low speed, yet not too low.

Keeping up with this rule, any collision, regardless of fault or object (person, dog, car, UFO), is automatic disqualification. Basically, one has to drive carefully, or get disqualified. Yes, bad luck is a bitch, and could get you disqualified.

Second rule would be that EV would have to be stock except wheels/tires (more eco the better!) and mod to add DCFC. As of now, only mod available is Jdemo for Rav4EV by quick charge power. But they may have other mods soon, such as for Ford Focus Electric or even Fiat 500e. Absolutely not allowed is mod to increase battery capacity, like certain company is offering to add second battery, or completely different drive train.

Mod to make the EV more aerodynamic may be allowed provided that such mod is available to other people (paid or free) as well and at least one other unrelated party has such mod. First rule would say any such mod would have to be legal, so being legal is absolutely required.

Third and very obvious rule would be that it has to be driven only on electricity.

The Winner(s)

Because the route taken must be different for different charging standard, this makes determining the winner tricky.

One method could be to find the average speed over distance after at least one CCS and one Chademo car passed the finish line, and the winner is the one with highest average MPH.

Another could be separate categories for CCS and Chademo (two winners) using above method.

Another would be even more categories; due to different routes, winner of each category is based on average speed method described above.

  1. sub 70 miles range, such as iMiev
  2. 70-90 miles range, such as SparkEV, Leaf S, BMW i3, even Ford Focus Electric modified with Jdemo by
  3. 90 to 120 miles range, such as SoulEV, Leaf SV/SL, Rav4EV modified with Jdemo by
  4. DCFC capable hybrids only running on EV, such as BMW i3Rex, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (someone could import it, who knows?). This might get tricky as to how to determine that no gas was used. Maybe some penalty could be assessed for gas use.

Or it could be many categories with each category having separate CCS/Chademo winners. This is probably the best, combining all three ideas above.

In this day and age, this race can be on-going with the result posted on the internet. But there won't be any black and white newsreel coverage of the winner if not for an official sanctioned race day.

The Reward

The winner will be proudly recognized as the first to win trans California EV race. Their faces will be featured in some silent film newsreel to be archived for later generations to admire and wonder at our primitive state of affairs in transportation. Their children will admire what kind of brave nut jobs their parents were to undertake such crazy adventure with the fear of getting stranded with so few DCFC chargers along the way, not to mention that they had to drive the car themselves and not sit behind self driving cars.

Of course, that will be superseded by the next great race, "The great trans USA EV race", that to be superseded by "The great trans North America EV race" and so on and so forth. But there will be nothing like the first one with so many obstacles to overcome as "The great trans California EV race" as that will likely be the last interesting EV race where humans must be the driver.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

SparkEV pricing and depreciation

The impetus for my SparkEV adventure started with pricing. Basically, it was the lowest cost option, even cheaper than replacing the battery in old Prius. In my case, it was 0 down, $139/mo for 39 months. Including CA rebate of $2500, that works out to

$139 * 39 - $2500 = $2921
$2921 / 39 = $75/mo

Include tax and license becomes bit more, but $75/mo is cheaper than most smartphone plans.

Lowest SparkEV "lease"

But what is the lowest price lease deal? When I first got SparkEV, I thought I had pretty good deal. I mean, cheaper than most smartphone plans to lease quickest car under $20K and an EV at that made me feel pretty smug. Then I find out about even cheaper price starting Jan. 2016: FREE!

They give out 2 hours of free SparkEV "lease" (aka. rental). Given that SparkEV range is about 65 miles at 65 MPH, it's not likely to drive far. Still, it would be enough to go shopping for large items like 50 lb bags of dog food. In fact, one of the founders of the company was commenting that one of their first customers did exactly that. Gotta love a company that provides service for betterment of dogs and cats! See comments section in link below.

From cursory glance, it seems this idea could generate lots of profits. There are large pick up trucks used as rolling billboard that get 15 MPG or less in the city as well as having to do oil change, etc., and they would have to make profit to stay in business. Using SparkEV and not paying the drivers, instead collecting fee from them after first 2 hours seem to be a great idea to make lots of profit. I wish them the best of success. It's one of those, "now why didn't I think of that!"

But this may cause potential "problem" for used SparkEV pricing. If waivecar does well, they may need more SparkEV than what comes from Chevy. They may turn to used market, or other car sharing companies may decide to use SparkEV, and may have to turn to used market. While this is just speculation, Chevy will probably discontinue SparkEV after Bolt comes out, which would make SparkEV more valuable even as spare parts car. Again, this is total speculation, but it doesn't look good to count on lower price for used SparkEV. Get'em while you can.

More lease deals

Often, several media outlets showcase the low cost SparkEV lease. ev-vin has excellent blog that shows latest and greatest lease deals for various EV, SparkEV and more.

Some comments in November 2015 showed some people getting lease deals as low as $62/mo using calculations like I have above. Since then, factory lease deals seem to have disappeared, but SparkEV continues to be one of the lowest cost EV to lease. As of Jan 31, 2016, Fremont Chevy has $79/mo + $1895 down for 36 months

($79 * 36 + $1895 - $2500) / 36 = $62/mo

Add tax and it will be bit more. Still, $62/mo lease is pretty damn good for any car, not just EV.

Buy after lease

Over the months, I've come to discover how great SparkEV really is. It's the best bang for the buck out there, including gas cars. I may decide to keep the car after lease expires by paying the residual, about $14K after 39 months. Given that new SparkEV MSRP is about $26K, $14K is almost half! Wow, that's a great deal! As with many things, not so fast.

When the lease is first signed, the federal EV tax credit of $7500 is taken by the leasing company. In effect, they "bought" the car, and merely renting it to you. Their cost to buy would be $26K-$7.5K = $18.5K. Therefore, residual would represent $14K/18.5K (75%), or only 25% depreciation in 3.25 years. Considering that some cars lose half the value after driving out of dealer lots, 25% after over 3 years isn't bad at all. Or it's awful if you wanted to buy the car after lease expires.

Nissan Leaf depreciation

There have been some popular media reports that EV (Nissan Leaf in particular) lose value quicker than any car. "Any car", as in not just EV but all cars. had an article discussing the details of the depreciation.

They correctly point out that almost 50% depreciation in first year does not take into account the tax credit. In case of used car market, the depreciation should also consider state subsidy. That would make for $35K MSRP - $7.5K (fed) - $2.5K (CA) = $25K. 50% of $35K is $17.5K Actual depreciation for Leaf in first year would be 1-17.5/25 = 30%. While that's pretty large, it's nowhere near 50% that popular media make it out to be. In fact, it would be less depreciating than popular cars like Chevy Camaro (39%) and Kia Optima (35%).

But is this real or just imagined? Is 2015 Nissan Leaf really only selling for $17.5K? Let's find out! Using as a search tool, we look for 2015 Nissan Leaf selling prices in SoCal area. The post subsidy price I use for new Leaf are $22K for S, $25K for SV, $27K for SL.

Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot, so the data is probably not very good. Still, one can pick up a used 2015 Leaf with less than 10,000 miles on it for about $17K. Depreciation in one year would be 1-$17K/$25K = 32%. But this includes Leaf S. While it's not known if they have Chademo option ($1200 option), we assume not. Then S depreciation would be 1-$17K/$22K=24%. We can estimate the first year depreciation as roughly 20% to 30%.

Leaf also has 2014 and 2013 models. In case of 2014, there was only one: SL for $22K with 11K miles. That's 1-22K/25K=12% by selling for more than typical 2015 model. Since there's nothing special about 2014 model, we ignore this one.

2013 is the year when Leaf switched to better battery (something about lizard) from pre 2012 model, and SV/SL has 6.6kW L2. There are lots of these for sale. So many, in fact, that I gave up after about 20 of them. Half of them are SV.

Depreciation is roughly 40% to 45%. While it's large, it's not so bad considering these cars have been driven for about 3 years.

At 20,000 miles on average, that works out to 6666 miles per year, probably more since some cars could be less than 3 years. Wow, they are some low miles driven! SparkEV lease allows 10,000 miles per year, and these Leaf drivers would be only 67% of that. I guess Leaf drivers are home bodies that don't go to dog beach on regular basis.

In terms of money, it's pretty awful. 2013 loses roughly $3500 per year, or $291/mo. I guess this is why Leaf lease used to be about $250 + some money down. To rub it in some more, SparkEV 3.25 year lease post subsidy is only $2921, $899/yr, $75/mo, or about 1/4 that of Leaf.

It gets far worse. Since average miles driven is only 6666 miles per year, $3500/6666 miles = $0.53/mile! In contrast, SparkEV at same miles would be $899/6666 = $0.13/mile, 3.9 times cheaper. At 10,000 lease miles, it would be $899/10000=$0.09/mile, over 5 times cheaper than Leaf. Those are with my "ripped off" rate of $75/mo. Using recent lease deals of $62/mo, well, I don't even want to think about it!

But in any case, Leaf loses about half the post subsidy price in 3 years.

SparkEV depreciation

That's some scary thought if you're selling used SparkEV. While it's not the worst, losing 50% of post subsidy price (about $7500) after 3 years is pretty un-nerving. That means 2014 SparkEV would cost $7500 in 2017. If you're in the market to buy one, that will be great!

Umm, yeah, not so fast. SparkEV ain't no Leaf! While Leaf is one of the slowest cars in 0-60 at 10 seconds at $25K, SparkEV at 7.2 seconds 0-60 is the quickest car at $16K, or even at $20K. SparkEV is also the quickest charging EV in the world, quicker than new Leaf with 110 miles range and BMW i3, sometimes even quicker than Tesla.

SparkEV is also the first EV from Chevy (aka, GM). You might claim EV1 was the first EV, but EV1 was never meant to be sold. If one goes by GM electric vehicle that's not sold to consumers, lunar rover from Apollo mission would be the first GM EV, or maybe there were EV prototypes before then. Obviously, we don't count those, so we shouldn't count EV1, either.

Then SparkEV is the first EV from GM. Yes, it's historic, and worthy of collector's value. This is especially so since Chevy will probably cancel SparkEV after Bolt comes out, limiting the number of SparkEV in existence. Then it's not clear how to price it. Is it priceless (free?) or billions of dollars? Well, it doesn't matter what our perception is. What mattes is how it's priced in used car market.

Again going to, we get some prices for 2015 and 2014. We use $16K for new SparkEV price, $26K-$7.5K-$2.5K.

Unfortunately, there are only 4 for sale. Why aren't people selling their old SparkEV? Must I ask? :-)

With such small sample, it's hard to say if this is good or bad. There are six 2014/2015 Leaf for sale in used market while Leaf probably sold many times that of SparkEV in CA when new. Then it could be bad that there are 4 SparkEV vs 6 Leaf for sale. There shouldn't be any SparkEV for sale; are they nuts to try to get rid of such fantastic EV? ;-)

Although the average is $16.5K, throwing out the max and min pricing, the average seem to be right around $15K with 10,000 miles. $16.5K would be more than new SparkEV price, and $15K would be depreciation of only 1-$15K/$16K = 6%. For worst case of $13,998 with 28,000 miles, it would be 12%. That isn't bad at all!

More telling is the miles depreciation. 28,000 miles is about the number of miles for 3 year lease (10K miles per year). At lease end, it would be about $14K, pretty much what the residual would be. If one bought SparkEV instead of lease, it would lose about $2K in 3 years mileage, or $667/yr or $56/mo. With a year older car, it could be more loss in actual 3 years time, but probably not over $75/mo (or $62/mo). But remember, due to lack of samples, confidence is shaky.

Lowest SparkEV purchase pricing

With the release of 2016 model year SparkEV at the tail end of Dec. 2015, there haven't been many lease deals. Factory lease expired a while ago, and there have been sporadic deals from ev-vin's web site. But what is the best price to buy it?

Back in Apr. 2015 when I obtained SparkEV, Chevy had promo with $1000 rebate. So the total discount was $7.5K fed + $2.5K CA + $1K GM = $11K. In addition, Chevy was giving out $500 rebate to buy Bosche L2 EVSE for home charging at 240V. Total savings would be $11.5K, but SparkEV would've been $26500 at the dealer.

From ev-vin's web site, I recently browsed over to Rydell Chevy in Northridge, CA. They show $1000 Chevy rebate plus another $1000 Rydell special for a total of $2000 savings. Then the price at dealer is shown as $24745. I checked the options, and it includes DCFC, a $750 option. If it didn't have DCFC, it would be $24K! WOW!
Well, "WOW" is only in CA. SparkEV is sold at $24K in Mexico, so the pricing is good for CA, but average for Mexico.

Still, applying $7.5K + $2.5K, it would be $14.5K for SparkEV 1LT. Considering SparkGas 1LT costs $15.1K, EV is cheaper than gas car!

Now go and get'em; they only have few in stock, and who knows if Chevy will make any more.

Edit Feb. 12 2016

It seems Chevy is finally selling SparkEV in Canada at retail level.

It's listed bit above $33K CAD, which is bit under $24K USD! On top of that, it shows DCFC comes as standard. That would put Canadian SparkEV $2750 cheaper than US models. What? Why is Chevy selling SparkEV for even cheaper in Canada than in CA where they get ZEV credit? If Canada isn't so far away, I could get into SparkEV import business.

Edit Feb. 21, 2016

Is there a price war going on? Capitol Chevy of San Jose, CA shows 2LT price of $24,060. This includes DCFC option ($750), which would make base model to be $23,310.
Then after $7500 fed tax credit + $2500 CA rebate = $14,060 (or $13,310 if it didn't have DCFC)! Wow, that's approaching 3.25 year residual value for a BRAND NEW EV! How low can they go? This is getting very interesting.

Edit May 11, 2016

Just when I thought things couldn't get any lower, it seems the price is even lower in Oregon and Maryland. Few weeks ago, I saw few for sale in Maryland for $17.9K. While that deal is gone, there are several in Oregon for $18.9K as seen in This comes with DCFC, a $750 option!

It's possible that these guys are sleazy, and reneg on the ad. But there are several dealers with sub-$20K pricing before subsidy, so the deal is probably real though with some caveats.

Oregon doesn't offer state incentive, but they qualify for federal tax credit of $7.5K. Then the post subsidy price is only $11.4K! WOW!

But wait, there's more! Because CA rebate is dependent on actually registering and using the car in CA, not where it's purchased, it could (COULD!) also qualify for $2.5K CA rebate (or $4K for low income). While it's not clear if OR deal requires residency or how to qualify for CA rebate for out of state purchase, it might (MIGHT!) be possible to get SparkEV for $8.9K.

But for the low income who qualify for $4000 CA rebate and also has $7500 tax liability this year (ie, recently retired), that's only $7400! You can barely buy a decent used car for $7400. This is for a brand new car that seats 4 and powerful enough to go from 0 to 60 MPH in 7.2 seconds, quicker than 300ZX sports car from 1980's and smoother than a Rolls Royce.

If anyone tells you that EV are slow and expensive and can't drive over 80 miles a day, just point them to SparkEV. It's cheaper than the cheapest new car, yet quicker than the sports cars of the past and smoother than the most expensive gas powered luxury car. It also has fast charger to allow many hundreds of miles of driving a day. Now THAT is how you debunk EV myth: SparkEV!

Edit May 24, 2016

It seems there's some sort of price war going on between Nissan Leaf, VW eGolf, and SparkEV. Doing a quick search on auto trader on all electric cars, there are lots of Leaf S between $15.5K and $20K (84 miles range, some with fast charge), one Leaf SV for $19.9K (107 miles range, fast charge), several VW eGolf SE between $17.5K to $20K (83 miles range, no fast charge), and several SparkEV (82 miles range, fast charge) starting at $19K. It seems Leaf S has taken the lead on lowest purchase price EV, at least as advertised on autotrader.

While Leaf and eGolf seats 5 vs SparkEV's 4, eGolf SE at such low price lacks fast charge, and not worth considering. Leaf's fast charge tapers off very rapidly relative to SparkEV. Both Leaf and eGolf are rated for 0-60 in about 10 seconds (30-60 in 7 seconds), far slower (boring!) than SparkEV's 7.2 seconds (30-60 in 4 seconds). If 5 seats are absolutely important above all else, Leaf SV at special sale might be best, followed by Leaf S with fast charge (DCFC). But if you can live with 4 seats, SparkEV still presents best bang for the buck for purchase.

However, ev-vin's blog still shows SparkEV to be the lowest cost lease car, actually free under right circumstances. As such, SparkEV is the lowest cost car in the world even without considering superior performance.