PHEV's are a Gateway Drug to BEV's

Feb 03, 2018

How our Plug in Hybrid Electric has addicted us to electric drive and how we plan on buy one as soon as it is practical for us because of our experiences.

We bought our Ford C Max Energi PHEV in late November of 2016 and it has changed our whole perception of Electric Vehicles. When we first decided to purchase our car we were looking for something to save us money on fuel cost and to enable us to reduce our carbon footprint. While the Energi only has a 20 mile EV only range we were pleasantly surprised to find this limited range could account to from one half to two thirds of our driving.

Initially when making the decision to buy we were put off by the limited range of most EV’s of less than one hundred miles per charge. Since we live in the desert southwest this would limit us to trips only to Las Cruces, NM which is our home town about twenty miles from our house. Trips to El Paso, TX of eighty miles one way, or trips to other local towns would be outside the range of most EV’s available in late 2016. So we bought a PHEV to cover these potential trips and other road trips.

That was our rationale in late 2016 at least. Then we ran across a smoking deal for a $37 K car discounted to $25 K because it was the last model and it had been on the lot for a year. So we jumped on the deal and drove that car home that day. For the first three months we owned the car we only had 120 volt charging capabilities which took seven hours.

Then in March of 2017 I located a 240 unit that while it was only 16 amps was pretty much as high a charging rate the cars on-board charger could handle. This reducing our charging time from seven hours to just a little over two hours which increased the EV miles we could drive. I found out later this also improved our charging efficiency meaning we were losing less electricity to charging losses which was saving us money.

Why am I calling our PHEV a gateway drug to an EV you may ask. Even experiencing a pure EV drive train on a limited basis like this can be very addicting, and we are hooked. We charge the car most of the time using grid tie solar during the daytime so most of our EV miles really are carbon free for starters.

The car is quiet; there is no start up noise like a starter, or engine sounds, vibrations, or smells. When you are parked in what is referred to as an idling situation the motor is not running even though the car is powered on. There is no latency, when you put the car in drive, and press the accelerator pedal the car just takes off instantly, smoothly, quietly with a slight whirring sound.

There are no multiples of gears; instead there is only one gear, drive or reverse. Being as we own a PHEV that has an IC Engine there is a CVT for the IC Engine but the electric motor simply does not use it, or need it. We often use the EV mode to get up to highway speed on the interstate to save fuel. Once up to cruising speed the IC engine is more efficient then it is trying to get to speed.

We save most of our EV driving for city driving where it is maximally efficient and the ICE is the least efficient. It is very strange being in city traffic surround by noisy exhaust emitting gas engine cars. We are not only quiet, but there is literally nothing coming out of our tail pipe.

In Las Cruces the east side of town is at a higher elevation then the west side of town. We have been able to start out at an east side store with let’s say 11 miles of range and have 14 or more miles of range when we get to the west side of town which is 2 or 3 miles away. This is due to regenerative braking which is a real coup. Try making gasoline in your gas engine car like that, it just cannot be done. ICE cars burn gasoline just sitting at a stop light, while we make energy just stopping for the light, and we use none sitting there.

When you begin to look at the specs things really get amazing. Our car weighs 3,900 lbs. without passengers. The electric drive motor only produces 47 horsepower, but manages 117 foot-pounds of torque. I do not know of any IC Engine capable of such astonishing numbers in such a small package. We literally do not like to use the over revving IC engine anywhere but on the open road at speeds above 45 mph and in cruise control mode.

Since we bought our car more extended range EV’s keep hitting the market all the time. We are planning on getting a BEV in the late 2020 or early 2021. The reason being is that we will through paying for our pickup truck at that time and will be able to afford the new car purchase. I wish we had been able to buy a BEV in 2016 when we got the Energi but our limited option of 107 miles of range in a Nissan Leaf just wasn’t going to cut it given our local driving cycle.

After we owned our car for a short while I started a Group Facebook page for local EV drivers named Electric Vehicle Organization SNM but was surprised at how few people I found. While we have 37 members but most of the members are not local. Including ourselves there are only six to eight people locally who own an EV. The city here has installed three or four charging points, but they are slow. There are only two or three other charging points in private hands of limited speed also.

It is like being a stranger living in a strange land surrounded by internal combustion engines. No one around us on the roads are even aware they next to an electric vehicle. I knew I was in cognitive dissonance land when on a particularly traffic congested day I was getting claustrophobic being surrounded by exhaust fumes because we were not producing any fumes ourselves. We put the air handling unit on re-circulation to try and keep these obnoxious fumes out of the car.

Once you have lived with an electric drive car even for a little while you come to realize that they are just clearly superior to gas engine cars. You begin to view gas and oil burners as just primitive. We had a decal in the small triangular window over our charging port which says “We Fuel Up at Home”. Nobody notices it as far as I know.

We see clueless reviews of the C Max Energi written from the perspective if a gas car driver’s point of view; they just don’t really get it. Not enough range they say which while true begs the question, just how much range do you need. I would say 20 miles of range in a PHEV is at the bottom end of what is desirable, but it is very usable.

One time for a stunt we went an entire month and 1,014 miles on three quarters of a tank of gas. We drove 667 of those miles in EV mode and only 346 miles using IC energy. Not bad for 20 miles at a time EV only range. We average over 62 mpg when all the energy sources were accounted for. The car only has a 14 gallon gas tank. So the 20 miles of EV only range is not as limiting as you might think.

You will often hear EV enthusiast say electricity is cheaper than gasoline, it is not. At current gas prices electricity would have to sell for 5.5 cents a kWh to equal to gasoline prices. The real power of the EV is that the electric drive gets the equivalence of over 100 mpg e. This makes operating EV’s about 50% cheaper. We get a stipend for our electric utility of 8 cents a kWh for power we sell them. I figure that is our cost for charging during the day as I figure we lose some of those kWh sales when we charge the car.

As I write this blog I just saw another article by automotive spokespersons crying in their beer over the fact that they will lose repair servicing money if EV’s catch on and go main stream. While this may be sad for them it is good for you and me. My plan is to feed them fish heads if I can. I am sure most of you won’t miss the cost and inconvenience of major car repairs either.

Final note here and that is that EV’s represent the only real chance we have of converting our transportation fleet to being carbon free. Transportation represents a significant percentage of our energy consumption nationally coming in at over 37%. When renewable energy is used to charge the vehicle it is not only greenhouse gas emission free, it is air pollution free also.

Icing on the cake here (no pun intended) their large electrical on board storage of an EV represents a way to smooth out the inconstancy and excess production often inherent in renewable energy production which could be shared with the grid on demand if storage was available. The EV as well as the home battery represents massive amounts of spinning electrical reserve without the spinning parts for our electric utilities. If they aren’t on board promoting this then the utilities are just damn fools. It would not be the first time that they were, but fortunately history move on at its own pace, always has.

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