Shoveling Sunshine

Dec 24, 2016

About the purchase of our new 2015 Ford C Max Energi PHEV and an analysis of the limited data I have on a 1,700 plus trip to Oklahoma and Texas from New Mexico. Also included is an analysis of a recent local driving return.

My wife and I finally made our PHEV car purchase on November 30th 2016. We drove to El Paso, TX from our home in Radium Springs, NM about 80 miles to talk to the Hyundai dealership, the Nissan dealership, and to check in at Viva Ford on our way home. We had a thousand dollars for a down payment, but no real intentions of buying a vehicle that day.

Hyundai had no PHEV’s on the lot; the Nissan Leaf salesman was suitably vague about lease or sales incentives on the Leaf so we went on to Viva Ford to inquire there. A salesman greeted me in the parking lot and I told him what I was looking for a Ford C Max Energi and he said we have one on the lot but it is a 2015. So we went out front to look at it.

The car was Ruby Metallic Red (not my first choice of color) but it has written on the windscreen 30% off. The tag said $37,162. The Energi comes in basically one package only, the upscale model with leather seats, and all the accessories. We took the car for a test drive, but the car had to be jump started as it had set on the lot so long it did not have enough juice to start. That was interesting because there are two posts in the engine bay connected to wires and not directly on a battery.

Then we talked and the salesman told us they had a Black Friday incentive of $1,000 on new vehicle sales. This reduced the price of our $37K car to $25K. The car had everything we wanted and was a smoking deal so we pulled the trigger on the purchase. I had looked a traveling to Boulder, CO to purchase a used Energi from Green Eyed Motors earlier that week, but I had an email from the salesman that said they had sold the one I was looking at.

The car had 134 miles on it when we bought it, and about a half a tank of gas. I drove it home trying to figure out the cruise control settings for several miles as well as how to turn off the rear window wiper. It was getting dark and we were due to return to the dealership in two days to have the car washed, gassed up, and to pick up the usual items they do not keep in cars on the display lot. In the morning I aired up the tires from the mid 20’s psi to the stated pressure of 38 psi. This got rid of the tire pressure warning light.

On Friday we got our new clean car back from the detailing shop with floor mats, a opportunity charger, and the owner’s manual. Finally we could plug our PHEV in and charge the power storage battery. I had a kilowatt meter so I could check on the actual electricity it took to charge the 7.6 kWh battery pack. I was surprised to learn it only took 7.76 kWh to charge it. Later upon reading the manual I learned that the EV part of the battery was actually 6.5 kWh in capacity and 1.1 kWh of the battery was reserved for the hybrid electric power which is operational as needed. This meant the car was nominally expected to use 325 watt hours per mile assuming a 20 mile range.

We only had the car for two week when I decided to take a trip to Oklahoma and Texas to visit my brother and then my friend Phil Knox. We refueled the car on the 15th although it only needed a half tank of gas to fill the 14 gallon gas tank. I left a sunrise on Friday the 16th for my 716 miles of driving to attempt to reach Chandler, OK in one day. I had a full battery pack.

I had two mountain passes to traverse, but the weather was mild, with temps in the 50’s F. I drove in EV later mode. It was interesting to watch the battery gain energy on the downhill sides of these mountains. I had burned a little power in EV mode to make room for this. For example at Ruidoso, NM the car had 14 miles of range but then had 18 miles of range when I finished descending the mountain. I had used up my EV only power by the time I reached Portales, NM.

I was concerned about cold weather front moving in but to my surprise the front manifested itself in high winds that were mainly tailwinds for me. I gassed up in Hereford, TX having traveled 391.1 miles netting 52.8 MPG. I had used 8.6 kWh to travel some 135.5 EV miles. This tells me the read out is also tracking regen miles also.

At Amarillo, TX I got on the interstate and decided to take advantage of the tailwinds and drive 75 mph as much as possible. I had a time zone change working against me and was not expecting to make my destination until after 9 PM local time. In Oklahoma I had to reduce this speed to 70 mph. Even so the next day Trip One showed I had gone 364.2 miles at 51.6 mpg. I had driven 119.9 EV miles on 5.1 kWh. Although I had charged up at my brothers house I had not used up all the power available to the electric motor.

Sunday morning the cold front had cast its spell over Oklahoma as it was +5 degrees F. The go time programming ability to preheat the cabin came in very useful that morning. I only needed 250 miles to refueling but only managed 37.7 mpg. The active grill shutters really did their work that morning. I had only gone 57.9 EV miles using 4.6 kWh. I had a long drive in the morning to return home from Denton, TX via El Paso to Radium Springs, NM.

On Monday I made it through the ordeal refueling in Las Cruces, NM for a grand total of 1,763.1 miles averaging 40.7 mpg. I had burned through 23.6 kWh over 367.2 EV miles. I was very pleased given the conditions I had encountered. Single digit temperatures yield air densities just this side of molasses and are not conducive to good gas mileage. I had budgeted for 38 mpg and had done better than that.

One of the reasons we bought a PHEV was for trips. We wanted the advantages of an electric vehicle but the ability to make long distance trips which currently is not an option even for 200 mile range EV’s. We live over 20 miles from town and routinely make 50 plus miles trips to town for shopping and rat killing. Since we do not have a great deal of excess Grid Tie PV capacity I felt a PHEV was a better match for our situation.

The current read outs of our trip one tell the story for local driving. Up to 60% of local driving is now in EV only mode. We tend to use the ICE to and from town and switch to EV mode when the speed limit drops to 40 mph. We can then drive the last 5 miles to town, drive around town to do our errands, and then we usually have enough power to make it several miles on the return leg to home.

The trip read outs are a little confusing as you do not have a delineation of the hybrid mode miles separately from the ICE or EV miles. The Hybrid miles are included in with the EV miles but the ICE can and does operate with electric drive. The best you can say about you actual efficiency without a detailed analysis is to add all the energy in and divide the resulting figure into the total miles traveled. I will detail the result of my last trip one read out to show you what I mean.

It reads 135.1 miles at 84.0 mpg. It also says on the right side 84.5 EV miles at 18.6 kWh. While 84 mpg sounds really good it is a little misleading because it doesn’t take into account the 18.6 used in EV mode. Energy in, miles out require a stricter accounting.

135.1 miles / 84 = 1.608 gallons. (Note without refueling I do not know the actual gallons and these readouts can be from 2% to 5% optimistic.)

18.6 kWh / 32.777 kWh = 0.567 gallons equivalent. (We will call this gals e from now on.)

1.608 gals + 0.567 gals e = 2.175 gals e. 135.1 miles / 2.175 gals e = 62.11 MPGe

84.5 EV miles / 0.567 gals e = 149 MPGe. (This figure obviously includes regen miles as the actual rated MPGe of the Energi is 95 MPGe City and 81 MPGe Highway.

Over the last 135.1 miles of local driving I have only used 1.608 gallons of gasoline at $1.999 a gallon, or $3.21. I have also used 18.6 kWh of electricity costing me 8 cents a kWh of unsold power to the utility so my electrical cost for these 135.1 miles is $1.49. This totals $4.70 or only 3.48 cents a mile.

My car is now broke at 2000 miles which I reached somewhere in east Texas. The car eliminates the need to use our Ford F-150 XLT pickup truck as a daily driver at 11 cents a mile. As you can see from my example we drove 84.5 / 135.1 = 62.5 % of our daily drive on sunshine energy.

Like the shoveling coal tender in the steam locomotives of old we are happily moving down the tracks on shoveled sunshine. The only difference is that our sunshine was locally harvested at the approximate time of use and is clean burning as well as much more efficient.

Addendum: We plan on getting a 240 Volt charger in March which will have better charging efficiency. It will reduce our charging time for a full charge from 7 hours to 2.5 hours.

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