Future Nissan Leaf owners are not happy about the price of Charger Installations

Tuesday, August 31, 2010 2 comments
AutoBlogGreen recently published a scathing article on how pissed off future Nissan Leaf customers are with AeroVironment's quotes for home charger installations.  See Future Leaf owners revolt over AeroVironment's outrageous charger installation quotes.  Given that I am one of those future Nissan Leaf owners...and an installer of EVSE,,,I thought I'd weigh in on this.

I've read most the comments about charging on the "My Nissan Leaf" and the negative comments are mostly about the estimates, not the AVI product...since it hasn't been released yet.  No one seems to have a big problem with AVI's $800 price for the charger (which is cheap when you consider the J1772 plug is about $400 now)...but they have a hard time being roped into one vendor to install a simple device. 

The higher price is likely because of two reasons:
  1. Every installation is custom.  Because of this, it always comes down to the Estimator to estimate the job properly...and s/he's influenced by their own experience, margin requirements, complexity of job, and unknowns of what's behind the wall or in the circuits that they don't know about (no one tells us about the grow lights! :-).
  2. Two additional vendors in the supply chain that might be marking up the installation - AVI and Nissan.  Nothing weird here, but the more middlemen you have in the value chain, the higher the price.
Most of the readers love the Leviton product since they can have any electrician install an outlet...and then just plug in the Leviton Level II into the outlet once they get it.  This puts the customer back in the driver's seat on price...and I can certainly respect that.

I just went through the long vetting process for being an AeroVironment Installer for the Electrical Contractor I work for (www.Palmer-Electric.com).  They asked a lot of questions and had us price out several scenarios to ensure we quoted correctly - they even pushed back on some prices we had for certain materials.  In the end, we got the contract...but we turned it down.  Mostly because of their strict non-compete clause and that the product has not seen the light-of-day yet.  I'm sure they'll deliver, but I'd much rather bet on Coulomb since they've got a very well engineered product that has an installed base. 

Coulomb's CT500 product is targeted for OEMs, Light Commercial, and Homes.  For many people buying an EVSE for home, it may be overkill, as they won't benefit by a Smart Charger that is aware of Time Of Use rates or care about features like getting a Text message when charging is done.  The CT500 is more like the iPhone from a design perspective...and the basic Level II chargers are more like your standard cell phone: both get the job done, but one offers more features.

Everyone in this space is a pioneer.  From what I saw of AeroVironment, they attempted to control their pricing of installs, but they are building a brand new business and mistakes will be made.  I'm glad that websites like My Nissan Leaf are around to shed some light on the problems and solutions.

Personally, I'm waiting on a company to deliver an EVSE that I can install in the ceiling of my garage...so I can pull it down like a drop light.  That gets rid of the worst thing about charging an EV...the cord.  PS: yes, I know about wireless charging.

Evoscape: Cleanly Cutting Grass in Winter Park

Thursday, August 19, 2010 9 comments
One of my favorite fun facts to tell people about EVs is that if you must have a car, switching to an EV is the most significant way for you to reduce your personal greenhouse gas emissions.

So if that's true, then dumping my gas mower is an awesome idea. Why?  Two Big Reasons...
  1. Small gas engines under 25 hp contribute about 16 percent of HC emissions and 21 percent of CO emissions from mobile sources nationwide!  April 2003 EPA Program Update Report  
  2. Because one hour of lawn mowing with a gas-powered lawn mower produces as much pollution as driving your car for four hours.  
Amazing eh?  That's BIG pollution from a lot of small engines.

So what's a better alternative?

If you can't get rid of your lawn, then switching to cleaner lawn equipment is the next best thing.  Since this an EV inspired blog, wouldn't it be smart if there was a lawn service that used an EV to drive their clean lawn equipment around?

There is...and I just met them today.

The company is called Evoscape from Winter Park, FL.  It was dreamed up by two brothers (Jarrett and Ardis Phillips) that have owned other lawn service companies in the past.  The company has only been alive for a few months, which included 3 months for buying and configuring their equipment. 

These guys did their homework.

Their "rig" caught my eye on my walk back from lunch today and I stopped to learn more about them.  After giving me their "reused" business card...which was a cut up Morning Star Farms box of veggie burgers with their stamp and phone number on it...they gave me a tour of their VERY well thought out rig...
  • The Truck: A Chrysler GEM eL XD.  They love this thing.  They can get 40 miles of range with it empty, but only 25 miles with it pulling the trailer.  The range isn't a big deal since their growing client base is just a few miles away.
  • The Trailer: This is where the magic is...
    • Positioned for visibility and functionality, it has three solar panels right up front.  They plan to put more on top of the trailer, but having them up front is a great marketing tool...once people stop looking at the GEM.
    • Inside, they have a battery backed up power supply that charges the batteries used in their electric power tools (18V & 36V).
  • The Tools:

Their goal is to go all electric with their rig, but until battery prices come down (and energy density goes up) enough to power energy hungry devices like mowers, edgers, and blowers...they'll be using propane.

That said, I'm thinking that in 5 years, we'll see mowers competing with cars to recharge their equipment at Charging Stations.  I hope by then, the guys who started Evoscape with a dream to do lawn maintenance with a Low Carbon Footprint will be running a large operation by then.

Good luck guys, you've got a great idea!