Shannon loves her Electric Truck at Frito-Lay!

Saturday, December 3, 2011 8 comments

Shannon Douglas is a pioneer...she's 1 of 176 people at Frito-Lay who is assigned to drive a new electric delivery truck...and she loves it.

Frito-Lay announced in September 2010 year that they were starting the deployment of largest fleet of electric delivery trucks in North America.  Just a few states got some of the 176 "Newton" model 24ft delivery trucks from Smith Electric Vehicles...and Orlando scored 10 of them.  Frito-Lay expects to save 500,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year from these 176 trucks...which is $2 Million a year if it stays at $4/Gal!

I attended an Open House in Orlando where Frito-Lay discussed their EV strategy and allowed us to climb around their new vehicles...I even went for a ride around the block in one!

One of the reasons why Orlando was chosen to get these cutting-edge trucks is because Orlando Fleet Manager Jack Dignan wanted them here, as he's very interested in lowering fuel cost and maintenance.  Jack already trains his drivers to drive fuel efficiently and displays each driver's fuel usage to inspire some competition between drivers to use less fuel.

EV's are an incredibly smart choice for short haul delivery vehicles (like Frito-Lay snack foods), as
  1. Fuel is much cheaper - Diesel is $4 a gallon and rising quickly and electricity is $0.12 and rising slowly.
  2. They don't pollute...which important in urban delivery areas.  Each truck emits no tailpipe emissions and 75% less greenhouse gases than a conventional diesel truck.
  3. They're very quiet!
  4. EVs eliminate the added wear and additional pollution when you start an internal combustion engine...and delivery vehicles start/stop many times a day.
  5. They are much easier to maintain...no oil changes (that's a lot of oil!), no air filters, no exhaust, etc. 
These trucks hold the same amount of product as the diesel trucks, and have A/C, heating, and a backup camera...so they do the same work as their noisy, smelly, and carbon emitting diesel versions.  Since drivers drive the same route each day, range anxiety can be designed out.

The classic knock on EV's is that they fill up slower, as they take 8 hours to recharge, but so what since the trucks are parked all night anyway.  Frito-Lay can lower their fuel cost even more by delaying charging to get off-peak rates.

Now getting back to Shannon...

Shannon has been driving her new EV for 3 months now.  Her route is 59 miles down to Kissimmee which has some highway and city driving.  When I asked her how she liked her truck, she said she loved it and wouldn't go back to a diesel!  Why?  I heard three reasons...
  1. Easy Driver Maintenance.  Drivers have to perform maintenance to their truck each day, which means running though a checklist, touching greasy stuff like dipsticks, and filling up the truck with smelly diesel fuel.  Shannon's checklist for her EV is much shorter, the trucks are cleaner, and the truck is fully fueled with electrons when she leaves the depot every morning since she plugged in the night before.
  2. It's Comfy.  The cab is quiet and cool since you're not sitting on a hot and noisy engine anymore.
  3. It's Cool.  Shannon gets questions all the time from people asking about the truck and how she likes driving it.  It's fun to be on the leading edge of something that is only positive to the people she passes each day...no noise, no pollution.
Here are some factoids about the trucks...
  • Can run up to 100 miles on a single charge of their 220kW Lithium Battery (for comparison, a Nissan Leaf's battery is 24 kW)
  • Takes 8 hours to recharge using 75Amp Level 2 Chargers from Clipper Creek
  • Has regenerative braking to capture energy normally lost when stopping
  • Can haul 16,000 pounds (7,250kg)
  • They emit zero tailpipe emissions and 75 percent less greenhouse gases than diesel when you count the emissions from the electric power plant.
  • They operate virtually silently, eliminating noise pollution
  • They provide a long term economically viable solution...the bean counters love low O&M!
Kudo's for Frito-Lay for pioneering EVs in their fleets.  Without risk-taking, progressive company's like Frito-Lay (and DHL, FedEx, UPS, and several others who are deploying similar trucks), EVs would take longer to get to economies of scale which will make them cheaper for the rest of the world.

Coulomb Charging Station Review

Monday, November 7, 2011 1 comments
Coulomb CT-2021
Over the past year, I've overseen the installation of many Coulomb charging stations, and I gotta say, I'm real impressed with the product...both from a hardware and a software point of view. 

Given that the world is at the early stages of installing EV infrastructure, you would expect a new product to have some rough edges, but the Coulomb products are well designed and miles ahead of the competition.

Here's what I think of Coulomb's product from installing several CT-2100s and a few of the new dual CT-2021s...



Coulomb CT-2021 at the First Walgreens Electric Vehicle
Charging Station in Orlando
CarCharging Group owns the
unit and Palmer Electric installed it.
Hardware
  • High quality construction.  The product assembles easily, the small aluminum body looks good and it's strong.  The product can be installed on the wall, pole, or bollard...all using the same "guts" so they all look and work similar.  They even have a new model that has cord management.
  • Lockable holsters.  When you walk up to a Coulomb unit, the J's (J1772 plug) are locked into the device and cannot be removed until you authenticate with the charging station.  This help's keep the J's from being stolen and it helps guide the customer through the charging experience by unlocking and lighting up the holster that they can use.
  • The fluorescent display is bright and readable in all light except for direct sunlight.  The "host" (owner) of the charging station can even scroll a message across the front of the display to market or inform the customer.
  • Brilliant networking built in.  There's no need to run a data line to each charging station with Coulomb products...they use a cell phone and Zigbee networking in a master/slave configuration.  This allows you to install them anywhere there is a Verizon or AT&T cell network. 
  • The biggest opportunity I see for the hardware is that it needs a better display so it can tell the user how to operate it.  As it is, the Coulomb units don't give a new user clear instructions on how to use it...but once you know, it's simple. 
Software - The ChargePoint Network
Coulomb's Driver Portal shows you where all the
charging stations are and keeps track of your usage.
Although Coulomb makes a well designed commercial EVSE, it's their software that makes their product stand out.  Coulomb's SAAS/Cloud based software provides all of the cool features you get from connecting an EVSE to the network, such as:
  • Tell drivers looking for an EV charger where they are located (GPS) and if they are being used at the moment.  You can find them via Coulomb's website, Google, Smartphones, and the GPS displays of Electric Vehicles. 
  • Tell the customer getting a charge that their car is "filled up" or if the charge has been interrupted...like if someone removed the plug from your car and stuck it into their EV (charging will stop until the plug is returned to your car...it knows!)
  • Allow reservation the charging station (new feature).  Coulomb units can be reserved so no one else can use it until you arrive.  While you won't know if someone parked in the space, you will know that the charger is waiting for you.
  • Taking payment for a charge.  Owners of Coulomb units can easily setup pricing models so they can charge for usage (i.e. $2 for an hour weekdays, free on weekends).  The drivers can pay via Credit Card, Smartphone App, or Coulomb's ChargePass card (works like a Starbucks card).  Coulomb units do not have a magnetic card "swiper"...the card needs to have an RFID chip embedded inside it (i.e., Chase Blink Card or American Express Blue).  If you don't have a card with an RFID chip, you can use your SmartPhone or call the 1-800 number on the front of the unit.
  • Coulomb's Station Manager shows the EV Station Owner
    stats on station use, energy use, allows configuration of
    pricing, access, and marketing messages.
  • Charging Station Control.  Each Owner gets access to an Internet Portal (Station Manager) showing all of their EV Chargers.  The owner can control the units, get reports on their usage, see how much energy each station has dispensed, plus many other features. 
  • Driver Portal.  Once you setup an account with Coulomb, you have access to an Internet portal (Driver Portal) which shows you useful information like where the Coulomb chargers are, their availability, your history of usage, and how much energy your vehicle has received.
  • Smartphone application support.  Coulomb has nice apps for the iPhone, Android, and Blackberry, which can show you where their chargers are located, guide you to them, and reserve them.
The company has been ramping up efforts to become more of a software company than a hardware company, so that other EVSE hardware vendors will leverage the ChargePoint Network to make their EVSE's "networked" - they call this program Onramp.

Pricing
Pricing is set through Coulomb's distribution channel, but they are competitive with the other networked commercial EVSE's that I know of...even though no other company offers as many features.  Coulomb charges the station owner an annual fee for these software features and the cellular access to their charging stations.  This fee is tiered based on how they will be used and the services that you need (Fleet, Retail, Service Provider, etc.).

Overall, I think the Coulomb charging system is like the iPhone: a high quality product packed with features that is simple to use.

How to get a Residential EV Charger

Sunday, September 25, 2011 0 comments

Getting an EV?  Excellent!  Since the charging stations (EVSE) for today's electric vehicles are based on standards, any charging station meeting these standards will likely work with your new EV.  Here
are three steps to getting a Residential EV Charger installed in your home...
  1. Check for rebates and incentives in your area.  In addition to the US Federal "Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit" which can save you some money on your home EVSE, you should check the US Government's nice database of incentives (http://www.dsireusa.org/ ) to see if there are other opportunities.  Ecotality, Coulomb and many utilities have programs/incentives in place that can pay for the hardware and possibly the installation of your home EVSE. 
  2. Purchase and install an EVSE for your car.  Here's an article to help you choose which EV Charger, and here are your basic options for getting one...
    1. Buy it as an installed option when you purchase your car.  Nissan (AeroVironment), GM (SPX), and Fisker (EVConnect) are just a few car companies that have made installing a charging station very simple for the new owner...you just click a box and someone will be calling you for an installation time.  You'll pay a bit more for this simplicity, but you get a lot for it...especially if don't have the time to find a qualified/trained electrician that knows how/where to install these new devices.
    2. Buy the device directly from the manufacturer.  Companies like Leviton and SPX sell their EVSE products right on their website at full retail prices.  Then you can install it yourself (if you're up for the challenge) or have an electrician install it.
    3. Buy the device online or at a store near you...like Best Buy, Home Depot or Lowes.  There are many places selling residential EVSE today and some stores, like Best Buy are trialing an installation service.
    4. Buy it through your local electrician...and have it installed.  Your local electrician can order the EVSE at reseller prices and install it for you...giving you a package deal.
  3. Submit for your Tax Credit and/or state rebates.  After your EVSE is installed, remember to submit the paperwork to claim your rebate.
If you live in a condo or apartment, your first step is talking with your property manager to see how they want to support EVs...and chances are, you'll have to school them about EVs...especially about how much EV's cost to charge.

Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) Installations

Monday, September 5, 2011 2 comments
Got an interesting EVSE installation you've seen or installed?  Send me a picture along with some details for the caption and I'll add it to the collection.  You can get my email address from the About Tab above.  Given this blog is viewed by many in other countries, I'd like to see your installations too.

Residential Level 2 EV Charger Roundup

Sunday, August 28, 2011 12 comments
Updated: 5/6/12

Looking to get a charge at home?

There are now several choices on the market for residential EV chargers.  The right one for you depends on what you need it to do.

These EV Chargers will charge any car with the SAE J1772 standardized plug which all new cars in the US are using.  If you have Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-Miev, or Chevy Volt, all you need is a 240V 15A device, since these cars only have a 3.3kW/h inverter built in.  Selecting an EV Charger with higher Max Amperage rating will not harm the car.

These EV Chargers are not "chargers" at all...they are safety devices to ensure that you don't get shocked while using it or drive away with your car attached to high voltage.  While they are pricy now (most are about $900 and up depending on features), the more they are sold, the faster they will decline in price...just like EVs themselves.

The cost to install varies with distance to power and difficulty to install.  This can range from real cheap ($200) to very expensive ($1500 to upgrade service and install).  If you buy a networked EV Charger, then you also have to factor in hooking it up to your router too.  In most cases, you'll also have to get them permitted.

See below for a list of scenarios and the complete list of Level 2 EVSE (or EV Chargers)...

The Retractables are Coming!

Sunday, July 31, 2011 2 comments
Updated: 9/24/11
Cord Management...it's the Achilles heel of EV Charging.

In the US, our EV Charging Level 2 spec (NEC Article 625) currently calls for a permanently attached charging cable to the charging station if it's intended for outside usage.  These cables can be long (25 ft), heavy, and stiff in the winter, so they can pose these problems...
  • Not properly stored - some people won't put the cable back after they use it, making it harder for the next person to use it
  • Cables get dirty after being dragged around on the ground
  • Cables can get abused, run over, snowed over, or even stolen
There are two basic ways of automatically solving this problem: wireless charging or some way of retracting the cable after use...I call them the Retractables!  Out of the 40 EVSE vendors that I know about, here are vendors making a retractable solution...

Control Module Industries
CMI is an innovative company that has a freestanding and overhead mounted EVSE with a retractable cable.  When activated by a remote switch, the cable lowers down to an ADA height and allows the user to pull the cable where they want it.  When you're done, it slowly retracts the cord back into it's housing.  I like the overhead version, as it's compact and looks easy/cheap to install.
  • Retraction method benefits: Cable never hits ground.  Cable is protected from theft while stored.
Coulomb
Coulomb just debuted a new retractable Level 2 EVSE, model CT2025, that uses a retraction system similar gas pumps...which is a spring-loaded rope holding up the center of the cable (see picture).  In addition to keeping the cable off the ground, this charging station also has several other nice features, including: place for a EV Sign, charges two cars at Level 2, looks easy to install, and has a light!  How is that for well designed?
  • Retraction method benefits: Cable never hits ground.  Supports two charging cables.  Simple.
General Electric
GE's cool looking WattStation (more here) has an interesting retraction system, but no ship date yet.  I'm very intersted to see how well this system works especially given how stiff these cables can be in the winter...or prone to kinks in the summer.  Another challenge for the design is storing two cables for a dual Level 2 charger.
  • Retraction method benefits: Protects cable from theft while stored.
ParkPod
Parkpod has a nice looking EVSE that looks like Apple designed it.  Parkpod's retraction system combines a springy coiled charging cable and spring-loaded rope holding up the cable.  Together, they ensure the cable never hits the ground.
  • Retraction method benefits: Cable never hits ground.  Simple. 
Erg-Go
Erg-Go is brand new to the EVSE scene and they are currently taking orders on their first production run.  This EVSE is the first one outside of Clipper Creek that has a charge current above 30A...as it will charge at 75A, making it a better fit for customers with fleets (of Tesla's :-) that want a faster charge.
  • Retraction method benefits: Protects cable from theft while stored.
DBT USA
DBT has been installing EV Charging stations around Paris since 1995...and now they have a complete line of EVSE for the US market.  The SXB unit pictured right is a dual 240/32A unit.
  • Retraction method benefits: Protects cable from theft while stored.

    4 Days with a Chevy Volt

    Sunday, June 12, 2011 11 comments
    Chevy Volt charging at the Central Florida Zoo
    General Motors was nice enough to lend me a Volt for 4 days to see what it is like to live with one.  The car had 1,800 miles on it when I got it and I drove it 250 miles and used 3.6 gallons of gas for an overall gas mileage of 67.3 mpg.  Overall, the car performed flawlessly and impressed everyone I showed it to...and I showed it to LOTS of people.  Here is a short review...

    Overall Impressions
    • Whenever I drove it around or parked, I looked for people to notice the car...most didn't - it simply looks like a nice looking midsize Chevy car.  However, once I told people what they were looking at, they were very impressed, as they assumed the new EVs all looked like two person Smart Cars - the Volt shattered stereotypes.
    • Although most people thought the price was a little high (sticker was $45K), it didn't shock anyone...and most assumed the gas savings would pay for the difference fairly quickly. 
    • I was able to get 37 miles per charge pretty consistently for my driving with the AC on and no headlight usage.
    • The biggest surprise for most people was the price of fuel: $1.10 of electricity to go 40 miles.
    • The Volt feels quick because the electric motor is so responsive...the power is immediate and smooth.  Using Dynolicious on my iPhone 4, I was able to get a 0-60 MPH time of 8.7s in dry conditions from a standing start...certainly isn't as fast as the Tesla, but it's not bad for a heavy midsize car (3781 lbs).

      Regenerative Braking Rocks!
        Chevy Volt charging at GoElectric Scooters
      • When I drove the car in traffic...especially busy Interstate traffic, I would shift the Volt into "LO" (pull back the shift lever all the way back).  This boosts the effect of the regenerative braking so that you don't have to even hit the brake...all you have to do is lift your foot off the accelerator to slow down.  It's like driving a manual transmission car in 2nd or 3rd gear.  The best part about this "feature" is that you are extending your range each time you lift your foot off the accelerator.
      • Even though the Volt I drove had 1,800 miles on it, the disk brake rotors still looked new...and you could still see "milling" marks in the disk.  This got me thinking to pull a trick on some friends by touching the rear disk brake after I drove up to prove how effective regenerative braking is (they didn't see me use my IR Thermometer before I touched it to make sure I wouldn't get burned).  Less disk brake usage means fewer brake jobs and cleaner rims.

      Charging
      Chevy Volt charging at Wekiva Island
      • Since the Volt only has a 40 mile range, I found myself wanting to charge more frequently so I didn't run the gas engine. This means Volt owners might be using public charging stations more frequently than Leaf owners.
      • Charging car at night with the 120V (Level 1) cordset worked great...if you have 8 hours each night to charge.  However, trying to use the Level 1 during the day between short trips was a waste of time - you need a 240V (Level 2) charge to do any significant charging quickly.
      • Removing the charging cable while the Chevy Volt is locked and charging will cause the horn to honk a few times...and if you don't put it back, the alarm will go off.
      • The key fob has a button on it to open the charging door.
      • The Chevy Volt doesn't currently show the charging stations on it's GPS display (like the Nissan Leaf), but you can call On-Star (included with car) and they will navigate you to the nearest one.

      Possible Improvements
        Strange guy with Level 1 Charger
      • The "ball feature" which shows your energy use doesn't seem to properly show braking from regenerative braking when lift off the accelerator...especially when you are in "LO" and regenerative braking is aggressive.
      • While the center console looks clean because of the touch sensitive buttons, it would be nice to group the buttons better with graphics and provide some tactile feedback on button areas (rougher or depressed areas where you press) so you knew where to push.  Remembering where buttons are is a memory exercise when you're driving because you don't have time to look.
      • The Call button on the steering wheel needs a way of triggering the voice control feature of today's phones...like the iPhone (e.g. hold it down to activate the iPhone's voice control like you do with Bluetooth headsets).
      • While the black roof on red car is cool looking, it's very very hot in the Florida Sun which works against your battery life to cool it down.  I'd rather have a pearlescent white roof.  
      • Split the door on floor of trunk so that I can get to the Level 1 charger if something is in the trunk.  As it is now, I have to move everything to get to charger.  Make a smaller door on left for charger.
      • Give the drive electric/gas usage for current TRIP after each drive.  It now tells you for the current CHARGE...which is good, but I want to know about the trip I just took vs. my average.  The idea is to incent me to drive more efficient than my last trip. 

      Leaf vs. Volt
      Chevy Volt and a Nissan Leaf charging at the Central Florida Zoo
      Everyone asks me what I like better...the Leaf or the Volt.  Since 4/20/10, I've been waiting (and waiting and waiting) for a Nissan Leaf..and I'm still planning to get one...however this drive certainly tested my conviction (the Volt is very impressive).  Here is how I see the two automobiles...
      • Nissan Leaf: Great for people who understand their driving habits and don't mind living within the range of the car.  Since we've got two cars in the family, I've got an alternative if I need to drive farther.  My big thing is that I rather have the Leaf's larger EV range and simplicity vs. have the security and weight of an on-board generator.
      • Chevy Volt: Great for people who frequently drive farther than 100 miles in a day or "don't want something else to worry about"...like range anxiety.  Personally, I think the Volt looks much better than the Leaf, both inside and out.
      In summary, the Chevy Volt is a very impressive car...inside, outside, and under the hood.  GM has done a great job of hiding lots of complexity from the driver, as the Volt drives and operates better than a "normal" car.  If you're in the market for an EV, go drive a Chevy Volt, you'll be very impressed.

        How to Drive your EV for Free!

        Friday, June 3, 2011 1 comments
        Here's a brilliant video from the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) that simplifies how you can drive your EV for free using energy savings from upgrades on your home.  You can make these upgrades even cheaper by leveraging incentives from federal, state, and your utility...which can be easily checked at the Department of Energy's database of incentives: www.dsireusa.org.

        Which upgrades should you perform?  Check out FSEC's site which has results of real world testing they've done on energy efficient upgrades...and of course, lots of info on Solar Power.

        Go Florida Solar Energy Center and UCF! 



        Test Drive a Chevy Volt at the Central Florida Zoo on May 14th

        Thursday, May 5, 2011 3 comments
        THE BEST way to appreciate the drivability and cool benefits of the new electric vehicles is to get behind the wheel of one.

        If you live in the Orlando area, here's your chance to get behind the wheel of a Chevy Volt.  If haven't seen it, I highly suggest you try come out to drive the car...I certainly was impressed with the car!

        Join me at the Central Florida Zoo at their annual "Party for the Planet" event on Saturday May 14th from 10am till 3pm.  You can test drive the Chevy Volt along with visiting over 30 vendors representing sustainable businesses.

        Where: Central Florida Zoo (map)
        When: May 14 10am - 3pm

        See you there!

        Orlando is Almost Ready!

        Sunday, May 1, 2011 1 comments
        Around 2 years ago in May 09, I was wondering if my next car could be a plug-in.  After all, Florida isn't known for being progressive and it takes a coordinated effort to get the chickens (EVs) and the eggs (EVSE) together in a city at the same time to successfully roll out Electric Vehicles.

        So, as an activist, I started research on EVs for an upcoming Florida Renewable Energy Expo - they were interested in a presentation on EVs and I was interested in performing the market research....little did I know that I was starting a career change :-) 

        It was during this research that I met and joined the group that became "Get Ready Central Florida".  The core of the group is made up of progressive and pragmatic thinking individuals from utilities (OUC and Progress Energy) and governments (Orange County and City of Orlando) who clearly understand the cost and benefits of EVs.

        Here are the BIG things that we've accomplished in Orlando...

        • Signed an Memorandum of Understanding with Rocky Mountain Institute to become a "Get Ready" city.  This focused our efforts on properly rolling out EVs in our metro area.
        • Signed an Memorandum of Understanding with Nissan...which made Orlando the first (and current only) launch city in Florida for the Leaf.
        • Held several public Stakeholder Meetings to get people educated and involved.
        • Seized the opportunity to be a "ChargePoint America" city that helped seed our Public Charging Infrastructure.
        Because of these early efforts, Orlando is now nationally identified as an early adopter city for Electric Vehicles.  Here are a few examples...

        • We're in the "First Wave" EV Cities in a Roland Berger/Rocky Mountain Institute study.
        • We're a target city for the launch of the Ford Focus EV.
        • We've got a Fisker Automotive Dealership (Karma).
        • We should be getting our deliveries of previously reserved Nissan Leaf's in the September time frame.  We have several dealerships trained and ready to go. 
        • We should be selling the Chevy Volt in the third Quarter of this year (July-Sept).  We have several dealerships trained and ready to go.
        • Frito-Lay in Orlando will soon have 10 Smith Electric delivery vehicles dropping off snack food around town.
        • By the end of the year, we'll have 300+ public charging stations deployed around Central Florida thanks to OUC and ChargePoint America.  Installation of these charging stations is underway now.  This will be a good start to reduce range anxiety for the new EV buyers.
        I can now say with 20/20 hindsight that without the efforts of this group (Get Ready Central Florida), Orlando would NOT be anywhere near ready for EVs.  From my perspective, here are a few things that made us successful.

        • Having a big picture plan.  The Project Get Ready menu is a good start.  It should encompass infrastructure, utilities, vehicles/fleets, and most importantly COMMUNICATION!
        • Having progressive executive champions.  Having the endorsement of the Mayors from City of Orlando (Buddy Dyer) and the Orange County Mayor (Richard Crotty) certainly helped to get PM resources to focus on this effort.
        • Stakeholder meetings.  The primary objective is to inform people about the available incentives, programs, products, and facts about EVs and EVSE.  You would not believe the common ignorance and misinformation about EVs and EVSE.
        • Opportunities to drive new cars.  The best way to appreciate an Electric Vehicle is to drive one....they are that impressive.  Make sure the public knows when these opportunities are available.
        All this said, Orlando should be ready to receive and support Electric Vehicles in just a few months...I'm certainly ready for mine!

        How is your city preparing for EVs?

        Electric Vehicle Parking Signs: Which one to use?

        Sunday, March 27, 2011 2 comments
        What's the best sign for a parking spot where you can charge your car?*
        Updated: 3/9/12

        Signs can inform and/or direct...so you can tell drivers what they are looking at (e.g., an EVSE/EV Charging Station) or tell them where they can park.

        Since having access to a Charging Station can be critical to an EV driver, it's important that the parking spot doesn't have a petrol powered vehicle parked there preventing the use of the charger.  This is also important for the owner of the EV Charger, since they paid big $$ to have it installed and they want to show that it's getting used.

        That said, since EVs are being deployed now across the US (and many other countries), I would suggest that Charging Station owners use the strongest sign they can to keep the charging station available.  

        The Basic Sign Choices

        • EV Parking Only (Strongest Sign Choice)
          • Pros: Best sign choice to ensure EV drivers can get a charge.  For proprietors, using this sign makes a big statement and ensures that you will get the highest use of your EVSE investment.
          • Cons: Unless Plugin EVs are common, this sign has the highest chance of alienating (a.k.a. pissing off) drivers of all other types of cars.
          • When to use: Installations where EVs are available.  Especially where EVSE reservation systems are soon to be in place (e.g., airports) when EV drivers DEPEND on getting a charge. 
         

      • Reserved for Hybrids and EVs

        • Pros: Gives EV, Prius and other hybrid owners a premium parking space...a great incentive for driving a responsible car.  For proprietors, using this sign will make a big statement about who they are trying to attract to their business.
        • Cons: While this sign increases the chances of an open spot for EV driver, those needing an charge will still be unhappy to see a non-plugin using the parking spot.
        • When to use: Areas where hybrids are already parking and EVs are expected soon.

      • Electric Vehicle Charging Station (Weakest Sign Choice)
        • Pros: Anyone can park in this space.  The sign simply informs people about the new device they are probably staring at.  For proprietors, this sign will agitate their guests the least because anyone can park there.
        • Cons: EV drivers that need a charge won't be happy to see an ICE (internal combustion engine) car using the spot.  The sign might be confusing to ICE drivers because it doesn't tell people what to do...so "considerate" ICE drivers will find another spot and others will just park there. 
        • When to use: Installations where EVs are expected to very slowly ramp up. 


        The best thing about signs is that they are relatively cheap and easily changed...so you can always change it when needed.

        * This blog entry only covers unregulated sign choices...where you can you install whatever sign you want.  In the US, we have federal and state departments of transportation that regulate what signs you use on federal and state highways.

        I saw a Nissan Leaf charging at the Central Florida Zoo!

        Saturday, February 5, 2011 0 comments
        What an EVentful and lucky week!  The Nissan Leaf Drive Electric Tour (www.drivenissanleaf.com) was making its stop in Orlando at the same time we (Palmer Electric) were just finishing up installing two Coulomb ChargePoint CT2100s at the Central Florida Zoo

        Because the Central Florida Zoo is the first Zoo in the U.S. to get networked charging stations (click for PR), the CEO was getting interviewed by a local Fox affiliate...so I thought it would be very cool if people could see the EVSE actually doing their job by charging a Nissan Leaf!

        So I called the Nissan EV Marketing Manager for the SE region and asked very nicely if there was a chance if I could get a Nissan Leaf delivered to the interview.  We got lucky...the timing worked out perfectly: the Charger's charged, the Leaf blinked with Joy, the interview went great, and everyone was happy. 

        I'm very impressed with the Coulomb solution and the Nissan Leaf...both are high quality, well designed, and are cutting edge...heck, they even have nice Smartphone apps that allow you to control them wirelessly! 

        I'm also impressed with Nissan's elaborate setup at their Drive Electric Tour: they take drivers through four education areas before they let you drive the ~10 Leafs that have waiting for you.  The education is a great idea because it addresses most of the common concerns with EVs (range, battery life) as well as tell you why you'll love EVs (fuel price, fuel convenience, low maint).

        It doesn't take long to get through the education portion and...like a good rollercoaster ride...you can drive again if you want...and you will...the car is a blast to drive.  I especially like how the Leaf corners when you nail it in the middle of a corner - it accelerates quickly with little body roll thanks to the 600lb battery keeping you planted.

        While it was a fantastic week, there was one major disappointment: it will probably be Summer before we start to see Leaf's being delivered to the Orlando market...since all those damn West Coaster's have to get their cars first!  Lucky b....

        More pictures after the break...

        Lessons learned from an EVSE Installer

        Sunday, January 23, 2011 2 comments
        So far, I've estimated over 25 sites for commercial EVSE installations and we've got our first installation under our belt.  The units we are siting are mostly the Chargepoint America Coulomb CT2100 units (which are very well designed), so that makes the units free to the right type of customer...they just pay the installation costs.

        Here are some of the things I've learned so far...

        • Parking lots weren't designed with spare power available.  Therefore, most installations require power distribution work to get ample power out to the parking lot.  This can be expensive if the job requires things like boring under pavement or step down transformers are involved.  Because every property is different, it's very hard to make assumptions on how much a "typical" installation is.
        • You have to balance the "best" parking space with a "cheap installation" parking space.  The cheapest parking space install is usually the shortest distance to power.  The best parking space is usually up front were it can be easily seen, has good security, and can be easily expanded on.  Deciding on the right parking area is a skill, requiring you to walk the property manager through the options.
        • Plan big, start small.  If you buy into the idea that EVs will become the norm in 10 years...and therefore drivers will rely on public charging on a regular basis...then you should be the type that plans for expansion of your EV Chargers as EVs get popular.  For a few of our customers, this means installing a 200 Amp service/panel near the parking area with larger conduit to support additional panels in the future.  A 200 Amp service will easily drive four Level II (220V) EV Chargers and an additional circuit for a Level I (120V) charger too.
        • Thanks Obama, Coulomb, NovaCharge, and Get Ready Central Florida.  The ARRA funding that powered the Chargepoint America program in Orlando will GREATLY speed adoption of EVs in Central Florida.  Why?  The economy has sucked the slack out of all budgets...and installing EVSE is a luxury for most companies.  Without these free units, trying to get people to pay for EV Chargers (and installation) before the cars arrive would be super tough...and without public chargers available, people will adopt EVs much slower.

        I gotta say that it's very exciting to work in this field...and it's very challenging (read: not easy).  We (car companies, EVSE vendors, installers) are basically starting up a new business during the worst recession since the Great Depression and asking cash-strapped businesses to pay for expensive things that will be used in the near future...that's hard!  The good part is that this "slow" period allows us to concentrate on how to do this job right - as there is nothing worse than poor quality.

        Three opportunities to drive New EVs in Florida in January/February

        Saturday, January 22, 2011 0 comments
        If you're in Florida in the very near future, you have several opportunities to drive a variety of new Electric Vehicles.  While there are several left brained reasons for going electric, once you drive one, your right hemisphere will be convinced too...since they're fun to drive.

        Get out there and drive one!

        Nissan Leaf - Drive Electric Tour
        These are just the Florida locations of their Nationwide Tour.  Sign up at: www.driveNissanLEAF.com to ensure you get a place in the driver's seat.

        • Jacksonville
          • Where: The Avenues, 10300 Southside Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32256
          • When: Saturday, January 22: 7am – 5pm, Sunday, January 23: 8am – 4pm
        • Miami
          • Where: Sawgrass Mills, 12801 West Sunrise Blvd., Sunrise, FL 33062
          • When: Friday, January 28: 7am – 5pm, Saturday, January 29: 7am – 5pm, Sunday, January 30: 8am – 4pm
        • Orlando
          • Where: University of Central Florida, Bldg 50 N. Gemini Blvd, Orlando, FL 32816
          • When: Fri: February 4: 7:00 AM - 5:00 PM, Sat: February 5: 7:00 AM - 5:00 PM, Sun: February 6: 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM 
        •  Tampa
          • Where: International Plaza and Bay Street, 2223 N. West Shore Blvd., Tampa, FL 33607
          • When: Friday, February 11: 7am – 5pm, Saturday, February 12: 7am – 5pm, Sunday, February 13: 8am – 4pm

        Chevy Volt - Main Street in Motion
        With more than 70 vehicles in the same location, including 25 competitive makes, Main Street in Motion
        delivers an opportunity you won't find anywhere else — a no-pressure environment to compare Chevrolet,
        Buick, GMC, Acura, Dodge, Ford, Honda, Lexus, Toyota and other vehicles side by side!  6-12 Chevy Volts should be there, so the wait to drive should be short.

        These are just the Florida locations of this Nationwide Tour.  Drive here for more information: http://www.mainstreetinmotion.com/

        • Miami
          • Where: Sun Life Stadium, 2269 Dan Marino Blvd., Miami Gardens, FL 33056
          • When: January 28 – January 30, 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
        • Orlando
          • Where: Epcot, 1242 Avenue of the Stars, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
          • When: February 11 – February 13, 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

        Electric Vehicle Showcase - Progress Energy and Buffalo Wild Wings
        There may be several EVs at this local event at the new Kissimmee location of Buffalo Wild Wings - as they are planning to have a Chevy Volt, Ford Escape PHEV, Nissan LEAF, Toyota Prius PHEV, Wheego LiFe, and Zero Motorcycles at the event.

        BTW: The owner of the local Buffalo Wild Wings franchise (Andy Gross - Sunshine Restaurants) built their new locations with prewires for EV Charging stations...starting back in 2008!  That's progressive!

        • Where: Buffalo Wild Wings Formosa Gardens, 3099 Formosa Gardens Blvd., Kissimmee, FL 34747
        • When: February 3, 2011, 10:30am
        • RSVP: alan@byrdconnections.com