Monday, May 20, 2013

Between Then (2010) and Now (2013)

     Since December of 2010 and now, 2013, I did not find the time or money to put into converting the 2004 Honda Civic VP into a PIE.  The major reason was not because I did not want to; it was because my son, in his last year in grad school, needed a car to commute between Boulder, Colorado, and Denver, Colorado, to participate in his internship, starting in the fall of 2011.  And that meant a Road Trip!
     The Honda was with me, in Newark, Delaware.  He was in Boulder.  He flew out to Delaware and we then took the next three days to travel back to Boulder in the Honda spending an overnight in Cleveland, Ohio and the next overnight west of Chicago, Illinois.  We were going to stop in Omaha, Nebraska, but decided to spend a long day on the road, instead, and it was a very long day on the road, to get to Boulder, Colorado late in the evening of the third day.
     I spent a great couple of days visiting and then my son dropped me off at the airport in Denver on the day when weather canceled or delayed all trips due to a hailstorm.  I spent nine hours at the airport and finally took an overnight flight to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, arriving very early the next morning, well before any trains were scheduled to Delaware.  That was a trip to remember.
     This left my wife and I with only our 11 year old Dodge Caravan to commute an average of 50 miles a day.  The average mileage for the Dodge, going mostly in heavy rush hour traffic was 16 miles to the gallon.  At $3.40 per gallon, it was costing me about $300.00/month for gasoline alone.  Then came the needed repairs in early 2013 totaling $1600.00.  And then the Check Engine light came on a week later.
     So we started looking for a new car.  And then it happened.  I saw the ad for a new version of the Nissan Leaf, the model s, made in America, and 15% cheaper than earlier models.  But it was for a lease, for three years, at $199.00 a month.  So, I started looking for one.  But found, after looking on the Internet at every Nissan dealership within 83 miles, that no dealership had one in stock.  Knowing that they were being built in Tennessee, I checked further and found 8 2013 model s Leafs centered in North Carolina.  The nearest dealership was about 350 miles away.
     So while I kept in contact with the Nissan dealership in Newark, Delaware, I checked every dealership within 50 miles every few days.  Then one popped up in Pennsylvania, but when I called the dealership, it was only scheduled to be delivered and not really there.  So I kept on checking.  Then another popped up at the second closest dealership to my home, and it had been delivered that morning.  I signed the lease that night.  The next day, $3008.00 and $238.00/month later ($199.00 and taxes), I drove off the lot in my new Leaf.
     Since then, I have kept stats and it is costing me $.04 per mile in electricity, with careful driving, in mostly rush hour traffic.  The nice thing about it is that when you stop, and go, during the time that you stop, nothing is happening.  No engine noise, the motor stops when I stop.  So now I pay $50.00 a month more in electricity.  $300.00 (gas for the Dodge) minus a $238.00 payment and $50.00 in electricity, and I am in a new car for the next three years for less than $1,000.00 a year, total.
     The actual commuting for the Leaf is now 33 miles a weekday as my wife bought a new Honda Fit for $251.00/mo with $3,000.00 down, after getting rid of the Dodge.  She now commutes 14 miles a weekday  and we always use the Leaf whenever we have a choice.  She fills the tank about once a month for $30.00.
     So now we have two cars, no range anxiety, and the Leaf does most of the commuting.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ball park estimates of motor operating expenses:

2004 Honda Civic VP motor operating Costs for first 76,500 miles from 2004 - 2010:

Fuel was $6000.00 at 35 MPG = $2.76 average (conservative average estimates)

Oil Changes every 5000 miles at $30 per change = $450.00

Total cost per mile = $.08

Electricity for an average 51 miles/work day for 6 years = 76500 miles (conservative average estimates)

Total cost per mile = $.02

Plus current cost of 33 90AH (110 volts) Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries at $3861.00/100,000 miles (current price)

Total cost per mile = $.04

ICE Engine operating cost with no other repairs or gasoline price increases for 200,000 miles (extended life of car) = $16,000

Add timing belt replacement and tune up at 110,000 miles at $500 for a total of $16,500

Motor operating cost of first 100,000 ICE miles = $8,000

Motor operating cost of second 100,000 PIE miles at current battery prices assuming conversion at 100,000 miles = $7,000

Total Motor operating cost with an ICE to PIE conversion at 100,000 miles: $15,000

Total ballpark motor operating cost savings: $1500. 

Total CO2 savings for the planet if everyone did this: priceless.

Cost of original car: $14,410.

Cost of replacement car before engine/exhaust repairs are needed $16,650
(2011 Honda Fit lowest MSRP)

Cost of ICE to PIE conversion?????

OK, here is the scenario.  I, like most of the households in the USA, have two vehicles.  My wife and I (normally) both commute to work and take an annual vacation.  I own a used 2000 Dodge Caravan with less than 70,000 miles and the 2004 Honda Civic with over 76,000 miles.  We use the Honda more for daily trips to the mall and food stores, etc.  And most of the time, we use the Dodge for any longer trips.  Over the years, the average use of the Honda works out to 51 miles per work day, 5 days a week, 250 days a year, for 6 years.  However, we have used the Honda for longer trips to Philadelphia, etc.  If we used the Dodge for all the longer trips, and only used the Honda for all the shorter trips, we could pay less over the long run if the Honda was converted into an electric car or if we bought an electric car new.

The lowest costing fully electric car on the market today is the Nissan Leaf at a cost of about $25,000 after the government rebate of $7,500.  If we bought an ICE car new, the cheapest one on the market is $16,650 and would cost more to operate than an electric car.

So, in this recession, where we don’t have the money for a new car, what other choice do we have?  Well here are the realistic choices for more than about 20% of the two car households in the USA as of today:

  1. Keep the cars you have and run them into the ground.
  2. Bite the bullet and buy a new car whenever you figure it is no longer feasible to keep up repairing the worst old car.
  3. If you like one of the cars you have, and it is a durable model car that will last another 100,000 miles without considering ICE motor and exhaust system repairs, convert the car into a PIE and use your other car for longer range trips.

Option number 3 is the cheapest alternative, is it not?

So, if an ICE to PIE conversion is still cheaper than buying a $16,650 replacement car, if we budget for a $15,000 ICE to PIE conversion, we are ahead of the game.  But do we want to put up with all the uncertainties that such a conversion would entail?

First, how many places in the USA do any electric car conversions?  How many people know the best way to convert your car?  Suppose we try to do it ourselves?  Can we be sure that we won’t make a costly mistake?

There are too many ifs for a measly 10% off the cost of a reliable Honda Fit.  And what about a charging station?  I live in a townhouse with no garage!  How much will that cost?  No.  If we want to save money for certain, we have to target a better conversion price. And do the conversion when the cost of gas goes up or the price of batteries comes down or we do the math for our own set of circumstances and decide in favor of an ICE to PIE conversion.  For my money, I am going to pick an arbitrary $10,000 conversion and see what I can get for that.

So, you think I am a little bit nuts now don’t you?  OK, consider that the end result will be class 5 PIE (see prior blog posts for the definition of a class 5 PIE) that currently costs over $25,000 for a brand new model.  So, if I figure a way to do that, however unlikely it may seem now, I really make out.  But that is not the only alternative.  Suppose $10,000 pays for a class 4 PIE, or even a class 3 PIE?  Do I still make out?  Maybe so considering that a class 3 PIE can go about 60 MPH top speed, and travel 60 miles on one charge for running around town.  So, the next step is to see what the Pittsburgh model that I mentioned in the last post has already done and what it cost for its conversion.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Class 5 ICE to PIE, the Ultimate Goal

So two months have gone by and I still cannot afford a Class 1 PIE conversion, let alone a Class 5.  But that is the ultimate goal and there is now a person in Pittsburgh who has successfully converted a 2005 Honda Civic.

I happen to own an 2004 Honda Civic VP.  OK, so you have never heard of a Honda Civic VP?  I didn't either until the salesman said he had just what I was looking for right on the lot.  It appears that Honda tried out a version of its Civic that was placed somewhere between the Civic CX and the Civic EX.  So in 44 years, I may have a real classic on my hands.  But so far it has done very well for a 6 year old car with almost 76,000 miles on it.  And just now there seems to be a tapping sound when the engine first starts up.  Is that a valve tap?  Or maybe it's knocking (a very technical car mechanic term).  Maybe I should have had all that maintenance done at 60,000 miles like the owner's manual recommended.  It's a little late now.  Oh, by the way, I did notice in the owner's manual that sometime after 100,000 miles it needs an internal timing belt replacement.  Or maybe it should be done sooner on a 6 year old car?

Anyway, there may be an expensive engine repair in my future.  And now might be the perfect time to look into converting it into a PIE.  Yeah, I could do a comparison of how much it might cost to convert and then, when the time is right, maybe when batteries are cheap enough, and I have a full time job again, I can convert it into a nice PIE.

More to come...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Blackbird PIE and the Four and Twenty Project

I would like to get the United States off its addiction to foreign oil.  I would also like to reduce Global Warming, reduce the general cost of transportation, and move toward World Peace.  So I came up with an idea inspired by Plug In America and the Electrification Coalition Road Map Report.  Let's start converting Internal Combustion Engine vehicles into Plug In Electric vehicles, or converting ICE to PIE.

Now that is not a bad place to start.  However, the next step in breaking down a goal is to separate it into manageable parts.  And let's use our imagination and make it fun.  PIE or Plug In Electrics is no fun without an analogy about pie.  So I picked a nursery rhyme that everyone can recognize and decide to make Blackbird PIEs.

And where do you start making Blackbird PIEs?  With the Four and Twenty Project, of course!  Let's make 24 examples of viable ICE to PIE conversions.  The next level of manageable parts needs some structure.  So, let's divide all vehicles into recognizable classes that apply to newly converted PIEs.  I have very little money to put into this idea, so we have to start small.  The first kind of small PIE should be in the range of 10 - 29.9 MPH and a 10 - 29.9 range in miles, or centering around 20 MPH and 20 miles.  Let's call these Class 1 PIEs.  So, then to extend the list of Classes of PIEs, let's also make Class 2, 40 MPH and 40 miles,  Class 3, 60 and 60, Class 4, 80 and 80, and the Class that is equivalent to most ICE cars on the road today (with a limited range) Class 5, at 100 MPH and a 100 mile range.  Anything above that is a sports car or getting too expensive to save the world economy.

Now, how many of each should be made to demonstrate the concept of affordable ICE to PIE conversions?  Keep in mind that no one involved with this project has much money to spend.  But small is not as in demand as large, however, large is more expensive.  So, let's make 2 Class 1 and 5's, 5 Class 2 and 4's, and 10 Class 3's.  And let's stay flexible, nothing written in stone.

First, let's look at a Class 1 conversion.  In this range of ICE vehicles, there is only a few vehicles that come to mind, minibikes and go carts.  But hey, you have to start somewhere.  Class 2's are more interesting.  Take a look at some of the hybrids out there.  They are in the range of 30 to 59 miles when they are running on electricity.  Class 3 is much more viable with 60 mph and a 60 mile range, you won't win any races, but it makes for a very good commuter PIE.  Class 4 can go some distance on a superhighway and Class 5 is a bit of overkill for 95 % of common driving.

OK, yes, you can't take a trip using a PIE, yet.  But you can go to grandma's house and stay overnight and come home.  And who can afford much better in this economy?  So let's now take a look at some ICE to PIE ground rules:

Rule number 1:  You have to like the ICE conversion candidate vehicle first.  Are you really going to like a PIE just because it runs on electricity? 

Rule number 2:  The ICE vehicle must be durable.  Yes, Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries last that long.  You will be driving your PIE for the next 100,000 miles before you have to buy new batteries.  You don't believe me?  Take a look at the battery warranty for the Chevrolet Volt! 

Rule number 3:  Weight counts.  No PIE should exceed the original ICE vehicle Gross Vehicle Weight number.  So there is a limit to the number of batteries that you can put into a PIE.  Think low fat content, lean and mean!

Rule number 4:  There are NO oil changes, NO gas stops, NO tune ups, NO oil leaks, NO exhaust pipes, and all you have to remember is to plug it in when you get home.