Best EV Charging Options for Rideshare and Personal Use?

In this more difficult present life, we confront the problems caused by human-forced climate change on a daily basis. And over the past week, midwest flooding resulting in more than a billion dollars in damages with multiple communities disrupted is just the most recent example.

It’s the same kind of persistent extreme weather pattern that many scientists warned was likely to emerge as the Earth warmed into the present range of around 1-1.2 C above 1880s averages. And it’s just one aspect of a crisis brought about by fossil fuel burning that we are all presently called to fight.

(According to NASA, February of 2019 was the third hottest such month in the 139 year climate record. Global temperatures ranging around 1.14 C above average are presently tipping the scale toward more extreme climate change related events. This situation keeps getting worse if we continue to burn fossil fuels. Image source: NASA.)

My personal project in response to this crisis at present is to transition to clean transportation and to share it with others through rideshare technology. And last week many of you helped me to make a first step toward that response. Thank you! The votes are in and most of you appear to favor the Tesla Model 3 vs Nissan Leaf Long Range, the Chevy Bolt, and the Hyundai Kona/Kia Niro (see the results of last week’s poll here).

Before I make my final choice, I’d like to take a look at one last criteria — available charging infrastructure. For my part, I’ve got an added challenge. I do not presently have the ability to charge at home. So I need to be able to access a public or work charging station in order to charge my clean ride. I think a good number of people are probably in the same situation.

(A video walk-through of clean vehicle charging options for climate change response.)

For the work piece, I work at home. So no dice. But luckily for me the sweetie (my wife — Cat) works at the Humane Society of the U.S. which does provide a work charging station. Use of that charging station during her work hours alone would enable me to charge the Tesla for both rideshare and personal use through a level 2 charger (240 outlet and J1772). To practically use this I would probably have to rotate use of my ICE — giving me about 2/3 clean ride coverage. That’s doable, but not ideal. A more perfect method would be to purchase two electric vehicles and rotate those through Cat’s work charger. But, at present, we don’t have the funds for such an endeavor.

As a result, I’m going to have to access public charging infrastructure to fill the gap if I want to maximize my clean riding time. Thankfully, there’s an app called Plugshare which provides a great deal of information about charging infrastructure across the U.S. and around the world. If you’re interested in getting an EV but are anxious about charging — I encourage you to check it out. Very helpful!

According to Plugshare, here in Gaithersburg, there’s a huge number of public chargers. Many of these are nearby.

(My home community of Gaithersburg supports numerous electric vehicle charging stations. Level 2 chargers are shown in green and fast chargers are shown in orange [not origin ;)]. Image source: Plugshare.)

If you look at the above image you’ll see a map of the Gaithersburg area covered in green and orange images. The green images indicate level 2 charging stations which are capable of providing between 15-30 miles worth of vehicle range per hour. The orange images indicate fast chargers which are capable of near full recharge in between 35 minutes to one hour and fifteen minutes. Thankfully, my home location in Gaithersburg is within 1-2 blocks of three level 2 charging stations. Two of these stations cost around 45 cents per kilowatt — which is comparable to present gas prices. Not ideal, but decent in a pinch. One of these stations is free.

So, already, looking at both Plugshare and work options, I have potential access to two free charging stations and two pay stations in rather convenient locations. Pretty cool. Now for the next step — fast charging. And here is where we start to differentiate between electric vehicles. For this evaluation, we will compare between Tesla Model 3 and all the rest. The reason? Chiefly that Tesla has its own massive national network of Superchargers.

The rest — Bolt, Leaf, Kona, Niro — are presently beholden to 50 kW charging in my area. This is due to internal vehicle fast charging ability and due to rated chargers nearby. Networks like CHAdeMO, EVgo, and Charge America, provide 5 such fast chargers within five miles of my home location. Pretty wide coverage and much better options than I’d originally anticipated. But not the same as…

(The Tesla Supercharger network of 12,888 chargers at 1,441 stations across North America provides a major, high tech support for clean energy drivers. Image source: Tesla.)

For Tesla we have the nearby Rio Supercharger which provides up to 120 kW charging at 12 stalls. Such chargers are about 1.5 to 2.5 times faster than the other fast chargers. And soon these chargers will be upgraded to the version 3 — which is rated at 250 kW. It’s worth noting that I couldn’t use this Supercharging station while ridesharing. However, fair use would let me Supercharge my clean energy vehicle 1-2 times per week here at the going rate of 28 to 32 cents per kilowatt. About 40 percent less than gas. Impressive, most impressive!

It’s worth noting that different vehicles are charged by different plugs. And, in total there are at least five plugs available. So any electric vehicle will probably need adapters to access the wider EV charging network. In general, though, most non Tesla vehicles can access non Tesla fast chargers without an adaptor. With an adaptor, Teslas can access both Superchargers and Fast Chargers while non Teslas cannot access the vast Supercharger network.

Overall, there are good charging options in my area. But the most potentially versatile EV for charging, among Bolt, Leaf, Model 3, Kona and Niro is again the Model 3. So it looks like we have a front-runner here.

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Thanks for joining me again! I hope this most recent blog was helpful and informative to you. If it was, please share widely! In addition, if you are interested in participating in clean rideshare to help fight climate change please consider using my Uber referral code ROBERTF3028UE. For the next blog, I’ll be making a big announcement. Hope to see you then!

 

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Which Clean Energy Vehicle is Best for Rideshare?

More than 1 billion… That’s how many carbon spewing internal combustion engine vehicles presently operate on the road today. Approximately 2.6 billion — that’s how many tons of carbon the use of this ground transport spews into the atmosphere each year (see also).

We’re Well Behind the 8-Ball on Climate Change — So What to Do?

Simply transforming this system to electrified transport would remove roughly half of these heat-trapping emissions. Emissions that are, even now, worsening our weather, melting our glaciers, warming our world, displacing hundreds of thousands of people, and threatening the emergence of a Hothouse Earth. And 90 percent or more of vehicle based carbon emission could be removed by linking electric vehicles to clean energy generation sources like wind and solar.

hothouse earth

(Tipping into a hothouse Earth state will happen if we keep burning fossil fuels. Individual and group action is now needed to prevent this catastrophe. Image source: The Potsdam Institute.)

Doing this would provide a big step forward in addressing the climate crisis. It would help to peak carbon emissions early on a global scale. It would provide the needed energy storage production for transforming the larger energy system. And it would prove to the world that we do not need to sacrifice quality of life or life-saving technologies in order to clean up our act.

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Welcome to the second installment of Extreme Clean — my personal journey to cut my carbon emissions to zero and to multiply my clean energy footprint by sharing it with others. I hope you will join me in this much-needed endeavor.

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From the standpoint of a single individual in a massive system that presently injects mountains of heat-trapping carbon into the atmosphere each year, the question needs to be asked — what can I do to speed up the clean energy transition process? In such a large world, how can the actions of a single individual matter? And how can I multiply my impact?

Choosing a Clean Energy Vehicle to Meet My Needs

For my part, and for the first phase, I have decided to purchase a clean energy vehicle. But I’m not just going to buy one and keep it for myself. I’m going to rideshare it through the Uber app. Thus multiplying my clean energy impact. I’m already living a veg-vegan lifestyle. My wife, two cats, and I already live in a relatively modest abode. But this is not enough. Not nearly enough. So step one is cleaning up my transport and sharing it with others.

Swallow Falls

(Cat and I hiking at Swallow Falls in 2018. For clean energy to work, it needs to provide for families like mine. We’re going to see if it’s possible to do that and more.)

In order to do this, I’ve go to make a choice. I’ve got to pick a clean energy vehicle that meets my transportation needs. This includes driving my wife to her work at the Humane Society of the U.S. about a mile away. It includes a vehicle capable of making the trek to the mountains where we enjoy hiking and camping. It includes one that is able to make the annual family reunion trip to Murrell’s Inlet some 500 miles away. One that can make the seasonal treks to my parents and grandparents in Virginia Beach — which is about 250 miles from my abode in Gaithersburg, MD. And if I rideshare it, I’m going to need something capable of consistently driving 100 to 200 miles per day on a 4-5+ day a week basis.

In other words, what I need is an affordable advanced clean energy vehicle. And for my purpose, for this blog post, I’ll be evaluating the capabilities of these vehicles before making a choice in a future installment. This first evaluation will look directly at the vehicles themselves. In particular, I’m interested in their range, their features, their price,  their level of efficiency, and their charging speed. In a second blog, I’ll be looking at another key feature — the availability of the charging infrastructure that supports them. This is crucial for me — as I presently live in a condo with no home charging capability. So I’ll need access to nearby local charging stations and fast charging stations. But, for now, I’ll be looking simply at vehicles themselves.

Five Highly Capable Clean Energy Vehicles on Offer

Luckily, at this point in time, there are now numerous affordable, advanced clean energy vehicles on offer. Even just last year, this was not the case. But, for the U.S. market, the number of clean energy vehicles that roughly meet my stated needs is about five. Last year, it might have been 1 — the Chevy Bolt. Arguably, the Tesla Model 3 also met my needs in 2018. But, on price (at around 50,000 dollars and up), it was then unattainable.

No more. The 2019 Model 3 Standard and Standard + are now within reach as well.

In 2019, Nissan is also offering a longer range version of its global best-seller — the Nissan Leaf. In 2018, the longest range a Leaf could achieve was approximately 150 miles. For my needs, this was a bit too short-legged. But the new Leaf + now boasts more than 200 miles of all-electric range. So we can add it to our list.

Rounding out the final two we have that Hyundai Kona Electric and the Kia Niro Electric. Both offer 200+ miles of range and prices in the mid 30s before some still substantial incentives.

If I wait until 2020, there will probably be more electric vehicles on offer that meet my needs. But at this time strong government incentives are now available for early adopters. In addition the purpose, for me, is to help provide a climate saving impact. To send a signal to markets demanding clean energy now. So acting sooner rather than later is very helpful to support this goal.

Evaluating the Cars

What follows is a pretty deep dive into the features and capabilities of these five vehicles. So hold onto your hats! The information is about to get dense!

Chevy Bolt

(Achieving a mass market debut in 2018, the Chevy Bolt is a highly capable, affordable electric vehicle featuring 238 miles of range and a number of highly attractive options. Image source: Chevy.)

Digging deeper into the individual cars on range, we find that the Chevy Bolt presently boasts an EPA range of 238 miles. This compares favorably to the Tesla Model 3 Standard at 220 miles of EPA range. However, the similarly priced Model 3 Standard + edges the Bolt out at 240 miles. Nissan Leaf Long Range is very close but lags a little at 226 miles. It is also worth noting that the Nissan is the only vehicle on offer with a passive cooling system. In the past, this has had negative impacts on battery life — which means that there’s a bit higher risk that the Leaf’s range could degrade more rapidly over time. Depending on local climate and use, my mileage may very. But this is a concern given the big swings in temperature the D.C. area has recently experienced. Moving over to the Hyundai Kona Electric, we get a bit of a break-out with 258 miles of range. This is pretty impressive and is one of the features that makes the Kona a pretty attractive offering to me. Finally, the Kia Niro matches the Standard + version of the Model 3 with 240 miles of electric range.

To me, this is all very impressive and roughly matches what only versions of Tesla’s Model S and X could do on range just a few years ago — but for around 75,000 to 90,000 dollars. Of course, none of these vehicles are as luxurious as the S or X. But the longer legs makes them all far, far more attractive to potential EV buyers — further shrinking the range gap with the ICE.

Looking at features, I’m going to provide a rough overview of the various aspects of each car. This is by no means fully comprehensive, but it does give a rough overview. Chevy Bolt is a relatively roomy sub-compact with 94 cubic feet of interior space and 17 cubic feet of storage. It has five seats, but might be a crunch for some larger folks in ride-share. Like most sub compacts, it can expand its cargo capacity by lowering the rear seats. The base Chevy Bolt comes with a rear camera and a 10.2 inch digital touch screen. Like many electric vehicles, Bolt has a lot of zip with 200 horsepower. Pretty surprising to pack so much torque into a sub-compact body design. Autonomous and more advanced AI features are available on the 41,000 dollar version. But the base version is, well, pretty basic in this respect. In addition, a number of people have complained about the seat comfort of the Bolt. An issue that, hopefully, Chevy is working to address.

Model 3 Standard

(At 35,000 dollars base price, the Model 3 Standard is Tesla’s fulfillment of its promise to provide an affordable mass market electric vehicle. And it’s a real thing of both beauty and clean energy aspirational achievement. Image source: Tesla.)

Features for the Model 3 Standard and Standard + are a bit more luxurious and muscular than the Bolt. The interior for the Model 3 is 97 cubic feet. However, storage is less than the Bolt at a still respectable 15 cubic feet including the front and rear trunks. Seating for the standard version is cloth, but the Standard + boasts vegan leather (faux leather) along with front heated seats. Basic level of autonomy including collision warning is standard for the vehicle. However, full autopilot is a 7,000 dollar upgrade (and out of reach for me). The central screen is 15 inches and includes most control options for the vehicle. Doors and windows both open at the push of a button from the inside (no levers). And outside entry is controlled either by fob or cell phone. Even the Standard Model 3 features sport car performance at 130 mph top speed and 5.6 second 0-60 acceleration. With the Standard + improving to 140 mph and 5.3 second acceleration. Overall, the feel of the Model 3 is that of a pretty awesome clean machine featuring minimalist styling, impressive design, decent AI capability, and powerful road performance. In terms of overall features, it’s a step beyond the competition, putting it in a class all its own.

Nissan Leaf + features include a unique customizeable display panel — which is pretty cool. Standard also includes automatic breaking — a basic autonomous capability. Like many EVs, the 226 mile/62 KwH battery is pretty muscular providing 214 horsepower and quite a bit of torque. Top speed is limited to 98 mph and 0-60 time is about 7 seconds. Central screen is a bit small for the class at 8 inches. Another compact model, the Leaf does boast a rather large storage area at 23.6 cubic feet. Hatchback design allows for good optimization of space. Other standard provisions include a heated steering wheel — nice for cold mornings.

Nissan Leaf Long Range

(Nissan has already sold more than 400,000 all-electric Leafs globally. Its new 226 mile range offering is bound to extend the legacy of this clean energy vehicle brand through seriously expanded capability. Image source: Nissan.)

Hyundai Kona Electric comes standard with another relatively beefy 201 hp electric motor. The vehicle is equipped with a relatively small 7 inch central display screen. Autonomous features include forward and side collision avoidance. A crossover/compact SUV, the vehicle looks really attractive both outside and inside. It sits higher than Bolt, Model 3, and Leaf — which likely provides some additional interior comfort. Overall cargo space is a decent 19.2 cubic feet. Seating for five might be a bit tight in back for larger riders — a repeating theme for the class of new, affordable electrics. Overall, a very attractive vehicle with notably high review ratings.

Kia Niro Electric rounds out our list with another 201 hp motor. It’s worth noting that the basic design is shared with the Kona, so a number of vehicle aspects will be similar. Kia Niro’s body, however, is roomier than Kona — with more space for those five passengers and 19. 4 cubic feet of storage. It is worth noting that Niro is still not yet available in the U.S. — so details are a bit less specific than the other options above. If the vehicle is not available in Maryland by mid April, it may opt itself out of the running for me. In general, there have been some issues with U.S. availability for the Kona as well — which appears to be limited to around a 20,000 vehicle per year global production rate. This compares to Bolt which will likely hit above 30,000, Leaf at around 100,000ish for 2019, and Model 3 at 250,000 to 300,000 (estimated figures).

Price comparisons are pretty comparable between these various high-performance, lower cost EVs. Chevy Bolt starts at $36,500 while the Tesla Model 3 Standard and Standard + start at $35,000 and $37,500 respectively. The longer range Nissan Leaf starts at $37,445. Kona shows a starting price of $36,500 — at the same point as the shorter range Bolt. Meanwhile it’s suggested that Niro will start at $37,500. Model 3 and Bolt have both lost the full $7,500 dollar tax credit, however. So at present that incentive is bumped down to $3,750 dollars. In addition, Maryland offers its own $3,000 dollar subsidy for electric vehicle purchases — which applies to all of the above models. Other features related to price include reported generous rebates on Bolt by Chevy as well as very attractive financing offers by Tesla (3.75 percent) and Bolt (zero percent for some qualifying buyers). Adding money to the ledger could include hidden costs like Tesla’s 1,200 dollar destination fee. All vehicles would be subject to sales taxes for their regions.

Kona Electric

(Kona Electric is a beautiful, highly capable 258 mile range EV crossover. But can Hyundai produce enough to meet expanding global EV demand and will it reach all markets in the U.S. during 2019? Image source: Hyundai.)

Not included in the price is the likely savings over time for lower maintenance and fuel costs. For regular drivers, this is pretty substantial — amounting to $1,000 dollars in savings per year or more. For higher usage drivers involved in rideshare, this savings is likely in the range of $3,000 per year when including reduced fuel costs, reduced wear and tear on brakes, no need for an oil change (I’ve changed my oil once per month on the Hyundai!), and overall return due to more simple design. These savings may be somewhat offset by rarer parts for EVs and potential longer periods in the shop as the maintenance infrastructure for EVs is somewhat smaller than for ICEs at present. In addition, use of aluminum to lighten the frames for Tesla vehicles may also add to body costs as aluminum work tends to be a specialized skill. Reports are, however, that Model 3 was simply designed for ease of use, manufacture and repair. We shall see if these claims hold out.

Efficiency is one factor where electric vehicles are head and shoulders above their ICE counterparts. Electric engines, in general are about 3 times as efficient as internal combustion engines. So far less energy is wasted overall. This is one reason why even EVs plugged into standard grids get far better fuel economy ratings and emit far, far less carbon than their ICE counterparts. EPA rated efficiency numbers for all the above vehicles are quite extraordinary. But it is an interesting metric to compare and determine which vehicle(s) stand out and which lag a bit. In the end, those with the highest efficiency will produce the lowest carbon footprints in use when plugged into the grid — which is important to me.

Kia Niro Electric

(Kia Niro Electric is another beautiful and highly capable affordable EV crossover. Will it release in time and in large enough numbers to have an impact on the U.S. market, much less make it available as a viable choice for me? Image source: Kia.)

EPA testing shows that the Chevy Bolt comes in at 119 mpge fuel efficiency. This is an amazing rating approximately four times better than my present Hyundai. But the Tesla Model 3 Standard and Standard + leap ahead with a 134 mpge rating. This is amazing considering that the vehicles have a rather high curb weight. But Tesla’s newer batteries appear to be breaking ground in a number of respects. Nissan Leaf long range lags both Bolt and Model 3 at a still impressive 112 mile per gallon equivalent. Kona follows at 120 mpge efficiency — which is also pretty strong. Finally, Niro rounds out the pack at 112 mpge. Overall, very impressive but with Tesla coming in as a clear leader.

Last but not least, we finally come to the important metric of charging speed. Typically, most of these vehicles can recharge at a rate of around 15 to 30 miles per hour of range through level 2 charging stations or the same capability charger at a home garage. However, in a pinch, all of these vehicles possess some form of fast charging capability — enabling charging rates of 150 miles per hour or more. For rideshare, this is important due to the fact that I might find myself relatively far afield and need to return home while still a 100 or more miles out. In addition, since I’m going to be using my vehicle for long trips, rate of charge will be a major factor in determining how long it takes for me to get to a distant destination.

Starting with the Chevy Bolt we find that this EV supports up to 50 kW rates for fast charging. What this means is that the Bolt can go from a low level of charge to a near full level of charge in 1 hour and 15 minutes. Nissan Leaf also is capable of recharging at 50 kW per hour rates and produces comparable recharge times during fast charge. True to trend, Kona and Niro also both charge at 50 kW per hour rates. And this rounds out the rest of the pack.

Pretty decent, but nowhere near as fast as the Tesla Model 3 using a Supercharger. Present Superchargers can provide between 72 kW and 120 kW of charge at most locations. For Model 3 Standard, these can provide a near full level of charge within between 40 minutes and an hour. A new version 3 supercharger rated at 250 kW is being introduced in California during early 2019. The Model 3 is equipped to handle this level of charging — which could cut near complete charging times down to 20-30 minutes or less. However, it will take a few years for these ultra-fast chargers to trickle through Tesla’s vast Supercharger network. It is worth noting that the Supercharger Network is presently closed to rideshare drivers. However, a Tesla representative recently noted that fair use of the network was typically considered to be once or twice per week. So on the rare occasion that I’m stranded far from home while ridesharing, I can simply turn off the Uber app, drive to the nearest Supercharger, get enough charge to return home, then link up with a local level 2 charger for the remainder (more on charging networks in another blog). So still useful in a pinch.

Final Thoughts

At this point, I’m 2900 words into the report and what I can say is that I’m very impressed with all the electric vehicles on offer. If you’d have told me 5 years ago that five very attractive EVs with this price range and capability would be available in 2019, I would have hoped you were right, but I might have doubted your conclusion. In addition, I’d like to add that there is a lot to consider when buying an EV for extreme clean energy use. Far more than I had initially thought. The details in this report are pretty extensive and, for me, quite a lot to digest.

At this point, I’m still evaluating which vehicle to choose. And I’d like to ask you for your help and opinions — so please feel free to post them below! I’ve also added a twitter survey at the start for feedback.

For our next blog, we’ll be looking at the ability of various charging networks to meet my stated needs. The availability of chargers is a big deal for me given the fact that I live in a Condo, don’t have a personal garage, and don’t have a charging station presently in my parking lot. So, yeah, access to various chargers nearby is going to be pretty key.

As ever, thank you all for joining me. I hope you have found this evaluation helpful. I also hope that some of you will decide to take the leap and rideshare in a clean energy vehicle. If you do, please help this blog by using my Uber referral code: ROBERTF3028UE. And if you have found this blog helpful and informative, please share widely! Warmest regards and, until next time, ciao!

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