04 April 2011

Public charge station maps

Sorry if this is old news to some of you, but as I approach getting another electric car I am starting to pay attention to recent developments.  One is the updated maps of public charging stations.

Coulomb Technologies Charge Point network has a nice interface.  They don't list anything in my town yet but there are lots nearby.

As you zoom in there is more detail of course

There is talk about the Google maps direct search but it does not have this level of detail as far as I could tell, and it is uncharacteristically fussy about the wording of your query.

But the best is probably the Alternative Fuels Locater:

Think EV now available in North America, updated 18 April 2011

I spoke with Tim Hylen from Think today, tim dot hylen at thinkev dot com

Currently the Think EV bottom line is $28995 after the $7500 federal tax credit but before any local incentives, of which I have none in NC.  (MSRP is $36,495 and qualifies for the $7,500 Federal Tax Credit.)  One data sheet is here, and range data is here.  The press release from Finland in 2010 is here.

People living within 100 miles of Indianapolis or Elkhart Indiana have significant additional local incentives, on the order of $9,000.  The details are here.  As I live in NC, this does not help me. 

The Think EV has an air cooled battery that draws outside air, allowing the recirculation button in the cabin to stay on, unlike the Mini E.  However, there is no battery heater.  I don't see a problem for me, since I live at latitude 36.1 degrees north and I have a garage to park in.  Still I have some questions about cold weather charging performance of the EnerDel batteries.

Tim told me that the cabin heater uses a liquid, so I expect it will be more reliable than the notorious Mini E cabin heater which is completely unreliable.

I consider the plastic body panels to be a significant advantage, suggesting the car might outlast me.  The first recommended service is at 40,000 miles for brake pads.  I prefer local content for the same reason that I pay a premium for local vegetables.  And being the batteries are a significant part of the cost of the car, I really like that they are made in Indiana.

I don't like the internal charger that is apparently 3.3 kw.  Tim said that EnerDel is working on a level 3 connection but there is no time line on availability.

I really like the huge cargo capacity in back, quite a change from the Mini E.  The four seat option that is available in Europe does not have a time line for US introduction according to Tim.

Think is using Tom Woods Subaru in Indianapolis for service, but I gather that Tim handles sales directly for now while they ramp up.  I expect to meet him at Tom Woods for a test drive in a few weeks.  Tim indicated that the car can be shipped to me, and even the paper work can be done remotely. 

The Think has enough range to get from my home to Raleigh NC and back in an afternoon, as long as I can find 240 volts to charge from for a couple hours while I'm there.  I cannot say this of the Smart ED which is already available locally, but leases for $600 per month over 4 years, in addition to something like $4200 down up front.  The Smart ED does have liquid thermal management for the battery, but not enough range for my weekend needs.  Even the Think would have a hard time getting to Charlotte and back in the same day, due to it's limited charge rate.  But I have not yet had a reason to go that far on the weekends.

Tim said the HVAC could run while the car was plugged in but there is no remote control for this.  I plan to confirm that when I test drive it.

And, the Think comes with a Clipper Creek level 1 EVSE, unlike the Nissan supplied 120 volt interface that reportedly does not fully comply with SAE J1772 safety features such as diode load to enable charging.  I am quite confident that Clipper Creek fully complies.

I strongly expect that the Think will have better range estimation than the Leaf, which has reportedly left a couple drivers stranded when the gauge went from 30 miles remaining to dead in the space of a mile or two.  Think has been selling electric cars for 20 years on and off.

All in all the Think strikes me a rather comparable to the Mini E technology wise, albeit with a much lower power output which I don't mind, and a much lower charge rate which I do mind.  But with significant domestic content, superior plastic body panels, and probably a much better cabin heater it might be good enough.  I would not consider the Leaf with the reports I have heard that leave me wondering what other corners they cut.  The only question is, can I wait for the Focus electric or talk myself into the ACP conversion that AutoPort of Delaware is offering?