STAQS

As part of EvolveKY.org, I got to do a table and speak at STAQS – Southern Transportaiton Air Quality Summit – here in Louisville.  Learned a lot of things:

  • Mobile, Moves – models used in calculating air pollution.  I think these are permissible to use instead of sampling when reporting or calculating impacts of a project.
  • CMAQ – its a way of funding things
  • MPO  – Metropolitan Planning Organization.. can span many states and partial counties, example Kentuckiana and Cincinnati and St Louis
  • VW Settlement – learned a lot more about it, the kinds of things that States can fund or not fund.

Leaving this note to myself so I can remember this fun learning time.

Thoughts on Driving a Tesla Model 3

image

I finally did it!  We were in Las Vegas, and my wife said yes, so I rented this Tesla Model 3 for a day to make a quick trip to the Hoover Dam and Lake Meade.

I’ve been dreaming about this car for a while.  I had done my research.  So without trying to classify / rate it overall, here’s the individual things I found:

Acceleration

I started out the day in Chill Mode, graduated about halfway through the day to normal acceleration. I only let it loose once going up an interstate ramp.   About 2x or better the G’s than my Nissan Leaf gives me, and way past 45.   Wow.   Pedal about halfway down = what I’m used to as “strong” acceleration.   Probably not something I’d use a lot.

Autopilot was amazing

Turn it on, and its like the lane I’m in suddenly developed invisible steel rails and the car started gliding on those tracks.  

  • Turns out I drive more to the right than I thought.  I kept trying to correct it.  Wife thought the car was doing a better job than me. 
  • Trying to force the car out of where it wants to go is about the same as..  guiding a car up onto a curb at a very slight angle?  Didn’t measure it, maybe a pound of force?   Easily done, but more than just a touch of the steering wheel.  When it gives, its almost a .. snap? But the car doesn’t veer.
  • The amount of agitation to give the steering wheel so that it knows you’re still there is more than what I normally apply to a steering wheel when I’m driving long distance – I have a very light touch.   It got pissy with me.  So yes, it ensures you are paying attention.
  • It tended to drift a bit when lanes merge in to your lane.
  • it tended to be confused and then snap to a lane when exiting and going down ramps.
  • Telling it to change lanes is awesome.  Its very sure of itself.
  • It tended to be very conservative when people pulled out in front of me in the city.
  • I had way more situational awareness about surrounding cars.   Its like:  see them in side mirror, see them in the display, see them pass me out the driver window, and the whole time: The car knows they are there.
  • I kept it at a follow distance of 5, which is 2.5 seconds.   And pretty much the speed limit. 
  • Even in the city, when not on autopilot, I’d have it in “smart cruise control” where it followed the car in front.  Very relaxing.  It could track the forward car even on windy roads.
  • There were some confusing times – after stopping exiting a ramp – not realizing it still wanted to drive, perhaps?  Or, the car is being a little paranoid, applying braking of its own, and I’m surprised so I apply more brakes as well.  
  • Its already good enough to be a game-changer, and its going to get better.  I want in on this action.   Everybody else, please catch up soon.

Brake, and Hold

Car slows down, press brake to come to a stop.  Remove feet from pedals.  Car stays there.  Like “Hold” mode in a Prius going up a Hill.  Very nice.   Very much a fan.

Single Pedal Driving

I was worried that there wouldn’t be a lot of “Neutral” coast.. but .. I didn’t miss it. I spent more time in auto-cruise-control adjusting speed with the thumbwheel.. and even when controlling my own speed, there’s a very solid feel of “keep this speed going on.”   

I did find that I’d lift my foot a second or two before I intended to slow down – starting to move my foot to the brake – and the car would slow down, startling me.   Probably a few days would get rid of that habit.   Its a different brain circuit.

I’d say first 5-10 minutes are “WTF”, and then its “oh this is nice” + “Whoa why did I do that”, and maybe in 2-3 days it would be second nature.

Steering

It felt like I was holding a heavy steering wheel, which was attached with super-strong titanium links to the wheels.  It felt like I could “feel” the wheels through the steering wheel.  Any little input I gave, immediate response.  Is this called “tight”?  And it wasn’t even in Sport mode.  It was amazing.

Drive, Park, and Walk Away.  There is no Off

This was very freaky.  Yeah, stop the car, put it in Park, get OUT of the car, and lock it.  The car is now “Off”.   Unlock the car.  The car is now “On”.   There is a way to turn the car off while you’re in the car, but its not a common use case.

Range Anxiety

What range anxiety?   Yeah, I don’t even know how far we drove, I’d have to look it up.  No worries about the A/C being on, either.   We got it with 228 miles available, drove it down to .. 168? charged it up to 260.

Supercharging

Easily found.  Easily plugged in.  And then … it starts to ramp up the amps.. and .. OMG, 300 miles in an hour!  (initially). I think we stuck an additional 90 miles on in about 40 minutes.  20 of those minutes were wandering around a convenience store.  It is much more relaxed than when you are getting gas, because you know you’re going to be there a bit.  Which is how I’d prefer to roll – relaxed.  Definitely getting the right snack.  I look forward to taking a long distance trip in a Tesla with Autopilot.

Voice Navigation and Navigation in General

Better than any other car I’ve been in, on par with what I expect Google Maps and Apple Maps to be.  Probably closer to Apple Maps in terms of accuracy – it did miss the start of one offramp entirely, and chose the less optimal way into a parking lot, and the long way around involving a roundabout when a simple left was available.

The Car Itself

I think I’d rather get a Model Y.    The Model 3 was too close to the ground.   And almost too cute.   Probably go with gray or black, red is just not me.   Wife says Blue.

Using Turo

I think I’d recommend trying it out.  Granted, this host was maybe better than most?  He had an assistant who took care of all the details and made everything super simple.  Its about the same as how it felt going from Taxi’s to Lyft/Uber .. as it is going from Avis to Turo.  The same corollary applies – its a one to one, pre-meditated thing, with more details to figure out – vs a “go to one place and just get a car” (equivalent to go to one place – at a hotel taxi line – and get a taxi).   While renting, I had insurance cards provided by Liberty Mutual on my phone.    There’s a checkout and check-in process that involves documenting the state of the vehicle.   

At the end of the day, I was sad we didn’t have more errands to run.  

Nissan Leaf: Estimating Range

I was driving myself crazy. I’d keep trying to guess how my car was doing. Did an experiment to put my brain to rest:

  • X-Axis is Battery% – that’s why its right-to-left.
  • Y-Axis is either Trip-Miles or Estimated Miles, same units
  • This is a 2015 Leaf, 11 Capacity Bars. I don’t have LeafSPY available at the moment (someone borrowed the dongle)
  • Eco Mode, temp 48 degrees (or so), dry.
  • Using Cruise Control at speed limit whenever possible.
  • The “Lap” was a 12.4 mile loop with TJ Unitarian at one end. Relatively flat; easy traffic; and fast (for me) charger to get me to 100% to start.
  • Laps 1 and 2 were without heater or lights; as was Lap 4.
  • Lap 3 – I turned on headlights, seat heater, and steering wheel heater. (but not the main heat)
  • Between Lap 3 and 4 – car sat for 2 hours as I attended the EvolveKY MeetUp.
  • Lap 4 done identical to laps 1 and 2 to verify pattery
  • Lap 5 – I turned on the heat (and headlights). It was 48 outside; inside set for 70, so only a 20 degree jump. Note that inside of car had been heated by sunlight already, not a cold morning start.
  • Lap 6 – I got the LBW just as I started it. Different route for the second part – I headed home.

Observations:

  • The car is optimistic for the first couple of miles. (green)
    • It would have gotten 84 miles, maybe, if it had stayed like that.
  • Eyeballing battery use and odometer leads to a pretty solid line – better estimation than the Guess-O-Meter which jumps ALL over the place.
  • I expected the heater to shunt the line over, but i did NOT expect it to “recover” (pink).
  • Looks like when LBW kicks in, a different estimation starts to be used that is more pessimistic. (yellow)
  • Then it stops giving numbers.
  • I got home at 74.6 miles, but later without charger drove around the block a few times, up to about 76 miles. Never got to Turtle. I suspect (based on age + capacity bars) my battery is mis-calibrated, and there’s more than it thinks there is.
  • The first 3 laps all showed 4.5 miles per KWH. Using that number, puts me at 16 to 17 kWH of available battery for sure.
  • Using Seat Heaters and Steering Wheel Heaters .. could NOT tell the difference in the range. Yay!

I had been hoping that it would be colder.. my “range calculation” in my head (looking at odometer for 90%, 80%, 70%, etc) was giving me a 50 mile range or so. However, it was a nicer day.. Or the car knew it needed to perform.

If anybody wants to watch the boring data videos, they are https://youtu.be/Cjv03-F8TqI and https://youtu.be/nfHJhwyg4xs (assuming that the upload succeeds). Captured with a Hero6 in Timelapse Video mode.

My first Electric Bill!

Got my first electric bill since we got the EV.  

IMG_0409

Uh….  I guess that’s $30 bucks more than the same month last year?

Graphing it out vs temperature, its still hard to say.  We also had a bad furnace fan that shifted some numbers around:

image

Doing the math, I’ve driven about 1000 miles since I got the car.

  • IMG_04101000 miles at 4.5 miles per kwh is about 222 kwh.   Bill shows 1324kwh
  • 222 kwh at 9 cents per kwh is 2000 cents.
  • Which is $20.

That ends up at $0.02 per mile.

Yay.   Reality fits.

Regrets buying my Nissan LEAF EV

I wish I could have bought a Tesla.

I’m still super-glad that I switched from an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) car to an EV.   I do get a little twinge when I see a Prius Prime plug-in-hybrid, however, I have to go back to the big deciding factor:

$300/month.

Yep.  That was the number.   I couldn’t do it with my initial reservation .. maybe I could have done it with the 2019 base Model 3, however, I love technology, and … that would not have been honest with myself.   At least the technology package and AP2, which brings that up to $43k.

However, before I get too far in to my pity party, I need to review:

ICE Car Used Leaf in my Price Range My future Tesla
No Gas!
ditto
Super quiet + Jet engine sounds
ditto
Nice acceleration
Even better acceleration by the numbers
Remote start A/C and Heater
including a timed heater start in the garage because no emissions.               
ditto
All-Around-View Camera
Could happen
Inexpensive maintenance
– no oil changes, etc.  Service every 18k miles.
ditto, except about $600/y with prepay options.
Prius got to 15 cents per mile. Inexpensive per-mile costs
– 3 cents per mile
ditto
Many inexpensive ICE cars available. Reasonable Car Cost
– 28 cents per mile (assuming 60k miles payoff)
Not there yet.  Best I could do was around $1/mi at the moment.
Can fit many things Awkward, can’t really fit all the stuff that I could fit in a Prius. I hear its better.
Easy around-town range as long as you visit your gas station 85mi is almost enough. Almost.  There are chargers that make things better. Much better ranges
Long Distance Travel. Not in the Midwest. I can perhaps get to Cincinnati, if I go at 60mph. Superior infrastructure and range.

To be fair, the newer Nissan Leaf had a better range, which solves some of the problems, and if I had done a lease, I could have gotten as low as $300/mo.   However, there’s another angle – I wanted to experience the frustration of a short range EV. So that I have a realistic sense of what was possible/what is not, so I can point people at stuff that’s even better than what I have.

How close till my future Tesla?

If I back track the $ trail – lets say $400/mo (car payment, I’m not adding the $90 in gas that I don’t pay anymore) – at 3.5% APY that gets me to around $21k.   How long till a used Tesla gets down to $21k?

If you go to https://www.cargurus.com/Cars/price-trends/Tesla-Model-S-d2039 and play with the dates, I can currently find this chart:

image

See that little rise at the end?    Annoying.   And, It seems to take about 3 years to drop .. about 40%.  Also note they have no info on price trends for model 3’s and model X’s.

Another tracker:  Used car listings on carguru.com showed the cheapest model three at $51k.

Another tracker:  Used car listings on Carmax … only show Model S’s, and they are way more expensive than the used cars at Tesla.com.

Another track would be a much larger car payment, but .. that’s not something I’m willing to bet 5 years of cash flow on right now.

Its safe to say .. not soon.

So here I am.  I DO love that I’m driving an EV;  Yes, its a bit hard and clunky in some ways; but give it a few years or so (time goes by faster as I get older) and lets see.

Life stuff leads to Leaf EV

Life has been in flux since the end of March.  I thought I’d take April off and recharge, but life had other plans.  In very short order:

  • Death of a human family member in my extended family
  • Death of our canine family member in my immediate family
  • Death of a Prius via large Pothole and frame damage

Not going to dwell there.  However, the last one is launching me in the following directions:

  • Purchase of an EV to replace the Prius

This LEAFS me in a bind.  the EV thing is huge.  Do I blog about it? Do I tweet about it?  Does anybody care?  Do I just tell my friends?    Should I vlog?  ???

I’ve started a thread on Facebook – on a photo – where I’m taking questions.   https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10156221680033444  .. if you have any questions, please feel free to ask there, leaf a comment comment here, or  tweet at me @sunjeevgulati.

I’ve got a spreadsheet going where I’m keeping track of charge-times and distances travelled.  I’m sure there will be a blog post on that later.

Overall, the map of what I’ve learned so far, thanks to draw.io.  Green = specific to me.  If you’re buying a LEAF, you will learn what these things are.

LEAF information

Gah, found a bug.  “S” Trimlevel also has a 3.3 Kwh charger.  And note, these are all pre-2018 LEAF’s.. they seriously upgraded in 2018.  Used price on those isn’t low enough yet, I needed a car payment under $300, which is also why no Tesla Model 3 Smile 

Enough for now.

Latest Round of Harvesting Car-Tracks

image

In the past, I used Android – Torque, and an upload to Dropbox, to gather car-tracks.

I’ve started up that project again – this post focuses on my solution for gathering car-tracks for later processing.

 

imageAndroid-Tablet-Always-On

I got a Samsung Galaxy Note Tablet used, and I’ve stuck it in the glove compartment of my car.  Its plugged in to power, but power only runs when the car is turned on.  Click on image to zoom.

I use automate-it to run a few rules:

  • When power goes off, go into airplane mode.
  • When power comes on, turn off airplane mode, and start MyCarTracks

This seems to work as long as I drive a good amount each day. Then again, when I went to write this blog post, I found the tablet powered completely off – not enough charging?  temperamental battery?   Looks like not enough charging is the culprit.

It would be awesome to completely shut down the tablet when power is lost, and then power on when power is applied; however, I’d have to jailbreak to get that, and my 15 minutes at attempting to jailbreak, didn’t work, so, meh. 

MyCarTracks

imageI could totally get by with the free version of MyCarTracks.  Its an excellent product!  It has these features which I use:

  • Auto-record car tracks – after you reach 6 miles per hour
  • Auto-stop recording car tracks – when still for 5 minutes.

I can then get access to my tracks via an “Export All” feature, which will let me export to CSV, GPX, or KML.  GPX is the winner for me:

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”ISO-8859-1″
standalone=”yes”?>
<?xml-stylesheet type=”text/xsl” href=”details.xsl”?>
<gpx
version=”1.0″
creator=”MyCarTracks”
xmlns:xsi=”
http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance”
xmlns=”http://www.topografix.com/GPX/1/0″
xmlns:topografix=”http://www.topografix.com/GPX/Private/TopoGrafix/0/1″ xsi:schemaLocation=”http://www.topografix.com/GPX/1/0 http://www.topografix.com/GPX/1/0/gpx.xsd http://www.topografix.com/GPX/Private/TopoGrafix/0/1 http://www.topografix.com/GPX/Private/TopoGrafix/0/1/topografix.xsd”>
<trk>
<name><![CDATA[2015-04-15 19:52]]></name>
<desc><![CDATA[]]></desc>
<number>29</number>
<topografix:color>c0c0c0</topografix:color>
<trkseg>
<trkpt lat=”38.242019″ lon=”-85.72378″>
<ele>132.89999389648438</ele>
<time>2015-04-15T23:52:25Z</time>
</trkpt>
<trkpt lat=”38.241821″ lon=”-85.723613″>
<ele>131.89999389648438</ele>
<time>2015-04-15T23:52:29Z</time>
</trkpt>
<trkpt lat=”38.241649″ lon=”-85.723491″>
<ele>129.1999969482422</ele>
<time>2015-04-15T23:52:32Z</time>
</trkpt>

MyCarTracks.Com

But Wait There’s More!

imageI went ahead and paid them $16 for a 1-year service for a small fleet, which gives me access to my tracks online (up to 2 years old) for quick viewing.   In order to make this happen, I sometimes hook up the tablet to my WIFI and say “synchronize all”.  There’s also an option where I can say “sync between 2 and 3 in the morning”, and I configure automate-it to take airplane mode off from 2-3, however, that’s hit or miss.

Once the tracks are loaded up to MyCarTracks.Com, I can browse them on a pretty nice map.  (picture at the top of the post).

What’s Next

My intention is to load these GPX’s into a small sql-server database, using Spatial (Points), and then come up with little data sets of “here’s all the tracks that passed through these two points”, etc.

I then want to take those tracks and convert them to a 3-D rendering with Z-axis = time, to compare various paths with each other.   

And I want to convert that into a 3-D sculpture.   Because, art.   My art.   Representation, archival – these I love.

But, one thing at a time.  I’m always welcome to shelf my projects; I only work on them when they are attracting my soul.  Might be a bit before I get there.  I do have a start on the gpx-parsing code, though: https://github.com/sunnywiz/cartracks2016

Amazing DIY Backup Camera Lines with Turn-Indicators v2.0

16aarnI’ve had two coworkers exclaim that this was an awesome idea, so I figure that makes it blog-worthy..   See if I can get an animated gif of this going ..  eh, not that good, but I’ll leave it.

 

How did I do it?

Step 0.1.  Acquire tablet screen protectors.  Beautiful Wifeling, who loves hunting for stuff, found them at a dollar store.

Step 0.7. Apply tablet screen protector to backup camera screen. This involved some scissor work.    Be amazed at how the polarization is just a little different, when seen through polarized glasses.

image

Step 1.   Find empty abandoned parking lot.  Where the parking lines all line up.  In my case, its at my work-building.

Step 1.1  Acquire dry erase markers and sharpie. 

Step 2.  Get the Backup Lines figured out. Line up the car with the wheels touching one line evenly, and then trace onto the screen protector with the dry erase marker.  Note that due to lens configuration its not a straight line, its slightly curved.  If you’re really good, you could probably lift a fingerprint from this image.

imageimage 

Step 3.  Get the hard turn lines figured out

image

  • Start out parked in a parking spot. 
  • Pull out, avoiding hitting the imaginary parked cars next to you, and turning the wheel as far as possible when possible, till you’re in the street and lined up.
  • Trace the outline of the parking spot with dry erase marker.
  • Test it out by trying to back into the spot.  You may have to adjust.
  • Once you’re sure, then go over it with a sharpie.

Step 4.  Profit

I have earned at least 27 self-credits at the good reverse parking jobs I’ve done.  Go me.  I’ll spend them on some ice cream.

Prius Speed vs MPG: Inconclusive

I had a roadtrip looming, so I figured I’d do some experimentation:

2014-07-23 19.49.57

I wanted to find which highway speed would give me the best MPG.  I had some hilly areas (Louisville->Cinci) and some flat areas (Cinci->Columbus) to experiment with.      I figure after 10 miles, I’ll get an okay reading for average mpg, and I could move on, right?

Wrong.  

Turns out, the relative altitude of the car makes a HUGE difference.  If I reset my trip-meter at, say, 700 ft above sea level (as measured by my cellphone GPS), then at 600ft, I might have a MPG of 62, and at 800 ft it might be 57.  Even after 15 miles.  

I could have worked with this, except that every time I seemed to reset the trip meter, I never got back to that same altitude.  The road went down.  Or it went up.

Now given some fancy math I’m sure I could have calculated some numbers.  But not worth it. 

Thanks to some really slow traffic, though, I did figure out that in general, the Prius wants to get about 70MPG for anything over 45 mph, with the AC on, except that wind resistance knocks that number down to about 45MPG at about 70MPH.  

It seems that driving with the cruise set at 55 nets me in the low 60MPG’s. 

It does not appear there is a local maximum somewhere between 50 and 60.   50 is more efficient than 60.  And that is NOT a speed I’d set my cruise control to, sorry.  I don’t want to be one of THOSE Prius drivers.

Maybe some day when I’m bored I’ll drive a loop (I264, I71, I265, I64) at 50,55,60,65 MPH and record those numbers.   I can use the straight stretch near the ford motor plant as the transition from one speed to the other.