(Some) Tesla Fans Are the Worst

Tesla is an amazing company that’s attempting to do some truly remarkable things. That said, some Tesla fans are insufferable. The company and its CEO Elon Musk have created a cult of zealots that are incapable of criticizing the company. These fanboys dismiss every mistake Tesla makes (and it has made several) and vapidly attack any opinion on the company that’s not 100-percent complimentary. As a prospective customer that has been annoyed and disappointed by the numerous “hells” Tesla has encountered (production, painting, delivery, etc.), the zealots make supporting the company…challenging.

As several of you RPadholics know, I reserved a Tesla Model 3 in April 2016. My first estimated delivery date showed that I could expect my configuration (standard battery) some time between April and June 2018. I received an email from Tesla on November 1, 2017 that said, “your estimated delivery timing will now be slightly later than we originally expected.” I received another on February 7, 2018 that said, “your estimated delivery timing has been adjusted to a slightly later window.” My account currently states, “Standard Battery available in 4-7 months.”

After leasing a Ford Focus Electric for three years, I did a lease takeover on a BMW i3, planned around my April-June 2018 estimate. That lease expired at the end of July 2018. As you can imagine, waiting for the Model 3 Standard Battery has been aggravating. I’ve shared my story in the comments section of Electrek (great EV enthusiast site that’s in dire need of moderation). Some of the attacks I’ve received were so pathetic that it’s funny.

Let’s start with some replies from a person that goes by Oneb.

Continue reading “(Some) Tesla Fans Are the Worst”

EVgo Breaks Ground on 350kW Charging Station in Baker, CA

EVgo has announced that it has broken ground on a 350kW electric car charging station in Baker, California. The site will have four high-speed stations, capable of charging up to eight cars at a time. It will sport both CCS and CHAdeMO plugs. Additionally, it will be covered by a solar canopy, mostly to keep cars in the shade, but also to provide a nominal amount of energy to cars and the site’s backup battery. The company expects the Baker charging station to be operational by June 2017.

The EVgo Baker announcement is a potentially huge deal for prospective owners of cars like the Chevy Bolt. While the Bolt is the first electric car with a mass market price and a 200+ mile range, it lacks strategically placed high-speed charging stations. The competing Tesla Supercharger network has intelligently placed stations across the country, making long-distance trips reasonable. The EVgo Baker station makes the drive between Los Angeles and Las Vegas possible in a Chevy Bolt and upcoming electric cars that use CCS or CHAdeMO. That said, the infrastructure for those plugs has a long way to go before it can compete with the Tesla Supercharger network.

Continue reading “EVgo Breaks Ground on 350kW Charging Station in Baker, CA”

Coffee Talk #637: Ford Focus Electric and the Gamification of Driving

Driving a Ford Focus Electric has a lot of similarities to playing videogames on a home console. In the immortal word of Christopher Cross, “It sounds crazy, but it’s true.” The Ford Focus Electric has a system of achievements, scores, and leaderboards that supplement the driving experience, similar to how PlayStation and Xbox consoles have these features to supplement the videogame experience. For certain drivers (i.e. nerdy ones), it makes driving more fun.

On the “My Driving” page on MyFordMobile.com, Ford Focus Electric drivers can keep track of their “Brake Score” and “Driving Score.” The former measures how well or poorly the driver uses the car’s regenerative breaking system. The latter factors in overall acceleration, breaking, and speed. The goal is to encourage Ford Focus Electric drivers to use their cars more efficiently and get the most out of every battery charge. For gamers and people that just like racking up high scores, this feature can be incredibly appealing.

MyFordMobile Trip Log (Ford Focus Electric)

Achievement whores will enjoy driving the Ford Focus Electric, simply because they can unlock achievements. MyFordMobile.com breaks up achievements into three categories: driving, environmental impact, and community. The categories are self-explanatory and appeal to different types of drivers. Those that care most about single-player achievements will focus on driving, tree huggers will want to rack up as many impact achievements as possible, and those with multiplayer leanings will enjoy unlocking community achievements. Again, it’s a fun way to supplement the Ford Focus Electric driving experience for people that know and enjoy these kinds of gaming systems, while those that are unfamiliar or dislike gamification can ignore this aspect of the vehicle.

MyFordMobile Achievements (Ford Focus Electric)

Naturally, the biggest difference between the Ford Focus Electric’s various scores and achievements compared to their videogame counterparts is the way they’re presented. Whether you drive a Ford Focus Electric or see one on the road, you want all drivers to be focused on the road and driving conditions. You do not want someone zipping along, getting giddy from a dashboard achievement notification, taking their eye off of the road, and smashing into you. With that in mind, Ford Focus Electric scores and achievements can only be viewed on MyFordMobile.com, while leaderboards can be viewed on the MyFordMobile website and app. While this takes away the instant gratification of unlocking an achievement in a videogame, it’s safer for everyone on the road.

Speaking of leaderboards, this is probably the most robust gamification feature in the MyFordMobile system. There are currently six leaderboards: Braking Expert, EV Stretcher, EV Tour Guide, Kinetic Ninja, Renaissance Man, and Zen Master. The leaderboards are currently broken up into 14 regions that span America and Canada. You can read the descriptions of each leaderboard and see examples in the image gallery below.

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I know that many of you hate the term gamification and what it usually entails, but in the case of the Ford Focus Electric, it’s pretty cool. Achievements, scores, and leaderboards on MyFordMobile.com provide ancillary features that make driving a Ford Focus Electric more fun. These features certainly aren’t for everyone, but for gamers and competitive people, they enhance the driving experience.

As a lifelong videogame nerd, these gamification features make me hit up MyFordMobile.com at least daily (usually after every trip, if time permits). I enjoy unlocking achievements. It’s fun trying to maximize my “Brake Score” and “Driving Score.” While I don’t care for what muscle cars and rice rockets bring to the table, I’m all about nerding up driving. That’s exactly what Ford has done with the gamification features of the Ford Focus Electric.

What do you guys and gals think of these features? Do you think that’d you enjoy them? Or are you annoyed by the proliferation of gamification? Leave a comment and let me know (please!).

Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, the WWE Battleground PPV, Steven Gerrard retiring from English football duty, or the irritating Netflix vs. Verizon feud, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

Coffee Talk #636: Settling on a Chevy Spark EV…Maybe

After being smitten by the Nissan Leaf and impressed by the Ford Focus Electric, there’s a good chance that I’m going to settle on a 2014 Chevy Spark EV this week. This little electric car has a lot to love, but it also has a few drawbacks. On the plus side, the Chevy Spark EV is way more fun to drive than the Ford Focus Electric or Nissan Leaf. This car has a ton of torque and accelerates impressively from 0-45MPH. It’s also cheaper than its competitors, with Chevy offering a straight-up deal with minimal dealership…creativity.

The Chevy Spark EV also packs some nerdy features inside the car. The dashboard is totally geeked out, allowing you to see energy availability and consumption in various ways. There are basic readings that are completely straightforward. There are also more precise readings that allow you to see maximum and minimum charge remaining in addition to the mean, as well as energy consumption and regeneration in kilowatt hours. A customary CD player has been eschewed for smartphone connectivity. iPhone users can simply plug into the dashboard console via USB, allowing the car’s system to play music, answer calls, compose texts, use Siri hands-free, and provide a larger display for the optional BringGo GPS app.

On the downside, trunk space is the smallest of the three cars I’ve looked at and the backseat legroom is tight. The larger issue is charging. The Chevy Spark EV’s level 2 charge port is only 3.3kW, as opposed to the 6.6kW ports found on most 2014 and 2015 electric cars. In real-world terms, that means that an empty Chevy Spark EV battery will take roughly seven hours to fill via level 2 charging.

The potentially good news is that the car has a quick-charge option. The Chevy Spark EV is available with an SAE DC Combo port, which allows a full charge in 30 minutes. Unfortunately, this “standard” hasn’t proliferated nearly as fast as the CHAdeMO quick-charge ports used by Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Toyota. However, SAE DC Combo is back by some heavy hitters — Chevy, Ford, BMW, Mercedes, and Volkswagen. If I do pick up the Chevy Spark EV, I’ll be gambling on SAE DC Combo public chargers deploying rapidly over the next few years. It’s hardly a sure thing, but it could be a decent gamble.

In California, a few SAE DC Combo chargers have been deployed, with eVgo planning to set more up. The company has a ton of work to do in order to catch up with CHAdeMO operators like Blink and Chargepoint in Los Angeles. (Note: eVgo has a number of CHAdeMO charging stations in the LA area too.) Using the excellent Plugshare app, I found four CHAdeMO chargers within a four-mile radius of my apartment. The nearest SAE DC Combo charger is more than 20 miles away. If I do pick up the Chevy Spark EV, my driving will be limited until more SAE DC Combo chargers are deployed. According to an eVgo PR rep I contacted:

All of NRG eVgo’s Freedom Station sites have been pre-wired for the addition of a SAE Combo fast charger.

Our team is developing software integration with multiple vendors, testing chargers with automakers, and is beginning to install additional SAE pilots in California now which will be announced via the eVgo website as they come online. Our goal is to install SAE fast chargers across California.

We are well on track to have at least 200 fast-charging stations throughout California by the end of 2016, giving the state the most robust fast charging infrastructure in America.

Hopefully eVgo does what it says it’s going to do. Obviously, I’d love to believe the company, but I’m skeptical of most energy companies — even green ones.

Chevy Spark EV 2014b

In a perfect world, a Nissan dealer will call me tomorrow and give me a Leaf offer I can’t refuse. That’s extremely unlikely, so there’s a good chance that I’m going to settle on the Chevy Spark EV. It’s a fun car to drive and cheaper than the other two electric cars I test drove. Hopefully SAE DC Combo chargers multiply like Gremlins over the next year to help make up for the car’s slow-ass level 2 charging.

Before I make my final decision, I’d love to hear from you guys. Should I take the great offer I received on the Chevy Spark EV and live with its warts? Or should I hold out for a better offer on a Nissan Leaf. Leave a comment and let me know (please!).

Coffee Talk #634: 2014 Nissan Leaf vs. Ford Focus Electric

After getting smitten by the 2014 Nissan Leaf, but having a mostly lousy shopping experience, I’ve decided to take a look at the 2014 Ford Focus Electric. In some ways, the Ford Focus Electric is a much better car than the Nissan Leaf. In other ways, it’s lacking. Let’s do a binary breakdown of the 2014 Ford Focus Electric vs. 2014 Nissan Leaf. These opinions are fresh off a test drive of the Ford Focus Electric. Since I wrote about the Nissan Leaf last column, I’ll be thinking through this one with the Ford Focus Electric in mind.

Good: The Ford Focus Electric handles better than the Nissan Leaf. The suspension is a little bit better and the steering is much, much better. With the Leaf, you’re able to steer nimbly, but you don’t really feel anything; it’s like controlling a really powerful golf cart. The Ford Focus Electric lets you feel more of the road and has more responsive steering. While I wouldn’t call it sporty by any means, it’s certainly a more compelling drive than what the Leaf offers.

Bad: My biggest issue with the Ford Focus Electric is the lack of a quick-charge port. While its “level 2” charging is faster than most (3.6 hours to fill), it’s odd that the car doesn’t have a quick-charge port. The Nissan Leaf has the option for a CHAdeMO port, which allows you to charge the battery to 80 percent in less than 30 minutes. There are several CHAdeMO chargers in my area, including a few that let you charge for free. This is a nice option to have. While I can certainly get by with the Ford Focus Electric’s relatively fast charging, a quick-charge option would offer more freedom and flexibility. In some ways, a quick-charge port is the EV equivalent of a condom — I rather have one and not need it than need one and not have it. (Oops, that analogy was supposed to stay in my inner monologue.)

Good: Another advantage for the Ford Focus Electric is that it has a liquid-cooled battery (active), as opposed to the Leaf’s air-cooled battery (passive). Extreme heat can lower a battery’s range (cold temperatures can too, but I don’t have to worry about that in Los Angeles). The Ford Focus Electric’s active cooling scheme will help the battery last longer, both in the short term (my concern, since I’m looking for a three-year lease) and the longterm.

Bad: Nissan created an original design for the Leaf, so its battery packs are smartly distributed. The Ford Focus Electric uses an existing design, so compromises were made to jam the battery into it. The end result is a slightly smaller backseat than the ICE Focus and a much smaller trunk. I knew that the trunk was going to be small based off of photos, but seeing it in real life surprised me. You can fit a couple of bags of groceries in there…and that’s about it. You can forget about picking up friends with lots of luggage from the airport (though, “Sorry, my trunk is too small,” can be a great excuse). The Nissan Leaf, on the other hand, has more room in the backseats and much more usable trunk space.

Good: The Ford Focus Electric is available in one trim and the options are very, very nice. It beats the pants off of the Nissan Leaf’s S and SV trims, while being competitive or better than the top-of-the-line Leaf SL. While the initial price of the Ford Focus Electric is higher, adding options to the Nissan Leaf SL makes it a tougher choice. The interior components of Focus are nicer than most of what the Leaf offers.

Judgement Call: Some people prefer the Ford Focus Electric because it looks normal. There are some consumers that hate the atypical looks of the Nissan Leaf. I totally understand both sides. If you want a inconspicuous and unassuming EV that blends in then the Ford Focus Electric is your car. Personally, I dig the Leaf’s nerdy-as-hell aesthetics because it’s nerdy-as-hell.

Ford Focus Electric 2014

The good news is that I had a great test drive of the Ford Focus Electric at Airport Marina Ford. The bad news is that when it came time to get pricing, the fleet manager was coy and wouldn’t let the salesman give me a price unless I was ready to buy on the spot. I also pulled a quote off of the Ford website with the lease terms I wanted, but the salesman said that the website quotes are inaccurate because they factor in discounts that I’m not eligible for. I left the dealership knowing that the monthly payments they’d charge me were higher than what I found on the Ford website, but lower than $300. That wasn’t exactly helpful.

The better news is that while I really like the Ford Focus Electric and would gladly snatch one up at the lease price listed on the Ford website, it’s more of a compromise than the Nissan Leaf. Yes, it drives better and has a much nicer interior, but I would get more use out of the Leaf’s trunk space and larger backseats. While the liquid-cooled battery is a great feature, the lack of a quick-charge port limits the Ford Focus Electric for me, since I live in an apartment.

The (hopefully) best news is that the salesman I’ve been working with at Alhambra Nissan found the exact model and color of the Nissan Leaf SV that I want. In my last column, I mentioned that I enjoyed working with this gentleman because he gave me honest and straightforward info over email, without pressuring me to come to the dealership. Now that he has the car that I want and I know what his prices are for more expensive models, I’m happy to drop by the dealership and see him. Whether I end up in a Nissan Leaf SV through him or a Ford Focus Electric through another Ford dealership, hopefully I’ll be in an EV by next week.

Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, your Fourth of July plans, NBA free agency madness, or your favorite fireworks, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

Coffee Talk #633: Shopping For a Nissan Leaf…Sucks

As those of you in the RPadTV Google Hangout know, I’ve been shopping for a 2014 Nissan Leaf. Take away the last month and I haven’t driven regularly since college. With that in mind, looking for a car lease is a new experience for me…and that experience pretty much sucks.

My first stop was last friday at Nissan of Downtown LA. A nice salesman checked to see that I had the necessary information about the Nissan Leaf. As an Internet nerd, I was well informed and he seemed happy that he didn’t have to do any educating on the vehicle. Since the Nissan Leaf is all-electric, there are many things to…continued

Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, the best pastrami, LeBron James’ The Decision II, or WWE Money in the Bank 2014, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

As those of you in the RPadTV Google Hangout know, I’ve been shopping for a 2014 Nissan Leaf. Take away the last month and I haven’t driven regularly since college. With that in mind, looking for a car lease is a new experience for me…and that experience pretty much sucks.

My first stop was last friday at Nissan of Downtown LA. A nice salesman checked to see that I had the necessary information about the Nissan Leaf. As an Internet nerd, I was well informed and he seemed happy that he didn’t have to do any educating on the vehicle. Since the Nissan Leaf is all-electric, there are many things to be mindful of and there are some consumers that are unaware of the pros/cons of driving an electric vehicle. Since the salesman didn’t have to worry about any of that, he let me test drive the car. It pretty much handled like I expected — nice initial torque, mushy suspension, golf-cart like steering, and eerily quiet. When it came time to get prices, the salesman gave me an initial list and was honest about being able to lower the price if/when I was ready to sign. I liked that he was up front about the pricing flexibility, but I didn’t like that I couldn’t walk away with the final pricing.

Next, I was set to meet a salesman at Glendale Nissan. This was a referral from my friend Tim, a 2013 Nissan Leaf owner and former owner of a 2011 Nissan Leaf. Before I get to that dealership visit, Tim pointed me to this interesting discussion on how Nissan Leaf sales work. As a longtime Internet writer that has had several love/hate relationships with my ad-sales counterparts, I was surprised that this discussion made me feel sorry for Nissan salespeople. According to the OP, a large chunk of Nissan sales reps’ bonus money depends on the post-sale customer survey. The salesperson only gets a bonus if he or she receives 10s across the board. That seems ridiculous to me. As a longtime critic, I rarely give perfect scores to anything. That professional habit extends to other parts of my life (Yelp reviews, Amazon reviews, etc.). I can’t imagine giving perfect scores down the line to any car salesperson, but knowing how the system works makes me want to if the experience is the least bit positive.

Anyway, I went to Glendale Nissan earlier today to meet the salesman that worked with Tim. Unfortunately, he has been promoted, so I was handed to one of his minions. He was a nice enough fellow, but we played a game of me waiting at a table and him running elsewhere numerous times to check on pricing and inventory. In the end, he was aggressive to get me to sign then and there, but the pricing was a little higher than what I was given at Nissan of Downtown LA.

Nissan Leaf 2014

The whole flexible pricing thing bothers me. I hate that I’m going to go to four different Nissan dealerships in order to find the best price. The business model is old, broken, and stupid. Thanks to numerous Internet resources, I know what other people are paying to lease a Nissan Leaf. Negotiating with four different salespeople is a waste of time and gas. The last part is funny since I want to lease a Nissan Leaf so I don’t have to buy gas; I’m burning a lot of fuel by driving to different Nissan dealerships in a (borrowed) Mercedes C250. My quest for an eco-friendly car hasn’t been good for the environment. But getting back to pricing…

…I love Tesla’s model for selling cars. It has a showroom where you can see different options, colors, etc. It also has one set of prices that you’re either fine with or not. There’s no haggling, bargaining, or any of the annoying stuff that comes with a traditional car dealership. You don’t have to sit at a table while the salesman runs back and forth to his/her boss as you whittle down the price. With Tesla, you know what the prices for the car and options are straight up. If I could afford a Tesla Model S, I’d get one in a heartbeat, mostly because it’s an outstanding electric vehicle, but also to support a progressive and hassle-free business model for selling cars.

Hopefully my upcoming experiences at Universal City Nissan and Alhambra Nissan are better. Currently, the Universal City Nissan rep has only been providing some information and is anxious to get me at the dealership. The Alhambra Nissan rep is actually answering my questions via email, which (as an Internet nerd) is something that I really appreciate. While my excellent friend Lawrence lives in Alhambra, I don’t want to go all the way out there for a fruitless meeting with a sales rep. I know the exact Nissan Leaf I want, in the color I want and with the options I want. It sucks that the traditional model for car sales is making this shopping experience an unpleasant one. Hopefully in the future, more car sales will follow the hassle-free and blessedly straightforward buying experience that Tesla offers…or I can win the lottery on Wednesday and just buy a Tesla Model S outright.

Anyway, my Nissan Leaf journey will be continued…I hope.