Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A dear friend

It seems very apt to be writing this blog post in tribute to a dear, dear friend. The world has lost a true global educational  IT innovator and my best online buddy Miss Allanah King.
It seems like only yesterday that our 2 classes on opposite sides of the globe made a connection through our use of the then 'new' mediums of blogging and podcasts....it was 2006!
Allanah had adopted podcasting as a means of communication with her class at Appleby Primary School in Nelson on the South Island of New Zealand. Back in my Cefn Fforest class in the South Wales valleys we had also sought out global partners.  Neither place was really the hub of technology, however what grew was true educational innovation. This was helped by the fact that the world wide web was awash with new apps as part of the Web 2.0 revolution of user generated content.

I think that it must have been fate that drew us and our classes together, we had found a true partner many thousands of miles and several time zones apart. In Allanah I had found a good 'partner in crime', in that she was happy to run with some of my off the wall suggestions having seen a morsel of good educational practice often hidden, inside!

Following our blogs and podcasts we discovered a then new technology tool called Skype, you may have heard of it? I had to pretend to my headteacher that this was a closed system and that we would not be contacting the world outside Cefn Fforest....it was a white lie! Our classes used to skype us the teachers when they got to school in the mornings....it being the evening for the teachers. We were frustrated by our inability to talk directly pupil to pupil in 'real time' - in another of our hairbrained schemes we agreed to each bring our classes into school late one evening and as a result we were able to talk to our friends as they arrived in school in their morning. My pupils became very aware of global tome zones through our connection.

In another innovation I sent a small geocaching bear called Tiny Ted to New Zealand where he had some photographic adventures in Nelson prior to going on a tour of the world, from which I believe he is yet to return....it is believed that Tiny Ted was last seen in a university in Arizona!
Following the success of Tiny Ted, the two classes agreed to swap cuddly toys with each other, hence Dylan the Dragon headed down to the southern hemisphere, while a very noisy Cuddly Kiwi came to South Wales. Each toy went on a number of photo opportunities with the respective pupils, the one proviso that a blog post was required from the pupil who was hosting the toy!

As must seem obvious, we the teachers were have great fun challenging our respected classes to come up with new eays to communicate wjth their new friends - all great lnline learning, problem solving and great for writing for an ambience. ...sound educational principles.

Years went by and on a rare visit to the UK and Ireland in 2009 Allanah (AK) came to stay with us on the Welsh part of her holiday. Even though I had by that time left Cefn Forrest Primary, we were allowed to visit the school and Allanah was able to meet face to face the pupils that she had Skyped with a few years before.

After our collaboration Allanah went on to great things with CORE in New Zealand and also as a globally connected educational innovator, through all we remained firm online friends across the years.

Allanah's final illness has robbed us of a great woman, educator, innovator.....she leaves a truly amazing digital footprint.

Farewell my friend ♥️.

Monday, April 29, 2019

One month of ownership report

It is now just over a month since my acquisition of my latest EV, what have I learned/discovered in this time:

1. German build quality is second to none.
2. On a daily drive scedule, I no longer have any need to charge at public chargers. A top up at home overnight is sufficient. If more range might be needed the 250e has its secret weapon....the ability to use the full 36kWh battery for charging rather than the daily 28kWh.
3. The luxury driving experience that both the Zoe and iMiEV sadly lacked.
4. Mind blowing acceleration in Sport mode.....even Captain Slow uses this sometimes, it is especially useful when a petrol/diesel car gets above itself at traffic lights or roundabouts!
5. My continued joy of driving petrol free....the silence and refinement continues to make me smile.

Negatives over the past few weeks.....very few, perhaps one is that the B Class Mercedes appears to be a mud and dirt magnet! More of an issue is that the infotainment system ( I don't like the phrase really!) is difficult to use on the move. Lastly, my knee appears to hit the parking brake when getting into the drivers seat, fortunately pressing it engages the brake.

I have covered around 1600 miles which at a nightly charge cost of around £1.64 (averaging 20kW per weeknight) costing a total of around £41 which works out at around 2.5pence per mile.

Good deal, more to come.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Welcome to the newest EV in the family...it is a rare beast, the Mercedes B250e

The Mercedes B Class 250e is a rare creature. If you ask 100 current EV owners what they know about the 250e the majority will in all likelihood explain that Mercedes do not make an electric vehicle yet, they have a number of new cars in development for 2019-2020. These people are technically correct, Mercedes Benz do not currently in 2019 have an electric vehicle in the market... but they did have up until 2018... the B250e
The B250e is a strange car, as it is a Mercedes by design and build, however, under the skin and in its battery/motor set up it is pure Tesla. The reason for this is simple, up until the B250e coming to market Daimler Benz owned a stake in Tesla. This link led to collaboration, the fledgling US electric car maker needed to get cars built to a schedule, and thanks to the joint venture many Daimler Benz parts appeared in the early Tesla Model S. These include, gear selector, wiper/lights stalks and the window control buttons to name but a few.

In return Daimler Benz worked with Tesla on the production of its first US car, the C250e - this led to the 28KWh battery pack and traction motor in the 250e coming from Tesla.
What was produced is a stunning car, by far the best of the B Class range in my opinion, including any or all AMG versions of the B Class. The car exudes style and luxury, as you would expect in a premium vehicle which retailed for between £30,000 to  £35000 before any Government grants.
The car has 3 drive modes and paddle shift controlled 'regen braking', it is a heavy car and as a result would not be expected to have super long range. In fact I would say that 3.5 to 3.9 miles per kw which you can expect in early spring in the UK requires extreme 'eco driving' and would give a nominal range of 98-100 miles. This range estimate appears close to correct from my recent experience, admittedly not much yet.

(Range achieved by eco-driving on 21 March)
The Achilles heel of the 250e is its complete lack of CHademo rapid charging capacity. The onboard 11kwh charger unit restricts owners to long, very long waits on the fastest destination charging posts. I can envisage being extremely unpopular if I hook up to a 50kwh Ecotricity charger for an hour in order to gain 40ish miles of range! 
Owners of the 250e love the car and willingly contribute many Youtube videos of the car being enjoyed, despite its poor charging.  It is pure luxury in the cabin, and a remarkably spacious 5 seater.

The upside to the 250e's lack of rapid charging added to the fact that Mercedes Benz have hidden some of the car's battery capacity is that the batteries on the 250e should be much less prone to degradation in the long term.....we will see. MB were fairly confident of the batteries remaining healthy,  because they have included an 8 year or 100,000 mile battery and drivetrain warranty with the 250e.

To cut to the chase, why have I just swapped a 2011 Mitsubishi iMiEV for a 2016 B250e after just 6 months of ownership? 
One big reason for me was the staggering degree of battery degradation in the Mitsubishi, and despite my long term love for the little car, for me it was proving ever more difficult  to keep 'fully charged' I was having to be really creative in adding time to my work day in order to accommodate 2-3 hours of charging time. Hence my messages to Go Green Autos and our agreement for them to buy back the car giving me a workable deposit for my new love - the Mercedes Benz B Class 250e Electric Art Premium.

My first impressions were difficult as we did not get off to a good start due to a poor collection experience which left us with 14 miles range and over 100 miles to travel home. This required us to charge on 3 occasions in order to get home 13 hours after we had left! My recommendation for newbies to EV's if you are buying secondhand go to a specialist EV seller, there are quite a few in the UK, feel free to ask me for advice.

I must say that now back in Wales and making the daily work run I am returning up to 3.5 kw per hour with a nominal range of up to 104 miles in temperatures of 10-14C. I am very pleased as now I do not require a charge at all during the working day, I even arrive home with miles to spare!

Welcome to the B250e

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Mitsubishi technically sold!

As of 11am this morning my 2011 Mitsuishi iMiEV has technically been sold back to GoGreen Autos from whom it was purchased in 2018. The reason for this is simple, I have become increasingly challenged and frustrated by the lack of range and battery degradation of the little EV. This despite my continued love for the plucky little car and its amazingly frugal demands for power.
I have been challenged by the sometimes poor UK charging infrastructure which with low range can be very problematic, leading to lengthy stops or weird detours.
I will blog about the new car, also an  EV once it is actually in my possession, which all being well will be on Saturday.

My high regard for our dedicated EV sellers has been renewed over the past few days. This has nothing to do with the new vehicle, it is the little 'Mitsu' and how it comes to be sold.
I am purchasing from a regular dealer who has already admitted little knowledge of EV's. However, during my ownership of the iMiEV I have bought quite a few spares...tyres, wheels, pollen filter, windscreen wipers to name a few. I offered to deliver these with the car in my original plan to part-exchange....the dealer was not interested as their plan would be to send the car straight to auction.
I then contacted Matt at GoGreen Autos to offer him the spares, as he deals in these little EV's, during the conversation Matt asked what I had been offered for my car against the new one....when I told him he took a few hours and then came back with an offer well above the dealer's for the car plus all of the spares. This was a no-brainer so as a result the Mitsubishi is sold and will be collected early next week....no need to drive it the 100 miles to the dealer, which would have been a challenge in itself..all round everyone wins.

More news to come soon......

Sunday, September 16, 2018

A working week with MV11 ONK

This week began the I-Miev's 'normal weekly routine. I was looking forward to the week somewhat through my hands in the event of 'Range Anxiety' setting in as it had on my return journey from Kingston Bagpuize to home last Thursday.

MV11 ONK has been christened Oink! by my middle daughter, I can't possibly think why? Does it look like a little piggy????
Oink has a range of around 58- 60  miles on a full charge on the flat at present ... Wales is NOT flat!

The week began in a fairly leisurely way for Oink! just the 5.2 miles into Abergavenny at just after 6:30am ....taking the new owner to the local pool for an early morning swim. We tested out the heated driver seat and it was TOASTY! Picking up the grandchildren and take them to school.  To work from school which adds another 2 miles. This was followed by an almost return home in order to deliver a chair based exercise class in a local nursing home. The reverse school run to finish before returning to base - all in all around 32 miles in the day ...EASY!

Tuesday started the same with swimming and the school run, however this was then followed by the round trip to Caerwent Community Centre, a round trip of just under 54 miles, taking us over the range by around 10 miles, plus the reverse school run and journey home had to be included....
The answer was to plug the 'Granny' cable into a socket in the kitchen and run the cable out of the window and to the car's Type 1 charger. 1.5 hours later after the end of the hockey session I had an almost 'fully charged' car for the return trip. I arrived home at the end of the working day still with plenty of charge in the batteries.

Wednesday began without an early morning swim, but the school run was included first thing in the morning. Back home for a quick charge for around 2 hours, then off to The Narth for our new social club. A round trip of over 50 miles this was followed by the reverse school run.....
The solution again was to reverse up to the kitchen window at the village hall and the to plug in the car. After the 2.5 hour social club I was back at 100% charge to finish my day.

Thursday was a day of local school run, office swimming and return school run... too easy for the I-Miev really!

Friday was another challenge, prior to changing cars I had agreed to pick up a local musician and his wife, 2 guitars, amplifier and music/mic stands and to take them to our club in Bulwark, Chepstow a round trip of 54 miles with some very severe uphill climbs en route....
I had my usual morning routine of swimming and school run, however as my club didn't start until 1:30 pm I was able to charge back to 100% during the morning at home on my wall charger...I wan't the only person charging on Friday morning, my neighbours were charging their Nissan Leaf also,,, very 21st Century!

Oink dealt with the hilly journey and a full car very well, we arrived with just under 50% remaining battery, I was able to pull up outside the kitchen window and with the cable through the window I go a charge, in fact we were back at 100% when it came time to return home.
The I-Miev is narrow and tall and the seats fold down to leave a flat floor in the boot. (We got an amp, 2 guitars and stands plus 1 wife in the back with ease!)

The week ended when I arrived back home at around 5pm with around 21 miles of range remaining. Oink! has easily managed the busy weekly work schedule thanks to the opportunity to charge on arrival at my venues throughout the week, as a result I did not experience and 'range anxiety' as far as I am aware throughout the week and I did not have to buy petrol (£1.32 litre) or diesel(£1.35 litre) this week, I did not pump any poisonous CO2 into the atmosphere as far as I am aware.... I would say that this makes the Mitsubishi I-Miev a success.... for the time being!

Watch an in depth video of Oink! from the seller here

Saturday, September 08, 2018

A change of EV Part 2

We left our story with me driving away from Go Green Autos in a 2011 I-Miev. The immediate plan was to travel to Leigh Delamere Services (West) on the M4 via the A420 and A419 a journey of some 41 miles.
This first leg of the journey went well as even on a road with the national speed limit (60 mph)we were travelling most of the time between 40 and 50 mph. This meant that on arrival at the Services I still had around 8 miles of range. My luck was even better when I noticed that the charger was on 'free vend' this means no fee for the charge. I plugged in the CHAdeMO charger to the I-Miev and prepared for a 20 minute charge.
What followed was a lesson sadly in how being a gentleman can in certain circumstances not be good for you. As I was about to leave a Zoe turned up at the sole charger and the young occupant (lady) asked if she could put in a quick charge as she was in a hurry! I did say that I was reluctant to unplug as I too was in a hurry to get home, but I did agree that I would return before full charge and swap.... following a short break of around 15 minutes I returned, unplugged and let the Zoe owner charge up. To be fair she only charged for about 10 minutes and then unplugged. I plugged back in... however the charger would not connect and I now had around 30 miles range which would be marginal to reach my next planned charge in Magor on the Welsh side of the Severn Bridge...even with help form the Ecotricity Charger team I could not restart my charge (by this time is was also raining heavily and I was getting wet!).

My only option appeared to be a slightly shorter journey to IKEA in Bristol on the M42, this is a detour from my route home, but I had to take it anyway. 
I arrived at IKEA with round 8 miles of range left, not enough for the 15 miles to Magor! My luck was in again as the charger in IKEA was on 'free vend' so another free charge (£0.00) - I popped into the cafe for a break... on my return I discovered an I-Miev feature that was lurking in some information I had picked up about the car - it charges on a fast charger to 80% in around 20 minutes, this should have warned my that at 80% the car in order to protect its batteries stops the charge... I was not able to restart the charge but now had enough juice to reach my originally planned stop in Magor.

At Magor another 20 minute stop to get to 80% charge (44 miles approx) with a 37 mile drive home...a good drive back meant that I arrived home just as the Guess-O-Meter was showing 4 miles of remaining range. 
The journey home had taken 4 hours which is significantly more than planned, had I been a nasty person at Leigh Delamere and charged up to 80% I would have easily reached Magor thus missing out my detour and charge at IKEA Bristol saving me around 1 hour of journey time.

I suspect that running the I-Miev my days of range anxiety are likely to continue... we will see!

A change of EV! Part 1

You may have noticed that the car in the header of the blog has changed!
I have loved running my 2015 Renault Zoe Dynamique Nav since the beginning of December 2017, having covered just over 8000 miles in the 9 months of ownership. I have loved being able to say that I am doing my bit to lessen the impact of exhaust gases which are affecting human beings so much!  However, there had been something niggling at the back of my mind since the purchase...the ongoing battery lease issue ( I was paying £79 per month for the privilege of leasing my car's batteries from Renault) which added £948 per annum to my running costs!
Renault Zoe's without a battery lease are beginning to come onto the second hand market at around £9000 for a 3 year old car, this compares with around £6000 for a battery lease version. I was not willing to wait for these to drop in price, and had recently started looking around for an alternative. My alternative was always going to be electric, like many other EV owners I have vowed never to return to ICE even though I still remain a petrol-head at heart!

I did not expect Zoe's replacement to be a 2011 Mitsubishi I-Miev but, one came up being sold by my friend Matt West of Go Green Autos near Oxford recently.... I bought Zoe from Matt back in December 2017.
The I-Miev is 7 years old now and has a much lower range per charge (16KWh battery pack compared to 22KWh for Zoe)... but from a buying perspective the car has undergone a full service recently and has:
* 4 new tyres
* 4 fully refurbished alloy wheels
* new 12 volt battery
* gear box oil changed
*new brake pads on front wheels
* pollen filter replaced
The MOT runs until March 2019. The car comes fitted with:
AM/FM radio
CD player
Sat Nav (Garmin)
Bluetooth hands free kit fitted as standard
Reversing camera
Retractable wing mirrors
Heated drivers seat
Automatic headlights
All electric windows and..... a cup holder
I happened to be in Oxford this week for a business meeting and had previously discussed with Matt doing a no cash swap of the I-Miev for my Zoe which we had more or less agreed. Go Green Autos was on my route home.

The I-Miev is based on a 2006 design of a japanese i-car and was the first electric car manufactured for general release worldwide in 2011. I-Miev stands for I-Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle. 
While the I-Miev won't necessarily win many prizes for its looks, I don't think that it is an ugly car, especially by comparison with V1 Nissan Leaf. Also, it is not particularly swift and with a nominal top speed of 85 MPH not a 'boy racer' ... and then there is the range of......around 65 miles ( apt to give you severe range anxiety!) ... I have to say I took a liking to the car and not only because it will save me £79 per month simply by sitting on my driveway! It will also alleviate a rise in my monthly electricity fees from my current green electricity supplier. All in all I hope that we are going to enjoy our life together

Having agreed on our 'swap' on Thursday afternoon the deal was done and I began my return trip of around 90+ miles in the I-Miev... more of this journey in Part 2 ( to be continued!)

Saturday, July 28, 2018

An average EV day

Drivers of electric vehicles  are invariably asked as an opening question, 'How far will it go on a charge?' The question is often followed a shake of the head and a response along the lines 'That's not very far, is it?' This scenario becomes tedious after a short time. Most EV drivers have embraced the shortcomings of our vehicles, in order to focus on the many areas where owning an electric car eclipses FOSSIL car ownership...no road tax, very low servicing costs, low fuel costs, lack of emissions and of course quiet driving. Below I have a personal response to those who suggest that a first generation Zoe (22KW) does not have enough range for them on a daily basis.

This post presupposes that there is such a thing as an average day for EV owners!
My story begins the evening prior, I usually plug in Zoe on my return from the work day. However, my charge does not begin at that point as I am a good citizen and am aware that the biggest strain on the UK National Grid is early evening when we come home and begin turning on appliances and of course cooking and watching TV. If I were to begin a charge at this time my usage along with others could trigger a fossil fuel power station being brought onstream....not a good thing!
On Zoe I can preset the charge time in advance, the majority of EV's globally can also do this. I usually set charging to begin around 1am the next morning, when the Grid is less stressed. If I had an Economy 7 tarrif this would also greatly reduced the cost of each KW of elecricity.
(The Renault ZE app)

Having charged Zoe overnight, at 7:30 am I always have 100% ready for the day.
I will select a Friday in school term time. At 7:40 I set off on the school run for my grandchildren requiring around 16 miles of range on average . I then drop in at our office, using 1 or 2 additional miles.
At around midday I set off on the 46 mile round trip to Chepstow which includes travelling from 60m above sea level up to 240m and back down to sea level in Chepstow. The benefit of an EV on this type of journey is that as with ICE cars we use energy going uphill, whers we differ is coming back down....Zoe can on a good day regen' 5-7 miles of range, basically the braking system turns into a dynamo enabling battery recharging going downhill and or braking. This is also a standard EV extra, in fact Zoe is the least effective EV on the road today.

On my return from Chepsrow  I am usually too late for the afternoon school run, but  I often drop my grandson to cricket training which is an additional 10 mile round trip.
I get home having travelled almost 75 miles without range anxiety....in the summer I would still have around 10 -15 range left, whereas in the winter it may just be under 10 miles remaining.....I can the set a charge time, plug into the ROLEC 3KW charger on my wall and leave the car to charge again overnight. This travel pattern would be repeated throughout the week.
You can see from this that for the majority of my week Zoe has a usage and recharge cycle that enables me the flexibilty that suits me and also makes best use of the battery pack in Zoe.
There will be out of the ordinary days like our trip to Coventry (109 miles away) which do require some planning, this may only occur half a dozen times each year....

I would say that users should look for an EV that fits their usual day and their budget.

A dear friend

It seems very apt to be writing this blog post in tribute to a dear, dear friend. The world has lost a true global educational  IT innovator...