Atlanta Electric Vehicle Development Coalition

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Tesla Autopilot Long Distance First Drive – It Simply Works!

Courtesy of sister company, Georgia EVentures (Georgia EVentures, LLC), I was able to drive their 2015 Tesla Model S60 with the newly downloaded Autopilot features on a 950 mile round trip between Atlanta and Raleigh NC with stops in Charlotte and Winston-Salem between October 19th and 22nd.

Here are my experiences with each of the Autopilot features:

  • Adaptive Cruise Control (TACC) works by setting the number of car lengths desired to follow the vehicle in front of you which adjusts the Tesla’s speed to maintain that distance all the way to a full stop. This feature has been available since the “Autopilot” equipment (windshield mounted camera, lower facia mounted sonar and sensors on the front and rear bumper sections) but has been improved with the addition of the other features.  This core offering of Autopilot works quite well. As I came upon slower moving cars and trucks, the Tesla slowed down according, and as those vehicles changed lanes, the Tesla sped back up to the prescribed speed which can be set in increments of 1 mph or 5 mph depending upon how you activate the stalk.  Acceleration is smooth and sure. But on a few occassions, it did not accurately sense the rapid change in traffic fast enough and I have had to intervene. On Friday, post trip, I got an odd ‘crash’ indication on the instrument cluster when no obstacles were in my way. Overall Grade: B
  • Auto Steer works by first engaging adaptive cruise control with one pull of the lower left lever toward the driver which shows the TACC icon turn blue, followed by a second pull on the lever to activate Autosteer, also with a dash icon turning blue when activated. This really does take an act of faith to ‘let go of the wheel’ but soon I found that the Tesla was steering itself better than I was!  Using all of the camera/sonar/sensors, Auto Steer is constantly scanning the left and right painted lane lines and keeping the Tesla exactly in the center of the lane.  It handles grade changes and curves with ease.  The lanes markings on the newly designed instrument cluster turn blue when Auto Steer is active and if one side of the lane cannot be discerned, the lane color changes to grey/white.  If Auto Steer cannot see the lane marking, it prompts you to ‘take control of the steering wheel.”  Easy, just grab the wheel and in doing so it ‘breaks’ the Auto Steer control while maintaining Adaptive Cruise Control.  While I limited my Auto Steer use to hundreds of miles of highway driving, it could be engaged at speeds of 30 mph if the lane markings were clear.  I did notice the function was disabled on a very dark early morning drive in Winston-Salem NC where lane markings were too faint for the system to register. I only experienced errant Auto Steer on four occassions when it tried to move into an exit lane in search of the lane marking. With Tesla actively mapping all data from Auto Steer, that should improve with thousands of real-time data points being captured daily. This has been the most debated feature in the Autopilot suite.  My experience:  used properly Auto Steer works as advertised. Keep your hands on or near the steering wheel (I used a tracing grip where I just allowed the wheel to move in my hands without expending any effort) with an occassional hands-free event and Auto Steer will truly reduce driving fatigue.  Overall Grade:  A-
  • Auto Lane Change works by activating the left or right turn indicator when the Tesla is in Autopilot mode. I found this to be the most useful, safe and reliable feature of Autopilot.  For both left lane and right lane change manuevers, the feature worked perfectly, measuring speed and distance to safely pass, execute the lane change, then show the car was firmly in the center of the lane (line marking goes from dashed to solid) cueing me to cancel the turn indicator.  Only once did Auto Lane Change have to abort a manuever when a pick up truck came up on the Tesla too fast to allow it to safely change lanes.  The Tesla simply stayed in its current lane.  I felt that Auto Lane Change saw obstacles and blind spots (of which the low raking rear roof is one) much better than I could. Overall Grade:  A+
  • Auto Parallel Park:  I had no opportunity to use this feature so that will have to wait for a follow up review.
  • BIG DATA: Remember, Tesla has clearly declared this version of Autopilot to be a Beta version and the 40,000+ equipped and engaged Autopilot Model S drivers are providing valuable feedback to Tesla/Google mapping to improve the performance of the suite of Autopilot capabilities fairly quickly.

Overall Grade: A- the first generation Autopilot is intuitive, reduces driver fatigue (950 miles proved it to me) and can predictably and reliably execute its functions.  It will get better and better . . . so stay tuned for updates.

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Georgia EV Tax Credit Revived?

The electric vehicle tax credit debate simply will not go away!  Last week Georgia General Assembly House of Representatives member, Margaret Kaiser (D-Atlanta) and her Democrat co-sponsors introduced HB 877 GA Gen Assembly HB 877 EV & EVSE Tax Credits which provides the following:

1). Three year program with tax credit level changing at the 18 month mark and an annual $30 Million Tax Credit Cap.  Tax Credit would run from July 1, 2017 to December 31, 2019.

2). Tax Credits for EV’s with battery size of 4.0 to 10.0 kWh: $2,000 reducing to $1,000 on January 1, 2018. 10% Income Tax Credit against vehicle purchase price subject to these caps.

3). Tax Credits for EV’s with battery size >10.0 kWh: $3,000 reducing to $2,000 on January 1, 2018. 10% Income Tax Credit against vehicle purchase price subject to these caps.

4). Purchases and Leases are eligable. Ineligability for Georgia residents who were granted a tax credit ($5,000 ZEV tax credit reduced to $0 in 2015) the three prior years (2013-2015).

5). Tax Credit to business enterprises who install EV charging stations at 10% of the charger cost subject to a $2,500 cap. Defintion of business enterprise is clarified in HB200 which cleared the House in 2015 and is still with the Senate.

This legislation is substantially what was proposed under HB220 in last year’s session with the notable inclusion of the EV charging station and slightly lower caps.  Now the Bill needs a Republican co-sponsor and the best candidate is Don Parsons (R-Marietta) who chairs the House Energy Utilities and Technology Committee and is a member of the tax related committees: Appropriations and Ways and Means.

Watch this blog for updates as we did last year!  If you live in metro Atlanta and support EVs, email or call  your Georgia House Representative this coming week.

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Why Re-Elect Tim Echols to the Georgia Public Service Commission?

Seems being an incumbent in any office these days is a liability.  People know what you stand for, can evaluate your decisions and voting record and challengers can unfortunately mis-appropriate your words to sway voters against you.

Sadly, that is exactly what one of the contenders for Public Service Commission is doing to Tim G. Echols.  Rather than clearly stating her own position and why she would be the better candidate, this contender has taken Tim’s ardent support for electric vehicles in Georgia and oddly turned it into something it never was:  a quest to line Tim’s own pockets with a ‘free car’.

If you know Tim even in the slightest, you know that, is not how he rolls!

Like many of us, through the availability of the Zero Emission Vehicle tax credit, Tim was able to afford a $35,000+ first generation electric vehicle and experience for himself the potential for electrification of the automobile and yes help EVangelize (as I do) the need for EVs in Georgia and to help combat non-attainment air quality in metro Atlanta.

Tim fought for the tax credit to the very end of the 2015 Georgia General Assembly Legislative Session, working with a diverse team spanning CleanCities Georgia, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the EV Club of the South to retain some level of tax incentive to realize the benefits of more drivers in Georgia behind the wheel of an electric vehicle.

Where were his opponents a year ago on this issue?  Silent.

Tim has invested a lot of time learning about renewable energy sources and the economics behind these technologies.  He hosts public forums, tirelessly travels around the State of Georgia advocating for these renewable resources and yes, has built the appropriate relationships with our state’s largest providers of energy: he challenges them!

So Georgia voters have a decision to make on May 24th about returning Tim G. Echols to the Public Service Commission.  It’s clear how I am voting.  Look at the facts and I think it will become clear to you as well.

 

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Is now a good time to buy a Pre-Owned Tesla Model S?

I had lunch with a work colleague last week who was asking me about Certified Pre Owned Tesla Model S vehicles and if now is a good time to buy one?

Well year end clearance sales are well known in the auto industry and the last week of December is the biggest sales period of the year! So can you score a great deal on a pre-owned Tesla Model S before December 31st?

That all depends on your definition of a great deal. Tesla forums are exploding with stories of ‘cheap’ Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Tesla Model S citing a few available for under $50,000. Considering the average new car price is $36,000 that’s still a hefty premium to pay for a 2-3 year old first generation Tesla Model S.

Here is the link to Atlanta pre-owned Model S vehicles. Tesla Model S Pre-Owned Atlanta. As of today, 18 vehicles are listed with the cheapest being a 2013 60kWh for $59,000 and the most expensive is a 2015 P85D for $105,000! A lot of choice for sure.

But none of the 18 listings look like a bargain to the author. Why you ask?

Autopilot MIA: Keep in mind that almost all of these vehicles are ‘pre-Autopilot’ capable vehicles (generally VIN below 50,000/production pre-September 2014).  This is truly a Buyer Beware situation.  Because these Model S vehicles cannot be retrofit for Autopilot (Tech Package is not the same – it must say Tech Package with Autopilot) these vehicles are consigned to a pretty steep depreciation curve.

Uncertain Used Value: Because Tesla does not typically go through the Manheim auctions, used values are almost impossible to peg and at this point, Tesla can set what they want for that value. So you have no real market data to base the value of the CPO upon. Tesla likely paid only 80% of the listed price as a trade in, locking in a 20% non-negotiable profit margin for the company so that’s a good place to start to get a sense of the true wholesale value of these CPOs.

Evaluate CPO vs. New: you should always make the comparison between a new vehicle and the CPO and factor in the still available up to $7,500.00 Federal Tax Credit. The first owner took that credit so it is not available to you as a CPO buyer. Take the time to go on to Tesla Model S design studio and price out a comparably equipped Model S, deduct the $7,500.00 tax credit and see how close you are to the CPO. Tesla Model S Design Studio.

Remaining Factory Warranty: check out the balance of the factory warranty (4 years/50,000 miles) which is extended for CPOs. Ask for details. Most importantly, look hard at the remaining battery life which typically has an 8 year warranty (ask about mileage caps which can vary by battery size and year of production). Along with the electric drive unit, this is the most expensive out of warranty repair to consider ($10,000+).

Some of the early Teslas were purchased with the extended warranty which should transfer to the CPO buyer – be sure to ask.  Rim rash is common and should be repaired by the Tesla Service Center. Tires are replaced below 5/32 of tread life.

Lower Priced Entry Level Model S:  you may want to wait and see what Tesla does with the Model S entering its fourth full year of production. According to this article from the Motley Fool, Tesla may continue to reduce the price/feature set of the Model S to attract more buyers. Tesla has been focused on the $70,000 entry price point but ‘de-contented’ Model S could reduce that price further. Motley Fool Less Expensive Tesla Model S?. Time is on your side as the supply of CPOs with Autopilot grow and Tesla moves to lower the entry price point on a new Model S.

Bottom line: So if you are just interested in a great car that may be worth 50% of what you paid for it 3 years down the road and can live without Autopilot and all other self-driving upgrades, you may find a great deal.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK before you commit to a Certified Pre-Owned Tesla Model S. Buy only the options/features you want. Try not to get swayed by the sub-$50,000 hype.  God-speed finding the deal of a lifetime!

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CBC News: Atlanta Winning The Electric Car Race

Canadian Broadcasting Company’s The National came to Atlanta to learn why we have embraced electric vehicles – up to now.  Watch this terrific 10 minute video released on December 1st and hear from the Atlanta EV trail blazers as to why we have been so successful and the need to keep pushing to get the $200.00 EV Road Tax reduced, the an EV Tax Credit restored and continue to build out EV charging station infrastructure in time for the upcoming new generation of EV’s to hit Georgia’s roads!

Mayor Reed in Paris


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Mayor Reed Puts Atlanta on the Global Climate Stage

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is out to cement his reputation as the Environment and Sustainability Mayor!   He has been on a global quest to show what Atlanta is already doing to address climate and environment.  Here’s a summary of his activity and the full press release is in this link: Mayor Kasim Reed Participates in COP 21 Panel in Paris:

City of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is among the leading city executives in the U.S. on climate change. This year, he addressed a joint U.S.-China summit on climate in Los Angeles, sharing many of the ideas and solutions currently in use in the City of Atlanta with an audience of hundreds of Chinese officials and dignitaries. In November, Mayor Reed presented at the World Economic Forum Conference on Urban Mobility and the McKinsey & Co. Global Infrastructure Initiative in San Francisco.

Mayor  Reed was just in Paris France for a series of speaking engagements and to participate in the Climate Summit for Local Leaders, organized by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The event is a series of negotiations among world leaders to make an agreement to address global climate change, known as COP 21. Mayor Reed pictured taking the Paris Metro to meetings with Jenna Garland, Stephanie Benfield and Claire Angelle.

“Climate change is one of the most important issues we face nationally and internationally,” said Mayor Reed. “Atlanta’s presence at the COP 21 Paris climate meetings demonstrates our commitment to local action. I look forward to sharing our work in the City of Atlanta with other leaders from around the world, and collaborating on opportunities to cut pollution and secure a stable climate for future generations.”

Mayor Reed participated in a number of panel discussions and sessions with world leaders, including a “Buildings Day” session focused on ways to reduce the energy consumption and carbon footprint from commercial buildings. He discussed Atlanta’s national leadership in the Better Buildings Challenge, The Better Buildings Challenge is a public-private partnership to reduce energy and water consumption by 20 percent by the year 2020. Atlanta leads the nation with more than 100 million square feet of commercial building space committed to the challenge.

Under Mayor Reed’s leadership, the City of Atlanta is innovating in implementing solutions for climate change and sustainability. Among them:

1). Undertaking a project to increase its reserve waters supply from three days to 90 days by turning Bellwood Quarry into a reservoir;

2) Creating a Solar Atlanta initiative that will see solar panels installed on 28 firehouses and recreation center, lowering energy consumption by as much as 40 percent, and the Better Buildings Challenge, a national initiative to lower commercial energy consumption.

3). Electrifying the City of Atlanta Vehicle Fleet. Through partnership with California based VisionFleet, Mayor Reed has committed to replacing fossil fuel based City vehicle fleet with electric vehicles. City of Atlanta Electric Vehicle Fleet Program

Atlanta Electric Vehicle Development Coalition is proud of the work Mayor Reed and his Director of the City of Atlanta Office of Sustainability, Stephanie Benfield are doing to rapidly promote and advance energy efficient, climate favor solutions for the City of Atlanta.  Watch for more from our Mayor and his Sustainability team in 2016!

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2016 VOLT and Georgia EV Sales

Just before Thanksgiving I was contacted by Matt Smith of Vice News to ask my opinion of the 2016 Chevrolet VOLT which has been awarded the Green Car of the Year Award, and to check in on the state of EV sales in Georgia post the repeal of the ZEV Tax Credit on June 30th.  Here’s the link to the interview The Electric Car Industry Is Going to Make You Love Them. Here are the main points from the interview with more detail here:

1). 2016 Chevrolet VOLT is a nice improvement on the GEN 1.0 VOLT from an EV driving range (53 vs 38) but missed it completely by not offering the Quick Charge Package (DC Fast charging and 6.6 kW on board charger) the lower priced Nissan LEAF has offered for five years . I am looking forward to test driving the 2016 VOLT and comparing it to my 2014 model (my second VOLT; 2013 was leased). Might be another story in Vice News. Stay tuned!

I am seriously interested in test driving the 2017 Chevrolet BOLT which will be launched in January at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) – how un-Detroit.  Spy photos show a pretty attractive package and the guarantee of 200 mile EV driving range, today only available on the Tesla Model S70 (230 EV mile range).

2). EV sales post the repeal of the $5000 ZEV tax credit in Georgia are predictably down.  My post from last month reviewed the precipitous sales drop but argued that Georgia has over 6,000 more EVs as a result of pull ahead sales and that new, lower cost EVs are coming in 2016 (BOLT), 2017 (Gen 2.0 LEAF) and 2018 (Tesla Series III) to reignite EV sales in Georgia.

So where is Georgia now #1?  According to a recently released study shared by CleanCities Georgia this past week, Georgia has the highest EV registration fee of any state in the Union! $200 vs. $43-$100 for the states that do levy such a fee.  As the Atlanta Journal Constitution intoned when the ZEV Tax Credit was repealed:  “From First to Worst”.

Georgia EV Registrations 2010-Aug 2015


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First Look at Georgia EV Sales Post Tax Credit Repeal

Thanks to CleanCitiesGeorgia, and specifically to its Executive Director, Don Francis, we have our first look at EV vehicle registrations (the best measure for sales since these vehicles are actually registered for use in Georgia) in the 60 days following the repeal of the $5,000 Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) tax credit on June 30, 2015.

No surprise, registrations have been cut in half, off by -49% to an average of 462 vehicles in July-August versus a January-June average of 915 EVs. When you look at the data broken out by Battery Electric Vehicles (ZEV tax credit eligable) and Plug-in Hybrid Electrics (ZEV/LEV tax credit ineligable) the PHEV’s are off -24% (31/month July-August vs. 41 January-June) while the BEV registrations have fallen by -46% to 431 units vs. 874 January-June.

Some of this is certainly explained by the pre-Tax Credit repeal ‘Gold Rush” sales in April-June which produced sales of 3,469 EVs. And with the tax credit repealed, EV automaker sales, led by Nissan LEAF (-55%) and BMW i3 (-52%) dropped like a rock. Tesla fared slightly better experiencing only a -19% drop in monthly average sales of the 3 year old Model S (57 vs. 70 units).

So is there any good news?  YES!  Georgia has added another 6,413 EV’s in 2015 bringing cumulative new EV registrations to 22,795 vehicles over the five year period (not accounting for trade ins, lease returns, accidents) or almost a 40% increase in the number of EV’s registered in the State of Georgia.

Georgia EV Registrations 2010-Aug 2015

What can we expect going forward:  further fall off in EV registrations in Georgia until the following happens:

1). Lower cost EV’s are introduced – $30-35,000 price with ranges well in excess of 100 miles. Automotive OEM plans call for vehicles like the Chevrolet BOLT, Tesla Model III, and the next generation Nissan LEAF to meet these metrics.

2). Growing numbers of used EVs come back into Georgia. Almost daily I hear of some one who got ‘the deal of a lifetime’ on a 2 or 3 year old Nissan LEAF, Chevrolet VOLT and yes even a Tesla Model S which only adds to the EV fleet on Georgia’s roads.  For 2nd owners, used EVs can be a tremendous value, with plenty of warranty left on the car and the battery and generally pretty low mileage and pricing which reflects the Federal rebates they received when new.

3). New Incentives are introduced in Georgia taking the form of a tax credit, point of sale rebate (as Connecticut, Tennessee and Massachusetts are doing) or some other form of incentive.  Fortunately, the Federal Tax Credit for EV’s still has a long life ahead since it is based on the number of qualifying EVs produced by the automotive OEMs (200,000 per name plate then phasing down thereafter).

4). The EV Road Tax is reduced or repealed.  The current $200.00 EV road tax as has been discussed on this blog before, is unfair and unjust. It will likely be the subject of legislative proposals in the 2nd year of this Georgia General Assembly session or into the next.

As more data becomes available, look for updates to this blog post.

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