Atlanta Electric Vehicle Development Coalition

Atlanta's Home for Electric Vehicle News and Information


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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.

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.

NRG - eVgo station at Memorial City Mall, August 13, 2013.

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NRG EVgo: Confidence, Leadership, Innovation underpin Freedom Stations

On October 6th, I had the opportunity to catch up with Jeremy Desel, Communications Director for NRG’s EVgo business by phone and asked him to share some thoughts about the EVgo charging station network. Here’s what Jeremy told me:

  • EVgo’s mission is to ‘provide confidence in charging by providing all standards of EV charging – which today is Level 2/J1772, and DC Fast Charge stations offering both the Japanese ChaDEmo and European DC connectors at the Freedom Station. Desel added that this approach to EV infrastructure helps sell electric vehicles by providing the confidence that charging/recharging from EVgo will accomodate all types of EV/PHEVs.
  • EVgo is the nation’s leader in providing public charging, especially for DC Fast Charge stations. EVgo’s goal is to ensure that Freedom stations are no more than a mile from a highway corridor and are located where there are many amenities for EV drivers ranging from retail stores and restaurants to ‘well stocked’ convenience stores.
  • EVgo is committed to advancing the technology behind EV charging. Mr. Desel indicated that EVgo is looking across the EV infrastructure to bring drivers innovative solutions which result in faster charging times, more conveniently located Freedom Stations with a focus on providing adequate infrastructure within a given city yet ensuring intra city charging is conveniently located.  Their philosophy is to put the right charger at the right place.

While time ran out before we could discuss metro Atlanta and Georgia specifically, NRG eVgo Site Developer for Atlanta Metropolitan Area Jules Toraya, provided the graphic below depicting current and future installations of DC Fast Chargers in metro Atlanta and the outlying areas (Braselton, Dawsonville, Calhoun).  Looks like EVgo is going to have Atlanta and Georgia EV drivers well covered!

EVGo Atlanta network pic

Check out what’s new at NRG’s EVgo at NRG EVgo website


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Drive Electric Week is here! Saturday September 12th – Atlantic Station 11:00-3:00

National Drive Electric Week is here again!  Don’t miss the annual turn out of EV drivers throughout Metro Atlanta who will converge on Atlantic Station with their LEAFs, VOLTs, Teslas and other EVs to talk up the joys of driving an EV. Collectively Atlanta registrants have driven over 1.1 MILLION ELECTRIC MILES!

Take a look at the video produced by the Atlanta organizing committee (EVClub of the South, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and CleanCities Georgia): Drive Electric Week Atlanta.

This year, the ‘green’ in Atlantic Station Central Park will be filled by EV related companies led by Nissan and Georgia Power.  Two home charging stations will be raffled off during the event as well including one GE Wattstation.


Note to EV owners who plan on displaying their vehicles:  register per the link in the video and come early (9:00 AM) for the Social at the Tennis Courts and meet your fellow Atlanta EV owners. Register at Atlanta Drive Electric Week registration link

DEW 2013II

City of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed

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City of Atlanta sets National Example by Launching Electric Vehicle Fleet Program

WOW!  Big news from Mayor Kasim Reed’s office about the City of Atlanta moving to Electric Vehicles in its Fleet Program – 50 EV’s in the City’s Fleet by the end of 2015 in partnership with Vision Fleet:

ATLANTA – The City of Atlanta announced today it will deploy one of the largest municipal fleets of electric vehicles in the United States by the end of 2015 under legislation approved this week by the Atlanta City Council. The measure is part of Mayor Kasim Reed’s agenda to ensure that Atlanta is one of the nation’s leading cities for sustainability, and will reduce the city’s dependence on fossil fuels while saving taxpayers thousands of dollars per year.

The new fleet deployment complements the existing efforts of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability to support electric vehicles such as the recent installation of the first public charging station on Mitchell Street near Atlanta City Hall. The charging station is free and open to the public.

“Replacing our current cars with clean-fueled vehicles, powered by cutting-edge technology, is a historic step for the City of Atlanta,” said Mayor Reed. “The program is yet another example of how we are fully invested in making Atlanta a healthier and more prosperous city.”

Spearheaded by the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, the new vehicle fleet program is aligned with the City’s Power to Change Plan which seeks to reduce vehicle emissions by 20 percent by the year 2020.

“This is the start of a long-term program to develop policies and programs that will encourage employees, residents and businesses to consider using electric vehicles,” said Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. “We are grateful to our partners who helped with the passage of this program, including the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Clean Cities Georgia, NRG eVgo and Georgia Power’s Electric Transportation Team.”

In partnership with Vision Fleet a plug-in vehicle fleet company, the City of Atlanta developed an innovative financing structure that bundles together all the expenses of purchasing, fueling and maintaining the electric vehicles into a guaranteed rate that is a lower cost than conventional vehicles. Additionally, Vision Fleet will utilize its comprehensive suite of technology, data analytics, and provide operational support designed specifically for reducing the cost of ownership of alternative fuel vehicles.

The City of Atlanta fleet vehicles will include 100 percent electric models, such as the Nissan LEAF, as well as plug-in hybrid models like the Chevrolet Volt and the Ford Fusion Energi. Cars will be distributed throughout the city’s fleet based on the needs of each department.

“This project will have enormous impacts on fuel consumption and fleet service costs,” said Vision Fleet CEO Michael Brylawski. “For example, each of the 50 electric vehicles deployed will save at least 550-600 gallons of gas annually. In addition, fuel costs for the new electric vehicles will be about one-third of the old gas vehicles costs, and maintenance will be reduced by approximately 40 percent.”

Tesla Fremont CA plant

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Tesla Changes Model S Line Up Again – Risks Alienating Current Owners in Quest to Lure New Ones

“I’m begining to fear the announcement everytime Elon Musk steps up to the microphone” to paraphrase a member of the Tesla Fans of Atlanta Face Book page. And they are right.

What happened today?  Tesla announced three ‘upgrades’ to its product line

1). A revised Model S 70, now offering a ‘lower price’ single motor version of the vehicle and rolled back the base pricing to $70,000; identical to what it sold the outgoing Model S 60 for just 100 days ago.  Apparently jumping the base price to $75,000 to include Dual Motors (aka 70D) and supercharging did little for the base model sales.  So Tesla appears to have beat a hasty retreat to its single motor, Rear Wheel Drive platform.  Tesla is working hard to get it’s entry priced Model S below the $80,000 price point with the most popular options.

2). An upgraded 85 kWh battery to 90 kWh. The upgrade may foreshadow the battery pack for the forthcoming Model X where towing capacity of 10,000 pounds and 7 passengers is requiredTo appease recent 85/85D buyers, Tesla is offering a $3,000 upgrade (plus installation) for the slightly longer range battery, cleverly expressed as a “7% increase in range” which translates to 18 additional EV miles.

No such upgrade was offered to late buying 60 owners* who could increase range from 208 to 230 miles. One Atlanta Tesla owner noted “on my last trip I averaged 221 miles between charges.” That would be a meaningful upgrade for a Model S 60 owner**.

3). Addition of the Ludicrous Speed feature for $13,000 to reduce 0-60 time from 3.1 seconds to 2.8 seconds.  The base 70 Model S goes from 0-60 in 5.5 seconds, the 85 5.4 seconds and the P85D 3.1 seconds, which was labeled “Insane” mode.  Why does a 4,500 lb car need 0-60 in under 3 seconds? And it requires both the $10,000 Ludicrous and $3,000 Range Upgrade Packages. On a per second basis, that is a $43,333! ($13,000/.3 seconds)

Tesla owners, as expressed by several members of the Atlanta Facebook group, are becoming wary of ‘upgrades’ which depreciate their already expensive vehicles.  Others express willingness to dump the last version of their Model S or pay for upgrades to get the newest features, and bragging rights.

Elon Musk describes Tesla as a car that just keeps getting better: cleaner grid, software updates, battery upgrades.  But if current owners cannot ‘pay to play’ to get the upgrades, then he is not truly fulfilling that promise. Buying one $100,000 car is a huge sacrifice. I am all for upgrades but with access to them by current owners. That would truly make Tesla and the Model S (and Model X and Model III to come) a truly revolutionary motor car company.

* Full disclosure:  I took delivery of a 2015 Tesla Model S 60 with full knowledge of the Model 70D.  The option to re-order with a 70 kWh battery without the dual motor (and loss of the very useable Frunk) was not available. Just 100 days later that option is available and I have asked Tesla representatives to consider offering a 70 kWh battery upgrade on the same terms as 85 kWh owners can do so.

** Owner has an 85 kWh battery  with a 265 mile rated range.  On a comparably equipped basis, the new 70 is $2,000 less than my 60 as Super Charging is now included in the base price versus being a $2,000 option back in March when ordered.


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The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia! – ZEV Tax Credit Sunsets at Midnight!

The title song to Vicki Lawrence’s 1973 Hit (followed by a 1981 movie of the same title and covered in1991 by country star Reba McIntyre) says it all today, June 30, 2015 when the ZEV Tax Credit expires after 17 years at midnight tonight.  In it’s wake has been the mad rush to buy and lease Nissan LEAF, Tesla Model S and new to Georgia’s KIA Soul EV before the tax credit expires and is replaced by nothing but the $200.00 annual EV Road Use Fee enacted by House Bill 170.

This author, after investing six months fighting to retain the EV tax credit in some, reduced form (see $914 Million Reasons blog post) leased a 2015 Nissan LEAF for his son at Law School in Virginia and purchased a 2015 Tesla Model S60 for his new business Georgia EVentures, LLC which rents out EVs for extended periods.  If you can’t fight ’em, join ’em.

When all the dust clears, the elimination of the ZEV tax credit is likely to produce another 10,000 EVs on metro Atlanta roads as residents snapped up EVs in time for the tax credit.  That puts Atlanta around 25,000+ EVs on its roads, helping it maintain a Top 5 EV city ranking.

What happens in 2016?  There will be renewed effort to pass an EV tax credit, including PHEVs in the 2016 Georgia Assembly.  Some in the state even think that Chuck Martin (House R-Alpharetta) may be the sponsor of the Bill.   Speaking at the Alternative Fuel Vehicles 5th Annual Road Show (sponsored by Public Service Commissioner and indefatagible EV supporter Tim Echols) in Decatur GA, Elena Parent (Senate D-Decatur) pledged to introduce new EV tax credit legislation in the 2016 Georgia General Assembly.  Let’s hope she can find a Senator across the aisle to partner with her.  Brandon Beach (Senate R-Alpharetta) and head of the Senate Transportation Committee would be a good choice.  I shared the $914 million dollar EV opportunity with him back in mid-March.

And Georgia Power/Southern Company has stepped up to the plate, backing its portfolio of EV charging station rebates with a fleet of 32 Chevrolet VOLTs to get the word out across the State of Georgia about the power of EVs (and their new Residential Solar Power incentives).  Georgia Power is constructing over 60 fast charge and level 2 islands across the state to bring infrastructure to EVs beyond metro Atlanta.

Most exciting is the recent passage in the 114th CONGRESS of S. 1581 ‘to foster market development of clean energy fueling facilitities by steering infrastructure installation toward designated Clean Vehicle Corridors“. I’ll be watching to see if the House passes a similar Bill and a new focus on intercity/interstate Alternative Fuel Vehicles infrastructure is supported by the United States CONGRESS.

Stayed tuned and check back here as 2016 will continue to see the growth and expansion of electric vehicles and infrastructure throughout the State of Georgia!


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