Saturday, December 7, 2013

My FIT EV: 2 months and 4000 miles later

Since the day I got my Honda Fit EV (Electric Vehicle), one of the most frequent questions beyond the obvious one regarding its not really sipping any gas, has been whether it has been worth it; economically speaking.

Of course, it made sense to me when I got it i.e. exactly 2 months ago, but does it still made sense ? I decided to run the numbers.

The Basics:

Let me start though giving the details of the car first:

  • Make and Model: 2014 Honda Fit EV
  • Type: 5 seater small station wagon (EPA Class) 100% electric vehicle
  • Ownership: Lease
  • Lease cost: 0% down (paid only sales tax, as with any vehicle lease out of which got $1000 refunded by MD state) , $259/month for 3 years
  • Lease terms:
    • Unlimited miles
    • Collision Insurance included at $0
    • $0 maintenance
    • Free Home Charging Station
Now, to see if this lease cost made economic sense, I should compare total cost for this car with the total cost of any other EXACTLY similar non-electric car with exact same lease terms. Fortunately FIT EV has a gasoline sibling, the regular FIT, which runs on gas.

The problem is Honda doesn't' give these features i.e. unlimited miles and $0 collision insurance and maintenance cost on its regular FIT. Browsing Honda site, the most base model regular FIT, with $0 down option the monthly is leased out at $200/month for a 36 months term.

but as the fine print shows its only for 12,000 miles /a year beyond which Honda charges $0.15/miles:

So, at my current need of  24000/miles/year lease would cost me an outrageous $200 + 1000*0.15 = $350/month for a regular FIT. 

But since a similar lease term is not available for a regular FIT, its not easy apple to apple comparison for regular FIT lease vs. FIT EV lease.

So, I decides to go with best (i.e. the cheapest case scenario) for regular FIT, to see if I were all lucky to get best deal possible in regular FIT, would FIT EV still be a better option. Meaning what if I got a similar type of regular FIT with similar leasing terms for only $200/month lease.

Next comes the mileage driven. In last 2 months I drove 4000 miles (And yes, going the EV route was exactly for that reason, I drive a whole lot to cover my 80 miles daily commute to work).

FIT EV Calculation:

I have also been getting anywhere from 5.2 to 4.7 miles/kwh. Let us take on average 5.0 miles/kwh
The 4000 miles in that case would translate to 4000/5 = 200 kwh.
My local "effective" energy rate is 11.02c/kwh (the details on one of my previous post)
so, 200 kwh will cost me 200*11.02 cents = $22.04
Lease payment for FIT EV for 2 months: 2 * 259 = $518
Total cost (lease cost + electricity) incurrent in FIT EV: $22.04 + $518 = $530

Regular FIT Calculation:

2013 Regular FIT gas economy: 31mpg
Gas to drive 4000 miles: 400/31= 129 Gallon
cost for 129 Gallon = 129 * 3.35= $432
Lease payment for Regular FIT for 2 months: 2 * 200 = $400
Total cost (least cost + gas) incurrent in Regular FIT : $432 + $400 = $832


So, Even in the most conservative way (assuming a dealer would give me all the goodies for free while easing a regular FIT that I got in FIT EV, and assuming gas price was $3.35, though that's the lowest in last 2 months) if I would have got a regular FIT, it would have costed me $832 in gas & leasing, while driving and leasing FIT EV costed me only $530, i.e. is a saving of  36.3% 

So, if anyone asks me about my decision to go EV again, I can happily say 'so far so good' &#x263A

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Year On: Did the Panels live up to its Expectations?

It has been a little over a year since we installed our solar panels (also referred interchangeably as PV systems) on our roof with a promise to replace 100% of our electric bill. The offer looked too good to pass and the panels started cranking clean energy starting April of last year (April 13, 2012 to be precise).

A year on, the question is 'has it fulfilled its promise' ? In the spirit of transparency, let me share some real data and you can judge for yourself.

The System

First, a little bit about the system: It's a 5.59 KW DC system leased for 20 years from Solar City for a net upfront cost of $6321. The installer promised no more cost for next 20 years to come as far as maintenance etc for the panels are concerned and guarantees energy generation up-to 90% of its claim on the annual basis with 1% decrements yearly on the guaranteed kwh as the panels age.

Other details of the systems are:
  • Panels: 26 Kyocera (#KD215GX-LPU) panels of 215 Watt each
  • Inverter: 1 invertor Sunny Boy 5000-US
  • mounting system: Solarcity Canopy -C 6"
  • 20 years lease upfront cost with no monthly fee: 
    • paid upfront: $6321
    • Might get county property tax rebate of $3160 (about 5 year wait)

The Expectation

Below are the snapshot of our yearly electric consumption just before the panels were installed:

Bill Date  days Electric Usage (kWh) Electric Charges (distribution) Alternate Supplier Charges Total Charges Effective energy rate ($/kwh)
2/23/2012 28 446 $31.29 $39.25 $70.54 $0.16
1/23/2012 35 390 $28.55 $34.32 $62.87 $0.16
12/21/2011 30 294 $24.95 $25.87 $50.82 $0.17
11/21/2011 29 421 $30.43 $37.05 $67.48 $0.16
10/21/2011 32 347 $17.52 $30.88 $48.40 $0.14
9/22/2011 30 560 $24.65 $49.84 $74.49 $0.13
8/19/2011 29 884 $36.16 $78.68 $114.84 $0.13
7/22/2011 32 832 $36.27 $74.05 $110.32 $0.13
6/21/2011 29 547 $26.07 $48.68 $74.75 $0.14
5/23/2011 30 332 -$13.18 $29.55 $16.37 $0.05
4/21/2011 31 413 $29.86 $36.76 $66.62 $0.16
3/23/2011 30 432 $29.19 $38.45 $67.64 $0.16
Total 365 5898 $301.76 $523.38 $825.14 $1.69
Average 30.42 491.5 $25.15 $43.62 $68.76 $0.14

Meaning our monthly bill were averaging $68.46 and we were consuming 491.5 kwh (monthly or 5898 kwh annually. The 5.59 kwh PV system that we signed for were supposed to generate about 9900 kwh/yearly with 4.86 hr sunlight average in our area (Maryland, US) as
5.59 kw * 4.86 hr * 365 days = 9916 kwh.
but since we consume less than 6000 kwh yearly,  we expected our bill to be completely 0 or even negative.

The Reality

So did the system produced what it was designed for ?
Not really. Looking at the solar city customer portal, which by the way, has a good feature rich customer front end to track their energy generation, this is what I see for 2013 and 2013 respectively,

that is it generated about 7027 kwh in its first 365 days cycle, much better than what's solar city guarantees (6212 kwh in year 1 and 6150 kwh on year 2 and so on, i.e. 1% lesser production guarantees in successive year) but less than what it informally promised. Now, to be fair no one has control over how much sunlight you will get and that's why they probably guarantee way lower than what the system is capable of producing..

The Dollars

Now what does this 7027 kwh of electricity generated  translates into, in terms of Dollar ? How much money it actually saved and what's our payback period ?
For this I needed to re-look into my electric bills from Pepco. And that's one piece of the most complicated numbers maze I have ever seen; even more complicated than our phone bills. 
Electric bills in Maryland has several parts and complicated formula; on peak, off peak and intermediate rates. And then for each such slab, you have the distribution, transmission and generation charges. And then tons of small fees or taxes and surcharges. And latly, there is also one big charge called customer service charge of about  $14.56 each months whether you consumed any electricity that month or not . 
Complicating this even further, In Maryland you have a choice of picking your own energy supplier which generally appears very promising since you can buy electricity from them at a predefined lower rates for years to come without any commitment or any penalty for early termination. And sure enough, that's exactly what I had done to complicate my life further :). I had signed up with WGES to buy electricity from them at 8.8 cents/kwh. 
So what does that mean ? Does that mean that by producing 7027 kwh of electricity I saved myself 8.2 * 7027 cents of bill from WGES ? Actually more than that. Since that 8.2 cents/kwh is just the generation part. Producing your own electricity also saves you from transmission and distribution charges.
For this let us look at stack of our last year bill again: $68.76 monthly with $14.56 as connection charges for 491.5 kwh of electricity monthly (all average numbers). Meaning I was paying 53.50/491 = 11.02 cents/kwh

So, what it meant was that last year our panels saved worth 7027 * 11.02 cents = $774 on our bill. So an investment of $6321 should be paid up in next 8.16 years. 

The Dilemma

The dilemma comes from the observation then that our bill still didn't' just go away. After all, the system generated over 7000 kwh of electricity whereas we were consuming less than 6000 kwh  yearly. 
The reasoning for that is 2 folds: 
First, even if you don't' buy no electricity from your supplier, i.e. don't switch on even a light bulb, you still will be slapped with the above mentioned 'consumer service charge' of about $15 a month. 
Second, installing panels, even if designed for 100% of your current capacity, isn't a license to do whatever you want and still expect to live bills free :) The system is just there to generate energy. If you start consuming more than it generated, that excess has to come from somewhere and its' not free. 
And in all fairness that's exactly what happened  to our case. We consumed  a lot more energy this year due to some life events (new local job, new addition to family etc.) and sure enough, there was a bill for that. 

Here are snapshot of our 2 yearly usage and bill summary; one before and one after the PV systems:

The Conclusion

So again, did our bill just vanished ? Not yet. Did it reduce it,  yes, it did by about $45 ($68 vs $23). Did we consume same energy as the year before ? I wish but in fact we consumed about 42% (5898 vs 8403 kwh) more electricity still paying $45/monthly less. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Driving Nissan Leaf

After closely following the resurgence of (all) Electric Car in last few years, I thought of trying one; no, not buying but renting one.

Yes, there are just 2 companies which rents the electric cars: Hertz and Enterprise. The problem with Hertz is you would never know which make and model you will end up getting & from which location. Enterprise on the other hand shares its locations where you find one and then you can call the rental center to reserve one for you.

Currently Available (All) Electric cars in the market

As you might know in US there are only a few "pure" electric cars available:
Make/Model  (Year: 2013)
EPA Range in miles
mpge(city/highway/ combined) in miles
EPA Size Class
MSRP after $7500 Fed credit
Nissan Leaf
Ford Focus Electric
Mitshubishi i-Miev
Tesla Model S (60-kw)
Honda Fit EV
Small wagon
smart fortwo electric drive coupe
2 seater
Toyota RAV4EV
small SUV
Epa data came from, price from & Smart car price from here on 5/10/2013

EPA calculates the range as
Rangeepa = 0.7 * ( 0.55 * Rangecity + 0.45 * Rangehighway)

So in reality your range should be about 35-45% higher than the Range shown above.


I rented the Leaf from Baltimore downtown location. The doesnt' show the electric car  option but when I called them I was told that I should reserve that as 'premier' car which after corporate discount for home use coupon turn out to be $48/day including damage waiver and other basic insurance.


The car fully charged showed a range of 107 miles (just when I rented) which dropped to 42 after I reached a destination 47.9 miles away loosing 56% of charge. Meaning 56% of charge should have given me 107 * 0.56 = 60 miles of range but it gave me only about 48. But to be fair, it was mostly highway driving.

Next Day I couldnt' charge it very well on my tickle home wall socket. & I mostly drove locally without paying much attention to my charge.
The third day I charged as much I could achieving 86 miles range & then drove to 66.7 (364.7-298.0) miles and the range dropped to 65 miles to 21 miles. This was mostly city driving. So range and actual miles driven were mostly in sync.

So in short, if your city and highway driving is almost half-half mix than you should get within 5-7 miles of the range shown on dashboard i.e/ about 100  miles of driving  per charge (in eco mode).


Charging on regular 110V household takes for ever; something that Nissan & even other sites very cleverly chose not to express. In my calculation a full 100% charge from an almost depleted level would take around 24 hours.  On a Level 2 charger (fortunately we have plenty of them around the MD/DC area, thanks to semaconnect and blink network mostly free unless the garage charges a parking fee) which gives a 220V and 30A current, this reduces to 5.5-6 hours. DC charger which this particular Leaf was capable of handling thru its quick-charge port, could reduce the charging to about half an hour or less as it pumps 440V DC @50KW, but there are very few ones close-by for me to try and see for myself.

Driving Experience

Car drove nicely with very little to no sound. It has 2 driving mode, regular and eco. In both the modes however you would feel the the scarcity of  power while accelerating. But once I got used to it, it wasn't  something that  bothered me or was a problem overtaking or merging on highways. 


The car was comfortable with all the bells and whistles that you expect from a $20-$30K car range including  XM, Navigation, Climate control, cruise control, power everything etc. etc. Its 5 seater is kinda cramped though in the back especially if you are having a child seat. Being a hatchback  design, trunk space was OK too, almost like Toyota Prius.

Economy vs. Savings

The fuel economy data for owing an electric car is well published, nevertheless I wanted to do my own calculation. So here it goes:

This car:
Our electricity rate :  11.79 c/kwh (My Pepco May 2013 bill, generic rate available at  peak rate consisting of distribution, transmission +generation * tax)
Leaf Battery Bank Size: 24 kwh
$ amount to fill Leaf: 24 * 0.1179 = $2.83
useful miles it can drive on full charge : 100
fuel economy: 2.83 cents/mile

Gasoline car:
mpg assumed: 35
Local Best Gas Rate; $3.50 (5/10/2013)
cost to drive a mile: 10 cents/mile

Nissan gives a 100,000 warranty on battery. Assuming that's the life of battery is, 
Savings over lifetime = (10-2.83) * 100,000/100 = $7,170
Not doing the Oil change should bring about $700-$1000 savings as well as any state income tax credit for EV, but I am cancelling that out since level2 charger installation also costs money.

Since after Federal Tax Credit, Leaf price is almost in the price range of any regular gasoline car, the above gas savings (not to mention the maintenance cost) can be treated as pure savings.


In conclusion this is a good daily commuter car if your work is not very far which could save one a solid gas money. Having a 100+ miles range takes away the 'range anxiety' that is generally associated with electric car. After your work, you can still do plenty of running around before heading  home and you will have enough juice left. A level 2 charger is a must though otherwise you wont' be able to drive everyday. For a little DIYer type, creating a Level 2 charger point is not very complicated; just pull a 220V line from your main using a AWG-10/2 copper cable to your garage & a 30W circuit breaker and connect it to a Level 2 Charger kit available for about $1000 at amazon. 
But for my specific case in which I have a daily commute of 90 miles city (or 102 Miles if I take a longer but faster highway route), I can just about it with this Leaf. 

So, guess my search for a good Electric car (or a job little closer to home), is still not over :(