Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hot times in a cool car

(Image: WikiCommons)
So, we're in the middle of a heat wave in NYC.

I hate heat.

I don't like the 90-degree (Fahrenheit) temperatures and high-humidity weather. And I definitely don't like exerting myself in this hot environment!! (Sweat! Ewww!)

And neither does my car.

As with many battery-operated devices, heat is the enemy—especially to the rechargeable lithium-based batteries! Extreme temperatures affect batteries and how their internal chemicals store energy. Very hot (or very cold) batteries means driving range will be affected.

Thankfully, my Focus Electric does have an "innovative thermal management technology" which tries to regulate the batteries' temperature relative to the ambient weather. And so far, it seems to work. Sorta.

I had the chance to go out yesterday during lunch, just to stretch my legs and check on the car. In the middle of the noonday sun, I switched on the Focus and one of the display screen told me the outside temperature was 108-degrees! (Really, the actual temp was "only" in the 90s—with a "RealFeel" of 100!—said Accuweather.) And I actually got a "warning" screen on my dashboard saying something to the effect of "When it's hot outside, keep your car plugged in to keep it cool." (Sorry I didn't snap a photo of that!)

Unfortunately, due to the situation at work, I still can't charge my car in the outdoor parking lot while I work.

Still, the "pre-conditioning" feature still worked. From the Web (and soon from my Android-powered HTC Evo 4G LTE smartphone, I hope), I scheduled my Focus to start and set its climate control unit to a nice interior temperature of 72 degrees about 10-minutes before I leave the office. (I can also remote start the car from my key fob but I'd have to be physically near the car.)

Oh, the glory of entering a car that isn't blast-furnace hot!

The Trip 2 odometer shows I used a LOT (17.4 kilowatt-hours)
of energy. Still I could've traveled 77 miles yesterday.
The downside: Since I'm not plugged in, pre-conditioning the Focus with the A/C on takes a toll on the batteries. (The MyFordMobile website did warn me about that after I hit the on-screen "Start" button.) But how much of a hit?

Between the pre-conditioning and driving with the air conditioning blasting, I had a "surplus" of only 7-miles in the Focus' batteries when I got home! (And that's with the Focus' climate control system automatically reducing cooling power output when the battery measured enough energy for 10 miles of travel!)

Needless to say, I wasn't happy about the heat—or how it affected my drive home. But I made it home—and wasn't anxious (much) about how the heat was affecting my all-electric Focus and it's driving range.

The Focus Electric's thermal battery pack management system night be playing a part in that. And it'll be interesting to see how this compares to the Nissan Leaf's air-cool only system—which was called "primative" by Tesla CEO Elon Musk a year ago and not much better than that used by my Mini-E from 2009.

It's interesting to note that Leaf owners in hot weather states are complaining of lost battery capacity. Also interesting to note that the new 2013 Nissan Leaf will get a "better heater" which should improve cold weather range. My current Focus already has heated seats, thank you very much. Oh, and the new model year Leaf gets a faster 6.6-kwH charger like my current Focus, too. (Wonder what the 2013 Leaf's sales price will be? ;-))

And having a better charger (for now) and active battery management (which Leaf still won't have) were just two of the reasons I went with the Ford Focus Electric. After all, despite using 94 percent of my stroed battery power yesterday, I still fully recharged at home in under two hours!

From the website regarding my Focus Electric last night.

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