Buying a used EV: without the FUD

Guest post by TOCWA member Matt Kocaj

The influx of new electric vehicle models (EVs) and especially the recent arrival of the Tesla Model Y, heralds a rush of EV owners listing their “old” EVs for sale as they swap or upgrade to the new hotness.

I then saw this recent article by a well respected publisher in the Western Australian automotive community. It really ground my gears! “grinded my gears”? Who knows!? 🤷‍♂️ I was frustrated.

The article is a problem in my opinion because it might leave a used EV buyer to have misinformed expectations about electric vehicles and their batteries. So to set the record straight, I’m going to quote a few sections from said article, and correct the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt). Hopefully those who care for the details, and getting an EV with as much range remaining as possible, will appreciate the following explanations.

EV Batteries degrade like your phone. But much slower.

Degradation is the natural chemical process that an EV battery undergoes as it’s used. As energy goes in and out of the battery many many times, it loses the ability to retain the same amount of energy as it did when it was new.

Various studies, and Tesla’s own data, suggests the average degradation is around 1 per cent of the original capacity per year.

It doesn’t work like this, firstly because degradation isn’t a function of time, but closer to a function of kilometres (km) driven. The more energy in and out of the battery (its “cycles”) the more degradation. Lithium based batteries have a finite lifetime. This is why your phone battery won’t last as long 2 years in, compared to when it was new.

Tesla battery degradation
This image was taken from an article on electrek.co which uses Tesla data.

As you can see the degradation is mostly linear after about 50,000 km. But in the first part of the EVs life the capacity drops a little faster. In the case of a Tesla we know that some vehicles have well over 90% of the original capacity after many 100s of thousands of km. Other vehicles may be closer to 80% like mine (~2.5y old and 116,000k on the odometer/ODO).

It seems that the less “work” the car does in terms of demands on the battery, the longer it will last. Many EV owners are quite happy to share how their batteries have degraded after 1, 2, 3 or even 5 years of use.

It seems that how an OEM manages a battery has a huge role to play in the longevity of the battery and minimising degradation. I know someone with a gen1 Nissan Leaf who is down to 50% of the original capacity. These batteries are not liquid cooled like a Tesla and generally considered some of the worst cells on the used battery market because of the poor design.

You should definitely ask about the battery degradation

But don’t expect too much when it comes to your local “automotive workshop”. They probably won’t have a clue.

Most automotive workshops should be able to access this data by plugging into the onboard diagnostics (OBD2) port, or in some instances it could be relayed using remote connectivity.

In the case of a Tesla for example, the data you’re after isn’t accessible simply by plugging in a generic OBD2 link. Tesla also doesn’t make it easy to find on the vehicle’s user interface or in the mobile app. You will need a bit of DIY to install a relatively inexpensive adapter and download an app to connect to the car and capture the values.

Read on to see some tips on getting the exact figures from your seller.

Don’t try to reverse engineer estimated range into battery capacity

Between them it allows you to calculate the battery capacity and compare it to the original capacity.

No, it doesn’t.

Most EVs have a series of complex formulas, variables and historical driving data that form the “estimated range in km” displayed inside the vehicle. It’s for this reason that it’s often not useful to try to estimate battery degradation working back from these “range” numbers. The only reliable way to know is to extract the raw values from the car’s computer and use those. One example from a friends Tesla:

full pack when new: 52.4 kWh 
nominal full pack: 48.2 kWh

Therefore this battery has 91.9% of its original capacity remaining. That’s about 8% degradation. That’s pretty normal I’m finding for a 2020 model and 24,000 km on the clock.

EV km and ICE km are not the same

Everything in a car is going to wear and degrade over time and especially when it’s under load or working hard. The moving parts are especially important in an ICE vehicle (Internal Combustion Engine; a non-EV) and this is why it’s conventional to use the km on the ODO as a primary indicator of the wear and tear and a big input to one’s assessment of the value of a used vehicle.

With EVs, this is not as important as the battery degradation. Yes, it will in most cases, correlate strongly with the km driven. But not always. An older EV driven very gingerly may have far less degradation than a near new EV with a young driver who wants to drag everyone at the lights.

An EV battery may be covered under a specific warranty

Tesla for example, quote a very specific warranty for various models ensuring that over a given lifetime (in years), a known capacity is warranted.

Tesla battery warranty: AU capture, Aug 2022

If the battery falls below this remaining capacity inside the age (years) or km driven, then the battery can be claimed for replacement under said warranty. This is good news for used EV owners and supports the real-world data we have measured above. A 10-year old Tesla is not going to be “dead” as I continue to see speculated online. It just won’t get you as far as it would have when it was new. Much like your phone. These EVs will change hands in the used car market for some time.

Ask your seller what the battery degradation is. It’s more important than km

Ask the dealer or private seller what the remaining capacity is. If they don’t know or haven’t already printed it out for you, they may know someone who can help them capture it and give you the figures. Use the above chart as a rough guide to see if the remaining capacity is average for the km on the odometer. This should give you an idea of how much work the vehicle has been subject to in its life so far. Higher values (remaining capacity) are obviously better and will correlate with fewer km driven.

If you don’t feel like you’re getting the answers you want or your seller strikes you as the kind that doesn’t really have a good handle on the workings of batteries, then reach out to the folks here at TOCWA. We have a very friendly community of EV enthusiasts willing to lend a hand or share helpful advice.

Happy (informed) shopping.

Matt is an EV and battery enthusiast. He and his children enjoy pulling apart kids’ toys and “upgrading” them with recycled lithium batteries. Matt has been a Tesla owner since 2020 and is passionate about helping others cross the chasm into the new world. Matt has friends that ride horses purely for leisure. Soon his friends with ICE cars will be driving them purely for leisure too.

copy of the original referenced article can be found in the Wayback Machine in the event the source is updated after publishing.

Portable Power Packs are Wasted on Recharging EVs.

A portable power pack (also referred to as a solar generator) is sold in a variety of storage capacities from 150Wh up to and beyond 2000Wh. At this stage they are generally very expensive in terms of dollars per Wh of storage, if you purchase a unit that fits your needs and plan to use it on a regular basis it’s a useful product, otherwise they’re a waste of money and battery resources.

A big gripe I have is many of the power packs on the market are advertised as being useful for recharging an EV, no doubt the larger units can charge an EV but making this part of a purchase decision is poor thinking. Why? A fully charged larger unit could potential add 8 to 10kms of range to a Model 3, handy in absolute desperation but with a Model 3 Standard having at least 330kms of range at 110kmh no one who adheres to the ABCs of EV ownership should be getting stranded. If you think you may be 8kms short of range, slow down by 5-10kmh, you may arrive 15 minutes later than planned but that’s better than sitting on the side of a road while trickle charging from a 27kg device that costs $2000 or more.

So how is a power pack useful- As I said if you’re going to use it on a regular basis away from home they can be very convenient, despite most cars having multiple 12v power outlets they’re never always close to hand, having the flexibility of multiple phone, iPad, Laptop and Camera/Drone battery charging outlets away from the car when a 240v outlet is too far away is fast and convenient, they’re also very handy keeping a portable freezer operating away from established power.

There are two main types of power packs, the larger ones have a built in inverter and one or two 240v outlets capable of running appliances such as TVs, power drills or kettles for short periods of time, the extra internals needed add to the purchase price and the overall weight. The smaller power packs rarely have a 240v capability so are generally less cost per Wh or storage. If you can get through a few days without a 240v outlet that makes your choice easier.

Testing a portable power pack

To run the test I purchased a Coleman 40Ah power pack as this was readily available at a wide variety of camping stores throughout Australia, it currently is the best value per Wh of storage and most importantly contains LifePo4 batteries. These are heavier but are more likely to survive the expected 2000+ cycles before storage capacity is down to 80% of original. The 40Ah power pack has 512Wh of capacity and could potentially power 8 devices at once.

Test one – See how long a 100% charged battery would last while cooling a 45-litre fridge/freezer down from 18C to -15C, this was done during the day in an outside but shaded area in temperatures between 23C and 30C. The pack supplied enough power to allow the freezer and the originally room temperature water containers to reach 0C within 95 minutes, this consumed 16% of the available battery. I stopped the test after 10 hours with the battery down to 5% and the internal freezer temperature -15C. The test was run entirely during daylight hours.

Test Two – See how long a 100% charged pack would maintain the fridge freezer at -4C. This test commenced at 8.05am and continued through two full days and one night, the maximum temperature during that time was 30.6C, the overnight minimum was 21.6C. I concluded the test after 35 hours with the battery level down to 4%.

Test Three – See how much charge my old fold out 100Watt solar panel can add to the power pack without shifting the panel to follow the direction of the Sun. Considering there was early morning tree shade and a small amount of cloud cover in the late afternoon the 80% added to the battery was very handy. The Coleman 40Ah power packs inbuilt MPPT was a significant advantage. A 120W solar panel or shifting the panel once during the day would have provided a 100% charge.

Test Four – Can the solar charging keep up with a Fridge/Freezer set at -4C? Yes, the F/F requires around 65% of the battery over 24 hours, the 100W solar panels replaced 80% during daylight hours.

To summarise: portable power packs can be a handy accessory if you purchase the correct size for the planned tasks and use it on a regular basis.

Rob.

“The Electric Highway. Plugging the gap!”

This is the latest video from Tesla owner and TOCWA committee member Steve Rogers.

Driving across the Nullarbor can be fun the first time, but requires a huge amount of patience on subsequent trips. An alternative is putting your car on a train to Adelaide and continuing your journey from there.

Currently the journey in EV requires longer stops on AC charging only, this is soon set to change, check out this video to see why.

If you would like to donate to The Big Lap has Gaps fundraiser you can find the link here. If you are not able to donate please share.

Perth North Supercharger Location

10 JUNE 2021 BY PETE PETROVSKY

As some may have noticed, a couple of months ago, Tesla’s supercharger map had two exciting and long awaited W.A. updates.

  • The Perth Supercharger location was assigned the Q1 2022 timeframe, and,
  • A new location referred to as “Perth North” popped up with a Q3 2021 timeframe.

As we know, the location of the supercharger icons on the map are not designed to be precise or provide an accurate indication of the location, therefore, the question is where will the latest WA supercharger be located.  

In my view, it would be ideal to locate it in Joondalup as it would be an ideal location for:

1. those heading north to Jurien Bay etc. Joondalup would also put Dongara and potentially Geraldton within reach, and then on to Kalbarri, Monkey Mia, Carnarvon and so on.

2. those coming back from north of Perth, for example Jurien Bay, Geraldton etc could charge at Joondalup and then have enough to travel around Perth or comfortably reach the Eaton Supercharger,

3. those living in apartments in Joondalup who have little if any options to charge. (Joondalup has the second highest apartment dwelling population of any suburb of Perth after the CBD),

4. those living north of Perth who feel uneasy buying an electric car with the most northern DC charger being all the way in Gwelup (an approx. 25 min drive from many northern suburbs near Joondalup and potentially longer in traffic) Understandably, most charging occurs at home, however, if one forgets to charge, or the power goes out and there is another issue it makes the EV purchase decision easier if you know there’s a fast charger within a 5 to 15 minute drive. 

5. Joondalup has aspirations to become Perth’s biggest satellite city with approval to build high rise buildings such as the 18-storey Arthouse completed in mid 2020.

6. Wanneroo which is adjacent to Joondalup is Australia’s 5th fastest growing council with the Wanneroo and Joondalup population projected to reach 800,000 by 2070. (The current population of Perth, is less than 2 million.)

If the thinking is that the primary purpose of the supercharger is to address the long-distance trip market rather than serving the surrounding suburbs, then another good location is the Drover’s Marketplace and Leap Frog’s Botanic Gardens, Mini Golf and Restaurant at 1397 Wanneroo Rd in Wanneroo as it is the most northern point with any infrastructure along Wanneroo Rd (which heads out to Indian Ocean Dr to Jurien, Dongara and so on.) 

Drover’s Marketplace is located on a major intersection which services about 62,000 cars on an average day. To put this figure into perspective, it is about three times more than the traffic along the Australind Bypass along Forest Hwy in Eaton where the only other existing Supercharger in Western Australia is located and about fifteen times as much as the traffic along Albany Hwy in Williams where the next supercharger is to be commissioned.

The Marketplace is home to a major northern suburbs tourist attraction which is the 5-acre Leap Frog’s Botanic Gardens with integrated mini-golf, wedding venue and restaurant. Drover’s Marketplace is also home to a cafe, steakhouse, pizza restaurant, Italian restaurant, bakery, hairdresser/barber, liquor store, large fruit and vegetable and mini mart store, butcher, 24/7 gym, laundromat, 7-day chemist, medical centre (including physiotherapy, dentist, nutritionist, pathology, sleep clinic and podiatry). There is also a creche, kids indoor swimming pool, storage, vet, pet store and so on. Importantly, the above list only includes the existing tenants as the other half of the site is currently being developed which provides a good opportunity for the installation of appropriate electrical infrastructure. This southern part of the development already includes a petrol station and across the road is also a McDonald’s. Carramar Village Shopping Centre is within walking distance and includes a major supermarket, community centre, several fast food outlets, newsagency, cafe, 24/7 gym, hairdresser/barber, chemist, medical centre, school and so on. 

It is entirely possible that Tesla has already picked the location and thus the above could serve as a suggestion for the next supercharger location or maybe there is still time for Tesla to take the above into consideration. Either way, with the State Government due to begin installation of the fast DC charger network across WA next year, it is going to be an exciting time for WA Tesla and EV owners.

Why 450 km of EV Range is Enough in Australia

Many of you will have seen the social media commentators claiming how much range an electric vehicle needs, it normally goes like this: “I’m all for electric vehicles and keen to buy one but unless it has X amount of range I’ll stick with my trusty diesel”. As each year passes and the range of showroom EVs increase the commentators X number also increases. This is Uncertainty 101 from those with the most to lose when the country transitions to electric drivetrains, it’s a very effective manipulation of all the fence sitters that are close to making a new car purchase.

To make this very clear when I say 450km of range I’m referring to passenger vehicles, not commercial vehicles such as heavy duty four wheel drives that were purchased with the sole purpose of towing a caravan or large trailer over long distances.  I’ll also make it very clear that 450kms is real range on coarse surface country roads sitting on 100km/h, this is where the range is needed most. Anyone buying a vehicle that never leaves the Melbourne to Cairns coastal corridor could easily survive on 350km of real range.

There’s no doubt that battery costs per kWh and energy density will improve sufficiently to make the fitting of large battery capacities fairly easy for vehicle makers That’s great for commercial vehicles but a waste of resources for the average Joe who for the vast majority of the year drives less than 200km per day and makes 2 to 3 long trips of maybe 2,000km,  having a battery pack 20kWh or even 30kWh bigger than necessary is careless, multiply that by millions of average Joes across Australia and it’s a significant drain on materials, labour and energy that could be better used elsewhere.

So how does 450km of range deal with the vast distances of Australia? That’s a fair question and the answer is straight forward, carefully placed DC fast chargers are a far better use of materials, labour and finances than millions of EVs full of oversized battery packs. The careful placement part is critical, between the capital cities and larger towns 220km average spacings are suitable, for regional areas in north, west and central Australia there’s far less choice of suitable sites so a 300km spacing may have to suffice. A reasonably organized driver should have no issue stopping every 300km to add around 65% charge on a long country trip.

The author currently drives an electric vehicle with 400km of real range on Australian outback roads, and has been to every State and Territory over the past 6 years. His last vehicle was a diesel 4WD with 1,100 km range, it is not missed.

Why AC Charging is Still Vital

When most people refer to electric vehicle charging they discuss the DC variant, and without doubt DC only charging is useful in three EV charging scenarios.

  • DC charging of at least 100kw power output is critical on highways between Australian towns and cities, the vast majority of non EV owners firmly believe fast charging times that are closer to petrol refill times are essential if they’re going to purchase an EV, these future new owners will soon realise that a 15 minute stop every 250kms is nowhere near the issue they expected.
  • There’s a small percentage of car owners that live in multi story buildings with no electricity outlet near their allocated parking spot, when these residents purchase an EV they’ll rely on public charging, for many DC charging will be the preferred choice.
  • The third EV charging scenario is the Taxi industry, to make the day to day operation as smooth as possible they’ll need the easy access to reliable DC charging.

So why is AC charging still so vital?

Despite what the EV naysayers would like to portray, the vast majority of Australian car owners have the ability to charge an EV at home or work. It doesn’t need to be 3 phase power, 10, 15 or even 32amp single phase is more than sufficient to replace the average days driving.

Compared to DC charging an AC charging set up is extremely cheap and fast to install. Public DC chargers are currently very expensive to install, sometimes expensive to maintain and often attract a lot of red tape that drags the build time out for months on end. At the moment there’s a very low number of electric vehicles on the road compared to the rest of the vehicle fleet so having EVs charging at their local DC charger is handy advertising, as the transition to plug in electric drivetrains rapidly increase this may very well cause issues if the DC charging infrastructure in built up areas can’t keep up with demand.

Those EV drivers mentioned earlier in the scenarios above will heavily rely on local DC charging, so getting as many owners as possible with the ability to charge at home or work from AC charging is vital to making the nationwide EV transition as smooth as possible.

PlugShare is Critical in Charger Challenged Western Australia

If the majority of your driving is in the metro area PlugShare is a useful app but not essential, the moment you plan a longer trip away from the safety of home charging the Plugshare app becomes an important tool in reaching your destination with the minimum of fuss. Let me be very clear on this, PlugShare is the format used by the early adopters of electric vehicles in Western Australia while exploring the roads north, east and south of Perth, the information available is far superior to anything supplied by the RAC, Better Route Planner or any other system including the Tesla car maps. Don’t completely dismiss Better Route Planner or Tesla maps, but when cross referencing PlugShare is likely to be more up to date.

To get the best out of PlugShare try the following advice:

Remove all filters – If you have the filter options ticked there’s a good chance you’ll miss useful charging stations, there’s not a lot of location pins in regional WA so make sure every charging option is visible, trust your common sense to individually filter out the options available.

Be patient with the app – give PlugShare time to load correctly then zoom in and out of the location slowly until you’re sure all pins are visible.

Zoom in all the way – Often the better charging point is hidden by a less useful location due to the pins being so close together, the  Lake Grace DC charger is a good example.

Always read comments – Not just the previous charging comments but the location comments, often the critical information can’t be seen unless the location comments are read to the end. Taking 2 minutes to read the comments correctly will likely save hours of wasted time.

Use the message option on PlugShare – if you’re not sure about a location message the previous user before departure.

Check through the photos – there’s some handy photos showing the exact location of the charge point, two minutes scanning photos will often save 15 minutes quizzing locals that may not even know a EV charger exists.

Always be charging – EV charging points in regional WA are few and far between, it doesn’t matter how confident you are that the next charging location is operational, if your car is happily charging at a reasonable rate don’t be in a hurry to unplug and dash to the next location, to do this is possibly setting yourself up to fail, at they end of the day you won’t get to your final destination any quicker, be patient and enjoy the journey.

Happy travels, Rob

Why Tesla Superchargers should not be located in Perth

No one would benefit more from a Perth Supercharger than myself, I live 70kms from the Perth GPO, make the return trip at least 50 times per year and have free supercharging for life, what’s not to like? Read on.

The two questions I get asked the most when discussing Tesla: How long does it take to charge? and When will Superchargers be installed in Perth? The second question is usually asked by people looking at buying a Tesla but won’t make the move until a Perth Supercharger is installed. This sounds like a poor excuse as most owners can easily charge at home in Western Australia, but unfortunately the media continually promoting the misconception of DC fast charging being the be all and end all of owning an electric car has completely misinformed the public.

Superchargers are intended for placement on highways between built up areas. In extremely high population regions in Europe and Asia they’re also placed in city areas due to the lack of home charging, WA barely has that problem. Yes, there are a small handful of Perth drivers with no access to home charging, but there’s also no shortage of AC charging outlets at shopping and recreation areas.

The Official opening of the Western Australia Supercharger in Eaton.

At the moment the one and only Supercharger site in WA is the bank of 6 near the Eaton shopping complex 170kms south of Perth, this is well chosen location that provides a link to many towns all the way to Augusta. The second Supercharger site planned for Williams will provide far better access to Albany, Hopetoun and Esperance. When Tesla install more at a later date the most useful locations would be approximately halfway to Geraldton and on the way to Kalgoorlie, this is where drivers need charging that only requires a 15-20 minute stop rather than the 2-3 hours it currently takes.

So, are there any other reasons not to install Superchargers in Perth? Yes, one reason that has raised its ugly head in other parts of the world from time to time and is starting to happen on the East coast of Australia is a handful of Tesla owners that don’t understand (or by some reports don’t care) about supercharger etiquette, these owners paid for a Tesla and will use a supercharger when they have a carport and charge point at home only 5kms down the road. There are also a handful of owners that park in a supercharger bay without even plugging in just so they can secure a prime parking spot while shopping, this sort of behaviour soon spoils the EV experience for those visiting the area that genuinely need to charge.

Parked front in, no intention of charging.

If Tesla do install supercharger sites close to Perth, it is areas next to the highway near Joondalup, Mundaring and the Baldivis service stops that would offer a solution which will benefit all drivers.

Solar versus Superannuation as an Investment

I was discussing solar with a friend recently, as usual it focused on: how low the cost is in 2020; how short the payback period is; how cheap it is per kWh of electricity produced. As an investment how does it stack up compared to superannuation we quizzed. On the way home I had a thought, if the power bill savings are invested wisely what’s the possible dividends?

I did my calculations based on the most common system now being purchased for homes in Western Australia, the 6.6kw of panels connected to a 5kw inverter, this allows the maximum solar production without losing the low but still available feed in tariff, I avoided including the old 48 cents feed in tariff (FIT) as within 18 months that will be obsolete. In late 2020 the WA FIT for new installations is changing to 3 cents before 3.00pm & 10 cents after 3.00pm, as most new installs will likely face north-west or west to take advantage of the late afternoon sun the new installations FIT will probably average 5 cents per kWh across a full year.

Although a complete 6.6kw solar panel installation in Western Australia can be purchased and installed for some hard to believe low prices I based the calculations on a price of $4000, that’s very close to the average for Western Australia in March 2020. it’s important to remember that’s a full payment on delivery cost, not solar via a finance package.

Firstly, unless you’ve recently given up smoking or gambling the $4000 is not spare cash, it has some investment value or has to be borrowed, so how much return could you expect from that $4000 if invested via the bank or via superannuation.

Interests rates are very low or non existent at the moment so that $4000 would do well to attract 3% interest, you may end up with $7230 after 20 years, good luck getting 3% in 2020. If you could manage to get the $4000 into your super that averages 8% pa over 20 years and suddenly the resulting $18,650 is looking fairly useful, even at 6% the figure is reasonable at $12,830.

As an alternative what if the $4000 is invested in a 6.6kw solar system and you reinvest the power bill savings over the 20 year expected lifespan of the solar system.

Every household uses electricity differently but those with plentiful solar generation and a seemingly poor West Australian feed in tariff soon learn to consume from the panels rather than the grid. Of course, unless the house has a battery, purchasing power from the grid at 28 cents per kWh is unavoidable at night so for this exercise I going to use these figures:

  • Average daily solar production 24kWh
  • Average daily consumption of 19kWh split into 11kWh from solar and 8kWh from the grid, leaving 13kWh being fed back into the grid, over 365 days this would result in average power bill reduction of $1361 based on above mentioned kWh purchase price and feed in tariff.

Now imagine after the 3 year pay back period that $1361 was invested every year for the next 17 years, what are the possible returns?

  • Superannuation at 6%: $40,000+
  • Superannuation at 8%: $49,600+

As you can see if you invest in solar initially then roll the savings into super the returns can be very handy, now consider the possibilities if you made far better use of the solar electricity being generated on the roof. With a 100% electric powered home including heating, cooking and a heat pump hot water system powered from daytime solar, as well as of course charging an EV, the savings from avoiding the purchase of gas could also be rolled into superannuation, the end result will be well worth the effort.

Thanks to Peter Petrovsky for your advice and input on this article.

Rob Dean