EV1 Chronicles

Test Driving the 1999 NiMH EV1

Part 3 - Jan. 26- Feb. 2, 1999
Detailed Notes of our Extended Test

Day 1

We picked up the car in the late afternoon from EV1 Specialist Jaci Stanton. This turned out to be the car she was using regularly and she had already put on over 2500 miles, which was well past the 200 mile "break-in" period described in the User's Manual during which the NiMH batteries need to be nearly fully discharged before recharging.

The first evening, upon power-up to start our return commute trip, the "Service Soon" indicator came on briefly. We were on a very slight uphill slope and we attributed it to perhaps a marginal coolant level or something like that. On the way back Jean unexpectedly hit a big puddle of perhaps 6 inches of water on the freeway (it had been raining hard). The car ended up throwing up a huge sheet of water, but like the older cars, there was no problem at all handling the water.

After 28 miles of driving our normal return commute, we plugged in at 9 PM. Here are the stats for the first trip:

                         Chg Chg  Rng  Rng
               Odometer  St  End  St   End  Miles  Est Rng
               --------  --  ---  ---  ---  -----  -------
               2529      98  74   139  90    28.2    117.5

The estimated range is computed using the start and end charge percentage and the distance traveled (extrapolating to 100%).

As late as 1:30 AM I noted that the charger was still going (in "Full/Support" mode). Because we'd only driven 28 miles and temperatures were quite low for our area (40's, I'd estimate), I was surprised the charger was still running. Normally the lead acid car would be completely charged by this time. I dismissed this as having run into an equalization charge cycle.

Day 2

We began our normal commute with the intention of driving as "normally" as possible to get a feel for how much actual range we could expect. In terms of distance, Wednesday ended up being a "worst case" type of day as Jean had forgotten her driver's license so I ended up dropping her off directly at work. With that extra drive, plus other business, it was a 125 mile day, with no charging stops.

During the day, the peak total range estimate I noted (remaining range plus distance traveled) was about 145 miles. On the last leg of our commute, I estimated that we would end the day with between 10 and 15 miles remaining range.

However, with about 4 miles to go, and about 15 remaining on the range gage, the power gage automatically flipped to the energy gage which was at 2 bars. At this point Jean made a comment about cutting it close, especially with a new car.

Just as I was about to reassure her that two bars meant lots of range on a NiMH car, and that the car already had 2500 miles on it, the "Battery Life" warning came on! Oh no! We broke Jaci's car! We were going to be the first drivers to see a battery failure.

After a few seconds, I realized I was still on cruise control (maintaining 63 mph), so I turned it off and decreased speed to 55. As the range rapidly dropped to "---", we made the decision to continue on since we were almost back with a slight downhill grade in our favor. We were determined not to be the first ones to also need a tow!

In the end, the car went to reduced performance, but we made it back. Of course, the charger reported 0% when we plugged it in. The total distance for the day was 125.1 miles. After 9 hours on the charger, the car was apparently back to normal the next morning.

                         Chg Chg  Rng  Rng
               Odometer  St  End  St   End  Miles  Est Rng
               --------  --  ---  ---  ---  -----  -------
               2557      98   0   135  ---  125.1   127.65
Day 3

Still smiling, despite our misadventure with her car, Jaci swapped the problem car for another red NiMH car. The first one went into the shop for diagnosis, and in the end, the engineers found that the glitch was a software problem (nothing was actually wrong with the batteries). This has now been corrected, and thus far we have not heard of any NiMH battery problems in any of the cars. It's too soon to tell, but I'm hoping NiMH batteries will turn out to be more reliable than the Delco lead-acid ones have been.

Day 4

This was a case of a longer commute to visit a client in Pasadena. Because of the long gradual downhill at the end of the trip, the range estimate looked great (still 67 miles left after traveling 88 miles). Again charging took a seemingly abnormal amount of time (15 hours). Did we have the luck to hit an equalization cycle on this car too? It turned out in the end that this was the last time we noted an abnormally long charging cycle.

                         Chg Chg  Rng  Rng
               Odometer  St  End  St   End  Miles  Est Rng
               --------  --  ---  ---  ---  -----  -------
               1047      97  51   109  67   88.0   191.3

Day 5

This was a pretty normal weekend day trip down to Orange County. Of course I had to stop at Fry's to shop and charge! At Fry's, about a half hour of charging took the car from 86% to 97%.

                         Chg Chg  Rng  Rng
               Odometer  St  End  St   End  Miles  Est Rng
               --------  --  ---  ---  ---  -----  -------
               1135      99  86   168  135   21.7  166.9
               1156      97  74   150  109   29.0  126.1

Day 6

This was a Sunday, and the only time I took the car for a trip I normally wouldn't take. In this case I went to Oceanside, with a small detour first to run an errand. I took this trip to see if the car would work out on one of my very infrequent business trips down to San Diego. Again, I made an effort to drive as I normally do on the freeway instead of really trying to maximize range.

In the end, I got back to Orange County and recharged for about 30 minutes because it looked like I might not make it back. The total round trip was 149.9 miles, and the estimated range for the first leg was 150, so I would certainly have made it had I not added in my sidetrip to run errands. For overnight trips to San Diego, the NiMH car should be just fine. To do it in a day, I'd probably elect to charge once (perhaps during lunch) in order to make it back home.

By the way, the red EV1's still attract a lot of attention. On the way back from Oceanside, I noticed someone beside me on the freeway snapping photos of the car.

                         Chg Chg  Rng  Rng
               Odometer  St  End  St   End  Miles  Est Rng
               --------  --  ---  ---  ---  -----  -------
               1189      99  14   143   19  127.5  150.0
               1316      25   9    37   11   22.4  140.0

Finishing the Test

The rest of our commuting runs went pretty much as expected, with routine charging times, and range numbers of about 140 miles. This is better than double what we typically get in the '97 cars. Of course, we still need to see how it does in summer weather, but by that time we hope to be "testing" our own car.