Category: Fēnix News

Early Survey Results

While we aren’t planning on closing our first round of Survey data until the 25th of January, many customers have asked about the results of the surveys, especially when it comes to helping those with real battery degradation. So here are some preliminary results that we’re thrilled to share. Out of nearly 500 customer reservations, just over 200 of you participated in the survey, an outstanding participation rate by any measure. But the one statistic that stands out the most, is just how many of you are willing to let a fellow struggling Leaf owner get help ahead of yourselves. Nearly 40% of our customers put someone else ahead of themselves, simply amazing to us to see that kind of generosity!

What won’t surprise most of you, most of our customers own 2011-2012 Leafs, by a combined total of nearly 69%. But what may be surprising is we have a few late-model owners as well, in speaking with these customers, they all know that their warranty does eventually come to an end and they need to plan ahead since Nissan isn’t.

Probably the most surprising data point, and one that has us suspicious of Nissan’s BMS software practices (which won’t be the first time any of us are suspicious of those), is what’s going on with the 3rd battery health bar? The reason normal distribution is called that is that things are supposed to be statistically predictable. This result certainly was not predictable, here are the average number of lost battery health bars as reported by the dash:

Nissan, what’s this all about?

On the topic of “You’re not alone.” Only 40% of you report being able to commute still without extra charging. And one in five of you have stopped using it for your commute thanks to degradation, this is Fenix’s reason for existing. Surveys may say that an 80-mile car will fit 90% of people’s daily needs, but when your battery ages, those surveys aren’t much comfort anymore.

And more reasons to motivate us. We’ve long said that with a battery solution, these cars should last for decades, well this certainly supports that. Something unheard of in ICE car ownership, a whopping 86% of you are still on your original factory brake pads!

And the last data point we’re sharing today is related to service and repair. While our focus is on battery, it is our goal to enable our partners to become EV service specialists, so we wanted to know what else can go wrong with our trusted Leafs, and the most common failure? The climate control unit failed for 3 of our customers. While that might not sound like a lot, it is the one we’ve seen reported the most anecdotally in forums online, the 2nd most common failure we’ve seen online is the charging controller. The charging unit didn’t stand out in our surveys, but we plan to put together training materials for our partners to address both of these issues soon after battery installs begin. We all love that our cars don’t need very much service, but it would be great if we all had someplace to go that we could trust with the repairs that do arise.

We have quite a few other great lessons from our surveys, but most are from the comment-style questions. We’ll compile some of the best and some of the most sobering responses we’ve seen there to share in the coming week as well. So watch for that later!

For people waiting to find out when we’ll be able to help as the wait has been far too long already, here is what is to come. After we close this round of surveys on the 25th, we will work through our reservation list broken down by city and region to identify everyone in need. Then during the last week of January, we will be reaching out individually to all who requested faster help with the full list of choices available to you, along with details showing everything from costs to our guarantees behind those options and how that works for you.

In that email, you’ll have a link to schedule a call for some one on one time with a Fenix employee to answer questions and if you so chose, to start the install process. For some that will mean jumping right to scheduling time with an existing partner we’re already speaking with, and for others, we will work with you to find a local business target for us to bring into the Fenix family.

For those opting to wait, watch for an email from us with that same package of details for early battery options. It won’t be long before we’ll be contacting each of those in our waiting group as well. Help is on the way!

If Passed, EV Tax Credit Expansion Would Help Used…

With the current tax credits about to run out for some automakers, congress is starting the process of possibly expanding the program and lifting the 200k vehicle cap. Not only would this draft bill help sell new EVs, but the bill would also expand the program to help with used electric vehicles.

For those unfamiliar, the current EV tax credit program allows a reduction of up to $7500 in federal taxes owed, but only for the buyers of the first 200,000 electric vehicles from a manufacturer. Once the 200,000 sales are reached, the credit phases out over several quarters until it goes to zero. The manufacturer is never given funds by the federal government under this program, and the credit is not refundable (ex. the Earned Income Credit), so people who don’t owe taxes or owe less than $7500 benefit less from the program.

With GM, Tesla, and Nissan approaching the end of the tax credit, many are wondering whether it’s a good idea to reward the automakers who didn’t step up and build EVs first, while raising the tax bill of people buying from more established EV players.

The most recent draft bill proposes first to increase the number of EVs sold to 600,000 before phaseout begins again. This would allow 400,000 more vehicles with the full tax credit for automakers already up against the 200,000 limit. To make up for the cost some, the credit would be reduced to $7,000.

On top of supporting used sales, the EV tax credit would also be extended to those buying used EVs. While more complicated than the credit for new EVs, it would allow a maximum of $2500 for each sold. The used EV must be between 3x the credit amount and $25,000 to qualify, and the program phases out for higher incomes.

One great thing about encouraging used EV sales is that they’re more environmentally friendly. Instead of building a new EV to replace a combustion vehicle, an EV that has already been working toward its environmental breakeven (the point at which emissions savings outweigh the extra emissions of manufacturing it) gets to replace the ICE vehicle.

The other exciting thing is that increased demand for used EVs is likely to increase their resale values. This makes it more economical to repair them and keep them on the road than to throw the rest of the vehicle away when a battery pack ages.

We look forward to being part of this solution, whether or not this latest draft bill is successful.

What Makes More, EV Batteries or Storage Projects?

A recent article from CNBC shows us an important struggle Tesla is going through. When they don’t have enough battery cells, Tesla prioritizes vehicles over stationary storage, mostly because the vehicle business is more profitable. When batteries become more widely available, like they’re starting to, then they try to do both businesses more.

Tesla’s large energy storage project in Australia. Image from Google Earth.

While the report is mostly about Tesla, it does give us a broad variety of insight into the general state of the different industries that are starting to use large volumes of battery cells.

Getting into building EVs is a much bigger challenge than starting a local solar install business, and thus the competition in both spaces is very different. When buying a solar system, many customers are purchasing power by the kWh, and are more able to shop around looking for different installers.

Because of all this, battery systems and rooftop solar can’t be sold for as much.

On the other hand, innovation is a key factor. When everyone is offering basically the same product (sun collects energy, lights inside the house come on at the right times), there’s no advantage to choose one over the other except on price. When a company comes up with unique or better technology, they’re able to command a premium.

The big question is whether products like Tesla’s solar roof, and better prices on battery packs due to volume production with cars, will lead to a better situation.

There’s a whole lot more information in the article if you’re willing to dig to the bottom, so be sure to check out the whole thing!

Geotab Just Gave Us All A Massive Treasure Trove…

While EV batteries have generally proven to do better than the oil companies would like us all to believe, there’s still a lot of room for improvement (we’re looking at you Nissan!). On the other hand, the EV community has largely stumbled in the dark over battery life.

Until now, at least! Geotab just released data based on the observed real-world degradation of over 6,000 electric vehicles.

The good news: EV batteries are generally doing pretty good. Based on the data, Geotab tells us that the “vast majority” of electric vehicle batteries will outlast the rest of the vehicle. If this continues to hold (and it should), electric vehicles are poised to really prove themselves over the next few years.

The bad news: not all EVs are created equally. Some are doing far better than others, even when driven the same, used the same, and living in the same climates. As many LEAF owners already know, the biggest thing that’s making the difference is cooling. Vehicles without a good temperature management system for the pack don’t do as well as those that have one.

You can create your own charts here.

Speaking of temperature, vehicles that live in hotter climates don’t tend to do as well as those in more moderate environments. Even with a good cooling system, the time spent sitting in the heat when the vehicle is not on doesn’t do it any favors.

Speed and state of charge are also proving to be a big factor. For example, they show that vehicles doing more “Level 3” rapid charging tend to degrade much faster than those using slower methods more. Also, keeping the battery between 20% and 80% (like the Chevrolet Volts did) has proven to minimize degradation.

The great thing about this emerging pool of real world knowledge is that future vehicles and vehicles we refurbish will benefit. By refurbishing your Nissan LEAF’s battery system in 2020 and beyond, you’ll get the advantages of newer EVs without giving up the low price of keeping your existing 2011-2016 vehicle.

CleanTechnica EV Survey Data

If you haven’t noticed already, a lot of articles in this blog are about data different organizations, businesses, and governments are collecting. That’s no coincidence. When it comes to making a good product, or more importantly, a product that matters, you have to sift through a lot of data and adjust accordingly going forward. Any entity that doesn’t consider the data will get outmaneuvered by competitors who do.

Information about batteries, vehicles, and other technological things does very little without data about the drivers and buyers of vehicles, and that’s exactly what we see from CleanTechnica again in their latest report.

When it came to seeing what electrified vehicle owners want to buy next, Tesla was basically the most popular. With the best ranges and best charging networks, that should be no surprise. Also popular (more than half also liked these), were the Kia Niro EV, Hyundai Kona EV, Nissan LEAF, Chevy Bolt, and Renault Zoe.

When it comes to how much range a prospective buyer wanted, they found that people generally want more than 200 miles. What was surprising, though, was that there are upper limits to people’s expectations. Most buyers didn’t expect their next EV to have more than 340 miles of range.

Another interesting set of findings were related to solar:

“Respondents were also quite likely to have rooftop solar panels — 32–52% of respondents indicated they had rooftop solar — and another 10–15% of respondents planned to be getting solar panels soon. Plug-in hybrid drivers and Tesla drivers in North America were least likely to have rooftop solar (32% of each group), but 14–15% of them expected to go solar soon. Tesla and other pure-EV drivers in the UK were most likely to have rooftop solar (52% and 43%, respectively), and another 10–14% (respectively) planned to go solar soon.”

All of this goes to show just how strong the market for solar is among EV buyers. When you also consider that the environment remains an important motivator among EV drivers, this should be no surprise.

We’re also starting to send out our own surveys to customers and mailing list subscribers to learn more about how EV battery degradation impacts people’s lives, watch for an update later that shares some of the statistics we’ve learned. It truly is amazing how much restriction people will live with as their batteries fade, simply because they love their car, the EV movement, and what it means for cleaner air.

What We Will Be Doing Q1 of 2020

I hope you’re as excited as I am about our CEO, John Bysinger’s, recent announcement. In case you missed it, here’s the video:

For those of you who need a quick summary of his announcement, or a quick recap:

One thing John said in his announcement really stood out:

“How many of you get in your car, you push that ‘on’ button, and the first thing you do is look at your battery health gauge, and you wonder, ‘Is today the day I’m going to lose another bar?'” he asked. “It is our job to help take that worry away from you.”

“You get to enjoy your car, and we take care of the worry for you, in a way that’s affordable.”

Everybody at Fenix knows that there are a lot of people counting on us to deliver on that promise. That’s the center of what Fenix is all about. At the same time, we also know that some of you count on your LEAF and can’t wait much longer while we develop our modular battery system.

Sure, we could quickly rig together a quick DIY-style battery pack with spit and bailing wire that could get a LEAF working again with great range, but we can’t in good conscience use our customers as beta testers–not when it’s something as important as their transportation and their safety. We’d rather take the extra time needed to make sure the system is not only working, but is something we’d stake our own family’s safety on.

To make sure our customers are taken care of during this testing time, we want those who can’t wait longer to have another option for the meantime.

This option will be to install newer Nissan OEM LEAF battery packs in your older vehicle for now. The idea is to bring your vehicle’s range a lot closer to what it was new so you can hang in there for now.

To determine which customers are most in need of this short-term solution, we will be distributing a quick survey for all reservation holders to fill out. We won’t be skipping anybody in line, but we will see who is willing and able to wait, and who needs some temporary relief right away.

We will also be gathering other information in the survey about your preferred automotive shops, what you do with your vehicle, and much more. Keep an eye on your inbox!

Also, if you’re wanting to become a reservation holder in the near future, you will also receive a copy of the survey. We aim to take care of all customers who need a battery badly, including our newest customers.

There’s a whole lot more to announce during 2020, both about the details of this battery upgrade program and the modular battery system we are developing for long-term. Please be sure to follow us on social media to stay up to date.

December Announcement

Installs begin in Q1 2020

A message from our Founder & CEO, John Bysinger about starting battery installs in 2020.

We’re excited to share our big news with all of our customers and fans. Staring in Q1 of 2020, we will begin Battery as a Service installs for our customers! We will be surveying our list of reservations to help identify customers with severe battery degradation and working to improve the health of everyone’s batteries while we bring our new modular battery pack to market later in the year.

Over the next several weeks we will share details of how this program will work, but the most important takeaway is this: Help is just around the corner, and it will be an affordable solution with the same commitment to a worry-free battery experience

Thank you to all of our fans, customers and followers, without you this wouldn’t be possible!

-John Bysinger & the Fēnix Power team

Minor technical difficulties…

We had a bit of a hiccup rendering the video file for posting. It turns out if you leave Blender’s video rendering settings as default, instead of outputting the expected video file, it will generate a png image for every single frame. All 37,000 of them!

Thank you all for your patience… I will be posting our announcement video within the hour!

-John Bysinger
Founder & CEO (and video editing intern?)

Answers Tomorrow!

Hello fans and customers,

Tomorrow is a day I have been looking forward to for quite some time. As Founder & CEO of Fēnix Power, I have invested years working to solve some of the biggest obstacles to electric vehicle adoption. While I love the growth and energy we see today in electric vehicles, I believe there is still a better way.

We’re all aware of just how much the battery is center to the challenges that EVs face. The cost of cells raises the price of the cars above their ICE competitors, and as all of our Leaf owning customers can attest to, the cost of replacing those batteries as the vehicle ages has been largely ignored by the manufacturers. And contributing to this challenge, the manufacturers aren’t motivated to help owners after the warranty has expired.

In building Fēnix I have spoken to hundreds of you along the way, and I have heard story after story from Leaf owners feeling their worlds get smaller and smaller as their batteries age. Yet each of you has a passion for your cars and for EV that is truly inspiring. Many of you took a risk on one of the first truly affordable EVs before the world had begun to accept the inevitable EV future we can all see today.

It is through learning from each of you and your stories that we are driven and focused on bringing the help you’re looking for. Tomorrow evening we take a big step forward in delivering on our commitment to each of you. And tomorrow, I will personally tell you all about what 2020 brings for Fēnix Power and how we’re going to change your battery stories for good.

Until tomorrow evening…

John Bysinger
Founder & CEO of Fēnix Power

World’s Biggest Battery is Making Big Money

The Hornsdale Power Reserve in southern Australia. Image by Google.

A recent piece at Seeking Alpha explains that Tesla’s giant installation of grid-connected batteries is doing very well financially.

For those unfamiliar, the Hornsdale Power Reserve in southern Australia is a big bank of lithium-ion batteries located next to a large windfarm. The idea is to charge the batteries when power is plentiful and release the power back into the grid when extra power is needed. This is done in two ways: by giving big boosts of power (for 10 minutes) when there’s a problem with the grid, and by load-shifting power under normal circumstances to help make renewables more reliable.

While the Seeking Alpha post goes into great detail, the important thing is this: the world’s biggest battery is not only doing well, but it’s doing well in ways that people didn’t predict. The battery is providing the services they expected when it was built, but also doing things unexpected, like allowing some peaker plants to stay off.

Because of all of this, the battery is about to be expanded 50%. With around 50% renewables in that part of Australia expected to grow further toward 100%, they’re going to need more storage not only to do what has been done already, but for new roles on the grid.

While this may seem pretty far flung from the business of replacing the batteries of vehicles like older Nissan LEAFs, that’s really not the case. Keep in mind that big batteries like the one in Australia are made up of many smaller ones, and are ultimately made of the same kinds of cells you’d find in an electric vehicle.

There have been many experiments, including in the United States, with using EVs to do the same things this big battery in Australia is doing. By allowing utilities some control over EV charging, and allowing them to take some energy from the batteries at key times, EV batteries have been able to be part of a broader solution and not just a load on the grid.