2015 was the year of the electric car for us

eGolfAtHouse.png2015 was the year of the electric car – good bye gas cars and petrol stations.

After one year of owning a Volkswagen eGolf I can say I truly love it. The only real hard issue with it is that my wife wants to drive it most of the time and leaves me with the gas guzzler since she has a 20 mile commute and I don’t. We drove it for about 13,000 miles in 12 months.

Let me first tell you about the cars I compare it to, and then focus on the eGolf with issues I found annoying, and also the advantages that make me love it in spite of them. Too many reviews I read are just a reiteration of other reviews, so I promise that none of what I detail is not directly from my personal experience and impressions.

The cars I am comparing are the 2015 eGolf, the 2006 Volkswagen Jetta S 2.5 I replaced with the egolf, our 2014 Honda Oddysee that we bought as our family van in 2014, the tesla S that I test drove 2014 in the 85kw version and 2015 in the P85D version, and the Chevvy Volt 2014 that I test drove in 2014.

Characteristics of each car that I find noteworthy:
– 2006 Jetta 2.5 is a sporty roomy car, and with the tires I put on it had excellent cornering, temperamental sporty drive, a modern dynamic responsiveness to the gas pedal that makes a friends ford mustang of the same year feel dated and inaccurate, same for goes for
traction when accelerating fast. Being the 2006 version, it does not show the MPG, so I calculated those at the pump between filling up and while it beats the van, its not excellent, and I flirted with the idea of replacing the car with a TDi for a while,
higher cost and less availability of diesel at gas stations is what kept me from doing it. Thank goodness now that the VW Dieselgate truth came out.  It seats 5 which is good when picking up my kids and a neighbors kid at the same time, and is a lot of fun to drive on my daily commute.
– 2014 and 2015 Tesla win hands down on any aspect except cost, the experience of test driving those can be best summarizes as ‘WOW’ not just from the driving / handling but also all the other engineering aspects from the large display, charging station navigation integration, automated adaptive cruise control (no need to push gas/brakes in stop and go traffic), keyless entry is also buttonless start, ‘start’ really means turn on electrical system of car by putting foot on brakes after sitting down without pushing any on/off button, turn off the car by leaving the car with the key in your pocket and closing the door. It seats 5 comfortably. 7 is not really true, unless you want to seat two small children in seats you can buy as an option rear facing in the trunk area. So I consider it a 5 seater. Cabin lights are bright and full despite of using LED because they actually use hybrid lighting with conventional bulb and LED light to give you the full light experience with low energy consumption.
– 2014 Honda Oddyssee seats 7 on a trip to the Ski resort and has so much room for luggage more than any other mini van out there. For commute the MPG it gets are somewhat miserable, like 16-18 in the city and 24 on highways. Coming back from tahoe with lots of hypermiling tricks I got 34 mpg. Range of course is excellent, I can make it on one tank to Los Angele. Automated doors and high quality picture rear camera when backing up as well as blind spot camera when signalling right are great. Electric driver seat moving forward and backwards slowly with the button when switching drivers is very annoying, opening and closing side and trunk door from remote and from car buttons at driver seat are excellent. Drives like a street car and not like a truck, which is both fun and safe in any weather.
– 2014 GM Chevvy Volt – a plug in hybrid that at first impressed with 0-30 mile acceleration, but at highway speeds the handling does not seem safe to me, it just does not have enough responsiveness and power for room to get out of sticky situations. Also its a 4-seater since the battery protrudes into the cabin between the two rear seats. I seriously considered it for a while and it put the idea in my head that I can afford a vehicle with at least some electric range. I heard the 2015 and 2016 are a lot better in terms of handling too, but never test drove one again because of the short comings experienced on the 2014 model.
– 2015 Volkswagen eGolf – an 86 mile range pure electric vehicle, very impressive 0-30 mile acceleration leaving most gas cars behind at the light (probably even my jetta s),
reasonable 0-60 mile acceleration. So smooth it makes you feel like mounting a dinosaur when going back to drive a gas car.

Here are the good and bad things about the car and electric driving in general that I discovered:

Issues:
– ac automation: while air conditioning works well when outside temperature is very low or very high, in the 70’s it does not seem to hold it stably at the 72 that are dialed in automatically after turning on the engine, feels more like 69. Not so much an issue for me, but my wife complains 🙂
– resetting adjustments on power off/on: it does not remember when I change the ac from 72 to something else.
– noise maker: its quiet except they put in an electric noise generator for low speeds to warn pedestrians which I find annoying because it sounds downright ugly, and you can’t override it or customize the type of sound it makes. It ruins the fact that this car is so excellently smooth and quiet when it takes off.
– range anxiety: the range anxiety is real, if you venture out beyond its range and dont want to plan on a lenghty stay at a charging station, you start turning off air conditioning and music and get nervous. they mitigate that with the road side assistence promise below, but depending on how you use the car you can feel the anxiety. For me driving it shorter distances it is a nonissue, but visiting friends 40 miles away this has become an issue before. Lunch rescheduled from noon to 2pm. Thankfully finally we have some DC fast chargers from NRG EVGO to help out in a pinch…
– mobile app features: mobile phone app car-net could be better, i.e. responsiveness and using it from two phones at the same time can lock one out, I curse at it a lot but would not want to miss it at the same time as it is a major plus in usability.
– charging availability: DC fast chargers (80% full in 20 minutes) didn’t really exist yet at the beginning of 2015, but NRG EVGO caught up on the buildout, unlike BMW and Volkswagen who promised to put money into chargepoint to build that out 2015, but so far I have to rely on Level 2 chargers that can fill it up from empty to full in 4 hours, in my case I am just topping it off in however long I want to park there, usually it is full in 1-2 hours. Still much faster than in my garage at 110V outlet. It seems there are more Chademo chargers out in the wild january 2015 that the eGolf does not support than the DC Combo that it does support. I know of exactly one charge point DC charger in the bay area.
– 86 mph limit – yes they put a speed delimiter into the car. While its beyond the slow legal speed limits in the US, in case of any emergency I would want to be the one to decide about that and not the car. I got used to it and dont notice it anymore, but I don’t agree with it at all, imagine tsunami or other emergency.
– different charging networks at first seemed annoying (blink/nvgo/chargepoint/…) – volkswagen gave me two chargepoint cards and their network is large so I don’t mind too much and end up using charge point exclusively except for when I have to DC fast charge, which I can do for $10/use with NRG EVGO.
– LED lighting in the cabin could be more bright, compared to the 2006 Jetta this looks very weak. That is why Tesla uses hybrid lighting which combines LED’s and conventional bulb for a low energy full light experience.
– Charging Plug lock – when you charge the car, the plug gets locked so nobody can mess with it while you are away. When you come back you have to unlock it with the key remote button, so keyless entry does not apply to it. Sometimes it takes several attempts of unlocking before the car lets go of the charging plug, which can be annoying.

Advantages:
– clean: no visits to stinky gas stations, no guilt driving past a bicylist polluting the air they breathe in heavly, happy to park in my garage without concern of gas/oil getting into things stored
– less hassle and expenses: no expensive oil changes, no smog check appointments on registration renewals, no service appointment for two years until cabin filters inspection. I get about 4 miles per kWh so even when not charging for free at my gym every now and then the cost per month is a lot less than it used to be. Also after adding solar to my home and adding an L2 fast charger in the process means I can assume my energy was created clean, and the car is ready in the morning.
– quiet: this changes your perception on your other gas car – suddenly gas cars seem old and shaky and loud in comparison, despite of the excellent sound insulations cars have nowadays. I am not kidding, I did take the Oddysee in to service to find out why it was shaking, because I had driven the eGolf for a while and just was not expecting it to be normal again.
– just go: charging overnight in the garage means no planning on visiting a chargepoint station unless you drive it around for more than the 80 miles a day, basically I just drive it around, plug it in when I got back in the garage and forget about it, next day it is full. In the winter I preheat it in the garage while it is still connected to the charger. While at breakfast, from the iPhone. Besides comfort, this also means the impact of cold weather on range is less because the car is fully charged and its cabin preheated.
– safety: road side assistence button, if I ever get stranded out of electricity they will come and tow me home or to a chargepoint station if I am more than 100 miles from home. Have not had to use it yet (knock on wood). In fact they will call you in your car and ask if you are ok when the air bags get deployed in an accident…
– mobile app features: allows me to find where I parked it, how much range it has and how much longer it will charge until full, it allows me to turn on air conditioning from the restaurant table while waiting on my bill to get the car’s temperature to acceptable levels, especially going to be important in the hot summers here in CA
– premium parking spot finder: The chargepoint app allows me to find a free parking spot with a charger, typically located at the bottom of a parking garage, and it tells me if occupied or not. This translates to finding premium parking. The chargepoint network is pretty good in the bay area and in san francisco, but it depends on where you go. For me its a huge plus. I also use plugshare to find NRG EVGO DC fast chargers.
– sporty: acceleration from 0 to 30 is excellent, immediate torque and no shifting means you will pull away from the green light faster than pretty much any gas car around you, and you don’t worry about the inefficiency of it because the rest of the drive regenrative braking and low consumption still give you a good 4 miles per kWh for your trip.
– looks: I love the accent lights in the front and the general look of the car.

So in summary – I love it and hope that one day we will replace the honday oddysee with a tesla X and I wont feel bad about my wife taking the eGolf any more, which I will one day also replace with a tesla 3 🙂

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iOS 7 flat design – WTF?

iOS 7 flat design is a disaster to me. Did they fire the QA / PM’s and just not rehire?

The main difference for me is not ‘getting rid of skeuomorphism’, that is just a buzzword everybody throws around, the big difference is decline in usability, because an apparent original goal ‘minimize effort to get to needed information’ has been compromised:

1. stock market display in notification area and in standard app – you can barely read the grey on red/green, what formerly was easy to see at one glance now requires a lot more focus to decipher. Much harder to use than before. I have no idea how they could get that past QA.

2. you can barely tell anymore if a phone is charging, the tiny arrow attached to it is barely visible.

3. I had to google it to find out how to get the input field for searching (swipe down in home screen) which is consistent with email search now at least, but was a pain to find out initially as well. But there is no reason why that input field should not be already shown in the sliding current apps view that you get to by double clicking your home button, thus minimizing the path to finding. The space above the app-screenshots is empty. Am I the only one to whom that is obvious?

4. double clicking home button now shows a sliding view of the icons plus screenshot of current apps instead of paging icons, which means that I now take longer and have to focus more to navigate to the specific one I had in mind. Before I could just page through and click on the fixed spot it was at. I knew exactly what icon I am looking for as that is how I started it originally, the screenshots are cute but don’t really help finding the app.

Now I have to make it flow by swiping until it shows up and then get back to it until I can hit it. A lot more mental processing and back and forth is necessary.

5. here comes the ugliest part: the drop-downs in safari web dialogs like bart.gov schedule are no longer drop downs in the page but have this ridiculously large carousel view with dark grey on medium dark grey below some weird less/greater sign next to a done-button. The text is more distorted for the lines below and above the current selection, more unreadable the more far away from currently selected item. It is incredibly hard to read, and swiping up and down does not allow for a precise selection. Then clicking on what you have selected actually does nothing, instead you have to navigate your finger over to the done-button, again an unnecessary extra step. Just a complete failure in usability.

6. inconsistencies – the first time I tried to share a contact it took me a while to figure out that I had to scroll down the actual contact to find a ‘share’ link on the bottom, I was looking for the funky share icon that is used everywhere else and would be immediately in view on the bottom without scrolling. Its there for photos, notes, maps, but its missing from calendar entries, and contacts.

Of course there are other things about iOS that I like. But none are related to look and feel. I like the flashlight app, and sharing contacts through airdrop, and the fingerprint sensor of the 5s almost makes me want to upgrade the hardware too as I can see how it would streamline use of the phone (unlocking and app installation)

Aesthetically the redesigned icon colors are not as appealing to me as before, and the flatness just looks boring. I gave it some time to get used to, but honestly, its November 7th now and I still hate it. I take this especially hard since I come from an Android background and have hoped to never have a reason again to go back to android. But this is  really pushing it.

I really hope some day a PM at Apple is reading this and claiming some of these thoughts as his own and pushes for fixing the issues, today we are on 7.0.3 and nothing has improved from the list above, and I don’t have high hopes that 7.0.4 would be any different.

t-mobile G2 review – first impressions

 

G2 has arrived

 

The good:

– super fast delivery from t-mobile. I ordered it on the 4th and was able to select it for a plan upgrade. It arrived on the evening of the 5th. This time t-mobile got the launch process right, perfect user experience.

– compared to the G1 its very fast – feels like the Nexus One, but with a physical keyboard.

– android 2.2 with gmail supporting more than one google account is a plus, but a nicer mail app comparable to what apple does could be better…

– H instead of 3G is noticably faster. According to speedtest.net I get about 2Mbps download, and 1Mbps upload on average. That is more than my $40/month AT&T DSL… mhm… maybe I’ll cancel AT&T’s DSL, add a line to keep using my G1 as a phone and leave the G2 at home as an internet hotspot? But I’d miss the speed on the road then…

– did I already say it was fast? 🙂 So not just from a network standpoint, but also from a cpu standpoint, working with the web browser, firing up navigation etc does no longer invoke a half a minute wait as on the G1…

picture quality is actually better than I first thought! See photo below…

The bad:

– keyboard does not have number row and stuff in non-qwerty places, and so it is a lot more cumbersome to type on that the G1 that had a real qwerty keyboard.

– While it is real cool that the gallery on the phone now includes photos from picasa and other sources (I really like that actually) it also appears to be much slower to bring up a picture in full resolution than expected?

The ugly:

– in-call volume is very low. I was able to make phone calls directly from the handset with the G1 that I cannot make anymore with the G2, i.e. from a bus or car… with the speaker it is fine.

I’ll post more as I use it more 🙂

My first day with the Google Android G1 phone – yeah I did it!

It’s not as if I had not given it plenty of thought 🙂 I even owned the first generation iphone for about a week before dropping back to my treo 680 – and if having full enterprise email access (via goodlink service) would not cost me $240/year in fees on top of the wireless internet plans on the 680, I might even still be ok with that.

So finally after hesitating for almost a year, I jumped ship, knowing that I won’t have my enterprise calendar/email for a while longer but at least have a decent internet phone, I bought it through costco to get the extra bluetooth piece and car-charger for almost the same price, and I am happy and very impressed !

First notable impressions (I already read all the reviews beforehand and knew what to expect for the most part, won’t mention those things here)

1. I could mount the phones storage through usb on my linux system and just copy over the images and mp3’s that I wanted to take with me. Take that, apple/iphone! Yes I own the content that I import, not you. And I will plug in a larger micro-SD card as soon as I got it from tigerdirect.

There was however a weird thing that the partition on the storage only showed up once I selected ‘mount though usb’ on the G1 phone side, but once I had googled that tidbit of information it worked like a charm, and Fedora 9 mounted it for me automatically.

2. application marketplace

Holy moly more than I care to know about.  So I used search to find what I was most interested in and had heard about, and tried out some of the featured apps as well. I did not see any for-pay apps yet.

Interesting that before installing you are asked to read multiple pages of license stuff that all is very uninteresting for a user. I wonder if that can even be legally binding if they hide something in there that actually matters – most of it talks about rights to copying software, how does that relate to a phone user downloading it through the marketplace that the company provides it through is beyond me.

Also interesting that before installing it tells you what the application requests to get control over, i.e. your address book, your wifi connection, your gps location, for-pay services like SMS…  and just like with Windows XP AntiVirus/AntiSpyware systems you have to OK all those things anyways to get it to work. But at least you are warned 🙂

With all those services asking for a signup I am surprised that we don’t have automatic fill-in of first-name last-name into the signup forms…

Here are the 8 apps  I installed on my first try:

– ShopSavvy (not ShopSawy 🙂 )- point your camera at a bar-code and it tries to identify the item, get you prices and locations. At first I was real impressed, I tried it with a book and it found it right away, quoted me three different prices and locations to buy it at, and with two clicks I got my gps telling me how to get there from where I currently was. Very cool. It also quoted a cheaper online price, did not pursue that.

So I thought, yeah this is as cool as I read about it before. My wife came home and I tried to impress her: I tried it with two vegetable cans and it could not grasp the barcode – probably since it was round? I tried a cereal box and it read the barcode then said it found nothing. Mhm, so maybe not that much stuff in the database yet…

– pacman – looks like the original. You can use the accelerator method to navigate it, which means instead of pressing keys you tilt your phone – almost like a wee control 🙂

– bonsai blast – nice color game, not tried to really play it yet

– imap weather – does what it needs to do plus more. Fails to find my location sometimes and then crashes. Not impressed.

– Wertago – ‘where to go’ nightlife guide application, kind of like yelp but yet-another-social-network-thing. I did not bother to create the account but found the crowd kind of wierd… however this is probably the kind of thing that is going to be really useful once there are more reviews in it.

– Meridian Video Player – I hoped to be able to play my eve online trailers (mov/wmv), but it did not work. Oh well.

– cab4me light – finds phone numbers of local cab companies. Nice…

– imeem mobile –  an internet radio station but tailored to your taste. Wow, just typed in Metallica in the search and now get all those metal songs from all those bands. Nice, have not listened to Manowar in a while…

3. Access to wireless

It was really simple to setup (select wifi station from list identified, enter WEP code, done) but I was surprised that web browsing still seems as slow as over edge/g3. Mhm…

4. what am I going to miss form my treo 680

– real good keyboard – the g1 is not terrible but far from being as good.

– uploading pictures straight to facebook off of the sd card ejected from my digital camera – the workarounds could be getting a microsd in sd adapter and take pictures to that (supposedly much slower than sd though) or even better to get a wifi enabled sd-card (eyefi) – then I would no longer need to eject the card.

– faster/earlier rendering of my most frequented websites in the web-browser.

– superefficient email/contacts when paying the $240/year goodlink fees. but not gonna anyways.

– reasonable low resolution video

5. What I am not going to miss from my treo 680

– call dropping or going on hold right after accepting the call when I fumble the ringing phone out of the pocket

– always out of battery when I needed it the most – lets see how the G1 fares on that 🙂

– real bad (i.e. unusable) mp3 player, harsh electric interference noise when it transmitted data and playing music at the same time

– low resolution photo camera