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So I bought a PHEV…

Two weeks ago I picked up a 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV.

I am no Doug Demuro and this is not meant to be a review of the car in general (it’s great!). Rather, I want to talk about the quirks and features of PHEV driving specifically.

The PHEV Experience

The very first thing I noticed test driving this car is just how smooth the electric drive is. The lack of gears combined with the instant power immediately reminded me gliding out of a station on a train. It’s just so pleasant!

My thoughts below are based on the 500km highway and 500km city – in temperatures between -10 to +15 – that I’ve driven so far.

Why not an EV?

In short, “we’re not quite there yet.” The charging network in and around Winnipeg and battery tech is such that most of our favourite camping spots are out of range; and longer road trips (especially west on the Trans Canada Highway) would be anxiety inducing.

Sure these trips are rare and I considered the possibility of renting a car as needed. But given that there’s a significant premium for EVs, buying a $40,000 – $60,000 car only to have it sit in the garage when you really need it most… at the end of the day that just seemed silly.

Fuel Economics

The PHEV Hyundai Santa Fe has a 13.8kWh battery which has an advertised range of 45km in full EV mode. I’ve found this range to be fairly accurate within a few kilometres. Granted, my driving style is generally pretty modest and I’ve been intentionally making an effort to keep the power level low.

At present electric rates, fully charging this battery costs $1.24.

However, the system actually reserves ~25% of the battery for hybrid-mode. I believe this is because the 1.6L engine is not powerful enough to motivate the 1900kg vehicle on its own.

So this means that the vehicle only uses around 10.35kWh to travel 45km on batteries. That’s about $0.93 electricity in Manitoba. For comparison, a standard ICE Santa Fe would burn 4.77L (or $6.82 at today’s gas price) for 45km of city driving; and 3.15L (or $4.50) with the hybrid version.

From a fuel cost perspective, switching to electricity is a nobrainer. Especially with the relative stability of electrical rates compared to the constant fluctuation of oil prices.

Cold Weather

We’ve been having a strange November, with temperatures ranging from -10C to +16C. So I’ve had the opportunity to drive the car in a range of cooler temperatures.

The salesman mentioned that the systems will “prime” the batteries in cold weather but he didn’t go into detail and TBH I was to excited to drive away to ask him for more information.

As it turns out, when the battery is cold the ICE runs for quite a long time (4 – 9 minutes) after initially “starting” the car and even well into the drive. It will also engage at seemingly randomly times throughout the drive.

Li-ion batteries have an optimal operating temperature range of 15 to 20C, so I assume the system is diverting engine heat to batteries directly (via that heat pump system) and/or imparting heat by acting as a generator, recharging the batteries.

When the ICE is in this operating mode it is not being used to drive the vehicle, so you are still benefiting form the efficiency gains of an electric motor.

Unfortunately, this behaviour makes it impossible make a full trip without burning at least some gasoline (albeit maybe only a few teaspoons) in temperatures colder than +15. Very short trips end up using relatively huge amounts of fuel. A 7 minute drive might run the ICE the entire time even though the car has enough battery to make it the full distance.

Luckily, with an unseasonably warm +16 yesterday I was able to test the battery’s behaviour in a warm state. I took the opportunity to make 45km round trip and I was relieved to make the entire drive without burning a drop of gas! The systems did not heat the battery at all.

However, I a very took a similar drive today and once again the engine engaged for a short time to warm the battery, even though it is only a few degress colder today.

I am fairly disappointed with this behaviour. I would much prefer a driving mode that exclusively used the batteries even if I meant a decreased range in cold weather. Even if it meant charging more often the economics would still make sense.

Additionally, I had factored the fuel savings from driving pure EV most of the time into the budget when upgrading to this more expensive car and now feel like I am coming in on the losing end of that calculation.

Charging

Hyundai provides a Level 1 charger which manual refers to it as a very appropriately named “trickle charger.”

A full recharge takes approximately 11hrs. On the one hand, that’s a very long time for 45km of juice. On the other hand, my car sits around for at least 8 – 10hrs every night, so it’s not really an issue. I think it would be fine even if I had a regular commute.

Level 2 charging is much faster at 3h30m. According to a recent Reddit thread, having a level 2 charger installed at home costs in the neighbourhood of $1000 – $1500; and this just does not seem worth it at the moment.

I haven’t had the opportunity to use one yet but the going rate for Level 2 charging stations seems to be $1.50/hr. At that rate the economics don’t really make sense vs the cost of gas. If you think of it as paying a small amount to keep some carbon out of the atmosphere though I guess that’s OK. There are also a few (literally 3) free chargers around town and I’m looking forward to having an excuse to use one of those in the next couple of months.

Long Term Reliability

When I mentioned PHEVs on Twitter a while back a couple people raised concerns about readability.

They have a point, PHEVs are a Frankenstein’s monster of new tech operating alongside ancient tech. Marrying the two drive and the two breaking systems must be complicated AF. I suspect this is a large part of the reason Hyundai has opted for a fully drive-by-wire vehicle (a topic for another blog post perhaps).

Hyundai has acknowledged this and is demonstrating strong confidence in their engineering by providing an 8yr/160,000km warranty on the H/EV systems. Which is reassuring.

Final Thoughts

The Hyundai Santa Fe as a car is by far my favourite car I have owned to date (largely unrelated to the fact that it’s a PHEV though)!

Sitting in traffic with the little green “EV” light illuminated makes me smile. And doing 110km/h on the highway on batteries feels like the future! (But also the past, I can’t help but wonder where we’d be if the oil and gas industry hadn’t killed battery cars in early 1900s)

Unfortunately, I am not very optimistic about the EV performance once winter sets in and we’re regularly seeing -20 (or colder). I expect average fuel economy to in-line with the standard HEV version of the Santa Fe.

I can’t say I understand Hyundai’s choice to optimize for range over gasoline usage.

That said, at the moment, my average fuel economy is 3.3L/100km, which is quite good and nothing to cry about.

Winnipeg has a lot of days from spring through autumn that fall within the battery’s optimal operating temperature. On balance of a year the average combined fuel economy should hit the advertised 2.1L/100km, with city driving at 1L or lower.

I’ll keep you posted…

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Culture Random

Services Should Help Us Remember

With the beginning of a new year decade everybody is posting retrospectives on anything and everything. For the most part, these retrospectives have to be complied manually by compiling data from different sources. I’d argue that our lives would be more interesting if more services give us easier ways to reflect on the content we’ve posted over the decades.

In fact, services could probably get away with collecting more sensitive data if they surfaced it for us in interesting ways. For instance (despite my better judgement) I’ve had Google’s location tracking fully enabled for the past 3 years. The Google Maps timeline generates this map of everywhere I’ve been that is just totally fascinating to me. I can’t bring myself to turn if off.

Everywhere I’ve been in the past 3 years according to Google. It’s actually missing some data and I’ve never been near Detroit. So that’s somewhat comforting in a way.

An Experiment

This week, I started an experiment where I will be logging every single interesting link I come across online in a public twitter feed.

It would be cool to see what happened if browsers tried to include a feature like this using your local browser history. (I’m getting deja vu, was there a web 2.0 era browser that did something like this?)

WordPress Historical Posts

A few years back I created a WordPress plugin that surfaces old posts in dashboard and sidebar widgets (you can see it in the footer of my blog if you scroll down). IMHO any blogger with more than a couple of years of content could benefit from this plugin. I love seeing what I posted a decade ago. Occasionally it spawns new or update post ideas.

The plugin is called Historian, you can download it from the plugin repository.

Other Services

I know the photo services have started adding “on this day” and “then and now” features to their main products. I personally enjoy those quite a bit. Seeing my kids grow up is an acceptable of inherently anti-piracy facial recognition.

I mentioned Google Maps Timelines as another acceptable reasons to leak private data. But I actually think Google could do more with this data, especially on Android. It would be cool to automatically see all the times I’ve been at my current location and any photos or related data that I’ve logged there. Google Health could have workout data (and analysis) automatically available when I’m at the gym. Stuff like that.

Are there other services that have interesting retrospective features?

Would you be more open to giving up private data if services gave you interesting or useful data and analysis based on you private data?

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Random

Brass & Bass, Strava, FFVPN – The greatest things of all time… This Week…

B-Complex – Beautiful Lies (Riot Jazz Brass Band Cover)

Yeah, yeah, I know jazz band covers are one of those things that high school band nerds get all obsessed with, but whatever! Riot Jazz Brass Band’s cover of this Drum & Bass track is a real earworm (I’m calling this Brass & Bass).

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I’ve also become a little obsessed with Brass Bands in general. Honourable mention to Too Many Zooz for starting me down this path.

Strava!

Two cycling related posts in a row? You bet!
I started using Strava when I bought a decent bike in August, I’ve always liked the idea of tracking my day-to-day. I hope that one day this data could be used in the same way that handwritten diaries of the past were used.

The way that Strava adds a gamification level on top of fitness tracking is really working well for me. For example, I signed up for “The Escape Plan” challenge, which gives you a little digital badge for exercising at least 5 times every week for the Month of September. It’s essentially a video game achievement system IRL. I’ve been able to keep it up for 2 week and all the extra exercise is actually having a positive effect on my mental health. It’s incredible.

Strava also tracks your personal best times, broken up by segments. I know that I’m never going to be as fast as some guy who bikes 100km per day on his $5000 bike. But I can always improve my time. So today on my way home from work I tried hard to beat my own records and wouldn’t you know it, I gained 7 achievements! Feels good.

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One other kinda “web 2.0” feature worth mentioning is “flybys.” Strava will show you other Strava users you’ve passed on your ride (or run). Kinda neat. Kinda creepy. It’s opt-out.

FireFox VPN

FireFox release their “VPN” (it’s actually a proxy, I don’t fully understand the difference) this week on testpilot.firefox.com. Ironically, it’s only downloable from the US, so I used a free tunnelbear account to download it.

Speed test looks good, this is slightly lower than my ISP’s max but totally acceptable for web browsing.

Also, it looks FireFox is just cobranding Cloudflare Warp, which hopefully means the Warp VPN is launching soon.

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Apps Culture Links Random

Three of the greatest things of all time… this week…

This past week I’ve made three minor tech-adjacent discoveries that have the potential to change my life in small but important ways.

None of these are groundbreaking on their own, but together they’re actually making me a little excited about “tech” again. In sort of a strange way.

Stoop

I’ve always had two related problems with email newsletters. They clutter up my inbox and I never end up reading any of them. Because of this I actively avoid subscribing to newsletters and often unsubscribe to newsletters randomly. Stoop solves this problem in the best way possible.

Stoop in an app for reading newsletter. Like a podcatcher but for text.

Stoop gives you an @stoopinbox.com email address, which you’ll use to sign up for newsletters. It then receives in them like any other email services, except with a UI tailor to newsletter consumption.

It goes a long way to de-clutter your inbox and gives you a distraction free newsletter reading experience.

Get it here →

Kindle Fire Tablet 7th Edition

A couple of years ago my two boys each received Kindle fire tablets as Christmas gifts. As kids do, they promptly forgot them and abandoned them in a pile of clutter.

I’ve been meaning to read more, for years and year. I’ve only been meaning to read more books proper; but also all those Pocket links I stow away and forget about; and those cool newletters everyone is always recommending 😉

Digital reading has always been a bit of a Goldilocks problem for me. Desktop computer screens are too big; iPads are a little big (great for magazines though) and too heavy to hold up in bed for an hour; phone screens are too small and distracting.

Then I remembered the Fire Tablets.

They’re prefect! Roughly the same height, width and most importantly weight as a paperback novel. Battery life is great and screen resolution is acceptable. You can side-load the Google play store and get most apps. But I’m keeping mine limited to reading apps to maintain a distraction free, reading-focused environment.

I’ve been making a conscious effort to pick up the Fire instead of my phone whenever I want to read Google News or that sort of thing.

Its only (minor) shortcoming is speed. The hardware is old and sluggish. Web browsing is a pain, changing context is slow. But flipping and scroll pages is fast enough. And you could almost spin the sluggishness as a positive, since it discourages you from change contexts and helps focus on what you’re currently reading.

Apparently you can still but the Fire 7 →

KOHO

I can assure you this is not an ad! But I do have a referral code ZL5RTDVQ if you end up using this.

I feel a little weird talking about a financial product, so I’m going to keep this a short as possible.

I was chatting with Internet Good Guy Levisan around the time the Apple Card “unboxing” videos started popping out, commenting on how r/latestagecapitalism they were. He mentioned KOHO, on account of it also having a metal card.

KOHO is an app-based prepaid VISA that offers 0.05% cashback on all purchases (2% on some purchases if you pay for “premium”) and has none of the lame fees that you’d expect from a one time used pre-paid visa you might buy as a “gift card.”

It also offers a “virtual” card in the app for online payments. One that you can turn off if your accounts get pwn’d. AFAIK virtual cards have been rare in the Canadian market before now.

Also you can feed the card with Interac E-transfers.

KOHO feels like it might be a way to get some of the benefits of Apple’s Credit card, without burring yourself even deeper into Apple’s ecosystem.

It’s early days but I’m optimistic that this will improve my financial health. Especially since it’s pre-paid only and there is no way to carry a negative balance.

Get it here →


There you have it. Three things that are blowing my mind this week. 🤯🤯🤯

What’s exciting you right now?

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Random

The Future of Hot Rodding

Maniac combines Chevy Volt battery with a Telsa motor and slaps it in to a 1981 Honda Accord. This is the future of hot rodding right here.

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