mumbai, Science

Three years of E2O: maintenance nightmare

Now I have been driving E2O electric car for three years. In three years, I have done 17K without any problems in drive train. Car is very smooth to drive and predictable battery performance. No noticeable decay in battery capacity. However, the build of the car is very poor. I have had plenty of small issues and resolving them have become my weekend pass time.

The braking system has failed two times and doors have failed at three occasions. A few plastic panels have been broken. The back seat latch has failed. AC has failed. Several electrical systems like horn, break lights, left-right signaling, head light, car locking, and electronic key have failed. Car navigation system almost finds nothing in the city and after an update keep prompting a massage repeatedly. The radio can not be permanently turned off. It turns on again when car is restarted.  Almost all subsystems have failed one time or another. Besides drive train, I can not think of anything that has worked for last three years reliably (read update!!).

On top of that, they do not store spare parts in Mumbai. Each time something breaks, they have to get it from Bangalore. It can take up to several weeks for the parts to reach Mumbai. I drove my car without AC for about a month.

I am not sure if the other e2o owners had the similar experience. Anecdotally, I have heard several similar stories.

Please do not get me wrong. I am a big supporter of electric cars. I love my E2O. The experience is like having an abusive spouse. Now, I am hoping to use the car for about two more years and dump the car as soon as some non-Mahindra enters in the market with a good electric car.

Leaf please come to India!!!

Update (2018-02-23): Now battery of the car has failed. The car is expected to be in the workshop for two weeks for diagnostics and no promise when the car will be back.

mumbai, Science

Driving to Pune from Mumbai on e2o

I have a 2015 2-door e2o, which has been driven about 15,000 kms. I live in Colaba, Mumbai. I decided last weekend to drive the vehicle to Hinjewadi, Pune. The drive is about 159 kms long. My car only goes about 120 kms in a single charge and I trust it only for 90kms. I would need to charge the car somewhere. Thanks to plugin India community! They have mapped out the location of places that allow public charging. They are supported by the manufacturer,  community members, and private businesses.

I chose two charging spots for my trip G3 moters, Navi mumbai and Trinetra Petrol pump, Lonavala. Both are conveniently located close to the Mumbai Pune highway. G3 Moters has free charging for e2o and Trinetra charges Rs 75 per hour. The first occurs after 37kms, the second occurs after 67kms, and the last segment was about 55 kms.

I was very much afraid of running out of charge. I drove conservatively without AC. In most of the drive, I maintained “2 bars of efficiency (a measure on e2o display)” and about 60 km/hr. I started at 8:30am and reached G3 Moters by 9:30am with 70% charge. I had to wait for 1.5 hours to charge my car to get back to 100%, since e2o charges 20% per hour. But I lost patience after 92% of charge and left.

The next leg was the hard part. The first 45 kms is almost flat road and the last 20 kms is uphill, known as Ghats. I managed to reach to the start of Ghats with above 65% charge. During climbing of the Ghats, the car slowed down to 40 km/hr if I maintained the efficiency level. However, I had to maintain the speed of 60kmph to keep up with the traffic around me. Therefore, not efficient driving. By the time I reached to Trinetra petrol pump, it was 12 o’clock and only 45% charge was left.

For the next leg, I only needed the charge for 55 kms. But, I was not sure about the rest of the terrain. I decided to charge the car for 2:30 hours. I had lunch in a near by food mart, which was a bit difficult to reach by foot. I walked back about half an hour later and still 2 hours to kill. The owner of the patrol pump got interested in the car and kept asking me about feasibility of electric cars. The conversation lasted 1 hour and for rest of the time I waited in the car. I started driving again at 14:30 with 80% charge.  Thankfully, the rest of drive is almost flat or somewhat downhill.  I reached my destination by 15:40. The drive took me 7 hours, which usually takes 3+ hours.

I was visiting a company (not sure if they would like to be named). I reached to their campus and had requested for a charging point beforehand. They were more than happy to help and allowed me to charge my car there. I visited them for 3 days and charged at their place everyday. On the last day of the visit to Pune, I was visiting a research institute. They seemed to be baffled by the electric car. For a while no one was sure, if they should allow me to charge. The matter went to their head of engineering. He raised the issue of cost of charging the car, which is about Rs. 25. 🙂 We finally went to their head of operations (Registrar). He seemed to annoyed by me and said go charge anywhere if you can connect your car. Just do not ask for permissions. We finally found a charging point in a laundry room close to a road. I managed to charge the car.

Next day, I drove back to Mumbai. Now I knew the road and started at 7am. The plan was to charge at same two locations. The first 55kms was happily done and reached to Trinetra petrol pump with 59% charge. I had breakfast at the same food mart and charged the car upto 80% in an hour. I started going downhill on the Ghats and realized that I am spending no energy in driving. In fact, the car was charging due to the regenerative charging. I used only 2% charge in crossing the 20km-long Ghat segment. The rest of 47km also went smoothly and reached G3 Moters by 10:30 with 50% charge and 37kms more to go. I charged the car for 30mins and started driving in the thick traffic of Mumbai. I reached home by 12:30. It took me 5+ hours to complete the drive.

In short, it is feasible to do outstation drive on electric cars, but one needs to have patience to wait for 1hour per 30kms driven. The new version of e2o allows fast charging. It may be charged about 5 times faster using a special charger. It my reduce waiting time/driving time significantly. However, no such chargers are yet installed on the highways in India. My personal opinion is that if a car can be driven about 250kms per charge with AC, and recharged within 30-40mins. It is perfect for outstation use.

mumbai, Science

E2O in Mumbai

Last week, I bought an E2O, a made in India electric car. Before getting into a user review. Let me discuss the buying process. Buying the car has two key hurdles.

First, stiff resistance from family and friends.  Many car lovers challenge the idea of electric car. They will declare that this car is not for them or anyone because electric car comes with distance limitation. Some claim the car is not green, at the end of the day it will be less green then a patrol car, and economics also does not work. Some say your car is a coal driven car, because most of the electricity in India comes from coal. Some experienced car users call it “dibba”, it does not work, and It is too expensive. Some worry if this car has enough “power” to do all the heavy lifting they need.

Second, charging facility even at your own parking space, if you are lucky enough to have a dedicated parking space in Mumbai. I live in a government colony inhabited by enlightened people. I had to make a special request for a parking spot with charging station. Initially, my request was taken with pleasant and shocking surprise. However, I received the permission with in two months. Since the parking space is in semi-open area, installing a safe and secure changing station was a problem that I had to solve it myself.

Buying the car from a dealer was also not trivial. I had to call various showrooms in order to get in touch with the sales person who deals with and knows about E2O. After then process was smooth, I liked the test drive and booked the car. After the booking, I received the car in less than 2 weeks.

User Review

Little disclaimer: This is my first car. I have no reference to compare it with. I am also a new driver.

Looks: Interior and build of the car seems to be of reasonable quality. External panels are made of plastic, due to weight saving reasons.

Drivablity: Car is automatic with power steering, it is very easy to drive. Press the on button, forward gear, and you go. 50-55Km/h is a comfortable speed to drive. Max speed is 85 as promised. Sometimes pick up feels slow. But there is a boost mode in the car, which I have not tested long enough to report my experience. After a single full charge, I have driven 80km with AC on in light traffic conditions. In the trip, I went to Navi mumbai from South mumbai and back. After 80km, the charge dropped from 100% to 37% and car was saying that it can still go for 35km. It seems car can deliver 120KM as promised. I do not feel like testing to the limit. 🙂

Cost: Car costs  6.2 lakhs(T2 version) + 1.8Lakhs(5 year battery insurance). The 1.8 lakhs to be paid out in 3k installments per month. In total the car costs, 8 lakhs. Why this 1.8lakhs? The company forces you to buy this “battery insurance”. This insurance says that if battery goes bad before 5 years then they will replace it. Essentially, they are forcing you to buy two batteries. I hope my battery goes bad before 5 years but not in 5 years and 1 day. 🙂

Running cost: I can not comment yet on maintenance. That is yet to be seen. What about millage? I am experiencing 8KM/unit, that means, I can drive 7.5KM with 1 kwh of electricity. In terms of money, Rs. 1 /km (electricity rate : Rs 7/unit). A petrol car costs 5-6 rs/km. For another comparison, a typical AC probably consumes 4-5 units over night. Probably, the car will not add a massive cost in my electric bill. It seems the electronics of the car is not well optimized. In stand by, the car loses 2-3% charge overnight. This can be a significant overhead if the car is not used regularly.

I will extend this post after more experience with the car. Please post comments if you want me to report on some specific aspects of the car.

Is E2O green?

I have no idea. It depends on two factors. How green is the battery? And, how green is the electricity of India? I will write more as I will gather more information.

Economics of E2O

I think economics of the car does not work. In the long run, the car will be more expensive than a petrol car.  Probably there is no second hand market. I hope one day it will be cheaper.

Politics, Science

Why publishers?

This year I participated in organization of a computer science conference. To my surprise, I found that conferences hire publishers instead of publishers own the conferences. Here is how organization of a usual CS conference works.

A conference is defined by its steering committee, which is a small group of top academics from the field of the conference. The steering committee appoints program chairs every year. The program chairs of a year sign a contract with a publisher to publish the conference proceedings. These contracts are signed every year. The program chairs organize the conference independently of the publishers.  They appoint the program committee with the approval of steering committee. The program committee reviews the submitted papers and accepts a subset of the papers. The program chairs send these accepted papers to the publisher for final printing. The copyright of the papers are held by the publisher in return of providing the publishing service for free.  They also give some free copies of published books to the program chairs. The copyright allows them to charge exuberant amount of money to the academic institutions to access the publications.

The natural question comes to mind: “Why publishers exist?”.

One may argue the following three contributions of the publishers.

  1. Quality Publishing: The publishers proof read the papers. Sometimes they  move around figures to pretty-up the paper. This task is usually done by some third party company located in some third-world country. They assign ISBN number etc to give the proceedings a unique identifier. And finally, they publish the physical books. Publishers do not make any editorial decisions.
  2. Reliable Dissemination: These proceedings are usually available at the publishers website for rest of the eternity. For Academic libraries, it is easy to follow these publishers to find most of the scientific literature. Publishers make dissemination of scientific works easy.
  3. Legacy Reputation: If publisher signs publishing contracts  only with high quality conferences then they build a reputation over time. There are no lack of conferences in academia. Academics keep inventing conferences to promote themselves. But if the proceedings of a conference is published by a publisher then the conference inherits the reputation of the publisher.

The first two contribution are already obsolete. The proof-reading service can be provided without the publisher. Usually, the cost of doing research is very high and hiring a proof-reader should only be marginal. An institution can easily pay for proof-reading of its papers by those third world companies. The printing of physical books and hosting the papers on internet are fast becoming inexpensive technology.  The cost of running a scientific publication website can easily be covered by scientific funding agencies. Anyway, they are paying for producing the content. Why not they also pay for dissemination?

The reputation of a publisher is the only reason, I think, that keeps them in business. While evaluating a published work, funding agencies factor in reputation of the publisher. This makes life of evaluators easy. Therefore, the steering committees of the  conferences do not want to move away from reputed publishers. This is hardly a compelling reason to have publishers. This is a classic legacy systems problem.

The underlying technology for publishing scientific works has shifted sufficiently that makes “the publishers” irrelevant and unnecessary overhead. All the scientists I have spoken to also say that they do not see any value of having publishers. However, it is very hard to chart a path from current system to a publisher-free system, without breaking scientific reputation system. Here is a great opportunity for innovations. I am very sure soon scientists will start experimenting with different publishing models for important conferences.

culture, Science

Book: Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!

A fantastic book! A sort of autobiography of Richard Feynman. I wish I had read this book during my undergraduate studies. Feynman’s worldview would have helped me a lot to understand the world of science. But, I may not have understood many of his comments on American society and the circumstances of his time.

He was mostly interested in doing science, discovering culture(s), and having good time with blond beauties. His attitude towards the world is full of curiosity with an element of bravado (assuming all is true in the book).  I truly identify with Some of his following discussions.

  • Once he visited Brazil for a year.  After his teaching experience there, he realized that his students were only memorizing physics but not really understanding. He said that it was a very serious problem. This comment was very true with my education(including IITK) and I found most people around me had no interest in the subject and they were studying only to get better grades.
  • He tried to learn Art and see if there is any sense in doing it. He learned music and painting. His initial skepticism about the art eventually turns into respect. And, he also becomes amateur artist. I am still in the realm of skepticism.
  • Once he participated in a interdisciplinary conference about ethical problems in education related to equality. He was totally confused in the conversation and failed to follow the ideas of people from the other disciplines. He thought they talk in a very ill-defined manner. Definitions are rarely explicated. Sooner or later the conversation was lost in the jungle of jargon. I still feel that way in my own field of  research. Let alone talking to the people of the other fields.
  • This book hardly comments on politics of his time except the WWII. During that period, he built the bomb. And, he wasn’t much bothered by the consequences of building the bomb. He only wanted to solve a difficult problem. Military applications of science and technology are always challenging. A highly skilled technical person may easily find the challenge very seductive and forget the consequences of his actions.
Politics, Science

Capitalism is live! Socialism is safe!

I am a researcher in the field of verification. In this field, the systems are verified against desired properties. For example, we may want a space ship to have a property of not exploding in mid-air. After building the ship, we may also want some engineer to analyze the ship design to verify that indeed the ship will not explode. In our research, we are developing tools and techniques for the verification engineer. The ideas of the field can be applied in any dynamic system, e. g., Economics, Society, etc. Some parallels are very interesting. Here is an example.

In verification, we divide the desired properties of the systems into two classes: safety and liveness. Safety properties require that something bad will never happen. For example, the space ship will never explode. In contrast, the liveness properties require that something good will eventually happen. For example, the space ship will some day reach to the Moon. This distinction is there because verifying safety properties are computationally much easier as compared to verifying liveness properties. In our field, the first question the other researchers ask, “Are you dealing with safety or liveness?”.

I recently realized that the distinction between safety and liveness can be used to see the distinction between the socialist thinking (welfare state) and the capitalistic thinking (free market). Today, the argument between socialists and capitalists is raging all over the world. A socialist demands social justice, a safety net against extreme poverty, a liberal set of laws, etc, while assuming that the society is sufficiently wealthy. On the other hand, a capitalist demands efficient economy, free market, simpler laws to start businesses, minimal state, well defined property rights, etc, while assuming well developed legal and political system to protect citizen rights. I see both of them demanding desirable properties of the social system, while assuming too much. In fact, assuming something, which exactly the other one is demanding.

Essentially, the socialist wants safety.

Inequality in the society will never be above a certain level.

But he doesn’t consider an undesirable situation in which  the society is mostly egalitarian but does not have enough food. Everybody is equal but hungry.

On the other hand, the capitalist demands liveness.

Some of the people will eventually create wealth.

But he doesn’t consider an undesirable situation in which the society is vastly wealthy but a few oligarchs control almost all the wealth. Most of the society is poor and exploited by the oligarchs.

What we need is each of the properties without ignoring the other one.

Politics, Science

Book: The Quest

The Quest by Daniel Yergin is about development of business of energy in last 20 years. He wrote another book called “The prize” in early 90s that covered the history of oil industry and this book is a kind of squeal. This book tells a grand story in which the world started looking  for energy instead of oil, while oil remain a significant policy issue of the governments.

Book is an easy and fluent read to learn about the world of energy: major players, major technologies, major technical challenges, major sociopolitical challenges, and major environmental issues. The author is a pro-business American and he has inherent biases in his presentation of various political issues around energy business. Sometimes ridiculously simplified view of some political conflicts. For example, his description of coup against Hugo Chavez in 2002 is full of false statements (If you read the book then try to understand his explanation of the failure of the coup). Another example, the recent Bahrain protests are defined as ‘protracted violence’ therefore Saudi king had to send an army there to ‘restore law and order’. And of course in his view, 2009 protests in Iran were a long cry for freedom. I hope technical aspects are accurate or at least he truly reflected the world view of the businessmen who run the world energy companies.

Here are the key questions one may ask about energy. I also list a summery of his answers.

  • How much oil is left?
    • At least 5 times the humanity used so far… that means a lot..
  • How much natural gas is left?
    • Not much exploited so far. New technologies and gas fields are arriving fast. No one knows really..
  • How much damage oil/gas drilling can do to environment?
    • All you can learn from accidents. The impact of all the accidents have been limited.
  • Is nuclear energy safe?
    • It depends to whom you ask. France has excelled in error free mass nuclear energy production. US and other developing countries are not totally sure what to do. It is very much clear that one major accident and whole nuclear energy dream is off the table.
  • How much nuclear material is out there?
    • This book did not discuss this issue.
  • Is climate change real? and how urgent?
    • Very real! Data is becoming undeniable. The book stands with the scientists.
  • Are renewable energy sources viable?
    • This book has a lengthy discussion about each kind of renewable energy. Each one has enormous challenges to make them acceptable. May be things will work out.
  • Can electric car replace normal cars?
    • There is a big push around the world to go electric. It will depend a lot on government policies if they make sure electric remain competitive against oil cars.

In general it claims, there are significant problems but trust businessmen. They will solve them.