Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Modo’s Electric Vehicle

with 3 comments

I recently posted a Press Release from Modo about their new electric vehicle acquisition – a Nissan Leaf. I did not write much and I used their picture. Today I was pleased to go for a ride in the car and take some pictures of my own. I was going to change the original post but maybe a photo gallery with comments is a better way to go.

Nissan Leaf rear

I found the car in the parking lot north of City Hall. Modo has a row of reserved parking spaces here along the 10th Avenue side, but the EV charging station is roughly in the middle of the lot. Modo also organizes the City’s own car sharing program.

Mitsubishi MIEV

The City chose a Mitsubishi iMIEV for its program. I think if I had been parking this car, I would have backed into the stall, just to make the cable shorter and reduce the tripping hazard. In fact, if you have a choice, backing into a stall is always a better way to park, as most collisions in parking its occur due to people backing out.

EV sign

$1 an hour including juice seems a good deal to me.

Unlike the Modo stalls, anyone who has a plug in vehicle could use the station. And it is probably worth noting here that at 2pm on a Friday afternoon a lot of the Modo spaces were empty. (It may not be be strictly relevant but while I was there I saw a postie in uniform take a CAR2GO – which shows that Canada Post is perhaps a lot smarter than many people give them credit for.)

Leaf charge port in hood

The choice of the City Hall lot was based in part on Modo’s knowledge of their existing car use from it. The average length of trip is 14km. The Leaf we used was fully charged with a range of 140+ km available, so the probability of running out of juice for most users should not be an issue.

Charge Point

On my flickr stream I have been collecting images of EV charging stations. This one seems neat enough to me

Charge Point display detail

Modo members will find their charge card tucked into the driver’s sun shade. (By the way, if you are a Modo member and you have to refill the tank of an IC car, the cost of fuel (and a car wash) is reimbursed.)

Leaf being charged

You can see the empty line of reserved Modo parking spots behind the car.

The red Leaf with some red leaves

I was not a Modo member when I wrote this so I had to be content with the passenger, not the driver’s, seat. My impression is that this is a very comfortable, easy to drive and quiet vehicle. Electric cars can have quite startling performance simply because an electric motor has a great deal more low end torque than any IC motor. Since we were driving in mid afternoon city traffic, there was no speed or acceleration trial. The car does include a central display, which when I was in it either had the rear view camera (when backing up, which also included a parking guide) and when in forward motion a GPS real time map.

One of the great advantages of car share membership is the wide range of vehicles available. Not only do you not need to own a car, but you can get a vehicle that meets the needs of the trip. Car coop members make far fewer trips by car than car owners – because they do not have the perverse incentive that ownership provides (“I have spent all that money, I might as well get some use out of the thing”). You can have a coop membership and not feel that you have wasted money if you decide that its a nice day for a bike ride, or that transit would be more convenient for some trips. For that reason Modo concentrates on the City – high population density and frequent transit is a good mix for the coop. They are not trying to encourage car use, but recognizing that for some trips in our metropolis a car is the best choice. But it has to be a real choice, not one forced by circumstances.

Modo is trying to get into the suburbs. They would dearly love to have a car at Brighouse Station, for instance. Trouble is that most of the land devoted to parking in the centre of Richmond is private land. Indeed, as I have often lamented here, you are forced by the rules of the parking lots to take your car with you when you leave. You must not park in one place and then walk to complete several errands. That is one of the main reasons why traffic on Number 3 Road is always dreadful. Most of those drivers are making very short trips.

Modo also is getting more and more approaches from developers, who like to provide car coop memberships out of the condo fees and thus reduce the number of parking spaces they have to supply. Quite how we could retrofit existing condos, by getting strata councils to adopt a car coop space as part of the amenities – the same way they provide swimming pools and recreation rooms – presents an interesting challenge. But some of those spaces thus released could be chain link fenced bike compounds.

Car sharing is already good for the environment, due to the reduction of car trips. Making those trips zero emissions (and in BC most of our power comes from existing hydro) is a worthwhile bonus. And coop members get to try a EV before most people – geeky transportation bloggers excepted.

For what its worth, of the OEM EVs I have been in, the Leaf is by far the nicest. The Chevy Volt is not all electric – and it will be a long time before we see any hydrogen fuel cell cars here. Plug in – for hybrids or all electric – does seem to be the best choice for now. Trouble is at present there are only ten Leafs in Canada. Lucky Modo members, then.

UPDATE December 4, 2013

There is a blog post by another modo member on her experience of driving this car

Written by Stephen Rees

November 4, 2011 at 5:59 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Whenever I go to the gym at the City square mall I look at the cars for share..Unfortunately for you, Stephen, I took a wow of abstinence about cars so I will not be able to give you feedback..

    The small French town of la Rochelle was the first in France to start a car-sharing program in 1999 (they started a bike-sharing program in the 1970s.) and they have both electric buses and (small) electric ferries!
    European car manufacturers started to sell electric cars in the late 1980s-early 90s but the demand wasn’t there. Only Renault kept producing Twingo minivans for the post office and some businesses.

    About 1/2 dozen French towns have electric cars as part of their car-sharing program. Citroen and Peugot are selling electric cars.
    Apparently there are nearly 1800 Mitsubishi iMIEV in France
    One would think that many more French would buy these as 1-they use 240 volts for everything and 2-the speed on regular roads is more and more restricted..

    No more driving at 150-200 km/ h as many still did 5-7 years ago (we used to call that “driving to an open coffin) on roads with 3 lanes (one in each direction, the central lane being used for overtaking–in BOTH directions.. a real thrill…

    Red frog

    November 5, 2011 at 2:29 pm

  2. France was a leader in electric cars since they needed a large base load overnight for their nuclear power stations. They relied on heavy duty lead acid batteries with slow trickle chargers overnight. Unfortunately not many people trusted that the battery would last for a full day’s use. There have been significant advances in EV technologies since then – but although batteries are better they are far from ideal.

    One of many drawbacks of a nuclear reactor is that it cannot be turned on and off at need unlike a hydro dam or gas turbine. The British tried to persuade people to heat loads of bricks overnight (“storage heaters”) with about as much success. They are now doing better by pumping water uphill overnight to release for hydro generation next day.

    Stephen Rees

    November 5, 2011 at 2:47 pm

  3. You are so right Stephen!

    This could explain why EDF, with their “Bleu Ciel” service, is encouraging homeowners to use alternative energies whenever possible, practical etc. The scare from Fukushima will be another incentive to reduce the dependance on nuclear electricity.

    When I was studying–way back when— civil engineering in Western Auvergne ( in a small town near where one sequence of the movie The Jackal took place), our science teacher, who lived in an old watermill away from a village, bought a used small turbine, fixed it in the school workshop and installed it in the mill weir…

    He was an IPP well before we heard about that concept…

    Red frog

    November 6, 2011 at 1:45 pm


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