Saturday, April 12, 2014

Solar Electricity, The Low Cost Fuel

If you're a gas car driver, you might want to look away :)

About the chart:

The chart is a simple comparison of the fueling cost of two gasoline cars compared to two electric cars and the conveyance systems for both sources of energy. 

Both oil and sunshine begin as free natural resources.

The transmission grid in not depicted for Solar PV.  The road system and harbor system is not depicted for crude oil.

I have chosen the BMW 3 series for average MPG and the BMW i3 for average miles per kwh.  The chart would be different if you compared a Prius, an F150 or a Tesla Model S. 

It could be reasonably argued that maintenance and repairs and the life of the vehicle would be better for either the gas car or the electric car, and are not figured into this chart, only the fueling cost is considered.

Over the 25 years both the electric and the gas car will become more efficient.

Today, at my neighborhood gas station in Carlsbad, regular unleaded was $4.39 a gallon,  I used $4.25 a gallon.

The 9.2 annual increase in the cost of gasoline for the past 10 years is from the US energy information office.  In 2004 gasoline was $1.51 a gallon and in 2014 gasoline is $3.60 a gallon US average.

I believe the regulatory environment will continue to get tougher for gasoline and that sources of crude oil will get harder and more expensive to find.  It could be argued that the percentage rate of increase will be lower in the future or higher in the future.

The average US Household spent $2912 dollars on gasoline in 2012.

Solar PV panels are warranted for 25 years,  micro inverters are warranted for 25 years. Both the panels and the inverters will perform far past the 25 year mark with no replacement cost.

Financing cost are not figured into the cost of the solar PV system. If including finance charges, they should only be used for the first 3 years. At 3 years you have spent as much on gasoline as the cost of the Solar PV, typically we pay cash for our gasoline purchases. 

Now you know why Elon Musk can give away solar supplied electricity for all Tesla Model S drivers :)

As I prep for our year long energy challenge of two cars, one home, powered by sunshine, I thought I would share with you what the last week looked like.
It's a typical April week for us living and driving our two electric cars.

We averaged -14 kwh per day for the week.

You can live and drive on sunshine.

Editor’s Note,  Peder is the Chairman of the San Diego County Planning Commission. His wife Julie is Director of Curriculum and Instruction at the Solana Beach School District.  They have been Felid Trial drivers for BMW for five years.  Together since 2009, they have driven 95,000 EV miles powered from roof top solar.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

One House, Two Cars, A Quest For Sunshine Symbiosis

There’s something traditional, in an American sense, about a home and two cars in the garage.  We are a nation that came of age the past 100 years concurrent with the era of the automobile. For better or worse our homes and cars are together entwined with the embodied energy of our built history. For better, we can power both our homes and our cars with harvested sunshine.

On May 15th 2014, we will begin a documented 12 month effort to power our home and our two cars, each driven an average of 12,000 miles, by sunshine harvested from the roof of our home.  

We will attempt to make more kwhs than we use over the entire year.  We will attempt to be a true zero emission transportation solution, net zero in use and below net zero in the total cost of energy.  We will document all with our utility bills and car readouts and share our somewhat private information with you openly at the beginning of each month.  We’ve done the math, we’ve lived this EV + PV life for 6 years, we’ve been below zero with our home and one car, we believe we can do it with two.

Just as the cell phone, the digital camera memory chip and the computer have transformed how we communicate the past 20 years, Innovation and advances in technology have led us to an arrival at an important new intersection with our energy and transportation future.  An intersection where there is an emerging “symbiosis” of the building, the automobile, and the energy plant all working together as a self contained system owned by a single entity, rather than separate entities at separate locations such as a home,  a gas station and a power-plant.

It is a time primed for great change in how we make and distribute energy and how we motor from place to place.  A time when new entrepreneurs will take up the challenge and lead us into an exciting and imaginative energy and transportation future.

Our goal is to save money, to be more self reliant, to lesson our dependency on foreign oil and its related cost in dollars and lives, and to improve the air quality in our city.  Our goal is also to be a demonstration of this rapidly emerging and symbiotic new energy and transportation future.

Our home

We live in Carlsbad California in a temperate climate. We were owner builders of our home in 2006.  Our home was nominated and was awarded the 2008 California Center For Sustainability Energy “Excellence Award” for being a net zero energy home. This award is peer reviewed and goes to one homeowner per year in Southern California.   The main home is 3250 sq. ft.  There is a 1200 sq. ft. guest home occupied by one. Our home and guest home use approximately 5000 kwhs a year of energy, less than half of the average home electricity use in the U.S.  

Our solar PV system

In early 2007 we purchased a SunPower 7.5 kw system installed by Stellar Solar that generates approximately 11,500kwh a year.  This 7.5 kw system was architecturally integrated into our home at the plan stage and was sized to power the home and one car. This system was completely paid off in utility savings and gasoline savings in April of 2012.  

In April of 2014, we added an additional 1kw of panels for a total system size of 8.5kw generating 13,000kwh a year.   Our system is grid connected, we charge our cars at night from the grid when it is less expensive and less taxing to the grid and we generate extra kwhs for the grid during peak hours, providing this energy to our neighbors during peak demand.

Our cars

Julie and I will both be drivers of the fully electric BMW i3.  We expect to take delivery around May 1st.  The BMW i3 is one of the most efficient cars and just might be the most efficient car in the world.  It is a dream to drive with leading edge technology, comfort and safety. 

Julie and I have been field trial drivers of both the BMW Mini-E and BMW ActiveE for the past five years and both of these cars have fit perfectly into our lifestyles requiring no concessions on our part.  I drive approximately 9000 miles a year and will use approximately 2000 kwh per year. Julie drives approximately 15,000 miles a year and will use 3600 kwh per year.

Of special note, the BMW i3 at 2650 lbs is 1400 lbs or about 30% lighter than our current car the 4050 lbs BMW ActiveE.   This lightness will save us over 1000 kwhs of energy each year for the same miles travelled.

The total usage of the cars and the home equal ~10600 kwhs per year.  The remaining 2400 kwh (about $860 at the top tier rate of 36 cents per kwh) will be used to offset our annual $250 natural gas bill. 

An asterisk here as even though the energy is priced retail at 36cents per kwh and our excess generation is sold to our neighbors by SDG&E at that price, they only credit our account 3.8 cents per kwh for excess generation and you cannot carry over the credit to offset your natural gas bill.

A therm of natural gas contains the energy equal to 29.3 kwh of electricity.   So our generation of extra kwh will offset the therms of natural gas that we use.

We’re attempting this and are willing to document and share, success or failure, as we believe that this “Sunshine Symbiosis” will soon become the standard with millions of “symbiotic homes, cars and solar power-plants” accomplishing this same result in just a short decade or so.  Solar is getting cheaper with a smaller footprint, houses are getting more efficient, and electric cars are getting better, more efficient and less expensive.  Put that all together and you have disruptive change and awesomeness :) 

Lastly, we are saving about $7500 annually in fuel cost and utility cost.  Our power-plant installed in 2007 is completely paid off with the savings of the past 5 years.  We are living and driving at 20% the total cost of traditional utilities and gasoline. We look forward to those savings for the rest of our lives.

We are on a great path America, let’s put the pedal to the CFRP (carbon fiber reinforced plastic) and motor towards a better future.

I'll update this effort with a new post around the first of every month.

Cheers & Sunshine,

Peder Norby

Editor’s Note,  Peder is the Chairman of the San Diego County Planning Commission. His wife Julie is Director of Curriculum and Instruction at the Solana Beach School District.  They have been Felid Trial drivers for BMW for five years.  Together since 2009, they have driven 95,000 EV miles powered from roof top solar.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A dreamer is only a dreamer, until the day one looks out the window of reality, upon their own dream.

Happy New Year.  

2014 "feels real" in the EV space, and that makes me both happy and extremely optimistic for our future.

I am so proud and happy for BMW, that this will be the year they launch the BMW i3 in the USA.  Julie and I have participated with BMW during the past 5 years,  driving  two cars as field trial drivers, lab rats if you must,  pioneering the way towards a better way to motor. In the beginning it was a rudimentary experiment with no promise of anything more than a year driving a prototype hotrod.  In the end, it could very well change the way we as Americans, decide on our mobility choices from this point forward.

I am overjoyed at the initial reception of the BMW i3 and I compliment BMW for sticking to an engineering based solution even though some lament the exterior design as love it or leave it.  The car is a moon shot for transportation and the largest leap in motive technology with BMW’s use of carbon fiber construction, since the 1908 Model T from Ford.   CFRP is the huge leap forward; lightness equaling performance and efficiency.

My 75 year old aunt and uncle, Krista and Alf, visited us from Denmark in October.   They have been avid readers of this blog and our home building page the past few years.  As I showed them around a project I am working on they informed me that they had just purchased a Ford CMAX Energi  and have been plugging it in every night.    I’ll try not to get to sentimental but I cried a little when I heard my own family in Denmark and 75 year olds to boot, are now driving on electricity from renewable energy, in Denmark’s case it’s wind.

In December my older brother called me,  Should I buy a Ford Fusion Energi, Honda Accord Plug in or wait the BMW i3?  I told him to go for the BMW i3 of course but that any of the options were grand! The point is he is buying a plug in!

Some perspective is in order.  In 2007 when we went solar and began driving the Gem E-4 powered by sunshine, (the original Sungas) we were looked at by our neighbors and family as a little loony in a mad scientist sort of way. 

In 2009 with the BMW Mini-E, being one of the first few hundred to drive an electric car, one of the first few dozen to have the car powered by solar energy, the look was one of puzzlement and non understanding, What? from those panels to the plug in your car? The status quo is hard to shake off.  

In 2013 it’s a call to one of several carmakers and one of hundreds of solar pv providers and you’re there. No sweat.

What a grand difference five short years can make.  Which leads me to my ultimate thought.  Can you imagine what the next 5 years will bring?  It’s hard for even me to comprehend the changes coming in the next 5 years and I am an irrepressible dreamer.

My favorite quote is:  “A dreamer is only a dreamer until the day one looks out the window of reality, upon their own dream.“   

I wrote it after building our home in 2006, looking out over the lagoon from our new kitchen window. 

Julie and I have set an extremely ambitious goal, a dream,  as a family for the year 2014.

We will attempt to be a home with two cars in the garage, completely powered by solar energy.  We will attempt to generate the same energy in kwhs  that is required to power our home and our two cars in the garage from the sunshine that falls on our roof.  Zero utility bill and zero gasoline cost to drive a combined 24,000 miles.

What makes this all the more fun is that our Solar PV system was installed in 2007 and is already paid off completely as of April of 2012.   It is the efficiency of the BMW i3 and a slightly less lengthy commute for me that will push us below zero.

This is way beyond a net zero energy home, (we accomplished that in 2007) we don’t even know what to call it?  Minus 2 Home? (any help in what to call it would be appreciated) 

What we do know is that we can try do it.  I'm sure in the beginning we will first be looked at as a little loony, then with puzzlement, then with family and friends wanting to do the same.

My dream for 2014,  Is that we can walk a new a path where in a few short decades or a few short years, it will become normal for American families to be self reliant and power their homes and transportation choices from the sunshine harvested on their own roof.

We will record our journey, we will document our journey, we will share our journey. It begins the day the BMW i3(s) land in our garage.

Dream with me J

Cheers!  Happy New Year!

Peder & Julie

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Have you ever tried swapping?

You know how it is, a love affair, the two of you monogamously driving through life together for years. Once or twice a year you yearn for a slightly different ride, a longer ride.

Try swapping.

Julie and I are six year veterans of the swapping electric car world, beginning in 2007 with a Gem-E4. We’ve travelled 85,000 miles powered by sunshine, and for the last two years have been a two electric car family with no gas cars. Julie drives 18,000 miles a year and I drive 10,000 miles a year.

One common question posed to us is: Don’t you ever need a gas car?

The answer surprisingly enough is very seldom, about once or twice a year.   Our home is the “gas station” that provides the energy for 97% of our trips.  About 10 times a year we will use public charging either on an overnight trip to a hotel, or a day when we need to drive 100-200 miles. Public charging is getting easier every day,  we are now seeing many fast dc chargers which make it even faster and more convenient to publicly charge, assuming your EV is equipped for it.

In two years with two EVs and no gas cars, we’ve needed a gas vehicle exactly four times. Twice was to haul 3000 lbs of grapes, we rented a truck from U-haul, you’d  probably rent a truck for the grapes regardless if you drove gas or electric.

The other times were trips to Napa and Paso Robles. We swapped cars with my daughter.  This gave her a chance to drive an electric car for a week. She loved it and now wants an electric car for her next car.  I’ve often felt the best way to try an electric car is for several days to see if it works for your driving needs. Swapping is a good way for a person to experience an EV as an extended test drive.

We have yet to rent a car in our two years with two EV’s. 

With family and friends close by, swapping makes the most sense for us when we need a longer range car once or twice a year.

Finally, the carmakers are going to tremendous lengths to ease your fear of range anxiety. Depending on your lifestyle and driving habits, swapping may be one of the best ways to ease the malady. The occasional swapping of cars with friends or relatives is very easy to do and trust me they love the chance to try out the EV for a week.

Yes, we love EV’s, but the once or twice a year, if you yearn for a different ride, a longer ride, try swapping with a naughty gas car.



Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Santa Baby, a Mini-E Rocketman for Christmas.

I loved the 2.5 years I spent with “my” BMW Mini-E.  It’s hard to describe exactly why, but being powered by sunshine, the go cart handling,  the electric torque trying to rip the steering wheel out of my hands,  the incredible fun factor of the car is like nothing else I have ever experienced in a car before or after the Mini-E.   The car was rudimentary by today’s EV standards and closer to a prototype race car than a normal car for the streets.  The car demanded your full attention when driving as it had tremendous torque steer and a heavy rear end, but rewarded you with an incredible driving experience.  Practical it was not with no rear seats and very limited cargo space.  But damn it was so fun to drive, I really miss Mini-E #183.  

No doubt, the BMW ActiveE, which my co-pilot in life Julie has driven the past two years, is a much better car, civilized in its manners, improved in every way, seating four, and oozing the luxuriousness and comfort of a BMW.  No doubt the BMW i3 will be a wonderful and practical addition to our home, we are very excited about getting at least one, perhaps two of these great cars. I’ve driven the i3 and it’s faster than the Mini-E and fun to drive for sure.  As a two EV household, we will most likely be getting the rex version with our other car remaining a pure electric. 

But this is my Christmas wish, and I’ve been a feeling a little naughty in a dream car sort of way.  So I hope you’re listening Santa baby.  You’ve shown me what you can do with the BMW i3, so here’s my Christmas wish.

All I want for Christmas is a two seat Mini-E Rocketman Roadster. 
(Enter singing angels on high) 

Start with a sub 2000lbs vehicle weight by using the CFRP and aluminum construction similar to the i3. You only need to bleed 700lbs off it's gas and steel cousin.  Add the same 170-hp, 184-lb.-ft. motor with  performance optimized remapping and the 22kw battery from the i3. The seats and every component of the car optimized for lightness.  I really don’t care if the windows roll up or down, make the roadster top as light, but functional as possible.  More raw exposed CFRP and less plastic cladding on the outside. Raw and light, less parts, rules the day.

The result?

I’m wishing for a  sub 6 second,  road hugging "Monster of a Mini."  With the top up, a range of 100-120 miles (think lightness) and with the top down, a range of 75-90 miles (think awful aero.)  

This Mini-E Rocketman Roadster would be the perfect California stable mate for our BMW i3 rex, both powered by the endless goodness of sunshine.

Does it make sense? I don’t know.
Does it get my heart racing, absolutely.  
Sometimes,  passions of the heart are more important than sensible logic.

Santa build this car,  I've been really good this year.



80,000 sunshine powered miles
Mini-E, ActiveE, Honda Fit EV.