Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Home, Two Cars, and a Twist of Sunshine :)

You can, most do,  purchase $4,417 worth of gasoline and pay $2400 annually  for your utilities. These are the average  family gasoline cost for the US and electricity utility cost for a typical California household (900kwh @ $.22 per kwh)   This is the way it has worked for over a hundred years, and the prices keep rising each year.

If you’re spending almost $7,000 a year of your family after tax income for gasoline and electricity, you have more than paid for the right to be skeptical of the newness, uncertainty and high cost of solar energy and electric cars.  I get it…I really do… gas and electricity costs are so expensive and budgets are so tight, that you can’t afford the high cost of solar or electric cars.

I would suggest that you be equally if not more skeptical of your gasoline, and utility cost, and more informed about where your hard earned money ends up, in their pocket or yours.   

Solar PV and electric cars are a combo that is less than 20% of the cost of the status quo.

Six years ago in 2006 Julie I built our home as efficiently as possible and installed a 7.5kwh solar PV system.   This system cost $30,000 after the federal and state tax credits ($39,000 without any credits) and generates an average of 11,500kwhs per year.  After 5 years our power plant has offset $18,000 worth of utility cost and $13,000 worth of fuel cost.   Thus it is paid off with the savings from both. Our home is a little larger and Julie’s commute is a little farther than most, so our own costs were slightly higher than the average family.

The bottom line is that Solar PV in California will pay for itself in 6-9 years with utility savings, and 4-5 years with a mixture of utility savings and gasoline savings,  and 3-4 years on gasoline savings alone.  

How can that be?

One example, the average two car family drives 24,000 miles a year and buys 1100 gallons of fuel each year. For 4 years that’s 4400 gallons of fuel.  The cost of that fuel is $17,600. The same 24,000 miles in electric cars uses 6500kwhs of electricity per year.   A 4kw Solar PV system will cost $16,000  and produce 6400kwhs per year for well over the 25 year warrantee period.   

With a car and gasoline you continue to buy gas every year for decades.  With electric cars and Solar PV, you are done paying for fuel after four years, the rest is gratis of the Sun.  The Sun has never raised it’s price for it’s energy.

Julie drives 18,000 miles a year and I drive 12,000 miles a year.  We have two electric cars powered by solar, and no gas cars.  The electric cars have seamlessly fit into our lives with no compromises.    We realize that many will need longer ranges for both cars thus gas, hybrid, diesel or phev is the right answer, most can get by with one electric car, and for many like us who live in large cities with round trip commutes of less than 75 miles. two electric cars will work fine.  There is no one answer that is the right answer, for some it may be a bicycle and or mass transit and no cars.  For us an electric  luxury sports sedan  and a practical electric hatchback with lots of storage, both powered by sunshine is the perfect combo.

Our utility bill, we have a $320 credit for the year.

We know the cost of gasoline and utility energy, it’s the way we lived for the 30 years prior.  We look forward to 20+ years of emission free driving, no energy cost and no fuel cost.  We’re estimating a lifetime savings of  $140,000 if there is no inflation and no increase in gasoline or utility cost (yeah sure,)   and approximately $350,000 with historical cost increases for gasoline and electricity.

You can live and drive on solar.  You can do so far cheaper than gasoline and utilty supplied electricicty.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Electronauts, welcome to our blog!

Peder and I are happy to be Electronauts and want to thank BMW for a great experience and partnership the prior three years with our Mini-E and ActiveE.  It’s a bit odd to thank a company that you are paying a lease payment to, as many other car drivers pay a lease payment or loan payment for an automobile, however our electric experience with BMW is different, life changing in a way, and deserves a thank you.

Our journey began with our decision to use solar PV in our home construction in 2006.  Peder’s previous summerhouse in Rømø Denmark, as well as the rest of the small Danish island, was powered 100% by wind energy from the offshore wind farm called Horns Reef. When we began the construction of our home in Carlsbad CA, we utilized this 'Partner with Nature" lesson and paired with our natural resource in Southern California which is of course the sun.

In 2009 we were excited to be able participate in the Mini-E field trial and accomplish another milestone, that milestone was driving a “real car” on solar power generated electricity.  Peder tells the tale often of when he was driving up to his first test drive of the Mini-E in Irvine California he was wondering if the car was going to go slower up the hills like a golf cart?  After 37,000 sunshine powered miles it was time to give back the Mini-E and for Peder to transition to the Active E, or so he thought.  

I had been a loyal co-pilot to Peder in the Mini-E and had driven the car about 5% of the time-I loved it.   Peder was unable to make the West Coast unveiling of the BMW ActiveE for the Mini-E Pioneers, as he was speaking at a local film festival that night screening the four BMW documentary films that featured Peder and his fellow Mini-E drivers Todd Crook and Tom Moloughney.   I took his brother Niels to the event.  On the way up to the event I was talking to Niels about all the exciting times and ease of driving the electric car and decided after seeing the BMW ActiveE that it was going to be my car and that Peder would have to revert to driving the gasoline car.

After six months of this arrangement, Peder was miserable and I wasn’t going to give up “my” Active E!  So we reached another milestone and decided to sell our lone remaining gasoline car and Peder is now happily driving a second EV.  

So, it’s been a heck of journey for us and I am sure for BMW as well.  What we thought was going to be a fun one year EV experiment with the Mini-E, with a default setting of “it will be impractical for all of our driving, but let’s try it out” has turned into the realization that not only is one EV very practical and works for our family, but that we don’t need a gasoline car at all.  That’s still amazing to us!

To end this writing, we have more in front of us than we do behind us.  We look forward to learning together and sharing together with the other Electronauts and with BMW.  Sure we have issues to overcome, but we love electric mobility and the freedom, energy independence, clean air and monetary savings for our family that it provides.

So which one of us will be the driver of the BMW i3 or BMW i8?  That’s a tough one…We might need a counselor to help us with that decision.

One thing is for sure; we will be driving an electric BMW for a long, long time.