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.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

BMW i3, 3 men in a bed… A shared journey towards the future of transportation.

Any chances of my running for Mayor of San Diego are officially gone forever. Who could survive a damning picture of three men in a bed together! 

The headlines, the family shame,  we were caught. The sexy scene was captured November 21st 2013 at the Figueroa Hotel in Los Angeles. The party got a little out of control and ya know, we're all experimenting with the future so......

The storyline begins in 2008. An amazing journey of a few hundred people who  signed up to drive into the future, uncertain of the machine, uncertain of success, and uncertain at the motivations of the maker, BMW.

Careless, hopeful, concerned, experimental, risk taking, inquisitive, driven, crazy,  we were dreamers, we were pioneers. 

We weren’t the first pioneers.  That honor goes primarily to the ladies of the turn of the century 1900’s who embraced EV’s rather than manually strong arming an engine to life. In the 1990’s the next wave of pioneers plowed the road to the future with a new generation of EV’s, however that road dead-ended with overturned legislation and ham fisted shortsighted decisions by the few companies involved.  Those drivers just pushed aside by the OEMS, are fiercely determined to never let a car company kill the electric car again.

The pages of history are yet to be written and it is far from certain that this time EV’s will make it as the mainstream choice for transportation.  However we as pioneers and electronauts, we as ev drivers of all makes, models and eras are participating as authors, writing the future of transportation. We are actively engaged in authoring a future that we believe will be better for our families,  and that we believe will result in a better, cleaner, more secure and more equitable world. A future that we believe will result in a better and more enjoyable driving experience. 

Our quest is looking good, but back to the story, the past and 2008. 

A few hundred of us signed up in 2008 to drive the BMW Mini-E at a considerable cost.  We were different people from all backgrounds, ages and beliefs.  A magical first gathering was held on both coast and drivers and BMW execs launched on this effort together as a team.   The early Mini-E pioneers were uncertain what the future would hold as BMW had made no commitment to go beyond letting us drive a prototype for one year.   BMW was uncertain of the future, the technology and the ever-increasing regulatory environment that all car makers needed to adhere to. Were they entering a boondoggle or a prosperous future?

Our collective experience and enthusiasm as Mini-E drivers was a driving factor in BMW diving full on into the pool, pressing the go button on billions of dollars of investments on electric mobility and a brand new division for BMW, BMW i.

Our leases were extended to two years, the die was cast for the future BMW ActiveE, and the path was set for a mass market electric car from BMW that we now know as the BMW i3 in large part thanks to the experience of the Mini-E pioneers.

Along this path, BMW picked three drivers “out of a hat” to appear in four short documentary films.  Todd Crook, Tom Moloughney, and I were asked to participate in the film series on the future of mobility.  I was very excited to be in this series and I recall sharing with my wife Julie over dinner one night that I was going to be in this film with crazy important and famous Americans.  As I rattled off their names, Julie interrupted me and said “honey, do you think they are all having dinner tonight saying to their spouses, I’m going to be in a film with Peder Norby”  Thank god for spouses that can keep us humble.  I’ll never forget meeting Tom and Todd for the first time on that set up in Los Angeles.

That shared experience brought Todd, Tom and I closer as friends and more determined to be accessible and helpful in welcoming fellow Mini-E drivers and  Active E drivers as equal partners and friends in this exploration to the future of transportation.  

Tom, Todd and I were just lucky to share this brief experience of the film together and it has created a bond of friendship and common purpose between us.  We’re different, from different places, with different careers but we share this common place in history recorded on film forever.

We all (Mini-E and ActiveE drivers, all ev drivers) have made contributions as we constantly share our stories, attend events, spend a few moments with a person who asks about the car, advocate for a better future, show up for a government hearing, test pilot prototypes,  user group sessions, and relentlessly insist on this path forward.

So you can imagine how we felt on November 21st  all assembled as pioneers and electronauts and BMW Executives,  several years of shared history, as we drove and admired dozens of BMW i3.   It was priceless, the future had arrived, BMW did it.

Afterward a few dozen of us went to the Figueroa Hotel for a drink or two.  As some began to leave, I wanted to get a picture of Tom, Todd and I to add to my collection of memories of the three of us.   What a bed was doing inside the bar  I do not know, but someone made the suggestion we jump on the bed for our picture.  So we did.

3 men in a bed.

At least that’s the story I’m telling to the pubic.  Tom and Todd, thank you for your friendship.

Heres a link to the film series if your interested in viewing.

Last thoughts,

East Coasters, enjoy your upcoming event and celebrate your shared path together.

BMW, you have created a wonderful car. You have nourished and maintained personal and meaningful contact with your pioneers and electronauts throughout the several years of this effort.   For a car company that makes millions of cars a year, it is impossible to maintain this level of closeness to your customers. 

The several hundred of us that are pioneers and electronauts with BMW are not customers, and we are hopefully, not lab rats to be discarded when the experiment is concluded.  

We are partners in your efforts to prepare for the future and to introduce electric mobility. We are several hundred ambassadors for your company that worked with you as you laid the groundwork in preparation to make millions of electric vehicles of the next few decades.   Please remember us that way, please keep working with us and use us as ambassadors to blaze that road to the future.


85,000 miles powered by BMW and sunshine! 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

We Can Drive Our Cars With The Energy We Save In Our Homes.

The U.S. is set to construct roughly 60 billion square feet of new buildings by 2030. But when Edward Mazria of Architecture 2030 looked at projections for electricity consumption in those buildings, he found something surprising: energy needs are actually falling. In theory, that means we won't need to develop new power plants to service those buildings.  (source: Greentech Efficiency, Steven Lacy)
It becomes an even more powerful proposition, and more important to our national security, economy and environment, when we use the power of efficiency to replace oil.
We can drive our cars with the energy we save in our home.
In modern homes, there can be well over 100 light bulbs inside and outside. Gone are the days of one light bulb in the middle of the room, or one lamp fixture with one light bulb, or one porch light. Outdoor areas can become lighting masterpieces with dozens of lights in both the front and back yards set on timers illuminating for 2-6 hours per night.

Using a modern home and our lifestyle as an example, I estimate that a 1/3 of those 100 light bulbs are on 4 hours a day,  1/3 are on 2 hours a day  and 1/3 are seldom or never on.   For an average of all the bulbs, two hours per bulb is a fair estimate. Your family or home may vary.  That is 200 bulb hours per day. Assuming an average bulb rating of 60 watts,  we consume  12 kwh a day, 360 kwh a month, or 4300 kwh per year in lighting our modern well appointed home. 

What happened when we switched those to LED?

The 60 watts that an incandescent bulb used was reduced to 8 watts using the LED bulb.  The 200 bulb hours a day for our modern house is now reduced to 1.6 kwh per day, 48 kwh per month, or 585 kwh per year.   

That’s a savings of 3,715 kwh a year switching from incandescent to LED.  

With an efficient electric car like the Honda Fit EV or the upcoming BMW I3,  4.5 miles traveled per kwh is a good rule of thumb.  To drive these cars a typical 12,000 miles a year requires 2700 kwh a year. So saving 3715 kwh via the lightbulbs, and then using 2700 kwh to drive 12,000 miles in one car leaves us with a extra 1000 kwh to use for our second car.

This simple example is just for lighting our home,  A few months ago we replaced our 6 year old 50” plasma TV that warmed the whole living room and used $15 a month of electricity with a 50” LED that uses $15 a year.   Computers, appliances, smart thermostats and every electronic gizmo in the home  are all getting more efficient each year. 

According to the EIA, in 2011 the average home in America used 11,280 kwhs per year. http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=97&t=3

Without much effort or cost, it would be very easy for the average home dweller to save the 2700 kwhs a year to power the car in the garage 12,000 miles a year.

We are entering a new energy world where optimized efficient home construction coupled with solar PV generation, will allow for a net zero energy operations cost for both the home and the two cars in the garage, with a capitol cost of construction payoff in less than 5 years. In some parts of the country that's already a reality.

Tip: Replace the lightbulbs that you use most often first, those that you seldom or never use don't need to be replaced.


About the author:

Peder Norby is San Diego County Planning Commissioner. He and his wife, Julie, received the 2007 Energy Excellence Award from the California Center for Sustainable Energy for the construction of their net-zero energy home in Carlsbad, Ca. They have driven more than 80,000 miles powered by sunshine in their two plug-in electric vehicles.

Monday, September 30, 2013

A Wolf in Lambs Wool…for the city.

The BMW i3 from a Mini-E and ActiveE driver's perspective.

I’ve witnessed and participated in, the evolution of electric transportation and of this car, the BMW i3.  Much has been said and written by the world automotive press, pundits and enthusiasts about the i3.  But this is a writing from a non journalist (me) that has loads of seat time and years of experience in electric transportation and the ramp up to the i3.

As one could imagine, I have high expectations for the BMW i3 as the result of my four years and nearly 70,000 miles of seat time in its two predecessor prototypes.

First, the 2008 BMW Mini-E, a rudimentary prototype produced under contract with AC Propulsion.  It was twitchy, hard sprung, a blast to drive with tons of torque steer and a very light front end. This car showed me the way to electric mobility powered by sunshine. 

Second, the validation car, the 2011 BMW ActiveE which was produced in house by BMW. The ActiveE is a very refined and well behaved luxury coupe that sadly my wife gets to drive far more than I. A happy marriage was the result of my acquiescing to Julie when she unexpectedly pronounced that ‘she’ was going to be the driver of the BMW ActiveE.  I was disappointed but not stupid.

As I prepare to switch from the ActiveE to the i3, I’ve come to realize that evolution is simply the wrong word for i3.

The BMW i3 is a Revolution.  

A game changer that will reap benefits for decades for BMW up and down its complete product line ushering in an era of lightness, higher torque and higher performance.  A brilliant and bold decision that will at first seem odd to the general public as they see the i3 singularly as a “non traditional” BMW. (I suppose the Isetta was traditional?)   but will make complete sense in the decades to come as BMW fills out its "I" product line with electric motors and carbon fiber bodies and begins the migration of same to the BMW M and normal series cars as well as other BMW owned brands. 

BMW and Carbon Fiber will be “stitched together” forever in history as the biggest advancement in auto manufacturing since the introduction of the assembly line. Lightness, quickness, instant torque, connectedness, effortlessness and the premium luxury will be the hallmarks of future BMWs.

The i3 is a solid performance car,  a wolf in lambs wool for the city.  The i3 is MUCH faster than a Mini-E, which is MUCH faster than an ActiveE, and it all comes from the rear wheels for much better launch control.  

The i3 is a car that is woven together by brilliance rather than generically stamped out of steel by brute force.

As a typical red blooded American male, I came of age and learned to drive in my brothers 69 Dodge Charger with a 440 magnum and idolized my friends “old” 67 Chevy Camaro.  So I can understand why one or two of the performance oriented car mags were less than excited about the i3.  They’ll get there eventually, perhaps with a ride in the BMW i8 In the near future. 

I dare any Camaro or Charger of any vintage to line up against my i3 at a stop light along Hwy 101 in Southern California.  While the “muscle cars” gather their enormous strength from a high octane fuel flowing through 400 moving parts making crazy heat and beautiful noise ultimately getting to the tires, slowly working up to the sweet sport in the RPM range,  I’m gone with a simple effortless press of the go pedal, the light-speed of electrons, and I’ll see you at the beach or coffee shop later.  

The juxtaposition of the extreme effort required by high performance gasoline cars, with their drivers holding the handbrake, revving their engines and then destroying their clutch, all so they can launch quickly from the start line,  compared to the i3 where the driver simple depresses the go pedal and holds on to his coffee or cell phone is striking.  

The brute strength of a 350 pound NFL offensive lineman vs. the graceful refined strength of Usanian Bolt comes to my mind.

As I said, I’ll wait for you at the beach while you try to find a parking spot large enough for your beast.  

The BMW i3 lives in the city and so do I.  

Never before have I been in a car that is so effortlessly quick.   The feeling of lightness, effortlessness is a new reality in driving and defines the car.   I’ve driven the Tesla Model S and there is no comparison for speed, the Tesla wins, but the refinement, lightness, ease of entry and driving position, tight turning radius, incredible design excellence of the interior  and sensors that allow for semi autonomous driving such as parking, adaptive speed control and collision avoidance technologies all position the i3 well ahead of the Tesla Model S for city driving. 

Don’t get upset Tesla. Range, weight, cost and yes your “mine is bigger than yours” screen in the dash are all much much greater for the Tesla Model S.   

The i3 looks great in person, It’s not a coupe or a sports car but a small UTE-CUV type of a car with a high seating position and an aggressive and pleasing stance.  Closer in kin to the BMW X1 than the BMW Z4

The BMW i3 is solidly planted on the road at speeds just like the ActiveE or any BMW.  The i3 for me seemed even quieter than the ActiveE which is amazing. The interior on the i3 was the highest class of the three interior worlds/options and it was indeed higher in quality than the ActiveE.  More interior room than a 1 series, on par with a 3 series with the hatch and folding flat rear seats providing  functionality that is superior to a sedan.  

The carbon fiber roof of the i3 is awesome, and there are many areas where you can see the carbon fiber such as the door sills and when you open the rear hatch. BMW left a lot exposed to remind all that this car is made from CFRP.

But back to being a red blooded typical American male auto enthusiast for a moment.  I suspect that BMW had a slightly female bias in mind when designing this car,  It’s just to darn practical and smart to be designed for a ego-auto-centric male such as myself. The whole stitching and weaving a car together with a loom is very feminine compared to the manly brute force of stamping steel and welding.  Dudes weld.  

Well get over it guys.

The BMW i3 is a blast to drive, quicker and easier than any gas drinking car off the line. A butt hugger around corners and you’ll be able to do donuts in a space as small as the half basketball court in your driveway. Get a set of 16 inch rims and wide slicks and you'll be the kick ass king of the stadium auto-cross. 

To get your testosterone really flowing,  you'll have the daily pleasure of making some Mustang or Camaro driver envy your attractive  rear lights while shrinkingly reassessing what really drives their manhood at the same time.
Drive quietly and carry a big stick!

The only question for us (we got over range anxiety years ago) is do we buy two i3’s right off the bat or do I, the strong, car-guy, city male, wait a year or so until the sports or coupe model comes out.

Choices are good, the BMW i3 is great.

It will be a world-changer car, I hope they can make enough of them. We'll take two.