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.