Monday, December 29, 2014

7 Months In…Old Man Winter Visits..Predictions for the New Year

A few family vacations had our mileage and energy usage down for this month.  Unfortunately, old man winter brought our energy generation down as well.

Our first month of a utility bill that does not begin with a minus sign.

It was a wet and rainy month so less Solar PV production.

Some travel away from home reduced the amount of kWhs used by the cars.

We continue on a great glide path for net zero energy cost for the year for the house and our two electric cars. We will achieve this milestone next month, four months earlier than expected, when we receive our utility true up bill for the year.  We anticipate a $50 refund from the utility, a $450 credit to our account for electricity, and a $270 natural gas bill for the entire year. 

Regrettably, our utility does not let us transfer the electricity credit to our natural gas bill.  The result is the credit goes as a gift to our utility.

A $40 utility bill, but still running a huge remaining credit over 11 months.
This may come as a surprise, but we calculate our saving to be somewhere between $150k and $200k  not adjusted for inflation, that's enough to buy a BMW i8 ) during the past 7 years and the next 20 years.  We installed the Solar PV system in 2007 and paid off the system with utility and gasoline savings in April of 2012.   Since 2012, we have been saving $8000 to $9000 a year in utility cost and gasoline cost.  

We are driving and living with zero energy or gasoline cost.

We are also on a good glide path for net zero energy usage. It’s important to emphasize that we do have some natural gas use.  Our hope was to be three or four thousand kWh more in generation than usage to offset the natural gas use.  As the year has unfolded, we are driving about 20% ( 4000 miles) more than planned and we have been hosting an exchange student for the year.  

We are demonstrating that it is possible, practical and economical using today’s readily available technology, to construct an energy efficient house, to drive amazing and practical electric cars and to provide the energy for the house and the two cars in the garage via solar PV, all while improving the quality of life and economic situation for the family.

We hope for the day in the near future where this is commonplace throughout the country. 

As old man winter settles in (yes we have winter in San Diego) we are enjoying the preconditioning aspects of the BMW i3 and occasionally the fast DC charge abilities of the car.  Last week for example we were on a 130 mile RT drive and used the fast DC charger in Fashion Valley San Diego to give us the range to return home with about 20 minutes of charging. Julie and I sipped on a beer in a nearby restaurant while we waited.  In the pre DC fast charge world, that would have been a 3-5 hour recharge. 

We are very fortunate in California to have a fast growing fast charger network that really enhances the practicality of the BMW i3 and all EV’s that can fast charge.   Fast DC is a game changer and should be standard equipment on all EV's.

A few predictions for the 2015 New Year and beyond: 

As a veteran of EV’s with over 110,000 miles of driving in several models beginning long before there was a level two J1772 standard or public charging infrastructure, I see a “One-Two–Three punch” on the near horizon that will end the dominance of the gasoline car.  

1.         The lowering cost of EV’s, Solar PV, and renewable energy sources.  This will continue to progress across the county with visionary utilities like NRG and other solar companies leading the way. EV’s will continue to be lower in price.  Car drivers will simple find it easier and cheaper to fill up at home. Happening now. (Bonus... this downward cycle will continue and accelarate over the next several years)

2.         The rapid deployment of Fast DC charging equipment across the country.    Beginning at both coastlines then moving to larger cities across the middle of the country, Fast DC chargers will appear seemingly almost overnight.  BMW and Bosch broke new ground with their relatively inexpensive fast DC chargers and other manufacturers will soon follow.   Happening 2015 to 2017. (Bonus…look for utilities to get in the charging game in a big way thanks to recent CPUC rulings.)

3.         The lower end “standard” electric car will have a  125-150 mile range. High end range and moderately priced models will offer double that range.  This nearly doubles the current norm of around 80 miles for most of the EV’s in today’s market.   Happening in 2016- 2017,  (Bonus…look for a shocker of a battery breakthrough in 2016-2017 time frame that will propel EV’s even farther by 2020)

These three advances will result in:
A 150 mile range EV that can be recharged to 85% in less than an hour when on a road trip,  and charged at home with electricity that is cheaper and more convenient than gasoline while you sleep.

…and the world of transportation and energy will then change rapidly and forever.

A Happy New Year filled with sunshine to all!

Thanks for reading and commenting.

(Past "Driving To Net Zero" articles)

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 Field Trial drivers for BMW for five years. Together since 2009, they have driven more than 100,000 EV miles powered from roof top solar.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Month 6, Zero Cost, Zero Carbon, One Hell of a Car!

We're at the midway point of our "Driving to Net Zero" energy challenge and it's looking really good!   The simple premise of the challenge is:

Can we harvest endless sunshine from a small portion of a roof to provide 100% of the energy needed to power a home and two cars with zero utility cost, and zero gasoline cost for 12 months? The answer for us, is looking more and more like yes we can!

I imagine our world in the next two or three years, where EV's will have 150 to 200 miles of range, and where Solar PV continues to decrease in cost and increase in availability and it's use as a transportation fuel.   

We are at the beginning of a decades long transition that will ultimately culminate in a zero carbon system where we supply our own energy from the sun, wind, water, or earth, to power our cities, homes, businesses, and cars.  We are on the cusp of that transformation.

So, how are we doing at the halfway mark?

  • We continue to amass a large bill credit now at $-732.
  • We are very close to net zero usage of electricity.
  • We are driving 20% more than the 20,000 miles, now at 12,300 miles.
  • We have an unplanned for, exchange student in our home for the year.
  • We anticipate having 2 more months of pulling from the grid, then 4 months of making more power than we use. 
Julie is a lighter and more efficient driver than I am.
She is averaging 4.5 miles per kWh, and I am averaging 4.2

Still good Solar PV production

Total kWh usage from the wall for both BMW i3's
Our true up bill is in two months.  We anticipate to have a $550-$600
credit for the year that will go as a gift to our utility. What we expect is
a check from the utility for around $55 as our ending balance.

Our goal is also Net Zero Carbon.

We have reduced our carbon emissions to approximately  2 tons for our household per the EPA calculator.  The calculator is very basic and just considers the household and personal transportation.  It does not cover air travel or food or consumer purchases so our actual carbon production is much higher.

The average US household is around 40 tons of CO2 emissions,
our emissions are from our low natural gas use. 

If we produce carbon, how do we mitigate or offset our carbon emissions?

Our choice was not to purchase carbon credits, but rather to donate to our local Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation a brand new, 9kw Solar PV system.  This system will produce 14,000 kWh of electricity a year for over 25 years, eliminating between 7 and 10 tons of CO2 annually. 

BMW i3 Impressions after 6 months of driving. 

The 2014 BMW i3 is a carbon fiber…slingshot…slot car.

I am once again, just a teenager driving on a real life slot car track, except that now, the electric trigger/resistor has moved from my forefinger and thumb to my right foot.  Go fast, slow down, repeat.

Just like that slot car track of the 70’s, my BMW i3 is also plugged into the wall, now sipping the required kilowatt hours of electricity from the sunshine harvested on my roof.  Yes, you can make your own fuel; yes, you can drive powered by sunshine.   

Unlike any other production car in the world (except for the BMW i8)  BMW has pioneered the use of lightweight carbon fiber, CFRP, to make the life module of the relatively affordable BMW i3.   Lightness via CFRP is the secret sauce in my opinion, not battery chemistry, or the electric motor, that has BMW a full decade ahead of any other car manufacturer in the world.  

How “Badass” is that and tell me the world isn’t entering a revolution in transportation!    

That’s how it feels to drive the BMW i3.  

Does it… you know, drive like a BMW even though it’s electric and made from CFRP?  Heck yes!  Let me go farther and say it raises the bar and redefines what all BMW’s should drive like. 

Not to minimize the many other arguments that favor the electric car; the environment, carbon reductions, lower cost of fuel, no stops at gas stations, and many others, but allow me to go out on a limb and try to convey just one important fact to you the reader.  

The BMW i3 is simply a better and more enjoyable car to drive than its gasoline brethren.

Sacrilege to some, Heresy to others, I know.  But once you have tasted the fruit of electric driving in a machine designed for performance, there is no going back to the antiquity of the gasoline engine.  Forward to a faster and cleaner future thanks to the electric motor.

The BMW i3, according to senior BMW executives, is faster than gasoline BMWs to 30mph.  It’s also has one of the shortest stopping distances of any BMW period. Quick to speed with a ton of torque, an equally important short stopping distance combined with being lightweight are the hallmarks of any performance car, including the BMW i3 which is designed for urban and suburban life. 

That’s not to say the BMW i3 is hard or jerky to drive as the overall driving experience of the car is one of simplicity, quietness and ease, surrounded by luxury and quality materials, however it is a BMW to its core, and loves to be driven in an enthusiastic manor.

On a race track the i3 is fun, but it’s not designed as a track is depending on how you define “track.” I recently had the rare opportunity to drive my i3 on a stadium autocross circuit and also drive many of the other higher tier electric cars on the same course.
The car with the fastest time?  The BMW i3. 

The i3 excels in tight spaces and in the twistee’s, as the low weight, fast 0-30 speeds and short braking show their supremacy.  I have no doubt that on a longer track with longer straightaways, a car like the Tesla Model S would prevail. The Tesla is a beautiful sensational electric car but the relevant question is:

Where is your “track?”

My “track” is the 28 million populated urban jungle of Southern California where I live, I don’t need to drive 250 miles at any one time,  and the BMW i3 is…(Que the music from the Disney Lion King soundtrack.)  Well, you get the idea.

Southern California as just one example of EV nirvana, is where the BMW i3 thrives.  28 million people living in a geo area sized roughly a two hour drive north and south by a two hour drive east and west.  An area filled with thousands of chargers and dozens of fast DC chargers allowing an i3 driver the ability to go anywhere they choose. 

More importantly, So-Cal is an area that has a grossly polluted air quality due to our love affair with the heretofore, gasoline automobile.  Electric cars like the BMW i3 offer the promise of a better path towards an emission free future.   Think about that with every breath you inhale and our cumulative contribution to the health of that air.

Overall specs of various trials of the BMW i3 are 0-60 in 6.5 seconds, and a weight of 2700lbs.  Range is 70 miles freeway at 80 miles per hour and 115 miles city in a more typical freeway stop and go and city streets speed of 35mph.   This has proven through our experience with the BMW Mine E and BMW ActiveE Field Trial program to be more than adequate for our lifestyle. 

Pay attention to the weight, as it is several hundred pounds lighter than other cars in its class and a full ton lighter than a Teslsa Model S.   This is what makes the i3 so easy to toss around the corners and to stop. This is what makes it the most economical production car on the planet to drive with a world beating EPA rating of 124 MPGe.  

But no two experiences or drivers are the same. For those with longer trip requirements, BMW makes the i3 with a gasoline Range Extender option (REX) thus effectively doubling the cars range and offers the convenience of filling up at any gas station.  BMW i3 is unique as compared to any car other manufacturer in the world, as you can have your choice, a BMW i3 fully electric, or one with a gasoline REX.

I can’t predict the future, but I can drive futuristic cars and there is no finer representation of what that future looks like than the BMW i3 and i8.

Bravo BMW.

Thanks for reading and commenting. You can live & drive on sunshine.

(Past "Driving To Net Zero" articles)

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 Field Trial drivers for BMW for five years. Together since 2009, they have driven more than 100,000 EV miles powered from roof top solar.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Month Five, Two BMW i3's and a Home, $-718 Utility Credit, $0.00 Cost of Gasoline

The idea is a simple one, harvest endless sunshine from a small portion of a roof to provide 100% of the energy needed to power a home and two cars with zero utility cost, and zero gasoline cost for 12 months.   

Our prior cars were a Volvo S60R and an Infinity G35.
We spent $5000 a year on gasoline and $4000 a year on electricity.

We now drive the most efficient cars in the world powered by sunshine.
The asterisk on the cost represents the cost of natural gas,
which is offset by a larger credit for electricity.
Unfortunately the credit is not transferrable with our utility SDG&E.

So how are we doing after five months?
  • We continue to amass a large bill credit now at $-718.
  • We have used a net of 11kWh of electricity more than we have produced.
  • We are driving 20% more than we anticipated,  now at 10,700 miles.
  • We have an unplanned for, exchange student in our home for the year.
  • Solar PV is beginning to tail off for the winter.

Less driving in October as we were both away on business for a week.

We have gone into positive energy use from SDG&E of 11 kWh

Summer is now past and we continue on our quest, "Driving to Net Zero Energy Challenge."   After five months of living and driving we have amassed a large electricity credit of $-718 against a natural gas bill of $92  and we have used close to zero (11 kWh,) about $1.50 worth of net electricity.

It's clear to us knowing our past few years of usage, that we will achieve our goal of harvesting sunshine from our roof, providing 100% of the energy needed to power our home and two cars with zero utility cost, and zero gasoline cost for a year.

We anticipate accomplishing this goal four months earlier than planned at our annual utility bill true up in January.  That true up bill will have a big fat goose egg at the bottom with an unused credit of around $-450.

After nine months of driving two EV's
(prior EV's were the BMW ActiveE and Honda Fit EV) and our home energy use,
we have amassed a credit of $-614. 
We should finish the year with a
 ~$450 credit for electricity against a ~$225 cost of Natural gas.

The harder goal to reach will be actual net zero energy consumption.  It should be pointed out that there is no financial benefit, only cost, once you have a zero energy bill and any effort to conserve beyond that goes as a gift to the utility.

We anticipate being within ~700 kwh of this goal at the end of 12 months so it's going to be very close. If we have a warm and sunny winter/spring we might just make this goal as well.

The unanticipated factors working against us are:

1.  We are currently driving at a 25,000 mile a year rate for our two BMW i3's, we anticipated 20,000 miles.  These 5000 extra miles are the equivalent of 1200 kWhs. 

2. We have invited a Rotary Youth Exchange student from France into our home for the year. Lots of blow drying, curling iron and electronic gizmos :)

Our two BMW i3's 

Sungas and Sungas 2 are amazing cars and we are enjoying them very much. You can feel the lightness and the rigidity of the CFRP, which combined with the regenerative braking, provides for a driving experience unlike any car I have driven before.  I really look forward to a future coupe or sports car from BMW using rear wheel electric drive, lightness, CFRP and strong regen. 

The combination of being the most efficient production car in the world at 124 mpge (5X the average 25mpg car on the road,) being a blast to drive with 0-60 times in the 6.5 second range with slot car driving characteristics and surrounded by the best interior design/materials of any car I have ever seen, is a yet unmatched feat in the automobile world.

With the BMW i3, efficiency, performance, sustainability, high quality design and incredible materials such as CFRP are not in conflict, but rather work together leveraging the strengths of each, resulting in an evolutionary change in how I view the future of the private car.  It's only going to get better as we head into the future. 

More on our experience living with and driving the BMW i3's in an upcoming mid month post.

Thanks for reading and commenting.  You can live & drive on sunshine.

(Past "Driving To Net Zero" articles)

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 Field Trial drivers for BMW for five years. Together since 2009, they have driven more than 100,000 EV miles powered from roof top solar.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Range Anxiety 2.0

A mid month break from our Driving to Net Zero Energy challenge and time for an observation.

As a two BMW i3 family, Julie and I have many opportunities to talk to interested people about electric cars, the question about range is always the first one to be asked.  We've noticed a trend that we find very interesting, we call it Range Anxiety  2.0.

With the quickly escalating pace of plug in sales and the greater choices in the marketplace, be aware of Range Anxiety 2.0 because it can become a costly mistake that you may regret shortly after taking delivery of your car.

We're all familiar with the term "Range Anxiety" which generally describes the fear of not having enough electric range for your driving needs.  Range Anxiety is combated by the car makers with a variety of tools such as software navigation aids and DC fast charging in pure electric cars.

Perhaps the single greatest way to ease Range Anxiety is the plug in hybrid or PHEV models which get between 6 miles and 40 miles of pure electric range paired with a gasoline engine that takes over when the battery is drained and that can drive you hundreds of more miles.

Many of my family members, friends and colleagues have purchased PHEV's. Not quite willing to take a major leap into a full EV they go the PHEV route. They all love their cars and electric driving, but to a person, after a few months they all wish they had bought a car with more electric range.

That's Range Anxiety 2.0 and I'm hearing it more and more often.

Range Anxiety 2.0:  The realization that you have  made a multi year financial commitment buying or leasing a car with less electric range than you desire soon after taking delivery.

Comments such as:  "If I only knew how much I liked electric driving I would have never bought this car as I now want even more electric range"  or "How do I trade my car in after only a few months? I'd really love to get into a full electric"  or "I'm hooked and I want more, do you know anyone that wants a six month old car?"    I hear these all the time now.

Of course many drivers are happy to be in a PHEV like a Chevy Volt, Ford Energi or Plug in Prius and that the combination or EV and gasoline suits their driving needs just fine.

Programs such as BMW's i3, three day test drives are outstanding ways for folks to get an idea if the EV model or the BEVx, a range extended model that still gets 70-90 miles of EV range is the best for them.

If your newish or interested in electric driving, are thinking about buying or leasing an EV or PHEV and you have concerns about Range Anxiety, make sure you consider the effects of Range Anxiety 2.0 so that you don't regret buying a car with too little electric only range.

All the drivers that I know want more electric range than they have with their plug in hybrids. Talk to other drivers, research the cars and websites such as Inside EV's and seriously look at your driving needs and the range you require.

Don't make the mistake of buying too little EV range in your next car.
That's Range Anxiety 2.0


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Update Month Four, Still Adding To The Bill Credit!

The idea is a simple one, harvest endless sunshine from a small portion of a roof to provide 100% of the energy needed to power a home and two cars with zero utility cost, and zero gasoline cost.

The beginning, almost 6 years ago with the Mini-E and our Sungas Station.

We continue to amass a large credit on our annual energy bill, more on that below.  

As we begin the fifth month of the "Driving To Net Zero" energy challenge, I'm reflecting on the beginning of our transition from two gas cars to two electric cars powered by solar. 

The Solar PV on our house was first when we built our home in 2006. Then came the 2008 Mini-E and the fascination about the potential to provide the electricity required by the electric Mini-E from the roof of our home.

Will it work? will it go up hills? will the batteries be unreliable? will it be like a golf cart and begin to slow down on the final four holes? Will it be a toy or will it be reliable transportation? Will it be boring? Will the headlights dim like a flashlight running out of juice? Will it start when I push the button? Can the sun make enough energy via Solar PV to power the car? Will my garage blow a fuse or worse? Will I be considered a dork in a play car not a real car?

We kept our two gas cars as we were unsure the electric Mini-E would work for us. We simply didn't trust it, however it was experiment that we were eager to try.

We loved our time with the Mini-E # 187 like no other car before. The Mini-E worked beautifully as fun and dependable transportation, far beyond our expectations. After three or four months of not using the other gas car at all, we sold the gas car and became a one electric - one gas car family.

Two and a half years and 35,000 sunshine powered miles went by fast in the Mini-E. As I was preparing to transition into "my" second pre-production car the BMW ActiveE, an unexpected and surprising event occurred.  My wife Julie claimed dibs on the ActiveE. I decided very quickly it was better for me to drive a gas car and be happily married and let her drive the ActiveE than insist upon driving the ActiveE.  I was miserable for several months wanting to get back into an electric car.

After Julie drove the ActiveE for a year without needing a gas car, we then knew that neither one of us needed a gas car and we transitioned to two electric cars. First the BMWActiveE and the Honda Fit EV en-route to our current garage filled with two BMW i3's.

That's the short version of a very long transition from interested but skeptical, to amazed and excited about transitioning to EV's.

From where we are now having completed that transition, it's almost humorous to think about our concerns from several years ago, if one electric car would work even if we kept the two gas cars.  Yet that was exactly our concern and is a concerned shared by most who are thinking about beginning their own personal transition from gas to electric.  For most, similar to our experience, it will be an evolutionary change with many steps as compared to a revolutionary process. The inertia of the status quo (gas) is strong and difficult to change.

So how are we doing in the Driving To Net Zero Energy Challenge, living in a solar powered house and driving two cars a total of 24,000 miles for a year? 

We're a third of the way through the year with a little over 9000 miles on the i3's. We're still generating more energy than we use although that will change soon as we get into the winter months, we hope to catch back up and get to zero net usage in the sunnier months of March April and May. 

Last month we saw a large uptick in the amount of energy we used primarily from driving our French exchange student everywhere and the cooling of our underground wine cellar during a very hot month.  The good news was that our solar PV generation was also high.  

How can we use 117 kwh for the month and have a -$132 credit you may ask? Simply because energy is cheap at night and expensive during peak hours.   Energy is priced $0.49 per kWh during the hours when we produce extra and $0.16 to $0.20 per kWh during the times when we use electricity from the grid, thus a credit.  You can see when we generate or use energy in the chart below.

Although the challenge began in May, we will be below
zero in cost with our true up bill in January. We are currently
about $445 ahead for the year with just a few months remaining.

A very good month for Solar PV.

We used 605 kWh to drive 2860 miles last month. We had 5 DC fast charging
experiences (approximately 80kWh in total) as we were driving further away
 from home-base during the month.

One last thought for this month.  The air that we breath is not our private property.  The air that we breath is part of the "great commons" shared by all that inhabit our planet.  Our cars and their emissions are our personal property.  We should and must be concerned about the health  of our commons and our role as private citizens in making them better, or making them worse.

Thanks for reading and commenting.  Many more topics to cover in the coming months.

(Past "Driving To Net Zero" articles)

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 Field Trial drivers for BMW for five years. Together since 2009, they have driven more than 100,000 EV miles powered from roof top solar.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

28 hours to 5 hours to 30 minutes. The future is arriving fast!

Julie and I are loving our our BMW i3's.  As a Mini-E driver, then an ActiveE driver and now both of us i3 drivers, I can say to you with experience and certainty the future is arriving fast!

Sungas 2 sucking the high "shocktane" juice in Carlsbad.

Each generation of BMW cars beginning with the Mini-E has allowed more flexibility and a greater radius of usability. In the Mini-E days it was a proprietary plug. Essentially it was either charge at home, find a friend with a Mini-E and share their home charger (this was very popular among Mini-E drivers) or use your 110 cable.

With the Active E it was standardized level 2 charging that allowed us to venture further from home base often stringing together locations with an overnight hotel stay to charge up.   It was a 5 hour recharge time for the Active E.

Now with the BMW i3 we are in the fast DC charge world.  Already in just a few short months we have traveled past LA and gone much farther and faster with just a short 20-30 minute charge to 85%.

The technology is simple amazing and greatly increases the flexibility of the electric car.   It's just a little easier to use now and the planning for a major road trip is getting easier each day.

Currently there are 5 CCS chargers in Southern California however by the end of the year there will be over a dozen.

This weekend in Carlsbad, Ca which is my home city,  the fifth and newest CCS charger was put into service by NRG EVGO Freedom Stations located at the Carlsbad Premium Outlet Stores

Here is a review of the station and my use of the station on 09/16/2014 :

The Station is an ABB Chademo or CCS 50KW Charger. 

I arrived at the station with less than 1/4 charge with 14 miles showing.  I plugged in at exactly 8:15am.

This is the welcome screen.  The rfid card reader was not activated yet so all I had to do is touch the screen for pump 2.   An important tip, after a few minutes of information display, the screen will revert back to this screen.  The charging cable is locked to your car and the charging continues. To get back to the information screen at any time simple touch the pump 2 button and it will go back to an active information screen where a stop charging touch button (see  picture below)  is located that will stop the charging and release the charging cable from your car.

In 15 minutes exactly I charged from 23% to 80%, an increase of 57%.

In 22 minutes I went from 23% charge to 85% charge, an increase of 62%.

I unplugged at exactly 30 minutes.   I went form 23% charge to 91% charge an increase of 68%.  The first 15 minutes of charging delivered 57% and the last 15 minutes of charging delivered an additional 11% as the charger slowed down at around 80-85%.


With this 50kw ABB charger it is possible to go from near zero to 85% charged in about 25 minutes.   In my test, I arrived at 23% indicated and it went to 80% in 15 minutes and 85% in 22 minutes.  It's just a guess but the tapering off begins somewhere between 80% and 85%.

This location is  great before 10:00 am and after 9:00 pm with lots of food and drink options nearby with an uncrowded parking lot.  Its a keystone location connecting Orange County to San Diego County.

When the Premium Outlet Stores open at 10am, the story changes a bit as the center is extremely popular and many cars will be using the charging station.  Last week I saw a Tesla "T-iceing" the location by simply parking in the EV charging space and not charging.   I've also seen the spots with gas cars parked there as parking during the day is scarce.

So if you plan to charge between 10:00am to 9:00pm be prepared with a plan B as you might be disappointed by a lack of availability at this popular location.

The future is arriving fast.  In Carlsbad, the future is here, in my garage and at the Carlsbad Premium Outlet Center.
It's amazing.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Update Month Three. We're killing it!

The idea is a simple one, harvest endless sunshine from a small portion of a roof to provide 100% of the energy needed to power a home and two cars with zero utility cost, and zero gasoline cost.

  • 1/4 of the way through the year,  -167 kWh and a $468 credit.
  • Stats, Stats, Graphs, Graphs. 
  • We're killing it! Ready to make a projection!
  • Our French import.
We estimate that we will be -$800 by Oct/Nov

Solar PV production holding steady at 1326 kWh

Electricity use for the two BMW i3's rose to 478 kWh for the month

We have a credit of $315 for the first seven months of the year

1/4 of the way into our "Driving to Net Zero Energy" challenge and as they say in political election coverage:
"I am ready to make a projection and call this race"

We will be below zero in utility cost and gasoline cost providing the energy for our home and guest house, and the two cars in the garage driven a total of 24,000 miles a year.  In fact we are so far ahead we will accomplish this goal four months earlier than planed with the January 2015 true-up bill from our utility. 

Our natural gas cost for a year is $301.27
We estimate at the true-up bill that we will have a credit of $400 to $450 for our electrical use and a cost of natural gas of $301 for the year thus  -$100 to -$150 in total energy cost for the year.

How about total cost?

As I mentioned in my first post in May, an asterisk is required regarding the cost of energy as our utility does not let us carry over our electricity credit to our natural gas cost.  Essentially our valuable peak hour electricity that we do not consume will be a gift to our utility.  As the years go by we will most likely convert one or two of the natural gas appliances at the end of their useful life to electric in order to reduce the natural gas bill by using our excess electricity credit.

Where are we with energy usage and gasoline cost now compared to 2007 when we began this path to energy independence?

In 2007 our energy cost were:

$3,800 a year in electricity
$   300 a year in natural gas
$2,800 a year for Julie's Infinity G35 gasoline
$2,400 a year for my Volvo S60R gasoline

Total:    $9300 a year in energy cost.  ($792 per month)

This is not far off the statistical norm for a US family which uses an average of 11,000 kWh per year ($3,060 at SDG&E rates) and $2912 for gasoline according to the 2012 EPA statistics.

In 2014 our energy cost are:

$      0 a year in electricity*
$  300 a year in natural gas
$      0 a year in fuel cost for Julie's BMW i3
$      0 a year in fuel cost for my BMW i3

Total $300 a year in energy cost. ($25 per month) 
* we donate $450 worth of electricity back to SDG&E.

You can see how quickly that $9000 a year in energy cost savings will pay off a $30K Solar PV system, $15k in extra construction cost for a thick well insulated home, efficient appliances and led lights and $1000 for a EV charging station in the garage.  We have calculated from the installation in January of 2007 we reached the payoff point in April of 2012.

From April 2012 and for the next few decades, we will have essentially zero or de minimus cost for energy saving us $200k to 300K in energy cost with escalating utility and gasoline cost.

How about total usage?

Julie and I live normal lives, things come up and situations change. The interesting part of our Drive To Net Zero Energy challenge is that we are real people with a real life and not some demonstration house with nobody living in it.

We have been doing really great using a net total of -167 kWh of electricity (generation vs consumption) for the first three months of the challenge. We can extrapolate the prior four months of usage pre i'3s, assuming we had the efficient BMW i3's and the extra 1kw of solar pv production which would have saved us 225 kWh per month. We estimate that by May of next year we will be very close to a net of 0 total kWh used, +- 250 kWh per year which is a normal usage and weather variable.

The French Import.

I bet you thought it was a car :)

Julie and I have decided to make an impact on two young adults lives.  We are hosting through Rotary Youth Exchange, a 17 year old French student named Peroline for a one year exchange. By doing so, an American young man is traveling to France to begin his year as an exchange student in France living with Peroline's family.

Our household has now risen to four and the extra electricity that our 17 year old exchange student will use will most likely push us into the positive use territory.

Hosting a 17 year old young lady French exchange student for a year was not contemplated and is not a very good idea for the Drive To Net Zero Energy Challenge!

But life is life, unpredictable, wonderful and real.  We are very happy to have Peroline as part of our family for the next year and we're looking forward to driving her everywhere, using lots of electrons, to see the sights of our great nation.

Our goal remains Net Zero Energy usage as well as Net Zero Energy cost.
We'll see how the the next 3/4 of the year goes.

Imagine a better future and your participation in it.

Next Month:
  • Charging stations and what's on the horizon.
  • Our CHG emissions 
  • Our version of GHG offsets

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 Field Trial drivers for BMW for five years. Together since 2009, they have driven 100,000 EV miles powered from roof top solar.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sungas Is The Least Expensive Transportation Fuel

"The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades"  
                                                               Tom Cruise 

Gas at $4.00 per gallon, Electricity at $0.08 per kWh, 12,000 miles per car.

Just pinch me!

Here is a handy dandy calculator from UC Davis called EV Explorer.

We thought it would be fun to compare our last two gas cars to our two BMW i3's. We slid the milage bar to get a cost of fuel for the BMW i3's that is slightly less than the epa sticker of $500 calculated at $0.12 per kWh.  This slight reduction is because we drive slightly less than the epa average.

We used the cost of gasoline which in our area is at $4.00 a gallon 
Lastly, we reduced the cost of electricity to $0.08 per kWh which is the levelized cost of electricity for our solar PV system throughout it's lifetime.   Our solar PV system was installed in 2007 and was paid off in utility and gasoline savings in April of 2012.

We are saving $5700 a year driving our two BMW i3's fueled by sunshine. That annual savings is nearly the annual cost of one of the BMW i'3s.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Update Month 2, Driving To Net Zero

The idea is a simple one, harvest endless sunshine from a small portion of a roof to provide 100% of the energy needed to power a home and two cars with zero utility cost, and zero gasoline cost.

Solar PV panels on a portion of our homes roof.

  • Month 2, -118 kWh in utility usage, -$162.57 in utility cost.
  • Stats, Stats, Graphs, Graphs. 
  • Solar PV as a transportation fuel.

A sunny two months has put us below the line,
Julie proves she is the more efficient driver.

Our BMW i3's drove 1667 miles using 381 kWh from the wall, 
and 22 kWh from 2 public charging events

GHG reductions for the month for our BMW i3's

Total utility electric use for our home and two i3's

Our BMW i3's used 381 kWh, our home and guest house used 854 kWh.
In the 3-4 summer months, we cool a 450 sq. ft subterranean
wine cellar so the electricity use is higher than normal for those months.

You can live well, and live Net Zero Energy. The cellar 
is cooled primarily by the stable earth temperature of 64 degrees

Our "True Up" bill after six months. You can see the change
 in energy use when we began our Driving To Net Zero challenge
 with the more efficient BMW i3's in May. 

We began our 12 month documented Driving to Net Zero journey on May 15th, 2014 and we're off to a really great first few months. The BMW i3's are proving to be super to drive and very efficient cars.  We each have approximately 2000 miles on the odometers now and we have had zero issues with our i3's to date.

It is possible to live in a house and drive two cars powered by sunshine.  Soon in the next few years, energy storage will become affordable. A household like ours will be able to make and store some or all of our generated energy, both in the cars and in the home energy storage system, further lessening the load on the grid.

July Focus: Sunshine As A Transportation Fuel.

Sunshine is our greatest, most equitable and endless natural resource. Solar PV systems are now blossoming everywhere it seems, like flowers on a sunny spring day. In all fifty states, homeowners, corporations and civic institutions are discovering that harvesting sunshine makes great economic and environmental sense.

I am excited about Solar PV lowering the sting of utility bills. However, the greatest value of Solar PV is when it is used as a transportation fuel which now presents a viable option to help us solve our most vexing national issues caused by our addiction to oil.

What are those issues? National security and defense costs, measured in both blood and dollars. Major cities like San Diego and Los Angeles having unhealthy air quality, with 60% of total emissions coming from the oil we burn in refineries and in our cars and trucks. Our national and family budgets siphoned off by the ever-increasing price of gasoline, as we slowly, voluntarily, export our wealth from our wallets and purses to foreign countries, some that are openly hostile to us.

The inertia of the status quo (oil) is a powerful foe of change. Its strength and certainty comes from the knowledge of today and yesteryear.

Today there are 200,000 plug in cars on the road, approximately 25% of these plug in drivers are making their own fuel for their own car on the rooftops of their own home.  That scares the heck out of the profiteers of the status quo.

They’re doing so at a cost that is 15% of the cost of driving on gasoline and fixed in cost forever as sunshine has never raised its price.  They are showing us the road to the solution of our most vexing national problem, getting off oil.

We think of our ChargePoint CT4000 Charging Station as a "Gas Station" of the future that fills our BMW i3's with sunshine electrons from our roof.  Just as gas stations have had a foundational relationship with oil companies the past 100 years,  I believe that in the next 100 years, Charging Station owners will have a foundational relationship with Solar PV.

It's a large segment of plug in drivers that already drive on Solar PV,  as the prices of Solar PV and EV's continues to fall, more and more will choose to drive on sunshine.

In California, our energy picture contains an ever increasing percentage of rooftop solar, utility solar, wind, geothermal and hydro. The future is looking brighter and cleaner than ever.

You can drive and live on sunshine at very low cost.

This is our actual cost of gasoline and Solar PV in San Diego
as of 7/01/14.  You can further reduce your cost by
approximately 25% with a TOU rate coupled with Solar PV.

Next Month:  Vehicle Charging Stations: past, present and future and a "surprise" from France that will certainly increase our energy usage. 

Thanks as always for reading and commenting.


(Past "Driving To Net Zero" articles)

Energy Challenge Introductory Article
Mid Month Article: The Energy Grid
Update Month 1
Mid Month Article: Does your Gas Station Pay you to fill'er up?

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 Field Trial drivers for BMW for five years. Together since 2009, they have driven 100,000 EV miles powered from roof top solar.