Sunday, April 27, 2014

Is it possible to live efficiently and to enjoy the finest in living and driving?

Julie and I are big fans of the BMW i3,  that’s why we’re buying two.

It’s hard to get this down to a sentence or two, but when we built our home in 2005,  our ethos was to partner with nature, harvesting the gifts of nature, building the most efficient home possible.

In doing this, we wanted to elevate, we refused to compromise or lower the enjoyment of our life and the caliber of our dwelling, we refused to reduce our life to living in a small cave with one solitary light bulb,  solely for the sake of efficiency.

Our desire was to express ourselves artistically, with the highest quality materials, design and comfort in the size home needed to accommodate our family and friends, while partnering with nature, being as efficient as possible. We wanted to live in a net zero energy home, harvesting food and drink from our land. Not big or small, not right or wrong,  just our home.

We have always felt a kindred spirit with the designers and the engineers of BMW as we have progressed from the BMW Mini-E to the BMW ActiveE to the BMW i3 all powered with nature's sunshine.  We believe BMW has been on a course to design the most efficient car in the world while elevating the luxury and behind the wheel driving dynamics of the machine. 

We are intoxicated by the combination of efficiency, luxury, materials and design. We believe that this combination not only can coexist, but that efficiency is additive and required for the complete enjoyment of a home or a car.  It makes living and driving better.

Is it possible to live efficiently and to enjoy the finest in living and driving?
We think so.

Bravo BMW. We are excited to soon take delivery of our BMW i3's and to begin our 12 month net zero energy journey partnering with nature,  living and driving on sunshine in what we think will be the most efficient and best car in the world. 


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.