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.


  1. eder,
    Keep on EVing + PVing! Don't know much about NRG, but Xcel Energy here in Colorado (they're also in Minnesota, other midwestern states, I think) is battling against rooftop solar the past couple of years after supposedly supporting it. It sees a big threat to its monopoly business model, as do too many other utilities. I think they'll lose in the long run, but they're going to make sure the long run goes as long as possible for them, meaning, unfortunately, I see rooftop PV being slowed significantly along the way. Going to have to face the Xcel Energy music soon: Selling my house, giving up the solar, and will have to pay more for a new system on a new house (my wife and I have separated -- it's been a very rough year for me), than I did 5 years ago, when I paid $1.42 per watt out of pocket, or $8,000 for our 5.6 kW system. Won't break even on it, as I didn't add a LEAF until 10 months ago, have saved $6,000, including about $1,500 in gas, but will fall $2,000 short after 5 years with the system.

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