Friday, February 27, 2015

Month 9 Update! It's Going To Be Crazy Close!

Electricity for the BMW i3's produced just 15 feet above the cars.

We’re nine months along on our 12 month “Driving To Net Zero” challenge.
To recap: 

“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 BMW i3's driven 20,000 miles, with zero utility cost, and zero gasoline cost for 12 months.”

Yes we can! We popped the first bottle of champagne last month as we documented a whole year with no cost of energy and no cost of gasoline to power a home and to drive two EV's a collective 20,000 (actual 24,350) miles a year. 

Our annual electricity cost for our home and cars, $-36.68
Our credit for unused electricity, $-434.57
Our annual gasoline cost for two cars, 24,350 miles, $0.00
Our natural gas cost, $279.89
Our total cost of energy for the year $-191.36

  The year end True-Up bill, $-36.68 with an unused credit of $-434.57

February of this year we used 333 kWh less than last February
(in the above chart.) This is due to the much more efficient BMW i3's that we
did not have for the first four months of last year.
The second part of the challenge is far harder and speaking frankly, a little crazy to try.   We’re already below zero cost thanks to TOU pricing, any effort to go below zero cost is extremely expensive with zero financial return.  

The three best months for solar PV are ahead of us & our 
French exchange student is no longer here.

Can we make more energy than we use?   We’re going to be close.   We have a 1080 kWh gap to close in the next three months, a time when the sun shines the brightest and our energy use is the lowest.  We project next month to be slightly below zero and then the following two months, we should generate 200-300 more kWhs per month than we use.    

This puts us a little short but there are a few things working in our favor.  Our French exchange student is no longer with us (that will save us a lot of kWh’s,) the BMW i3’s are far more efficient than the electric cars they replaced, and we have a few weeks vacation planned where we will be away from our cars and our home thus less energy use.  It will be very close, within a few 100 kWh's so stay tuned! 

A Focus On Our BMW i3's Charging Station. 

ChargePoint CT 4000 dual head charger can charge both cars at the same time
When you drive a gas car, you have a mandatory relationship with a gas pump. On the face of the pump, you see the exact cost of the fill-up immediately. (that's usually not an occasion for happiness)

When you drive an electric car you have a relationship with your home, where you plug in every night.  If you chose too, you can have solar panels as part of the home and drive from the energy that you make.

In the above electric scenario, it's hard to calculate the cost of the energy used by the car as there is no readout "at the pump" and the electricity bill is shared with the house and only comes once a month.  Residential charging stations are "dumb" and a driver is left to figure out complicated calculations on their own such as usage and what part of the bill belongs to the car how much is lost in the charging process, and what part of the bill belongs to the house?   Let's not even talk about tired rates and is the car or the house responsible for what tier as rates rise? It just gets crazier!

There's a lot to be said about the simplicity of the gas pump with the price right in front of my eyes. To be blunt, we need to move to this in the electric car world and I'm amazed that we have not yet done so.

Thanks to ChargePoint, we are doing exactly that each and every time we charge. ChargePoint has provided us with a demonstration commercial CT4000 charging station with power-share for the duration of our Driving to Net Zero Challenge. It's a beautiful charging station with great cord management.

With this charging station we can charge both cars on separate ports at the same time and track each car separately by ports or combined by the station.   This is how we figure out exactly what each car uses in a month displayed next to the milage of the car for that month.  When you can track it, you can measure it, when you can measure it, you can adjust it.

This commercial charging station is expensive for residential use and way overbuilt in terms of what it can do, but there is good news on the horizon for a smart home charging station solution.  

ChargePoint is soon releasing a residential charger called "ChargePoint Home" that is the smartest smallest and most advanced home electric vehicle charging station.  It's wifi connected and combined with their application and web software, EV drivers will be able to instantly tell, how much electricity they are pulling from the wall, how much electricity they have used,  and then assign a price per kWh to determine the cost of that charge up. It will also let you know how many miles you are putting back into the car and remind you if you have not plugged in for the night.

Coming soon, ChargePoint Home, a smart wifi connected charging station.

Below are some screen grabs of the information we pull off our ChargePoint CT4000 charging station.  Thank you again ChargePoint for the use of this charging station for our energy challenge.  Whether it's a bank account, a credit card, a utility bill or a car charging station, accurate and immediate data is important!

We can see our exact usage for the month for both cars. This is then
used in the Norby Home & Two BMW i3's energy graph. In this month,

Julie's car used 236 kWh and my car used 199 kWh.
Our energy use during the whole energy challenge to date.

Our number of charging sessions per week during the challenge
Our greenhouse gas reductions as calculated by ChargePoint

As always, thanks for reading and for your comments.
Sunshine is a transportation fuel.


(Past "Driving To Net Zero" articles)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

BMW i8 real world range testing (We''ll get back to the i3's soon)

As a BMW i3 owner thinking about buying the BMW i8, I had a lot of questions regarding range in this super plug-in hybrid EPA rated at 15 miles electric range.

Now, as an i8 owner, I want you to know that I sacrificed my morning on 2/25/15 just for you, driving next to the Pacific Ocean, to answer some of these range questions. I know, it's a tough gig, sort of like work, but that's what pioneers do :)

It's no problem to hit the 15 miles of EPA electric range providing you keep it out of sport mode!

Here's the test results, pics below as back up documentation:

City driving: Hwy 101 at 65 degrees, average speeds were 30mph to 50mph. Speeds shown are due to lots of stop signs and streetlights. Eco pro mode fan on.

@21 miles electric range, 4.1 miles per kWh, 25.2 mph. (gas engine starts)

Highway driving, Hwy 5 to San Clemente and back, cruise control set to 70mph, 65 degrees, traffic very light, eco pro mode, fan on. You will see the speed increase as the first four miles are city roads to Hwy 5.

@22 miles electric range, 4.2 miles per kWh, 57.5 mph. (gas engine starts)
@30 miles, 98.8mpg, 57.5 mph (first dip below 100mpg)
@40 miles, 71.7mpg, 59.8 mph
@50 miles, 61.2mpg, 61.6 mph

If you drive it like a beast in sport mode, no EV range and 25 mpg. (I know this from experience and it will put more miles back on your EV range)


I'll start off every day with a full charge, and my personal driving habits are:

55% of my trips are below 20 miles RT and will be done on all electric.
15% of my trips are below 30 miles RT and will be at 100 mpg.
10% of my trips are below 40 miles RT and will be at 70mpg.
10% of my trips are below 50 miles RT and will be at 60mpg.
10% of my trips are longer and may be as low as 28mpg.

(minus 10% of the above because I like to flick it over to sport mode every now and then :) )

Incredible efficiency and incredible performance in this beautiful work of art and engineering.


city driving, gas engine starts at 21 miles

Hwy driving, gas engine starts at 22 miles

30 miles, dips below 100 mpg.

at 40 miles 

at 50 miles.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

i3 - i8 - i thoughts.....

"Top of the Mind" quick thoughts about these two great cars.

1. The i8 is the car of the century. Carbon fiber, Heron wing doors (could not resist as our home is Herons' House.) Through the road all wheel drive, a v8, v10, v12 supercar performance, with a straight 3 and the electric motor from the i3. The excellence of the entire package.

A quiet front wheel drive winged angel in electric mode and a screaming full throated all wheel drive nasty beast in sport mode. 

60 - 80 mpg in a typical (25miles) days drive beginning with a full charge. A stunning work of art that does 0-60 in 3.6 seconds according to car and driver and me. Stealth mode while driving in the city up to your favorite restaurant or hotel (the coolest of the bunch)

2. The i8 makes me appreciate our i3 even more. In typical brand hierarchy, the top tier car will be the most well appointed, the next level, somewhat less so, the next level somewhat less so, and so forth. We have both the Tera World i3 and the Tera World i8. The i3 interior is just as nice as the i8. In fact, with the wood dash and floating screens, the i3 interior is even better in my opinion, than the i8. The i8 does have custom stitching similar to the ActiveE.

3. The white color in the i3 is one of two standard colors. The white color in the i8 is the only premium color with a $1200 upcharge. Strange? As far as I can tell with the naked eye, I can see no difference in the i3 and the i8 regarding the white paint.

4. I'm better looking in the i8.

5. You can tell they're siblings if not twins, not identical twins, but twins.

6. The i3 features more advanced hi tech such as the self parking and the adaptive cruise control. The i8 does not offer either. Both have collision avoidance and pedestrian avoidance. The i8 has this really cool from the top looking down back up screen. How the heck did they do that?

7. The i3 professional nav is much larger than the i8 nav screen.

8. The i8 has the same HK stereo with the same watts as the i3 if you have the HK stereo option. Both sound the same and amazing. I would pay extra to upgrade to a Bang & Olufsen system, but then again, I am Danish!

9. I'm sexier in the i8.

10. The i8 draws from me and those that see the car, a lustful emotional response. Different than a Lambo, Ferrari or other. It's more approachable and beautiful in some unexplainable sort of a way. The i3 draws interest, curiosity and inquisitiveness, but not lust. So do you want practical or sensual, dare I say sexual ... I suggest both.

10. The blue seat-belts are the bomb! Please offer in the i3.

11. I loved the adjustable interior light show of the Mini-E. This went away in the ActiveE and also is not present in the i3, except for the really cool blue interior light when you unlock before you open the door. In the i8, it's an amazing display of interior thin light strands that can change from white to orange to blue with various levels of intensity. It's simply stunning. Please bring this to the i3!

12. I'm 6ft 4in, and 300 pounds. I drop right into the i8 and can get out just as easily thanks to the long doors. I prefer the one leg in and then drop in technique, reversing that on the way out. You don't open the door and "get in and get out" of the i8. You swing the door up and you fall in and extract yourself out. But it is so so worth it.

13. The seating position in the i8 is very similar to the ActiveE. It is not as low as the Mini-E where you were basically sitting on the floor board, legs unbent straight forward, and not as high as i3. Julie loves the higher seat position of the i3 , but is very happy that the i8 is more like the ActiveE than the Mini-E which she did not like.

14. Good to very good visibility in the i8, considering its form factor this is a remarkable achievement. Great visibility in the i3.

15. The i8 is as simple to drive as the i3. Less regen in the i8 however when you use the brakes, there is regen on the brake pedal as well. This is a similar arrangement, although better implemented by BMW, as the Honda Fit EV.

16. In the i8, the little shift knob, when positioned to the right is good Peder. When flicked to the left it is bad Peder. I can be good or bad depending on the shades of....(never-mind)

17. I did 24 miles of EV drive today in the i8 before the gas engine kicked in for the last mile of our 25 mile drive to the county building this morning. Our mpg was somewhere north of 99.9mpg.

18. The i8 puts into focus what a great bargain the i3 is. Truly, the i3 at it's price point is an amazing car. It's helpful to have the i8 and to see how similar and how much of the same technology is in the i3.

19. Our i8 will join our i3 as an electronaut version very soon.

20. Bravo BMW.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

"Breaking the Inertia of the Status Quo"

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

In 2007 I began to drive a Gem e4 Neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV) powered by roof top solar, It was a personal experiment connecting affordable solar PV "sunshine"  to transportation.

In 2009 I began to drive the BMW Mini-E,  a full electric car capable of around 90 miles of driving between charges.

At that time, in 2009, there were just the Mini-E and the Tesla Roadster drivers with no charging infrastructure,  aiming at the goal of a better future for transportation.

That hopeful vision of the future was far from assured.

We had been down this road before, about a decade earlier with the GM EV1 and the Toyota Rav4EV and a few other smaller production run cars.   That episode in the development of EV's ended in disaster, and potentially our era would follow, arriving at the the same destiny.

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

By 2011 Chevy, Nissan, Tesla, BMW and others were in the EV game for good.  No longer an R&D exercise, billions of dollars of plant development were green lighted for full production of the electric car. The future of the EV was almost certainly going to go forward with no chance of the stalled effort of the GM EV1 and Toyota Rav4EV.

Today, in 2015,  we are looking at dozens of manufacturers and an ever growing number of plug in cars.   From those first days of 2009 and less than 1000 cars on the road, to now, just five years later and 300,000 cars with plugs on the road. Amazing exponential growth.

2017 looks to be the tipping point  where the average electric car will improve to 150-200 miles per charge with both battery density and cycle duration increasing, with many manufacturers offering high volume electric cars.  There  ends the main obstacle of electric cars, range anxiety.

It's possible, I would say predictable, that we will see a perfect storm in favor of EV's in this 2017-2020 time frame. Extremely high gas prices and several models of 150-200 mile EV's powered mostly by renewable energy. 

It would not be surprising to see 30% of all cars sold being a hybrid or better with roughy 10% being pure electric by 2017.  Exponential growth will continue. By 2020,  a true revolution takes hold in transportation, the replacement of the gasoline vehicle feet will be underway en-masse. 

Below is my view on why the electric vehicle will replace the gasoline powered car, and why it will do so very soon:

Top Ten reasons why the electric car will make the existing gasoline car obsolete.

1. They’re quicker.

2. They’re quieter.

3. They’re more fun to drive.

4. They’re connected to your home, instead of connected to oil.

5. They're part of the solution, not part of the problem.

6. They’re up to 5 times more efficient and1/5th the cost to operate over the lifetime of the car. (energy conservation is wealth creation)

7. You can make your own fuel on the roof of your home.

8. They clean our air. Every EV that replaces a gasoline car makes every breath we take, cleaner and healthier.

9. They’re technologically superior, yet far simpler machines.

10. They will usher in a new transportation future including multiple mobility choices for our cities.

Bet on it :)