Thursday, April 30, 2015

Month 11, Harvesting America’s New “Gasoline”

Picture provided by Tom Moloughney.

Ubiquitous, equally available to all, zero emission, zero cost, powerful enough to provide the energy for all the cars in the country, and it will last forever.  The only question is…. 

Will you harvest it?

There’s a popular phrase that says,  “As goes California, so goes the rest of the nation” Perhaps a bit boastful, but in the automotive context; the pressures, regulations and trends, the forces that will shape the future of transportation in America, it rings absolutely true.

While most Americans only know of Solar PV as way to offset their home or business utility bill, Californian’s increasingly are becoming acutely aware that Solar PV’s highest and best use is as a transportation fuel.

Californians are harvesting sunshine to replace gasoline.

Solar PV is spreading faster than gasoline on fire...

According to the Center for Sustainable Energy and it’s last EV owners survey,  39% of California’s 125,000 plug in drivers (based on respondents to the survey) are making their own fuel on the rooftops and backyards of their homes with solar energy.   Surprisingly, the percentage of solar PV + EV combos over the years is growing not shrinking as more and more capable EV’s and PHEV’s come onto the market, and solar PV becomes more affordable and more attainable.  

With an electric car, you can make your own fuel. Try making and refining gasoline on your rooftop and let me know how that works for you. I'd love to see a picture.

Californian’s know that sunshine is a transportation fuel.

A fuel that when harvested is 1/10th the cost of gasoline, a fuel that when paired with an electric vehicle eliminates the largest source of emissions that American cities face.  In many cities, emissions from gasoline and diesel powered transportation contribute to over 50% of the man made pollution in that city. 

When a person in a city makes a decision to drive electric powered by renewable energy, each and every breath of air that we all share as a great “commons,” that we all inhale,  becomes cleaner for all, and health related issues of air quality are improved for all.  

Solar PV when used as a utility offset is good. Solar PV when used as transportation fuel is an enabler of financial savings and family wealth building due to tremendous gains in efficiency.

How, Why, What's the difference?

Solar PV when used to power the home, powers the same appliances, light fixtures and electronic devices that the utility supplied energy powers.  These appliances and devices are no more or less efficient whether powered by solar or utility supplied electricity.   Solar may be less expensive with zero emissions, but there is no inherent efficiency savings for the devices and appliances it powers.

Solar PV when powering a car enables an efficiency savings of between 300% and 400% as compared to gasoline powering a car.   Simply stated, a gasoline car will go 25 miles on average, and an electric car will go 100 miles on average using the same amount of energy.  Said another way, the electric motor is 3 to 4 times as efficient as a gasoline engine in converting energy to power the wheels.

In large measure because of these efficiency gains, the economic return of sunshine being harvested as a transportation fuel, is twice as great as when it is used as a utility offset to power a home or business. Even greater is the environmental benefits which are four times as great, as the emissions in our cities from our cars is four to five times greater  than the emissions from our homes.

It is for these reasons that Solar PV should be first and foremost thought of as a transportation fuel and secondarily as a utility offset for a home or business.  

Both are awesome, both are needed, but there can be no doubt that the greatest environmental benefit and the greatest financial savings are when solar PV is used to replace gasoline. 

As goes California, so goes the rest of the nation.  Bet on it.

We are demonstrating with this challenge that if you have an efficient home, efficient cars and solar PV, you can power your home and cars with sunshine zeroing out utility bills and gasoline bills.

As we progress forward, our experience and example becomes easier to do for others as solar becomes less expensive, efficiencies continue to improve, electric cars become better, less expensive and homes including the appliances, gizmos within, continue to become more efficient.  Energy storage via home and grid size batteries, on the near horizon, will also give a huge boost to solar and EV adoption rates.

We are just at a beginning.   But harvesting sunshine as a transportation fuel is spreading rapidly across America and it will not be stopped.  

Sunshine is America's new "gasoline."

May your days be filled with sunshine, onto the month 11 "Driving to Net Zero" energy challenge results. 

Our best month ever generating 235 more kwh's than we use.
Roughly 35% or our solar PV is used to power the cars, 65% to power the home.
We are now at 20,000 miles total of both BMW i3's, We have used
4.74 megawatts of electricity.  4.2 miles per kwh.

Imagine that your 2 car fuel cost and the cost of utilities for your home,
 could be below zero
We are already below zero in both cost and usage this year and the peak season
has not yet started.  The world leading efficiency of our two BMW i3's
are the main reason.

Next month will be the conclusion of our 12 month "Driving to Net Zero" energy challenge.  What an amazing year for us.

Thanks as always for reading and your comments.


(Past "Driving To Net Zero" articles)


  1. Peter, I got the U.C. Davis survey and the i3 was my first EV. How I was selected, only the gods know.

  2. Your blog has been most interesting and stirs all kinds of future possibilities. I can't clone your efforts because I live in a VERY 4 season climate where both heating and A/C are required. But I'm about to embark on the journey by the acquisition of an i3 (ReX -- due to mountains). I live at 5,600 feet and must travel over a 7,500 ft summit to travel the 45 miles to Salt Lake. The first step is acquiring the car; next is to install an L2 charger in my garage; finally, I'd like to put in a PV system to offset the cost of charging (transportation "fuel" as you suggest). Electricity here is ridiculously cheap at 7 to 9 cents per KwH so payback is a problem on a whole-house system. Also, a Grid connected system cannot do more than offset the usage -- i.e. no credits for over-production. But I'd like to get started with the i3 charging project. Can you suggest a resource for designing and acquiring components for an i3 PV-based charger? Any direction will be appreciated.