Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Zero Energy Home Overview

Click on the chart to enlarge and as your reading the chart remember, if we had no electric car our savings would be about $700 a year greater.

Many folks have asked exactly what is a zero energy home?

It is not a home that uses no energy.

A zero energy home is simply one that use less energy than it produces. This is accomplished 75% by conservation and efficiencies and 25% by generation of electricity.

We prepared this chart including our utility bills for a recent tour of the home.

Living in a zero energy home and driving on sunshine need not be a great sacrifice.

"Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you."
Frank Lloyd Wright

The not so fun, but very important part of being a field test driver for BMW.

About 600 drivers in the Los Angeles, New York/New Jersey, a bit later, Berlin, London and now France and China are field testing the BMW Mini-E Electric Car.

This is phase one of a three phase roll out of the future BMW Megacity car scheduled to arrive in 2012-13. This is a methodical multi nation undertaking of both machine and driver behavior and habits, infrastructure challenges with many housing types, varying climates and differing cultural attitudes from around the world.

While I am sure that much data is being held as intellectual property by BMW, other data points and the experience in general is being shared with the world and other drivers and manufacturers.

It is worth remembering that the driving and experience is being done in real world conditions with individual drivers from all walks of life who are sharing their stories warts and all, and not by a closed group of employees or contractors with NDAs.

In short BMW is putting forth an amazing global effort , trusting their intentions with the grip of the steering wheel in our hands, producing extremely valuable information. Some results contradicting commonly and firmly held beliefs regarding the heretofore alleged poor performance, practicality and range anxiety involving electric propulsion.

It’s with great imagination, adventure, driving fun and now a growing pride and confidence of sorts, that I have been a ”lab rat” for this large scale field trial of the electric car. It continues to be an amazing journey that has profoundly changed my view of our transportation future.

I am the driver of Mini-E #183, and have driven the past 16 months and 21,000 miles in an aggressive, sporty and carefree manor on electrons provided by the rays of the sun. Literally driving on sunshine, laughing my way down the interstate in a state of utter disbelief of what I am actually doing, driving on sunshine. If I can hardly believe it and I am doing it, I can only imagine what the many skeptics never shy of opining are thinking!

Last Monday, October 11th, BMW called and said they wanted the car for a little poking and prodding, the past week or so they have had the car back at headquarters in Oxnard going through the systems, motor and battery of #183 collecting data on the car after 20,000 miles. No doubt analyzing the electric motor, control software and each battery cell to see how they are holding up at 21K.

That’s the not so fun, but very important part of being a field test driver for BMW. This is my 4th service (they look at the car every 5000 miles) but my first time away from the car for more than a day.

It is a field test and BMW needs to understand how the car progresses through its lifespan in detail, so they can asses and improve if needed minor and major systems on the future Megacity car. During this several day period of time I am driving a loaner Nissan Altima.

While a fun and capable car, I detest driving it! I hate watching the meter go down to empty, I have had to put $75 in gas in the car, it is nowhere near as fast or sporty to drive, it makes shifiting and engine rpm sounds that are foreign and for the first time in almost a year and a half I find myself once again at gas stations. My garage has that old gas/combustion smell back.

It just plain sucks. It just plain sucks big time.

Looking forward to getting the Mini-E back, look forward to the phase two BMW 1 series Active E, Look forward to driving electric the rest of my life, look forward to cleaner and healthier San Diego County in the near future.

Mini-E #183, 21,000 miles.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Defining the True Value of Electric Mobility

As consumers, we tend to make our car buying decisions looking through the lens of personal economics. How much does it cost, how much will it save, what will it cost to replace. A dollar to dollar comparison.

As a preface to the discussion of the value of electric mobility let me suggest to you three names, Donald Trump. John Muir, Martin Luther King.

Who’s the most successful? Who has more value? Answer quickly. Now read on.

Clearly, the heft, the longevity, and the enormousness of the accomplishments of John Muir and Martin Luther King, one with the National Park system as his legacy, one with a National Holiday in his honor, are of far greater value and successfulness as measured by our collective history. If we measure by a “snapshot” of life today, in individual terms, one perhaps could conclude that Donald Trump is the most successful due to his omni-presence and personal wealth.

This exercise brings to light two key points on balancing our choices at this critical juncture in the history of transportation.

1. We define value first on individual influences and secondarily on societal goals.
2. We define value first on “current snapshots” and secondarily on long term benefit.

We simply need to change.

The principles of balance must equally apply to our individual desires and our national desires. It must apply equally as a long term remedy and in our daily lives.

If we are to have a successful transportation revolution to electric mobility we must not prioritize the immediacy and the individuality of a decision over societal impacts and long term benefit. We must concern ourselves with the future, and future generations, we must plan with a long lens in balance with our personal desire and day to day living.

The True Value of Electric Mobility. Consider these facts:

From our Military,

Fossil fuel is the No. 1 thing we import to Afghanistan, Fossil fuel accounts for 30 percent to 80 percent of the load in convoys into Afghanistan, bringing costs as well as death. While the military buys gas for just over $1 a gallon, getting that gallon to some forward operating bases costs $400 a gallon.

“Studies are establishing a strong relationship between fuel consumption and casualty rates due to fuel convoy protection." Source: Army Environmental Policy Institute.

How do we put a value on the cost of a soldier’s life transporting or protecting a fuel convoy struck by an improvised explosive devise? Our military is leading the way in solar energy deployment and the purchase and research of electric mobility.

The value is not monetary, it is soldiers lives and a more mobile fighting force.

Our Nation,

In 2010. America is sad to say, a very dependent nation, importing nearly 70% of its transportation fuel to quench our super sized insatiable thirst for gasoline.

The United State of America is far afield from our founding fathers vision and declaration of Independence. Far afield from our founding fathers vision of an active and informed populace, self reliant, self governing, self aware and mutually involved for a greater union. We are today sadly a very apathetic and uninformed “Dependent Nation.”

We can shed this dependency without war. We can regain independence. We can wean ourselves of the imported drug, oil, that is slowly wounding the health of our nation and exporting the wealth of our nation. We observe the obscene wealth of oil producing nations fed by our consumption and purchase of their oil, while we willingly weaken our own country.

This is not a dependency forced on us by an oppressive nation or king. It is a dependency of our own choices and our consumption.

We can recover, we can prosper. We can do this if we can comprehend the value of Electric Mobility and domestic production of the battery, car, electricity, and yes, in the near term oil and natural gas required during the transition. If we can understand and participate in free trade not dependent trade.

The value is not monetary, it is our national independence and prosperity as a nation.

Our Health,

Burning oil in a combustion chamber and then exhausting that oil out of a tailpipe causes 60% of particulate pollution and almost 70% of the CO2 emmissions in our major urban cities. Our transportation fleet is our gross polluter.

According to the American Lung Association The State of the Air 2010 report shows that over 175 million people—roughly 58 percent of America suffer pollution levels that are too often dangerous to breathe. Unhealthy air remains a threat to the lives and health of millions of people in the United States, despite great progress. Even as the nation explores the complex challenges of global warming and energy, air pollution lingers as a widespread and dangerous reality.

In our County of San Diego 3,001,072 population. 70,082 suffer from Pediatric Asthma. 188,661 from Adult Asthma, 95,863 from Bronchitis, 34,760 from Emphysema, all at great risk due to and in part because of particulate pollution.

The American Lung association goes on to identify living next to a freeway as a health risk. Long term exposure to air pollution—especially from highway traffic—harms women, even while in their 50s. Exposure to particle pollution appears to increase women’s risk of lower lung function, developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and dying prematurely.

Busy highways are high risk zones. Pollution from heavy highway traffic contributes to higher risks for heart attack, allergies, premature births and the death of infants around the time they are born. New studies looking at the impact of traffic pollution, even in cities with generally “cleaner” air, expanded the concern over the health effects of chronic exposure to exhaust from heavy traffic.

Now if you don’t believe the American Lung Association, try porting the exhaust of your car to the inside of your cabin and then you can have direct first hand knowledge of the health risk of particulate and Co2 pollution. (please don’t try this as it may result in injury or death, I was just making a second hand pollution point)

The value is not monetary, it is our own health and health of our loved ones and our community.

As Americans, we love our automobiles and I am no different. I’m not suggesting that you forego personal economics or the desirability or attractiveness of a car that gets your blood racing, I am suggesting that you factor in the true cost and the true value of Electric Mobility. A transportation option that offers many values that go far beyond the cost and the basic economics of an auto purchase decision.

Electric mobility can be less expensive, cleaner, healthier, and provide independence for a person and a nation.

That certainly is the case for our family.

Peder Norby
Mini-E # 183. 20,250 miles of sunshine powered electric driving