Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day, living and driving on sunshine.

Happy Earth Day, living and driving on sunshine.

You can live in a home and drive a car powered by sunshine. In our case we live in 3300 sq ft home with a 1000 sq ft guest house and drive a BMW Mini-E 16,000 miles a year.

All powered by sunshine via a 7.5 kw Sunpower solar PV system :)

We have a net metering agreement with SDG&E that allows us to pay once a year for the energy for our home. For the 2010 year we estimate our total energy use will be between 0 and $100. There is an outside chance we could be below zero but it's a rainy year so I think not.

In the early part of the year, January through March, we use more energy than we produce and we have a bill. In the mid part of the year from mid March to October we generate more energy than we use and we have a credit each month for 6 months. In November and December we again use more than we generate and we have a bill. At the end of the year we are essentially energy neutral or net zero.

In actuality the home produces far more energy than it consumes because it is also supplying 3500kwh, the equivalent of $2000 of gasoline annually to power the Mini-E.

This is our most current bill and you can see that we started at 70304 and ended at 70297. a -5 KWH usage for the month. The normal SDG&E bill does not give you credit for generation so the top lines of -270 and -75 show 0 when in reality you get paid for that at the higher peak rates.

This is the net metering bill that you keep track of the year with. It comes together with the normal bill above. You can see in January and February we had a bill of $102.42 and $65.49 and then in March we dipped below zero and have a credit of $-11.72 and a total KWH usage of -5

From now until October we will have a credit each month. In May the summer rate structure begins which is far better for us as far as getting paid for solar production and we will have credits around $40 to $60 per month. The below chart is an approximation of how our year looks.

The Solar PV system is now two years old with the new "gas station" addition 8 months ago. We have generated almost 20 megawatts of energy with a value of $8500 in electricity and gasoline. This represents around 35% of the total system cost ($26,000) and puts our break even point at around 6 years, less if electricity rates or gas rates spike. Less if you fiqure the HELOC loan interest is deductible off your taxes and the sdge bill is not.

Remember, this is 6 years of the same payments you are already making to SDG&E and you local gas station, it's not a new payment.

How can anyone afford not to do solar.
Cheers and Happy Earth Day!


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

All this has me thinking. What would I really like for my future car?

Mini-E #183 is in the shop for a few days (3rd scheduled service at 14,000 miles) no real problems just a data download and I have them looking at a tweak here and there.

I’m driving a pearl white Cooper S for the next few days and it’s a pretty stark difference than #183. On the whole; the car stumbles, rumbles, roars and “paddles” as in shifting, its way up and down the 6 gears. I already miss the jet engine smooth and super quiet acceleration and regen-deceleration of the Mini-E, sans gears, oil, and transmission. I dread going to the gas station.

On the likes, I love the sunroof, it’s fun playing with the paddles, the car is a little lighter in the corners but not drastically so, and I really like being able to turn on the sport mode and turn off the DSC for a little fun on appropriate roads.

I am an enthusiast driver.

All this got me thinking. What would I really like for my future car? ... if I were king.

I’m in a two car family, have a 20 mile round trip commute, and my wife is perfectly happy in the Ford Escape, she prefers sitting up a bit as compared to a lower seating position. That pretty much gives me a wide playing field as to my desires and choices for a car.

I am an enthusiast driver, so here is the car for Peder.

I hope you're listening reading this BMW/Mini.

I love the Mini! Best, most fun car I have had in my 32 years of driving!

So it begins with a Mini. Strip every last thing from the car much like the Porsche Boxter Spyder. No air (the tops down), no heat (I’ll wear a sweater) no radio, (I will take an integrated I-Phone charging dock,) just a bikini top to keep most of the wetness out on the occasional rainy day. No power windows or door locks, the most basic and lightest materials used inside the car and if your can spare a little extra carbon fiber, on the body panels and seats as well. No rear seat, but a bigger cargo area than the Mini-E and a greatly reduced in size and weight dashboard.

I’ll keep all the airbags thank you.

Give me the same 205 horsepower electric motor as in the Mini-E, the new 2nd gen batteries like in the Active-E. I only want 25kwh, not 35khw of batteries but I want them spaced in the front and back like the Active E for optimum weight. I want to be able to select the DSC off or on, and I want the suspension to be able to handle the horsepower and torque so no need to detune the controller/motor at take-off. I’m fine with the top speed governed at 95. Lastly an integrated aero kit and a j1772 connector.

That’s my dream car, A Mini-E “Peder Spyder Special”

2250 pounds of open air driving.
A 0-60 time in the low to mid 5 second range,
Range of around 90-100 miles with less batts (thanks to the lightness and aero of the car)

That is something to dream about. That is my ultimate car. Until then, I’m looking forward to getting Mini-E #183 back from the shop to continue this most excellent adventure.

#183 driving on sunshine

Monday, April 5, 2010

E-RV “HomeE” #183 An earth shaking camping experience!

What an incredible 3 days camping with Mini-E #183. The Mini-E can hold all the needed gear as you can see in the picture. The Mini-E is far more than just an urban commuter car. With campgrounds and soon an electric charging infrastructure in place there will be no limits to what you can do or where you can go.

First a beautiful 90 mile drive out to Borrego Springs, The drive involved an elevation change of 4800 ft. (nearly a mile straight up) from sea level to the peak of the mountains back close to sea level at Borrego. Most of the drive was at around 50 to 60 mph on back twisty roads that the Mini E just loved. We arrived with 15 miles left on the range indicator. The next morning after a full charge the range indicator showed 107 miles.

Speaking of charging,

We thought we were going to recharge at 110 volt 12 amp which would take 28 hours to recharge. But we found a better way!

The first night we charged at our camp site, the electrical box had two twenty amp breakers tied to a 30 amp plug and a normal 110 receptacle. First we tried the supplied cable to the normal 110 outlet with the setting on the Mini-E at 12 amps. The meter turned slowly but this worked fine and we would have no problem charging to full over the next two days.

We then tried a 30 amp RV pigtail we purchased and used the 32 amp charger setting.
We were surprised that the 110 cable supplied with the Mini-E could handle the 32 amp setting without tripping but it did. The meter was flying and we were able to fully charge #183 in just over 8 hours. This is three times as fast as at the 12 amp setting and meant that we could drive like crazy the next day!

The next day it was out and about in the beautiful Anza Borrego Desert. The flower season is spectacular and we drove 93 miles around the desert and to the Salton Sea, we also hiked several miles all over the desert. We returned to the camp site in the early afternoon and we were sitting by the pool, when the big 7.2 earthquake centered about 80 miles away hit!

The shaking was intense and lasted for a solid minute, water lapped over the pool as the earth shifted under our feet. Buildings creaked and Julie leapt out of the way of the pool shade structure she was laying under as it swayed and creaked as well. Everyone was OK and Borrego had a few broken windows and water pipes along with boulder strewn roads but no major damage.

That evening we decided to try and charge #183 at the next site over, This only had a 30amp breaker and a 30amp receptacle. Even though the car was set to 32 amps this also worked just fine and the car was fully charged, charging from 1pm to 9pm.

This morning it began to sprinkle in the desert and Julie and I decided to pack up and head home. Same trip in reverse except this time we had rain, a very strong headwind and 40% temps but the Mini-E handled the 90 miles and grade changes no problem, we arrived home with 6 miles on the range indicator.

The Mini-E is a super fun camping vehicle and works great at RV sites with plug ins. Julie and I had so much fun we are planning a longer 10 day trip up the coast of California this summer using the same 32 amp 8 hour charging strategy as we hopscotch and recharge nightly.

We had a blast!


1 Six person tent
2 Sleeping bags
1 King size air mattress
2 Pillows
1 Two burner stove
2 Bottles of propane
2 Folding chairs
1 Duffle bag of cloths
1 Duffle bag of cooking gear and utensils
1 Lantern
1 Flashlight
1 First Aid Kit
1 Digital camera & bag
1 Air mattress pump
1 Bag of food products

For most of the food & beverage supply we shopped out in the desert after making camp.