Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Mini-E, a valuable car in the drive for a more sustainable lifestyle

Julie and I took a 40 mile RT drive in Mini-E #183 today to visit with our friends Andy and Tess in Vista Ca.. They live in a beautiful 1400 sq ft. craftsman bungalow built in the 1940s, recently restored, on 1.5 acres of land. Julie and I are helping them establish a 800 plant vineyard that we will plant in February 2012. The vineyard will produce around 1600 bottles of premium Viognier, Brunello and Cabernet Sauvignon wine annually. A very nice story, what does this have to do with Mini-E?

The Mini-E is part of the drive for a more sustainable lifestyle, especially if you harvest your own sunshine to provide the energy to drive the Mini-E. Our gifts that we brought Tess and Andy were a Native Californian ‘Indian Mallow’ pupped and then own rooted from a mother plant in our native plant garden, several zucchini’s and yellow squash grown in our garden, ½ dozen eggs, laid by our vineyard fertilizer machines, and two bottle of our home estate wine. All delivered in the Mini-E using no gasoline and producing no pollution.

A peasant’s lifestyle in the old days was a requirement of economic life. I would suggest that neo-peasantry today is a requirement for an enjoyable life. Essentially, a life that is more in balance with nature is a life that is lived to a higher degree outdoors with hands on the earth, living, rather than looking at an LCD screen. A way of life where we are more self reliant, self generating, and giving to our communities and our friends, as we share and barter different goods between neighbors, a more localized and healthier supply chain of food and vegetables and beverages that taste amazing!

Our trip in the Mini-E was made with power harvested from the sun, bringing gifts harvested from the land, grown with rainwater harvested from our roof top, helping friends plant their land, while drinking incredible wine made from our grapes, contemplating a better future…

I’m not sure how all this squares with mega cities with a growing percentage of our population living in cities of 10 million or more. I would suggest to you that sustainability in such cities is a far wider conversation than just mobility and reduced emissions.

We need to keep our ag and food production localized and achieve a balance between the land, the buildings and the occupants. They all have wonderful gifts to share if we are wise enough to use them to their fullest, if we are wise enough to truly be sustainable.

The Mini-E, ActiveE, i3 and other electric cars are a giant leap forward towards that tapestry of a sustainable life. Now all we need is an app that points us to farmstands, farmers markets, local co-ops, and community gardens as well as to charging stations.  Perhaps a Vertical Earth Garden is the way we will grow our food in tight urban areas. They are popping up all over Encinitas Ca.

A raised wine glass to you, Skol!

Mini-E #183, 30,000 sunshine powered miles.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Cost and Savings of our Home Energy Plant and Fuel Station

If you find this writing compelling, please share it broadly.

Cost of the energy plant upgrades with tax breaks $35,000
Cost of the energy plant upgrades without tax breaks $54,000
Achieved Savings after four years $23,720
Projected savings after six years (cost parity) $38,196
Projected savings after nine years (cost parity with no subsidies) $59,910
Projected savings after 30 years $155,980
Projected savings after 30 years (adjusted for rising gas and electricity cost) $445,000

This post is going to be a little techie. This will definitively describe to you how our home energy plant and electric car fueling station is far less expensive than utility supplied electricity and gasoline for a gas car with or without government subsidies. This is our actual experience as a typical family and home owner, car driver.

Julie and I constructed our home and moved in in late 2006. Our base year before the installation of Solar PV was 2007, January 1st 2008 we turned on our first 4.5KW solar pv station.

you can see how it went down in 2008!
In 2007 our electricity use was $4928. Our gasoline use for our Volvo S60R was $2,600 a year. This establishes a baseline of $7,528 a year for electricity and gas use.

Our cost associated with our original 4.5kw solar PV system was $20,000, 2 years later we added a 3kw system to power the electric car for $12,000. We have also upgraded our lighting in the home to LED and CCFL for a cost of $3,000.

The total cost for our home energy upgrades was $35,000.

Without any state or federal grants or subsidies the cost would have been $54,000.

We are approaching the end of our fourth year for the system, I am rounding to four complete years. Our average energy bill for the home and the electric car has been $290 per year for the past 4 years.

This represents a four year savings in energy cost for the home of $18,520 ($19,680-$1,160)

We have been driving Mini-E #183 the past 2 years 15,000 miles a year, saving $5,200 in gasoline cost. The electricity cost is included in the above $290 per year figure, so a net savings of $5200 a year.

Our total savings to date after four years of solar PV powering the home and two years powering our Mini-E equals $23,720.

Adding two more years, 2012, 2013 at an annual savings of $7238 ($7,528 minus $290) equals $38,196

This is a six year savings in utility energy cost and gas cost of $38,196. (Parity with original energy system cost) Our ROI on home solar compared to utility provided energy is 12%, the ROI on solar electric fuel compared to gasoline is 33%

The Solar PV system will provide energy for 25 years warranted and well beyond. A simple calculation of taking that six year savings number and multiplying it by five for 30 years of energy production yields $190,980 or a net total savings of $155,980 ($190,980 minus $35,000)

That simple calculation is in today’s dollars and does not factor in the rising cost of future electricity and gasoline in the next 25 years. Remember solar is a fixed price (the sun has never raised its price) and gas and electricity will continue to rise in cost.

The real savings adjusted for increasing gas and electricity at 5% a year is nearly $450,000

first year, $7528.00
In summary.

Cost of the energy plant upgrades with tax breaks $35,000
Cost of the energy plant upgrades without tax breaks $54,000
Achieved Savings after four years $23,720
Projected savings after six years (cost parity) $38,196
Projected savings after nine years (cost parity with no subsidies) $59,910
Projected savings after 30 years $155,980
Projected savings after 30 years (adjusted for rising gas and electricity cost) $445,000

Multiply our experience by 100 million American households and you have national energy independence, a much healthier, cleaner USA, and much wealthier families and a country.
That’s our experience and our simple road map, take a drive with us :)
Thank you Stellar Solar and BMW Mini-E for making this a reality.

Mini-E # 183, 30,000 sunshine powered miles

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Mini-E #183, 2 years, 30,000 miles.

What a powerful little car.
The single best car in my 33 years of driving experiences.

The fundamentals of our family’s life have not changed at all the past two years, the way we drive our car, historically averaging 12k-15k a year, has not changed at all the past two years. How we drive, primarily with one pedal in an electric Mini-E powered by renewable energy, detours in a radical way from the previous 32 years of driving.

A little over two years ago, I drove up to Irvine for my first test drive of the BMW Mini-E as an inquisitive skeptical Mini-E Pioneer. Would it go slow up the hills? Would it be safe to drive in the wet? Would I be able to get to where I wanted to go? Would I fit in the car? Will it always turn on? Would the batteries wear out prematurely? Would living with the car be too complicated? Would my wife, family and friends think I was crazy? Oh my, the questions!

I drove the Mini-E that day with Huw John, my Mini-E rep, both of us 6’3” and in that short 10 minute drive, a match was struck creating a flame that continues to grow within me. I was stunned at the performance and fun of driving the Mini-E and at the possibilities of living and driving with electricity.

The past two years with Mini-E # 183 has done no less than alter my opinion, my imagination, creativity and hopefulness that we as a family or a city or a nation can become energy independent, that we can become wealthier, that we can clean our air and live a healthier life, That we can have global energy equity with electricity, standing in stark contrast to the have and have not’s of an energy source that is in the protected hands of the few.

For those that are fearful or for outright opponents of the electric car, ( Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh I’m calling you out ) replace your fear with imagination and curiosity for the future, while maintaining a dose of healthy skepticism. The electric car or any car for that matter, won’t work for everyone, but they will work for a majority of American households.

As I have written before, "Our greatest roadblock to our future, is the inertia of the status quo."

I believe, fear is rooted in the lack of knowledge or experience in a subject matter. Nature abhors a vacuum, so we fill that vacuum with the comforts and knowledge of the status quo and with the comfort that 99% of the population understands us when we support the status quo, (especially if we are a talk show host or a radio personality.) It amazes me, the lethargy of our population, and the desire of folks to offer inane comments about electric cars. It reminds me of the awkward times in classrooms a few decades ago when the students knew more about computer technology than the teachers did, so to hide their lack of knowledge the teachers just banned the calculators and computers from school, lest they be thought of as less than the students.

Those of you over forty can perhaps remember being in awe over a neighbor who installed one of the first garage door openers and who actually had a magic “genie” in their car to open the garage door remotely. We would stand in their garage and gaze up at this transformational device while our neighbor drove around the block remotely opening and closing the garage door. Today, nobody builds those old fashion heavy garage doors anymore; we have evolved thankfully to lightweight rollup electric garage doors powered by genies.

After two years our Clipper Creek EVSE, or charging station, is as exciting to us as your garage door opener is to you. Both are electric devices about the same size, located in the garage. It’s just another appliance running off of house electricity similar to your oven, cook-top, dryer, air conditioner or garage door opener.

A daily drive in the Mini-E is about as exciting for me, as a drive in your exciting car is for you, It really is no different. In the two years we have had the car, the Mini-E has been able to make all our trips except two, both trips to Napa Ca, where we would take the Ford Escape, even prior to getting the Mini-E.

In two years and 30,000 miles I have not gone to a gas station. My sympathies are with the owners of the gas stations as I know their future is fairly short lived. I’ve noticed more and more of them are closing, perhaps investors are sensing the same thing. In less than a year from now my own personal solar fueling station located on my roof will be paid off entirely simply by the savings of not buying gasoline for three years ($7,000) For the rest of my life, I will be paying $0.00 to drive 15,000 miles a year. What will you be paying for gasoline for the next 25 years?

A few decades ago many of us began to recoil when being in close proximity to a smoker. At first we would find a table away from the smoker, and later we would ban smoking all together in most restaurants and places where the public gathers. Second hand smoke is disgusting to me and I am sure it was for the food service worker who was inhaling all day. If you smoke that’s fine but keep it away from me because its unhealthy.

As a Mini-E driver I am beginning to look at tail pipes the same way. Why are we polluting our air? In major urban areas, 70% of the man made emissions come from our transportation tail pipes. Imagine a world of electric mobility powered by renewable energy and those emissions turn from 70% into a big fat zero. Imagine those that are living by freeways and heavily trafficked roads breathing clean air once again. I would present an argument that there are as many cars as there are people, and that breathing second hand smoke from 300 million cars is a far greater national health threat than second hand smoke from smokers.

So here is my summary from two years of driving a solar powered BMW Mine-E.
It’s better, it’s cheaper, it’s healthier, it’s more fun, It last longer, It’s better for my neighbor and I continue to have a blast and love Mini-E #183.
You can live and drive powered by sunshine.

Whether the first sunny and warm spring day, or your two year anniversary with an electric car powered with renewable energy, sunshine always makes you smile:)

Mini-E #183

Friday, June 10, 2011

Electricity producers launch free study into fire risks from gasoline powered cars

The study "Fire Risks From Gasoline Powered Cars" was released today.

The Executive Summary concluded that gasoline cars do catch on fire and pose a fire risk to consumers and emergency responders. Further, the in depth technical studies concluded that fuel pumps can catch on fire as well.

In other news,

Fed launching $8.75M study into fire risks from EV batteries

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Explaining the $0.02 cents per mile chart

A few folks have asked how Stellar Solar arrived at the numbers used in the charts. Since we did this based on real world experience and cost for both the Solar PV and for the Mini-E, I thought it might be helpful to elaborate.

For a gasoline car they used 20mpg and a 100 mile trip as a baseline.

In San Diego our SDG&E rates vary from a low of $0.14kwh to a high of $0.31kwh. The average is $0.22kwh so they rounded down to $0.20kwh. Some will go TOU metering, some will not depending on how much energy they use.

Most electric cars get around 3.5 mpkwh real world consumption. Some get as high as 4mpkwh but 3.5mpkwh seems to be a good number for most.

Solar PV in San Diego is around $4000+- a kw nameplate. A 1.5kw system ($6000) will provide 2400kwh of electricity, approximately half during peak hours and peak season ($0.27cents kwh) the rest at off peak rate ($0.17 kwh.) The production of 2400khw, half during peak hours-peak season, equals the cost of using 3600kwh a year when charging at night between midnight and 6am, which is when I charge, during super of peak ($0.14cents a kwh)

25 years at 3600kwh of usage is 90,000kwh. 90,000kwh multiplied by $0.07 cents is $6,300 which equals the cost of the system.

$0.07kwh divided by 3.5 mpkwh equals $0.02 per mile.

There are some variables on the solar such as degradation of 0.5% per year and you will most likely need a new inverter around year 12 (enphase inverters are now warranted for 25 years) however the solar PV system will go on producing electricity far beyond the 25 years, so to keep it simple we just calculated that as a wash.

All that boiled down to as simple of a chart as possible.

Oh, and the best part, not included in the chart, those 3600kwhs will drive an electric car 12,600 miles. In a gas car again at 20mpg, you would use 630 gallons of gas or $2,500 of gas per year. 2.5 years of driving on gasoline is slightly more than the cost of the Solar PV system to drive an electric car for 25 years. This gives a 40% ROI for a Solar PV system used to offset gasoline.

Sounds impossible but that is my real world experience and for most the numbers will be similar if installed as part of a larger house system. A small 1.6kw system installed on its own would be higher in price.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Faster Horses Running On Cheaper Gas

"If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."
— Henry Ford

What people want today is cheaper gas, but is that really the answer?

I am one week away from my two year anniversary, 30,000 miles, driven in an electric car powered by sunshine. Those words of Henry Ford are as relevant today as they were over 100 years ago.

The BMW Mini-E remains the most fun car to drive in my 33 year driving history. The smoothness, the torque, the “jet on a runway takeoff surge” from 20mph to 80mph is like nothing I have experienced before except in a jet:) I am positive that BMW will keep this going in the ActiveE in the short term, then really step it up with the lightweight i3 in 2013.

The Mini-E is also by far the least expensive car I have operated in terms of reliability, and fuel cost. If you are solar or renewable energy powered like I am, today’s equivalent cost to a gallon of gasoline is $0.40 cents, you have to go back to 1915 to find gasoline that inexpensive.

Graph courtesy of Stellar Solar

In the future the price of electricity will only go down as renewable energy continues the long technology trend line of becoming less and less expensive.

Cheaper gas is most definitely not the answer. Funny thing is we still refer to horsepower as our way of explaining how powerful a car is, horse drawn, gasoline or electric. Some things never change.

Mini-E#183, 205 horsepower, 29,500 sunshine powered miles.