More Napkin math, OR – Real Goods Solar and BMW’s program is a REAL GOOD deal!

Saving money while saving the environment is an addictive process.  It’s crack for good Karma!  I feel like Michael Corleone in the Godfather III, I try to get away from it, but they keep dragging me back in!

As I had indicated on my Ping! post, I got “unofficial” Permission to Operate (PTO) on August 17, 2012 and finally received official PTO ten days later on August 27, 2012.

So, we’re now running our car on Solar Power…  or are we?  Unless your house is completely disconnected from the electric grid, what you are really doing is netting out generated power from the solar panels on the roof with consumed power from the electric grid.  So, if you’re overproducing power from your solar panels than what you’re consuming, you get money back, otherwise you’re really just netting out what you’ve made with what you’ve used.  As I have published previously, the rate to charge depends a lot on what tariff you’ve chosen.

In my first napkin math post, I charged on the SCE Domestic rate which effectively got me charged at $0.31 per kWh as my usage of electricity had already pushed me to Tier 5 for most of the billing periods.  In order to normalize and compare ICE vs Electric, I calculated that the cost under the first plan was 1.714¢ per mile

By my third napkin math post, I attempt to alleviate that $0.31 per kWh charge by opting for the whole house SCE Electric TOU Tiered rate structure, this pretty much reduced my rate to charge to $0.13 per kWh for my car charging needs (as well as my pool pump as I switched the time of use for that from mid-day to mid-night to 6 am).  As we noted on that post, my cost per mile dropped to about 1.412¢ per mile.

So, the big question is what is my cost per mile under the Real Goods Solar and BMW ActiveE program deal.


Before I took advantage of this deal, I would like to tell you about my search to save our energy costs further.  Not necessarily the environment, but that’s always a fun side-effect with this accidental environmentalism that I’ve stumbled across.  After signing up for the Active E, I figured to become educated on what my solar options were.  To that end I requested quotes from three solar companies in the Los Angeles County area: Peak Power Solutions (Sunpower reseller), Solar City, and Verengo Solar.  Each solution had its strengths and weaknesses and around the third week of March (between three to four weeks of receiving my ActiveE), I decided to sign a power purchase agreement with Solar City.

A power purchase agreement is basically the right to buy a guaranteed amount of power from a provider for twenty years.  I don’t own the solar array on my roof, someone else does (a finance company) and I agree to pay them a fee for this.  This means at the end of twenty years I get the option to keep buying from them, buy the equipment outright, or have them remove the array from my roof.

So, how did I compare the suppliers.  Ultimately, economics.  So, at the end the Solar City deal that I had originally signed was approximately $0.10344 per kWh.  How did I calculate this?  All the suppliers with the power purchase agreements have a guaranteed rate of production for the 20 years that the system will be produced, so I divided the total guaranteed kWh by the the total prepaid lease amount, and that’s how I got to the $0.10344 per kWh.

So, I thought that was it.  I signed up with Solar City, got a rate that I felt was fair and waited to get installed.  Solar City’s installation process was methodological and professional.  They provided a website to track the progress of the installation and was quite impressive.  However, their process proved to be the opportunity for Real Goods Solar and BMW’s deal to come in and make my costs even less.  Around the beginning of May, during the design and survey process, Solar City notified me that in order to proceed with the installation of the system that I signed in the third week of March (about five to six weeks earlier) my roof would have to be replaced.  This change provided me with an out-clause from completing the agreement that I signed with Solar City.

As I was mulling through a roof quote and setting up more roofers to see what this replacement roof would cost me, Real Goods Solar and the BMW Active E program announced their program.  So, I figured, why not ask them to see what the solution would cost me.  I contacted Real Goods and they had a sales agent contact me within the day.  Their initial quote was 12% less than the Solar City quote and agreement that I went with.  However, I had to bundle in the cost of the replacement roof and needed to get the total project cost to figure out which deal I was going to take.

Figuring that both solar companies would probably be able to get a reliable, professional, licensed roofer at a lower cost than I would have on my own, I went back to both providers to find out what the roof was going to cost from them and go from there.  My assumption was not exactly correct as my independent roofer quote was actually $500 to $1000 cheaper than the lowest quote from either solar provider.  I was at an inflection point.  I was already saving quite a bit on gasoline with the TOU tariff and this would have been the time to quit or cut bait.  I approached both providers to see if there was anything they can do to their quote to make the entire project less expensive (replacement roof and solar).

The dilemma is how do I adequately calculate my cost per kWh based on the various scenarios.  I figured the most conservative thing to do would be to subtract the lowest roofing quote from my total project cost and use that figure to divide my cost per kWh over the guaranteed generation over the life of the system.  Granted, this methodology would provide me with an understatement of cost as the guaranteed rate of production is typically rather conservative of the suppliers, but it IS what they guarantee, that is why I went with that methodology.  When the system has really sunny days it will outperform this guarantee and my actual cost per kWh is less than what I calculated.

With the total system cost, I figure that my cost per kWh is $0.10250, however, if I subtract the roof cost my cost per kWh drops to $0.07970 based on guaranteed power.  Seeing that my energy cost is a 38.7% reduction, mathematically speaking, my cost per mile is approximately .8657¢ per mile ($0.008657) or 73.58 cents per day based on the 85 mile day that I had in the last post on this matter.  Not bad at all.  Of course, the system is currently overproducing and with time of use I actually am paid a rate for the energy I am sending back to the grid during the day and most of my charging occurs between midnight and 6 am, so this is, like my other estimates “napkin math”, so I am certain my actual costs are lower, but the numbers work for me.  Remember, my original calculation of a comparable vehicle costs were approximately 17 cents per mile, so my 0.8657 cents per mile cost is quite a bit less than driving my ICE 328i convertible.

So, there you have it.  My energy costs are a heck of a lot less than it has been.

Want to see what my system is producing, check out the sidebar production information courtesy of Ken Clifton‘s plugin for WordPress or directly from Enlighten’s website.

In a few days, I will follow up this Napkin Math article with pictures and my opinion on the installation from Real Goods.  Let me just say, I recommend them and if you give my name, I get a referral on your system, so contact me if you’re serious and I will recommend them.

Interested in going solar? Get a quote from my solar vendor – Real Goods Solar.


National Plug in Day… Pre-event planning.

If you were sent here by this month’s BMW Electronaut Newsletter, welcome to my blog.  I am STILL drafting my Real Goods post and need to come up with how to handle calculating cost per kWh over the solar array.  Since Sunday, September 23, 2012 is National Plug In Day, I figured to write about that first.  I was inspired to look into this event by a post on the Active E Forums by Keith Davidson and so I figured to participate.

One of the benefits in living in the southernmost city in Los Angeles County is that it is very efficient to go behind the Orange Curtain to Orange County for things.  When I used to drive my Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars more often, I would often fill up at the Costco in Cypress as it is often significantly cheaper in gasoline to buy my gas there than at a Costco in Los Angeles County and the location is somewhat convenient to home.

My gasoline border incursions have gotten to be fewer and farther in between as I don’t often have to purchase petrol as I have taken to carpooling with the better half on many days as I attempt to catch up to Tom Moloughney and his challenging 100 mile a day average (sadly still behind).

This Sunday, September 21, 2012, is National Plug In Day.  What can I say, I’m an Electronut and want to check out others cars and have the opportunity to be an EVangelist for electric vehicles, so I scheduled myself to visit BOTH the Los Angeles and Orange County Plug In Day festivities. (Recap of LA Plug In Day Experience here)

The one in Los Angeles will be held in El Segundo at 610 Lairport St, El Segundo, CA 90245 and this is approximately 25 miles away from home and the one in Orange County is at the Mitsubishi of North America’s Headquarters (a few blocks East of the aforementioned Costco at Cypress) at 6400 Katella Ave, Cypress CA 90630.

The Los Angeles County event goes from 11am to 3pm and the Orange County one goes from 1pm to 3pm.

So, if you wish to come down and say hi, come on over.  I will have sufficient charge to get around and home, so may take a few interested parties out for a spin.  Just leave me a comment and I’ll set that up.  I plan on being at the Los Angeles County event from 11am (the start) until approximately 12:30 pm and at the Orange County event from 1:30pm to 3pm.

See you there!

The Los Angeles County one at El Segundo –

View Larger Map

The Orange County one at Cypress –

View Larger Map

Apple takes away Google Maps, but gives you MAP on the other hand!


I haven’t yet enabled iOS 6.0 on my wife’s iPhone (have a few more challenges before I take that on.)  But one thing that I did read about (aside from people complaining about Apple’s Maps versus Google Maps) is the launch of MAP (Message Access Profile) support on iOS 6.0…

I am upgrading my iPod Touch to see if I can get the ActiveE to read my mail on the iPod Touch, but won’t know until later.

[Update: 4:00 pm, tried to get my iPod Touch to read on the ActiveE, no joy.  It may just be the fact that it is an iPod Touch and not a phone.  The car sees it as a phone over bluetooth as I was able to pair it, but could not get music to play over the connection.  I tried to see if Show Notifications on the device setting under Bluetooth (default off, I turned it on) would do anything, and still no joy.  I had the iPod Touch connected to the Internet via a MiFi that I carry, so it had Internet access.]

I found the following articles to be helpful

I will report further once I have tested it out.

[Update: 9/27/2012 Noon PDT.  I borrowed my colleagues’ iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s that were both running iOs 6.0.  No joy on either.  I was able to pair both phones to the ActiveE.  I went into each one’s bluetooth configuration for the car and told each phone to allow Sending messages over that specific bluetooth link.  I then sent text messages to both phones.  Waited a couple of minutes and no messages were notified or viewable on the car.  Messages were received by the respective iPhone.  I wonder whether or not this is an iPhone 5 only feature or if it is user error or my impatience.]

Even though Apple may be removing the built in Google Maps and supplementing their own maps in iOS 6.0, they are at least giving you MAP access.

California EV enthusiasts or soon to be EV enthusiasts, make it easier on yourself! – Free EVSE charger offer

So, I’ve been meaning to post this offer on the ActiveE forum, but several of my fellow Electronuts have already done that…

So, I figure why not post it on the blog!

I received the attached email a week ago and promptly forwarded it to my office manager to forward to our new landlord.  I also sent it to my wife for her people to send it to their landlord.

From: Lynette Mandal <>
Date: September 12, 2012 1:21:25 AM PDT
To: Dennis
Subject: ChargePoint offer to: home charging station owners


Hello Dennis,
We have great news! For a limited time only, ChargePoint is giving away electric vehicle (EV) charging stations for the workplace. ChargePoint is making available one FREE charging station to any workplace location that doesn’t already have a ChargePoint station in their parking lot.

ChargePoint’s ‘JumpStart’ program is designed to assist you with encouraging your employer to install a FREE ChargePoint station. Any California employer with more than 50 employees is eligible! This is the perfect opportunity for anyone with sustainability agendas, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) programs, new construction and renovation programs.


To assist your employer in making workplace EV charging prevalent, ChargePoint can also assist in finding a low cost installation provider.


Why are we doing this?

With the ChargePoint JumpStart program, we want to help EV drivers like you get EV charging services at your place of employment. Some of the most progressive and forward-thinking organizations in the world including Google, SAP, 3M, Facebook, Dell and Adobe, provide ChargePoint charging stations for their employees. With ChargePoint JumpStart we’re putting the power to charge in the hands of drivers!

How do you apply?

You can either take the attached offer to the appropriate decision-maker inside your company or apply through the ChargePoint website by October 15, 2012.

Click HERE to apply online.


The free ChargePoint stations are available on a first come first served basis.




Team ChargePoint



This is not a secret. If you know of an employee that needs a free ChargePoint station at their workplace, please let them know about this great offer.




Seems like a pretty straightforward offer, but there is still resistance to installing EV chargers at people’s workplaces.

I am hopeful, but pessimistic that either my office’s landlord or my wife’s employer’s landlord will bite, but why not try.

Some of the concerns that I have heard directly and indirectly through others that folks have over installing public charging stations in their facilities:

  • Concern over the increase in their electric bill
  • The cost of the EVSE and installation of the charging station.
  • Loss of use of parking space
  • Commitment length for some of the “free” public EVSE installation.  i.e. 7 year agreement of exclusivity for any EVSE installs on the property.

Granted this offer only covers concern 2.  As much as you can explain that the cost to charge an EV is only $.10 per kWH (national average), this is still an incremental cost that the landlord/employer currently does not have.  Others have said that an individual could volunteer to pay for this and it may well behoove you to do so, however, the nice thing about the Chargepoint offer is that it’s on network and there IS a way for the landlord to participate in what Chargepoint will cost per hour.

As for concern 3 on the loss of use of parking spaces, that’s just silly.  I know that my EV takes up exactly the same amount of parking space as any other car.  So, that’s an argument that can be discussed.  Additionally, other solutions have been put in place, such as the one at the Electric Lodge in Venice.  Their solution is to restrict EV only parking between certain hours and allow the spots to be ICEd at other times.


Either way, the spots get used and you don’t have to worry about under-utilization of a precious commodity like parking spaces.

As for commitment length.  I would gather that it’s all up to negotiation.

So, if you’re interested in getting a free EVSE for your office and live in California.  Make use of the offer above.

Charge It! – Great food near public chargers #5 in an ongoing series – Mateo Street – East side of Downtown Los Angeles, CA (Arts District)

This update on Charge It! is a case of great food and Leaf/MiEV – CHAdeMO – Level 3 (L3) envy…


Well, I love my ActiveE.  It gets me almost everywhere.  However, since the J1772 Level 3 standard is yet to be published, BMW released the car with Level 1 and Level 2 charging capability.  Level 3 gets most L3 capable cars to 80% state of charge (SOC) in 30 minutes.  Yes, you read correctly, you get up to 80% of your range in 30 minutes.  Mitsubishi and Nissan support a Japanese standard called CHAdeMO.  BMW, GM and others all decided to go with extending the J1772 format for L3 and that is not quite done yet.

Lucky for you that the food at Church and State is SO great and the wine selection is SO good that you want to stick around for several hours ANYWAY to wait for the L2 charger to finish.

So, what makes it Great! It’s definitely the food in one of the best French Bistro’s in Los Angeles.

We started our meal with the Beef Marrow and Bread. It was AWESOME.

Moelle de Bœuf - Marrow

Moelle de Bœuf - Bread

You get some of the marrow and spread it on your bread and munch. No need for the butter, also as you can tell, it’s definitely carnivore food for that course!

To go with the Moelle de Boeuf, I went with the Tarte Flambee and it was a very good flat bread.

Tarte Flambée 2

Since we were dining in the summer and it was a nice, hot day, figured a Riesling was in order and the one recommended by the Sommelier was very refreshing.

A nice summer Riesling

For our Mains we went with Scallops and Pork, the other white meat. Both were exquisite! I ordered the Pork, but swapped meals with the better half!…

Scallops, Potato Strings and Asparagus

Roasted Pork and Figs

The scallop was tender and plump. It went well with the wine that we chose as well the asparagus on the plate. The Better half let me take a bite of her, formerly my, pork dish and that was great! The Figs and Pork made great accompaniment with each other.

The dessert was scrumptious. We chose a nice, sweet chocolate tarte and paired it with a glass of the 2005 Prieure D’Arche Pugneau Sauternes that was on the menu.

Tarte for Dessert 2

I would say that Church and State rivals another of my favorite French Bistros in Southern California and gives Bouchon in Beverly Hills a run for its money.

Now the negatives, the Sommelier was very good and helpful, however, our server was not as interested in taking care of us.  The restaurant had a lot of people, however, the restaurant also had adequate staff to cover all tables. Our server had a disinterested demeanor about her when she did get around to following up with us. Luckily, it’s a French bistro, so such behavior makes me think of other bistros I have been to in Paris…  Wait, that’s not right, I’ve had better, attentive service in Paris.

However, the biggest negative for me is really the location. It’s on the scary Arts District on the way East side of Downtown Los Angeles. Fine in the summer, really dark in the Fall/Winter. The neighborhood directly between the restaurant and charging station parking lot is well lit, but the rest is really dodgy.

Here is the Google Map to the restaurant

View Larger Map

Here is the Google Map to the Parking Lot, it’s across the street from the restaurant.

View Larger Map

That being said, Church and State does have great food, well-lit blocks between it and the parking spot and charging stations. The parking spot is $5 to park, lots of ample parking on the street for free. Blink Network chargers and this was free to charge at the time that I used it, however, a lot of these have gone to whatever plan you’ve signed up for with Blink!

Coming up next on the blog will be my post on Real Goods Solar and how they won my business from Solar City with the partnership with BMW and good timing on the deal announcement as it related to my Solar City installation.  I’m figuring out my math (and getting a whole new napkin to do that calculations with.)