Minimizing gas use…

So, about a month ago I was inspired by an article, on Plugincars.com regarding BMW’s plan to allow i3 drivers the ability to rent a traditional gas (internal combustion engine/ICE) BMW when they need it, to figure out how often my family uses ICE vs. EV.

Seeing that there are two of us who use vehicles in the family, I figured to count the FAMILY’s usage of Gas vs. Electric.

So, I decided to log my mileage of use for the period between March 6 and April 5, 2013. It was a rather interesting log. We travelled a total of 2,948 miles in this period of which we did 2,499 miles Electric vs. 449 miles on gasoline. I anticipated a heavier gasoline use this past month as we were going to help our nephew move. Ended up not using the X5 for this and he only needed a few items which fit our ActiveE, so, score 1 for the EV use.

However, as things do tend to go to the mean, the 328i ended up with a recall. Of all things, in the electric wiring of the vehicle. As a result, had to do almost 100 of those miles gasoline and 22 of the approximately 100 miles was using a 5 series loaner.

Good thing the BMW ActiveE folks were not planning on the Morro Bay FB meetup until tomorrow, otherwise, I would be adding another 460 miles on gas as I’m not crazy enough to wait the hours needed to charge the Active E on the drive north and south to the meet.

Hats off to some of my fellow electronauts who live a fully electric life, I’m not sure if I can quite do that yet.

These brave souls all live fully electric, or at least nearly so – check out the blogs of Todd Crook, Peter Norby, and Pamela Thwaite

Todd is impressive because the whole family uses the ActiveE, solely! Peter has both an ActiveE and a Honda Fit EV, and Pamela Thwaite‘s family has 3 Electric cars. A Tesla (roadster, I believe), Active E, and a Mitsubishi iMiev for the kids.

Still, at 85% electric vs. 15% gasoline. I think I’m doing well… Saving a lot of money and enjoying the ride!  Figuring that my 2499 electric miles is closer to $21.64 and my 449 miles of gasoline is closer to $85 (using an inflated approximate $0.19 per mile as I do not have the cost per mile for the 5 series vs. my $0.17 per mile calculated convertible 328i cost.)  If I were to extend $0.17 per mile to the 2499 electric miles, I’m saving about $400 on not buying gas.  (not even factoring in $100/hour per the currently controversial articles on Tesla’s leasing program.)

When we get a Tesla Model S (unless BMW comes out with a more aesthetically pleasing i3 or cheaper i8 BEV, not hybrid) and with that range, we would probably not need to drive as much gas as we do now.

Some significant mileage… 25,000 Miles and counting…

ActiveE by dennis_p
ActiveE, a photo by dennis_p on Flickr.

Reached 25,000 Miles a few days ago… Seeing that my one year anniversary will be in a few weeks I figure to write more about my experience then.In the meantime.

25,000 miles all electric. Using a blended 1.5 cents per mile figure (just estimating here since it’s closer to 0.8 cents per mile since I’ve gotten solar at home) nets me a $375.00 energy cost for the 25,000 miles. Comparing this with an estimated 15 cents per mile for gasoline (rounding down ’cause it’s easier to do the math…) puts the estimated mileage cost to $3,750.

So looks like we’ve at least saved $3,375 this past year on the miles that we used electricity vs. gasoline.

The savings are compelling.

Real Goods Solar installation

A picture is worth a 1000 words… So,here are some pictures…

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This is what the front of the house looks like. One of the good things about our house is the fact that the south facing roof (the one with the most power generating capability) is not on the front of the house. This fact made it easier to sell Solar Power to the better half on the aesthetics of the solution.

More front of the house shots. Closer to the roof –

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My new roof looks great, but you’re here for the Solar pictures…

So, the next picture is from the backyard looking up.

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That doesn’t really give you a good shot of it, so… Even though I have a fear of the sudden stop after a fall… (i.e. it’s not really the heights that scare me or kill you.) I decided to get on the roof to take some pictures.

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Here is a nice shot of the conduit runs for the electrical cable.

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Here’s the ActiveE peeking out from the roof.

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Closer shot…

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Here’s a shot of the junction from the South Facing and the West Facing roof… The conduit still looks good.

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Better shot of the junction

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Panoramic of my most productive panels

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Panoramic by the chimney. The shading really wrecks havoc on my production for three of the panels.

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Some of the nice warning signs

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Another shot of the ActiveE from the roof…

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Meter is going backward! Success!

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One of the things you get with Real Goods Solar under this plan is TWO monitoring systems. This one is a closed system mounted by your panel and it is for the finance company to ensure that they’re producing what they committed to.

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Here’s the one from Enphase that allows the user to see what the system is producing. It connects to the panel via Ethernet over Power and then you need to have a port on your router to connect to the Internet.

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Here’s the ports on the box –

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Here is the sub-panel for the whole system –

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These are the breakers for each of the 3 sets –

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Here’s the disconnect for the whole system –

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Lastly, the installation was very clean, here is where they ran the power to the main breaker as well as the Ethernet for the monitoring.

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The conduit on the left side (on the wall of the house) is where the power comes from the solar panels to the main panel.

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I asked them to run two Ethernet runs from the monitoring to the wall so that there’s one spare in case of failure in the future. This sucker is supposed to last 20 years.

That’s it. Several THOUSAND WORDS worth of pictures.

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

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.

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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.

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Ping…

Yes,  I’m still here.

I’ve been busy with our ActiveE and have been on vacation on top of that…  I promise at least two more ChargeIt! articles for two really great food AND charging facilities (here’s one of them – Gjelina at Electric Avenue in Venice). [Here’s the other Church and State – Mateo Street Charger, now caught up for the Great Food series.]  However, trying to decide on whether to do the next article on joining the Solar powered movement.

Still haven’t received my “official” PTO, but I did notice an off-cycle close to my SCE account this past Friday (August 17) (when I logged in to my SCE account on Saturday) and followed up with a call to SCE on Saturday morning.  According to the telephone representative my permission to operate (PTO) letter went out last week and I am now generating my own energy via the Solar Panels on the roof of the house.

Thanks to BMW and its partnership with Real Goods Solar, I was able to get a system at a bigger discount than I had originally negotiated with Solar City.  But that will have to be the subject of a subsequent post.  As well as updates to my Back of the Napkin Math series (1) and (2).

As those that have followed this blog, I’m not an “environmentalist”, I just like to save money.  As long as one has a “long” view, the money savings will follow those that do things that are “environmental.”