Friday, July 4, 2014

Independence Is Empowering. Go EV Now and Claim Yours!

Today's date is July 4th 2014, and here in the US the 4th of July is a national day of celebration. The 4th of July is "Independence Day" and is a federal holiday which commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring our independence from the Kingdom of Great 
Britain. This was of course a great moment in America's history, and one worthy of celebration.

However for me, this date has had a dual meaning over the past five years. I too celebrate the birth of our great nation 238 years ago, but I also have a little extra to celebrate since 2009, because that's when I began driving electric.
My beloved MINI-E and me in 2009. You always remember your first...EV!
Merriam Webster defines independent as follows: "Not subject to control by others; Not requiring or relying on something else," so it's clear why this calendar day has been designated Independence Day in the US. 

I define my personal transportation energy independence as driving an electric car that is powered by sunlight which is captured on my rooftop solar array. Yes, I have a grid tied array and use net metering so I still rely on the utility to provide power when my array isn't producing. However the net benefit is I can drive as much as I want and I'm paying very little for the energy to power my home and drive my car. I am completely isolated from the extreme fluctuations of the cost of gasoline, and I'm not at the mercy of the supply chain of oil. Ask anyone who lives the EV + PV life and they'll tell you it's certainly an empowering feeling, and part of why electrics are indeed the vehicle of the future. 
Me and my second electric vehicle, the BMW ActiveE in 2012
So far I'm averaging a little over 4 miles per kWh in my i3. My solar array produces an average of about 30kWh's every day of the year. That's enough energy to power my i3 about 130 miles. Compare that to a gas car that gets 30mpg, (which is much higher than what the average car delivers) and it would need 4.3 gallons of gas to drive 120 miles. At today's gas prices that would cost about $16.00. Gas prices constantly fluctuate, and are very sensitive to any governmental instability in one of the main Oil Producing and Exporting Countries, but eventually they always go up. Conversely the sun will always be free, and electricity rates from the local utility are mostly stable. Sure, there was an initial investment for the solar array, but with my savings I'll be cash positive in about 8 years and the array's lifespan is about 30 years. 
In 2014 I'm now plugging my BMW i3 into the sun!
Plug into the sun!

So come join me in the electric revolution! Declare your independence from oil and grab a plug instead! There are many ways to generate electricity; many are from clean, renewable sources and some you can even do yourself. You can never make your own gasoline, it will never be clean, and you'll always be dependent on others to provide it to you. There are many reasons to go electric, but energy independence may just be my personal favorite. Have a happy and safe Independence Day everyone!


  1. Happy 4th Tom. You have become such a great friend to so many of us with your insightful commentaries about the i3 and related matters that I want to take this special day to thank you for being there for us--often during dark, sunless days. Now for a question: As I am a first timer with an electric vehicle, this new world is often mysterious and not wholly intelligible to me. Going further, I have been considering installing solar panels at my home but am bewildered by the variety of companies offering "deals" and the variety of available panels. Can you give us some pointers based on your own experience of how you went solar, and your list of likes and dislikes. Most grateful Tom. Thank you and Happy Independence Day.

  2. Good column ... and congratulations on having both a PVC system and an EV! I have the first but still trying to find the affordable second (though would love to have an i-3 Rex. And, to Dr. B .... we have had a solar system here for about a year and it has been all it was advertised to be. My recommendation is to really do your research before committing to a solar installation company. Also, don't go for the cheaper option. Good quality panels combined with good quality inverter is what you what ... and that means that you won't be going the cheapest route. Also, get the biggest system you can afford, you will regret not doing it in the long run. There are a lot of good resources on line. I settled on a 24 X 255W Q-Cell panels with an Aurora Inverter. Don't go for panels or inverters that you can't find any user reviews on (there are a lot out there that are like that ... you are buying a pick-in-a-poke if you go that route. What is available will depend a lot on where you live of course.

    Hope this helps a bit. S.