Category: Electric Cars that Run on Sun

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12/17/14

  05:39:00 pm, by Laurel Hamilton, Projects Coordinator, Run on Sun   , 564 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Electric Cars that Run on Sun, Climate Change, Ranting

Misinterpreted Study Leads to Negative News for Electric Vehicles

Run on Sun gets a new Volt!There’s a good chance if you’re reading this blog you either have hopes of someday owning an electric vehicle (EV) or you are one of the proud individuals already enjoying cruising silently by gas stations…such as Run on Sun’s Jim Jenal in our new Volt pictured on the right! In either case your ears likely perk up at any breaking news regarding EVs.

Over the last few days I’ve noticed alarming headlines coming from multiple sources. While the key word in headlines such as “Study Finds Electric Cars May Not Be Very Green at All” is “may“, many of the articles state definitively that electric cars are not as green as gasoline cars. I decided to investigate.

On December 15th a new study by the University of Minnesota was released to the press. The study calculated the air quality impacts of manufacturing and refueling vehicles with various forms of power. Below is the study’s abstract verbatim:

We evaluate the air quality-related human health impacts of 10…options, including the use of liquid biofuels, diesel, and compressed natural gas (CNG) in internal combustion engines; the use of electricity from a range of conventional and renewable sources to power electric vehicles (EVs); and the use of hybrid EV technology.

…We find that powering vehicles with corn ethanol or with coal-based or “grid average” electricity increases monetized environmental health impacts by 80% or more relative to using conventional gasoline. Conversely, EVs powered by low-emitting electricity from natural gas, wind, water, or solar power reduce environmental health impacts by 50% or more. Consideration of potential climate change impacts alongside the human health outcomes described here further reinforces the environmental preferability of EVs powered by low-emitting electricity relative to gasoline vehicles.

Did you catch that last part? Electric vehicles, charged by low-emitting electricity (anything but coal) are preferable environmentally alongside human health impacts…to gasoline vehicles. A far cry from the grossly misinterpreted ‘electric cars aren’t green’. Which is simply not what the study says.

The straightforward lessons from the study include three main points:

  1. Electric cars powered directly from the grid have the awesome bonus that they get cleaner as the grid does. Whereas gasoline vehicles have the same or worse carbon footprint for the lifetime of the car.
  2. If your car is charged on the coal-heaviest grids, it causes almost twice as many deaths from air pollution compared to gasoline vehicles. However, I’d like to note that electric car adoption is negligible in the states with the dirtiest grids. In addition, with EPA regulations on existing power plants, much of the coal generation (currently less than 40% of US electricity generation) will be retired in favor of cleaner energy in the next 20 years.
  3. But if you recharge on a natural gas-based grid the EV produces only half the pollution-related health problems as the gas guzzler. Recharge on renewable energy – whether from a grid or derived from home solar panels – and EVs produce just one quarter of the health problems!

In summary, don’t get an electric vehicle if you’re planning on charging it off of a coal-powered grid. Do get an electric vehicle if your grid is sufficiently green… or better yet, use a solar power system designed specifically with charging your EV in mind – see Run on Sun’s website for info! And remember that facts are frequently misinterpreted by the press. When in doubt, read the actual study, not just the headlines.

10/03/14

  06:26:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 176 words  
Categories: Electric Cars that Run on Sun

Use Your Torque Wisely!

Readers of this blog know that the only thing we like better than Electric Vehicles are Electric Vehicles that Run on Sun. So when we came across this clever ad from Nissan, we just had to share (and it is perfect for a Friday!).

Check this out:

Frankly, we had that same self-satisfied smile on our face when we got to test drive a Tesla Model S a few weeks ago.  Part of the test drive was a short stint on a local freeway.  As luck would have it, the light turned red as we reached the on-ramp to the freeway.  As luck would further have it, a 5-series BMW pulled up alongside of us - both of us first to go at the light.  Somewhat distracted by the many bells and whistles inside the Model S (and the patter of the salesperson), we weren’t focused on the light, and the BMW jumped ahead as the light changed. 

Poor little BMW, he didn’t have a chance.

Grin.

Happy Friday, everyone - but remember, use your torque wisely!

06/28/14

  08:36:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 351 words  
Categories: Electric Cars that Run on Sun, Residential Solar

This Charge is on Us!

As a small business, Run on Sun is often approached about novel means of marketing, the vast majority of which we simply turn down.  Part of that is the sense that we really wouldn’t be reaching our target audience very effectively—do people think about solar standing in the supermarket checkout line? Nah, we didn’t think so either.

Run on Sun EV charge station ad

But then, along came Volta and a marriage perhaps made in heaven: an ad for Run on Sun on an EV charging station! Even better, a free to the driver EV charging station at Whole Foods market here in our home town of Pasadena!!!

Voila—we present the first ever, Run on Sun EV charging station in the wild.

The car being charged is a Tesla (natch) and what we really loved about this marketing opportunity was that when the driver gets out of that car they are looking right at our ad. Pretty close fit to a target demographic too: EV drivers shopping at an upscale market in our geographic center.

Are the stars aligned here or what?

Run on Sun EV charge station ad close up

 

Well, actually, time will tell (the ad just went live on Thursday), but it certainly feels right.

The ad features one of our charming and talented clients (thank you, M!) posing before her Leaf with our solar installation in the background.

The message is simple and direct: Your car should Run on Sun!  Indeed, for those of you taking advantage of the free charge at Whole Foods, your car is, at least for that charge!

The QR code in the lower right corner takes you to our newly minted, EV page on our website, where folks can learn more about solar charged driving and us.

And of course, since Whole Foods prides itself on providing locally sourced produce, we got in a reminder that Run on Sun is your local source for solar.

If you make it to Whole Foods (on Arroyo Parkway) check it out.  If you are driving an EV and you don’t have solar yet, we hope this will inspire you to take the plunge.  In the meantime, this charge is on us!

06/23/14

  10:44:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 565 words  
Categories: PWP, Electric Cars that Run on Sun, Residential Solar

Pasadena's Electric Rates Spark Concern

Pasadena Water and Power (PWP) is set to roll out an entirely redesigned Residential rate structure that could spark serious concerns if you are a big user of energy. Here’s our analysis.

PWP customers have been pretty smug (something we are apparently famous for) as we sit back and watch our neighbors in SCE territory suffer through significant rate increases.  Well, no more.  Now you too, fellow PWP customers, are about to feel the bite of a double digit rate increase.  And here’s the thing—the more you use, the bigger that rate increase will be!

PWP has a somewhat hybrid rate structure, meaning that while the pure energy charges are the same no matter  how much energy you use (in contrast with SCE’s four-tier rate structure), other components, most notably the customer and distribution charges, are actually tiered.  In the newly revised rate structure the customer charge is now split out and is a flat fee of $7.76/month.  The distribution charge, however, remains tiered under the new structure, albeit in an odd fashion.  The first 350 kWh of energy per month see a low distribution charge of just 1.5¢/kWh.   The next 400 are really jacked up: to 11.65¢/kWh before subsiding to 8.5¢/kWh for every kWh thereafter.  Which raises the question: if you want to incentivize people to reduce their usage, why is the third tier lower than the second?

As a result of the change in structure as well as the rate components, the impact on your bill varies a lot depending on your usage, as you can see from the following chart:

 PWP Rate Increase by Daily Energy UsageThe gray bars are the old rates, the red bars are the new rates and the red line tracks the percentage annual increase over the range of 15 to 100 kWh of energy usage per day.

As you can see, two bars (at 15 and 25 kWh) actually show rate decreases and the percentage increase continues to swing back and forth until you get to 35 kWh per day when the increase is monotonically upward.

Indeed, if you are sucking down 100 kWh/day, your rates will go up by nearly 50%!

Fortunately, very few customers are in such rarefied air as that; but a homeowner who had an average usage of about 25 kWh/day who then goes out and purchases an EV that she drives a lot, could bump into the 50 kWh range and she would see a 19% rate increase.  Have a big house with a pool and a jacuzzi and a couple of EVs? If that gets you to 80 kWh/day your rate increase will be 40%!

In fact, it is actually worse than what we are showing here since this is only looking at the energy services part of your bill.  On the left-hand-side of your bill you will find the Public Benefit Charge (tied to how much energy you use) and it is going up by 19%.  On top of that are taxes that you pay on those energy services amounts and you can see that PWP customers, except on the lowest end of the scale, are in for some serious rate hikes starting July 1.

Of course, solar is the perfect hedge against these rate increases (and others sure to come in the future) and PWP still is offering the highest rebates around: $0.85/Watt.  But in all likelihood we will see those rebates step down soon so now is the time to act!  Give us a call at 626-793-6025 and let’s get started.

05/12/14

  10:13:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 844 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, SCE, Electric Cars that Run on Sun, Residential Solar

SCE's EV vs Domestic Rates - Driver Beware!

SCE has devised an extremely complicated rate structure designed for residential customers who drive electric vehicles.  Instead of having a separate meter for EV charging, this rate structure is designed to replace the Domestic rate and apply to the entire household’s energy use—presumably at a savings.  But does it? What we discovered may come as a shock…

Meet TOU-D-TEV

SCE has long offered a rate structure that was designed for separate meter charging of EVs.  But as more and more people acquire EVs there were relatively fewer consumers looking to go through the hassle of installing a separate meter just to charge their EV.  SCE’s combined household and EV charging rate, known by the unmelodious monicker of TOU-D-TEV ("EV Rate,” for short), is designed to provide a lower-cost option for customers who were previously on SCE’s standard, Domestic rate structure.

As the acronym implies, the EV Rate is a time-of-use rate structure which means that what you pay for a kilowatt-hour of energy is directly tied to when you use it.  There are three time classes: On-Peak (weekdays, excluding designated holidays, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.), Super Off-Peak (everyday, midnight to 6 a.m.) and Off-Peak (all other times). In addition to the time of use component, the EV Rate includes tiers.  While Domestic rate customers are used to four tiers at which energy gets progressively more expensive, the EV Rate has only two tiers. Put this all together and you have the potential to pay wildly different amounts for your energy, as this table shows:

SCE's TOU-D-TEV rate structure

Stay within Level 1 and use your energy during Super Off-Peak and you pay just 9.4¢/kWh.  But make the mistake of using energy during the middle of the day in the summer in Level 2 and you will be pay a shocking, 46.4¢/kWh!  Yikes!!!  Sure hope you aren’t at home during the day running your A/C.

So Why Switch?

EV owners are not required to take service under the EV Rate structure (at least not yet), so why switch?  SCE advises customers that they can save money using this rate and we wanted to see if that was really true.  We decided to model two different users and see how their bills would change between the Domestic rate and the EV Rate.  The first user, our “average” user, consumes roughly 1,000 kWh per month (probably on the low end for most EV owners), or a little more than twice the baseline allocation.  The second user, our “large” user, consumes more like 2,500 kWh per month and reflects a large home with heavy A/C use.

Let’s start with the average user:

Average user on SCE's TOU-D-TEV rate

This graph compares what our average user would have paid under SCE’s Domestic rate (the constant, orange line) against what she would pay under the EV Rate (the blue line) as a function of what percentage of the total monthly usage occurs during On-Peak hours. (Throughout we assume that 20% occurs during the Super Off-Peak hours of midnight to 6 a.m., and the balance occurs during Off-Peak).

Under the Domestic rate, our average customer would pay $3,200 for the year.  If she manages to keep her On-Peak usage down below 30% of the total energy consumption, she will save money—as much as $355 or 11% off her bill, if her On-Peak usage is jut 5%.

But those “savings” can quickly disappear if she isn’t careful (or her children aren’t).  Let her On-Peak usage climb to 60% of her bill and she will get hit with a 12% penalty and end up paying $388 more than if she had not switched.

What about our “large” user, how does he fare?

 Large user on SCE's TOU-D-TEV rate structure

Most likely, better.

While his overall bill is much higher—he would be paying $8,500 on the Domestic rate—his potential savings versus penalty comparison is much more forgiving.  He can save as much as 13% ($1,100) compared to a penalty of only 6% ($478).  Plus, his breakeven point is higher, as he doesn’t start losing money until his On-Peak usage gets to 45%.

(This actually continues a trend with SCE’s residential rates where increases are highest at the lowest end of usage and the very highest users are actually getting a bit of a break.  What an odd sort of mixed message.)

Bottom line—it is possible to save money, even significant money, if you are very careful about when you use energy.

Most EV’s are designed so that you can program them to charge during off-hours and anyone under this rate structure would absolutely want to insure that they use that feature.  Indeed, there may be other energy users that could be similarly re-programmed such as pool pumps, dishwashers and washing machines, to run during the Super Off-Peak window.  Unfortunately, it is very difficult to avoid running your A/C during the day if anyone is at home from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays—and doing so could be very expensive.

Solar to the Rescue

It should be obvious, but adding solar to the mix here could be huge since On-Peak hours directly coincide with the greatest production from a solar power system.  Put most simply, if you own an EV and are considering making the switch to this EV rate structure, you need solar.

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
In addition, Run on Sun offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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