UPDATE - Citing technical issues, PWP has informed us that for now, these rates are NOT available for solar customers. Apparently the Meter group does not yet have a TOU meter that will properly account for energy generation as well as energy consumption. We will report back when PWP has this resolved - hopefully in a couple of months.
Pasadena Water & Power (PWP) is rolling out on a temporary, experimental basis, new Time-of-Use (TOU) based rates for customers with electric vehicles. The new rate structures, designated EXP-TOU-EV-1 and -2 are available to existing residential customers (either single family or multi-family service) who can demonstrate proof of ownership of a plug-in electric vehicle.
The two TOU rates differ from the existing R1 residential rate structure in that they provide discounts for energy consumed during mid- or off-peak hours. (Mid peak runs from 8 a.m. to Noon and from 9 p.m. to midnight. Off peak runs from midnight to 8 a.m.)
Here is how the two rates compare:
|TOU Period||Rate 1||Rate 2|
(Noon - 9 p.m.)
(8a.m. - Noon; 9 p.m.- Midnight)
The second rate has much greater discounts for energy use outside of the On Peak window, but it is combined with a significant penalty for energy use during the On Peak window.
Of course, this is where a solar power system comes in. Since a solar power system produces the bulk of its energy during the On Peak window, it could prove highly beneficial to EV owners who add solar to their homes. We will do a more complete analysis of how these two rates could work for a solar powered home in a future post.
To learn more about the program, check out PWP’s webpage devoted to these new rates.
In a to-the-point Op-Ed in the online edition of Fortune Magazine, FedEx CEO Frederick Smith calls for “a truly bipartisan solution to our oil dependence” that involves replacing the existing fleet of oil-consuming vehicles with electric cars and trucks. He’s absolutely right, and it is high time for Congress to act.
As the head of FedEx, Smith knows something about oil dependence: everyday FedEx puts 670 aircraft into the skies (flying half-a-million miles each day) and over 70,000 other motorized vehicles - nearly all of which consume oil. But give him credit - for unlike some who simply cry for us to “drill, baby, drill” - Smith acknowledges that this is simply not sustainable. Rather, the solution he proposes is legislation that would encourage the deployment of EVs at a vastly accelerated pace:
What we need to protect our nation is the environment to create in a few short years an entirely new transportation system with millions, and then tens of millions, of electric cars and trucks.
And there is a way to make it happen – pass a bill to promote electric vehicles. Last summer Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Energy Committee voted in favor of a plan to assist the deployment of electric vehicles and infrastructure in the U.S. The bill, which still hasn’t passed, was based in part on policy recommendations by the Electrification Coalition, a group of which I am a member. It calls for the creation of electrification “deployment communities": regions where incentives would support electrification at scale. It leverages constrained federal resources in a market-friendly way by encouraging communities to work with major employers, utilities, and other stakeholders to find the most cost-effective pathways to electrification.
Readers of this blog know well that we are huge supporters of EVs. Legislation at the national level that would encourage the production and deployment of EVs should also promote solar and other renewable energy sources at the same time. It is a natural fit - renewables like solar can fuel EVs so that there are zero emissions associated with the miles traveled and a solar power installation will continue to provide the energy needed to fuel that EV for 25 years or more.
We encourage you to read the entire piece (link at the headline of this post) and share your thoughts in the comments.
On a related note, here is an interview with Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn discussing the rising cost of oil and how that is driving demand for the all-electric Leaf.
A new study out of Purdue University, and widely reported in the mainstream media (like this article in the Los Angeles Times - Electric car utility bills can shock) suggests that Californians who purchase electric vehicles or plug-in hybrid vehicles are in for a shock based on the high-cost of electricity for recharging their vehicles. The study’s authors claim that because California’s largest utilities (such as SCE) use a “tiered” rate structure, someone purchasing a plug-in hybrid could pay as much as 60% more in annual electricity costs than they would otherwise. For that to be economical, the cost of oil would have to rise to between $171 to $254 per barrel, the authors concluded.
Wow! Shocking indeed - if it were true. Fortunately, it is not.
First and foremost, most utilities, including SCE, already offer special rate structures for EV/PHEV owners that are “time-of-use” rates. Indeed, SCE has two specific time-of-use rates that are applicable to EV/PHEV charging and which can bring electric rates for vehicle charging down from the roughly thirty cents/kWh assumed by the authors to as low as eleven cents/kWh. These rate options include the ability to have a separate meter solely to monitor the energy used to recharge the vehicle. Since both the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt allow the owner to program the start time for charging, it would seem to be pretty simple for these owners to take advantage of the cheapest electricity rates available. (Of course, if you are generating energy from solar during the day and recharging during the night, you would save even more!)
The Purdue authors claim to have developed a “model that would simulate energy use by Californians…. [that] closely aligned with actual energy use in California.” So how is it that they overlooked these existing rate options, to say nothing of the solar PV-EV connection?
Maybe, just maybe, the problem lies in the lead author’s true area of expertise - agricultural economics. Indeed, Professor Wallace “Wally” Tyner’s primary area of research appears to be in biofuels, particularly involving that great scam, corn-based ethanol. Here’s the description of his research from the Purdue website:
Professor Tyner’s research interests are in the area of energy, agricultural, and natural resource policy analysis and structural and sectoral adjustment in developing economies. His work in energy economics has encompassed oil, natural gas, coal, oil shale, biomass, ethanol from agricultural sources, and solar energy. Most of his recent work has focused on economic and policy analysis for biofuels.
Why is it then, that mainstream media accounts of this very “scary” report fail to mention the bias of the lead researcher?
The actual math here, even assuming worst case factors, still tilts heavily toward the adoption of EVs. Take a Nissan Leaf that has a 24kWh battery pack and claims 100 miles per charge. Ok, we are all skeptics here, so let’s assume 80 miles per charge. What is the cost per mile to drive your new Leaf? Our “skeptical” range estimate yields a range per kWh of 80 miles/24 kWh = 3.33 miles/kWh. If we assume that charging occurs in the top tier of SCE’s tiered rate structure, the cost is roughly $0.30/kWh. So, at $0.30/kWh and 3.33 miles/kWh we get $0.09/mile.
What is the cost per mile for a typical American passenger car? According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, in 2008 (latest data available) the average US passenger car got 22.6 mpg. If we assume an average fuel price of $3.00/gallon (don’t you wish), then the cost per mile for the average US passenger car today is $0.133/mile. If you are keeping score - the Leaf, even given a host of assumptions intended to favor the conventional car, is four cents/mile cheaper. For the average passenger car in the US that travels roughly 12,000 miles/year, that works out to an annual “fuel” savings of $511/year. Let the price of gasoline go up, or make electricity cheaper, and the savings are even greater. If charging costs $0.12/kWh and gasoline costs $3.50/gallon, the savings shoot up to $1,425/year!
But as we already noted (but the authors ignored), there are rate options available now that make electricity cheaper. And if you offset your highest time-of-use energy usage with the energy from your own solar power system - while you charge your EV with the extremely cheap energy in the off-peak time block - you get the best of both worlds!
Solar PV and EVs are a match made in heaven - despite those “shocking” stories coming from the thinly-disguised Ethanol lobby.
The Solar Home & Business Journal is reporting that Los Angeles is gearing up for the new wave of EVs and PHEVs that are set to start arriving next month. Already home to more plug-in vehicles than any other metropolitan area in the U.S., now the LADWP has announced that it will “provide instant online approvals of home charging stations and expedited charger inspections and new meter installations.” While LADWP has historically been a source of great permitting frustrations, this change is intended to greatly shorten and simplify the process.
“Our expedited approvals will set the standard for cutting bureaucratic red tape that can otherwise frustrate drivers making the change to an EV,” the website says. “Permit approvals and inspections that in other areas can take weeks for new and prospective EV owners have been cut to hours and days in the City of Los Angeles.”Here is a link to the LADWP Electric Vehicle Program website mentioned in that quote.
The story also reports that the City already has some 350 charging sites on city property or at publicly accessible private locations with more to come. New chargers were recently added at the LA Convention Center and LAX where “plug-in rental cars may become available soon.” You can read the entire article, titled, “Citing ‘L.A. Advantage,’ Utility Prepares for a New Wave of Plug-in Vehicles,” here.
This is very exciting news and should help ease the “range anxiety” of the public. Indeed, I heard a supposedly knowledgeable source on the radio yesterday, talking about the LA Auto Show, repeating all sorts of misleading nonsense about how EVs work, how reliable they are or what they cost to operate. Let’s be clear - EVs will save you money over a comparable ICE vehicle. If you combine that with solar power to fuel your EV, your savings will be even greater.
But talking about the wonders of EVs won’t convince people - they need to start driving these vehicles - like we did - so they can discover that not only are they practical, but they are a heck of a lot of fun, too! That can’t happen too soon, and these actions by LA will help hasten the day when we can all Run on Sun!
This past Sunday, my Chief Electrician, Velvet, and I had the chance to test drive the new, all-electric Nissan Leaf. This was the very start of a semi-nationwide test drive event that Nissan is holding over the next six months. (I say semi-nationwide because the test drive event corresponds to those states in which the Leaf is being rolled out in the initial phase. Sadly, that excludes almost all of the middle portion of the country, focusing instead on California, the rest of the West coast, Texas, Florida, the Carolinas (Steph - don’t miss out!) and then the East coast.) This past weekend in Santa Monica was the first opportunity for “regular” people to drive the much talked about Leaf. (About half of the folks in our driving group had reservations down on the Leaf.)
I have to say, I was not disappointed. The car has plenty of pep, has been intelligently designed and the appointments are acceptable, if not luxurious. (I presently drive an Acura TL six-speed, so I am accustomed to both performance and luxury. While the Leaf cannot equal the TL in either category, my TL averages under 20 MPG in my day-to-day driving. My Leaf will let me do all of my routine driving fueled by solar power - literally letting me Run on Sun - and I can fit a Little Giant ladder in the hatchback with the rear seats down so I can do solar site evaluations from the Leaf!) I will be writing a more elaborate review for our friends over at Solar Charged Driving and I encourage you to look for that article there in the next few days.
Above you see the charging port for the Leaf, concealed behind a tilt-up panel in the hood. On the right is the conventional charge connector where the standard 240VAC charger will be connected. For most Leaf owners, this is how they will charge their Leaf most of the time. On the left side is the rapid-charge connector and as you can see, the main charge connections are pretty beefy. They had better be. According to Nissan, the rapid charger will give you an 80% charge in 30 minutes. Let’s do the math - the Leaf has a 24kWh battery pack - if you are charging 80% of that you will be pushing 19.2 kWh onto the Leaf in 0.5 hours. That means that the charger must be delivering 38.4 kW for those 30 minutes. At a nominal 240VAC, that means that the current will be equal to 38,400W/240V = 160 Amps! Big sparks!
At the end of the test drive, Velvet and I taped a short video as part of Nissan’s win a free Leaf contest. Give their marketing folks credit, this is a great PR stunt - get folks to record videos describing why they should win a free car and encourage them to get their friends to vote for them. I am guessing that folks will get very elaborate in their prep for this as the word gets out (ah, such is the life of an early adopter!) Anyway, we like free as well as the next guy so please, check out the video we made - and vote for Run on Sun to get a free Leaf! (But don’t give me grief for doing all the talking - Velvet is shy!)