Sunday, August 4, 2013

You Say You Want a Revolution...

We all want to change the world. Most folks for their own benefit, while others try to change it in a way that benefits the future. I'd like to think that some small part of my behavior puts me in that second group.  At least when it comes to clean energy and electric vehicles. In the past eighteen months we've gotten the ActiveE and installed a PV array on our house. Why?  Mostly because we want to help change the world. There are other arguments out there about solar and EVs saving money, or being green, but the reality is neither is probably true, at least for our individual household in the short term. PV arrays are greener than the alternatives in the long term, but in the short term that's not necessarily true. Additionally, unless you fool yourself with some funky ROI calculation (e.g., using per gallon costs for gas when the array is paired with an EV, rather than your current electricity suppliers kWh price that you would have paid to charge the car without the array), Solar PV arrays pay off incredibly slowly - unless you live somewhere with a lot more sunshine and much higher electricity rates than we have here.

Getting an EV was clearly not a cost saver for us as my daily driver had been a perfectly good ICE that had been paid off since the '90s.  And no matter what spin you put on it, an existing vehicle is greener than any newly built vehicle, electric or otherwise. And when you consider that we can only have the ActiveE for 2 years and we're likely to lease our next EV, we'll go 5 years of changing vehicles every few years.  Not exactly green or cost effective.  At this point it will be at least 2017 before I purchase another vehicle that I keep as long as I kept my '96 Audi A4.  Ultimately our decision to install the array and get the EV weren't about our personal cost savings or being green. They were about long term change for this country and the world. Unless there are early adopters like us to evangelize to others and spur production, demand will never rise to levels that result in price decreases that ultimately make the product viable for the general public and they then truly blossom and become green due to efficiencies of scale.  Especially when an 80-100 mile range and charge times longer than the 10 minutes it takes to fill up with gas scares the hell out of people.

Clearly we've already joined this revolution, so how do we help to sustain it? One of the many concerns that people have about getting and EV is range anxiety and where to charge their EV. As I've written previously, I live in a Dead Zone in southeastern CT. Not much has changed in regards to EVSE availability here since I wrote that post a little over a year ago. The State of Connecticut has stepped up and announced funding available for installing infrastructure, and I've attempted to convince a few entities to take advantage of the funding and install EVSEs to entice EV drivers to our area. Unfortunately my efforts have proven unsuccessful to this point, so I've opted for a different short term strategy while public infrastructure continues to have growing pains.

  Plugshare is one of the many websites (and Apps) that you can use to locate EVSEs for charging your vehicle. Unlike the other sites, however it also allows homeowners to add their home EVSE to the site if they are willing to let other EV drivers charge at their house. While I've been reticent to have strangers show up at my house previously (see aforementioned Dead Zone post), I felt it was time to pony up and do a bit more - so I took the plunge and added my EVSE to the site. Fortunately I live in an area with several restaurants within walking distance as well as a few marinas. This give folks something to do while their EV is charging at our house. Finally after our EVSE had been listed for several months, our first EV came for a charge up. While charging, the owners enjoyed a fabulous meal at Ford's Lobsters, and left several hours later with enough energy to get to their destination. So until some local businesses are ready to join the EV revolution, we'll continue to give EV drivers the opportunity to stop by, charge up, and enjoy some of the great food and sailing options our little village has to offer.  The Revolution has begun!