EVolution

Photo courtesy of GM, Detroit

Darwinian Evolution is defined as: “descent with modification from preexisting species cumulative inherited change in a population of organisms through time leading to the appearance of new forms the process by which new species or populations of living things develop from preexisting forms through successive generations” – From Merriam-Webster

In Automotive Evolution we might say the following: automotive technologies descend with modification and enhancement from earlier preexisting forms and technologies cumulative inherited change of traits occur within a population of automobiles/automakers through time leading to the appearance of new and often more evolved/advanced automotive forms the process by which new automotive systems and/or collections of systems – as dictated by necessity and/or markets – lead to novel and more advanced automotive systems and/or collections of systems developed from preexisting forms through successive generations often (but not always) leading to more superior technological adaptations : those forms and technologies deemed inferior by function/markets are quickly weeded out of the population by the process that drives both automotive and Darwinian evolution – Natural Selection. Those forms and technologies deemed superior and that perform at or above their design will survive and their technological traits will be passed down to future populations.

Recently, I made the EVolutionary choice and I EVolved my automotive system.

In late September 2019 I purchased a 2019 Chevrolet Bolt.

Yep. The days of the BlueWaterLeaf are over.

My trusty old 2012 LEAF “Elektra” served me well for a little over six years but due to her failing battery chemistry and resulting limited driving range of only around 45-50 miles – natural selection prevailed and I was forced to automotively EVolve.

Yesterday meets today.

The old LEAF found a new home with a wonderful couple in a nearby town. Since they only drive around 25 miles per day I believe it will serve them well for many years to come.

For my needs, I require a vehicle that will travel more than 50 miles per day and sometimes upwards of 200 miles at a time. I also needed a vehicle that I can afford to fuel, maintain, and pay for as a company vehicle. Now that we have EV’s I feel that it is not logical nor is it a good use of funds for a small nonprofit organization to pay large amounts of money for fossil fuel powered vehicles and their fuels. Essentially, using a fossil fuel powered vehicle for a nonprofit – or any business for that matter – is like lighting generously donated and/or hard earned money on fire, then tossing it out the window. It is not only a garish waste of funds but it also pollutes the environment – the very thing my organization is working so hard to protect, conserve, understand, and share.

So, after extensive research and planning, I decided to purchase a new 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV – Premier edition as a replacement outreach vehicle for my small, non profit organization Earthshine Nature Programs (501c3) – www.earthshinenature.com

I have owned the Bolt EV now for four months and during that time I have driven the little EV close to 6500 miles! It is a remarkable car that makes the old LEAF seem, well, – like ancient technology – or, in keeping with the EVolutionary theme – an earlier form of life.

The last solar charge for Elektra.

I really loved my LEAF but the primary reason I decided to go with a Chevrolet over another Nissan was mainly due to the ongoing terrible experience I had with Nissan HQ. Despite my detailed record keeping, sticking with the car’s dealer defined maintenance/warranty schedule, countless service visits/inquiries/emails/phone calls with Nissan HQ about my LEAF’s battery degradation issue, and even working tirelessly to promote the LEAF to many people online via this blog and in person via my nonprofit programming through EV education classes, and through the Blue Ridge Electric Vehicle Club at EV car shows during National Drive Electric week – all of these things lead up to many people I knew and many I did not who then purchased Nissan LEAF’s for themselves. Despite all this Nissan still refused to stand by their product and would not offer to replace my car’s degrading battery. Then, to make matters worse – just when I was about to consider the purchase of a new battery for my LEAF – Nissan raised the price by thousands of dollars as if trying to force owners of the first generation LEAF’s to upgrade to a newer car!

On top of all this madness, Nissan opted to forgo the implementation of an active battery management system that would extend the useful life of their EV batteries in favor of keeping the costs down so they could then sell more new LEAF’s using an out-dated technology while making a higher profit.

All these reasons pushed me over the edge so I decided that I was finished with Nissan and chose to look elsewhere. I looked at Tesla, Hyundai, Kia and then Chevrolet. Chevrolet already had several years of EV experience with the Volt and the Bolt’s technology was a few years old therefore giving them some time to weed out any major issues with the newer Bolt. Chevrolet also opted to go with a battery management system similar to Tesla’s that would keep the battery at the optimum operating temperature extending its driving range and its useful life. The bolt also has amazing driving range second only to Tesla (at the time) – at 238 it was a massive improvement over the old gen one LEAF which would only travel 73 miles before needing a charge. Another big deciding factor for me was the fact that at the time I was shopping there were some really nice end of model year deals on the Bolt so, for all these reasons, I chose the Bolt EV.

Taking ownership of the new “MIGHTY BOLT” from Walker Chevrolet in Franklin, Tennessee…interestingly enough only a few miles from where I purchased the Nissan Leaf in 2013.
With the new Bolt at the Nissan HQ saying goodbye Nissan!

So far I love the little EV – although, it does have a few odd issues that need mentioning. These are issues that I believe need some real attention from Chevrolet – so let us get those out of the way first.

1: Ultra reflective dashboard deck. The windshield facing side of the dashboard (in my car) is light colored so it reflects sunlight onto the underside of the windshield making it almost impossible to drive without visual discomfort from the “flashing” reflections. This creates an unsafe and uncomfortable driving experience. During the test drive I did not notice this phenomenon – possibly due to the sun angle at the time – or I would have chosen a vehicle with a dark colored dashboard. To remedy the situation I purchased a custom fit charcoal black, non-reflective dash cover from Covercraft.com and the problem was solved.

2: Thin driver’s seat bottom cushion. I am a relatively thin person so the narrowness of the seats do not bother me as they do for some people. However, the thin cushion and adjacent plastic framework of the seat near the seat adjusting levers puts pressure on my left outer thigh region as I exit the vehicle. Over time this fact began to cause my left upper leg to ache. I fixed the issue with a simple pool noodle slipped over the plastic piece. It worked for me but GM should really work to remedy this problem as it may be a deal breaker for some buyers especially those who do not want a pool noodle flopping about in their new car.

This added pool noodle cushion ended all discomfort and is removable if need be.

3: Cargo space. For many people the Bolt will be perfect in size for town runs etc but I needed more carying capacity so I opted to install a roof basket.

This allows me to carry much more cargo when I take long trips and even lumber 🙂

Or bales of straw for the chickens 🙂

And even more lumber and conduit 🙂 !

Things I LOVE about this little car.

238 miles of range – and more depending on conditions! WOW! It is a real car!!

Range anxiety is a thing of the past!

Cool UI. I love all the data and functionality the UI provides and it is pretty.

One pedal driving – SO COOL!!! (and the brakes will last MUCH longer!)

Awesome stereo system with the option of SiriusXM.

Roof rack ready.

The three level cargo area.

Arm rest/drink holder in the rear seat.

Heated seats and steering wheel.

USB charging ports everywhere.

Qi/wireless phone charger.

Wonderful windshield wipers that really work well.

Deep, multi-level storage in center console.

Sliding sun visors.

Built-in rear-view mirror backup camera.

Surround view camera.

Automatic headlights.

Automatic Emergency Braking.

Lane keep assist.

Android Auto.

The hulkingly huge 60 kWH battery that lets me go for days without needing to charge.

The insanely low cost to fuel and operate.

In fact, lets look at some numbers on that last topic.

I am not bragging but I feel that I need to share this very revealing automotive data with you should you be considering EVolving up to a Bolt or other EV.

I have calculated the fuel costs to drive the car the 6500 miles I have traveled up to this point.

Are you ready for this?

Are you sitting down?

Here it is.

$119.71

Those costs come primarily from the five “quick charge” sessions I needed during these first four months of ownership. Those sessions resulted in a total charge of $77.95 or and average of $15.59 per charge.

The remaining $41.76 comes from multiple “Level 2” charge sessions on the road and from several overnight “Level 1” and “Level 2” charging sessions at home.

In summary, during the last four months, I have driven an average of

1,625 miles per month.
406.25 miles per week.
58.03 miles per day.

At a cost of –

$32.60 per month.
$8.15 per week.
$1.16 per day.

119.71/6500 = .0184

So that breaks down to be $0.0184 cents per mile for the Mighty Bolt’s electron fuel.

$0.2 cents per mile! I will let that sink in for a moment.

Those numbers are accurate as I keep detailed notes on all charge sessions/energy costs.

My EV’s electric fuel costs are much lower than many EV drivers since I am able to use locally generated renewably produced solar electricity as my EV’s primary fuel source. The largest percentage of my Bolt EV’s electron fuel comes from the classroom solar array my students, interns, volunteers and I installed on my nonprofit office/classroom.

For the average US homeowner without solar who is charging their EV at home using the local power utility energy mix (US average @ .12/kWh), their costs would be a bit higher than my numbers.

My stats.

Regional Energy Grid Data from: https://www.eia.gov/state/

Arcadia Power: https://www.arcadia.com/

The fact remains that no matter an EV’s fuel source – fueling, maintaining, and driving an EV will always be much lower than anything powered by dirty, toxic, nature, life, earth, and future polluting fossil fuels.

It is very interesting and revealing to note that if I had driven those 6500 miles in my only remaining gas guzzler – a 2013 Honda Pilot – I would have needed to stop maybe 15 – 20 times to refill the gas tank (and change the oil and oil filter one and possibly the air filter once) and therefore my gasoline fuel bill (maybe we should call it a conveyance convenience cost) would have been a massive $812.50 or around 0.13/mile! …then add in the cost of the oil/filter change of around $50 and that’s $862.50!!

I do not care who you are, where you are from, or how much money you have to burn but you must logically agree with me – that is a CRAZY STUPID expense for anyone to spend just to get from point A to point B!

In fact, below is a photo of the gas pump the last time I filled up the Honda’s fuel tank…YIKES!

That $47 will push the Honda Pilot around 360 miles but it will also push the Chevy Bolt EV over 2300 miles!!!

Some Maths

6500 miles at an average of 20mpg = 325 gallons x $2.50 (per gasbuddy.com) = $812.50

Or
812.50/6500 = .125 (per mile)

(812.50 (gas) – 119.71(electricity))

That is a fuel only cost savings of $692.79!!

No one can deny the fuel savings of driving electric – but what about the grossly unacceptable downsides of driving EV’s:

THE DIRTY DOWNSIDES OF DRIVING ELECTRIC

Charging: What about the horrible inconvenience of charging my EV while I sleep…It is just so difficult and time-consuming to need to remember to plug in the car before going on to other things…oh the horror!

First quick charge!

Stopping: The painfully needling fact that when on a road trip I always need to stop driving every 200 miles or so to plug in my car while I take a break, read a book, surf the net, take a nap, graze on food, have a cold one, get some exercise, go shopping, fish for lunch, fly a drone, watch a movie, spend time with friends and family, ride a zipline, pet a dog, pick some fruit, or just smell the flowers (these are just a few of the terribly inconvenient things I have been forced to do or could do while waiting for my EV to charge)…I just can’t take this intolerable electric car life of any longer!

Gas Stations: What about the hot insanity of never ever again needing to stop at dirty gas stations*? I so greatly miss the ritual of waiting in line for a pump, grasping the infectious germ and “booger” covered gas nozzle, shoving it into my legacy vehicle’s fuel port, engaging the trigger, inhaling deeply of the toxic and highly flammable hydrocarbon fumes while watching other oil addicted users doing the very same – oh and sometimes some of them leave their engines running and/or are even smoking while fueling – WTF!!! All this time our tanks fill up and our bank accounts drain…oh and let’s not forget the great fun of shopping in the station’s store for low quality overly processed foodstuffs…oh how I miss those days. *Ok, so I do occasionally stop at filling stations – but only if they have EV charging stations and/or to use their bathrooms or squeegee my EV’s windshield 🙂 (Read one of my earlier posts about an earlier and most unusual filling station experience.)

Fueling up on electrons at a Dandridge, Tennessee Exxon station – maybe one day the pump locations will be reversed 🙂

Cash Flow: How about the fact that driving electric means you will never again be forever stuck in the endless “subscription to dependency” that owning and driving petroleum-powered vehicles truly is. Therefore, I will be FORCED to stop endlessly paying out loads and loads of cash for gas/oil only to just burn it up over and over again harming our individual lungs and our shared environment. Whatever will I do with all this extra cash???

Health: When my asthma and the seasonal ozone/fossil fuel pollution-induced respiratory inflammation and distress go away – I will shed a great and lonely tear of loss. What will I ever do with all this improved health I just do not know…

Maintenance: Then there is the unbelievable madness of having virtually no maintenance costs/repair downtime on the EV’s motor, battery, brakes, and drive systems…like the LEAF before it, this BOLT EV (and all EV’s) are virtually maintenance-free. I am going to really miss the time-honored ritual of raising the hood and/or crawling under my vehicle on the side of a busy road – in the rain, mud, ice, snow, and boiling summer heat (been there done all that many, many times) – to fix some failing component such as a faulty belt/hose/fuel line/fuel tank/plug wire/radiator/thermostat/clutch/carburetor/alternator/exhaust/intake manifold/”johnson rod” and on an on…and/or wiring up a broken exhaust pipe/muffler…and/or adjusting some broken or maladjusted linkage/shaft in 20-degree weather then bashing my knuckles on a cross member etc…or having my old beater car towed to a repair shop and then waiting hours or days for it to be professionally repaired and then receiving the huge charge $$$$$$ for all those frequent repair/labor costs…again, what will I ever do with all this extra money and time? Note: I really do love working on older, classic cars – especially with my dad. However, working on a classic car at home in the garage or in the driveway/yard on a nice day is a totally different animal than what I described above – which is a fresh hell I would not wish on anyone.

Efficiency: Oh, and what about the insanely stupid fact that EVs produce a portion of their own electron fuel through the process of regenerative braking thereby extending their driving range by hundreds to thousands of free driving miles each year and therefore lowering my fuel costs even more…how will I ever adapt to all this egg-headed science nerd tech geek madness saving me loads of money and making my life easier, faster, stronger, better?!

The first road trip from Franklin, TN to Chattanooga, TN – a Bolt and a Tesla Model 3 – so cool! Photo by Bob Harris of Black Bear Solar Institute

Sound of silence: How about the unbearable and unbelievably smooth, quiet ride? I just cannot handle all this calmness, comfort, and serenity. Oh, how I miss the endless internal combustion engine drone drowning out the silence and/or the nuances of my favorite songs, audiobooks, and podcasts. Then there are the random noises, sudden jerks, squeaks, rattles, bangs, parts falling off (yes, that really happened), and body wrenching lurches that used to assault my ears, muddle my thought processes, and often torque my spine in all my previous legacy vehicles…

…all this EVolved silence is just so unbearable – oh, the humanity!

Convenience: What about that ridiculous one pedal driving thing! It is just so bizarre and inconvenient to only need to use one pedal instead of two. Not having to step on the brake all the time means my brake pads may last over one hundred thousand miles – how will I ever adapt to all this efficient madness? What will I ever do with all the extra money that I would have spent on bake jobs? My foot really misses stepping on the brake all the time so sometimes I do it out of nostalgia.

High above my EV’s fuel refinery. Note how clean the air is 🙂

Safety: I am not at all comfortable with the increased safety of this car. It will automatically and without asking me to authorize it – put on the brakes to avoid a collision!! What a HUGE compromisation of my freedoms to stop whenever I want to and under my own power and control!!! …oh and then there are all the airbags – they wrap around me on all sides – and then there’s the seatbelts holding me down keeping me from flying through the windshield in an accident – I feel so invaded!! …and what about all the CAMERAS!!! Giving over control to the machines – we all know where that leads!! It all must be a conspiracy…a plot fabricated by the Russians or maybe the Chinese…NO it is the greenies working with the Russians, the Chinese, the North Koreans and the DUTCH!!!! (To be clear: I am not racist and this was not a racial slur – it was a cheezy reference to an obscure comedy movie series staring Mike Myers.)

Furthermore!

I will not stand for all the EV safety madness!!!!

Give me back my 1969 Vista Cruiser!!

That 70’s Show photo courtesy of Carsey-Warner.

Fuel: How about the garishly un-American ability to charge an EV’s traction battery with home-grown electron fuel made on my own soil – be that electron fuel renewably generated by sun, wind, water, landfill gas, cow farts, or even the dirtiest hulking coal-fired power plant.

It is all domestically produced American made energy that does not require dirty deals, endless wars, and the terrible loss of our brave loved ones in the service just to keep it flowing into our tanks.

Nor does all this locally grown renewable energy destroy the very environment that gives all of us clean air, clean water, healthy food, diverse wildlife, our own lives, and a healthy future.

Source: NASA https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_2159.html

Driving electric vehicles powered by renewable energy is obviously such an un-American, un-patriotic sacrilege that our founding fathers must be spinning like oil-soaked V8 crankshafts in their graves!

__________________________________________

Ok, so for those of you that somehow missed it – I absolutely LOVE my Chevrolet Bolt EV and I absolutely LOVE driving electric. I was attempting to be overly and intentionally sarcastic and humorous with my previous outline of EV shortcomings. From my point of view and over six years of EV driving experience – there really are no EV shortcomings.

Driving electric is simply a better way to drive.

Despite my sarcastic attempts at humor aside and despite all the mostly manufactured EV shortcomings you may encounter from the deniers, doubters, Luddites, and FUD generators – and those with money/politics tied up in the legacy automakers and fossil fuel economy – I fail to see how anyone can rationally dispute the massive cost savings of driving electric vehicles as daily driver commuter vehicles and soon, much, much, more…and all this before we have even looked at the significant reductions to toxic air and water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions saved by driving electric vehicles especially when they are charged by locally grown renewably generated 100% energy secure electricity – but that is another long-winded data-rich topic for yet another blog posting on yet another day.

Final Question:

How much does it cost you to drive your fossil burner 6500 miles?

Charging with my cousin the Chevy Volt

So, suffice it to say that I absolutely LOVE my Chevrolet Bolt EV.

I will keep you posted on my newly EVolved EV life with the “Mighty Bolt” EV and hopefully I will be able to offer you some insight into the world of the Electric Vehicle, renewable energy, and maybe, if you have not already, you will take the necessary steps toward your own automotive EVolution.

SPECIAL THANKS to Bob Harris of Black Bear Solar Institute, Jim Hardy, Catherine O’Neil, Marian O’Neil, and the Blue Ridge EV Club, my awesome students, and everyone who worked with me to make all of this possible – you know who you are!

Note: I do not work for, receive compensation from, or own stock in GM, Chevrolet, Tesla, or any electric vehicle or electric vehicle supply equipment company or renewable energy technology or company. I do however support all of these technologies, companies, and ways of life as long as they stay focused on their goals and work to help more than harm and because they are all working toward a better, cleaner, more energy secure, lower ecological footprint, science-focused way of life that supports everyone everywhere.

GREEN LEAF!

One of my oldest childhood dreams is now a reality – and more!

That dream was to one day drive an electric vehicle that was charged with electricity provided by the sun.

solarcarhouse

After originally dreaming up the idea in Mr. Jackson’s 6th grade science class way back in 1980*, then pondering, dreaming, and researching the idea for many decades until recently, with the convergence of technologies over the last few years,  and by working with great friends, nonprofit supporters, patrons and my amazing students – I have finally made that boyhood dream come true for me and, most importantly, for my students – who are the next generation.  Our children are the generation that will benefit the most from these coming of age technologies – technologies that they will soon come to see as normal and as every day as we kids of the last generation viewed the internal combustion engine, land-line telephone, film camera, CD, and MTV.  *Read all about my 6th-grade epiphany in this blog post I penned on my nonprofit blog.

Now, over 35 years later, I am finally daily driving an electrically driven vehicle whose battery is charged with locally grown electricity from the sun – and a good chunk of water and wind produced renewably generated electricity!  I use this renewable energy fueled electric vehicle for commuting to and from work, as an outreach vehicle for my nonprofit environmental education organization – Earthshine Nature Programs – and as a teaching tool in my middle and high school science classes where I work to demonstrate working models of the “new normal” of these now off-the-shelf technologies to the young minds who will lead us forward into a clean, renewable energy powered, and electrically driven future!

How did all this happen?

It all started in the late summer of 2012 when my wife and I purchased a slightly used 2012 Nissan Leaf Electric Vehicle (EV).  I wrote all about that misadventure in this previous blog post.

wejustboughtaleaf

We quickly came to dearly love the little electric car, and for the first 4 years of EV ownership, we charged the vehicle using the local grid provided energy mix.  In 2017 this all changed when my classroom’s new 4.8 kW photovoltaic solar array went online.

Now I charge my EV almost every day with sunlight!

The data I have outlined below reveal that 48% of the power I used to charge EV’s drive battery over the period of this study came directly from solar produced, renewably generated, clean electricity produced by the 4.8 kWh photovoltaic solar array at my classroom/office where I charge on weekdays.

Read more about the construction of our student-built solar array.

Due to the logistics of driving an early, short range, EV – the other 52% of the power needed to get me around during the time of this study came from the local power grid’s energy mix.

That energy mix is not perfect but it could be much worse.  As of only about a decade or so ago it was provided by electricity generated primarily by burning coal – the dirtiest of the fossil fuels.  As it stands today our local energy mix is a blend of coal, natural gas, hydroelectric, solar, nuclear, and wind (more or less in that order).

This 52% of my electric vehicle’s electron fuel originates from the local energy mix which I source from various 120 volt standard electrical outlets at my private residence and at the homes of friends, and the readily available Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE)  – aka car chargers – network located all around my “home range.” (Home range = the area in which I spend the majority of my time.)

When on the road I always try my best to use EVSE that are in close association with, or not far from solar or other renewable energy power sources in the attempt to keep my car’s electric fuel as clean as possible.

But how does all this work you may ask?

First, let us look at the solar side of things.

It all starts with our nearest star – the sun.  Sunlight, which is made up of photons – that can take up to as long as one million years to be produced inside the sun – is produced by our nearest star then zip through space at the speed of light and around 8 minutes later strike my classroom’s photovoltaic solar array – that’s my classroom in the below photo taken by the ENP solar charged camera drone.

DCIM104GOPRO

The photons are then converted into direct current (DC) electricity by an almost magical process that takes place within in the blue semi-conducting solar cells contained within the 20 solar modules that currently* make up the array.  After the electricity is produced in the solar modules it travels (again at the speed of light) via wires to the SMA Sunny Boy inverter where it is modified from DC current into AC current and sent into the building’s power grid.  From the there it travels via more wiring to a Clipper Creek Level 2 EVSE.    *I say currently because we are now working on raising funds to complete Phase Two which will add 10 more solar modules to our classroom solar array powering the entire building and the EV with solar!  Learn more about how you can help us make this happen for our classroom and nonprofit on our Patreon page or on our GoFundMe page.

Read all about our very special EVSE – donated by Pine Shore Energy

From the EVSE the energy then travels along a cable into my 2012 Nissan Leaf and charges the car’s battery with clean, locally produced, renewable solar electricity.

ENPEVSE

No dirty, toxic, life-destroying fossil fuels needed for this configuration.

just

Sunshine + Science + EV + Willpower + Determination + Generosity +Hard Work = a Solar Driven Electric Vehicle!

sunflowersolargarden1

Renewable energy + EV’s are the “new normal” and they offer all of us freedom from the subscription to dependency that is fossil fuels.

Although I have been daily charging my 2012 Nissan Leaf in this manner since mid-July 2017, this report will only cover a 4-month time-frame between August and November of 2017. At the end of 1 year, I will recalculate and we will take a look at the changes.

I only live about a dozen miles from my classroom/office and during the week I always charge my Leaf at work. After work and on weekends I often travel around the area for work and play so I must occasionally plug my Leaf into a standard power outlet on my carport at home or use the many conveniently located community Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) public charging stations* that are powered by other local energy sources – and some of these energy sources are not as clean as our favorite neighborhood star.  For these logistical reasons, my Leaf is not entirely powered by the sun – at least not yet. *see map below and visit Plugshare to learn where there are EVSE near you.

The local charging station network as of the writing of this post.  The blue dot is approximately (but nowhere near exactly for security reasons) where I live.

plugmap

So, how do I know my Leaf is 48% solar powered?

To answer to that question I took a deep look at my “Leaf Log” – a charging status and usage journal that I have been keeping of my daily charging/driving activities since day one of EV ownership.

I compared my Leaf Log with the daily power production logs from my classroom’s SMA Sunny Boy Inverter and cross-referenced those with the power usage records from Duke Energy – my grid power provider.

The Data.

Time period covered: August 01- November 30, 2017.

Total solar array production to November 30th: 1.36 MWh

Average monthly solar production over the time period: 280.45 kWh

Average daily solar production over the time period: 9.34 kWh

Total number of times the Leaf was fully charged* using solar produced electricity over the time period: 65

*I only recorded data for days where solar production equaled or was greater than the kWh needed to fully charge my Leaf EV.

Total number of times the Leaf was charged at home over the time period: 47

Total number of times the Leaf was charged with local energy mix* over the time period: 53  *Our local energy mix includes a mix of Coal, Natural gas, Hydroelectric, Solar, Nuclear, and wind more or less in that order.  From:   https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/#tabs_unit-1

energysourcesnew

Number of kWh from the cleanest solar produced electricity (my classroom solar array) over the time period: 535.19 kWh

Number of kWh from the local energy mix over the time period (home+other local EVSE): 687.3 kWh

Number of kWh sourced from Level 1 home charging: 357.3 kWh

Number of kWh from all other sources outside of solar/home: 330 kWh

Total kWh used by EV over time frame: 1222.49

Leafenergy17kWh

It is important to note that my home energy mix is supported by wind power carbon offsets through Arcadia Power.  This is significant because when I charge my Leaf at home, the energy used to charge its battery, while being physically generated by the local energy mix, has its carbon pollution offset by the construction and operation of wind farms which serve to lower my EV’s carbon footprint even more!

Number of kWh from wind energy offsets used to charge my Leaf at home over the time period = 357.3 kWh

Now let’s take a look at the local energy mix.

The total kWh sourced from the grid mix over the time period = 330 kWh.

Total kWh electricity sourced from EVSE in close proximity to renewably produced energy from home range grid mix over the time period = 97.3 kWh

Number of kWh from known renewable energy augmented EVSE stations*: 51.9 kWh * Solar BrightfieldTS EVSE at UNCA/Asheville Public Works BrightfieldTS solar EVSE/EarthFare BrightfieldTS EVSE/Sierra Nevada Brewery/WCU BrightfieldTS EVSE/Cherokee Welcome Center solar/wind EVSE

Total kWh used from charging the Leaf adjacent to the dirtiest EVSE* in our local energy grid over the time period = 27.2 kWh *Note: I refer to this as the dirtiest EVSE in the area as it is less than a mile from and within sight of the largest local fossil fuel-fired electricity power plant in the area – as you can see from this image.

 

energymixother17

FINAL ANALASYS 

Total energy used by EV over time period: 1,221.77 kWh 

1041.69 + 180.08 = 1221.77

Total kWh from known clean energy sources over the time period: 1,041.69 kWh 

535.19(classroom solar) + 51.9(RE EVSE) + 357.3(home wind offests) + 97.3 (near RE)  = 1041.69 kWh

Total kWh from fossil fuel generation sources:  180.8 kWh

153.6 + 27.2 (fossil fuels) = 180.8

 

leafenergypercents

CONCLUSIONS

My calculations suggest that, over the time period in question, the LEAF received 85.3% of its energy from renewable energy sources via either local sources or via carbon offsets.  The remaining 14.7% of its energy came from local fossil fuel-fired generation sources.

leaffinalenergy

So it seems that if my maths are correct (and please do correct me if you find an error) that my data and calculations suggest that during the time period in question my Leaf was 48% solar charged and 52% grid mix charged with 37.3% of that grid mix being sourced from renewable energy sources.

During the 48% of the time my Leaf was solar charging at my classroom – it was, in fact, receiving its electrons from the sun.

The other 52% of the time, while it is reasonable to deduce that my EV received 37.3% of its energy from renewable energy sources – it is more complicated to pinpoint the exact energy sources for my vehicles electron fuel.  This is due to the nature of nature, the nature of the electric grid, the loads on the grid at any given time, the nature of electrons, and my varied locations when charging.

Nonetheless, if the numbers and my calculations are accurate then it is reasonable to say that my little EV is truly a “green” Leaf and, for its specific situation and use – it is as clean as it can possibly be when compared to vehicles powered solely by internal combustion engines that receive all of their energy from carbon-based fossil fuel sources.  These results make me very happy by giving me the knowledge that I am doing as much as I am able to do to shrink my carbon footprint and I am working to share my findings with the next generation.

I am also fully and acutely aware that everything we do has an impact on our shared earth – from the manufacturing process of the vehicle, EVSE, solar array, and all the parts that tie it all together – these all have their own unique carbon footprints.  I am also fully aware that all grid-based energy supply networks – from the dirtiest coal or diesel-fired power plant to the cleanest hydro, wind or solar sourced renewable energy installation also have their own areas of inefficiency and loss that compounds to lower their carbon footprints – so no, there is no such thing as a 100% carbon-free human-made energy source and there will always be some losses in the manufacturing processes, in the power delivery along the way to you, and in the final use of that power by you, the user.  I am not here to debate those things nor am I hear to claim that I have all the answers.  What I am here to do is share with you the ways I have discovered that you can make use of to lower your personal carbon footprint by using renewable energy and electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf in your everyday lives.  Those other, larger issues – we common folk have little control over – but those issues will improve as our technology improves.  For those improvements to happen we need to vote strong scientific minds into offices of power and we need to vote with our money in support of renewable energy projects, electric vehicles and their support infrastructure, and better efficiency in our homes, schools and workplaces and maybe then, by working together, we can work to make our collective impacts on our fragile ecosystem as low as possible for the benefit of us all and for the benefit of everything moving forward.

MORE PONDERINGS

The 149.2 kWh of RE generated/augmented electricity sources used to charge my EV varied depending upon where I plugged into the grid, was it sunny, overcast, windy, what was the ambient temperature etc.  Although I am not 100% sure on any of the following I will take a stab at hazarding an educated guess.

Looking at the below map you will see two polygons.  These represent my daily home range and the electricity generation sources located therein.  I spend around 90% of my time within the area of the yellow polygon while the green polygon represents the extended home range that I visit around 10% of the time.  Note: the Duke Energy power plant located just north of center of my primary home range is listed on the map as a Natural Gas Power Plant – however, that listing is misleading as it is, in reality, a “Conventional Steam Coal; Natural Gas Fired Combustion Turbine with Net Summer Capacity by Energy Source: Coal = 378 MW, Natural Gas = 320 MW.” – so it is currently not as “clean” as it is reported.  The Oconee Nuclear power station, the closest one to my location, is just off the southern edge of the map to the left of Liberty, SC.

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On the next map, we see all of the locations where I frequently charge my car and their locations in relation to the local power grid’s energy production sources.

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The L1 and L2 EVSE in the lower left of the yellow polygon are clustered around my home and office.  My home is located midway between the Duke energy coal/gas plant and a large clustering of hydroelectric power plants to the west.  At first glance it appears that around 50% of my home’s electricity may be provided from this renewably generated clean hydroelectricity – however, those hydroelectric generation stations are on a different circuit so I am therefore unable to take advantage of their much cleaner hydroelectricity.  Although my home circuit’s power grid is fed mostly by a mix of coal, natural gas, hydroelectric, nuclear, and solar more or less in that order – however, when we take into account the renewable energy offsets I receive from Arcadia Power my home energy mix becomes MUCH cleaner!

When I am in the northern part of my most frequented home range I usually charge at solar assisted EVSE locations located in downtown Asheville at the BrightfieldTS solar assisted EVSE stations located on College St., on the campus of UNCA, at the Sierra Nevada Brewery, or at the Earthfare Grocery store in South Asheville.  These EVSE stations receive a large portion of their power from solar energy so, if an EV is charging during the day it is solar charged.  When an EV is not charging, these EVSE then feed clean solar produced electricity back into the power grid.  I can, therefore, hypothesize that when I charge at these locations (on sunny days) I am driving on sunshine and my car’s electron fuel is potentially as clean as when I solar charge at my classroom.

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Charging on sunshine on the campus of UNCA

When I drive out of my most frequented home range area and into my extended home range (the area within the green polygon) not only is the majority of the electricity in that area provided by clean hydroelectric generating stations, but on top of that,  whenever possible I charge at EVSE locations that are relatively close to hydroelectric, solar/wind* augmented generating stations.  It is interesting to note that the EVSE on the campus of  Western Carolina University is also fueled by a solar canopy as seen below.

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This EVSE is also very close to the nearby Electron Garden , a small campus solar farm seen in the following photo,  as well as being located “downstream” from several hydroelectric power generating facilities that produce close to 50 MW of clean hydro-generated electricity – so these facts suggest that this is indeed a very clean EVSE!22279717_10213086155961288_6919179988762042057_n-1.jpg

Another EVSE I use frequently is located at the Cherokee, NC welcome center in Cherokee, NC.  This EVSE is powered by a mix of hydroelectric, solar, and wind generated electricity.  The building (pictured below) is attached to a hydroelectrically energized power grid and it has two solar “trees” plus a small-scale wind turbine on site that generates even more clean energy from the sun and wind.

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This clean energy is then fed directly into the building’s grid and the three EVSE located in the parking area.  If an EV is charging then its batteries will be solar, wind, and water power charged.

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My Leaf charging at the Cherokee Welcome Center.

On a few occasions, I am forced, due to my Leaf’s limited range, to charge at EVSE located very close to coal-fired generating facilities.  On these occasions, my car is fueled with clean electrons produced by dirty energy generation stations.  The good thing is that these occurrences are rare and totaled only 27.2 kWh of my total energy usage during the time period under study.

Follow Up

I have arrived at my conclusions based on data from my home range map, charging history data from the “Leaf Log,” and knowledge of the local electricity providers power generating facilities and their service areas.

Even with the gray areas in the numbers this 85.3% renewable energy provided fuel is far and above cleaner and more energy secure and has a significantly lower carbon footprint than anything out there on the roads that runs on any liquid petroleum fuel.

In fact, even if I did not have a solar generating station at my classroom/office, or use Arcadia Power for carbon offsets, or charge at renewable energy powered EVSE – my Leaf would still average around 73 mpg equivalent*.   This is due to our country’s grid mix continuing to get cleaner every day with the retirement of aging coal fired power plants and their replacement with cleaner natural gas and much cleaner renewable energy power stations! *From the Union of Concerned Scientists EV Emissions Calculator found here: http://www.ucsusa.org/clean-vehicles/electric-vehicles/ev-emissions-tool#z/28768/2012/Nissan/LEAF (24 kWh)

This data is based on the following chart of the US energy mix as of March 2017.

2014-map_blog_5.19-1024x749 Source: http://blog.ucsusa.org/dave-reichmuth/new-numbers-are-in-and-evs-are-cleaner-than-ever

North Carolina’s Energy Mix

Now let’s look take a deeper look at my local energy mix.  The energy mix is just that – a mix of different energy sources all working together to provide us with reliable power for our homes, businesses, schools, and for a growing number of us – our electric transportation choices.

Traditionally, North Carolina was powered mostly by mostly coal but over the last couple of decades, we have seen a slow but steady growth in renewable power –  especially since 2010.  Since then NC has gone from near the back of the parade to #2 in the country for installed solar power!  Solar now provides NC residents with ~3.57% of our energy mix coming from the sun as well as over 3000 MWh of installed capacity – enough to power over 341,000 homes – and on top of that solar provides over 7,100 North Carolinians with great jobs and in the process, our energy mix just keeps getting cleaner!

Evidence of this can be seen in the below map image of NC’s current solar  (hydroelectric and nuclear) situation! (Note: yellow stars=grid scale solar power generation facilities, Blue=hydroelectric, purple=nuclear.)

solarhydronukeNCSC

This trend is happening all over the country as evidenced by this amazing graphic from this UCS article.

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As of May 2016, the USA had installed 1 million solar installations – including around 950,000 rooftop solar arrays! (Source: http://blog.ucsusa.org/mike-jacobs/one-million-solar-energy-systems-now-turned-on-in-us )

Many more solar and wind generating facilities are planned for the 2018 year as can be seen in the map below.

planned RE generating facilities 2018

It is wonderful to see the fall of dirty “King Coal” with no new coal-fired power stations going in and the rapid growth of renewable power generation nationwide.  What this means is cleaner air, cleaner water, and a cleaner future for all of us, for nature, for wildlife, for our children, and for the children of the future.

It also means that even when we charge our EV’s on only local grid power they will  ALWAYS be cleaner and have less of an impact on our environment than ANYTHING powered by petroleum products (source).  Furthermore, with more and more new grid scale and private renewable energy generation facilities going online, the grid just continues to get cleaner – so every time we charge our EV’s anywhere – the electrons fueling our vehicles also just continue to get cleaner.

This is a win-win situation for all of us…well, unless you are still driving around in an old fossil burner because, as we all know, their fuel source can never be made clean and on top of that as they age their efficiency drops as their multitudes of moving parts wear out with use only causing them to pollute more and more.

Below a wonderful sign of the times from the Sunday funny papers 🙂

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I almost forgot to mention that when I looked at how the numbers have changed when it comes to my fuel costs to push my Nissan Leaf EV down the road – the new solar array has lowered my costs by,  you guessed it, almost half of what I was paying in the past.  My previous costs of operation for my EV’s electric fuel were around $30/month and now, with my classroom solar array online and charging my car with sunshine, I can now drive my average 1200 miles/month for about $15 – that works out to a little more than 1 cent per mile to fuel my EV!!!

OUTRAGEOUS!!!

That my friends is the ultimate smackdown to petroleum-based fuels.

I could not be happier.

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!THANK YOU!

Thank you to everyone who worked with me to make this dream a reality!

You are all HEROES!