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Friday, July 29, 2011

Horrendus fungus among us.

So, we've been composting for over two straight years with the same bin.  Everything has gone magnificently.  Recently, our compost bin has taken on a bit of green fungus.  It reminds me of Dog vomit slime mold everyone was talking about years ago.

We're moving, so today was the last day for composting for a minimum of 1 year.  We'll enjoy the time off, but we're not looking forward to changing the trash can liner up to 4x as fast.  "Composting has become second nature", my wife tells me.  I'm glad that she's learned and become accustomed to such an organic way of life from plate back to earth again.

Look for more on our compost experiences of the last two years soon.

Noise Pollution in India

Noise Pollution in India

Although noise pollution is a growing concern to all global dwellers, it’s perhaps a particularly pertinent issue to the people of India.  It’s there, that a population of 1.2 billion3 can’t help but contribute to the country’s growing plague of noise pollution.  Even the few who are advocates against excessive and unnecessary noise are guilty of making sound waves of their own.  This is the current paradox of the Indian people submerged in a sea of sound.   Ironically, the vibrations of contemporary India are a far cry from the delicate mantras of Hinduism’s Brahma or World Soul.  The Aum is meant to entomb harmony and balance through a meshing of all things.  Not surprising, the uncompromising dissonance of our own inventions disrupts the very balance of life’s natural vibrations. 
Noise pollution has somehow become the neo world soul of India.  Perhaps, a sound or multiple sounds to be relished rather than be down upon.  But, human health, wildlife and nature in general disagree.   Distaste for noise is something that people of all walks of life share.  In a recent survey, I discovered that 21 out of 23 of my classmates find noise to be bothersome4.   India’s population is familiar with the concept of noise pollution and its many adverse effects.   Alongside health problems such as insomnia, attention deficit disorder, and hearing loss, noise pollution is also a great source of environmental disturbance.  Wildlife and natural, native habitat and scenery are increasingly lost, which in turn fuels further deforestation as a result of it being of less quality in terms of land equity.
India is getting smaller every year5.  In fact, the Indian plate as it is referred to, is actually decreasing in size by nearly 2 inches per year as it merges with the northern Eurasian plate.  Obviously, a population that experiences such rapid growth, yet is dwindling in terms of land area would begin to show inevitable signs of wear and tear.  To the surprise of many scholars and researchers, the adverse effects of noise pollution have emerged as a first of perhaps many problems the country of India will face as a result of “overpopulation”6. 
Aside from overpopulation, the causes of India’s noise pollution problems are widely varying and often, quite easily overlooked when isolated.  Car alarms, street vendors, musicians, produce trucks, boiling pots, zippy mopeds and crying babies are just a few of the sounds that fill the air on a typical, urban afternoon in New Dehli.  The capital of India, the city is home to roughly fourteen million people, which is nearly the size of the state of Florida alone in terms of population.

Naturally, being exposed to noise pollution for prolonged periods of time has been known to bring about many health problems.  On the forefront of noise-related health problems is insomnia, stress, decreased productivity, and of course, hearing loss or impairment.
Indians are nearly 4 times as likely to suffer from bouts of insomnia than Americans1.   The correlation between health and noise are quite obvious to the large number of people living in India’s largest cities.  Many Indians living in urban areas are largely living in states of uncontrollable chaos and high concentrations of noise pollution.  It is here that the population experiences the adverse effects of noise pollution firsthand. 
Unfortunately, humans aren’t the only ones feeling the negative effects of noise pollution.  Noise from urban and industrial development eventually drives precious wildlife species from their natural habitats, increasing endangerment and even extinction.  In fact, it may be happening faster than we know.  “Animals communicate in a similar way to humans—by vocalizing”7.  Unfortunately, without proper communicatory ability due to noise, chances of survival for much wildlife in India are drowning in a sea of seemingly meaningless sound.
Like the rest of the world, it may be initially difficult for the Indian people to understand the importance of wildlife conservation and the like.  However, the cyclical nature of India’s soul and prosperity may be at risk as well.  The outcome of noise pollution’s effect on wildlife and nature may be less detectable, because it is to be experienced second-hand and without a doubt, after a great trickling has taken place.  Urban noise, wildlife, nature, tourism, health and economy are all part of a cyclical nature contemplated by Brahmin of Hinduism.

Current efforts and studies show that urban planners in India’s major metropolitan cities could benefit greatly by looking at molds formed by fellow national titans of ingenuity.  In England, for example, city planners and dwellers alike have collectively turned their urban woes into smiles and joy.  They’ve done this through a series of what is referred to as “green spaces”8.  It’s here that citizens “connected to nature, even unconsciously, can make life worth living”8!  Conceptually, England’s isolated efforts and implementation of “green spaces”8 serve as a highly effective tool in combatting urban noise pollution.
India is a vibrant land that offers much to any willing student.  The growing population there is truly an intricate part of this great society.  Unfortunately, the need for technological advancement and sheer ingenuity has superseded the need for existential harmony.  Ironically, it is the very nature of the Indian population that drives the neo-Aum of Today’s Industry in India.  The spirit of the Indian people is a strong one.  Their achievements have long been an example of greatness to their global peers.  For now, it is up to further research and human ingenuity in India’s next great frontier:  noise pollution.

Works Cited

1.  cover photo of boy and white noise machine courtesy of
2.  cover photo of traffic jam courtesy of
3.  India.  World Bank. November 28th, 2010.
4.  Audience Analysis on “Lawn Care vs. The Environment”, by Spencer Johnston, SPC 1608, Valencia Community College, Fall 2010.
5.  ESC 1000, Professor Mary Beck, Geology Department, Valencia Community College, summer 2010.
6.  “India”, by Professor Uday Murthy.  Department of Information Sciences, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
7.  Sheryl De Vore.  “Noise Affects Wildlife Profoundly, Too”.  Copyright 2004, Cary Grove Countryside, Pioneer Press.
8.  England’s Green Spaces Organization, 2010.

Other Acknowledgement of Area of Study:
“Noise”.  A feature film starring Tim Robbins, 2007.

Subaru 360 gets 66 mpg

It's time to get back to the days of the 360 Subaru.  According to my latest reads in "The Yugo:  The Rise and Fall of The Worst Car in History", "the car was capable of a top speed of 55 mph and achieved 66 miles per gallon" (Vuic 24).

Check out my previous blog about this book:

Yugo - The Rise & Fall of the Worst Car in History

I've started reading a book titled "The Yugo:  The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History", written by Jason Vuic.

This book so far has been a great read.  It seems to suite any reader of history or automotive interests alike.

Image courtesy of

Here's the book:

I found the book at the local county Library.  So far, it has offered great insight into the origins of fascination of exotic cars in the U.S.  I think readers of International editions would also enjoy the banter about imported cars from greater Eurasia.

Probably the best thing about this book is its utter ease.  I've merely devoted sparing moments to it here and there and I'm already on the 3rd chapter.

Anyway, enjoy the read.  I recommend it.  It's made my summer break a little better.  As a history student, it's a fulfilling and worthy use of my time.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Nissan Leaf: An EV to EnVy.

I had the privilege of driving a Nissan Leaf at the University of Central Florida earlier this year.  It was smooth, quick and very gratifying.  The slim design of the car's battery pack was to be reveled.  The lightweight batteries ensure little loss of efficiency due to their own weight.

Here's a story I found with more about the Nissan Leaf.

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Nissan Leaf Silently Scales Pikes Peak

Updated with more photos and info at 4:30 p.m. EDT.
Yes, that’s a Nissan Leaf electric vehicle. And yes, that is Pikes Peak it’s climbing — in decent time, no less.
Chad Hord, who is more often seen beating the snot out of a race-prepped Nissan Titan, completed the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in 14 minutes and 33 seconds.
That’s on par with the slowest finishers in some internal combustion divisions and an impressive finish for what was an essentially bone stock Nissan Leaf. Aside from safety gear and race-ready wheels and tires, the car that Hord drove was identical to the one Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn wants to put in your driveway.
For those who don’t know, Pikes Peak is one of the most storied, and challenging, events in motorsports. Drivers run flat-out over a 12.42 mile course that features 156 turns. The course, which includes gravel and tarmac, begins at 9,390 feet and finishes at the 14,110-foot summit.
While most entries roar through the course, the Nissan Leaf zipped along with only the sound of squealing tires and the high-pitched beeper installed to warn spectators the car was coming. Nissan tells us the state of charge meter showed three bars (out of 12) remaining at the end of the run. That suggests Hord burned through three-quarters of the 24 kilowatt-hour pack’s capacity during the run.
“The Leaf was great fun to drive up the mountain” Hord said in a statement. “With the instant torque from the electric motor we were able to jump out of the many slow corners and the performance was very consistent from the bottom to the top since the electric motor wasn’t affected by the high altitude near the summit like the gasoline powered cars.”
Although Nissan’s go-fast guys at NISMO have built a race-ready Leaf, don’t expect to see Leafs — yes, Nissan insists that’s the plural — throwing down in competition. Nissan said the run up Pikes Peak was meant to show what the tech can do.
Photos and video: Nissan

Hord answers some questions about the Leaf and prepping for Pikes Peak.

29 Tips on Saving Money on Gas

How to Save Money on Gas - 29 Tips

Expensive Gas in CaliforniaExpensive Gas in CaliforniaI love going on Road Trips, but the increasing fuel cost can put a damper on my mood to drive long distances. Due to the recent hike in gas prices, I wanted to share this article about fuel efficient driving techniques with you. As a student I didn't have a lot of money and the cost of gasoline was always a major issue for me. I have learned many ways of saving money for gas by improving my gas mileage. There are many things you can do, aside from going out and buying a more fuel efficient car, that will help you tremendously to cut down your gasoline expenses. Many require only minor adjustments to your driving style. I am going to review some well known techniques and some of my own that I used as a student. I have always been able to exceed the specified gas mileage of my car (even meeting the specified numbers is pretty tough). In my previous article on gas prices, I speculated that those high prices are here to stay and that we will never see really cheap gas again. In this article I am going to talk a bit about what you can do to save gas.
Update: I bought two Hybrid cars since I wrote this article and learned many new techniques that helped me with Hybrids: Improving Hybrid Car Gas Mileage 
Hypermiler App

Changing your Driving Habits

Brake the right way

1. A car consumes most gas as it accelerates. It's a simply law of physics (force equals mass times acceleration). A moving car doesn't require much gasoline to keep moving (due to the inherent inertia). In real life this means, in order to improve your mileage you need to keep the ride smooth. Let me give you some examples.
About 30% of the drivers I see in somewhat heavy traffic apparently cannot control their speed with the accelerator pad alone. Instead I see those guys speed up and slam on the brakes all the time. Obviously, that makes the guy following too close behind very nervous and he too needs to brake and accelerate constantly. In really heavy (but still moving) traffic about 90% of the cars do this. It is relatively easy to hold a speed in a long line of cars without stepping on the brake. Just keep a little bit more distance and try to practice this. If the traffic moves along, you rarely need to brake, unless everything slows down. If you pay attention to the cars ahead of you (not just the one right in front of your nose, but the other cars ahead of that one), you can anticipate when things will slow down and you can ease off the gas. This means you won't lose all that power to friction (on the brakes) and you can keep your speed without having to accelerate. In heavy traffic this is the most efficient way to save gas and can easily get you 10% - 20% better gas mileage.

Hybrid drivers

2. If you own a hybrid powered car, the statement above applies even more to you. Try to avoid fast braking. Hybrid cars have the ability to convert braking power into electric energy and store them in their batteries. However this (induction) will only give yo so much braking power. If you need to decelerate faster, your brakes will engage and energy will be lost.
So the next time you are approaching a traffic light, start braking a lot sooner and don't slam on the brakes the last minute. This will significantly improve the efficiency of your hybrid car.
By starting to decelerate sooner, I can often avoid coming to a complete stop (regular car), before the traffic light switches to green and the cars in front of me start rolling. This way I can keep some of my inertia and don't have to accelerate as much (<- more gas saved).

Turn off your air condition

3. This tip might be somewhat impractical in some areas. I would never dare to switch off the air condition of my car in Arizona in the Summer. However I also know that the compressor for the air conditioner loads the motor of my car more, which will reduce my fuel economy. I try not to use the air conditioner if I don't have to.
Park your car in the shade if you can, so you won't have to keep the AC working as hard when you go somewhere.
Roll down the windows just a tiny bit, so the air can circulate through your car while you are parked (might not be a good idea in areas with a high theft rate).
Turn off the AC 5 minutes before you reach your destination and don't keep it working until the last second.

Shifting Manual

4. A manual transmission is truly fantastic. I can only encourage everyone to try it out. You can pretty much determine if you want a sporty shifting (at higher RPM) or a fuel efficient shifting (at low RPM). No matter how "intelligent" automatic transmissions are, they aren't as smart as you. Due to the way an automatic transmission shifts, there are also higher losses associated with automatic transmissions. Overall a manual transmission can be a lot more fuel efficient.
If you have a manual transmission and want to save some gas, you need to shift up early and shift down late.
Most people get taught that they need to shift at a certain RPM, which is, excuse me, complete BS. You need to feel the car and the load condition to figure out when you need to shift. A car that goes uphill needs to pull a lot more and should be driven at a higher RPM (or else it jumps). On the other side, if you are gliding along an empty road, you can drive at extremely low RPM (high gear). Then if you want to accelerate (you need a bit more power), you quickly shift down, get up to speed and shift up again. I always shift by feeling the car and I rarely ever look at the RPM (except for my amusement or out of boredom, or if I really want to race and need to shift before the red line).

Shifting Automatic

5. If you have a cruise control and there isn't a whole lot of traffic, you probably should use it (it will keep the speed constant and hence doesn't need to accelerate).
6. Use the overdrive gears, as this will generally keep your RPM down and your wallet happy.
7. Shift into neutral when you are standing still to reduce transmission strain and cool off the transmission.
I added some more information on shifting, down in the comments below this post.

Reduce weight

8. Coming back to the force equals mass times acceleration. We already established that one shouldn't accelerate as much. You can also try to reduce the mass of your car by emptying out the trunk and removing heavy items that you don't need (keep your spare tire and car lift, but get rid of the gardening equipment).

Turn your car off

9. When you turn on a car, it uses a bit of gas. When the car is idling, it uses a fixed amount of gas over a period of time (especially with the AC on).
In most scenarios (depending on the car), the energy balance will be positive if you turn off your car for more then 20 seconds.
That means you can save gas if you turn off you car while waiting at long traffic light sequences, railroad crossings or while your better half pulls money from the ATM. Any time you can foresee that you will not be moving for more then 30s or 1minute you should turn off the engine to help your vacation budget.

Drive slower

10. Yeah right. Obviously thats not something I am all that fond off being the leadfoot driver I am. Well, it's a proven fact that driving fast will increase the drag (turbulence) and thus increase your fuel consumption, however I simply cannot bring myself to drive below the legal speed limit. It's your choice. There is not that much difference between 60mph and 65mph in terms of fuel consumption. However I grew up in Germany (no speed limits). A car racing along at its maximum speed of 200km/h (depending on the car), would consume about twice as much gas as if it were driven at 160km/h. At the upper end of the power spectrum engines become very inefficient.


11. Drafting has given me some excellent mileage when I used to commute long distance a long time ago. Obviously, it requires a bit of skill and it's not exactly recommended, since you should pay attention to the road and we all know, most people who read this just don't. However it is probably one of the best "secret" fuel saving tips I can give you.
This technique is frequently used by race car drivers to gain speed and truck convoys to save fuel.
Every car has a certain amount of drag (or wind resistance). This drag, the rolling resistance of your tires (see below under maintenance) and the friction in your engine are the three main causes of reduced efficiency. A car moving through the air causes the air to split around the car and turbulence behind the car. If you drive your car into another cars slipstream, both cars will save fuel (less turbulence). The following car saves the most gasoline.
Now remember, I am not advocating to tailgate. However, you can try to find a large truck (more turbulence and a longer slipstream tail) and slip in there. Now you can still keep some distance (unlike the NASCAR driver) and still save gas.
However, many people cannot regulate their speed without braking (see above). In this case you are probably better off just keeping your distance and not braking.

Close your windows

12. Believe it or not, but opening your windows will increase the turbulences and eventually cost you fuel. If you can, use only the ventilation system of your car. I cannot really gauge this against using the air conditioner. I believe that opening your windows at low speeds and using the air conditioner at high speeds gives you better fuel economy.

Fill up at Arco

13. Year after year Chevron and Shell are making new record earnings while squeezing the poor motorists for every penny. They advertise their expensive gasoline with buzzwords such as Techron, V-Power and some other BS words. Basically, that means they put some expensive stuff into the gas to sell it at a better profit. In fact, the gasoline of all gas stations flows through the same pipeline and the only difference is the magic stuff they poor into the gas to claim a cleaner burning fuel or better fuel efficiency. At the same time their average gas price is about 10c - 30c above other cheaper gas stations in the neighborhood. I can see no difference in my gas mileage when I empty a tank of Arco vs. a tank full off Techron enhanced souped-up high tech additive gas spritz. And if it cleans anything then certainly my wallet, which is all squeaky clean after filling up.
Well, I am tired of financing the billions of those mega empires. I am getting my gas at the Arco and I have never had any trouble with the quality. Of course you are free to throw your hard earned dollars at Chevron (pay 10% more and save 3% on their rebate cards - another scam to tie the customer to their high priced gas) or Shell in the hopes their magic bullet fuel additives do anything for you.
Now let me back up a second. Sometimes I actually go to Chevron to fill up. I put exactly 8 gallons into my tank so I qualify for a discount at the car wash.

14. When I am on the road, I try to keep an eye open for gas prices along the way. If I see the price jumping down, i usually fill up. Some gas stations offer free coffee with fill up or a free hot dog, and if their gas costs the same as the gas across the street, I go for the coffee with my gas.

Pick a better route

15. Avoid heavy traffic and lots of traffic lights. The shortest route is not always the most fuel efficient if you have to stop a lot.

Cheap Car maintenance

Why cheap car maintenance? I don't believe that spending a lot of money on fuel additives or special tires or whatever I see suggested elsewhere will really help you to improve your bottom line, and that's what this article is about. For instance I do not believe that your fuel economy suffers much if you change your oil every 5000 miles instead of 3000 miles (but it does save money not to change oil that often).

Pump it up

16. Inflate your tires to the specified level (I usually go about 0.2 PSI above). This will reduce the contact area of your tire to the road and therefore reduce the friction. It will help you to get a slightly improved gas mileage.
17. If you don't need Snow Tires or Chains, remove them. Don't drive around all summer with Snow Tires. They are softer and have a deeper profile which will increase friction.

Rent a smaller car

18. Remember that mass and acceleration equation? Well, a small car always has a better fuel economy due to its smaller mass. Smart budget travelers therefore rent smaller cars and don't care much about the status a shiny big car conveys. They rather indulge in a good drink at the end of the day (when they don't need to drive anymore) with all the gas money they saved. Their vacation pictures look just as glorious, but they still have pocket change for bigger prints.

Reduce drag

19. Why are you driving around with that ski-, bicycle- or luggage-rack on your roof if you don't need it? Didn't you know that this increases the wind resistance of your car? Well now you do. Seriously, removing those will save you quite a bit of gasoline.

Eco tuning

20. Chip tuning for your engine used to be pretty big way back when gas cost less then water. These days the buzzword is eco tuning. Many tuners offer replacement chips for your engine computer that increase the power while at the same time saving gas. How is this possible? Well to cut this already long article short, they improve both ends of the curve. At the upper end they give you more power (with reduced efficiency) and at the lower end a better efficiency. You choose with the gas pedal which mode to use. Make sure you use manufacturer approved tuners if you don't want to lose your warranty.

Use the correct grade of motor oil

21. The grade of the oil pretty much tells us about the viscosity. If you use the wrong grade, you may increase the friction in your engine. It gets hotter and uses more gas.

Air filters

23. Replace your air filter when you need to, or your mix won't be right. However don't replace it every time the mechanics tell you to (they make money with it). Try to find out how often you need a new filter.

Turn off the lights

24. Well, this one might be a safety concern. Many Rental Car companies have daylights enabled on their cars which are rather efficient. However every electrical equipment is powered from the alternator which will increase its load on the engine to produce more power. So when you can do it safely, turn off those headlights.

Drive less

Here comes the discussion we don't like to read as much.


25. Well, if two people are riding in a car, the gas used per person is immediately cut into half. If 4 people are sharing a ride, their individual gas bill becomes only one third. Since they can now use carpool lanes, they won't have to spend as much time in traffic (idle engines use gas too) and get an even better gas mileage, plus they get home sooner. Its not always feasible though.

Combine Trips

26. Try to combine trips. If you live outside of town, try to go into town only once and get everything you need done.

Fuel Efficient Cars

27. If you are in the market for a new car, you definitely should consider fuel efficiencies. However I wouldn't buy a hybrid just for the better fuel economy if I weren't in the market for a new car. You can easily calculate how much money you would save a year and weigh that against the cost of the car (plus the potentially higher maintenance cost).
28. Its not commonly known, but Diesel engines can give you a much better gas mileage than Hybrids on long distance drives. That's one of the reasons, hybrids aren't popular in Europe but Diesels are.


29. Don't fill up unless you are on empty, since all this gas weighs a lot and as we have already learned (force equals .... - you know it). However I usually only do this when gas prices are falling or constant (so I can wait longer and get cheaper gas). When gas prices are rising, I fill up sooner. Due to the psychological impact of rising gas prices, people usually do the exact opposite, which will eventually cost them more.
30. The list still grows. Someone made an excellent suggestion for trucks in the forum. Dropping the tailgate of his small truck, Ronald is able to improve the aerodynamics and thus get a better gas mileage. Sounds plausible.
31. I also noticed that the first gas station you encounter after a long thirsty stretch is almost never the cheapest. After you leave a national park and didn't have a chance to pump gas for a long time, the first station will often have slightly higher prices as everyone pulls over to fill up as soon as they can. I usually drive a little further to find a cheaper station.
32. I do not fill up on gas stations visible from the Interstate I am driving on or from the main freeways. I usually take an exit at a moderately sized city when I am on a road trip and head for the city center. Before I actually get there, I usually find much better deals. Location and Competition are the factors that determine local price fluctations. This means you need to look for places with lots of competition (hence moderately sized city) and avoid prime locations (get away from the main roads). Large cities often have higher gas prices and are harder to navigate. On my last trip, I pulled over whenever I saw a station that had significantly lower prices then I had seen previously, even if my tank was only half-empty. On road trips, the rules are slightly different. Fill up whenever and wherever it is cheap and do not wait for yout tank to be empty.
Book 3+ nights at Expedia and get a free $50 gas card! - Offer good Monday - Friday until June 30th.


Article written by Andre Gunther:
The Lemon Book: How Not to Get Ripped-off When You Buy a Car

Why Online Education is Better for the Environment…And Your Wallet

Why Online Education is Better for the Environment…And Your Wallet

Sunday, July 24, 2011

72 Miles Per Day of Sunlight


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Dr. Rob Wilder is Manager of Encinitas, Calif.-based WilderHill Clean Energy Index (ECO), the first Index on Wall Street for renewable energy, better energy efficiency and zero-carbon solutions. He was previously on faculty at U.C. Santa Barbara, and University of Massachusetts; he has been AAAS/EPA Fellow in Environmental Science & Technology, Fulbright Fellow, and a National Academy of Sciences Young Investigator. For a more extensive look at so-called PV+EV technology, check out
The idea of using solar to power electric cars is tremendously appealing in theory, yet critics insist that it’s a myth or a pipe dream at least a decade away. But it’s here now -– and our Roadster is the proof. Let’s examine how we get 72 miles per day from sunlight, or what I affectionately call 72 MPS, in our solar/electric Tesla.
To visualize how sunshine can power very fast cars, start with the solar. Our solar photo voltaic power began with installation in 2003 of a 3.85 kilowatt solar rooftop array on our home in Southern California. Originally powering only a building, the PV has been performing well and should reach payback after roughly 10 years (see solar PV system costs for more information).
The fairly short time to payback is due to two crucial components: 1) *California’s solar subsidies, and 2) *Time of Use metering (TOU) by our utility.
This PV is monitored by a web-based real-time monitoring system. In long sunlight in the summer and fall, we generally make on average around 14 kilowatt*hours (kWh) per day from our phase-one panels (below left). In winter, with fewer daylight hours, or on cloudy days with less irradiance (watts/meter2), we generally make much less:

Phase one rooftop PV going in, 2003.

Phase two, PV is added, ground-mount.
Pleased with phase-one results, we next installed another 2.8 kW of ground-mounted PV (above right) and so total production for both systems is about 6.65 kW overall.
Importantly, since we implemented this solar system in 2003, it has been providing us about 24 kWh per day of electricity. That’s roughly enough to meet the needs of many a small business, or a single home. Please remember this 24 kWh per day figure -- it’s an amount we think of as “One Sun” and will be relevant with addition of an electric car.
It’s also an average. We can make more than 25 kWh on long, sunny, non-foggy days of late summer and fall. Conversely, on shorter winter days, or on any cloudy or foggy days, solar production will be substantially less.

PV Monitoring: Phase 1 vs Phase 2 performance.
Consider next our billing is by TOU (Time of Use) metering and on a 1-year annual basis — it’s not monthly. So with the grid essentially a battery, and 1-year billing cycle, we can use greater power in late summer and fall to offset winter shortfalls. As the PV in day covers night use over 24 hours, surplus in summer and fall carries winter year in and year out.
Practical Knowledge Gained from Adding an Electric Vehicle (EV)
Now let’s throw into the mix our recent addition of a 2008 Tesla Roadster. I and my family already love it dearly: It’s a clearly exceptional vehicle -- great to drive, quick and stunning to watch. Importantly, it also uses our solar PV. Simply plug in the Roadster and it dovetails elegantly with our PV, becoming in essence a solar EV, or what I like to call PV+EV. For people interested in energy security, this is the holy grail of personal transportation -– a gorgeous, fast car that doesn’t compromise on performance and is powered by renewable energy.
We’ve also gained practical PV+EV experience. Consider the amount of energy we’ve made from the sun (green) vs. energy we’ve expended (orange) over a typical day now:

Phase one rooftop PV going in, 2003.
The green lines are fairly predictable; they’re roughly a parabola matching (no surprise!) sunshine. They correspond neatly with the hours that utilities typically charge most money for energy. And, of course, our production of energy from solar power hasn’t changed at all since an EV was added to the equation.
But the height and shape of our energy demand, in orange, with an EV is now far different. We consume a good deal more, although it’s mostly done at night. The reason is simply that we charge our Roadster late at night through the early morning, when the battery becomes fully recharged and it stops charging.
That’s shown in very high 2+ kWh orange bars seen above left and right from a typical day in May, charging at 110 volts and 15 amps. Adding this first EV has suddenly enlarged & shifted our energy-use, something to be mindful of when you’re solar powered. To speed charging we've recently upgraded to 240 volts and 30 amps, so the orange bars are now briefer and can get really tall indeed! For live data see
But before you knock the Roadster for increasing our energy demand, remember: We’re not paying a penny for gasoline. And the Roadster has supercar performance and a correspondingly large battery. This battery holds 54 kWh, giving this car great speed and a good range but therefore needing much (solar) ‘juice’ — certainly more than a smaller EV that might be used mainly for short trips or inter-city commuting and errands.
Due to cooling and other losses in charging, filling from empty takes about 68 kWh, or 26% more than 54 kWh the battery holds. This 68 kWh is the seminal amount; it quantifies how much truly is needed. We’ll reference this number to determine how far we can go from power of the sun alone.
Crucially, we do all EV charging overnight because with Time Of Use (TOU) meter rates, the cost here is ‘only’ 18 cents/kWh during off-peak hours at night.
By contrast, a peak rate is far higher at 30 cents/kWh from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., when our PV makes surplus power from the sun and sells it back to the utility, giving us a credit on our bill.
To charge overnight isn’t a sacrifice at all; we’d do it anyway. Moreover, this car captures many natural benefits of EVs. It has zippy, always-available torque and doesn’t require you to chug up to the peak torque zone like a gasoline car, “gasser.” It feels far more responsive and intuitive than a comparably slow Porsche or BMW. Only the very fastest gassers are in its league or quicker, such as the fastest Ferraris.
Better acceleration than most any gasser and far more fun to drive, with 100% torque -- and it doesn’t require the costly, time-consuming maintenance of a gasser. All this, and you’re not dependent on vexing oil – and best of all you possibly can make your own clean fuel such as from renewable sunlight or wind power to boot!

‘Solar electric Tesla’, in foreground.
For our EV, ‘fuel’ comes in essence from PV. And we may soon add a third phase of differing PV, or small wind power for even more renewable fuel. Contrast that with a gasser. It’s impossible under virtually any circumstance to make your own gasoline. Yes, it’s energy-dense -– but it’s finite, dirty, comes primarily from geopolitically instable regions. A gasser can’t go 10 feet without it, and even hybrids depend on it.
On the other hand, we’re already learning valuable lessons about PV+EV. In a chart above, the Roadster began consuming energy in the evening; by the time it stopped charging, it was only partially charged. Because it draws a maximum of about 15 amps from a common 120V outlet, it needs more time than TOU allows per night to recharge fully.
However we recently changed to a 240V mobile connector, so we’re now charging at 240V @30 amps (using a standard NEMA 14-50 4 wire), dramatically shortening the full recharging time from at least 24 hours to less than 8 hours. And we could purchase the high-power connector and charge at 240V @ 70 amps.
A measuring unit to next help explain energy*time is the kilowatt*hour, kWh. Elegantly it can apply equally to energy made by PV— or energy used in building or car; 500 watts for 2 hours, 1,000 watts for 1 hour, or 2,000 watts for 30 minutes, each = 1 kWh.
Consider now that with TOU, each kWh surplus solar made On-peak, is worth 1.6X each kWh used Off-peak due to a billing ratio of 30:18. So our 25 kWh made On-peak by PV, and leveraged at 30:18 becomes akin to our receiving 41 kWh Off-peak from the grid.
What, next, is our actual range on a 68 kWh fill up? To give an exact range is surprisingly slippery, regardless of solar power or not. Yes, this car impressively is EPA rated at a 244-mile range, or it can go 0-60 in 3.9 seconds. Yet it can’t go that far and consistently fast.
The Roadster has several driving modes. We almost always use the default “standard” mode to optimize performance and range. The “range” mode allows more battery charge; it slightly shortens battery life and we sometimes use it if going unusually far — but it slows the EV considerably so it’s more like driving a common gasser. The “performance” mode is typically used on race tracks; it’s less efficient so we don’t use it at all.
After turning the key in standard mode, you see “ideal” range: it maybe says, 195 miles — not the EPA rated 244: you don’t have access to 100% of the energy in standard mode. You’re seeing only 80% of theoretical range. This is partly for battery management; charging to 90% in standard mode prolongs battery life, and 10% more left in reserve also is not shown onscreen.
In our experience, after driving to a half state of charge, we’ve gone approximately 70-75 miles. Extrapolating and being conservative we normally expect some 140-miles total range; that’s without dipping into the 10% reserve and driving in the fast standard mode, which is just too much fun to pass up.

Sample screen at battery ½ depleted.
On the other hand, we’ll get EPA-rated 244 miles starting off with a full charge and going in range mode.
Now on to a key question: what’s real range in this fast EV powered by sunlight? I suggest rephrasing the question: How far does our 6 kW of solar PV make the car go? Recall we make about 24 kWh over an average day; we call this 24 kWh in a day, or 1 “sun.” Broken down as 24 hours, roughly 1 kWh is being made each hour; we call that 1 kWh per hour one “sol”. Two hours is thus 2 kWh, or 2 sol, etc.
As will be shown, we get about 3 miles range from each kWh (sol) in this fast car.
Simply, 24 kWh/Day means roughly this car will drive 72 miles per day from sunlight alone. Thus it has a range of 72 miles per day of sun, or 72 MPS. Translating how far you can go from of sun power alone, and seeing that it’s 72 miles per sun (MPS) or 3 miles per sol (3 m/sol), may feel more intuitive and simply more elegant than oily old MPG.
Solar-power is more changeable than a fixed 24 kWh/day, however for simplicity’s sake we’ve kept the 1 sun constant. Yet a second major variable is energy expended in driving. That in turn will be keenly influenced by how and where we drive the EV.
We’re estimating our own average demand is 330 Wh/mile overall, after charging losses. This is based on our local situation: we drive local streets 30-60 mph, and the Roadster is very efficient in that zone. We don’t do very many freeway miles and are only occasionally in range mode. With our driving mix, we end up with roughly 270 Wh/mile.

We get around 0.270 kWh/mile typically
in 30-60 mph stop & go local traffic.
Given 0.270 kWh/mile from battery as our average, and adding 26% loss charging (going to around 330), means we get roughly 3 miles range for each kWh, or 3 m/sol. (This also is in line with the EPA estimated 0.280 kWh consumption per mile in a combined cycle)
Generating our own PV power makes us more aware of building demand. We are diligent about using regenerative braking to slow down. Why use the brake pedal when you can slow down just as easily by taking your foot off the accelerator – and make electrons too?
Just lifting off the accelerator slows the car quite sufficiently in most driving situations, particularly from high speeds, when inertia regenerates 30-40 kW back in the battery. For me and for many Tesla owners, the “strong regen” is one of the most interactive and satisfying aspects of driving. Compared to an archaic gasser, which wastefully heats brakes to arrest momentum while putting zero fuel back in the tank, the Roadster can be efficiently controlled with just the slightest movement of your foot on the accelerator.
Now back to the PV connection: We’d estimated its payback in roughly 10 years. Now with 5 ¾ years making solar power under our belt, we see that’s about right. Total cost for the first phase was $15,511 (the California subsidies back in 2003 had cut our costs paid in half).

29,000 kWh is generated and measured since a 2nd PV monitoring was installed in 2006 (left).
Or at this sunny On-peak moment (left, top), the Irradiance is a sunny 772 W/M2;
6.5 kW of PV is making 3,698 Watts, the demand is 530 Watts, and 3,167 Watts is being exported.
And our payback might be better yet. We’d looked only at payback for our electricity — a complex problem but a self-contained one.
Now that we’re also avoiding buying gas, a vital second factor is accelerating payback. (Gas costs roughly double cost over electricity alone).
The combination PV+EV works, but there’s clearly limits on both sides of the “+”.
So the combination of PV+EV works, though we find limits on both sides of the equation. For instance, this car is thirsty; we’re consuming much more PV power than before powering just a building. Rather than PV fully meeting 100% of a smaller demand pie as it did before, now the demand pie is bigger. About 30% of the greater need goes into an EV, and 70% goes into the building. There’s no free lunch, even with solar.
How well has the 6 kW PV coped? In cloudy May, demand from both the building and car was 1,160 kWh. In that overcast month, PV made 650 kWh. That sounds a huge shortfall, yet with 30:18 leverage, TOU almost roughly covers it. But during four socked-in, foggy days at the end of the month, PV with TOU would have covered even the bigger combined demand.

650 kWh PV in May becomes 1,070 kWh due to TOU; almost matching 1,160 used.
Clearly it’s not enough watts head to head. But with TOU boost, 650 kWh is like making 1,070 kWh off-peak and just short of running both building and the car together. It’s more complicated, given that some PV power comes off-peak, but of the 1,160 kWh needed, our building alone used 810 kWh or about 70% of total, and car consumed about 350 kWh after charging making up the other roughly 30%.

EV used 279 kWh in month. Note 57 kWh of regen adds range.
Over a century ago, people who bought gassers learned that their fuel was toxic and flammable. They knew cars required many gears to compensate for the inefficiencies of internal combustion engines. They knew about the relentless frequency of oil changes, muffler replacements and engine repairs. All the same still holds true for gassers today, but the public simply assumes these things as the price of personal transportation.There are surely limits to EVs – but they are strikingly different. We rarely drive this wicked-fast & fun Roadster purely in range mode, so we often don’t get an EPA-rated 244-mile range, yet what we get is much more than we need.But that downside pales in comparison to a key point: The Roadster is available today and can travel at any reasonable speed and perform even better than comparable sports cars. It doesn’t need futuristic batteries -- what I like to characterize as “unobtainium” (great if it existed, but doesn’t). So the biggest barrier to widespread adoption is cost. But the costs are already coming down; the Model S has an anticipated base price of roughly half that of the Roadster.Now that we’ve experienced our PV+EV, we are looking forward to adding new methods of clean energy generation to our home – and new EVs to our fleet. We‘re through with slow gassers. Our cars going forward are going to be electric!Lastly we look forward to adding more clean energy that makes this very robustly a ‘solar-powered car’. One Off-peak electron at night has less value than one in midday and it’s that economic reality, that allows 6 kW of solar PV to meet all our demand. But if we say double production of renewable energy, then in physics too we’re making enough green electrons to power both building & car(s) in a straight 1:1 swap without TOU boost. Happily, adding PV or small wind isn’t technically challenging.

Tesla Wins Deal With Toyota for EV Project

Tesla Wins $100 Million Supply Deal With Toyota for RAV4 EV

Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA), maker of electric Roadster sports cars, said today it reached a three-year agreement with Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) to supply powertrain equipment worth about $100 million.
Toyota, which previously agreed to pay Tesla $60 million to develop lithium-ion batteries and motors for use in an all- electric RAV4 sport-utility vehicle, is paying the additional funds for packs and motors for the vehicle that goes into production next year, Tesla said in a regulatory filing.
“Toyota has reasonable confidence Tesla is well-positioned within the battery-vehicle market,” said Alan Baum, principal of automotive consultant Baum & Associates in West Bloomfield, Michigan. The $100 million “isn’t a huge amount for Toyota, so this allows them, with only modest downside risk, to participate in what Tesla is doing.”
Toyota, the maker of the Prius, the world’s best-selling gasoline-electric hybrid, is planning next year to sell more electric-drive models, including a version of the Scion iQ subcompact and a plug-in version of the Prius that runs about 13 miles on battery power before the engine kicks in and the car starts running like a regular Prius.
The automaker bought a 2.9 percent stake in Tesla last year, as part of a deal in which the startup, led by Elon Musk, acquired a former Toyota-General Motors Corp. auto-assembly plant in Fremont, California.

Tesla’s Plans

Tesla is to begin making its Model S electric sedan by mid-2012 at the factory, where it will also make the battery packs and motors for the Toyota model. The plant was shed by GM when it filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and is not part of the current General Motors Co.
“This is just the next step as the relationship progresses,” said Mike Goss, a spokesman for Toyota’s North American engineering and manufacturing unit. Toyota hasn’t decided the final production site for the electric RAV4, he said. The gasoline-powered RAV4 is built at Toyota’s Woodstock, Ontario plant.
The supply agreement runs from 2012 through 2014, Tesla said. Khobi Brooklyn, a spokeswoman for Palo Alto, California- based Tesla declined to provide additional details of the contract.
Trading in Tesla shares was temporarily suspended prior to the filing. Tesla rose as much 9.1 percent. The company gained 80 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $28.69 in Nasdaq Stock Market Trading at 4 p.m. New York time after earlier touching $30.44. Toyota’s American depositary receipts, representing two ordinary shares, gained 9 cents to $84.33 in New York.
Tesla is scheduled to release second-quarter financial results on Aug. 3, according to the company’s website.
To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Ohnsman in Los Angeles at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at