Tag Archives: efficiency

Second Quarter New Year’s Resolutions Progress

June has come and gone.  Summer is officially here.

It also means that it is a good time to check in on where I am at with my resolutions or goals for 2019.  Here goes:

  • Decarbonize transportation—My 2015 Nissan Leaf has been in the garage for almost six months. Through the end of June 2019 I have driven ~3,706 miles.  By trading a Ford F150 for a Nissan Leaf I have saved ~4,181 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted.
  • No more Amazon—While I failed in the first quarter, I feel like I am nailing it in the second quarter with $0—yes, zero—spend at Amazon in the past three months. It is surprisingly hard to resist the temptation to just order something from Amazon at nine in the evening.  It is like our brains are wired to just hit the “add to cart” button.
  • No more Walmart—As with my goal of spending no money at Amazon met with reality in the first quarter but improved in the second quarter, so too did my attempt at not patronizing Walmart. Zero dollars in the second quarter.
  • Read twenty five books—23 down, 2 to go.
  • Drink local—Doing pretty good so far.
  • Declutter my house—I started off with the best intentions in January, but after taking an entire car load of clothes the effort to get stuff out of the house has kind of fizzled. Again, I feel a little overwhelmed by all of the stuff that we have in the house.
  • Replace existing toilets with low volume flush models—I have picked out the model of toilet to replace my existing commodes. Now I just need to get a free day on a weekend to spend a few hours doing some plumbing.  Can you tell that this is my favorite way to spend a few hours on a Saturday?
  • Plant at least five trees—Two Norway spruce trees are in the ground. I am actively hunting for additional trees to plant, but the nursery stock locally has not been very attractive.
  • Reduce lawn coverage— Plans are laid out and some of the hardscaping materials are sitting in my driveway. However, this is the kind project that has to wait until the temperature declines a little bit.  Spending a day digging out turf when the mercury is over 90 degrees and the humidity level is above 90 percent is a no go.
  • Ride 2,500 miles on gravel roads—Almost 1,200 miles have been spent in the saddle so far and this includes a lost week spent on vacation in Colorado. I had the best of intentions to ride while I was out in Summit County, but I chose to hike and raft instead.

So far, so good I think.

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June 2019 Solar was Back on Track and EV Miles were Extra Efficient

June was a better month for solar production:

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Over the course of the entire month my household ended up ~150 kWh (consumption minus production), including all of my EV charging for that same period as I did not use any public chargers.  With at least eight more panels being installed on my roof this summer I am going to be seeing a lot more months with excess production.  Every kilowatt hour that I produce from my solar array is like a nail in the coffin for coal.

The excess production in June was a little artificial because we were on the road for more than a week.  With no air conditioning running it is to be expected that we would run a surplus.  June was also fairly cool with a corresponding lack of need to deploy air conditioning.  The last few days of the month were a reminder that summer in Iowa is a hot and sticky affair.  I am talking temperatures exceeding 90 degrees and humidity levels exceeding 90%.  If there was ever a time where I did not want to come home from the mountains this was that time.

For June I drove my Nissan Leaf a total of ~555 miles at an average efficiency of 5.9 miles per kWh.  This is my best number by far, in terms of efficiency, and makes me wonder if I can nurse my way to a figure over 6 miles per kWh in July.  For the period I saved ~646 pounds of C02 being emitted assuming that my charging came via the grid at an average carbon intensity.

You may ask how I can be ahead in terms of energy production yet still account for some level of carbon intensity for my electric vehicle.  Unfortunately, my photovoltaic array’s production occurs when I am not charging my EV which usually happens at night.  Therefore, to run my Nissan Leaf I am utilizing grid electricity.  It’s a little like keeping two sets of books for the same business.

May Showers Dominate Solar Production and Electric Vehicle Efficiency is Stable

May was a rainy month in eastern Iowa.  How rainy?  It rained for twice the number of hours in May and three times the usual rainfall hit the ground.  Things were really wet.  Like the “ground is a sopping wet sponge” wet.  It had an impact on May’s solar production:

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Now, just over 542 kWh of clean, green solar electricity is not bad.  It is down about 80 kWh from the same month the prior year.

All in all, my household ended up about 10 kWh ahead of consumption for the month of May including home charging of the Nissan Leaf.  When you can drive all month and live in house with modern amenities all powered by the sun that is considered a win.  Sometimes I just feel like I am living in the future.

For the month I drove 937.4 miles in my Nissan Leaf at an average efficiency of 5.5 miles per kilowatt hour.  This beats my efficiency the prior month by 0.1 miles per kilowatt hour.  This saved ~1,080 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions versus my prior vehicle assuming that I charged using grid electricity, which in Iowa averages about 1 pound of CO2 per kWh.  As noted above, I actually ended the month ahead of my consumption so the emission savings were probably higher.

It does not seem like a big win in terms of efficiency.  However, there are two round trips to Iowa City that totaled almost 140 miles of driving at highway speeds.  For anyone who has driven a Nissan Leaf there is a moment of dread the first time that you get the little car up to 60 miles per hour or more and watch your efficiency drop like a stone in freefall.

The trick is to minimize interstate highway type driving in favor of more sedate state or county highway driving.  That is to say, drive 55 miles per hour as opposed to the 70 miles per hour or more on the interstate.  It takes a little longer, sure, but there is something really peaceful cruising along with the windows down and the silence of an electric vehicle drivetrain.

It also helps to have access to public charging at the midpoint of your trip.  In Iowa City there are ChargePoint facilities available in several public parking ramps.  You pay for parking (first hour is free and a $1 per hour for any additional time) and the charging is free as long as you have a ChargePoint account.  My Leaf is equipped with a standard Level 2 charging port so it can accept, at most, 3.3 kWh of electricity per hour of charge.  It is not a lot for the ninety minutes or so that my errands in Iowa City take, but it provides a margin of safety for the trip home that eases any potential range anxiety.

These trips have gotten me thinking about electric vehicles and range.  Maybe the issue is not absolute range, as in 235 miles of range when fully charged, but rather the ability to gain a lot of range in a short period of time, as in 80% battery charge in 30 minutes.  If I was able to regain more than three quarters of my vehicle’s charge in less time than it takes to make a quick trip into Costco that would change my route calculations considerably.  Also, if more public charging facilities were available at destinations that might also change behavior.

Do I spend a little more time in downtown Iowa City because I am charging my Nissan Leaf?  Probably.  Think about that from an economic development standpoint.

Friday Linkage 5/17/2019

The race for the Democratic nomination to face off against Donald Trump in 2020 is officially ridiculous.  Bill De Blasio?  Really?  As if we needed another egomaniacal New Yorker running for the White House when it is already occupied by the worst version of that sort.

As the temperatures increase here in Iowa we are preparing to be deluged with candidates at every county fair, sporting event, Pizza Ranch…whatever.  If you get three registered Democrats together on a Tuesday night you could probably book at least one presidential hopeful.

Thank god I do not watch commercial television anymore.

On to the links…

The Dark Reason so Many Millennials are Miserable and Broke—Minus some organizing for social causes, what good has social media brought us as a civilization?  I would argue it has done much more harm than good.  Who really gives a shit what someone you have never met on Instagram is doing?

Exxon Predicted 2019’s Ominous CO2 Milestone in 1982—Has there been a company more destructive to the planet than Exxon-Mobil?  These guys are behind every bad action regarding the climate since the dawn of time it seems.

The World Blows Over $5 Trillion a Year on Oil and Gas Subsidies—The next time your drunk Uncle Carl starts spouting off about the production tax credit or tax credits for residential solar arrays remind him about the subsidies that oil and gas companies utilize to distort the market.

The Hidden Subsidy of Fossil Fuels—The report above seems to have sent a lot of writers looking at the murky world of fossil fuel subsidies.  Happy hunting.

Future of Workers Uncertain as Third-Biggest US Coal Company Declares Bankruptcy—I will cut right to the punch line: workers will get screwed in this bankruptcy.  Workers get screwed every time.  Executives will get paid.  Heck, executives will likely get bonuses for some reason.  Workers will get screwed.

The Simple, Yet Elusive, Key To Fighting The Climate Crisis—Radical reforestation should be at the top of any agenda to stop the worst impacts of climate change.  What is the downside?  Extra trees?  Okay, I will take that downside risk.

Why Aren’t North Americans Buying Electric Cars?—I have an idea: it’s the dealers.  Seriously, have you ever been to a non-Tesla showroom to look at an EV?  Don’t do it because it is a horrifying experience.

Gas Car Sales ‘have already peaked and may never recover’ as Battery Prices Plunge—I can personally vouch that we likely bought our last internal combustion engine car in 2013.  My used Leaf has proven to be revelatory as a driving experience.  In a couple of years we will be looking to replace my wife’s Subaru Outback and the first choice will be an EV.

All Aboard the Electric Bus – Modern Public Transport Powered by Electricity is Coming Back—Buses are the humble players in the decarbonization game.  No one really thinks about the bus when compared with subways or light rail.  However, there is not quicker way to get carbon out of our transit than by replacing diesel buses with electric buses.

The Morning After: Germany Starts Testing its ‘Electric Highway’—This idea is simple, old school, and amazingly timely.

Toronto Restaurant Fights Waste By Chopping Menu Prices Till Food Is Gone—I just love this concept.

The Little Technology That Could—This is one those technologies that makes you ask, “Why is this not a requirement for every large building?”  The answer is that it costs more money up front and builders are looking to put up buildings in the cheapest manner possible.  Just look at the newly opened Hudson Yards in New York City.

Could You Live a Low Carbon Life? Meet the People Who Already Are—Reducing our carbon footprint does not mean going back to some stone age like existence.  It is about eliminating the most wasteful aspects of our modern life.

Metal Straws, Mason Jars, Bamboo Forks: Do You Have to Buy More Stuff to Go Zero Waste?—Be wary of anyone who tells you that in order to reduce your consumption you need to buy something first.  It’s a lie.  Just stop using the thing you want to stop using.

How Recreation Boosts the Economy—As the extraction economy of the western United States winds down the number one driver of economic activity will be outdoor recreation.

Cracking the Electric Vehicle and Solar Photovoltaic Code in April

April felt like the month where I cracked the code on this whole electric vehicle thing.  How so?  After averaging 5.0 miles per kilowatt hour (kWh) in March and considerable less in the prior two months I ended April at an average of 5.4 miles per kWh.  Over the course of ~630 miles of driving I saved ~724 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions compared with my prior ICE vehicle.

Since mid-January when I acquired my used Nissan Leaf, I have driven a total of ~2,214 miles and saved ~2,456 pounds of carbon dioxide.  Not to mention saving ~$230 in fuel costs, which is a number that is sure to go up as fuel costs are creeping up here in eastern Iowa along with the spring time temperatures.

The story gets even better when you factor in April’s solar production:

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The numbers are not dramatic in and of themselves.  However, for the month—including the electricity that I used to “fuel” my EV—I produced ~95 kWh in excess of my needs.  For the month of April my house and my car were more than fueled by the sun.  That is the future.

Imagine what things will be like when I increase the generating capacity of my solar array by almost 60%.  Based on my calculations that will allow for more than 15,000 miles of electric driving per year which should cover both my and my wife’s commuting miles in town.

First Quarter New Year’s Resolutions Progress

The year is one quarter behind us, which means that we are three months closer to a world where the phrase “President Donald Trump” is not something we have to utter every again save for historical remembrance.

It also means that it is a good time to check in on where I am at with my resolutions or goals for 2019.  Here goes:

  • Decarbonize transportation—My 2015 Nissan Leaf is in the garage. So far I have driven the little EV ~1584 miles and saved ~1732 pounds of carbon dioxide.  Based on the average price of fuel in my area and the average fuel economy of the vehicle mile I am displacing with the Nissan Leaf I also saved ~$162 in just fuel costs.  This assumes that I am using grid electricity with an average carbon intensity and an average price.  This will drop even further when I add solar panels to my existing array.
  • No more Amazon—Kind of an epic fail. Four days into the new year I ordered something off of Amazon.  In my defense—if such an explanation is allowed—I had a gift card, so not using it would just gift Amazon that money, and I needed a Level 2 charging cable for my Nissan Leaf.  On the plus side that is the only thing I purchased.  In the end, Amazon got about $150 of my money.  On January 4th.  Damn it.
  • No more Walmart—Nothing illustrates the difficulty of avoiding Walmart than my spring break trip. Somehow, someone forgot our bag of toiletries at home and did not notice until we were unpacking in Avon, Colorado for a week of spring break skiing at Beaver Creek.  What to do?  Spend $100 at Walmart replacing toothbrushes, shampoo, and what not.  Do not bring the kids with you into a grocery store after spending more than 13 hours in the car.  They are like locusts looking for crops.  Damn it.
  • Read twenty five books—13 down, 12 to go.
  • Drink local—Doing pretty good so far.
  • Declutter my house—I started off with the best intentions in January, but after taking an entire car load of clothes the effort to get stuff out of the house has kind of fizzled. Again, I feel a little overwhelmed by all of the stuff that we have in the house.
  • Replace existing toilets with low volume flush models—I have picked out the model of toilet to replace my existing commodes. Now I just need to get a free day on a weekend to spend a few hours doing some plumbing.  Can you tell that this is my favorite way to spend a few hours on a Saturday?
  • Plant at least five trees—This is a goal for the warmer months. We are not there yet.
  • Reduce lawn coverage— This is a goal for the warmer months. We are not there yet.
  • Ride 2,500 miles on gravel roads—It may not be warmer yet, but my gravel ride is all kitted up for the new season.

So far, so good I think.

Spring has Sprung: March 2019 Solar Production and EV Stats

Can you tell the exact time when the snow finally melted in Iowa and it began to feel like spring?  I will give you one guess looking at the image below:

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It was like someone opened a door and spring rushed in looking for treats like a good boy.  I said it last year and I will say it again this year…I need to get a roof rake so that I can brush the snow off when it refuses to slide off my solar panels.  The way these things go it will probably be a very light snow year next season and the roof rake will sit in the garage unused for months.

It is my hope that April sees a production number on par with the prior year as the previous few months have really been mediocre in terms of solar production.  There is something ironic about getting an electric vehicle at the same time that my solar production fell off a cliff.  Oh well.

Speaking of the Nissan Leaf it also had a month when it became obvious that the weather had turned.  I drove 603.4 miles at an average efficiency of 5.0 miles per kWh.  This compares with average efficiencies of 3.6 and 3.9 miles per kWh in January and February respectively.

Two factors played into this efficiency increase: warmer weather that resulted in less use of the resistive heater and better knowledge of how to wring out mileage from the vehicle.  It is kind of amazing how you can optimize your driving along a route without resorting to any crazy hypermiling or vehicle modification. This is the kind of improvement that makes me wonder how much efficiency we can wring out of the transportation system without having to resort to draconian measures.

Over the course of the past two and a half months I have driven a total of 1583.6 miles in my Nissan Leaf.  That has saved 1731.9 pound of CO2 versus my prior vehicle and cost a total of $49.34.  The emissions and cost numbers are based on me using grid electricity for the entirety.

As an aside, I utilized a public charger for the first time this month.  In practical terms it was super easy.  I pulled up to one of the two spots at my place of work, tapped my Chargepoint RFID keycard, and got to charging.  There has been a lot of talk about infrastructure for charging and how it impacts the widespread adoption of EVs.  In my experience, the publicly available charging infrastructure is not the major hurdle to adoption for a lot of people.  Unlike urban areas, the suburban area that I live in is rife with attached garages where people can charge their vehicle at home overnight.  Within line of sight of my garage are two houses with Tesla Model 3s and in conversations with the owners I have found that they also rarely, if ever, utilize public chargers, including Tesla’s vaunted Supercharger.  It is just not necessary for the majority of driving that takes place in an average day.  Heck, I only used the charger at work to ensure that my Chargepoint card worked so that I could take my Leaf down to Iowa City in the summer.