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The Path to a More Sustainable Life

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Opening night for the movie "Revenge of the Electric Car"

Tonight I joined other electric car enthusiasts at the opening of the newly released movie, “Revenge of the Electric Car.”  Written and directed by Chris Paine, this feature is the sequel to his earlier film, “Who Killed the Electric Car?”(2006), and it opened in major metropolitan areas this weekend, including the Hollywood Theater here in Portland Oregon.  The director himself was present to introduce his new movie and talk with the audience after the showing.  Why were we so lucky to have the film’s creator in Portland when larger markets were also showing the film?  Paine tells the audience, “There are so many folks interested in this topic here.” Besides, he has family in the area.

Chris Paine is correct about Portland, of course, and the first showings were all sell-outs. There was a buzz in the air and the opening night event included a display of vehicles coordinated by Drive Oregon, the state’s electric vehicle business association, and the Oregon Electric Vehicle Assoc. (OEVA).  This film spotlighted the birth of a new generation of electric cars including the Chevrolet Volt, the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Roadster and these cars were on display outside the theater for all to see.

Director Paine said this movie is about momentum.

Chris Payne presented his documentary and answered questions from the audience afterwards

Paine stated, “The last one was about being outside the system. This time, it’s about being inside the system and how hard it is to change things from within.” Indeed, Revenge of the Electric Car offers a glimpse of the brutal competitiveness of the mass produced car industry and features a look inside the minds of four EV innovators as they struggle to survive during a horrendous global recession.

Revenge tells the story of a disruptive technology on the brink of a major industrial paradigm shift, but in my opinion, this film is really more about people than it is about technology.

For three years (2007-2010) the filmmaker followed four champions of electric vehicles and revealed their personal stories and ordeals. Their stories are interwoven and the film is superbly narrated by actor Tim Robbins who is assisted by a greek chorus of industry journalists who comment on the action and provide some of the tension.  The four EV entrepreneurs spotlighted are:

  • Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of Renault-Nissan Alliance,
  • Elon Musk, Chairman, Product Architect and CEO of Tesla Motors,
  • Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman of General Motors (now retired), and
  • Greg “Gadget” Abbott, a car mechanic who converts gas-run cars to battery power.

Of the four protagonists, my favorite character is not the glam wunderkind, Elon Musk, or the quintessential business visionary, Carlos Ghosn; it is the old-school car manufacturer Bob Lutz. The guy is classic Motor City. He is responsible for gas-guzzling SUVs like the Ford Explorer and Hummer, and he watched GM market share deteriorate as gasoline prices reached $4 a gallon at the pump and Toyota surpassed GM with sales of their Prius hybrid. 

It seems like long ago that GM shut down production of its EV1 and destroyed all of the evidence, doesn’t it? 

Bob Lutz admitted he didn’t see a business case for EVs in the past, but now sees electrification of the automobile as a foregone conclusion. Due to Lutz’s born-again enthusiasm for plug-in vehicles, director Paine was able to get inside GM to document its development of the Chevy Volt with Lutz acting as congenial host and escort. My laugh-out-loud moment in the movie was when Lutz referred to himself as an “environmentalist.” 

Another larger-than-life character is Elon Musk, who co-created PayPal then sold it before starting Tesla Motors, SolarCity, and pioneering his own private space-travel company called SpaceX. At one point, he dumped millions of his own money into Tesla as he struggled to learn the difficulties of trying to mass produce a new kind of car.  

Businessman Carlos Ghosn shared his vision of a mass produced, mass marketed electric car – the Nissan LEAF. While Gadget Abbott made all car lovers drool at the idea of electrifying a classic American sports car like the Corvette Stingray.

Director Chris Paine

Revenge lacks the ultimate outrage produced by Chris Paine’s first movie, but then it didn’t need to as these are different times. This film ends on a decidedly more optimistic note as we learn that the Chevy Volt wins car of the year, the Nissan LEAF wins European car of the year, and Tesla Motors gets the government loan they desperately needed to survive.  Even Paine’s buddy, Gadget, who struggles throughout the film, finally finds a new shop to continue his unique car conversions.  

In the end, this film portends the beginning of a gas-free future and this is good news, or bad, depending on the viewer’s point of view. That day can’t come soon enough for me and for many of the people in that theater tonight.  We can hardly wait for what comes next.

Documentaries are not for everyone. I think this movie will certainly stimulate anyone interested in technology, business, transportation and eco-entrepreneurs, but it may not appeal to a mass audience. 

Noriko & Hideko check out an EV on display outside Hollywood Theater


Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.

This film is not rated.

The DVD will be released on January 24, 2012.






Please join us Saturday, November 5th, noon-4pm to celebrate Solar Oregon’s annual get together at the World Trade Center in downtown Portland.  The public is invited.

If you’ve been reading this blog you know I’ve been associated with Solar Oregon for several years, first as a volunteer, then as a Solar Ambassador, and now as a Board member. Well, I’m proud to announce that this coming weekend, Solar Oregon will be hosting our 32nd! annual celebration and membership meeting.

This event is an opportunity for Solar Oregon staff and board members give thanks to those who have contributed time, energy, money, and love, to the solar cause. We include a pinch of networking, a dash of information & education, toss in a few electric vehicles and chargers, then add just the right amount of organizational business, to make this a worthy event for anyone who attends.

This is a FREE event … please check the agenda to get the details … http://solaroregon.org/events/solar-oregon-annual-meeting-1/view    

or  >>click here to RSVP



What a week it will be for electric vehicle enthusiasts in Portland Oregon!

The new movie “Revenge of the Electric Car” is opening at the Hollywood Theater this Friday, November 4th and the director, Chris Paine, will be talking with the audience after the 7:00pm showing. The Oregon Electric Vehicle Association (OEVA) will be there and I’ll be there too to share in the revenge!

The very next day, Solar Oregon members will be showing off their own EVs at the World Trade Center courtyard. It should come as no surprise that our members are some of the very first owners of a Nissan LEAF or Chevy Volt. Many members are early adopters and electric vehicles and solar power go together like peas and carrots. 

Indeed, the theme of last year’s annual event was “Driving on Sunshine” and the OEVA participated and sponsored presentations such as: electric utility preparation for PEVs, testimonials from solar-powered EV drivers, and an update on the Oregon EV Project by JD Howell of ECOtality NA. It was a good turnout and everyone seemed to enjoy the show ‘n tell and the formal presentations, so we thought we’d do it again … only bigger!

Therefore, we asked our members to bring their new EVs to the party – in order to give neighbors a good look (or ride) – and to talk with others about their experience.

An electric vehicle movement is afoot in Oregon.  Oregon is paving the way for EVs to gain momentum, garnering national and international recognition from automakers as a launch market for newly developed electric cars coming to market in 2011 and beyond, as well as attracting millions of dollars in federal monies to build out EV charging infrastructure.  The seeds for clean transportation have been planted with Oregon’s green ethos as shown in the highest concentration of hybrid cars in a very informed and motivated marketplace; in combination other factors such as integration of land-use and transportation (including bicycles and mass transit), visionary policymakers and favorable policies, and creative local companies – clean transportation is poised to take root and grow.”

~ Quoted from Drive Oregon website:  http://driveoregon.org/

Over the past year, there’s been a flurry of electric vehicle activity in Oregon and so much is going on that it is hard to keep track … like did you know???

  • Hollywood Fred Meyer store is the first in the nation to have installed one of ECOtality’s fast-charging EV charging stations;
  • AAA Oregon/Idaho will be one of the very first to add EV quick-chargers to their emergency roadside fleet;
  • Drive Oregon is about to hire their very first executive director;
  • Electric motorcycle co. Brammo Inc. raised $28 million in funding led by motorsports player Polaris Industries Inc;
  • Solar power and electric vehicles are both disruptive technologies.  [That’s right, but they are harmonious to one another.]

June’s edition of Solar Today featured this cover …“Driving EV – Best practices for establishing electric vehicle-charging infrastructure” and included a great article by Daniel Davids, President of Plug-in America, about lessons learned; and just last month, fellow Solar Oregon board member, Bruce Barney, a PGE employee, wrote about his experience combining his PV system with his EV (Nissan LEAF) in Getting to Zero Net Energy for transportation. http://solaroregon.org/news/getting-to-zero-net-energy-for-transportation/?searchterm=barney.

Professional member, RS Energy, knows that solar & EV go together like peas and carrots

Please contact Solar Oregon at 503.231.5662 if you’d like to volunteer, or join up to get plugged in www.solaroregon.com

Bruce Barney’s story was widely read and we often publish these personal stories on our web-site, newsletter, and on my blog.  For example see …





Hope to you see this weekend!

Solar Ambassador Richard Mather tells his story

I’ve been blogging about Solar Ambassadors for some time and I’m not about to stop now. I met Richard Mather last May in Salem at the solar rally and was inspired by his story.  So were others, obviously, because there were several stories published this week about Richard and Pauline Mather.  The Mathers were the first residential customers with Salem Electric to install a solar system at their West Salem home, and they are among the first in the entire Willamette Valley to purchase a Nissan LEAF. Salem’s Statesman Journal printed a story about Richard and Pauline Mather entitled “Couple Pioneers Green Lifestyle “ written by CapiLynn  >> Click here to view article

Another accolade was written by Solar Oregon member, Kim Berhorst, who was the Mather’s solar consultant.  I liked it so much I thought I’d share it with my readers.  Geez, I wonder if I’ll have this kind of commitment when I’m in my seventies?!  

Solar Oregon Ambassadors Celebrate PV + EV at Home

by Kim Berhorst  (Salem, OR)

Pauline and Richard with their 2011 Nissan Leaf and Sharp solar system

The Mathers hosted a Solar Party July 16 at their Salem, OR, home to celebrate the integration of their rooftop photovoltaic (PV) system, an in-house electric vehicle (EV) charging station, and their Nissan Leaf, delivered in May after a year’s wait. They were lucky: Because of the recent tsunami in Japan where the Leafs were manufactured, the anticipated delivery date of fall 2010 was delayed by several more months and only a handful of buyers got cars in the first Oregon shipment.

Though the Mathers had their 3.22 kW PV system installed in December 2009, they delayed their party until the Leaf arrived to celebrate both. More importantly, they wanted to show how marrying the two further decreases their use of fossil fuels. “The solar provides electricity for the house and now it charges our car,” said Richard. “It just makes sense.”

When I first met the Mathers for their solar site assessment, I’d no idea how much they valued sustainable living practices, and further, how deeply they connect their everyday activities to the environmental health of the world at large. When their home was built in 1993, they made energy efficiency a priority inside and out, laying gravel beds in place of grass lawns, and landscaping with drought-resistant plants long before it was “trendy.”

KIm Berhorst and the Mathers

Retired and in their seventies, Pauline says they both were raised with a keen awareness of conservation and sustainable living practices. “I’m 100 percent Dutch,” Pauline said. Recycling and reusing everyday items was “just a part of life.” Richard, a former railroad engineer with the State of Oregon, first gained appreciation for solar PV when railroads began powering signals with the help of solar modules. When they purchased an RV a few years ago, they got one with solar modules on the roof.

Now, they have their own solar-powered car. “Getting the solar wasn’t just about how much money we could save or what the monetary payback would be,” Richard said. “It’s about doing something that reduces our dependence on fossil fuels and provides clean energy for the next generation.”

 Early Adoptors

Not only were the Mathers the first in their neighborhood to get a solar PV system, they also were the first Salem Electric (SE) solar net-metering customers. Their electric utility is a coop serving Salem and Keizer. Their independent advocacy was essential to SE establishing a residential net-metering program, helping smooth the way for other homeowners on the SE grid to go solar. Everyone involved – the SE Board and staff, the Mathers, and contractors – learned something new from each other. It was the Mathers’ kind patience and continued enthusiasm that buoyed everyone through the multiple obstacles to project completion.

Mathers have a new Nissan Leaf and Blink EV charging station

The Mathers’ friends and family weren’t surprised when Richard and Pauline pre-ordered their Leaf about a year ago through the EV Project, a U.S. Dept. of Energy- sponsored program aiming to encourage the deployment of a nationwide EV infrastructure. Nor is it surprising that they also are among the first Oregonians to get a Leaf. Richard and Pauline are known pioneers among their friends, family, neighbors and acquaintances when it comes to adopting new energy-saving “green” technology and sustainable living practices.

“They’re early-adopters for sure, especially when it comes to environmentalism,” said a friend who volunteers with Richard at One Fair World, a Fair Trade goods retail shop in Salem. They were among the first in Oregon to get a Toyota Prius hybrid, which they replaced with a Toyota Camry hybrid, and now they’re among only handful of folks statewide who have their own solar-powered Leaf.

 The “goods”

From the street leading to the Mathers’ driveway, guests could view the 3.22 kW roof-mounted system – two unassuming rows of black on black monocrystalline modules on the southern plane. It wasn’t till they walked up the drive (past the genuine railroad signal planted near the street) and to the garage that they got to see (many for the first time), all the “goods.”

The Mathers’ Leaf was parked near their RV that boasted a sign stating “Solar On Roof.” Inside the garage, Nissan Leaf sales representative Jacob Halsey, of McMinnville’s Chuck Colvin Auto Center, was bumming a charge for his demo Leaf. While the north side of the garage held about 30 chairs and a buffet table, it was nearly empty. Most guests were clustered around one of three other places.

At one end, Halsey answered questions standing between the wall-mounted Blink charger (220 V), installed by Salem’s Cherry City Electric, and the Leaf’s open hood, a thick black cord snaking out. At the other end, Richard showed people how to read his Fronius inverter and electric meters. And just outside, Pauline showed guests how their Leaf worked from a driver’s perspective. Between talking sessions, guests got to take test rides in either Leaf, with Richard or Jacob at the wheel.

According to Richard, their Leaf currently uses approximately 4 kWh per mile, and the regenerative braking system “recovers” energy while braking and coasting. The battery, made up of multiple lithium-ion battery cells, allows twice the power at half the weight of previous battery technology and its average range per charge is 100 miles, according to Halsey. Pauline says it’s the perfect car to drive around town for errands, and after driving it for a couple months more, they hope to add additional solar modules to accommodate the extra demand.

Solar Ambassadors like Richard and Pauline are renewable energy advocates who “walk the talk.” Not only have they incorporated solar technology in their own lives, they actively advocate by speaking at events, teaching others, and celebrating the many ways “going solar” has enhanced their quest to reduce their carbon footprint. We thank them for leading by example and inspiring others.

 To see their Solar OR Ambassadors profile, click on the Solar Ambassadors link and search “Mather.”

I thought the Better Living Show was ... better ... this year!

I just finished three days of walking the concrete floor at the Portland Expo Center. My knees are aching and my dogs (feet) are barking, but it was worth it. This year’s version of the Better Living Show seemed a big success by my observation as there were more attendees this year as compared to past.  There was much activity at the booths, the presentations were good, and lots of stuff to do with/for the kids.  Good energy, indeed!

Our Solar Oregon table was situated between solar professionals in the “Good Energy Pavilion” area across from the Energy Trust of Oregon booth. It was a great opportunity to chat with folks thinking about going solar and to meet new solar pros and sustainability advocates.

Solar Oregon's Claire Carlson set-up our booth

Thanks to all of our Solar Oregon volunteers – you folks are great advocates for solar power.

I think we did get some promotion out there for the Goal Net Zero Tour 2011 scheduled for Saturday, May 7.


Seemed to me like things were hopping at this year's show

Ford and PGE sponsored electric car displays and demonstrations called PGE Electric Avenue and Ford Drive Green Pavilion that attracted large crowds.  EVs are really gaining notice here in Portland!

Here are some pics from this event to give readers a flavor.

Plug-ins are coming ...

Lots of good energy at the Portland Expo Center


EVs come in all shapes & sizes

The Clean Energy House was sponsored by NW Natural Gas this year

I'm looking for water harvesting barrels, but made from fossil fuels? I dunno!

With gas prices climbing, best to prepare for the future

The Blue Home had solar electric and solar hot water features

Someday, garages will house solar inverters and EV car chargers

Boys and their toys ...

Even local sports media personality, John Canzano. was there doing his radio show on "95.5 The Game"

Kim Berhorst volunteers at the Solar Oregon Annual Event

November must be THE month for American Solar Energy Society (ASES) chapter annual membership meetings, because I’ve attended two already with one more still to come.  Non-profit ASES was established in 1954 and is the nation’s leading association of solar professionals & advocates.

Their mission is to inspire an era of energy innovation and speed the transition to a sustainable energy economy.  Through this work they advance education, research and policy for solar energy in America. 

ASES is now supported by more than 13,000 members across the nation – 40 chapters of energy professionals and grassroots supporters – who work together to help create a sustainable energy economy.  I’ve renewed my annual membership and hope that some of my readers might join up as well.

              SOLAR  OREGON     

My local ASES chapter, Solar Oregon, held their 31st Annual Celebration membership event on Saturday, November 6, in downtown Portland.  It was a great event and I tried to capture the spirit of the celebration in these pictures. 

Claire Carlson checks out electric bike on loan for the event

The theme was “Driving on Sunshine” and the Oregon Electric Vehicle Association (OEVA) participated and sponsored presentations such as electric utility preparation for PEVs, testimonial from a solar-powered EV driver, and the Oregon EV Project update. It was a good turnout and everyone seemed to enjoy the Electric Vehicle (EV) show ‘n tell and the formal presentations. 

The 3-wheeled Arcimoto Pulse EV gets a lot of attention

OEVA showed off some electric cars at the celebration

Kathy Bash was our host and she presided over her last meeting as President as she terms outs and hands over leadership to Linda Barnes. 

Linda is a LEED accredited professional and a licensed architect in Oregon and Arizona.  She has been involved with Solar Oregon for over 20 years, so I think the organization is in very good hands!

Good turnout for the presentations and annual meeting

By the way, Staffer Claire Carlson has done a fabulous job with the Solar Oregon Facebook page, and we now have over 1800 “Friends” with more ‘n more people joining every day.  Check it out at http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=1360968421 and add your name to the list.


KIm and Kevin Berg staffed the booth






NORTHERN CALIFORNIA SOLAR ENERGY ASSOCIATION  (NorCal Solar)   http://www.norcalsolar.org/

I also attended the NorCal Solar annual meeting that was held in downtown San Francisco on Monday, November 15.  I am a new member and this was my introduction to this ASES chapter, its staff and members.  NorCal’s annual meeting was much shorter and more business-like than Oregon’s, but it had its own appeal.  I was surprised that NorCal had fewer members, less staff, and a smaller budget than the Oregon chapter.  Like many non-profit organizations in the current economy they are struggling, so I signed up to write a few articles for their newsletter and I encourage my Bay Area friends to join up.

NorCal’s President is Elaine Hebert who has been active on the board for 13 years.  In 2005 ASES awarded her the prestigious Rebecca Vories Award for outstanding volunteer efforts supporting ASES’s mission and in 2007 ASES named her an ASES Fellow

Elaine works at the California Energy Commission and has been there since 1994. Her current position is in the Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program, where she manages contracted research work in zero energy homes and sustainable communities.

 I did know one person at this annual gathering … Andy Black of OnGrid Solar.  I met Andy two years ago at the InterSolar Conf in San Francisco and have been keeping tabs on his business since. http://www.ongrid.net/

OnGrid Solar performs solar financial analysis & purchaser consultations and they specialize in the financial payback of solar electricity systems.  Andy holds a Masters in Electrical Engineering, Certificate in Marketing, NABCEP certified solar installer, and tour coordinator for the annual San Jose Solar Tour.  He also conducts solar workshops all over the country.  The guy eats and sleeps solar!

 SOLAR WASHINGTON  http://www.solarwashington.org/

Next up is a meeting in Seattle Washington on December 1st.  If I can make it, it’ll be interesting to compare and contrast the make-up of this group against these two other West Coast chapters.  To be continued …

EV Test Pilot

Posted by Mac on November 12, 2010
Posted in Electric Vehicles (EV)  | Tagged With: , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Nissan LEAF – I didn’t know I really wanted one … until I drove it!

On a beautiful autumn morning, I test drove my first all-electric car … and I liked it.  On Friday, November 5th I joined approx 500 other people who had pre-registered to test drive the Nissan LEAF out at SolarWorld’s facility in Hillsboro Oregon.  My son, Dylan, accompanied me so I could get a Gen-Y perspective and he seemed just as excited and impressed as I was by the experience.  Alright, I’ll give you that I am predisposed to liking an all-electric car.  I do like the idea of it and I believe the proliferation of EVs will have a fundamental impact on our current gas-sucking ways.  But, Dylan wasn’t all that interested in electric cars until he sat through an hour of introductory presentations and then took that 10 minute test drive with me.

A beautiful day for a test drive!

                Now he is hooked as I am.  Finally, something we can both agree on! 

Pre-drive presentations ... Dylan looks on (backpack)

Yeah, I know little infrastructure currently exists in America to support EV travel, but I’m not buying into the fear-based notion of range anxiety either.  There’s lots of chatter about “trade-offs” and “limitations” put out to the general public, but I’ve done my homework, considered my daily use, and think I’ll have no problem whatsoever.   Early adopters aren’t the general public, anyway.  We don’t mind some inconveniences and they rarely dilute our motivation, that’s all part of the allure.

It looks Zesty up close and personal

Having said all that, I’ve never been too crazy about buying a first-generation v 1.0 of anything, especially for something as expensive as a new car.  Even with the tax credit incentives ($7500 Federal and $1500 Oregon / $5000 California) I told Noriko I couldn’t commit to the EV Project or the Nissan LEAF until I drove one, so I did.  Now I’m committed.  [At least to a point as I’m thinking of leasing rather than to purchase and I’ll explain later why.]   

I can see myself driving one of these all-electric cars

All my friends & family who own the Toyota Prius (many, many) tell me they love it and for all sorts of different reasons.   I believe them it’s just that I haven’t enjoyed driving the Prius upon occasion I’ve had to do so.  There’s just not enough power for moi, and the on/off electrical switching that takes place as you drive or stop distracts me somehow.  In short, I didn’t feel any zest when I drove the Prius.  

When I first looked at the Nissan LEAF, I wondered if it wasn’t too small or underpowered, but the only way to know is to drive one, so I did.  That sealed the deal for me.


It also helped that we were accepted in the EV project after Oregon Electric Group and EcoTality stopped by to check out our garage and home electrical system to see if we qualified.  We did, albeit we need to do some upgrading of our electrical wiring & panel to accommodate a dedicated 240-volt circuit required to charge the car properly.  This work is scheduled following Thanksgiving holiday and will provide electrical plug-in power to/for any electric vehicle that uses the standard SAE J1770 Level 2 plug.  Being accepted into the EV Project means that the $1200 car charger that’ll hang on our garage wall will be paid for by the project as long as we go along with a myriad of obligations on our part.  [Much more about this later.]

Dylan with SAE J1772 Level 2 Plug

Taking aim at an all-electric driving future

 So, what did I think of the test drive? 

 Smooth!  The car handled really well. 

  • This car has a low center of gravity because the battery pack is smack in the middle of the chassis, and placed low under the seats, so it delivers a very balanced ride;
  • Responsive.  It felt a lot like our all-wheel drive Subaru which we dearly love to drive;
  • Very quiet.

Nissan's Battery Pack Technology - still limited to 100 miles per charge

 Great pick up! 

  • When I was in the US Air Force, I once sat backseat in a fighter trainer/simulator that snapped my head back and drove me deep into the seat cushion upon takeoff.  [It simulated G force on the body and tested anti-G suits that pilots wear.] Okay, it wasn’t quite like that, but it there was definitely a jolt when I stepped on the accelerator (not gas) pedal, and we didn’t get the lag one experiences in most gasoline-powered cars. 

Taking it for a spin on the open road

Appearance and Comfort …

  • Dylan sat in back seat and said it was plenty comfortable and roomy.  He said the seat felt like it was made of memory foam;
  • The electronic gizmos are well placed and useful.  Probably sparse for real tech-gadget lovers and car-guys, but perfect for the likes of me;
  • Felt bigger than its size.  I had plenty of leg and head room.  The car can hold 4 people easily and 5 if they’re Asian-sized people;
  • Dylan gave the car a big thumbs-up so it passed the cool factor! 

Ready for Trickle or Quick charge

Charging station that goes into our garage

Bottom line … this car doesn’t look or feel like a first generation model at all.  You can tell that Nissan put 100% effort into making this EV the best on the market – day-one – and that quality clearly shows.  Japanese know how to make great cars and this is yet another example.  So, now I’m hooked. 

I’ll most likely chose the Nissan LEAF SL – the black model with the solar panel spoiler and Homelink universal transceiver– it is a bit more expensive, but well worth it in my value judgment.  

Might as well go for all of the Zest, right?!

Check it out yourself -> http://www.nissanusa.com/leaf-electric-car/index#/leaf-electric-car/index

If you want to test drive the LEAF ... check out the Tour schedule and sign up. It is just that easy. I highly recommend it!

A glimpse into the future

Posted by Mac on August 6, 2010
Posted in Electric Vehicles (EV)  | Tagged With: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Solar Canopy and Electric Charging Station at OMSI

Since I’m in the process of buying a first generation all electric car (Nissan LEAF) I’ve been keenly interested in what kind of infrastructure will be in place when the time comes to saddle up and drive the thing.  Naturally there’s been concern about what will be available for hybrid-electric and/or all electric vehicles outside of one’s garage.  The media, car manufacturers, and oil companies have been telling the American public that we all suffer from “range anxiety” and say our car culture cannot handle the limitations of the new generation of all-electric vehicles.  Really?!  I rarely travel more than a dozen miles a day on average, unless I’m on a road trip or something, and then I use the Subaru anyway. I certainly wouldn’t put range anxiety on the top of my anxiety list, but I suppose I do understand the point.  I’ll admit I’ve imagined making that AAA call and telling the call agent I ‘ran out of electricity and need a quick charge’.  (That outta wake them up over there in the AAA Emergency Road Service Department!)  Hmmm, I wonder … will my AAA Plus cover this? Last October I attended the Portland Go Green Conference where I sat in on several panel discussions about what local government and PGE are planning in this regard.  I felt encouraged by the commitment of the planners to develop the appropriate infrastructure, which mostly means distributed and dedicated charging stations in the city and along the Interstate corridor.  I heard the talk, but until last week at Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) I hadn’t seen any evidence. Now I have, and I’m happy to report that this infrastructure is coming along faster than most people think. For some this has been a long time coming – eighty plus years – which was about the time when General Motors, Ford, and other car manufacturers effectively killed the original electric cars with their gas-loving combustion engines. Since then we’ve dotted the landscape with gasoline “service stations” and there’s nary an EV charging station to be seen.  Now there’s several in Portland that I’m aware of and one is a “quick charge” station.  [See the article in Portland Business Journal for more on the Takasago Rapid Charging Station recently installed by PGE at their Salmon Street headquarters.]  It’s an EV station for drivers on the go — and I’m told it should charge a lithium ion battery to 80% in just 20 to 30 minutes. I’m guessing one reason for this positioning is because the Oregon Electric Vehicle Association (OEVA) meets regularly at the World Trade Center where this charger was installed. http://www.sustainablebusinessoregon.com/articles/2010/08/pge_debuts_quick-charge_station_kulongoski_takes_the_leaf_for_a_spin.html 1920 Milburn Light Electric Model 27L EV The OMSI event was a big deal and was well covered by the local media.  All the mucky-mucks were there from the Oregon Governor’s office, Portland Mayor’s office, OMSI, PGE and Sanyo.  Of course there were congratulations, speeches, and lots of photo ops, especially for the Japanese guys who all took turns taking their picture with the vintage 1920’s electric car that was part of the show. The solar canopy and charging station, a collaborative effort by OMSI, Sanyo North America Corp., InSpec Group and Portland General Electric, is being called the first of its kind in North America and is now available for public use.  The canopy, installed in OMSI’s south parking lot, covers three automobile parking spaces and is equipped with Sanyo solar panels. The canopy is expected to produce as much as 10,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. The panels were made using ingots and wafers produced at Sanyo’s Salem factory. OEVA member, Miles Twete, brought along his vintage Milburn Light Electric Model 27L EV (made in 1920) and he proudly displayed it alongside the newer EV and hybrid-electric cars that PGE had handy for this occasion.  http://www.oeva.org/.

Ain’t they beautiful?

Like waiting for a newborn to arrive!

If you’ve been wondering what has been happening with orders for the very first Nissan electric car … Nissan Leaf … well you are not alone. 

I’ve been wondering myself! 

I’ve been receiving email notices from Nissan re: my application / order for months now, with little or no real update, however yesterday I received notice that I now have a “reservation” for November 2010.  Hey, this is progress.

According to Nissan Leaf’s Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/#!/nissanleaf?ref=ts   … “Those Reservationists who were eligible to fill out a survey for a free charger during the Nissan LEAF sign up process as part of the US Government sponsored “EV Project” should be receiving a message today from their partner, ECOtality, via a Nissan email. This communication will detail the results of their evaluation for the unit. If you were offered and have taken the survey, but have not received this email by tomorrow, please call 1-866 NO GAS EV (664-2738) or chat online on the LEAF website of your eligibility for the unit.”

So I did receive a message or two and here’s what those messages had to say …

“Hi Ron, thanks for reserving your 100% electric Nissan LEAF™.  We just wanted to let you know you’ll be able to order your new Nissan LEAF in November 2010.  We’ll send you an e-mail when it’s time to work with a dealer to pick your car’s color, review options and get a quote.”

“As you can imagine, the response for the Nissan LEAF has been tremendous. The Nissan LEAF order period will be staggered by state, and the timing of your reservation will hold your place.  As a result, orders from states with an infrastructure to support electric driving – either in place or planned – will be taken first.  But no matter where you live, you’ll be among the first in your area to get a LEAF. ”

I figure Portland Oregon will be one of first places based upon what I know about the planned EV infrastructure in our area.  That being said, I still have no idea if I’ll qualify for the “EV Project” which would allow me to take advantage of a free charging station for my garage.  I’ve been told the same thing now for months now – that ECOtality has some more questions to ask, or they need to conduct further evaluation before I’m accepted into the program. 

To date, no one has ever directly contacted me to discuss.  I’ve talked with a couple of others in Portland who are in the exact same place, so I don’t think this is personal or I’m some kind of exception, I believe the program was simply overwhelmed by the response and they’re struggling to get on top of things. 

I suppose one can look at this as a good news – bad news situation. It’s okay, I’m a patient man.  Good things come to those who wait (or so we’re told in Sunday school).  If you haven’t been following my interest in the Nissan Leaf, please take a look at my previous posts for background on the subject … search LEAF to pull ’em up.

Full Commitment!

I don’t want to leave anyone in suspense so I’ll tell you right out … I did it.  I signed up for the Nissan Leaf.  Yep, I filled out the online form and paid my $99.  Noriko gave me thumbs up on the black model with all the extras – like a quick charge option and a solar panel.  Might as well go for the gusto, right?!  

Now we wait. 

I received an email from Nissan that said someone will get in touch with us by June 30 to “prepare our home for the new arrival.”  That sounds funny, who’s gonna call, Yenta? 

Most likely an electrician, because EVs require a personal charging dock to be installed at the home, preferably in a garage and connected to the main electrical panel.  Since Portland is one of the test markets for the U.S. Govt’s EV Project, I applied to receive a free charging station and if selected we’ll save approx $2200.  So wish us luck!

I saw the LEAF last December at OMSI Portland

Today marks the 40th Anniversary of EARTH DAY so my gift is working at the Wells Fargo Eco Fair today along with Markus Stoffel, Executive Director of Solar Oregon, and many others who are concerned about the planet.  We’ll be there promoting solar power to about 1500 Wells Fargo employees from 10-3.  After that I’ll be conducting my first Intro to Solar Electricity workshop in support of the Solarize SW Portland program tonight at Jackson Middle School Library from 6:30-8:00 pm. 

So, yeah, a rather full day ahead, but sounds like a fun day too.  Hope to see some of you folks tonight at the workshop.  The turnout may be light due to the Portland Trailblazers playoff basketball game against Phoenix Suns, which is the first home game in the tied-up series.  Go Blazers!!

It is almost midnight on the eve of April 19th (PST) so it is time for me to either put up or shut up.  The clock is ticking away, but I’m not sure what to do.  I’m still considering the plus/minus of being an early adopter.  If you’ve been reading this blog you know I wrote about seeing the Nissan LEAF up close and personal last December on the national tour.  [Ready for an ALL ELECTRIC Car?] http://solarflareblog.com/?p=110

Spaceship LEAF

[FRANKLIN, Tenn.]  Nissan North America, Inc. announced U.S. pricing for the 2011 Nissan LEAF electric vehicle, which becomes available for purchase or lease at Nissan dealers in select markets in December and nationwide in 2011.  Nissan will begin taking consumer reservations for the Nissan LEAF April 20, 2010.

Nissan says the LEAF will cost approx $25,280 to own and drive the first affordable, zero-emission car for the mass market.  Not bad!  Put that stat in the plus column. 

The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2011 all-electric, zero-emission Nissan LEAF is $32,780, (which includes three years of roadside assistance.)   Including the $7,500 federal tax credit for which the Nissan LEAF will be fully eligible, the consumer’s after-tax net value of the vehicle will be $25,280.

Additionally, there is an array of state and local incentives that will further defray the costs such as a $5,000 statewide tax rebate in California; and a $1,500 tax credit in Oregon.  The cherry on top in California is that the LEAF will be able to have carpool-lane access.

In order to ensure a one-stop-shop customer experience, Nissan is carefully managing the purchase process from the first step, when consumers sign up on NissanUSA.com, until the customer takes the Nissan LEAF home and plugs it into a personal charging dock.

  • Nissan begins accepting reservations on April 20 first from people who have signed up on NissanUSA.com, and, after a brief introductory period, to all interested consumers.
  • Consumers will be required to pay a $99 reservation fee, which is fully refundable.
  • Reserving a Nissan LEAF ensures consumers a place in line when Nissan begins taking firm orders in August, as well as access to special, upcoming Nissan LEAF events.
  • Rollout to select markets begins in December with nationwide availability in 2011.

Charging Equipment

In tandem with the purchase process, Nissan will offer personal charging docks, which operate on a 220-volt supply, as well as their installation. Nissan is providing these home-charging stations, which will be built and installed by AeroVironment, as part of a one-stop-shop process that includes a home assessment.

  • The average cost for the charging dock plus installation will be $2,200.
  • Charging dock and installation are eligible for a 50 percent federal tax credit up to $2,000.
  • Using current national electricity averages, Nissan LEAF will cost less than $3 to “fill up.”
  • Nissan LEAF also will be the sole vehicle available as part of The EV Project, which is led by EV infrastructure provider eTec, a division of ECOtality, and will provide free home-charging stations and installation for up to 4,700 Nissan LEAF owners in those markets.

Lot’s of pluses in there for someone interested in reducing their carbon footprint.  Double-plus if one is lucky enough to get one of the home-charging station for free.  I am in one of the test markets, so it is possible.  Hmmmmm … 

On the minus side – it costs a lot to be an early adopter.  (I recall a friend once telling me he bought his first video cassette player for $2000 back in the day.)   The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) reprinted an article entitled “Payback for Electric Vehicles:  New Data Raises Questions”, that points out that EVs are “not yet cost effective as compared to a mid-level, conventional vehicle.”   Their major issue is based upon pay back rather than any other benefit or factor.   You know, the old “alternatives just don’t pencil out” argument that we’ve all heard before.  The RMI article points out that even though a consumer may no longer have to spend money on gasoline, the premium price of EVs is not paid back by saved gas costs in “any reasonable amount of time.” 

Does an true early adopter really expect their new bleeding-edge technology to be cost comparable to a conventional model?  Have we ever?  I don’t think so!   There are always other motivations involved.  One auto analyst in Tokyo predicted the LEAF will prove to be popular among “people who want to be green, people who love technology and people who are status-conscious.”   That’s two outta three for me. 

Well, so much to consider, but I still have a few hours left to decide.  I suppose I’ll have to sleep on it.