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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Independence Car

I spent the 4th of July as many fellow Americans probably did; consuming hot dogs, cheeseburgers, ice cream and taking the occasional dip in the pool to get relief from the sweltering heat. I had some family and friends over to my house for a BBQ to celebrate our nation's Independence from the oppressive British regime some two hundred and thirty six years ago. 

While we were enjoying the festivities my ActiveE was nicely parked in the garage, plugged in and charging up. After a cloudy morning, my solar array had a nice clear afternoon and produced 45kWh's of electricity, and about 20kWh's that was produced went straight into the car's battery providing about 75 miles of driving range. This is how I claim my independence from the oppressive ministers of OPEC. On three different times during the day, I walked from the back yard around to the front of the house with friends who were asking about the EV & PV set up I have so I could show them the panels, and then into the garage to show the car plugged in and charging. Everyone loves it. They then say something like, "you know how much I spent on gas this month?" followed by some ridiculous number. I then tell them how far they could have driven an EV on that much money if they were buying electricity from the utility and it's usually about four times as far as they drove on gas and they just shake their heads. I then rub it in even further and say, "plus, you can make the electricity yourself like I'm doing here." You certainly can't make your own gas!

That's energy independence! Charging up my car with the power of sunlight as I'm having a good time with friends and family. Letting the same sunshine that's helping to make our day a great event also power my car! The best thing is the sun doesn't raise its prices nor reduce production to create artificial shortage and drive up demand. The sun doesn't make us drill deeper and deeper, damaging pristine wildlife refuges, nor does it make us look for it miles underwater.  Furthermore, sunlight doesn't cause pollution and smog like burning fossil fuel does. Other than hiding behind cloudy skies now and then, it's always there, basically in the same place as the day before and ready to rein down an incredible amount of energy for us, free of charge.

Many people talk about electric cars as being restrictive because they have a limited range and longer refueling time as compared to internal combustion engine cars. I guess it's how you look at it, I find them liberating. I've managed to live perfectly fine with a 100 mile electric car for three years now. During that time I've driven my EVs nearly 90,000 (mostly solar powered) miles and had to make very little sacrifice. Yes, occasionally there are tasks the car isn't up to, like driving to my in laws in Vermont or taking a day trip to Atlantic City, so I just take the gasser for these trips.  And to be honest, there have also been a couple of times when I was out with the car and realized I couldn't make a destination I would have liked to go to. Perhaps my plans changed during the day and I then needed to drive further than I expected to. Yes, it can happen. However these have been very rare occasions and the negatives have been overwhelmingly outweighed by the positives of driving an EV. I prefer to concentrate on all the reasons electric vehicles are great, rather than focus on the few shortfalls.

So on this 4th of July, along with celebrating the nation's Independence, on a personal level I celebrated my independence from OPEC, my independence from having to go to gas stations to get fuel and my independence from loud, vibrating, grimy and stinky internal combustion engines in my car. I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again: As far as I'm concerned, plugging in beats filling up any day of the week!
All this talk about energy independence reminded me of this classic Jon Stewart bit:


  1. Well said Tom. You are lucky to be living the future now. Electric cars powered by solar photovoltaic cells is a dream!

  2. Thank You Mikal. I do consider myself very lucky. I'm one of the very few people in the whole world that has been driving primarily on electricity for three years now. It's a great feeling when you take control of your personal transportation fuel. Driving with zero tailpipe emissions is fantastic and I hope you get to enjoy the feeling soon.

  3. I admit I'm a bit jealous of your PV & EV setup myself but I do hope you know that OPEC isn't the only producer of oil. The US actually gets more oil from Canada which is a friendly ally.

    1. Oil is a fungible commodity. There is little practical difference in buying our oil from Canada versus Iran or Venezuela. Buying it from Canada just means there is less for the rest of the world and thus other countries must charge a higher price to balance supply with demand.

  4. Yes Anon, I am fully aware where we get our oil from. Whether it's a friendly neighbor or a hostile enemy state does matter, but energy independence is the main goal, regardless of the supplier. Plus I don't want ANY of my money going to some of these radical regimes that hate the West, not a cent.

  5. Two thumbs up for fueling independence, Tom! It's going to take of eventually, it's just too damn appealing not to.