Electric Car Procured!


I bought the 2017 Car of the Year Chevy Bolt-with-a-B!  (As opposed to the Volt-with-a-V).

I love it!  But that shouldn’t be a surprise, because every electric car owner seems to love their electric car!

What cars did I consider and not buy?  Here are my personal reasons.  Your mileage may vary:

  • I did not buy a new BMW i3 because the i3 has less range, is more expensive, and the styling is too funky.  The i3 feels like the end of the last generation; the Bolt the beginning of the next generation, with much more range.  The i3 with Range Extender (REX) gives range but isn’t all-in in electricity.  Owners really hate having that internal combustion engine kick in.
  • I did not buy a cheaper used BMW i3 because they are too expensive for the prior generation of technology.  Sellers haven’t come to terms with the new reality of the Bolt.  Plus the infotainment system is important to me and the Bolt has CarPlay to work with my iPhone.
  • I did not buy a Nissan Leaf even though the leases are so low because I am not crazy about the styling and I wanted a better infotainment system.
  • I did not buy a new Tesla S because it’s way more car than I need, because I like small cars, and because I’m just not the type of guy to spend that much on a car.
  • I did not buy a used Tesla S even though they can be had certified pre-owned for about $44,000 and dropping because it felt like the car of the future in 2012
  • I did not wait for the Tesla Model 3 (even though I have a deposit on it) because I’m impatient, because the $7,500 federal incentive may not be available by then, and because I’m roughly number 350,000 on the waiting list.  It could take until 2019 to get one.
  • I did not buy a new 2017 Volt even though it’s a highly respected car because I like smaller cars.
  • I did not buy a used Volt even though they are incredible bargains ($14,000?) because I wanted something new and exciting.

Risks I took in buying a Bolt EV

  • I risked that this brand new car won’t have any serious first-model-year bugs. I’m hoping with Chevy’s 10 years of experience with the Volt, and the relative simplicity of electric cars, it will be ok.
  • By buying instead of leasing, I risked that this car will have decent resale value.  Cars like the Tesla hold their value pretty well.  Cars like the Leaf and the Volt depreciate very quickly, in large part because of all the 3 year leases coming due.
  • I risked that Trump won’t eliminate the $7,500 federal tax credit before I get to take advantage of it this time in 2018.

It was a difficult choice, but I am really enjoying the Bolt and can’t wait to drive it again!  It’s an amazing car… 238 miles of range, lots of gizmos, very zippy, great handling.



Batteries with your home solar panel system: worth it?

The way home generation works is: while you are at away at work during the day, your house is gathering midday solar energy and feeding it into the grid.  Then, when you return home and at night, you are sucking the energy back from the grid.  It’s like a daily deposit and withdrawal from a bank.

This is pretty good.  But it’s not as good as being more “off grid” and using as much of the charge you create in-house.  (In short: the value you get from feeding into the grid is less than the cost of taking from it, the power you get from the grid isn’t as clean as your pure solar energy, and there are efficiency losses.)

The eventual answer is to have a battery system like the Tesla Powerwall* at home alongside your solar system to gather the juice by day and squeeze it out again by night, with minimal transfer with the utility.

So is it worth getting a battery system now?  The short answer is no, not yet, but yes, eventually.  This is because battery prices are falling quickly.  At the moment they are still just too expensive for the ROI to work out.

It’s definitely possible to add a battery later to your system.  I was told to give it a couple of years as economies of scale kick in, and then reconsider.

* Incidentally, the Tesla Powerwall is fancy looking but not the most respected battery system out there.  It’s expensive, has Apple-like proprietary interconnects, and I’m told doesn’t contain all the components needed, so while it looks sexy on its own, it will be surrounded by other devices that wreck that look.


Solar vendor selected!

We have selected a solar panel installer, and signed the paperwork, and are officially underway!

Cost: The cost of solar will net out to about $11k to cover roughly 100% of our electricity usage including charging one car. (This was less than the initial estimate.) Break-even point is about 7 years.

pickmysolar: Our experiences with pickmysolar.com have been “AAA++ would buy again.” They exist to insulate consumers from the pain of dealing with many solar companies. They explain everything, put together your project specs, send it out to solar contractors, and bring you back the best to choose from. They receive a referral fee from the solar vendor. They were very professional and everything has gone smoothly. Recommended.

PickMySolar received 8 bids and from that they presented 3 to us.  The costs for solar were $16,000, $18,500 and $20,200 (before tax incentive).  The winner, Illum solar, had the lowest bid, high quality components and a good reputation.

Reroofing: If your roof is old then it’s wise to do it before you add solar. Many solar companies came from the roofing business so most are set up to do both at once. And it may be cheaper to do both at once from the same vendor. In our case the extra cost of doing the roof $3,500 was less than it would have been if done alone. (It might end being more depending on the state of the roof under the existing shingles.)

Specific cost breakdown:

$16,085 for solar project ($11,259.50 after 30% tax credit)
+ $3,500 for roof job
+ $600 for car charger outlet
= $20,185 gross costs
– 30% tax credit of $6,055.50
= $14,129.50 net cost for roof job, solar and charger

Here is what the bid looked like, if you care to see the components used:


Electric car charger: We are getting our solar people to add our car charger outlet for our future electric car.  Your regular 120 volt outlet is considered Level 1 and it’s slow.  The outlet they are installing is basically a 240V outlet, considered Level 2.  It’s basically just an outlet like you’d have for an electric clothes dryer. The “charger” unit is not really a true charger but which basically passes the current through to the car where the real charging circuitry resides.  The solar installer is charging $600 (not including the charger itself which will be another $500 roughly).  Yeah, I could save a couple of hundred by getting my own electrician, but wha’eva.

Technicalities for those considering solar panels:
– Our system is for 5.3 kW of generation and 7,570 kWh / year.
– This has 25 year warrantee on the equipment and 20 years on workmanship.

Next up:  Plans and permits are starting, then roof job when we have a stretch of dry weather, then solar installation. It could all happen quite quickly, weather permitting.

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to find a competent dealer in the Bay Area to sell me a Bolt EV!  Hmm… should I buy or lease??  Should I bail on the Bolt and just get a used Volt to tie me over until the Tesla Model 3 comes out?

Adding solar increases your house value

Most home improvements do not have a positive ROI in terms of your house’s resale value.  But adding a solar system does — as long as you own rather than lease it.

You can Google for yourself “How much does solar increase house value?” and find tidbits like this:

  • Installing 5kW of solar panels adds an average of $29,555 to the retail value of a medium-sized home”
  • solar energy is an investment that potentially pays a 200%+ return – far an excess of most any other financial vehicle you can imagine.”
  • “Going solar consistently offers higher ROIs than almost any home improvement you could ever make”
  • “FHA and Fannie Mae agree: A solar panel system adds value to your home (if you own the system)”
  • NYTimes reports on Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s conclusions that”… buyers were willing to pay a premium of $15,000 for a home with the average-size solar photovoltaic system (3.6 kilowatts, or 3,600 watts), compared with a similar home without one.”  See the full PDF report.

Finally this article takes an interesting angle.  It analyzes home solar installation from a pure investment perspective: “Solar: A High-Yield, Low-Risk Financial Instrument for Your Investment Portfolio.”  Money quote: “Solar thus serves as an intelligent and expedient choice for economically prudent individuals concerned about their financial growth.”

This is of course on top of the energy cost savings.  Sounds like a no-brainer to me!