An energy positive solar car for 4 people

July 16th, 2013 | Posted by Joep in Carbon Positive | Our Future | Transportation | Victory Scenario - (Comments Off on An energy positive solar car for 4 people)

The Solar Team Eindhoven (STE) of Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) presented the world’s first solar-powered family car today. ‘Stella’ is the first ‘energy-positive car’ with room for four people, a trunk, intuitive steering and a range of 600 kilometers. This is the car being entered by the student team in the Cruiser class of the World Solar Challenge that starts in Australia in October 2013.

Source: TU/e

The solar cells of ‘Stella’- Latin for star and also a reference to the family character of the car – generate more electricity on average than the car uses and that means the surplus electricity can be returned to the power grid, thereby making the car ‘energy-positive’.

Solar Team Eindhoven has set itself the goal of developing the car of the future. By combining aerodynamic design with lightweight materials like carbon and aluminum, a very fuel-efficient car has been designed, which also has ingenious applications like a LED strip and touchscreen that make all the buttons and knobs we know today superfluous. Intuitive driving is enabled by a steering wheel that expands or contracts when you are driving too fast or too slowly. STE will have the car officially certified for road use to prove that this really is a fully-fledged car.

University teams from all over the world will be competing in a 3,000 km long race through the Australian outback. Solar Team Eindhoven is taking part in the Cruiser class in which the emphasis lies on practical and user-friendly solar cars rather than on speed. The ‘solar race’ takes place from 6 to 13 October 2013. Back in the Netherlands there will be a tour of high schools to promote engineering and science in education.

Thanks to Solar Team Eindhoven entry, TU/e is represented for the first time in the Solar World Challenge. A multidisciplinary team (with 22 students from six different TU/e departments) has spent a year on this project that involves challenges from the fields of energy and mobility. Cooperation with industry has given the students an opportunity to become familiar with top-notch entrepreneurship, thereby underlining TU/e’s vision of educating the engineer of tomorrow. TU/e professors prof.dr. Elena Lomonova and Maarten Steinbuch are members of the steering group.

Here is a video of the unveiling of the car:

The idea behind the car was presented at TEDex:

For more information go to


Zero Carbon transportation: Very much affordable with an Electric car

May 22nd, 2013 | Posted by Joep in Carbon Positive | Efficiency | Our Future | Transportation | Victory Scenario - (Comments Off on Zero Carbon transportation: Very much affordable with an Electric car)

Do you want a car that you can drive for free, that is part of our electrical grid and is 100% renewable? You may not think this is possible, but it is closer than you think. A couple of months ago, an affordable option came to the market: the electric car with a $200/month lease. You can make it fully renewable by using GreenChoice windpower from Austin Energy, or by installing 8 solar panels to be able to drive on the sun. It is more affordable than you think. In fact, you may even get paid.

Driving it

Fun! It is quiet. Very quiet. And in the eco-mode, your ride turns into a glide. When you do not use the eco-mode, your ride unleashes all the torque it has to get you going really fast. You can speed up quickly if need be (try sitting next to a Charger or Mustang at a stop light and see if you can beat them!). It is also really comfortable. The battery is at the bottom of the car which makes it very steady to drive. It is a new world of driving and I am sure that you will never want to go back to a car that uses gas once you have tried it and made the switch.


There are several electric cars on the market. Most fully electric vehicles (EVs) come with a battery that will give you 70-80 miles range, so it is the perfect car for commutes and trips all over town, just not to go to Dallas or Houston from here. We did an analysis and it would work almost everyday of last year, except for about 5 days in town, and a couple weekends up to family further away. We use our Prius for those trips, but could easily rent a car as well.


Electric cars do not need gas so you can happily forgo on stopping at the gas station and leave $20-$120 dollars in your pocket each time you don’t stop. But they do need electricity. The average electric car is much more efficient. the MPG is 100+. So you need less energy to drive it. It takes about 3000 kWh to drive a Nissan Leaf for 12,000 miles. If you charge at home this will add less than 30% to your electricity bill (per average Austin household consumption of 11,000 kWh). I use my solar panels to make the electricity and I will earn back my investment within one year. Yes, you read that right, within one year fueling/charging a Nissan Leaf will be free. If you buy a fast charger (level 2) for your home, it will take 1.5 years to never have to pay for charging anymore. That is a deal! Talk about energy independence that is renewable and clean. Another option is to use the PlugInEverywhere card from Austin Energy and charge you car on the go for a flat fee of 5$ per month and it is all through the GreenChoice wind-power program.

Bottom line: if you generate your own electricity, your electric car will drive for free after about 1.5 years. Yes, really.

Affordable car?

Of course you also need the car. Are they not very expensive  Some new electric cars  can be expensive, but the Nissan Leaf is affordable. It is even cheaper than a Prius since they lowered the price to ~$22,000. The lease can be as low as $200 per month. When you compare that to the gas savings from using your old car, you will get the car for free for about 8 months. Let me do the numbers for you: the gas savings depend on your MPG and miles, but if you drive a 25 MGP car for 12,000 miles per year, your savings in gas will be $1,600 per year (using $3.40 per gallon). So the gas savings pay for most of the lease. Your net lease payments would be less than $800 per year. That should be within range of just about anybody that drives a car. One hiccup, if you plan to lease it, there may be a downpayment, and you always have to pay tax and title.

lowgriduseconditionsfrom 9pmto7amWhy is it important everybody?

The Electric car holds the promise of needing fewer investments in our infrastructure, we will use more electricity for cars, but the beauty  is that it will give us lower prices. When you look at the image to the right, if we charge our cars at night when we park it in our garage, the existing infrastructure can be used more efficiently as it does not have to scale up and down so much. We will cut off the peak, which is most expensive. We can also use more wind energy here in Texas that is generated at night in the Panhandle. The wind electricity can use a hungry car. It  will increase demand during the off peak night hours when the wind is blowing. There is already one utility in the northeast (the University of Delaware, the regional grid operator and an electric company) that is piloting a program where your car battery becomes a two-way system: during the afternoon it can take some of your electricity from your battery and pay you for it, and at night it can charge it. Estimates are that the value of this system can be over $1800 per year. That is how much it is worth to your utility not to have to build and use peak capacity. Read more about this project in the New York Times.

So car batteries have the potential to become part of the storage when we make excess renewable energy and use it when the system is peaking. Now that is a big promise that can soon become a reality here in Austin as well.

Talk about impact: a car that you can drive for free, that is part of our electrical grid and that is 100% renewable! I can’t believe you do not have one yet 🙂 We love it!

Because it is free

October 26th, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Carbon Positive | Our Future | Transportation | Victory Scenario - (Comments Off on Because it is free)

Some things are best explained in very simple words: why would we use solar energy for our homes and our cars? Pat and Dale Bulla answer that question for you: because it is free. Read their interview posted in “The Current, issue October 2012“.

Did you know that it takes less solar panels to drive your car than it takes to power you house? Anybody that has solar panels on their roof knows it is empowering to make your own electricity. It is even more empowering if you use it to drive your car!

Now solar panels are not cheap, think of the cost of replacing your AC, it is about the same. But did you know that Austin Energy picks up about 40% of the cost to install your solar panels? And that 30% of the remainder can be claimed as a deduction on your 1040 when you file with the IRS? And that you will save on your utility bills? Installing solar panels is one of the few things in your house that actually make you money. In Austin the payback is less than 8 years. Where else do you get 12.5% return on investment? Do yourself a favor, if you have the money in the bank and it is in a savings account rusting away, put the money on your roof and join the solar community. Because it is actually better than free, you will be saving money.


Your EV-battery price has just come down

August 13th, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Alternative Fuels | Transportation - (Comments Off on Your EV-battery price has just come down)

Did you know that about 1/3 of an Electric Vehicles cost comes from the battery? That is huge! Did you know that the price of these batteries has come down already 30% as compared to 2012? You must already know that the sales price is higher then conventional cars, but did you know that the total cost of ownership is lower? We have a long way to go but there are already 8,000 charging stations as compared to 150,000 gas stations nationwide. Read more facts and a good comparison of different models in this EESI factsheet.

April Fuels Day! Alternative Vehicle Fair.

March 14th, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Events | Transportation - (Comments Off on April Fuels Day! Alternative Vehicle Fair.)

From Richard


Sunday, April  1st,  2012


10 to 2 pm    (9-10am set up)


 10 am-12- FUUC Congregation

 12 -2pm- Congregation & general                

 4700 Grover Avenue, Austin


Come, See, Touch and Explore all kinds of energy efficient, marvelous vehicles at the First Unitarian Universalist Church. This April Fuels Day, Alternative Vehicle Fair is a rare chance to have your hands on electric, plugins, hybrids, bio-diesel, bikes, scooters and MORE. Activities for young and all-slow bike races, model solar car sorties, games and goodies. It’s Free, Fun and a Fair!


 Contact information: Beki or Richard Halpin 288-4080 or




Quick-Charger a Breakthrough?

February 17th, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Transportation - (Comments Off on Quick-Charger a Breakthrough?)


In January 2012, Nissan will begin taking orders for a low-cost 480-volt DC quick-charger that can recharge a Nissan LEAF from “empty” to 80-percent capacity in 30 minutes. A quick top-up of an electric vehicle’s battery—say from half empty to nearly full—could happen in about five or six minutes. “That makes it the equivalent of stopping for gas,” said Brendan Jones, Nissan’s director of LEAF marketing and sales strategy.


That quick-charge capability has been in place for some time, but the cost has been in measured in the multiple tens of thousands of dollars. The news here, which might even be considered a breakthrough, is that Nissan’s quick-charger will sell for $10,000. When I spoke with Michael Farkas, the CEO of Car Charging Group, he said, “The sweet spot for DC fast charging is about $12,000 to $15,000.” It appears that Nissan has put more sugar in the sweet spot, by bringing the price down to $10,000. This could allow municipalities, small business (and even groups of EV owners), to sprinkle quick charging across popular EV markets. The cost of installation remains the wild card.

Jointly developed by Nissan and Japanese conglomerate Sumitomo Corporation, the DC quick-charge station is a compact unit designed specifically for the US market. The charger uses the CHAdeMO quick charging protocol and operates on 480 volts.

With a starting price of only $9,900, Nissan’s quick charger costs roughly one third the price of comparable units available today, according to the Japanese automaker. Additionally, Nissan claims that the unit is one half the size of most of the currently available DC quick chargers, while still retaining identical performance.

Brian Carolin, senior vice-president of sales and marketing for Nissan North America, stated, “A low-cost DC quick charger unlocks the potential for unprecedented electric vehicle use and adoption. We anticipate thousands of these chargers will be installed across the country.”

Nissan and Sumitomo will launch an online charger ordering system in January 2012. Installation of the DC quick-charge units will begin in spring of 2012.

Meanwhile, Better Place—the biggest champion of EV battery swapping—has secured an additional $200 million through a Series C equity financing round from a consortium of top-tier investors. Since its establishment in 2007, Better Place has raised more than $750 million globally.

“We are entering the next phase of growth for our company where we prove that our solution works, that it’s in demand, and that it scales, as we begin to push into new markets and attract new investors and new partners,” said Shai Agassi, CEO of Better Place.


Better Place says demand in Israel from both fleets and consumers has soared, with more than 400 corporations, representing a potential of 80,000 employee vehicles, signing letters of intent with Better Place. In Denmark—where this summer I was able to drive through its first European battery swap station—nearly 7,000 residents have visited the Better Place Center, with 90 percent of the visitors expressing some interest in buying an electric vehicle in the future.

The creation of more EV charging possibilities, in whatever form, can’t be an entirely bad thing. Although, as I discussed with Shai Agassi a few weeks ago, I’m still having trouble seeing how expensive battery swapping stations can scale up to accommodate millions of plug-in vehicles or compete with widespread deployment of quick-chargers (combined with home charging, which is and will continue to be the way most EV owners get a charge).

Regardless, the build-out of Better Place’s swapping and charging network—combined with a low-cost high-volume quick-charging product—makes one thing clear: it’s only a matter of months (not years) before EV owners will have abundant opportunities to juice up on the go.

Post oil: Boom in electric car sales fuel gas-free dreams

February 13th, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Renewables | Transportation - (Comments Off on Post oil: Boom in electric car sales fuel gas-free dreams)


IEN facebook page featuring Dale and Pat Bulla as stewards of what lies ahead of us.

Post oil: Boom in electric car sales fuel gas-free dreams (VIDEO)

More than a dozen new plug-in electric car models will hit the market by 2012, offering drivers a true post oil experience.

By Mark ClaytonStaff writer / October 9, 2011


With about 1 billion cars and light trucks on the road worldwide – and more than a quarter of them in the United States – more oil is consumed by internal-combustion engines used in transportation than in any other human activity. The private car itself is the most significant source of rising energy consumption for transportation.

However, some drivers are making a break from the pack. They want their private cars, but not the gasoline-gulping internal-combustion engine. They’replug-in electric vehicle owners, pioneers of an emerging, nearly gas-free dream. They’ve gone “post-oil,” even while experts continue to debate when petroleum reserves will run dry (the extremes range from two decades to never).

“It’s a different mind-set altogether,” says Dale Bulla, a retired teacher in Austin, Texas, who has not bought a drop of gasoline since he purchased his Nissan Leaf in April. “[A] big weight is off me. I just don’t have to think very much at all about oil or gasoline anymore. It feels good.”

The mind-set is catching on. Global sales of plug-in vehicles are starting gradually, but expected rapid growth will push annual sales to 1.3 million vehicles by 2017, says John Gartner, an analyst with Pike Research in Boulder, Colo. He expects 2012 to be the first big year with a quarter million plug-in vehicles sold worldwide. At least a dozen new plug-in models from 10 automakers will hit showrooms in 2012.

Pumping a clean jobs agenda and greater energy independence, President Obama wants to put 1 million plug-in vehicles on US roads by 2015.

US plug-in sales will be just 61,000 next year, rising to 303,000 by 2017, according to Pike Research estimates. And Mr. Obama’s goal, says Mr. Gartner, probably won’t be achieved until 2016. Long-term growth projections by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) suggest dramatic growth: 5.8 million plug-in vehicles on US roads by 2020. The Institute’s “high” scenario shows those numbers could soar to 12 million by 2020 and 65 million by 2030

 Here is the link to the full article that includes a video



EV-Vehicles, slides from Karl Rabago

February 6th, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Transportation - (Comments Off on EV-Vehicles, slides from Karl Rabago)

Here are the slides from Karl. EV-verhicles can help us add more renewable electricity to the grid mix using it’s storage capacity and smart off-peak charging.

Download this file

Electric Vehicle Forum

February 6th, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Events | Transportation - (Comments Off on Electric Vehicle Forum)

To: Energy Action Team

Subject: Electric Vehicle Forum

I attended the Electric Transportation Sunday presentation by Karl Rebago, VP of Austin Energy’s Distributed Generation program (he also covers solar, electric vehicles, conservation, and climate programs). The focus of his presentation was on electric vehicles (EV) which covers both hybrid and pure electric vehicles. Not only are EVs charged from the grid less cost per mile to operate than gasoline they are also less polluting to operate than from any other energy source. This is true even if the electricity comes from coal-fired generators. The pollution from coal burned to charge EVs is less than the pollution the car would generate if it were driven on gasoline.

Problems with Wind Energy – Storing it for When Needed

The City’s goal is to have 30% of our energy from renewable sources by 2020. Karl pointed out that wind is plentiful and the lowest cost renewable resource in Texas. However, when Austin needs energy the most the wind in west Texas is not yet blowing at its peak. We need energy in the late afternoon but the west Texas winds peak at about 2:00 am. He pointed out how EV car batteries when connected to the Smart Grid for charging could be managed to draw power from the batteries of parked cars at work and home in the late afternoon with a plan to charge their storage capability at a pre-dawn time when the wind is blowing hard in west Texas. All this is managed smartly with customer input so they don’t have any “battery charge level anxieties.” He reviewed a host of technical and cultural issues that need to be solved between now and then.

Solution for Wind Energy Storage

Karl said about 40,000 smartly-charged EV cars will be necessary by 2020 to comfortably justify the Smart Grid infrastructure and contribute to progress toward our renewable energy generation goal.

David Hogan