Must Read: ‘From Homes to Cars, It’s Now Time to Electrify Everything’  

Every now and then I read an article that I am compelled to share, because it simply “nails it.”

Such was the article by Saul Griffith, published Oct. 19, 2021, on the Yale School of the Environment website, http://www.e360.yale.edu, and re-posted Nov 30, 2021, on GreenBuildingAdvisor.com.

Here’s a link to the full article: https://e360.yale.edu/features/from-homes-to-cars-its-now-time-to-electrify-everything.

The thesis of that article is summarized as follows: “The key to shifting away from fossil fuels is for consumers to begin replacing their home appliances, heating systems, and cars with electric versions powered by clean electricity. The challenges are daunting, but the politics will change when the economic benefits are widely felt.”

The diagram above right shows what can be electrified in a home. Rita and I are most of the way there. This fall I purchased an electric snow blower to complement our electric lawn mower, weed eater, leaf blower and automobiles. Earlier this year I purchased a heat pump water heater to complement our heat pump hybrid furnace. (Hybrid, because it still burns natural gas when the outdoor temperature dips below 30° F.)

All these electric devices are powered by the sun, thanks to our 10-kW solar PV system installed when we bought our home in 2012.  Because we still cook with gas and occasionally burn gas in our furnace and fireplace, our Xcel bill is still around $35-40 per month, but we’re doing our part to “electrify everything.”

You can do that, too.

The central thesis of Saul Griffith’s article is that we have little control over the supply side of energy, although there are encouraging signs of it becoming less dependent on fossil fuels.  But we have total control over the demand side of energy:

“We don’t have a lot of choice on the supply side, but we have all of the choice on the demand side. For the most part, we decide what we drive, how we heat our water, what heats our homes, what cooks our food, what dries our laundry, and even what cuts our grass. This constitutes our ‘personal infrastructure,’ and it is swapping out that infrastructure that will be a key driver of the global transition from fossil fuels to green energy.”

According to Griffith, who co-founded the non-profit Rewiring America, there are 280 million cars and trucks in America, 70 million fossil-fueled furnaces, 60 million fossil-fueled water heaters, 20 million gas dryers, and 50 million gas stoves, ovens and cooktops. Until now, the conversation has been about making each of those fossil-fueled appliances more efficient, earning “Energy Star” ratings.

But the real goal should be to replace them with electric appliances burning the increasingly green electricity which is being generated by our electric utilities.

A common refrain from people regarding electric cars is that they are not really zero emissions because of how the electricity is generated. I myself was originally reluctant to buy an EV because I didn’t want to “switch from burning gas to burning coal.”

However, that argument overlooks the relative efficiency of electric motors.  In a fossil-fueled car, only 20% of the energy in the fuel is propelling the car. The rest is waste energy, primarily creating heat which then requires more fuel to cool it. In an EV, 90% of the energy from the battery propels the car. There’s almost no waste energy.

An suitable analogy to the gas-powered car is an incandescent light bulb, in which light is a byproduct of heating the filament. It’s no surprise that the LED light bulb uses about 20% of the electricity of an incandescent light bulb for the same amount of light, because light is the primary product of the LED, not a by-product of waste energy.

Because of its relative efficiency, even if an EV is charged from electricity created entirely by coal, its carbon footprint is far below that of a fossil-fuelel vehicle. The same applies to today’s highly efficient heat pumps for both space heating (and cooling) and for water heating.

Griffith’s point is that more efficient fossil-fueled appliances won’t get us where we need to be to save the planet from catastrophic climate change. We need to get to zero emissions, which is only possible by going all-electric in our homes and vehicles as our electric utilities make their inevitable transition — whether incentivized by government or simply by the economies of renewable energy — to clean energy.

You, like me, will love the effects of this transition to all-electric living. Imagine a future where carbon dioxide is not a household poison; where motorcycles don’t disturb the peace and quiet of our streets and canyons; where semis slow down quietly because they are putting energy back into their batteries instead of using loud and polluting engine braking; where our neighbors aren’t disturbed by loud lawn mowers, snow blowers and leaf blowers; and where children no longer suffer health problems from their own school buses or playgrounds next to highways.

You, like me, will appreciate the ease of use and near-zero maintenance of electric devices. My snow blower, lawn mower, and leaf blower start by pushing a button or pulling a lever and never need a tune-up, refueling or oil change.

Griffith is not arguing that everyone should immediately swap out their fossil-fueled cars or appliances but rather avoid replacing them with newer ones. Cars, for example, can last for 20 years, and gas furnaces for 15 years. When they need replacing, make the smart choice and replace them with their electric counterparts. You’ll be glad you did five or ten years later when their resale value has evaporated due to public recognition that they became obsolete before you purchased them.

When Will Your Car Need These Expensive Repairs?

Rita and Jim Smith and their Teslas

Other than for a flat tire, you’ll almost never see an electric car on the side of the road awaiting a service vehicle or tow truck. That’s because an EV will never need any of the following expensive repairs — the parts simply don’t exist on an EV:

Transmission

Timing belt

Fuel pump

Muffler or stolen catalytic converter

Water pump

Fan belt

Power steering pump

Power brakes pump

Radiator leak/anti-freeze

Engine work of any kind

Spark plugs/points

There’s no “check engine” light because there’s no engine, so you won’t pay to “pull codes” and reset it. And no emissions testing. The electric motors in EVs, like those in other devices, are dependable, only failing if they are worked too hard, and the computers in Teslas (and presumably other EVs) don’t let that happen.

EVs have Battery Management Systems (BMS) which are critical to maintaining battery health and performance. In Teslas, there is a sealed coolant system which maintains the battery at its optimum performance temperature (70° F) year-round, including cooling it when it is being supercharged or when it sends a high level of power to the electric motor(s).

Lithium batteries, unlike lead acid batteries, do not fail abruptly, but rather degrade over time. The reason lead acid batteries fail abruptly, I’m told, is that they consume the lead when they are charged and discharged. Lithium ion batteries don’t consume the lithium. The rate of degradation has been estimated at 1% per year, so a battery with 300 miles of range might degrade to 270 miles of range in 10 years. That matches my experience.

As people wait for the purchase price of EVs to equal that of a gas-powered car — which has largely happened — they shouldn’t overlook the lower cost of fuel (3 to 4 cents per mile vs.10 cents and higher) and the dramatically lower cost of maintenance and repair. And fleet buyers won’t have to buy 12 EVs in order to always have 10 on the road because of how rarely EVs will be in the shop.

Electric Vehicle Roundup Returns on April 3, Featuring Electric Mustang, Jaguar and Other Brands

You’ve probably heard of the Tesla Models S, 3, X and Y, but have you heard of the Polestar2, the Mustang Mach E, the Jaguar I-Pace, the Hyundai Kona, and the Fiat 500e? These are among the 20-plus EVs that will be in the Golden Real Estate parking lot this Saturday, April 3, from 2 to 5 pm, with the owners there to answer your questions and possibly give you a ride around the block.

It’s our annual Drive Electric Earth Day event, one of two EV roundups that we have been hosting annually since 2012 in our parking lot at 17695 S. Golden Road. The other event is Drive Electric Week, held on the first Saturday in October to coincide with the annual Metro Denver Green Homes Tour.  Both events coincide with the “Super Cruise” events held on South Golden Road the first Saturday of every month from April through October. We like to expose fans of classic cars who attend Super Cruise to electric vehicles.

By now it should be clear that an electric vehicle of some kind is in your future, so you might as well starting taking a look at what’s available. If the right vehicle isn’t being sold currently, it will probably be available within the next two years, so come and look, and find out what all the excitement is about.

Our parking lot still has a few spaces available, so if you own an EV, especially one that is not listed in the first paragraph, please register to bring it at www.DriveElectricWeek.info. You can also register there as a spectator, but it’s not required. If you do want to attend, with or without an EV, we ask that you wear a mask and allow us to apply sanitizer to your hands when you arrive.

With our parking lot reserved for EVs, other cars will need to park in the Taco Bell parking lot across the street.

If You Missed Last Saturday’s EV Roundup and Green Homes Tour…

You can view a short video report about last Saturday’s Electric Vehicle Roundup at Golden Real Estate on my YouTube channel. The shortcut for accessing my YouTube channel is www.JimSmithVideos.com.

And you can still tour the homes on the 26th annual Metro Denver Green Homes Tour by clicking on “Playlists” on the same YouTube channel.

Winter Is When Electric Vehicles Really Shine

You may think this claim is counterintuitive, but consider the following:

Electric cars never need to warm up. Get in, put it in drive and go! (In Teslas, there’s not even a “Start” button.) Moreover, your cabin will be warm in less than 1/2 mile, because it doesn’t depend on an engine warming up.

You’ll never break down.  There is hardly anything to fail. Remember, it’s just a battery and a motor (or two).  You’ll never stall and you’ll never need a boost. There are only 50 moving parts in an electric car. What can fail? I like to tell people that the only time you’ll see an EV on the side of the road is if there’s an accident or a flat tire or the driver needs to duck behind a bush.

With their low center of gravity and 50/50 front-to-back weight distribution, electric cars handle better and more safely on wet or snow-covered roads. The battery in most EVs is mounted underneath the cabin. My AWD Teslas perform better in snow than my AWD 2009 Lexus RX 400h did. Here’s a 11-minute YouTube video of all three Tesla models being test-driven on Tesla’s Alaska test-track:

Imagine the worst winter scenario, where you get stranded in the snow and need to survive overnight or longer in your car. An EV is perfect for that situation, because you won’t have to stop and start your gas engine to keep warm and worry about carbon monoxide poisoning. The EV will lose less than 5 miles of range per hour to keep you warm. And it won’t matter if your car is upside down. If you charged your car beforehand, you’ll have long-term warmth.

One of my favorite EV features is the ability to leave the climate system on when I go into a store or meeting on a frigid (or super hot) day. When I return to the car, it will be at 70 degrees.  If I’m going to be in a long meeting, I can turn on the heat or A/C using my smartphone app as I’m leaving the meeting room and know that the car will be comfortable by the time I get in it.

As I wrote last month, the best deal in electric cars is a used one. According to Kelley Blue Book (www.kbb.com), my good-as-new 2015 Tesla Model S 70D has a private resale value of $33,402. That is crazy.  I paid $93,000 for it new.

My Advice on Buying Solar Panels and Electric Cars

By JIM SMITH

In the wake of last Saturday’s green homes tour and electric vehicle showcase, I’d like to share the advice I give to people who ask me about investing in solar power and buying an electric car.

As much as I wish it weren’t so, you will not recoup what you spend on solar panels, insulation and other green home improvements for your home when you sell it. As with any improvement, you will receive a percentage of what you spend, but it will not be anywhere near 100%. Only make those investments because you’ll enjoy the comfort and savings for at least a few years — and because it’s the right thing to do.

Regarding electric cars, I recommend buying a used EV. The used car industry has yet to properly value used EVs. Currently electric cars are devalued the same way gas cars are devalued, which doesn’t make sense. Consider a 4-year-old gas-powered car with 100,000 miles on it. You can probably get it for half its original price, because so many components, such as transmission, timing belt or fuel pump, are worn and might fail. But none of those components exist in EVs. There are under 50 moving parts in a Tesla. The same age EV is simply as good as new.

A used Tesla built before mid-2017 is an especially good deal, because lifetime free supercharging transfers to the buyer (unless purchased from Tesla). I’ve seen many Tesla Model S cars for sale online under $40,000, less than half their original price. Here’s one I found just now on autotrader.com….

Electric Vehicle Events in Golden & Denver

This Saturday, Sept. 14th, from 10 am to 3 pm, Golden Real Estate is hosting National Drive Electric Week in our parking lot at 17695 S. Golden Road in Golden.  This is our 5th year hosting the event.  From Sept. 14 to 22 there are 307 events around the country, nine of them in Colorado. In addition to ours on Sept. 14th, there are events in Denver on Sept. 19th, Pueblo on Sept. 14th, Longmont and Ft. Collins on Sept. 15th, Avon on Sept. 18th, and Colorado Springs, Durango and Grand Junction on Sept. 21st. Info on all of them is at DriveElectricWeek.org.  What’s so cool about this event is that there are actual EV owners showing their own vehicles, answering questions and sometimes offering rides “around the block” to interested visitors. There may also be dealers who can offer test drives of their EV models. At press time, 19 such EV owners had registered to attend our Golden event.  On the website you can register as an EV owner or as an attendee. We’ll also have a booth from Ecology Solar, which sells home solar systems to fuel your EV as well as power your home, and Pedego Golden, a new bike shop, will be giving free test rides on electric bikes.

Bring Your EV to Our Event Next Saturday!

We already have 14 EVs registered for the National Drive Electric Week event in Golden Real Estate’s parking lot at 17695 S. Golden Road, Golden, on Sept. 14th, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. We have all 3 Tesla models plus models from BMW, Jaguar, Chevrolet, Nissan and Hyundai. If you have another brand, please register it at www.DriveElectricWeek.info and come show it off. If you want to be an attendee, you can reguster at the same site.