Life circumstances are forcing me to sell our home, give up solar-charged driving, and, potentially, unplug from electric driving.

Life circumstances are forcing me to sell our home, give up solar-charged driving, and, potentially, unplug from electric driving altogether.

editors-blog-entry3When I launched SolarChargedDriving.Com in September of 2009 exactly six years ago, I was 100 percent stoked about solar-charged driving, or the fact that you could fuel an electric car with solar panels installed on the roof of your home.

I still strongly believe that electric cars fueled by electricity produced by renewable energy are crucial to cleaning up our air and scaling back human caused environmental damage, but a lot of the luster of solar-charged driving has faded for me.

Extreme personal life challenges over the past two years stand as the biggest reason solar-charged driving has lost much of its appeal.

Divorce & family break-up
The excitement of driving one’s car on sunshine — and the relative importance of doing so — pale in the face of a divorce and a family break-up that has torn apart my family of four, and was a huge contributing factor in a year-long spiral into depression and generalized anxiety disorder that derailed — mid-way through — my dream of spending a full year in Germany with my family back in December 2013.

There is also the raw disappointment that my now ex-wife clearly never shared my excitement for renewable energy or solar-charged driving (nor did she share my excitement with multilingualism and raising our kids as German-English bilinguals). After 17 years of marriage, and two kids, now 10 and 9 years old, my divorce became official on a surreal mid-July 2015 day at the very same courthouse in which the James Holmes/Aurora Theater Shooter trial was taking place.

In fact, back in 2009, my wife was squarely against putting a 5.6 kW solar system on our Aurora, Colo. rooftop, arguing it would be too expensive, and that we couldn’t afford it.

No matter that, in the long run, home solar systems — especially those placed on a south facing roof like ours in sunny, high-altitude Colorado, always save money. It was — as it is with 99 percent of people — the idea of paying one’s electricity bill forward that scared my wife.

Solar saves money
If you count the gas cost savings of the Nissan LEAF I leased in February 2014 and which I have now driven almost 20,000 miles, we have already broken even on the 5.6 kW system we installed at an unheard of $1.47 per watt out-of-pocket cost for us, or $8,000 for the system. That’s a price you could not get ANYWHERE in the United States today, 5 1/2 years later, because the solar incentives that were in place in Xcel Energy territory back in late 2009 are gone, gone, gone.

There is also the realization on my part — driven home by the loneliness of living in a single family house that, 50 percent of the time, has only yours truly occupying it — that the satisfaction of home solar fueling independence isn’t enough to carry one very far in life when big life pieces, in this case one’s own family, fall apart.

And there’s the reality of a divorce settlement that requires me to: a) buy my wife’s share of the house; b) OR sell our house, complete with it’s 5.6 kW home solar system, and split any profits with her.

In fact, I have recently come to the realization, that, psychologically, it is not good for me to stay in our house. So, sell, it appears it will be.

There’s also the reality of having a Nissan LEAF as my ONLY car (my wife took our gas car when she moved out in August 2014).

Our family, in front of a LEAF, during happier times.

Our family, in front of a LEAF, during happier times.

LEAF doesn’t do long distances
The LEAF’s a great little car that gets me everywhere I need to go in everyday commuting/take-the-kids-to-soccer, etc. life. But it simply doesn’t have adequate range to get me to the Rocky Mountains and back home. And long-distance road trips are completely out — although I did borrow my brother’s Tesla P85 for a trip to Santa Fe recently.

There’s also the reality of having run out of charge in my LEAF, not once, but twice (both in the winter, by the way, and both when I was still trickle charging my LEAF).

I’ve got some “loud” bumper stickers on my LEAF, for example, “Zero Money to Big Oil” and “Zero Air Pollution”.

However, pretty soon I will almost certainly be landing for at least a year, if not longer, in an apartment somewhere in South Denver or Englewood, Colo.

There, I will be unable to continue practicing what I preach. There will be no solar, and no option for me to put solar up. Quite likely, I will be forced into trickle charging my LEAF, and will again be putting myself at risk of running out of charge.

Leaving solar-charged driving behind
Having to give up my solar-charged driving life — which has been a big part of my identity for the past six years — is a sobering, really, a depressing reality. One that’s taken significant sheen off of solar-charged driving for me — though I continue to hate Big Oil with a passion and am loathe to give it one penny of my money.

In sum, when I sell this house in which I have now lived for 10 years, or longer than in any other dwelling I have lived in my 48 years on earth, I will have to cope with the reality of having to plug my LEAF into coal, having to give up my fueling independence, and, perhaps most painfully, strip the bumper stickers off my LEAF, and, in February 2016, return the LEAF forever.

Having to give up my solar-charged driving life — which has been a big part of my identity for the past six years — is a sobering, really, a depressing reality.

I might end up in a Volt — although my two girls HATED the first generation Volt due to its very claustrophobic back seat area, complete with tiny windows that they said made them feel car sick. Worse, I might be forced into a gas stinker again. I know some people are “sick and tired” of hearing how Tesla’s are “too expensive” — but they are too expensive, at least for a single dad journalism professor who barely makes more than $60,000 per year. And the Model S is the ONLY all-electric car that will give me enough range to use as an ONLY car.



And, if I do buy a house again — housing prices near the University of Denver are quite high (for my sanity, I need to reduce my driving in the infamous Denver Tech Center I-25/I-225 intersection, I will be house poor, and it’s questionable whether I would be able to put solar, which is now MORE expensive, out of pocket, than when we bought in 2009, on a new house.

So, there you have it, solar-charged driving isn’t so exciting as it used to be for me. This is because I now realize that as much as I do not want to give up living the solar-charged dream, life circumstances are forcing me to do so.

fossil-fuel-portfolio-nightmare

I will soon have to strip several of the bumper stickers off my Nissan LEAF because, once I sell my home — which I must due to a recent divorce — I will be driving around in a car with misleading advertising. I will also have to give up my vanity plate, which will no longer be accurate.

 

 

7 Responses

  1. Ken Clifton

    Please don’t let the thrill of driving an EV fade ! Even when charged using conventional power an EV is so much better for the planet. To compare, visit http://www.afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/electric_emissions.php and input your zip code for an accurate comparison based upon your local electricity mix.

    Your stories and your site have been an inspiration for many, myself included! I am hoping that there will be happier times ahead for you!

    Ken Clifton
    http://www.kenclifton.com

    Reply
    • Chris Bates

      Christof, I was online doing some research on nissan leafs and I found this post. I know it is from a little while ago, but I wanted to share that I too went through a divorce, they are all different but I know at least how hard it is when you go through a huge change. Especially on the kids, so take care of your girls.

      Anyway, I do really appreciate all that I have heard about the Nissan Leaf and despite the fact that I live in Arizona, in maybe one of the most inhospitable places for battery powered anything… I am most likely going to take the plunge in the next couple of months. I feel that it is a good time to buy a 2015… since the 2016 is due to have a longer range, I bet the 2015 go for peanuts in the next few months. I have already seen the prices as low as $22,000 for a brand new S. I will opt to install the quick charger at home, but while it would be great to have solar energy, especially here in AZ.. I have done the research and it doesn’t make sense since we have a very well insulated house and… the electric company has great incentives for people with electric cars.

      So, keep you head up.. life goes on after the divorce.. hard to see now, I know, but I am over 15 years past my divorce and life couldn’t be better.

      Reply
  2. realsweetwillie

    Hi Christof! It makes me so sad to read about your family split and it’s effects on you, and -less importantly- on your EV + PV driving. It will likely be depressing for awhile until you can settle into a NEW regular routine with your extended family/job/kids again.
    BUT
    You and your message are inspiring! It would be a shame to lose such a prominent & exemplary proponent of clean-energy independence such as your self. Your site is the FIRST Google search result that comes up when I search “EV + PV”! Please keep the flame burning while you re-calculate things, and then come back in whatever way works best for you! It doesn’t have to be done the same way that you pulled it off the first time….(and then later on you can write about how you managed to pull it off with only 1/2 of what you had before!)

    If you can keep your head out of the oven long enough (too soon for jokes?), then a LOT of car companies are coming out with longer-range EV options in the next few years to compete w/ Tesla -Nissan included. (I also have a Leaf and drive on rooftop PV power).
    Also, If you can rent a place with a 220V electric plug for a stove and/or clothes dryer you can use those 220v plugs to faster-charge your leaf in 2-3 hours with a household charger (http://evseupgrade.com/).
    AND when you do eventually purchase your own home again, you can get panels put on it at someone else’s expense using the many solar-lease-options out there (http://www.solar-estimate.org/?page=solar-lease). (-My friend Dan has decided to go this route and is betting that Solar City will not want to spend the $ to remove 20-year-old PV panels after his contract has expired….we will see how that goes in 15 more years, though).

    You probably already know most of this, but hopefully all your readers and the EV + PV community will help you to get through this ‘rough patch’ of your life.
    Personally, I resolved to go EV + PV after so many fellow humans started dying in Iraq. I firmly believe in the power of many small individual acts combining to solve the world’s biggest challenges. Zero-Emission Electric Vehicles run on Solar Power is a way of life that needs to be spread to every corner of the planet, and spreading the word is important! The tide is slowly turning!

    Reply
    • Christof Demont-Heinrich

      Thank you so much for your support. It is truly appreciated. I hope to get back on track again soon, and I plan on keeping this site going, and, hopefully, eventually getting back to doing more features, stories, videos, etc. that move beyond personal blogging to highlighting the inspiring stories of others such as yourself.

      Reply
  3. Ramon A. Cardona

    Very sorry for your life’s events having gone through a similar experience as to divorce. Time shall improve your new phase of life. As to the EV, perhaps the realization that for a single person or one with more driving needs than a Leaf allows, there is the Chevy Volt that with its dual personality, can be an EV for most of your daily needs and can be a rather efficient car when more miles are required. The price you quoted for your solar array was phenomenal. I have a similar system for which I paid $14,000 almost 34 months ago. I am going to suggest, as I have thought this over, that you include the Leaf with the house and see what happens. Solar and EV go together rather well and perhaps, as a package deal, you can gather some income to move on to the next vehicle. To trickle charge the Leaf is not only not recommended by Nissan, but also quite limiting. I wish you well and I trust life shall settle for you very soon. Best wishes.

    Reply
    • Christof Demont-Heinrich

      Thank you so much for your comments and feedback and support — and for sharing your own solar-charged driving experiences! I really appreciate hearing from others and it’s inspiring to know many thousands of other people are solar-charging along with me 🙂

      Reply

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