norby-triumvaritepeder-norby-guestMeet the three forces that will forever change our world — and not just transportation:
Electric cars,  solar PV, and computational power.

As a BMW ActiveE driver, former Mini-E driver, and, as the owner of a paid in full 7.5 kW home solar PV power plant,  I’ve clocked more than 50,000 miles in electric cars powered by electricity generated from solar energy. I’ve seen firsthand, as a practitioner, the amazing advances and decreasing prices of both technologies over the past five years. 

Looking forward to the next five years, I predict cost parity for the electric vehicle compared to the price of a gasoline car, I see an average range of 125-150 miles, and, when needed for longer drives, 20 minute charges.

Lastly, I see a cost of a lifetime power source for an electric car (solar PV) of less than the cost of buying gasoline for two years. Solar PV will continue to get cheaper.  Gasoline will continue to get more expensive. Bet on it.

Transition to electricity inevitable
Just as sure as we transitioned from horse to car, from steam to internal combustion, and from telegraphs to land lines to cell phones with a half a million apps,  we will transition our automotive power to electricity. To believe otherwise is to ignore mankind’s impressive history of innovation and scientific advancement.

Why will we transition?  

Because it’s better for the individual, better for nations, cheaper, safer, and healthier for all concerned. Driving an electric car like the BMW ActiveE is a far more enjoyable driving experience compared to driving its gasoline sibling, with little noise or vibration and tons of torque, horsepower and one pedal driving.

For the first time in the history of motorized transportation, average drivers can make their own “fuel” on the roof of their garage for their own car. We can do so at a cost that is one-tenth the cost of gasoline. Thousands are already doing just that, including many here in the San Diego, Calif. area. 

Sun-powered auto fleets
Jumping from the average driver to the average city transportation engineer, it’s not hard to conceive of municipal fleets, which rarely leave the city boundaries, powered by a solar PV canopy EV charging system installed over a municipal fleet parking lot.  

independence-house-2011You need about eight solar panels per car to create the electricity to drive 12,000 miles.That’s smaller in size, and cheaper in price, than the space required to park the car. The average cost for a 2 kW system is $8,000 and each car needs one system. The average price to create a parking space is $15,000 and the typical car requires four spaces.

Imagine the transportation planner who can now power a tram or a bus with solar PV and the bus parking yard covered in solar PV with fast DC charging to keep the buses on the route.  

Dream with me one step further as we begin exploring the world of sensors and autonomous driving made possible by computational power.  

As we begin to roll out this technology, bus routes that are predictable with defined pick up points will be among the first to deploy the game changing technology of autonomous or semi-autonomous transportation. If that seems a bit scary and far-fetched to you, know that airline travel is already autonomous or semi-autonomous transportation.

Electric car sharing
Mass transit will be far cheaper per rider and thus far more available to more riders than ever. Electric car sharing, bike sharing  and garage sharing will be new forms of transit, augmenting traditional rail and bus transit.  

We will stop polluting the air we all share. And we will stop exporting our wealth off shore, as we lessen the burden of being tethered to oil.

The combined total of all this will be cleaner cities, more equity and usability in transportation choices for all incomes, and wealthier individuals and cities as transportation and fuel cost are reduced and conveyance systems are shortened.

We will stop polluting the air we all share. And we will stop exporting our wealth off shore, as we lessen the burden of being tethered to oil.

Several major auto makers – BMW, Ford, Mitsubishi and Nissan among them – have forged strategic partnerships with solar companies. Look for more and more of this as time moves on. As EV drivers know, 90 percent of charging is done at home.

Buy EV and PV at same time
You’ll walk into a BMW, or Ford, or Nissan dealership and buy your car and the solar PV system to provide the electricity for life, both purchased together financed for four to six years. The combination will be far less of a monthly payment than buying a similar gas car and gasoline.

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Look for cities to innovate with trial schemes involving electric cars, car sharing and solar PV such as the successful electric Car2Go program in San Diego linked by computational power, sensors and GPS.  Look for transit companies and car companies to increase the use and types of sensors, computational power and personal digital devices to make transit safer, easier and less expensive.

We are fast approaching that point in history where we once again change our transportation world.  The latest change is made possible by the “Transportation Triumvirate”  — EVs, solar PV, and computational power — and it will bring changes that are of far greater consequence to our world with far less reliance on one solution (the car) than any transportation planner or car maker can conceive of. 

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