Sungevity Bankrupt, Some Customers Sold to SunRun

It’s now old news that Sungevity filed for Bankruptcy. It’s a bit less clear that the company is fully out of business, all employees were laid off and owners were asked to leave. The company that purchased much of the assets of Sungevity has chosen the name Solar Spectrum for their company. This is not a name change of Sungevity but a new company with new management and some of the assets formerly owned by Sungevity.

These assets do not include Sungevity customers. According to one contact who has a Sungevity lease in Los Angeles, his lease was purchased by Sunrun. Good news for him as Sunrun is regarded to be in excellent shape and is one of the few solar companies that is actually profitable.

It’s likely that customers were sold to separate entities depending on who underwrote their lease. Sadly those that purchased their system outright or one would assume, those who prepaid leases upfront, are out of luck as there was no asset for a 3rd party to purchase.

Apparently the new company plans to contact former Sungevity customers to offer them a new warranty to replace the one they lost when Sungevity closed its doors. It’s unclear why anyone would trust the new company who is new to the industry and may not be around long with their money.

Have you already installed Solar Panels on your roof? If not, you might NOT want to wait.

For years I’ve heard friends tell me that they are waiting for solar to get cheaper before they lease or purchase them. Even as prices have dropped to a small fraction of their prior cost, there is an assumption that they will get only cheaper over time. The reality is that the panels are now only a small fraction of the total cost of having them installed. For example, panels can be as cheap as $ .50/watt (wholesale) and (as of 2014) cost an average of $4.72 installed. The price of solar panels may continue to fall but the cost of labor likely won’t. Even more important is the fact that the current 30% federal tax credit expires next year. What does that mean? Well, for starters it means that the cost of Solar is actually going to increase significantly!
For those who have an electric bill of around $100/month (annualized average) you will save money by installing solar. If your usage is lower than that and you think you are likely to purchase an electric car in the next few years or to switch some appliances to electric that now run on gas (e.g. we switched from a gas water heater to a heat pump one) then the solar will definitely make economic sense. Most likely the price will be a lot higher at the end of next year than it is now and paying 30% more for solar (assuming you qualified for the tax credit) is no small amount.
The good news is that our solar provider, @Sungevity is offering $1,000 off using a referral code and you can use ours with this link: http://www.sungevity.com/get-your-iquote…. They offer this discount a couple of times or so a year and it’s the biggest discount they offer! We do benefit from the referral — so if you do get a quote from Sungevity we would very much appreciate your using it. The most important thing is getting solar so if you prefer another vendor by all means get a quote from them too! If you have any questions about monthly leases vs pre-paid leases vs purchasing I’d be happy to address them, I’m very knowledgable about them after doing our research!

Happy Independence Day: The Long Road to Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776, http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html)

Today, all across the United States we are celebrating this historic day when the United States of America declared its independence from England. The words still read powerfully today. As wise as these words are, our forefather’s fell quite short in their interpretation of them. The idea that “all men are created equal” is quite an ideal despite that half of our population were deemed unworthy of these rights as they weren’t men. African-Americans, then slaves, were  not recognized as being created equal by ‘their creator.” Doing so would have been quite inconvenient for those who depended on slave labor to run their households, farms and businesses.

We also spoke about “taxation without representation” and how important it was for each man to have the right to vote. Yet, not only were African Americans and women not allowed to vote, but even white men who did not own property were denied this basic right. The wealthy feared that those who were poor would take away their wealth if given power. So “all men” referred to the white, upper-class or from the point of view of our founding “fathers'” that meant “people like us who believe as we do.” So much for being created equal and for true human rights. We clearly had a long way to go.

We’ve come a long way since 1776. As we celebrate this holiday, which often includes burning propane or charcoal, we need to stop and consider the impact of the fuel we use and the green house gases we create on our true independence. We in fact, depend on people who would like to see us out of power if not dead for much of our petroleum. As we drive to BBQ’s in which we celebrate our independence let’s think about how dependent we are on fossil fuels that come in large part from the middle east. Let’s think about how we depend on mining coal that causes toxicity to workers and the areas that surround the mines in addition to polluting the air we breath. We cling to hopes for “clean coal” an idea that is far from a reality. We pin hopes on our abundant supply of natural gas which is 30% less toxic and deadly than coal but toxic nontheless. We are far from independent.

I implore each of you to take a moment today to consider how you can help us become truly independent. Any little step can help. Whether it’s turning down the thermostat, changing light bulbs to low power LEDs, installing occupancy/vacancy sensors to shut off lights, installing solar power, biking more, using public transportation and/or using an electric car. Take an action towards independence. It will feel good. I promise!

Ok, time for me to head to my BBQ, my family is already there. Best wishes to you and yours!

Recargo’s Research

In surveying users of the recargo website, they determined that people had a longest trip in the Electric Vehicle of just 90 miles. One out of ten people found public EV charging sites to be reliable. The key lack is of adequate availabilty of DC Fast Charge stations which allow compatible cars to be charged to 80% capacity in 20 minutes.

According to Norman Hajjar from Recargo this is the biggest barrier to EV adoption.

Tom Turrentine, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis, has found in his research that the “sweet spot” for range seems to be 120 miles which seems to meet the majority of people’s needs. Also, with a DC fast charger, it is realistic to double one’s range during an extended pit stop, provided of course that one can count on charging at one’s destination. I’d like to add that with an extended stay at the end of one’s trip, a standard 110 volt outlet can be sufficient to charge provided the car won’t be used extensively for a day or two.

BMW has tried to address this issue with their i3 which will offer both a range extender that adds 80 miles to the cars range as well as the option to have a DC Fast Charge port installed.

Personally, I like Fiat’s approach of offering a few car rental credit for those rare longer drives. Personally I only drive on long road trips two or three times a year so renting for those occasions is perfectly reasonable, especially with the cost included in the lease price of a car. The exceptional situation for me is when I would drive a bit further than normal, such as from Berkeley to San Jose and thus would need to charge at my destination, or take a different car, or public transportation. So in affect, it might prevent me from taking the car I want but it’s a rare occurrance and why focus a solution on the rare exception rather than the normal need?

Plug-America with Jessie Knight, Jr., SDG&E

Jessie Knight, Jr.

Jessie Knight, Jr. from SD&E, speaking at Plug-in America

Jessie spoke about San Diego Gas and Electrics accomplishments and goals going forwards. First he told us about San Diego’s adoption of Electric Vehicles including 600 charging stations and over 6000 electric vehicles on the road. 80% of all charging is accomplished between 12am and 5am when there is excess capacity on the grid and rates are lowest. SDG&E has already brought significant solar PV onto the grid to use for powering EV charging stations (EVSE). As the use of solar powered renewable energy increases, and abundance of electricity will be available at the peak of sun during the day. SDG&E plans to create a variable rate structure to promote EV charging when an over abundance is present — even if it is in the middle of the day!

What he didn’t discuss is how the charging stations will know about the rate changes and turn on and off. Most home charging stations are simple and do not have such technology built in so this functionality may be a ways off. In the long term, however, I think it is an invaluable way to balance individual needs while stabilizing the grid.

Plug-In 2013 in San Diego

I’m here in San Diego getting ready to attend the official opening party for the annual conference about electric vehicles. Things have come a very long way since I attended my first such event in 2010.

Earlier today, I had the opportunity to test drive both the new Chevy Spark EV as well as the relative old-timer, the Chevy Volt. I’ve previously driven the Tesla Model S, the Nissan Leaf and the Toyota Rav 4 (the last of which seemed to garner the least bit of interest).

For now, I’ll say that the Spark lives up to its reputation of being a surprisingly powerful if somewhat unrefined vehicle. It’s very much a go-kart like experience and while acceptable for a short commute I would not relish an extended drive in it. The Volt is much more refined, relaxed, and not nearly as impressive in its power-to-weight ratio.

Stay tuned for a more detailed write up of my test driving experiences along with news and photos from the conference.

$1000 Savings on Solar for rest of September!

A few times a year Sungevity ups their normal $500 referral bonus to a cool $1,000 and they currently are doing so! We are super happy with the Suniva panels we purchased from Sungevity and were lucky enough to get it when we could get a big discount and I’m sure some of you would like to take advantage of it too! Here’s a link you can use: http://www.sungevity.com/get-your-iquote?&referral-code=159195&oursun=tw&#step-1

Just use the link

The Fiat 500e Recall is Complete — They are shipping now!

If you’ve been reading my blog and noticed the new header image from a few months ago it might not be any surprise to hear that we ordered our very own Fiat 500e some months ago. Like everyone else, we’ve been waiting as patiently as we can, to hear news from Fiat that they are releasing them for sale to buyers.

For those who haven’t been following this story as closely as I have, in mid-August Fiat announced a recall on all of the 274 Fiat 500e electric cars that had been delivered in California to date. The problem was due to two bolts that attached the “half-shaft” of the vehicle and which could separate rendering the power-train inoperable (translation, sudden and complete loss of power while driving). The half-shaft is the shaft that connects the two front wheels to the gearbox. The 500e doesn’t have a traditional transmission so in this case it is the connection to the gear reduction system that is involved. The problem was discovered when a Fiat 500e owner’s car lost power. According to, Green Car Congress, the problem was caused by two steps in the vehicle assembly process that had not been completed properly. It’s not clear what those steps were and if the wrong bolts were used. According to Kristean von der Heiden, Brand Manager of Berkeley’s McKevitt Fiat, who I spoke with in detail earlier today, the reason the recall process took as long as it did was that the bolts had to be delivered from Germany.

According to Kristean von der Heiden, 600 Fiat 500e’s will be arriving at California Fiat dealerships this month. A large percentage of those electric cars will be heading to the Berkeley dealership given the huge waiting list they have amassed for the vehicles. And this waiting list is full of people who are serious; each one of them put down a $1,000 deposit to hold their place in the queue.

Kristean told me about his experience driving a production 500e. This was a car that in his words “will never be sold to a customer,” so he decided to try pushing it to its limit. He and a colleague were heading to an event in San Francisco. Kristean was driving the 500e the other person a 500 Abarth (the gas engine based performance version of the 500). They raced the two vehicles and the 500e left the Abarth in the dust as its high torque electric motor took off! The car had reached a quarter-mile when the Abarth passed it at over 60mph. In short, the 500e is faster than an Abarth at all but top highway speeds.It also performs better in ways thanks to the more even weight distribution afforded by the battery pack.

Are you waiting for your 500e? Well, there may be a way to skip ahead in the line. According to Kristean von der Heiden, the most popular color is orange but most of the vehicles shipping are black or white. So if you are willing to pick the less popular colors you will get your car a lot sooner. Personally, I’m holding out for orange, or as Fiat calls it “Electric Orange.” With less than 7% of the cars the Berkeley dealership expects to receive this month coming in orange, that may be a long wait.

Installation of Solar PV Completed

Here’s a run-through of installation day including receipt of panels through installing them onto rack-mounts. Amazingly, they installed all 4.68kW of panels in just one day! The installers were Sunburst Solar and contracted by Sungevity. They were courteous, patient with my questions and chill about my coming up on the roof to watch and photograph.

Our system exceeds our historical demand by a fair bit but with our second EV coming in the near future (more on that in a subsequent post) and an intentional shift from some gas appliances to electric, we should be taking full advantage of our considerable production. Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting about the changes we made, why they are a good idea and of course, about the new EV that’s coming soon!

Big thanks to my awesome project manager (and fellow Presidio Grad) Stuart Fishman and Solar Consultant extraordinaire Nadia Michalack who couldn’t have made this experience any better! Thanks also to David Julius whose installation team did an impeccable job!

Arrval of Solar Panels

The Suniva Panels arrive and everyone on the Sungevity install project gets busy!

Crate of Suniva Solar Panels

Crate of Suniva Solar Panels

Prepping the roof

Installer prepares wiring and junction box.

Panels are installed into racking system

Panels are installed into racking system

Inverter and wireless monitoring

Inverter and wireless monitoring

Tesla Model S, It really is all that and more…

Driving Tesla Model S

I had a blast driving the Tesla Model S EV

I had the opportunity to test drive Tesla’s full size electric marvel a few weeks ago and it certainly didn’t disappoint! The car did an excellent job of delivering seemingly endless torque to the drive wheels and responded beautifully on my drive. For the most part, the car feels far smaller than it is with only subtle reminders that the laws of physics are still in place so it doesn’t hug the corners as well as a roadster might but it comes closer than one would have any right to expect!

The design of the car is even more stunning in person than in photos. Somehow it hides the fact that this vehicle is a true full size car eclipsing most SUVs in both length and width. Unfortunately, cost aside, those dimensions prevent me from even considering buying one as its too wide to fit in my garage and too long for my meager urban driveway.

If the promised future model that compares in size to the Audi A4 and BMW 3-series drives nearly this well, Tesla is sure to sell many of them and one of those will surely be to me!