Winter solstice has always been special to me given it's the shortest day of the year. Even with the short hours, our 3 kW PV system will generate many clean kilowatt hours today, and every day from now till June's summer solstice, we'll generate more as the sun reaches higher in the sky and more photons slam into the panels at 300,000 kilometers per second knocking electrons free from the silicon so they can travel through the copper wires and do the work we need done.
But in addition to the extreme astronomical position, winter solstice just happened to be the day that Zan and I took possession of our EV. Our planet has traveled around the sun 7 times since 2002 and we've driven our EV more than 77,000 miles on the solar-generated kilowatt hours made on our roof. There's a bit of a back story here that many of you on my list might find interesting. I asked Zan to help write this post, given her part in making it all happen.
She said: Seven years ago today Paul and I took delivery of our Toyota RAV4 EV and everything changed. Paul was still somewhat bald from the chemo he’d recently completed to wash away any possible return of the bladder cancer he’d been diagnosed with several months before—and which was the impetus for our going electric. We’d installed solar on our roof shortly after the oncologist had told Paul that there would be nothing to do, no treatment options if the cancer returned. Hearing that, Paul decided not to postpone his life-dreams any longer. A lifelong enviro, his bucket list had photovoltaics at the top. We learned about EVs and the people who love them while searching online for a solar installer.
He said: We bought the system in the fall and the installation just happened to be on my 50th birthday. What a wonderful present! Since it was a small system, the job was completed in a single day. We awoke the next morning to see our electric meter's disk gradually slowing down as the sun crept higher. We watched with glee when the disk stopped spinning and then slowly began spinning backwards. We were, for the first time, generating more energy than we were using and our utility was buying our clean energy to sell to our neighbors. And this was on the shortest day of the year!
As good as that was, we were about to experience better.
She said: Paul connected with a couple of people in our neighborhood who had purchased RAV4 EVs and took one for a test drive. He was immediately sold but now had to sell the wife….He didn’t have much convincing to do and I’ll never forget my first moments in an EV. For starters, I’d never realized how reliant we are on the sound of an engine firing up to know when to step on the gas. But the moment I pulled from the curb—without hearing a sound—I was overwhelmed with joy at the notion that I was finally, finally making a real contribution to the planet. Nothing I’d ever done before had felt sufficient—no recycling, no reusing, no reducing. But driving a car, one of the most environmentally destructive instruments in existence, that didn’t even have a tailpipe? Driving a gas-free, zero-emission mini-SUV fueled with sunshine? That felt like enough and then some. Knowing that if I could buy one now, they’d be available in all makes and models one day - that felt fantastic. That felt hopeful.
He said: Alas, the future we both envisioned for our country, and for the planet, was delayed. The carmakers and oil companies had other plans that didn't involve switching from filthy, dirty oil to clean, renewable electricity. Their considerable financial heft thrown at state and federal government regulators resulted in the near death of the electric car, accurately depicted in Chris Paine's "Who Killed the Electric Car?" But the unrelenting efforts of Plug In America (then known as Don'tCrush.com) and its supporters kept the flame alive, and the pressure we continue to apply to the car companies and regulators, combined with a worldwide increase in oil prices, has resulted in an EV resurgence. Every car company in the world is now racing to get their respective plug-in cars to market.
She said: This is truly something to cheer, but the ability to manufacture enough clean cars fast enough to head off the worst of the coming environmental deluge is not looking good. For me, it was never about the car anyway. When the new EVs and plug-in hybrid electric cars come out, I won’t care if they look like rockets or rhinoceroses. What matters to me is whether they can be fueled with renewable electricity generated by sunshine or wind. What matters to me is that scientists are saying that climate change is happening faster than anyone had predicted. What matters to me is that polar bears are drowning because they have to swim longer distances to reach the ice they can rest on.
However, today is not the day to despair, but to celebrate what we can. For starters, Paul’s also been cancer free for well over seven years and the docs say he’s out of the woods. Meanwhile, the work that Plug In America has done, in concert with so many others, has resulted in massive change in a very short time.
He said: So, as the light dims on our seventh solstice, we celebrate what we've achieved and steel ourselves for the fight that continues. Knowing we gain supporters with every day keeps the light shining bright inside our hearts.