A new chapter to our solar saga…

I haven’t written about this in a while, so for detailed background, you can get up-to-speed by reading this, this, this, this, this,and finally, this. For those that want a quick catch-me-up, here we go:

We built a new house in 2013, mentioning several times to the salesperson and construction manager, that we planned on putting up solar panels.

We were told the Homeowner’s Association has established rules for solar panels, which we downloaded and read. The HOA rules exactly matched the state statute (good!).

We applied to the HOA, per the required steps, our solar panel system design and our request was denied. I explained to the HOA President that, once the neighborhood was no longer under development, we would be able to get our panels, if our immediate neighbors (5 residences) had no objections. He said he’d resubmit our application. It was rejected a second time.

I received an email today, from a solar energy advocate, stating,

I just wanted to let you know that bill SB 1626 (the consolidated bill with HB 3539) was signed by the governor yesterday.  The amended law goes into effect Sept 1, 2015.  Going forward, the loophole to block solar will only exist for developments with fewer than 51 planned residential units.

Information about the bill can be found below.

Texas Legislature Online
Bill Alert 
84(R) SB 1626
Relating to the regulation by a developer of the installation of solar energy devices in a residential subdivision.
5/23/2015 E Signed by the Governor

The new law, tightens the loophole that has prevented us from getting our solar energy system, specifically this line:

(f) During the development period, the declarant may prohibit or restrict a property owner from installing a solar energy device.

In other words, a developer, currently developing a neighborhood, can deny an application for solar panels. Our neighborhood has about 8 lots left to be sold, before our neighborhood is finished with its development.

But there’s more!

A new “phase” of the neighborhood has begun development. The homes are different models than ours and the layout is more dense with greenbelts. I have been agonizing over this development. Does this new “phase” constitute the continued development of our neighborhood, further delaying completion of the neighborhood, and consequently, delaying our solar panel system even longer?

The email I received and the text of the new law would seem to resolve the issue:SB 1626Our neighborhood has well over 50 lots and the addition of a new “phase” only serves to increase that number. Now it appears all we have to do is wait for September 1st to proceed, unless the HOA generously allows us to move forward, during the high sunshine months.

I hate to be at odds with members of our neighborhood over this issue, but we have had the intention of adding panels to our new home before construction was ever begun, and made those intentions known to the developer. I’ll keep you posted on developments…


Forbes catering to opinions of 1%?

I’m a bit dumbfounded recently. Forbes published an article entitled, “Car Wars: Why GM’s Volt slogs while Tesla’s Model S soars” by Alex Taylor III, who has written many automotive articles for Forbes. The title gives away the fact that this is another attack article. I thought the attacks had subsided, especially after Fox News interviewed one automotive pundit that called the Volt the “anti-terrorism car” in a piece entitled “Can the Chevy Volt help win the War on Terror?” Apparently the rumors of the end to right-wing slamming of the Volt were greatly exaggerated…

It is Mr. Taylor’s opinion that the Volt, “seems headed to the dustbin of automotive history.” He says this, as new Volt sales have been steadily declining since August of 2014 (although it had been growing since January of 2014 by large margins, selling over 1,000 units every month last year, except January. The only other plug-in vehicle to do that is the Nissan Leaf. Not even the vaunted Model S can lay claim to those sorts of U.S. sales figures. In fact, in total U.S. sales, the Volt ranked numero uno until the Leaf finally surpassed it in February of 2015, just three months ago. Of course, the newly redesigned Chevy Volt was shown to the public at the North American International Auto Show, in January, in Detroit.

I wonder if Mr. Taylor also believes the iPhone 5S is headed for the dustbin…

Why?? What do the Volt and the iPhone 5S have in common? A couple things actually: 1) a newer model was announced and sales of the current model decreased significantly and 2) Plug-in vehicle owners and iPhone owners are similar buyers, in that they like to be on the cutting edge of technology.

Being on the inside at a Chevy dealership, I see the customers coming in to ask about the 2016 Volt. I see the customers rave about this amazing plug-in vehicle. I have three Volts (two 2012’s and a 2014) in my driveway at home, and I daresay I have a better feel for the viability of the Volt than Mr Taylor. I pronounce the Volt healthy and the prospects of the 2016 are rosy indeed.

Consumer Reports unveiled their Top Ten in Customer Satisfaction report. Oddly, they had something in common with Mr. Taylor: They both mentioned the Tesla Model S and the Chevrolet Volt in their respective (if not necessarily respected) articles. There are only two plug-in vehicles on CR’s Top Ten List. Guess which two…

The other comment that bugged me about the Volt was, the Volt’s “‘innovative’ technology appears to be a dead end that has been imitated by exactly no one.” I’ve been scratching my head over this for some time. WHY hasn’t anyone else made a drive system like the Volt’s??? At this particular stage in EVs, why do only the Cadillac ELR and Chevy Volt allow the driver to run solely on electricity, until the battery pack is depleted, and then automatically switch to an internal combustion engine, fueled by gasoline, to keep going down the road. To Volt fans everywhere, THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT IS GREAT ABOUT THE VOLT! WE get to choose to run electrically, in a way only experienced by owners of 100% electric vehicles, without any “range anxiety” at all! What could be more perfect, at a time when the infrastructure and technologies needed for 100% EVs to flourish is still being implemented/discovered? The reason no one else has copied this drive system can be seen by evaluating their current plug-in hybrid vehicle design. They are depending on consumers not very well informed. It has long been my position that the vehicles that employ plug-in fueling but are not 100% electric are preying on consumers who do not understand this new vehicle type. Ford and Toyota have vehicles, that plug-in but do not run solely on electricity. Instead, they use the old hybrid method of switching back and forth between electricity and gasoline. This is a proven method of operation, but cheats the driver out of an amazing leap in efficiency. I have friends that drive Toyota Prius. They have told me that if they are diligent in monitoring their driving style, they can achieve 50 MPG! Whoop-de-effing-doo. In my Volt, driving in Sport Mode and with the transmission in “L,” I am regularly able to get the dollar equivalent of 102 MPG. Double the Prius’ performance! At the same time, I’m getting MUCH better acceleration and a better ride. The added benefit of only going to a gas station every three months, to get my nine gallons of gas, is just icing on the cake.

In summary, I propose two new requirements for writing articles about plug-in vehicles:

  • The author should state their qualifications toward reviewing plug-in vehicles within the article (sorry, experience writing about non-plug-in vehicles does not count here).
  • The author should have driven a Volt (as well as other plug-in vehicles) for at least a couple weeks.
  • The author’s head should be fully removed from their rectum.

2016 Volt ordering

Just a quick note:

I just ordered our next Volt, a 2016 Volt LTZ. It will be the first one our dealership orders. General Motors is NOT accepting orders yet, but this gets my place in line. Anyone else want to place an order? Let me know!

April 2015 Sales Numbers **UPDATED**

In April 2015, the Nissan Leaf outsold all the vehicles I track, even though it had lower sales this month, compared to the previous month. The Ford C-Max Energi really had a jump in sales last month.

Overall, April’s sales looked like this:

  • Chevy Volt: UP 42% (905 vs. 639)
  • Nissan Leaf: DOWN 15% (1,553 vs. 1,817)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: DOWN 10% (428 vs. 473)
  • Cadillac ELR: UP 13% (104 vs. 92)
  • BMW i3: DOWN 56% (406 vs. 922)
  • BMW i8: DOWN 3% (138 vs. 143)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: DOWN 15% (711 vs. 837)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: DOWN 23% (1,237  553 vs. 715 – originally wrong sales volume was reported)

The price of gasoline continued to rise (albeit at a slower rate), for another month, from an average of $2.43 in January to $2.50 in March (a 3% increase). Looking at the top graph below, it seems to me that the end-of-year specials drove business on plug-in vehicles even though the price of gasoline was dropping precipitously. Immediately after the end of last year, sales plummeted, probably due to the combination of the lowest price for gasoline seen in the last four years as well as the end of year-end incentives. The Volt’s sales continue to taper off, as the newly redesigned 2016 model will be out later this year. This is evidenced by the widening gap between the Leaf’s and Volt’s sales. The Toyota Prius plug-in is really showing signs of fading away, which I’ve been expecting. For both of the Fords I track, I have some good news and some bad news: First, the good news: The C-Max Energi and the Fusion Energi are tracking in the bottom graph, in a path similar to the historic adoption track of the Volt. The bad news: This portion of the Volt’s adoption curve was during a focused attack on the Volt by conservative media and politicians. This does not bode well for the Fords. The BMW i3 suffered a large 56% drop in sales, compared to the previous month. There are very aggressive lease deals available on the i3, and when combined with the reviews on the i3 and the panache of the BMW name, I am not sure what’s up with that…April 2015 Sales Numbers

Sales, compared to the same month a year ago, looked like this:

  • Chevy Volt: DOWN 42% (905 vs. 1,548)
  • Nissan Leaf: DOWN 26% (1,553 vs. 2,088)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: DOWN 75% (428 vs. 1,741)
  • Cadillac ELR: UP 70% (104 vs. 61) **Don’t get too excited: very small numbers.
  • BMW i3: (did not exist a year ago) **One more month to go!
  • BMW i8: (did not exist a year ago)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: DOWN 4% (711 vs. 779)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: UP 5% (1237 553 vs. 525)

2016 Chevy Volt: Models & Options

ConfigurationsGeneral Motors has an application called “AutoBook” that allows a salesperson to configure a vehicle for factory order. The latest update to AutoBook includes the configurator for the 2016 Chevy Volt. Here are some things I spotted:

  • There will be two trim levels. The lower level is the “LT” and the upper end is the “LTZ” or “Premier.”
  • Both models have all paint options available. In other words, the LTZ doesn’t have a special color that isn’t available on the LT (and vice versa).
  • Cloth seats are only available on the LT version. The LTZ version has standard leather seats, which are optional on the LT level.
  • Leather colors are not uniform across trim levels. Both have black leather seats available, but the LT has an optional “Light Ash/Dark Ash leather appointed seat trim,” which is NOT available on LTZ and LTZ has “Jet Black/Brandy leather appointed seat trim,” which is unique to that trim level.
  • Heated seats, heated outside mirrors and heated steering wheel are standard equipment on the LTZ but optional (under the “Comfort Package” on the LT.
  • The LTZ includes Bose premium speakers (8 speakers, including a sub-woofer), which are optional equipment on the LT.
  • Both trim levels include a rear vision camera and a low-speed noisemaker for pedestrians.
  • Both trim levels have 17″ wheels. They are “split 5-spoke wheels, ultra-bright machined finish with painted gloss black pockets.”
  • Navigation (via the 8″ MyLink system) is only available, and is an option, on the LTZ.
  • There are two safety options that are only available on the LTZ trim level. They are:
    • Driver Confidence Package” which includes:
      • Side Blind Zone Alert
      • Lane Change Alert
      • Rear Cross-Traffic Alert
    • Driver Confidence 2 Package” (which has the “Driver Confidence Package” as a prerequisite), includes:
      • Forward Collision Alert
      • Lane Keep Assist (helps keep vehicle centered in lane???)
      • Front Automatic Braking
      • Following Distance Indicator
      • Intellibeam Headlamps

Prices are not posted in AutoBook yet.

ELECTRIFYING General Motors news from Shanghai!!!

Just when you might think all the auto show news is over until next year…

General Motors is rumored to be debuting a new fully electric vehicle at the Shanghai Auto Show. Not only is this a 100% electric vehicle, it also is going to showcase advanced technologies including pupil recognition startup, autonomous driving and gesture control! We’ll know more on April 22nd, when the Shanghai show begins.FNR Concept EV

March 2015 Sales Numbers

The Nissan Leaf outsold the Chevy Volt by almost 1,200 vehicles. I continue to attribute this to very good leasing deals on the Leaf and the impending release of the redesigned Volt.

In March 2015, plug-in vehicle sales were mixed for the plug-in vehicles I track, compared to the previous month. Down were the Chevy Volt, BMW i3 and Cadillac ELR.

Overall, February’s sales looked like this:

  • Chevy Volt: Down 8% (639 vs. 693 – the last 3 months have been the worst Volt sales since they were first introduced)
  • Nissan Leaf: UP 52% (1,817 vs. 1,198)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: UP 19% (397 vs. 401)
  • Cadillac ELR: DOWN 28% (127 vs. 92)
  • BMW i3: DOWN 15% (1,089 vs. 670) Super Bowl ad paying off???
  • BMW i8: UP 27% (113 vs. 85)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: UP 39% (603 vs. 426)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: UP 44% (498 vs. 395)

The price of gasoline continued to rise for another month, from an average of $2.07 in January to $2.43 in March (a 17% increase).March 2015 Sales Numbers

Sales, compared to the same month a year ago, looked like this:

  • Chevy Volt: DOWN 43% (693 vs. 1,210)
  • Nissan Leaf: DOWN 16% (1,198 vs. 1,425)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: DOWN 62% (397 vs. 1,041)
  • Cadillac ELR: UP 119% (127 vs. 58) **Don’t get too excited: very small numbers.
  • BMW i3: (did not exist a year ago)
  • BMW i8: (did not exist a year ago)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: DOWN 23% (603 vs. 779)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: DOWN 10% (397 vs. 1,041)

In the lower graph,you can see three main adoption paths. They are:

  • BMW i8 and Cadillac ELR: The i8 may have sufficient sales volume as it is a very exclusively priced EV. The ELR never has caught on very well.
  • Ford C-Max Energi, Fusion Energi, BMW i3, Plug-in Prius” (all exhibiting similar slopes in recent months) All of these, even with the recent month-over-month increases, see to be lagging substantially.
  • Original Prius, Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf: The best adoption rates so far.