Alternative Energy and Our Future

solar

This blog may be specifically about fiscal responsibility and stewardship, but more and more I am also drawn to other forms of responsibility and growing up.

When I was a kid, I dreamed of having my own car. Specifically, I wanted a red car. Sometime during my teen years, my Dad and I took to searching through the classifieds for a suitable, reasonable first car. Being a kid still, I wanted something that would be fun and make me look cool. One morning Dad came downstairs to where I was getting ready for school. He had spotted a 1999 V6 Ford Mustang with 115,000 miles for only $3,200… but more importantly, with a stick shift! I thought I had died and gone to heaven. We bought it that same day. Thus began my love affair with vehicles, driving, and the open road.

Since then I’ve had a handful of other cars. One of the themes of these cars has been power. My Taurus SHO made 365 horsepower out of a twin turbo six. My Mach 1 Mustang was the louder, more powerful version of my first Mustang that I always wanted. It truly was a dream car. I’ve always had a thing for American Muscle.

Two years ago, some big shifts happened for me and my soon to be wife. We made some vehicle changes and she was researching a new car to replace her recently wrecked Corolla. Much to my satisfaction, she did all her own research and came to a conclusion on the next car she wanted: a Toyota Prius. I was not thrilled.

In typical awesome wife fashion (technically fiance at the time), she showed me the used car reliability ratings of Prius’ (the plural of Prius has been a point of contention among car enthusiasts for some time now, so I won’t even try). I was blown away. These cars that were nearly a decade old were pulling down all green circles in Consumer Reports. Pretty much unheard of. I glanced at ratings for similar year Accords, Camrys, Civics and Corollas. The Prius beat all of them, fair and square. Crazy! My cold heart warmed up just a little to the idea of driving the antithesis of the cars I had grown to love.

Jos bought a 2008 Prius with 92k miles out of Seattle, WA. Our first hybrid vehicle. Since then, we’ve put on quite a few miles and are now up over 125k. The car hasn’t made so much as a peep. Filling up from empty at the gas pump is very rewarding as well; even when the little tank is totally empty a refill still costs less than $25. This car has brought out a new interest of mine. Instead of making a lot of power and making a lot of noise, I’ve been totally intrigued by the idea of getting around for as little as possible, emitting fewer pollutants into the air that we collectively breathe.

This brings me to the excitement that I have for what I hope is a more electrified future. Tesla has led the charge (no pun intended) with electric vehicles, but there have been plenty of other car makers that have made strides in introducing electric cars to a country that is otherwise in love with gas-thirsty trucks and SUVs. I would definitely not claim to be any kind of environmentalist, but I also see and acknowledge that environmental changes are happening around us, and I’m not sure that we can pretend much longer that we are not a big part of inflicting these changes on our earth.

One of the things that excite me the most about electric cars is the opportunity to use renewable energy to propel these vehicles. With a gas car, you are bound to one source for getting your car around: burning gas or diesel. Not only is this not sustainable forever (we will eventually run out of oil), but it is way dirtier. Living in the greater Los Angeles area for my college years showed me what a city with dirty air quality feels and smells like. It’s not pleasant. Southern California really is a beautiful place, but air pollution is a huge turn-off. People aren’t going to stop driving cars, so it is important that we change the efficiency and fueling method for those vehicles. With an electric vehicle, you don’t have to produce any emissions while driving around. I smile every time I watch an electric vehicle drive by me because I can’t smell it, and I know it’s not pumping any harmful substances into the air we are breathing.

Also, how cool is it that you can produce the fuel (electricity) that powers an electric vehicle? With the cost of solar panels and equipment going down all the time, it will soon be feasible for houses and other building to be modified with low cost solar. How awesome would it be if you could drive your car around using energy that your home or property produced on its own? Sounds awesome to me.

Right now, depending on where you live, your electricity comes from a variety of sources. You may live close to a big river and have access to hydroelectricity. Maybe you live in a desert area that gets a ton of sun, so you get to use solar-produced power. Or maybe you live near a windy area and there are large turbines overhead that makes the power you use. Sure, there is still a need for coal and other less desirable energy sources, but we are moving toward having a cleaner, more sustainable future for us and future generations. I know I am sounding a bit like a hippy right now, but it’s less the tree-hugging side of this and more the technology and smart-energy side of things that is so cool to me.

If I had my way, I would go out and pick up a used Nissan Leaf from 2012 or 2013. But my lovely wife hates the way they look, and I can’t blame her. They are not attractive. Instead, we will probably keep saving our dollars and cents and eventually replace our Prius with a used Tesla Model 3 if we are lucky here in a few years. I am excited to see good used electric cars continue to come down in price as this will allow the average Joe to drive and enjoy the all-electric experience. Here’s to a shockingly fun automobile future!

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