About five years ago, my wife Anne and I installed solar panels on our 100-year-old King William home.  We went through HDRC review on this installation and got approval, as the panels were in the same plane as the roof and were on a side exposure minimally visible from the street.  They fulfill most of our daily energy needs and sometimes produce a little extra that we sell to CPS.  When we realized that we could also charge an electric car with our solar panels and stop buying fossil fuels, we were ecstatic.  

We acted on this “lightbulb moment” by buying a Chevrolet Volt (the poor man’s Tesla).  In the last year and a half, we have driven it all over San Antonio and westward on energy that came mostly from the sun.  We subsequently sold our two gasoline cars, keeping only our 30-year-old pickup truck, which we need occasionally to haul plywood and tools (but we plan to replace this with an EV pickup soon).  

We don’t miss the smell of gasoline fumes, the roar of combustion motors, or the oil puddles left in the driveway.  Nor do we miss the cost of the gas, the assault on the environment, the hidden costs of oil wars, our contribution to the ever-warming climate, and the increasingly alarming weather.  Instead we enjoy the outrageously fast, clean, odorless, quiet marvel of the electric drivetrain.  Anne and I made this change on a modest budget, and the benefits are priceless. 

The EV (electric vehicle) revolution gives us hope for America’s energy transition to renewables.  FedEx and UPS are converting their fleets to electric drivetrains, and I recently saw an electric bus that belongs to the VIA fleet.  It, like our Volt, was whisper-quiet and odorless.  When I compare this with the current deafening roar of engines and the sickening smell of diesel and gas fumes, I imagine a not too distant future in which restaurants will be able to provide street-side dining that’s actually pleasant.  Pedestrians and cyclists enjoying the clean, quiet life of a thriving downtown – an ambience missing from the urban landscape for nearly 100 years.  

EV batteries have other uses, too: some people use the battery packs to power their homes during city power outages (cleantechnica.com/2012/12/30/using-an-ev-to-power-a-home/). 

Clean, quiet and fast.  A bright future indeed.

- Patrick McMillan