Energy independence with our cars and homes


Last week, I was on KFI AM 640 in Los Angeles with Bill Handel. We were talking about my Prius getting 100 miles per gallon thanks to an after-market conversion kit that turned the hybrid into a plug-in vehicle. I’ve gotten over 800 miles on my current tank of gasoline and still have three-eighths of a tank left.

But Handel asked me what the conversion cost kit. My answer was, “More than the money I will ever save in gasoline.” I spent $9,000 on the kit and another $800 for installation. Let’s see, at that rate I will make my investment back in something like 2035…if I ever make it back!

So then Handel joked that my credibility is shot. But the idea, as I see it, is to expand people’s minds about a different way of doing things.

Over the next 3 years, we’ll have vehicles coming straight off production lines that do what mine does after the expensive conversion. If you go back to 2000, the first hybrids were a fortune because of their price premiums. Today, however, many hybrids don’t have any price premium at all versus their traditional gas engine counterparts.

You know the old saying: The pioneer gets slaughtered, the settler gets rich. I’m the pioneer with my plug-in hybrid conversion. You can be the settler when similar technology becomes available right off the assembly line.

Let’s take a moment and talk about my house. I paid big bucks, even with the federal credit, to put in solar panels. Yet it will still take 8-12 years to pay back.

But how about building upfront in an energy-efficient way? USA Today  reports a Sun Belt builder named Meritage Homes now sells home designed from the get-go to be ultra efficient. These homes produce as much energy as they consume. And prices start at $140,000!

We need to start thinking about how much a house will cost to run over time when we buy. Doing it right with energy-efficiency initiatives at the beginning costs very little. But retrofitting over time can get pricey.

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