'Real' engineers can usually be identified by their tendency to deal with all aspects of
life through a combination of pragmatism and objectivity. Every object and objective
presents a challenge that requires consideration of both the initial assessment of each
situation and the careful analysis of how it might be improved for personal optimization and
utilization. You know the type; you probably are one of 'them' if you're reading this... one
of 'us,' I probably should say. Be assured, you are among friends here. It is at the same
time a blessing and a curse. Joe Cahak, owner of
Sunshine Design Engineering
Services, is definitely in the club as evidenced by the numerous articles he has
written, and the software and devices he has created. This latest installment in his
creative series offers a quantitative analysis of his new Ford C-Max Energi Hybrid horseless
carriage, along with an in-depth accounting of his carefully-analyzed rationale for
purchasing it and details of operational strategies. Joe also provides an update on the
financials of his investment in a solar electric installation at his Southern California
By Joe Cahak
Sunshine Design Engineering Services
I wrote about my investment into Solar power. I live in San Diego inland area and it looked
like a good investment. Three months later I would like to give an update on the performance thru
the winter so far. We also doubled down on the alternate energy investments and purchased a
Ford C-Max Energi Hybrid to extend our energy savings. So we can take a look into that investment
and hedge to future energy prices. Today's energy markets are in flux at the consumer level
yet again. We are seeing rapid implementation of electric mobility to improve the energy efficiency
of our vehicles. While gas prices are down a bit and more stable with the national resources
coming on-line again, other fuels like propane, butane and others are much more expensive.
In the article Solace in Solar I went over my solar
panel investment numbers and the expected output and payback. I have received 3 "bills" or updates
to my account for the residual electric utility bill. The amounts are: $14.83, $39.71 &
$27.41 for a total of $81.95
The previous year the bills were: $204, $152 and $120 for
a total of $476 and rates have increased since then. With the bad weather of sorts during the
winter in Southern California was covered 82% of our electricity with the solar. This new level
of service at 100-260 kWhr/month is well under 455 kWhr/month tier 1 rate at $0.15 /kWhr, instead
of the higher tier 2 of $0.17 and tier 3 of $0.35 per kWhr we were regularly exceeding previously.
The new charges were with the additional load of the car charging at night, which added about
$15 to $20 to the bill as can be seen for the last 2 months bills. The first month the solar covered
93% of our electric use. This is performing at least as well as expected and is a huge benefit
in additionally charging the car to help me commute to work and lowering my commute costs.
I had to make a decision recently to replace my main commute car. My old ride was a 1999
Ford Mustang. She was a sweet ride. She had a nice sound and she rode well thru the mountain
roads I take to commute to work near the coast daily. The Mustang is a 6 cylinder and gets a
rated 20 mpg for the 99 model which is the 35th anniversary edition. I used the trick of putting
1 inch larger diameter tires on the back of the vehicle to improve the distance per turn ratio.
This trick will cause a small loss of power, but you gain the mileage. This small power loss
was not a problem with the Mustang. My Mustang was getting about 22 mpg.
I commute about
39 miles each way or about 78 miles per day round trip with an elevation delta of over 1600
feet. It was costing me $40 per 3 to 4 days to refill the Mustang. This can get costly during the
price gouging that sometimes goes on in Southern California. Now I had to get a new car to commute
with. I didn't have to dump the Mustang. I build a low height storage shed and am parking it.
I plan to keep it and work it up some to keep as a classic.
car I selected was one I had my eye on for a while. Being a Ford customer with the Mustang and
liking the car and reputation of the manufacturer were factors. I really liked the fact that
Ford didn't have to take Government money to survive. I also liked the plug-in hybrid idea.
I was out to save money in the long haul and become more energy and expense efficient. The C-Max
Hybrid has a base gas mileage of 44 mpg. It has about 200 horsepower. It also has a 7.6 kWhr battery capacity
to store about 20 miles. I get about 5 to 8 miles less on cold and dark winter mornings. The more
accessories I have to use, the less electric range I get first portion of the car trip before
it switches over to hybrid mode.
My neighbor bought a Plug-In Prius Hybrid and his package
cost was $47,000. I felt this was very high. The cost of the C-Max was about $38,000 with several
options and the paint color I wanted sapphire blue. I also got a $3000 year end close out discount
with a California rebate of $1900 and a Federal Tax credit of about $2300. This purchase had
to be made before Jan. 1st to get the tax credits and rebate. This gave me an out the door price
about $31,000. I had good credit so I got a 0% loan and only put money down to reduce the monthly
payment. I didn't have any cost to not use my money for the purchase.
The car started
with about 46 mpg and has been gaining about ½ mpg per week. I am presently at 52 mpg cumulative
and it is still climbing as the Ford manual said it would. The trip readout shows the last
trips, so you can review to and from work travel statistics and see the difference.
In my case, the mainly downhill to work requires 0.2 to 0.3 gallons for 39 miles or about 100
to 148 mpg. The mainly uphill trip home is 0.7 to 0.8 gallons or about 35-40 mpg depending on
how fast I go on the hills. At 50 MPH, I don't lose as much mileage as I do at 55 or 60 MPH. I
merely have to back off on the speed a bit to make substantial gains in efficiency. I do the
polite driver thing and move to the right lane for my faster compatriots on the road to pass
me by. Cold and dark winter mornings require the headlights and heat, so I get much less electric
At a gas price of $3.75/gallon and I drive about 78 miles per day, 390 miles/week and 1800 miles/month.
The Mustang it was costing me $307/month and the C-Max is costing me $140 combined gas and electric
with about $100/month for the gas and $40 electric charge. So, I use 42% less energy to commute
than I did previously. With the electric being supplied by the solar system I put in, my actual
out of pocket cost to commute to work dropped from $300 to $100 or about 2/3. $200/month is $1200
per year in energy savings over my Mustang.
Driving on the surface streets down the hill,
if I keep speed up at 50-55 mph I am always using gas. I found that doing a short ramp up to speed
and then backing off and just maintain speed, the car will go back into electric mode and use
much more of the charge available, instead of switching to gas engine. I call this stretching
Driving this car is different in that you ride the brakes, unlike a normal car,
it would wear out the breaks. In this car there is a hydraulic drive and I found that a small
depression on the break as I gain speed downhill, gives me a nice boost in charge while keeping
the speed down. Also I get breaking reports from the car to tell me how well I braked to regain
the energy showing the percentage of energy recovered when I break for stop lights, traffic
or lame/dangerous drivers. I love being able to sail thru the commuter lanes on my uphill stop
and climb to the Highway. Use to take me 2 to 5 minutes. I sail right thru most days now in under
Another feature is the car in auto mode senses regular destinations from
the GPS and will not run the gas engine to recharge the battery so close to home. This setting
is 1/8 mile or 200 meters. This is too short a distance for me. Using the battery charge stretching
method, described for the surface streets, comes in very useful here to help me extend that
in practical usage to 4-5 miles or more if I carefully use my breaking recovery and mpg stretching
on the last distance to home.
Our round trips to the local downtown is all electric
and only cost about $1.00 in electric charge, instead of the previous ~1 gallon of gas or about
$3.75 for the round trip to town.
Another feature of the new cars is the media and environmental
integration into the car. The sound has AM, FM, DC, Sirius XM, and USB Digital. It also has Bluetooth
to the phone and will play the phone playlist as well as connect thru the phone for hands free
phone operation. I still don't talk much while driving. The AM isn't much good here due to the
Sierra and Colorado Ranges radio shadowing Southern California. So, I can't listen to those old
Midwest favorites WLS and KAAY. Now it's 60s on 6, 70s or 7 or some Smooth jazz stations on
Sirius XM. All the FM oldies and smooth jazz stations are a thing of the past. Now it's all
bee-bop, hard rock, and south of the border or country western. It's a radio wasteland.
The environmental system has individual temperature control and heated seat for those cold
mornings. My wife definitely likes those seats and they are very comfortable to ride in. There
is a large sunroof with a roll out shade built in. OK, I am a sun worshipper after growing up
for 30 years in Northern Wisconsin and not seeing the sun for months at a time. The front windshield
is wide and deep for a very good view. Performance of the car is good. It has the electric zip
at the start line and can have a fair push if you stomp the pedal to the floor. I drive slower
and come to speed and level off and use the efficiencies of the car to some extent but am not
ruled by it. There is a lot to learn about the car and the features available. For instance
you can program the car to start and warm up for you among other goodies like auto parking.
We have it, but I don't use it. The feature was an option I didn't really want.
I am satisfied with the car and pleased with the ride and the performance. Although I think my friend
Kirt is jealous - he keeps joking he saw my car in the toy store - I don't mind. The savings is
real and I have a sweet and comfortable ride to and from work.
Sunshine Design Engineering Services
23517 Carmena Rd
Ramona, CA 92065
Featuring: Test Automation Services, RF Calculator and S-Parameter Library
(DLL & LLB)
Sunshine Design Engineering Services
is located in the sunny San Vicente Valley near San Diego, CA, gateway to the mountains and
skies. Are you looking for new things to design, program or create and need assistance? I offer
design services with specialties in electronic hardware, CAD and software engineering, and 25
years of experience with Test Engineering services in RF/microwave, transceiver and semiconductor
parametric test, test application program development, automation programs, database programming,
graphics and analysis, mathematical algorithms.
February 11, 2014