Guest Post by Renee Hannon
My dad is an off-the-grid kind of guy and the cost of his lifestyle choice is usually secondary. He was one of the first in Delaware to install a solar hot water heater on his roof in the early 1970s. During the past decades a gorgeous oak tree grew tall and shaded his solar panels. But that’s OK because the oak tree brought birds, squirrels and other wildlife near his deck for countless hours of viewing pleasure. So, in a
sunny spot he put solar panels on the garage roof plus a new free-standing solar panel by the driveway. That free-standing solar panel is big enough to park a car under and, so far, the neighbors haven’t complained. I’m not sure what those solar panels cost but his electric bill is about $5 a month.
Solar panels on garage roof and additional free-standing solar panel.
My dad was also one of the first people to heat and cool his Delaware house with geothermal energy. He drilled three wells about 175 feet deep to tap ‘free’ energy. The upfront costs won’t be paid off for 15 years or more, probably after his funeral. He doesn’t really care about initial investment costs because he’s less dependent on the “grid” or “providers.” And the geothermal energy maintains his house at an even and very comfortable temperature.
Then of course, we have electric cars. According to my dad, any gasoline price over $1 per gallon is outrageous let alone the fact that vehicle emissions are a pollutant. Although a gallon of gasoline energy is cheaper today than a gallon of water and automobile fuel emissions are stabilizing. His first electric car was the Toyota Prius. He loved that car and bragged about how it cost only $20 to drive from Delaware to Florida. Well, that wasn’t good enough. He saw a 2017 Ford Fusion and within a week he traded in his Prius and bought a new Fusion Platinum energi. EPA-estimated rating quoted by Ford is 104 city/91 hwy/97 combined MPGe. MPGe is the EPA equivalent measure of gasoline fuel efficiency for electric mode
operation. The Fusion’s CO2 emissions are virtually zero.
Photo of the Ford Fusion Platinum Electric Car
Two months later, the Ford Fusion was driven to Florida with minimal luggage since the trunk is about the size of a large laundry basket due to batteries stored there. My mother wouldn’t drive the car because of
all the intimidating electronics, vibrations, beeps and buttons. After a few months in Florida, she finally
drove about 6000 feet to the store and back home.
The charging plug-in is illuminated brilliant blue. It’s a great night light while grilling on the porch in Florida during dusk. Dad is so proud of his electric car. He loves planet Earth, conserving energy and reducing emissions. He’s minimally dependent on the grid with his solar and geothermal energy home and new electric car.
Picture of the cool illuminating charge port.
Things were good when my parents left Florida and headed 1250 miles north to their Delaware home for the
summer. Oh, I need to mention he didn’t have to fill the gasoline tank for five months while in Florida and averaged about 100 miles MPGe.
Once back in Delaware, a thunderstorm came passing through. Not a notable storm, just a typical summer storm. The house was struck by lightning on September 7, 2018. Mom and dad heard a loud crack. They were fine and didn’t think too much of it.
The next couple of days were challenging as they discovered all the damage. The typical stuff. They found lots of electrical components blown out that didn’t work. They had to replace the hot water tank, the computer was fried as well as several other electrical items. He had a large deductible on his homeowner’s insurance. I think they were getting close to paying off all the repairs and the insurance deductible. A week after being struck by lightning they thought they were in the clear.
Then dad was driving his beloved Ford Fusion and realized it was not holding a charge and other strange stuff was happening with the electronics. The car had been parked in the detached garage and was plugged into the grid. But wait, wouldn’t you think a modern electric car would be designed with a built-in circuit breaker for electrical storms like this? Guess not! He immediately drove his electric car straight to the Ford dealer and said something was wrong.
That was SIX long weeks ago and no end in sight. Turns out the Fusion had an en-lightning experience and is completely incapacitated. Car insurance doesn’t know how to deal with electric cars that have been struck by lightning. They want pictures. Really? What does an electric car demobilized by lightning look like? Well, the same as an electric car that hasn’t been struck by lightning. Except none of the 2 separate battery compartments work now. It turns out the lightning strike blew out the electrical circuit boards. After weeks of back and forth with the insurance company, things started progressing. Repair work is underway.
My mom thinks this is one of the first Ford electric cars struck by lightning to be repaired. The dealer and insurance company need to keep calling Ford’s corporate office in Atlanta to find out what to do. Now the dealer says they need a special circuit board, but there are none available to fix my dad’s Ford Fusion. After six weeks of ongoing efforts, Ford will not have the circuit board until January 15th……for sure, or so they say. Wait, the car went into the Dealer’s shop in early September and repairs will take over five months? Insurance won’t total the car, and nobody knows how much it will cost to repair this modern, energy efficient, low CO2 emissions electric car. Well, how about trading his car in for another one? Nope, the Ford dealer can’t find another electric Fusion in the area. Well, there’s always the old reliable gasoline fueled car as a backup.
Over the past decade, my parents have driven to Florida every November. Because my Dad is trying to do the environmentally right thing by owning an electric car, he won’t be driving to Florida any time soon. And it’s all due to a natural event, a lightning strike, which happens about 8 million times a day on planet Earth.
I haven’t told my dad yet, but according to the newly released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC) report, scientists have a “medium confidence level” of more extreme storms in the northeastern U.S. due to human causes despite my dad’s most sincere efforts. I didn’t ask my dad, but I have a “very high confidence level” that while the IPCC report mandates carbon emissions must be cut by 45% during the next 12 years and shifts to electric transport systems are essential; nobody from the IPCC has contacted
him about his electri-fried Fusion.
Did I mention my parents found four dead squirrels in that old oak tree the day after the lightning strike?