Last week I climbed into my Tesla Model S charged with 100% solar power the day before. I know this because I now have a very sophisticated app which came with the home battery system and 5.3 kilowatt peak solar photovoltaic array I’ve just had installed.
The 13.3 kilowatt hour Tesla Powerwall was at 10% when I woke that morning, (it had drained itself into the Nissan Leaf overnight) and was refilled by midday so I used the excess solar output in the afternoon to charge the Tesla.
I’m still getting used to this new and constantly improving system but in the week since the battery was installed 89% of the electricity we’ve used to run the house, office and charge two electric cars is from the solar PV and batteries. The remaining 11% was used at night where I pay an off-peak tariff of 5.6p per kWh.
I won’t know for a while exactly what this all means in terms of my electricity bill but the indications are it will be dramatically reduced. At a rough guess, on top of running the house, cooker, washing machines etc. and my office and produce enough fuel for the cars to drive around 500 miles, the electricity bill will be in the region of £3.
So that day I drove the 98-mile (143 km) journey to Heathrow Terminal 5 using autopilot for most the journey. The Tesla autopilot feature has improved during the time I’ve used it and although I always have my hands on the wheel, for long motorway journeys it reduces stress to the point I don’t notice the kilometres sail by.
When I arrived at the Heathrow Terminal 5 pod parking area I slid the car into its space using Tesla’s summon feature which meant I could open the driver’s door to it's full extent, get out of the car and then remotely drive it into the rather narrow parking bay.
The Tesla Model S is a very wide car, people who can’t afford to drive one have no idea of how much stress this can cause.
Just to remind readers, that last sentence is a joke.
I then walked all of 50 meters to the pod station, pressed one button on the welcome screen and a fully autonomous pod opened its doors for me. I climbed inside and the pod drove me right into the terminal. I checked in using an automated system, went through security like a normal person and flew to Paris for the day to test drive a frankly ridiculously fast electric hot hatchback.
I can’t tell you any more about this car yet because it’s under a press embargo, yes, I have to accept this now, I’m the sort of person who knows about stuff that has a press embargo on it.
I’d like to be able to say this is a normal day for me, but to be fair it was a little unusual.
It was when I got out of the car and used the app to reverse it into the parking space then got into an autonomous pod that it hit me, I am living in the future.
But, as William Gibson stated so beautifully a few years back;
‘The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.’
So if I am living in the future this is not quite what I’d hoped for.
A future where the majority of the global population live in either abject poverty or something close to it and a tiny, minuscule minority live in houses with solar panels and batteries and drive electric cars that could help revolutionise the prosperity and longevity of the human race.
Because unless the 1%, the financially successful people of my generation, the most selfish and short-sighted generation with the greatest access to information, wealth, health and security of any generation in history, unless people in a position like me start to re-distribute the future a bit more evenly,
I don’t think, to quote the song, ‘things can only get better.’
Unpleasant, retrograde movements like nationalism, religious fundamentalism and political extremism are going to continue to grow, throwing simplistic and essentially violent answers at incredibly complex problems.
The future is here, it is remarkable, it works, it causes less, not zero, but less damage to the planet, it is developing at breakneck speed and thankfully there are some people in fortunate positions who can see beyond their own immediate needs and are working tirelessly to implement these disruptive and generally beneficial changes.
I don’t count myself among these people because I just write, talk and make a video series about it.
I’m talking about the people who actually build things, create things, develop things like new battery technology, bigger and more efficient wind turbines, cheaper and more efficient solar panels, tidal turbines, electric cars, software systems that link them together, creative planning for new ways to use the grid.
The list is endless and fascinating. So yes, I’m incredibly lucky to be in a position to try these things out, to be alive at a time where these things are possible and I fully appreciate my good fortune.
Naturally, I worry that these advantages are still too exclusive. I know that a deeply unequal society is a very unstable society.
I also totally understand that people who do think about these things but can’t afford a new electric car, don’t have either the right roof, the ownership of the roof or indeed the funds to invest in solar panels and batteries are not the problem.
It’s the 1%-ers who don’t do this get on my wick.
I am a member of the 1% even though that mantle sits uneasily on my shoulders and my only defence can be this; if someone in my position, a person in their early 60’s with a house, a pension, a decent income from their job and relatively good health buys a 3-ton diesel SUV, doesn’t have solar panels and batteries in their house and invests their wealth in fossil fuels then I would like to argue that they deserve more criticism.