The popularity of electric cars has skyrocketed; news outlets love to track the meteoric rise of Tesla and its luxury vehicles, but in quieter news, the Chevy Bolt, the Nissan Leaf, Kia Soul EV and many other affordable electric cars are now on the roads. In addition to purely electric cars there are many varieties of plug-in hybrid cars that are reducing dependency on gasoline and diesel such as the Toyota Prius and Chevy Volt.
While it’s true that even coal-fired power plants generate power more efficiently than a single combustion engine, these electric cars still rely on energy that produces greenhouse gases. If you are powering your car via a home outlet rather than the gas pump, those watts still cost money, though much less per mile than traditional fuel would.
One of the ways to truly get the most sustainability and financial benefit from your electric car is to install a solar photovoltaic energy system on your home or office building alongside the EV (electric vehicle) chargers.
The Cost Breakdown
A lot of research has been done on the value generated by electric cars. Plug-In America sees the average American car that runs on gas as costing about $1400 a year for gasoline, using the averages of $2.35 per gallon of gas, 15,000 miles driven per year, and 25.3 mpg average fuel economy. Long term trends have the price per gallon going up further over time.
When one switches to an electric car, the savings roll in partly because electricity is generated domestically and thus is generally more stable in price than gasoline. At the same time, the average price of electricity in the United States is 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, and a Chevy Bolt, for instance, uses 28 kWh per 100 miles. Through some simple math, using the 15,000 mile constant, one would spend around $500 per year on energy. This approximate savings of almost $900 will vary based on local electricity prices.
However, people with solar photovoltaic systems can save that $500 in addition to the $900 outlay. By installing a 5kW solar system on one’s home, the average size in the United States, one can generate 6071 kWh per year, according to EnergySage. In the mtvSolar service area, a south facing SolarEdge optimized 5kW system generates around 6500kWh annually. The above example of the Chevy Bolt would require 4200 kWh annually and therefore be powered entirely by the sun, with some leftover for the home or business.
- Powering an electric car with your home or office PV system will speed up the ROI, and projects to pay for itself within 7 to 10 years, according to EnergySage, despite the extra cost for solar panels. Given that mtvSolar’s quality solar panels will produce usable power for over 40 years, there will be many years in which this system is paid off and generating extra benefits.
- As more electric cars are added to the roads, solar-powered electric car charging stations are cropping up, sometimes free for public use. Large businesses are adding EV chargers to encourage their employees to drive to work with an electric car. As these items grow more and more common, they further reduce the cost to an electric car owner.
- With a grid-tie system, even when not using all the electricity generated for the home and electric car, one can be putting energy back into the utility grid for others to use, adding to the savings. Net metering gives a special benefit to solar energy producers.
How 1:1 Net Metering Helps Electric Car Owners
Generally speaking one needs to charge their car after work, at night, when the sun is down. Even so, an electric car can be powered by the sun.
In West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, the laws are such that residents who produce solar power during the day on their homes can get back the excess during the night at a 1-to-1 ratio. “Net metering” refers to measuring how much energy left the grid and entered the grid from a particular home over the course of a month and finding the net change. This means a customer is only charged for the total extra energy pulled from the grid. In the event of over production, the owner is given an energy credit to be used later.
The bottom line is that even though the exact same electrons an array produced during the day aren’t the same ones charging the car at night, the utility acts like a giant battery, effectively storing the daytime solar energy for use at night.
Reducing One’s Carbon Footprint and Generating ROI
The bottom line with electric cars running on energy generated by PV panels is that the whole chain of energy production and use reduces one’s carbon footprint: after all, the power plant and gas-burning cars produce emissions at every stage of the process including the entire life of the vehicle. With an electric car, there are no greenhouse gas emissions after the car is built, and solar energy also generates no carbon dioxide. Both driving and home electric use are now emission free.
At the same time, installing solar panels is as helpful as adding hundreds of dollars a month in new income, basically starting your own private zero-emission electricity company. When you install your photovoltaic system, there are start-up costs, like there would be in any home business. However, after the initial ROI, a quality solar array is expected to produce electricity for over 40 years, generating a long positive gain for the consumer/owner.
When you upsize your solar capacity enough to accommodate one or two electric cars, you do incur additional costs, but you also cut the gasoline or electric-charge costs, generating a steady stream of savings. Electric vehicles provide other benefits, including requiring much less maintenance, and solar energy systems also qualify for valuable tax credits that make your money back even faster.
A solar power system and an electric car are investments, but they are investments that compound the positive returns for each other.
Want to know more about how to combine solar and an electric car charger? Contact us today for a FREE consultation!