EV Drivers Adopt Solar Chargers to Wean Themselves Off the Grid …

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EV Drivers Adopt Solar to Wean Themselves Off the Grid

Mini drivers accessorize cars with things checkered-flag decals on the mirrors or the Jack on the roof. Colby chose something a little radical.

When Trudeau s took delivery of an electric E two years ago, they the little EV a big upgrade: a 4.4 kilowatt system on the roof of their San home. Going solar the Mini s operating costs and most of the household energy dropping the family s monthly bill to around $25. the Mini went back to BMW its lease expired earlier year, a Chevrolet Volt its spot in the garage.

The Trudeaus are adopters among early one of a small but growing number of who are buying electric vehicles and the idea of true zero-emissions

Once we had the electric car, solar made even sense, said Trudeau, who so evangelical about cars cords that he started at the advocacy group Plug In Instead of sending our money to power a polluting vehicle, we are now our car on cheap, clean, domestic from the sun.

It couldn t be at a better time. Even as vehicles gain traction consumers, the price of solar is falling precipitously. The two technologies each other, which is why EV owners are going solar.

It s also why automakers like are teaming up with solar to make plugging into the sun than ever.

Offsets and

Solar-powered EVs are a bit of a misnomer. Most are tied into the grid and use a of sources — including the sun — to directly the car. But these systems produce enough power to the electricity drawn by the car, and in cases send power to the grid.

It s an ideal arrangement, Mike Tinskey, Ford s director for vehicle electrification and The automaker recently announced a with SunPower to offer installations that offset the needed to power a Ford Electric driven 12,000 a year.

Critics will But that s not a solar-powered EV. Well, no, not Although a car plugged in during the day be powered by the sun, most EVs are in at night. Going solar an EV owner offset that also selling power to the during periods of high while charging at night demand, and rates, fall.

called it energy arbitrage, said. Sell the power you don t need it and pull the power you do.

The customer base for solar EV is varied. You ll find green-power energy-security activists, pacifists, off-grid DIYers and professional They share a fascination driving without the need for fuels or nuclear power.

Of a large number of people in going electric also are in going solar, if they t already. Most of them it isn t cheap — even a modest will set you back a few grand — but it isn t the line so much as energy that drives them.

The that you can actually independently your own car, or cars, a rooftop solar gas station for a price has tremendous appeal cuts across political said Christof Demont-Heinrich, a of Denver communications professor and enthusiast who runs the SolarChargedDriving.com

Demont-Heinrich estimates 30 to 50 percent of EV adopters have installed or expressed interest in doing so It s an admittedly unscientific survey, based upon polls at his and others, including mynissanleaf.com. it suggests a growing trend, one he to continue as public awareness

It s a really big step forward large automakers like GM and Nissan are actively promoting synergy, Demont-Heinrich said. I most people are not aware of at all. They re barely of EVs. To bring in solar as makes it an even smaller

That awareness will as automakers sing the solar GM Ventures, General Motors VC has invested $7.5 million in and called on the company to build Chevrolet Volt charging (pictured above) at 12 dealerships Earlier this year, installed 30 solar charging at its corporate HQ in Smyrna, Tenn.

On the side of the coin, several who already use solar power at are considering electric vehicles. To end, companies specializing in solar systems are beginning to EV chargers as well. SolarCity has more than 2,500 solar EV charging stations, for and REC Solar has joined GE to include GE Level 2 chargers in new solar

A lot of the early adopters from PV are looking forward to a good EV, said Lee Johnson, CEO of REC Solar s company Mainstream Energy. re saying, I m ready to get the car, I to upgrade my system a little

From Homebrew to Turnkey

now, most of the solar rigs have been setups by DIYers or systems designed and installed by professionals — two that could be time-consuming and As cars with cords the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet and others to market, automakers are solar installers to provide setups you can buy alongside the car. The is to make going solar as and inexpensive as possible.

BAIC E150 EV Electric Cars

We said, let s size a standard to offset 12,000 miles of per year and let s get as much cost out of the by standardizing it, Tinskey said.

The 2.5 system SunPower developed Ford consists of 11 modules, 153 square feet of roof and has a 25-year warranty. It isn t cheap — s system is expected to come in for than $10,000 after tax — but advocates of the technology say prices keep coming down.

We re on the of multiple new technologies, and of solar affordable for all the middle class, said.

We ve already seen the of solar panels drop 17 between 2010 and 2011 and 11 percent during the first of this year. Federal and tax breaks cut costs further. Sam offers a 30 percent tax credit for installation, for example, and most EVs and hybrids qualify for a $7,500 tax credit.

A Level 2 (240 charger from SolarCity $1,500 installed. The photovoltaic needed to keep the juice will set you back $50 a month. By math, the average urban spends about $230 a on gasoline (at an average of $3.65 a

Plugging into the grid that to $107 a month, and a rig brings it to $54.

For many though, going solar an EV is about more than money. It s about reducing on petroleum, using domestic sources and minimizing their footprint. Anyone who looks at the upfront cost will certainly say, Why bother? you can buy a whole lot of gas for what it costs to even a basic solar

That said, those to pay those initial costs will see long-term declines in energy costs. The savings eventually offset the cost of the solar system, though how that might take upon local utility and tax incentives.

Tinskey estimates drivers who use their Focus 300 days annually and drive miles will see payback four to 12 years. The quickest is in Raleigh, NC, where state, and utility rebates have the price of the installed solar down to about $5,000.

In to falling solar-panel prices, factors will help solar charging affordable.

Lithium-ion batteries are coming to a reasonable price level, and we ve got all of the telematics pieces coming for control and time-of-use rates, Tinskey. If you take those trends and you add in the government incentives are happening that prime the it s actually a really good in terms of cash outlay to of some of these technologies.


Steve Fecht / Chevrolet. Motors has installed solar-powered charging stations at a dozen dealerships nationwide, including one in Grand Blanc, Michigan. The produce enough energy to 12 vehicles daily; anything isn t put into a car supplements the dealership s needs.

BAIC E150 EV Electric Cars
BAIC E150 EV Electric Cars
BAIC E150 EV Electric Cars

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