Go ahead. Keep your SUV or Van. But just use it for the trips where its power, traction, or room is really needed. Use an EV powered by your solar paneled roof for your local trips. You’ll quickly find that the EV is more fun to drive, and it will become your primary vehicle of choice. The total savings in gas and oil expenses will make it worth it, even if you don’t believe in climate change.
Charging your car with your solar power is completely possible and surprisingly inexpensive. Notice how charging a car for about 10,000 miles/year of travel uses only about 25 – to 30 percent of a typical household utility bill. Many people imagine that rooftop solar can’t offer enough electricity to power a car, but in fact this combination of technologies offers great savings in both energy and gasoline expenses.
Currently, low priced fully electric vehicles can travel about 75 miles or so on a full charge. The most popular EV in the world is currently the Nissan Leaf. Offering about 80 miles on a full charge, it adequately covers average daily use for most households, about 35 miles per day. An EV with this range can cover a high percentage of a household’s transport needs.
You can lease an EV for as little as about $200 a month or even less. Leasing is a good option because you can upgrade every three years to the newest greatest electric battery technology, probably enjoying greater auto range each time you do so.
Do some simple math. If an EV is used for 12,000 miles per year of household transport and charged with solar, it represents savings of about $1,600.00 per year in gasoline savings alone. Throw three oil changes in the mix and the savings are more than $1,700.00. Add this savings to comparable savings in electricity bills and total savings per year from the solar EV combination is around $3,500.00 per year. Apply those savings to the cost of the solar, heat pumps, car lease, etc, and the overall savings and reduction in GHGs is considerable. That is why it is common to obtain a payback of less than ten years when adopting the recommendations made on this website.
The average mileage in the US auto fleet is currently about 26 mpg. Obviously, using an EV that is charged from rooftop solar for 60-70 percent of a household’s transport needs provides an easy way to drastically reduce gasoline consumption.
It is worth noting that the Nissan Leaf offers a replacement battery pack at a cost of about $6000.00. Based on experience to date, a Leaf is likely to operate for at least six years on a single battery at acceptable range. This opens the possibility that purchasing a Leaf, rather than buying one, may be a good investment for the long term for households that look for maximum life and value from a vehicle.
For a list of currently available EVs and Electric plug-in hybrids, see this website.