Meet Andrej Pečjak. He could very well be the first, and possibly only, solar-charged driver in Slovenia, a small, beautiful country of two million people sandwiched between Austria, Italy, Croatia and Hungary.
Pečjak’s pushing the envelope of solar-charged driving in Slovenia primarily for one reason:
“I wanted to prove it is possible to drive emissions free,” he says.
An electric car buff and a mechanical engineer, Pečjak has tapped his engineering knowledge, automotive talents and the help of friends to convert several gas-powered cars to full or partial electric vehicles. These include a Mazda RX-8, a Renault-5 Elektro and a Toyota Prius.
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Pečjak and his family, which includes his wife, Jasna, and two daughters, both in their twenties, also own an electric scooter and two electric bicycles.
They’ve been solar-charging their large assortment of electric vehicles since 2003, when Pečjak first began installing solar panels on his Cesnjica, Slovenia home.
The electric bikes were the first to run on sun power. The EVs and PHEVs have been partially running on sun for about a year.
First solar panels on home in 1992
An avid outdoorsmen who enjoys rock climbing, ice climbing and hiking, Pečjak first put solar on the family’s home in 1992. He started with a 1 kW system, which he built and installed himself. He added a 3 kW system in 2008.
He estimates that the family’s 3 kW, grid-tied system produces enough electricity to power an electric vehicle about 30,000 miles ( 48,000 km) a year.
Pečjak, who’s active in the EV community in Slovenia as well as in neighboring Austria, says that as far as he knows, he may be the first Slovenian to solar-charge an electric car.
“Yes, I am among the first,” explained Pečjak in response to a question SolarChargedDriving.Com posed about whether he might be the first solar-charged driver in Slovenia in a recent interview via e-mail. “But every electric car can be solar powered if one builds a PV system. The problem is that there are almost no EVs in Slovenia.”
However, while Slovenia has few, if any, other solar-charged drivers, Pečjak says that there are a fair number of solar-charged drivers in neighboring Austria.
“Austria has quite a group of solar-charging EV owners,” he notes.
Very few electric cars in Slovenia
According to Pečjak, there are only five highway capable electric cars in all of Slovenia, although there are quite a few electric bikes.
He says that for now there is not much interest in EVs in Slovenia, although he also points out that in the EU as a whole there is rapidly growing interest in EVs.
Of course, simply because EVs and PHEVs are not currently on the public awareness radar screen in Slovenia, doesn’t mean that won’t change, says Pečjak.
“They will take off in Slovenia when the combined economic-energy-environmental crisis forces people to change their way of thinking,” he says. “This will be in five years, maximum.”
Other factors that will influence how quickly Slovenians become interested in EVs include the price of EVs, their power, their range, and their speed, adds Pečjak.
Slovenians who’ve gone solar are also relatively few in number, according to Pečjak.
“It’s getting more popular, “ explains Pečjak. “Now you can see solar panels around. Five years ago, there were none.”
One of the primary reasons few Slovenian homes and buildings are outfitted with solar is what Pečjak characterizes as a lack of support and promotion of solar by the Slovenian government.
Not much government support for solar
“There’s nothing (going on) except a lot of talking,” he says. “If words could do the job, Slovenia would be one of the most environmentally friendly of countries.”
With very few EVs and PHEVs and little solar, Slovenia is not what one might call a hot-bed of solar-charged driving. Then again, nowhere in the world is – at least not yet.
What would it take for solar-charged driving to take off in Slovenia — and in Europe?
Solar and EV/PHEV pricing that’s accessible to average Slovenians and Europeans plus a growing sense of environmental urgency, according to Pečjak.
The Slovenian mechanical engineer is doing what he can to promote the plug-in + solar energy synergy. First, by actually doing it. Second, by actively spreading word about it.
Our main motivation to build a PV power plant and make electric vehicles was to prove that it is possible with today’s, or even yesterday’s technology. If it is not more widespread, it is because there is not enough will, not because it would be technically impossible.
–Andrej Pečjak, Slovenian solar-charged driver
Pečjak has created a web page called ‘The idea of solar mobility and electric cars’ which, among other things, has pictures of his home’s solar panels, some of his EVs and PHEVs, and links to pro-EV web sites in Europe and the U.S. (His web page is available in Slovenian as well, at a different URL).
Pečjak says he has worked to tell his story to the Slovenian media. Finally, Pečjak spreads the word about solar-charged driving with neighbors, friends, and co-workers – as well as with the everyday Slovenians he meets while driving his solar-charged vehicles.
“Most people admire what I am doing,” he says. “Still, many people consider me just another lunatic.”
Although some in Slovenia – and around the world – believe that running full-sized automobiles on sun is, as the American saying goes, a pipe dream, Pečjak knows better.
“Our main motivation to build a PV power plant and make electric vehicles was to prove that it is possible with today’s, or even yesterday’s technology,” he explains. “If it is not more widespread, it is because there is not enough will, not because it would be technically impossible.”
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