rec-les-kangasThe following interview, conducted by Scott McGaw, was originally published in the REC Solar November 2011 Online Newsletter. SolarChargedDriving.Com wishes to thank REC Solar for permission to re-publish it on our web pages.

REC Solar’s Les Kangas, has been a long-time advocate of the green movement and a champion of solar electricity.

Four years ago, he had a 3.5 kW solar system installed on his home, oversizing the system with the intent of buying an electric vehicle (EV). And that is exactly what he did.

Kangas now owns a Nissan LEAF and is enjoying the economic benefits. REC Solar sat down with Kangas to get his thoughts on combining solar power with an electric vehicle:

Why did you choose to buy an EV?
My wife and I wanted to make an environmental statement. I chose to work for REC Solar to change the world. Buying an EV was always part of that plan.

What is the biggest difference between driving an EV and a traditional car?
As far as drive quality, the LEAF is a great car. It is quieter than any other car I have owned. The electric motor has a lot of low end torque, which means that it has smooth and fast acceleration from a stop. Also, with the batteries located low in the car it is very stable at any speed. Many people think of electric cars as big golf carts, but the LEAF is a real car.

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What size solar electric system would a homeowner need to offset the addition and use of an EV?
To simply offset the electricity consumed by a Nissan LEAF, assuming it is driven 15,000 miles per year, a homeowner would need to install a 3 kW solar system. However, there are special utility rate schedules in some areas available to electric vehicle owners. With one of the special rates, a homeowner might be able to install just a 2 kW system and not see an increase in their electricity bill.

What are the costs to “fill up” without a solar electric system as compared to with solar?
It will almost always be cheaper to charge an EV than to drive the same distance with a gasoline car. It depends on the rate that a homeowner pays for electricity, but assuming a homeowner drove 15,000 mile per year it would cost about $587 per year to charge at Pacific Gas & Electric’s (PG&E) lowest normal domestic rate of .12/kWh. With the special rate schedule I mentioned it could cost as little as $171 per year. I believe with our solar and the EV’s usage we will owe PG&E about $140 this year for electricity as compared to $0 the previous years without the LEAF. The same mileage with a gasoline powered car, assuming 25 mpg and $4/gallon gasoline, would cost nearly $2,400 per year.

How much do you expect your EV will save you?
I paid about $37,000 for the Nissan LEAF but was able to get the $7,500 Federal Tax Credit and $5,000 California Rebate available at the time of purchase. My net cost was around $25,000. A standard car has about a $2,400 per year cost of gasoline as compared to my electricity consumption of $140 this year with my solar. Our recent tune-up for the LEAF only cost $15 for the rotation of the tires. An EV does not need to have its oil changed or any other normal reoccurring costs. I will just be paying for windshield wipers and tires. I expect to pay for my car with the net savings of about $2,160 per year after about 11 years of using it!

What is the most satisfying thing about owning an EV and powering it with a solar electric system?
It is very cool to have and be seen in. People ask my wife and I all the time about the car. How far can it go? What is it like to drive? But really, it is the environmental statement. We are not polluting the atmosphere and we are not contributing to the problem.

Are there any challenges to driving or owning an EV?
We have to plan a little more with the LEAF. I cannot just get in and drive to Los Angeles or San Francisco. With the required overnight charge time and the lack of charging stations, we need to plan ahead.

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