Boulder, Colorado’s Rich Becks is among the growing number of solar-charged drivers in the U.S. However, in terms of total drivers in the U.S., in powering his EV with solar, he’s still among a tiny, tiny percentage who do so.

So, how many solar-charged drivers are there in the United States right now?

No one knows. Not even us.

That’s because no one is keeping track of this statistic, though SolarChargedDriving.Com has an ongoing, totally unscientific poll on our site (across the 2 ½ years our poll has been running, 205 people have either indicated they already are solar-charging an EV or that they plan to do so).

Putting aside the fact that no one is keeping track of how many people are solar-charging a plug-in car shows that EV + PV isn’t truly valued in American society – we survey/poll on things that matter to us on a broad social level, and we ignore those things that “we” don’t care about – we can make some reasonable speculations about how many solar-charged drivers there are in the U.S.

More than 80,000 EVs on road
First, we can start with the total number of plug-in vehicles on the road in the U.S. today. According to the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA), a little more than 80,000 EVs have been sold in the U.S. since late 2010 when the latest, and largest, generation of production EVs went on sale.

That 80,000 figure doesn’t cover all EVs in the U.S. – there are conversions, build-it-yourself EVs, 1990s EVs still floating around, etc., so let’s add another 5,000 to that figure. That pushes us to approximately 85,000 EVs on U.S. roadways today.

Now, we need to come up with a percentage of EV owners who plug their EVs regularly into solar PV. (While there are likely some exceptions, in the vast majority of cases EV owners who fill up with solar generated electricity, are likely doing so via home solar PV.)

Now we’re admittedly moving into a pretty fuzzy area because, as I noted at the top, no one is officially keeping track of number of households with both home solar and a plug-in vehicle.

EV-salesThere are some indications (for instance, old surveys of EV owners in the early 2000s, online polls/surveys such as those on MyNissanLeaf.Com, etc.) that, at least among early EV adopters, a fairly high percentage have home solar, or add home solar when they get a plug in car.

50% of EV owners w/solar?
In fact, some estimate up to 50 percent of EV owners either have, or will soon get, home solar. Given that fewer than one percent of residential rooftops in the U.S. currently have home solar, 50 percent of EV owners with home solar seems pretty high. On the other hand, one percent seems pretty low.

But, just for fun, let’s do the high-end math, and the low end math.

If 50 percent of EV owners have home solar, then there are more than 40,000 solar-charged drivers in the United States today. If just one percent of EV owners have solar, there are about 850 solar-charged drivers in the U.S.

More than 40,000 solar-charged drivers seems overly optimistic, and 850 is, I’m convinced, far fewer than the actual total.

Let’s just say 10 percent of EV owners have home solar, which seems like a reasonable estimate. Then, we’re at 8,500 solar-charged-drivers in the U.S.

While it’s somewhat of a random number, 10 percent seems like a reasonable estimate. In fact, many might argue it’s an underestimate and that up to a quarter of EV owners have home solar. If we go with that figure, then we’re at more than 20,000 solar-charged drivers in America.

Exponential growth for EV + PV
Overall, a couple of things are fairly clear:

a) there are way more solar-charged drivers in 2013 in the USA than there were just three years ago, percentage-wise, probably at least 400 percent, and possibly even 1,000 percent more;

b) even if we go with a fairly high estimated home solar penetration rate of 25 percent for current American EV owners and we come in at more than 20,000 solar-charged drivers in the U.S. today, this number represents a tiny proportion of the well over 100 million total car owners in the U.S., .02% to be exact.

Indeed, two one-hundredths of a percent to me, is depressingly small, much smaller than I’d expected, or hoped for, when I first found out about solar-charged driving nearly four years ago.

But the comparative lack of fueling independent solar-charged drivers in a country which arguably celebrates individual independence more than perhaps any other country in the world, well, that’s grist for a future entry.


Lots of Nissan LEAF owners are solar-charging their EV with electricity generated by home solar. [Credit: Flickr.Com Creative Commons Photo by arnolddeleon]

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