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EV + PV frees Pennsylvania man from oil

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Don Auker's Tesla Roadster and Vectrix electric scooter in front of the 16 kW home solar gas station that tanks them up regularly. [Photo Courtesy of Don Auker]

Don Auker describes himself as a “techie.” A software developer from Lebanon, Penn., he has always had an interest in innovative technology. However, his technological interest goes beyond just computers.

Auker is also the proud owner of some of the most innovative vehicles currently on the market: A Tesla Roadster, one of the first that rolled off the assembly line, and a Vectrix electric scooter, according to Auker, the first one delivered in the U.S.

And to top it all off: Both of these vehicles are powered by his home’s 60-panel solar system.

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Lifelong techie
“Being in the computer business all of my adult life, I have always been interested in technology of all kinds,” Auker

He first started to look into new energy technologies when the price of gas started going up. After seeing how much money the U.S. spends on foreign oil -- more than $150 billion each year -- Auker began to look into methods to create greater fuel independence.

“About six years ago I started to work toward improving the efficiency of the home that I had purchased the prior year,” he said. “My first step was to replace the natural gas heating with a geothermal heat pump and a solar domestic hot water system.”

A fan of hybrids, then plug-ins
Auker was not satisfied with these improvements, though. And it wasn’t long before he became interested in pushing his oil independence farther. In 2005, he bought his first hybrid vehicle.

“I was also interested in hybrid technology in vehicles and purchased a Lexus 400h about the same time,” he said.

The Lexus 400h was a step in the right direction, but Auker was not satisfied. He was still concerned about the effects of foreign oil on the U.S.

I’m determined to eliminate my own dependence [on fossil fuels] in the areas I can.
--Don Auker, solar-charged driver

Auker’s growing interest in efficiency led him to research energy and helped form his beliefs about the detrimental aspects of America’s ever growing dependency on foreign oil, and, more generally, what Auker decribes as “the whole critical aspect of the finite nature of this oil we were addicted to.”

This realization spurred him to make a crucial decision.

“I decided to only buy plug-in vehicles from that point on,” he said.

A Tesla and a Vectrix
Shortly after this, in mid-2006, Tesla released its plans for the Roadster. Auker was immediately intrigued. He put down a $100,000 deposit on one in May 2007, and two weeks later, he put down a deposit for an all-electric Vectrix maxiscooter.

The Vectrix was delivered in July 2007 as the first in the U.S., but he had to wait until July 2009 to receive his Tesla.

After purchasing both of these vehicles, Auker looked to take it all one step farther.

“With my home and my transportation being electric, I also looked at how I could make my electric usage non-dependent on fossil fuels,” he said.

He chose to purchase his power through the Community Energy wind power program while he waited for the tax credits and rebates to fall in place to make home solar viable.

16.2 kW of home solar
In 2009, Auker had a 13.5 kW of Sunpower solar system installed on his home. After a year of production and usage, he calculated the additional output he needed to supply all of the power for his home as well as the 18,000 miles a year of electric vehicle use.

In 2010, he installed an additional 2.7 kW of solar to bring the total to the 16.2 kW he needed to cover 100 percent of his household electric use – including the electricity drawn annually by his Roadster and electric scooter.

Auker is happy with his electric use, but he never quits looking for new and innovative ways to become even less fossil fuel dependent -- he even bought a solar-powered electric lawnmower. He hopes to continue this trend into the future.

“I’m determined to eliminate my own dependence [on fossil fuels] in the areas I can," he explained.

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