SolarChargedDriving.Com caught up with one of the very first Nissan LEAF owners in the UK and one of the first UK LEAF owners to partially power a LEAF with home solar, Alan Weeks.
Weeks, who lives on the South Coast with his family, purchased his LEAF outright and he’s driven it more than 600 miles so far. He’s a part-time consultant in the optoelectronics industry (fiber optics, lasers, telecommunications, etc.). He also serves as a Town, District & County Councilor and as a member of both the Hampshire Fire & Rescue Authority and the New Forest National Park Authority. In addition to politics, the UK solar-charged driving pioneer enjoys gardening and “attempting to grow tropical looking plants such as palms, bananas and bamboos in a temperate climate.”
Below is our interview with one of the UK’s first-ever solar-charged drivers.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: What EVs/PHEVs do you have? How long have you had them?
Alan Weeks: I have owned a Nissan LEAF since the 28th of March of this year. It was the first to be delivered in our county and one of the first batch in the UK.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: How many, and what types of gasoline cars do you have – and which one(s) did you sell/trade in when you got the LEAF?
Alan Weeks: I sold a gas guzzling Subaru Impreza with the LEAF as the replacement. I always felt guilty using the Subaru given the high gas consumption and the other costs of ownership. Our other car is a Toyota Yaris 1.4 TDi which we will keep for those longer journeys.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: How far, and to where, do you — and others in your household who drive the LEAF — regularly drive?
Alan Weeks: We tend to stay fairly local with most journeys being less than 40-mile round trips. The other car will only be used when two cars are needed at the same time or for longer > 80 mile trips, which will probably only be few times a year.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: What is your general impression of the LEAF so far?
Alan Weeks: It is fun to drive and smoother, quieter, cheaper and greener than a fossil fueled car. I particularly enjoy the 0 to 30 mph performance. If only it had double the range, I would lose the other car.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: How have your neighbors/friends/others responded when they have seen the LEAF?
Alan Weeks: Most people want one!
SolarChargedDriving.Com: What motivated you to solar-charge your LEAF?
Alan Weeks: Wanting to save the planet. As a Councilor I felt I should set an example, so I got the solar panels and have subsequently encouraged local Councils to do likewise. Our local Town Council now has 24 kW of panels spread between six buildings. I am also encouraging the Councils to get electric vehicles and have given test rides to officers from each Council. Additionally, I have been urging them to install charging points. I had been keeping a watch out for the first suitable car that came along, particularly after installation of the panels. I’m now able to say that I can drive 100 miles on less than 10 hours of sunshine (and I get paid about £10 to do so, via FITs) and I think that it is rather cool.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: How big is your home solar system? When did you install it? And how much did it cost?
Alan Weeks: I have a 3.33 kW monocrystalline Sharp system (18x 185W) with a Sunny Boy inverter which is grid linked. The system was installed last summer at a cost about £16,000.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: How much of your total home electric use is covered by your solar system?
Alan Weeks: Before I got the LEAF, the panels provided between 75 and 100% of our use in the summer, but less than 20% in the winter. Charging the LEAF will mean that more must be taken from the grid for other home uses.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: Do you think you might be among the first people in the UK to power a car with solar power? What about in Europe?
Alan Weeks: I’m sure that I am one of the first in the UK, but I can’t speak for the whole of Europe.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: What do friends, strangers, etc. say when they find out that your LEAF is powered by solar energy?
Alan Weeks: I attended a recent Hampshire County Council meeting and we were presented with information about their vehicle fleet being greener with low CO2 cars. I pointed out that my own car was zero CO2 and that the Council should consider going the same route. Another Councilor then abruptly tried to point out that despite being electric, my car wasn’t zero CO2 due to fossil fuel use at power stations. I said “ah, but I charge it from the solar panels on my roof”. It left him speechless — which is very rare for a politician.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: What do you think are the biggest challenges to EVs becoming popular in the UK?
Alan Weeks: The range and availability of quick charge points. An extended range of about 200 miles would help.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: What is the UK government doing to promote solar energy?
Alan Weeks: The government provides feed in tariffs. For systems of less than 4 kW , for every unit generated whether used or exported, I receive 43.3 pence (72 U.S. cents) and an additional 3 pence (5 U.S. cents) for every unit exported (this is currently based on a prediction of 50% export). So overall I currently receive 44.8 pence (75 U.S. cents) per unit generated. Such an amount makes solar PV a great investment, far outstripping the interest gained by savings in bank accounts.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: How popular is solar in the UK?
Alan Weeks: We are not quite as sunny as many places in the world, but Feed In Tariffs (FITs) are making it far more popular.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: Do you think solar-charged driving will become popular in the UK?
Alan Weeks: I’m sure that it will. It’s a ‘no brainer’!
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