This week is Independence Day Week in the United States. In honor of independence, we are republishing several stories and blog entries that emphasize the spirit and feeling of independence embodied by, and delivered by, solar-charged driving. In fact, current solar-charged drivers overwhelmingly say the most satisfying part of plugging an electric car into a home solar system is the fueling independence it delivers. No more suckling at the you-know-what of Big Oil, no more sending your hard-earned money off to some unfriendly, undemocratic government halfway around the world, just the freedom of filling up your car with electrons produced locally via your very own home solar gas station!
The unanticipated potential life changes that have likely pushed out the time we’ll add an EV to our PV equation by two years have accentuated — in a big way — something I’ve known all along: Adding an electric car to your home solar equation makes home solar way more sexy.
Auto fueling independence: Powering your car with solar electricity you generate yourself is tremendously satisfying. For me, this is primarily because solar-charged driving means saying goodbye to Big Oil. But there’s more to it than that — there’s just something really, deep down rewarding about producing the fuel you drive your car(s) on via your own personal home “fueling station”.
The mobility thing. It’s much more rewarding to use home solar-generated electricity to power something that moves, that has wheels, that actually takes you places rather than powering your refrigerator, your computer, or your desk lamp with solar. I know, depending on the grid mix where you live and whether you’re focused almost exclusively on CO2 pollution, it’s possible that, environmentally speaking, you might be doing the world a favor by using your home solar-generated electricity to power traditional electric devices in your own home, and, as is true in our case because we overproduce every day, your neighbor’s traditional electric devices as well. Even it were true that it’s more environmentally friendly for you to power your neighbor’s fridge, dryer, power drill, etc. — and I don’t know that it is — I’d still be inclined to ditch a gas car for a solar-charged EV and use the extra electrons we’re generating for a car rather than donate them to our neighbors’ electronic devices.
Gasoline savings. It’s so much more exciting to calculate how much “gasoline” money we’ve saved by banking the 7,000 extra kWh we’ve generated with our 5.59 kW solar system here in sunny Aurora, Colo. than to think about how much traditional electricity savings we’ve generated. That’s because it’s much more lucrative to use solar generated electricity to replace gasoline costs than to use solar to supplant electricity generated by a utility — at least in our case where there are no time of use (TOU) rates.
Here in Colorado Xcel territory, 7,000 kWh = only about $800 worth of electricity, where the per kWh rate is about 11 cents. If we’d elected to get paid out for our solar over-production rather than save it for use for a future EV, 7,000 kWh would be worth a paltry $200-$300 at the three to four cents per kWh Xcel would pay us. As a gasoline replacement, calculating $3.50 per gallon, 25 mpg, and 3.5 miles per kWh, 7,000 kWh means a much, much, much more satisfying $3,430 worth of solar-electric “gasoline” savings!
In the end, I know home solar is good for us, for our neighbors, and for the world even if there’s no electric car to plug into the electricity stream it generates. However, I have to say, it feels a whole lot more boring to be facing another two years of powering our home electric — plus our neighbors’ home electric use (we’re overproducing by about 60% with our 5.59 kW system) rather than to be PV plus EV right now.