Spring means more solar-charged EV miles

The back of Tom Moloughney’s BMW ActiveE with his home’s solar gas tank, aka his home solar PV system, in the background. [Photo Courtesy of Tom Moloughney]
Now that spring has rolled in the temperature isn’t the only thing that’s going up: So is my solar electric production.

My 8.775 kW system can produce up to 60 kWh a day under ideal conditions. That’s enough to power my all-electric ActiveE over 200 miles, or enough to power it about 100 miles and supply all the power my house needs for an average day.

Pretty cool stuff. Powering my car and my house for the day on pure sunlight is really awesome.

Spring vs. winter solar production
Unfortunately because of where I live in the Northeast (New Jersey) I don’t get this kind of production all year. In the winter on the shortest days of the year I’ll only get about 25 kWh even on clear sunny days.

Plus there are days when the whole array is buried under a foot of snow so it doesn’t generate anything in those conditions. However year round it averages nearly 30 kWh every day (about 10,000 kWh annually) which is enough for roughly 100 miles of daily driving in an ActiveE.

However the ActiveE isn’t the most efficient EV on the road. Since it is a converted gasoline powered 1 series BMW, it had to be retrofitted with hundreds of pounds of steel reinforcements and BMW then needed to use a big battery pack (which added even more weight) just so it could have an approximate 100 mile range.

BMW i3 more efficient
By comparison, the upcoming BMW i3 has been purpose designed from scratch as an electric vehicle. That allowed BMW to create a lightweight and efficient electric vehicle while retaining the performance expected from all BMWs.

The i3 will have a battery which is 30 percent smaller than the one in the ActiveE. Yet it will offer approximately the same driving range. The official EPA efficiency specifications aren’t available for the i3 yet, but many expect it will go about five miles for every kWh of electricity consumed.

Personally I average about 3.5 miles per kWh in my ActiveE in moderate weather conditions. What that means is an average day of home solar power generation for me (30 kWh) will power an i3 about 150 miles where it will only power my ActiveE a little over 100.

So when I get my i3 it will use about 30 percent less energy and there will be more excess electricity left over to apply to my home use. That extra energy may just eliminate my electric bill entirely and bring me close to having a “Net Zero Energy Home” like fellow ActiveE driver Peder Norby has in California.

I know I’ve said it many times, but EV + PV is really a fantastic combination. Driving on sunshine and powering your home with sunshine is really great, and certainly empowering.

I can’t help but believe everybody will be doing this at some time in the future, I’m just lucky to be doing it now.

Tom Moloughney is a long-time solar-charged driver and a veteran electric car driver from New Jersey. SolarChargedDriving.Com thanks him for allowing us to republish this blog entry, which originally appeared on Moloughney’s personal blog, Active E Mobility: Driving an Electric BMW 1-Series.

Tom Moloughney in front of a row of BMW ActiveE cars. [Photo Courtesy of Tom Moloughney]
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