Yes, I know, the headline for this entry is pretty charged, and, I will say, right up front, I don’t think solar-charged driving is a lie.
However I do concede that after more than five years of promoting solar-charged driving on this web site and more than one year of doing EV + PV myself, I still feel uncomfortable with the fact that most of my “solar-charged” driving is in fact, technically speaking, “solar-offset-charged” driving.
That is, I charge my 2014 Nissan LEAF mostly at night, when the sun isn’t shining, though, on weekends I try to make a point of plugging my EV in as much as I can during the day.
My 5.6 kW home solar system produces enough electricity to cover 100 percent of my home electric use AND 15,000 miles worth of driving in my Nissan LEAF annually. So, when you total up my electricity usage vs. solar electricity production at the end of each year they zero out (in fact, annually, I tend to produce more electricity than I consume via my home and my car).
That’s what I mean by “solar-offset-charged” driving: During the course of a year, I produce enough solar electricity with my 5.6 kW home solar system to offset the electricity I use. In the case of my 2014 LEAF, roughtly 75 to 80 percent of my solar-charging is “solar-offset charging.”
Outside of “solar heads” and “EV heads”, few people are aware enough to call me, or anyone else, out on “solar-offset-charged driving” as opposed to pure, direct, solar-charged driving.
Technically, my critics are correct: Most of the electricity powering my Nissan LEAF has NOT been produced directly by my home solar system. Instead, the electricity in my car’s battery is typically produced mostly by a mix of the buring of coal and natural gas and by wind power here in Colorado Xcel Utility territory.
Geting called out
But a few are aware enough and I have been called out a few times during the comment wars that I sometimes (too often, actually) get into underneath online articles about electric cars, home solar, gasoline cars, the environment, global warming, etc.
I have to admit, I feel a bit sheepish about “solar-offset-charged” driving. Technically, my critics are correct: Most of the electricity powering my Nissan LEAF has NOT been produced directly by my home solar system. Instead, the electricity in my car’s battery is typically produced mostly by a mix of the buring of coal and natural gas and by wind power here in Colorado Xcel Utility territory.
On the other hand, annually, via my 5.6 kW home solar system, I AM producing as much electricity as I consume every year.
This has to be better — A LOT better — environmentally speaking than: a) driving a gasoline stinker powered by refined oil that comes from as far away as Saudi Arabia and the Canadian Tar Sands; b) simply plugging in an EV where I live and adding NO home solar at all to offset the electricity I consume.
Take a solar-offset should not count argument to the extreme and you potentially verge on getting to the absurd perspective that would hold that solar is “useless” for a home because, a lot of the time, your dryer, your blow dryer, your dishwasher, your refrigerator, your four giant 56-inch flat screen TVs, your central AC system, are very often being used at night, when the sun isn’t shining.
In other words, because our home solar system is producing most of its electricity during the day when we are not home and our home (hopefully) is using very little electricity and we use most of our electricity in the evening and at night when our system is producing little to no electricity, a home solar system is not worth it.
This is an extreme perspective, I know — but I’ve encountered it in a few of the hundreds (thousands?) of comment wars I’ve gotten into online about electric cars, solar, etc. during the past five years.
Another reason solar-offset-charging should “count”: If EVERY single car in metro-Denver was an electric car and we in the Denver area had enough solar production to offset, 100 percent, the electricity consumption of our completely electric car fleet, the air here would be a hell of a lot cleaner. In fact, there would be essentially NO Denver brown cloud. That matters — a lot. Add 100 percent wind power at night and you achieve zero air pollution.
SOLPWRD: My personalized license plate
Of course, that’s not the scenario here in Denver now. Yet I’m driving around with a personalized plate that says “SOLPWRD” and with bumper stickers that state “Powered with 100% Domestically Produced Solar Energy” and “Zero Air Pollution.”
I will say that I can’t wait until I can add a home battery pack to my solar fueling set-up. The primary reason for this is so that I will be able to claim total “purity” on a solar-charged electric car. A second reason is to stick it to Xcel and other utilities who are trying to smear home solar owners with unfair, and completely unsubstantiated, claims that we are allegedly not “paying our fair share” for the grid.
So, am I “lying” when I say my 2014 Nissan LEAF is “solar-charged”? Am I “scamming” others with my license plate, bumper stickers, and even this entire web site?
What do you think?
I’d love to hear your answers/thoughts in the comments field below.