Craig Toepfer is one of an increasing number of Americans who are driving on sunshine, or, as we like to say at SolarChargedDriving.Com, he’s plugging in to the power of the sun by using home solar to create fuel for his electric vehicles.
A veteran clean energy and transportation professional, Toepfer lives in Chelsea, Mich. He and his family started their foray into solar-charged driving with three Ford Fusion Energi plug-in electric vehicles (PHEV).
The Toepfer household has now moved on to three electric newer cars: A 2019 Tesla Model 3 dual motor version, a 2017 BMW i3 with a range extending motor, and a 2015 Fiat 500e they bought used in 2018.
The Toepfers power their cars, and their home, with two 3.5 kW home solar systems.
One of these systems is a grid tied system on a feed-in-tariff program (EARP) with Consumers Energy which pays the Toepfers $0.26/kWh for every solar kWh produced.
The system typically produces about 8 kWh per day in the summer and about 5 kWh per day in the winter, reports Toepfer.
Toepfer’s BMW i3 gets 4 mi/kWh and he drives less than 12,000 miles per year, or about 32 miles per day.
The second 3.5 kW system is a stand alone, off-grid system connected to an AGM battery.
Toepfer worked for a long-time in the renewable energy field and in the auto industry. After college, he worked with wind chargers 1975 to 1990 buying, selling, and restoring 1940 era Jacobs Wind Electric Co. machines. He was a service manager at Windworks, and hybrid systems product manager at Earth Energy Systems (Jacobs Wind Electric and Winco/Wincharger).
Toepfer returned to advanced vehicle engineering at Ford in 1990 and was assigned to Ford’s EV program. After working on the NaS Ecostar, he was tasked with developing EV charging standards.
Among other things, Toepfer has held leadership positions on the SAE Charging Systems Committee that developed J1772. He is active in solar EV legislation, policy, and education. He serves on the Solar Access, EV Readiness, and Carbon Neutrality Advisory Commissions in Ann Arbor, Mich. and he is working on a legislative proposal for a Governors EV Infrastructure Commission in Michigan.