In the last few years electric vehicles (EV’s) have taken strides in becoming more reliable sources of transportation.  Studies say that by 2025, 1 in every 6 cars sold will be electric.  Locally, the Denver Post notes that “Colorado could have nearly 1 million electric vehicles on the road come 2030”.  This makes sense considering EV’s can be a cleaner alternative to traditional gas consuming cars and require far less maintenance, reducing the lifetime cost of ownership.  One factor to consider when thinking about purchasing an electric car, is how will you charge it?  Sure, you can just plug it in and pull energy from the grid, but will the spike in your monthly energy bill be worth the savings in gas?  What about the environmental factors?  A huge appeal of electric cars is their eco-friendliness, however, if the vehicle is being charged with energy from the grid, in all likelihood it is really being powered by greenhouse gases.

For electric car owners, adding a solar PV array is beneficial both economically and environmentally.

Lets take a look at the annual cost of owning a standard economy car and an electric car, in this case a Nissan Leaf.

Electric Vehicle vs Standard Vehicle

Wes Hounshell of Express Car Care in Denver, CO explains that the average 4 door economy sedan costs just over $4,000 a year to maintain. This includes factors like oil changes, engine repair, and other costs associated with a gas powered cars that do not apply to electric vehicles.

A recent study out of the University of Michigan confirms that electric vehicles, “cost less than half as much to drive [verse a standard gas powered car]”.

While just owning an electric car is cheaper than owning a standard car, powering the EV with solar panels takes it a step further.  Assuming the average person drives 12,000 miles in a year, charging an electric car would annually consume 3000 kilowatt hours (kwh).  With a national household consumption average of 12,000 kwh/ year, an EV adds an extra 25% to a household’s consumption.

Adding a solar array that produces as much energy as a household consumes will zero out the monthly energy bills, thus saving the homeowner tens of thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the system.  The more energy the household consumes, the faster the ROI of the solar array.

Since homes that charge an electric vehicle consume more than the average home, they see a more rapid return on investment on solar.

Electric Vehicle Solar

Now, lets examine this from an environmental standpoint? Like we discussed earlier, depending on what energy sources fuel the grid, charging an electric car can be more detrimental to the environment than burning a standard tank of gas.  The amount of coal required to charge an electric vehicle emits more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than a tank of gas.  The amount natural gas required to do the same is fairly comparable to a tank of gas.

Many electric vehicle owners chose their cars to lower their carbon footprint, unknowingly doing the opposite.

Key Takeaway:

For EV owners, adding a solar array to their home is a win-win.  They can ensure that they are truly reducing their impact on the planet by powering their car with renewable energy, while reaping huge savings with solar powering their travel as opposed to spending hundreds of dollars a year at the gas pump.