Living and Driving on Sunshine

We purchased a low-mileage used electric vehicle for our family in 2017. After Hurricane Irma, we added a rooftop solar system that powers our home and our car. We couldn't be happier about our choice to be living and driving on sunshine. It’s virtually emission-free, we enjoy significant savings on our power and car bills, and have the peace of mind knowing our home is more resilient. 

Dory Larsen | September 24, 2020 | Clean Transportation, Electric Vehicles, Solar

First Came an EV

It all started with an electric car in 2017. After doing considerable research my family determined that a used Nissan LEAF best fit our budget and lifestyle. We searched for used models on Car Gurus and found one at a dealer that had just come off lease in Atlanta. It had just over 35,000 miles and we paid $8,400 for it. Purchasing a used electric vehicle was no different than any other used-car buying experience. One minor frustration with the purchase was the lack of photos or an accurate description of the car’s charging port. This information would have helped us determine if the vehicle has a DC fast-charging port (dealers haven’t caught onto the importance of that detail). Before purchase, we learned it doesn’t. However, because we didn’t plan to do significant long-distance travel with the car and by purchasing at such a bargain price, we figured we could live without the ability to DC fast-charge the car. 

After naming my new ride affectionately after “the silver fox” Anderson Cooper, we happily settled into a pattern of charging in the garage and going about our daily driving needs with ease.

Anderson Coup-er enjoying a drive around Florida

The initial learning curve and some angst about how far I could take the car without feeling stressed about running out of charge were overcome by downloading and registering on the PlugShare app. This handy tool allows me to find charging station locations using my smartphone. I added the Greenlots and ChargePoint apps to make charging among the different networks possible. All of this reinforced my belief that America needs a robust EV charging infrastructure system.

Then Came the PV

About a month prior to purchasing our EV, Hurricane Irma hit, leaving my family without power for 10 days. The experience furthered our resolve to be more resilient as storms are increasing in frequency and intensity, and we signed a contract for a rooftop solar photovoltaic system in December of 2018 – just before the Federal Tax Credit began to sunset – so we were able to take advantage of the full 30% tax credit. Within a few months, the system was designed, permitted, and installed, including the bi-directional meter that allows for net metering, a critical policy allowing customers to both give and take electrons from the electrical grid.

Our 10 kilowatts (kW) PV system meets the power needs of our house and car for about half of the months of the year. During the other months, it significantly reduces our power bill. Furthermore, since installing the PV system at home, I haven’t paid for gas – not once. Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) estimates that the cost to drive a mile powering your EV with rooftop solar panels is $.01 per mile. For comparison, it costs about $.10 per mile to drive on gasoline (assuming gas is $2.50/gallon and the car achieves 25mpg). These combined savings over the past two years have improved our finances and given additional peace of mind.

Testing the system’s resiliency, last week, my neighborhood lost power again. I was able to use the inverters on our solar system to power our EV and our refrigerator.

If You’re Considering the Switch, Consider Both (Eventually)

Many folks who have installed solar decide to buy an EV and conversely, many EV drivers decide to install solar panels (referred to as ‘PV’ for photovoltaic). EVs are uniquely useful as mobile energy sources (after all, they are large batteries on wheels) – they can feed electricity back during an emergency. Charlie Behrens – a presenter on a recent webinar SACE co-hosted with Solar United Neighbors, Living and Driving on Sunshine, showed how he uses an inverter to convert power from his car battery to usable electricity. The webinar also helps identify how much solar you would need to support an EV. This was important to us as we considered adding rooftop solar. 

All in all, my family could not be happier about our choice to be living and driving on sunshine. It’s virtually emission-free, we enjoy significant savings on our power and car bills, and have the peace of mind knowing our home is more resilient. 

SACE has a rich history of impactful work combining clean energy and transportation. Learn more about the groundbreaking work and legacy of our recently passed board member Dr. Ed Passerini, by watching our tribute video.

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Dory Larsen
Dory joined the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy in 2017 in the newly created role as Electric Vehicle Program Associate and became the Electric Vehicle Program Coordinator in 2019. She…
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