Solar Industry News

Energy Independence = Solar + EV + Heat Pump + Battery

The team at Stella Lux celebrates what they call the world's first solar powered family car. This solar-powered, all electric vehicle can move 4 people 960 miles on a single solar charge. This vehicle is emblematic of the 'smart car' of our future: efficient, environmentally friendly, and interconnected with other vehicles in the transportation network.

Phil Coupe, one of ReVision's co-founders, leads this inaugural (and occasional) column offering perspectives from ReVision Energy's leadership team as they look at our progress in transitioning New England to a clean energy economy and the opportunities and challenges ahead.

Abandoning gas stations has been one of the more liberating experiences of my lifetime (rivaled perhaps by the day my three kids stopped using diapers). Five years ago I leased my first all-electric Nissan Leaf and discovered the vastly superior feeling of driving a silent, zippy car that gets the equivalent of 110 miles per gallon by using batteries charged with solar electricity. Because there are no heat losses from the extreme temperatures of an internal combustion engine, the Leaf is five times as efficient as the average gas-powered car, making it incredibly cheap to drive (4 cents/mile vs. 15 cents/mile) with zero tailpipe emissions, no oil changes and no stops for gas, ever.

'Range anxiety?' There really isn't any, because I can drive 115 miles on sunshine and when the car battery gets low, I can simply plug in at home, the office or at one of the hundreds of public charging stations sprinkled around northern New England .

Freedom from the hassle of gassing up at the pump was followed by freedom from having the oil truck stop by the house. Four years ago I had an air source pump installed in my home that provides home heating at the cost equivalent of paying $1.00/gal for oil and also provides air conditioning in summer at twice the efficiency of the best window unit on the market .

By using solar electricity to power my heat pump, I have saved about $1,000 per year in home heating costs and eliminated more than 20,000 lbs. of carbon pollution every year. Plus, the cooling function this time of year is splendid.

But to achieve true energy independence, my next investment will be a home-based battery system that can store solar electricity generated during the day to be used at night and/or during periods of cloudy weather. It will likely be a Sonnen or Tesla Powerwall system, both of which function like a backup generator minus the noise, fumes and inefficiency of using an internal combustion engine to generate household electricity.

The great news for humankind is that modern solar equipment, paired with electric vehicles, heat pumps and batteries, now makes it possible to achieve energy independence through cost-effective, practical investments in readily available technology. In the wake of the Kyoto, Denmark and Paris Climate Agreements, it's time for everyone to declare freedom from the economic and environmental costs of fossil fuels.

- Phil Coupe, Co-Founder, ReVision Energy