Plugging in the Chevy Bolt into our office electric vehicle charger

Chevy’s all-electric Bolt is the 2017 Motor Trend Car of the Year – it’s roomy and reliable, and goes 0-60 in 6.3 seconds!

Any move to a 100% renewable-powered society must include aggressive action to transition away from fossil fuels for transportation. To that end, we have been early and eager proponents of electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging, converting most of our fleet to either full EVs or hybrid EVs, and powering these with sunshine harvested off our own office roofs.

Driving on Sunshine

The return of the electric vehicle ushers in a new era of transportation, where we can finally sever ties to dirty, finite fossil fuels and get where we need to go with clean power from the sun.

  • Just 9 solar panels provide roughly enough electricity to power 12,000 miles of electric driving each year at a low, fixed cost.
  • Level II charging stations can deliver full vehicle battery charge in 4 to 8 hours depending on battery size – so you’ll wake up to full charge.

Electric vehicles offer a unique trifecta of benefits:

  • Lower carbon footprint: Transportation is the one of the largest contributors of greenhouse gases in the US. 
  • Save money: EVs cost less to operate, and maintain. Power your car with solar and drive for the equivalent of $.71/gallon¹, while accelerating the payback on your solar array by 30%.
  • Energy independence: Get where you need to go with power from the sun, generated locally, and stop sending money to oil companies.

This video offers a quick driving tour of the Chevy Volt and our solar-powered charging station in Portland, Maine (among the first in the state). As of today, four of our main offices (Liberty and Portland, ME, Brentwood, NH, and North Andover, MA) all offer EV charging free of charge (ha!) to the public:

One of our customers, who has a Volt, tells his story:

londonderry-nh-solar-sohm-01

The Chevy Volt of Evan Sohm, owner of a solarized home in Londonderry, NH.

I drive from Londonderry, NH to Methuen, MA for work, Monday through Friday. It’s approximately a 37 mile round trip; the Volt will go approximately 40 miles on 10 kWh of charge. As a result, I’ve been driving the Volt to and from work without using any gas.

The PV solar panels on my roof produce 4 kW of power in full sun. So if the sun shines on my roof for 2.5 hours, that produces 10 kWh of energy which is enough to drive the car for 40 miles! On average our PV system produces 18.9 kWh/day. If you use all that energy to charge the Volt you could drive 75 miles per day with zero fuel expenses.

If we drove a regular car that gets 25 mpg for 75 miles, that would require 3 gallons of gas. So for us, it’s like our solar panels produce 3 gallons of gas per day, every day.

I couldn’t be happier, because in all honesty, I hate giving my money to the oil companies. Not only do I get to save money and help the environment, but I get to drive a really cool car! Everybody who takes a ride in it says it’s like a spaceship. But the Chevy Volt is not rocket science. It’s like any other regular car, only more efficient. So far, I’ve driven 7,000 miles and the lifetime fuel economy is 107 mpg. – Evan Sohm, Londonderry, NH

Are EVs as safe as other cars?

Electric vehicles are actually often safer than other cars. While battery technologies certainly introduced new safety issues that needed to be considered carefully, modern electric vehicles are inherently safer than many newer combustion engine vehicles, as well as older combustion engine vehicles that don’t include the latest safety innovations. 

Crash-test dummies prefer EVs due to large, frontal crash-protection crumple zones (no engine block), “double bumpers” (a Tesla feature), low centers of gravity (lithium battery placement), and, of course, the lack of a tank of flammable fluid (adiós gasoline).

Which EV should I drive?

2018 has been the strongest year for EVs yet. March was the 30th month of consecutive year-over-year monthly sales gains. Major automakers like Volvo and GM have recently declared the future to be all-electric. There are many all-electric cars already available in the US, as well as hybrid EVs. Battery ranges have increased, model types have diversified, and costs have come down. So what’s out there?

Perhaps everyone has heard of Tesla by now. Tesla’s Model 3 has brought their great battery range and design closer to the reach of an average American income, but the top contender for best American EV might just be from one of the oldest gas-powered vehicle makers: Chevy. The Chevy Bolt was the 2017 Motor Trend Car of the Year, as it is a powerful combination of quality, efficiency and value.

Another strong all-electric option is the Nissan Leaf, or there are many plug-in hybrids like the Chrysler Pacifica, Toyota Prius Prime or Kia Niro. Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) offer gasoline power as a backup to battery range. The average American commute is usually short enough for a PHEV to drive on electricity most of the time, however, there is still an engine that needs to be maintained. In contrast, all-electric EVs are free from many maintenance needs we have become accustomed to with car care.

So how do I drive an EV with solar power?

If you want to drive an electric vehicle, you’re going to need an electric vehicle charging point at home, either mounted in the garage or on the driveway.

Image of a Clipper Creek Electric Vehicle Charging Station

The Clipper Creek HCS-40 offers great value in electric vehicle charging. A fully installed Level II charging station costs around $2,000, a bit less when bundled with one of our solar PV installs.

To charge your electric vehicle with solar, you need two components: a solar electric system and a Level II electric vehicle charging station. ReVision Energy can install both for you.

A wall-mounted Level II charger can deliver about 25 miles of range per hour of charging, allowing you to wake up every morning to a fully charged vehicle. Level II charging is much faster than, and highly preferable to Level I plug-in outlet charging which typically delivers 4-5 miles per hour of charging. A 2017 Chevy Bolt, for example, takes only 8.5 hours (overnight) to recover its 238 mile range with a Level II charger, and over 36 hours with a Level I charger.

A grid-tied solar electric system is the best way to put solar to work for your electric car. A grid-tied system will produce power whenever the sun is out, regardless of whether your house needs it that moment or not. So, if you are at work (and charging there!), the power generated at your home will be sold to the grid. You get that power back in the form of a credit, which you can use at night while re-charging your EV.

Ready to get started? Contact us for information on how to combine an electric vehicle and sunshine for carbon-free driving.

¹A grid-based eGallon, used by the US Department of Energy to compare the cost of electricity to gasoline, is currently calculated at $1.11, compared to the average US gas price of $2.65 per gallon, a significant savings by any measure. However, a solar gallon costs 71 cents, based upon the levelized cost over the twenty-five year warranty of a typical residential solar array (6 kW).