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
  • Level II charging stations can deliver full vehicle battery charge in 4 to 8 hours depending on vehicle range
  • If you would otherwise drive a 20mpg vehicle, your solar electric panels charging your electric car will pay for themselves in around 2 years. Over 20 years, this will be like paying $0.32/gal for gasoline!*

Electric vehicles offer a unique trifecta of benefits:

  • Lower carbon footprint: burning gasoline accounts for 50% of carbon emissions in New England, and 27% of all energy consumed in the United States
  • Save money: Eliminate repair expenses and lock in a 20-year cost of power with an electric car powered by a solar electric system
  • Energy independence: stop supporting oil and gas companies and get where you need to go with power from the sun

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:


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

Is an EV 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).

Should I Buy Now or Wait Until Electric Vehicles Get Better?

Undoubtedly, electric cars will become even more efficient in the future, just as the cost of solar electric systems will continue to decline. However, this does not mean you should wait to buy!

There is the property of time to consider with an EV purchase – the sooner you switch to solar electricity, and the sooner you start driving an electric car instead of a gasoline one, the sooner you will be saving money and paying off your solar investment.

So, while future electric vehicles may get better range, you will have saved plenty of money by the time that happens.

So How Do I Get a Solar-Powered Charging Station?

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 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.

* Assuming all-electric driving, which is possible for some but not all Volt drivers. Our prediction is based on real-world data collected from a 2012 Chevy Volt, where we are able to achieve 40 mi driving radius on pure electric. The 20-year cost of energy on a 4.8kw solar electric system (as of Aug, 2012) is $0.08/kWh. The Chevy Volt’s battery pack is 16kWh and Chevy claims that up to 50% will be discharged in driving. 4kWh gets you 20miles, for a cost of $0.32, vs. the $3.60+ that will cost you in gasoline.