One electric car owner's experiences in adding solar panels: why, what, and how (updated)

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Photovoltaic solar panel installation on house, Fremont, California [image: Shiva Singh]

Photovoltaic solar panel installation on house, Fremont, California [image: Shiva Singh]

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The purchase of an electric car that plugs into the power grid to recharge its battery often gets drivers thinking about the source of their energy.

We haven't seen data from recent years looking at the overlap between electric-car drivers and home solar panels.

But early analyses in California indicated as many as four in 10 electric-car drivers were already using or considering the addition of home solar panels to generate electricity.

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California has been at the forefront of emission reduction and renewable energy for decades, so those 2012 results may not reflect the national average.

Still, Green Car Reports reader and frequent commenter Shiva, of Fremont, California, is one of the electric-car owners who have recently added solar panels.

What follows are his words about that process, lightly edited by Green Car Reports for clarity and style.

Photovoltaic solar panel installation on house, Fremont, California [image: Shiva Singh]

Photovoltaic solar panel installation on house, Fremont, California [image: Shiva Singh]

Enlarge Photo

Looking back over the last two years, it’s amazing to see the changes and progress our family has made in lowering our environmental impact.

After purchasing our first electric car in June 2015, a used 2012 Nissan Leaf, we are now on our fifth electric car. We are looking to add our sixth, possibly even our seventh, by the end of next year.

You might logically ask whether we would add solar panels to our house to offset our increased electrical consumption. The answer is a little complicated.

READ THIS: Home energy storage batteries lose to grid-connected solar on environmental impact

Our utility provider in Fremont is Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), which offers a time-of-use plan for electric-car owners that we enrolled in.

It provides for cheap electric rates during off-peak hours (11 pm to 7 am on weekdays; any time before 3 pm or after 7 pm on weekends and holidays).

The cheap off-peak rate is about $0.10 per kilowatt-hour, which made it dramatically cheaper to run our cars against the current San Francisco Bay Area cost of gasoline at about $3 a gallon.

Electric-car charging stations in garage, Fremont, California [image: Shiva Singh]

Electric-car charging stations in garage, Fremont, California [image: Shiva Singh]

Enlarge Photo

Today, we are actively charging and driving four cars: the Leaf, a Chevrolet Spark EV hatchback, and two Tesla Model S sedans. Our average monthly electric bill is $250.

Considering we drive our EVs an average of 13,000 miles a year and our house is close to 5,000 square feet, that's a low number.

The PG&E time-of-use plan has significantly changed our behavior, to the point that now more than 80 percent of our electric use is during those off-peak hours.

CHECK OUT: Solar panels, EV chargers required in new homes in Fremont, CA

You might ask, then, what about the cleaner and greener aspects of adding solar panels to our house?

California has one of the cleanest grids in the entire country, and our local PG&E grid is cleaner yet: almost 70 percent of the utility's power is generated from carbon-free sources (nuclear is 24 percent, hydro is 12 percent, and geothermal, biomass, solar, and smaller hydro make up 33 percent).

So what changed that we just decided to install solar in our home at the end of June? It’s a combination of factors.


 
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