Solar panels: Our car runs on the sun

The world today is hooked on fossil fuels. Fossil fuels drive 80% of the world’s economy. And yet these energy drivers are inherently dangerous to the planet’s health and our health. So what can one do about it? Here is our story.

In 2013 we had an accident with our internal combustion car. It was totaled. So we bought an electric car (2013 Chevy VOLT). In January of this year we had 17 solar panels installed on a south-facing part of our roof. On many days these panels produce more electricity than our total house consumption, including the electricity needed to recharge our car.

It is therefore no exaggeration to say that our car runs mainly on the sun. Lots of people want to know the details of this set-up so here it is.

On these sunny spring days our solar system can generate 25 KwH/day. This is about twice the amount of electricity that we consume these days. About 15% of our electricity consumption is issued to recharge our car.

The total cost for the installation of the 17 solar panels was $20,000. The power rating of our system is 4 Kw. Because of the Ontario government sponsored Micro Feed in Tariff (MicroFIT) program, we get paid 38 cents for every KwH that we produce. Compare this to the cost of 8 cents/KwH that we pay during the off-peak period when our car is being charged at night. These MicroFIT rates are guaranteed to be paid for the next 20 years. Because of the payments in the MicroFIT program, and using annual estimates that include snow and cloudy conditions we will recover the entire cost of the system in about 13 years.

Now a few words about the Chevy VOLT. The before tax price was $40,000. With the government rebate of $8,000 the cost was lowered to $32,000. Again the longer that we drive this car, the more money that we will save. It is estimated that with average driving conditions, the annual electricity costs to run this car is about $100/year, that is, about 30 cents per day. Even though the initial cost of this car was high, with time much of this cost can be recouped because of savings with reduced gasoline purchases.

You will notice that the costs of both solar panels and the electric car were somewhat high. However, overtime these initial costs can be recouped. I suspect that many more people could get on board with measures like these if start-up loans were made available.

Sometime soon the consumption of fossil fuels will peak and begin to decline. Consumption of fossil fuels will peak sooner if more people start using renewable sources of energy. It will also help if more people persuade governments and industry to leave the remaining fossil fuels in the ground. Renewable energy technologies are becoming more efficient and their costs are dropping. These factors should help us get onto a greener future.

May, 2016