Solar Energy USA

Solar And Electric Vehicles

Refueling With Sunshine


Electric Vehicles (EVs) like the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, and Tesla Model S are becoming more and more popular because of their high MPG ratings, their convenient ability to be plugged-in and recharged, and the frustrating and unpredictably wild increases in the price of a gallon of gasoline. The cost of “filling up your tank” for $30 dollars or more is decreased to under $5 dollars through charging your vehicle’s batteries with electrical energy, and the savings are even more dramatic when that energy comes from your own solar power system.

Solar Powered Homes And Cars

How much money do you waste on gasoline? Why not put that money back into your pocket, reduce your power bill, and increase the value of your home?

Once Your System Is Paid For So Is Your Fuel Source!

Below are some commonly asked questions about Solar and Electric Vehicles (EVs):

What is an EVSE?

EVSE stands for Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment.  This is the industry name for an Electric Vehicle charging station.  The terms “EVSE”, “EV Charging Station”, and “Charging Station” all mean the same thing and are interchangeable.

What is a Level 1 charging station?

A Level 1 charging station (also called an EVSE) uses a 120 volt / 15 amp circuit.  The EVSE plugs directly into a standard home outlet. Most PEVs from major car manufactures will have a Level 1 EVSE included with the car.  These are considered to be “trickle” chargers by manufacturers of battery-only Electric Vehicles.

netzero-usa-level-2-electric-vehicle-charging-stations What is a Level 2 charging station?

A Level 2 charging station using a 220 volt/15-110 amp electrical circuit.  Usually hard-wired, it requires a dedicated electrical circuit.

What is the difference in charging time between a Level 1 EVSE and a Level 2 EVSE?

A Level 2 charging station will reduce the charge time for a Nissan Leaf from 25 hours down to 7 hours.  Charge time for a Chevrolet Volt will go from 11 hours to 3 hours.

Why purchase a Level 2 EVSE if a Level 1 EVSE is included with the PEV?

Reduced charging time (up to 60% in most cases) and increased safety – no dangerous plugs for prying little fingers.

What will I need to operate a plug-in electric car?

You will need a way to charge the vehicle in your home or at another charging facility.  Although some vehicles will be provided with a Level 1 charging station that can be used from a standard household outlet, it is recommended that prior to purchasing an all-electric vehicle a potential owner investigates the purchase and installation of a Level 2 charging station for home use.

How much will all-electric passenger vehicles cost to operate?

Using the national average electric rate of $.12 per kWh, the 100-mile Nissan Leaf would cost about $2.88 to fully charge, that’s less than $0.03 cents per mile. By comparison, that same distance in a gasoline car that gets 25 miles per gallon (the 2008 national average MPG) would cost $15.40 or $0.154 per mile.

Electric vehicle owners also may be able eligible for additional savings on electricity costs associated with their car. Georgia Power, for example, offers a rate specifically for Plug-in electric vehicle owners.  Owners should ask their utility company to find out more information.

What is the climate impact of the electricity that will power the electric automobiles?

Both all-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids have the ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One of the major greenhouse gases is carbon dioxide (CO2).  When emissions from electric power generation are considered, an all-electric vehicle reduces CO2 by over 30% compared to a conventional gasoline vehicle. See the DOE website for further information and for comparisons in your area.

How many miles can plug-in electric vehicles travel before needing to plug-in?

Vehicle range will vary depending on: battery capacity, ambient temperature and driver habits. The Nissan Leaf, for example, is advertised to have a range of 100 miles. Nissan has conducted extensive research and determined actual mileage will vary between 62 and 138 miles depending on temperature, speed and the use of heat or air conditioning.

The Chevrolet Volt has a range of 40 miles in all-electric mode.  The Volt will travel an additional 330 miles of range when the gas generator kicks in.

Can an electric vehicle be powered by solar?

Yes! Just like a solar energy system atop a home or business can provide power for light bulbs, appliances, and other devices needing electricity, so too can an automobile be powered by solar energy. Solar PV panels absorb energy in sunlight form. This energy from the sun is then converted into traditional electricity which can then be used to provide power to anything, even an automobile!

The savings driving a solar powered EV is even greater since the “fuel” source is sunlight which is abundant and FREE!

Using solar PV panels at your home or business makes even more sense with a plug-in EV. The investment in solar panels pays off faster when the solar power is not only replacing grid electricity but replacing much more expensive gasoline. EVs typically can travel 3-4 miles (or more) per kWh of electricity. If you drive 1,000 miles per month you will need 312 kWh worth of power. Depending on where you live, a 3 kW PV system will generate that level of solar power each month.

toyota-prius-plug-in-hybrid-electric-vehicle What is a plug-in electric vehicle?

There are three types of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs); plug-in hybrids, extended-range electric vehicles, and all-electric vehicles.

Plug-in hybrids, such as a the Toyota Prius Plug-in, are powered through a combination of gasoline and electricity.

The Chevy Volt is an example of a plug-in extended-range electric vehicle and was introduced in the fall of 2010. The Volt uses an electric motor to power its drive-train.  Once the Volt’s 12 kWh battery pack is fully discharged, a separate gasoline engine starts up and powers a generator which then supplies the electricity to the electric motor drive-train.

All-electric vehicles have no gasoline engine and run exclusively on the energy stored in the on-board batteries. The Tesla Model S and the Nissan LEAF are examples of highway-capable all-electric cars. The Nissan LEAF has a 24 kWh battery pack, and should be fully supported with a 3 kW solar energy system.

For more information on powering a plug-in vehicle with solar power be sure to read our residential install case studies.