Mark Stegall drives his car with zero carbon emissions, zero gas costs, and zero monthly electrical bills. An electrical engineer and longtime Santa Barbara resident, Mark describes his motivations for being the sixth electric vehicle owner in Santa Barbara and for going solar.
In 2010, Nissan introduced its first all-electric vehicle, the Leaf. Mark was waiting with open arms after having already secured a reservation and placed a pre- order months before. “When Nissan made the Leaf,” he says, “the only other EV was made by Tesla. And that was an $110,000 car.” Even so, he admits that the Leaf was expensive –coming it at around $38,000 full price, or $28,000 after rebates and incentives.
Despite the cost, Mark argues that the car is economical because it eliminates the need for gas, oil, and other part replacements (such as oil filters and fuel pumps). that accompany any fuel combustion engine. “When you look at our Leaf combined with solar, we won’t pay for an electrical bill for the rest of our lives, and we barely pay for gas.” Mark’s solar panels allow him the luxury of driving on sunshine.
Through the CEC’s Solarize program, Mark purchased a solar system large enough to provide electrical power to both the car and home he shares with his wife. Additionally, he switched to Southern California Edison’s time-of-use EV billing rate so that he actually receives credits from the utility when he generates more electricity than he is consuming. Since the credits are worth more during daytime peak hours, Mark charges his Leaf at night (when the electricity is less valuable), using some of the credits earned during the day to pay for the power. Mark calculates that for the next 25 years, this practice will not only eliminate his electrical bills but produce enough extra credits to last him for years.
“There were environmental reasons to do it, economic reasons and national interest reasons,” he says. Aside from his financial and environmental justifications, “getting rid of our dependence on external resources reduces the need to place ourselves overseas.” Moreover, the price of oil does not account for the negative financial, environmental and social consequences that are produced from oil dependence.
“All these things will change in time. The biggest problem is educating people,” he says. Mark believes that people will move toward electric cars, especially in Santa Barbara. “It is the ideal city to have an electric vehicle” for two reasons: the temperate climate is optimal for prolonging battery life, and the geography allows for most commutes to be within 30 miles, well within the 90-mile range of his Leaf. Mark is doing what he can for the environment while also considering his finances. “Plus, I am a believer that individual decisions can make a difference.”