“Driving on Sunshine” is a series about people who are using grid-tied solar panels on their homes to power their electric vehicles. More plug-in vehicles are entering the market at competitive prices, including low monthly leases starting at $199/month. In addition, more people are able to afford home solar systems thanks to solar leasing programs and group-purchasing options, such as CEC’s Solarize program.
|Type of Electric Vehicle||2013 Toyota RAV4 EV|
|Leased or Purchased||Purchased|
|Size of Solar Array||7.0 kW REC Group Array|
|Solar Installer||REC Solar|
|Leased or Purchased||Purchased|
|CEC Solarize Participant||Yes|
Rick Kelly and his family are self-described “energy hawks,” always looking for ways to improve the energy efficiency of their home. After switching all their lighting to LED bulbs, Rick — a business manager at UCSB — was looking for more. Intrigued by solar electricity, he attended a homeowner workshop about Solarize Santa Ynez hosted by CEC and the Santa Ynez Valley Alliance. At the workshop, another homeowner brought up the topic of combining home solar and electric vehicles (EVs), and it spurred Rick to do his own research.
Rick was enticed by the range of the all-electric Toyota RAV4, which would enable him to make his daily commute over the San Marcos Pass and back on a single charge. The technology under the hood also impressed him; the RAV4 sports a 154-horsepower motor and a lithium-ion battery built by Tesla Motors.
Ultimately, the Kellys purchased an electric RAV4 and a 7.0 kW solar array from REC Solar. Rick calculated that his family would drive 400 to 500 miles a week in the electric car and worked with REC Solar to size a system that would cover its charging requirement while also powering the house. Purchasing the EV meant doubling the size of the solar array but, once installed, the Kellys solar system should eliminate most, if not all, of their weekly trips to the gas station, and they will be “driving on sunshine.”
To optimize the value of switching to solar and driving an EV, the family switched to PG&E’s special time-of-use billing plan for electric vehicles. Under this billing structure, the Kellys get high-value credits (worth roughly $0.33/kWh) from PG&E for any excess electricity that their panels feed to the grid during the day (when electricity is worth the most). The Kellys set a timer to charge the RAV4 after midnight, when electricity costs a fraction (roughly $0.04/kWh) of the credits that the Kellys accumulate during the day. Using the time-of-use billing plan will allow the Kellys to nearly eliminate their electric bills, though their solar system only offsets 80% of their electrical consumption.
The Kellys went solar through CEC’s Solarize Santa Ynez Valley program, which Rick found simplified the decision. “It was great to have CEC as an outside resource in the process. The information they provided was very helpful, and it was great to have a third party who had my interests (and not just profit) in mind. Everyone I talked to, from the CEC staff to the installers, was knowledgeable, helpful and experienced.” The discounted Solarize pricing helped motivate the family’s solar purchase and their decision to add an EV. Now the Kellys are not only meeting their energy requirements with no carbon emissions, but they will almost completely eliminate their electric and gasoline bills.