GM Volt. Image Credit: Chevrolet

How Adding An Electric Car Cut Solar Payback Time In Half

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Do you think that buying an electric vehicle could reduce the payback time of a solar power system by 50%? Let us explore that.

GM Volt.
Chevy Volt.
Image Credit: GM

This is the story of a family in Pennsylvania who installed a 9.43 kW solar panel array to offset their electricity usage. They found themselves saving considerably more money than they originally would have.

The solar power system was installed in October 2011. It consists of 41 panels. Each of the panels can generate 230 watts DC.

The quoted cost of the solar system was $5.50 per watt of its generation capacity, which translates to $51,865. Yes, it is a very large system!

Their electric bill was $2,500 per year, and the financial payback time of the solar system after state and federal government incentives was estimated to be 11.7 years.

A year later, they replaced their 2007 Acura RDX with a 2013 Chevy Volt. They used the surplus electricity they generated to power the Chevy Volt, so they were able to eliminate their Acura RDX gasoline bill without incurring any new electricity costs, and now they have a solar-powered car!

They said this cut the payback time of the solar system in half, down to 5.96 years, but the purchase price of the Chevy Volt does not appear to have been factored in.

The Volt’s gas bill is up to $50 per month, while the RDX gas bill was $250 per month. The 2007 Acura RDX crossover achieves 19 MPG combined.

I should note that the gas bills for both vehicles are a bit high. The writer of the story said they added 7,228 miles to the Chevrolet Volt in “only” six months (they drive an average of 1,250 miles per month), and that they “racked up a lot of miles.”

5,255 of the 7,228 miles accumulated on the Volt were on electricity alone (72% of pure electric driving).

The writer of the story said that they fill the Volt’s 9 gallon gas tank “once, maybe twice per month.”

Average Miles Driven In US & UK

According to the DOT, the average American drives 13,476 miles annually, which translates to an average of 1,123 miles per month, so these people don’t drive that much more than average, only an additional 127 miles.

To be fair, Americans do tend to drive quite a bit. In the UK, for example, the average number of miles driven in 2010 was 8,430 miles, which is 5,046 miles less than Americans.

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Nicholas Brown

Has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography. His website is:

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