EVs & PV — A Match Made In Heaven

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We recently looked at how distributed solar systems are enabling electromobility in rural Zimbabwe. Electric motorcycles and three-wheelers will transform rural communities and improve the lives of women and children in these communities. Several other energy storage as a service (SaaS) platforms are being planned to catalyze that industry, from startups such as betteries and Liquidstar.

Onsite solar PV generation is also valuable in places that have access to the utility grid but that grid is predominantly powered by coal, like in Australia and South Africa. The learning curve of photovoltaics, also sometimes known as Swanson’s Law after Richard Swanson of SunPower, has shown that the prices of solar panels have come down by about 80% over the last 10 years. At current prices, it is usually cheaper to generate your own electricity using solar. If you go solar, then you could essentially have your own fuel station at home!

In this article, we take a look at some examples in Kenya which bring out the beauty of combining EVs and PV.

Although Kenya’s grid is powered by an electricity generation mix that is 93% renewable — thanks to a lot of geothermal, hydropower, wind farms, and some utility-scale solar — the tariffs are relatively high compared to other countries in the region. Residential electricity tariffs in Kenya are around $0.23/ kWh.

Having your own solar power plant at home or at the office would really help lower your blended electricity costs. This is what Francis Romano and Drivelectric Kenya are promoting in Kenya with their partnership with Greenspoon. Greenspoon has been using a Nissan e-NV200 electric van to do some of its deliveries in Nairobi. Greenspoon has also installed a 2.9 kW PV system at its HQ. The van goes on its daily routes doing about 50 to 80 km per day and then goes back to charge overnight as shown in the graph below:

The March 2020 consumption overview shows an average daily contribution from the solar 2.9 kWp of about 11 kWh.

If we use a reasonable consumption of 200 Wh/km for the Nissan e-NV200 electric van, 20 kWh gives you 100 km, which means the solar generation is giving enough to drive the van for about 55 km.

Even though the van charges at night and not directly from the solar, the solar is still offsetting a good portion of the grid electricity, thereby saving the customer some money.

The savings from switching from the diesel to electric van have been covered in our previous article on the partnership between Driveelectric Kenya and Greenspoon.

Francis Romano, founder of Knights Energy & Driveelectric, next to the e-NV200 electric van.
Juliet Kennedy, founder & managing director of Greenspoon, and part of the Greenspoon Team with the e-NV200 electric van.

Expanding the solar capacity shows an even better picture. Let’s assume we have a site that has an average daily demand of 41 kWh, including the energy required to charge the electric van. The 2.9kWp plant would provide about 25% of this energy at 10.58 kWh per day.

Table by Remeredzai Kuhudzai

If we increase the size of the solar plant to 10kWp, the contribution from the PV could be increased to meet approximately 86% of the site’s needs. The 36.48 kWh is generated from the solar at a cheaper tariff than the utility grid.

A solar + EV setup thus has a net positive effect. This is truly a match made in heaven.

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Image courtesy of Drivelectric Kenya

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Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai

Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has been fascinated with batteries since he was in primary school. As part of his High School Physics class he had to choose an elective course. He picked the renewable energy course and he has been hooked ever since.

Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has 777 posts and counting. See all posts by Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai