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Founded in 1979, Solar Oregon is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit membership organization providing public education and community outreach to encourage Oregonians to choose solar energy.
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"Net Zero on Wheels"

Solar Oregon has been educating the public about net-zero energy use in the home through its Goal Net-Zero tours and discussion groups. The question has become: Can I utilize renewable energy to achieve Net-Zero energy use for my transportation needs? Let’s explore.

"Net Zero on Wheels"

Solar car charging station at OMSI - solarflareblog.com

By Christopher Luttkus - Solar Oregon Board Member

 

100-mile range all-electric cars are here, and more are coming.  While these cars have a smaller range than a tank of gas and traditional internal combustion engine (ICE), they possess more than enough range for 80% of our driving needs.  The Ford Focus, Mitsubishi iMEV and Nissan Leaf are recent examples of all electric vehicles being mass produced right now.  These cars can be fully charged at home in 6 hours on the same type of circuit used to run your washer and dryer.  


Solar Oregon has been educating the public about net-zero energy use in the home through its Goal Net-Zero tours and discussion groups.  The question has become: Can I utilize renewable energy to achieve Net-Zero energy use for my transportation needs?  Let’s explore.


These 100-mile range EV’s come with around a 20-25kwh battery pack.  This battery pack size balances performance with range.  If you want high performance in terms of quicker and faster, you will experience smaller range.  Be sure to test drive these new electric vehicles.  They are not golf carts and the power is comparable to a traditional ICE.


Kilowatt-hour (Kwh) is a measure of the energy stored in the battery pack.  You can take this energy quickly and in a short amount of time (0 – 60mph or passing cars on the highway), or you can take this energy in moderation and get your 100 mile range.  


Now, how do you put that energy back into the battery pack?


If you have a typical 3 to 5 kw solar array on your house, you are generating 3 – 5 Mwh per year in the Portland area, even more in central Oregon!  Let’s say your PV array is 4kw and you produce 4Mwh per year.  That’s 4000kwh per year.  Let’s say your 100-mile range EV has a 25kwh battery pack.  4000kwh divided by 25kwh is 160.  This means you can charge your EV 160 times a year on solar energy alone.  Now, 160 charges a year equates to 16,000 miles per year (160 charges times 100 miles per charge = 16,000 miles).  16,000 miles per year is slightly above the average number of miles per year which a car is driven.  The result: Net-Zero Transportation Energy Use.


Your future EV is going to be just like your cell phone.  You’ll use it during the day, and charge it at night when you are home.  The average person drives less than 100 miles per day.  If you are net-metering your solar energy production, you are charging your car on the energy banked to the power grid during the day.  In order to pursue Net-Zero Transportation and Net-Zero Home energy use simultaneously, you might be able to add a second array or increase the size of your current array.  Of course, continue to reduce your energy consumption in the first place through proper home insulation … and resisting the urge to pass that gas guzzler out on the open highway!
 

 
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