Solar and Electric Vehicles
A new report from leading investment bank UBS says that, in Europe, fossil fuels are definitely on the way out.
Their estimate is that an unsubsidized investment in an electric vehicle and rooftop solar will takes between 6-8 years to pay off by the year 2020. That means, that, over the 20 year life-span of the solar cells, you’ll be getting free electricity for 12-14 years.
The part that makes this actually possible isn’t grid-tie or more efficient solar cells, but the electric car. When the proper equipment is installed, the car’s batteries can store excess power generated during the day and release that power for use by the house at night.
The base model Tesla -S has a 60 kilowatt hours (kWh) battery pack.
My house (which is huge) with two AC units, in Central Texas, in the middle of summer, uses about 2,000 kWh per month. That’s 67 kilowatt hours per day. Which means that the base Telsa could power my house for a full day or several nights on a full battery charge.
Of course, during the summer, we get about 8 hours of heavy sun and another 4-6 of low sun. As long as that’s enough to power the house and charge the car, then we’re golden. Yes, it’s a heavy investment. A Tesla costs about $70,000 and enough solar panels would be about $20,000 installed.
So for us, right now, it’s not feasible. Of course, my mom’s Hybrid can hold 47 kWh and it cost her only $18,000. That’s still a 15 year payoff for the panels AND the car. But we wouldn’t be paying for gasoline or electricity either. It would be a 15 year payout with just the electricity and about a 12 year payout including gasoline.
Which is exactly what UBS suggest is the current (2014) payout time for an electric car and solar panel system.
UBS says centralised fossil fuel generation will become “extinct” – and it will happen a lot sooner than most people realise.
This is an impressive claim. But UBS is a investment banking firm. It pays them to predict the future.
But it makes sense. We’ve seen several records this year where Germany (for example) had 74% of midday power provided by wind and solar in May. Then in June, had 50.6% of its total electrical need generated purely from solar photovoltaic panels.
Europe added just under 11 gigawatts of solar PV capacity in 2013. That’s added… not a cumulative total. Of course, China added just over 11 gigwatts of solar PV capacity and the US added almost 5 gigawatts.
At the end of 2013, the global estimate for solar PV alone was just under 137 gigawatts. And wind power is still growing faster with more installed capacity.
Several reports suggest that the global installed PV capacity will increase about 20% per year for, at least, the next decade. That means it will double every 4 years (roughly).
By 2025, everybody will be able to produce and store power. And it will be green and cost competitive, ie, not more expensive or even cheaper than buying power from utilities.
The deniers have very little to talk about now. In fact, I haven’t really heard much of the “green power can’t work” recently.
It is working. And it’s getting better and better. It’s also a vicious cycle. As batteries get cheaper, the ability for regular people to purchase them (and use them in fleet environments) increases. As solar gets cheaper, it provides more and more of the electricity. And when you marry the solar panels to batteries, you get round-the-clock power. Even my mom’s $18,000 car could run our entire house at night.
And, I think, once people begin to understand that you get the same vehicle quality as a gas car, with a lot fewer maintenance headaches, they will begin to like them. The vast majority of people do not drive more than 50 miles a day.
Even if traffic jams occur, if the majority of cars are electric, much, much less fuel will be wasted just sitting. I’ve been trying to do a post on that for a while, but I cannot find much in the way of reliable figures.
Anyway, this is good news.