• 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.


    Category: EvironmentfeaturedLifeTechnology


    Article by: Smilodon's Retreat

    • Storage is still a serious obstacle. In terms of cars, only the rich get near to typical gas-car range. For homes, there simply is no means of storing power for nights/overcast days that is anything close to cost effective.

      With respect to ditching petroleum that won’t be happening any time soon. Half or more of every single barrel of oil goes to diesel for large shipping trucks and planes. There is not yet any conceivable way to replace these critical vehicles with electric alternatives.

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        Planes, yes, I agree. Trucks, there are plenty of alternatives. It just requires a massive change in infrastructure.

        Anyway, this is about electrical power grids, not transportation.

        But the final point is… who really needs car-like range? Really. I live in a Suburb and except for a once a year trip to Houston (which is in range of a Model S high performance), I never drive more than 50 miles a day. Sometimes, I don’t drive more than 50 miles a week.

        No one I know drives more than that.

        • What do you think the “plenty of alternatives” are for trucks?

          Who needs car-like range? Anyone who lives in a physically large country and likes to take trips, to visit relatives a few states over or for the pleasure of it. I’ll grant that most days most people don’t need a lot of range. Good luck convincing “I hate changing my habits in any way” America they don’t need 200+ mile range in a car.

          What makes the most sense to me, is states and corporations taking the lead and handingly the entire solar/battery costs. Individuals rarely reason very well about costs of something over 20 years. They’re more likely to do what is cost effective right now, or over ~5 years at most. But larger entities tend to look at the longer view, or at least the good ones do. They can also balance costs and payouts with volume and time. Developments begun 12 years ago turn profitable and then subsidize installations to be produced today. This works best, until the stuff is cheap enough for most individuals.

          • SmilodonsRetreat

            Alternatives? Electric trains to distribution centers and electric trucks for local hauling. I’ve even seen one proposal for solar powered dirigibles for high mass, low critical need stuff. Just having local food production facilities in major cities (I call them agri-towers) would reduce trucking by 20-25%.

            But yes, it’s all in the infrastructure. And that is something that people loathe to change. And yes, Americans are historically unwilling to give up their cars (even when there are more efficient, cheaper, better alternatives), guns, boats, etc. Europeans seem to be more willing to move in this direction.

            But, this report is promising. It’s a change to the infrastructure that doesn’t require a massive overhaul to everything, all at once. Each person decides what they want to do. A $20,000 hybrid (not pure electric) could power a home all night long.

            • Ignoring the billions or trillions it would require to build a vast network of high-cap trains, where would the electricity for those electric trains come from? agri-towers? what?

              A hybrid might power the home all night long, but then that power would not be available for driving to work in the AM (unless you mean there is solar in this scenario, in which case it’s a lot more than the $20K).

            • SmilodonsRetreat

              Umm…. that’s what the whole article is about… solar power.

              Electric vehicles provide a convenient way to store power. And yes, for some people it’s not a good system. For some people it’s a fantastic system. It would work great for my house. With a 12 year payoff, my place would still get 8 years or so of free electricity.

              As far as the infrastructure for the rest. Most of the tracks are already there. A nice modernization program would be great for the economy. Electric trains would get power from electricity. Solar power, wind power, nuclear power. But that’s running far afield of the initial post. And it might be worthwhile to explore those things.

              Yes, we will be stuck with fossil fuels for transportation… and electrical generation for a century or more. But the more we convert to solar and wind, then we can reduce the problems associated with fossil fuels as much as possible. The sooner, the better. We’re already committed to a 2 degree C rise. Given the current status of the global economy, governments, and industry, we might as well be committed to a 4 degree rise.

              But the point of this report is to show that, despite years of deniers saying that it can’t be done. Solar and wind can’t provide power. The simple truth is that they can. And, by the estimates of UBS, it will.

              Agri-towers is a generic name for a variety of proposals to put food growing where it’s needed, in cities. Large buildings that are combination of greenhouse and hydroponics. No soil, controlled light, nutrients, etc for optimum growth. It’s still a dream… for now.

    • kraut2

      Storage is definitely the problem. But – you do not need individual storage when you use the hydro grid as your storage facility.
      Here in northern BC wind is more feasible than solar and BC Hydro is legally obliged to accommodate feedback into the grid with reverse acting meters fed from your generators. When no power is produced, the meters works as a regular meter They are available and the cost of a wind generator is at about 1$/watt.

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        Yes, metering is great and I’m all for it. It will take decades for what I describe to happen in Europe and maybe a 50 years to happen in the Americas.

        If you have access to relatively clean burning gas turbine power-plants, then that’s great. But coal just doesn’t work with grid tie systems very well.

        • kraut2

          “If you have access to relatively clean burning gas turbine power-plants,
          then that’s great. But coal just doesn’t work with grid tie systems
          very well”

          Reverse metering is done here in BC with small hydro and wind generators. All it takes is a reverse acting meter that is supplied by BC Hydro.

          I can’t see any big problems and has nothing to do with the grid itself. All it took was a legislative initiative to set it in motion. The only cost for BC Hydro was to sell you the metre.

          Running your house off grid completely can be done with a combination of solar/wind and NG gas generators. Propane powered generators are costly to run.
          I am in sales (and layout) of domestic water supply and heating systems,(hydronic and air) and lately in our small town (area pop. about 50 000) I get more requests for solar powered pumps for hydronic systems and domestic water supply.

      • Unfortunately the grid systems most places can’t handle such an arrangement. It will all have to be upgraded and renovated, which will cost trillions of dollars in the US over many years (assuming we have the sense to do it).