The solar panels are a big help.

Our friend Peder Norby says his family's monthly transportation expenses for his two electric cars – a BMW ActiveE and Honda Fit EV are about half those for the two gas cars he and his wife used to drive.

Norby calculates that the ActivE and Fit EV cost a combined $1,082 a month in lease payments and insurance, compared to $2,031 in monthly expenses for the now-sold 2005 Volvo S60R and 2005 Infiniti G35.

The Norby's previous $450-a-month in refueling costs have been completely eliminated by the fact that the couple's house is solar-powered. The EVs also create savings in the form of zero repair and maintenance expenses (the EVs are virtually new) and lower insurance costs.

The couple, which this year paid off their six-year-old solar-power system through their lower utility bills, brag that they've driven "52,000 miles powered by sunshine."


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 77 Comments
      Marco Polo
      • 3 Years Ago
      Well done, Peter Norby. However, it's important to put Peter's experience in context. Like all EV enthusiasts, Peter's experience is only useful to those in the same circumstances as Peter. This doesn't in anyway take away from Peter's commitment to live the life he advocates, which no one could disagree is very admirable. But Peter's circumstances are only possible for lifestyles similar to Peter's. In our UK farming estate, I have installed a bio-mass generator, which not only supplies power to our EV's, but generates sufficient power to supply the entire estate and many villagers as well. I would not suggest that such an installation is worthwhile for others, unless they had the same set of fairly unique circumstances. The point is that there must be hundreds of thousands of people, in a similar situation to Peter, who can benefit from his information, and he should be congratulated for taking the time to share his experience with others. For those like Dave Mart, living in an apartment in the grey Sky's of midlands UK, travel greater mileages, or like Ezee, find difficulty persuading which ever girl he's with that night to install solar before his next visit, and live with less cooperative electricity utilities, Peter's experiences may not be so useful. (maybe in the future).
      • 3 Years Ago
      have a look to this calculator http://d3dhemmer.com/ICE2EVcal/ you adjust the numbers to what your situation are, or will be in future.
      Matt Fulkerson
      • 3 Years Ago
      How does an EV help to maximize an investment in solar, given that you can put up a solar array to sell electricity into the grid whether or not you have an EV? If one person puts up a solar array and another buys an EV, surely their combined savings would be the same as an individual with both a solar array and an EV. So solar and EV are independent investments, each having no impact on the payoff time of the other.
      Peder Norby
      • 3 Years Ago
      Greetings, Just a few answers to comments and Q's The 7.5kw Solar PV system, ($30k) was installed 6 years ago and has already paid for itself in utility and gas savings. In so-cal the systems pay for themselves in 6-9 years when offsetting utility energy and 3-4 years when offsetting gasoline. So from this point forward it's essentially free. My prior two cars were a 2005 Volvo S60R and a 2005 Infinity G35. Of course if the cars are different or already paid for, the math would change. Happy to answer any questions posted here. Cheers Peder
        Spec
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Peder Norby
        $30K for a 7.5KW system 6 years ago? Did you self-install? The parts alone for such a system today would be around $15+K . Back then it would be nearly double.
          Spec
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          Good point. The CSI system is pretty much over now. You get a few pennies per watt now such that it is barely worth the time to fill out the paperwork. Initially you got are $2.50 per watt. But the 30% federal tax-credit is pretty good now. But when doing these calculations, I generally try not to take the PV system incentives into account since people whine about them. So if you can get good numbers w/o taking those incentives into account, it can make a more convincing case.
          Peder Norby
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          no, back then the state rebate in California was much higher. These cost are my net cost and were around $4000 per kw after fed and state credits. Today there is no more state rebate but the net cost is around $3500-3750 per KW. Stellar Solar was my installer, here is a lease page where you can see even on a lease the savings are substantial. http://www.stellarsolar.net/sunpower-solar-lease.html
        Spiffster
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Peder Norby
        "3-4 years when offsetting gasoline" Just FYI: http://www.empulsebuyer.com/pvCalculator.php Pretty much drives your point home (so to speak). Would be cool if ABG threw me a bone and featured one of my apps in a post, since they have been available for years now... but I guess they are too cool for school ;-)
          Peder Norby
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spiffster
          Spifster! I love your calculators and have used them! I think ABG would be well served to feature your apps! And to the readers, check it out! Notice how much per year gasoline has increased in the past decade.
        scraejtp
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Peder Norby
        I really don't see you saving over $400 a month with the solar PV system like you claim. Claims like this help no one.
          Spiffster
          • 3 Years Ago
          @scraejtp
          Do the math, you most certainly can save $400/month! Especially in CA. Its simple. If you commute enough to use $400 in gas, and then you switch to an EV / solar solution and pay 0... hmmm. Sure the panels cost money but after they have paid for themselves by offsetting what you used to pay for gas, everything after that is gravy. So tyhe savings are delayed some years out, but they are still there.
        DaveMart
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Peder Norby
        Q: Why do you consistently misrepresent your system as powering your cars, when it clearly does not? Your feed in to the grid may or may not be equally or more beneficial, but that does not make mean that your solar array is powering your cars.
          Rob Mahrt
          • 3 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          Peder is being too nice, what the hell does it matter. He is producing electricity from the sun equal to that which he uses to power his cars. That is the point.
          Spec
          • 3 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          If you sell apples from your tree, then use the money to buy a TV, and then later say "I bought this TV with my apples." . . . are you lying? You didn't directly give the guy at the TV store apples.
          Spec
          • 3 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          And the utility companies do not want you to charge your cars with solar power. They have massive amount of unused electrical generating/distribution capacity at night. They'll give you nice cheap rates to charge then. They want you solar panel on the grid during the day when demand is high. This means they can run the grid with fewer power planets since you are reducing the peak load they need to provide.
          Peder Norby
          • 3 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          the car itself is not solar powered and that is not being represented here. We are grid tied as you say. All the power produced by solar PV and used by the house and cars are on the house side of the meter. If i need more at night we pull form the grid and I generate more during the day we push to the grid. When we are charging during the day (seldom) we are in fact using solar energy directly into the car before the meter :) Cheers
      goodoldgorr
      • 3 Years Ago
      Solar pvs are better suited at making hydrogen gas that you can stock nearby then recharging a bev. To recharge a bev it take solar panels that are pluggued during the day but unless you work at home then it's useless. Also you have to be honest to factor-in the cost of having to buy and install 2 level 2 chargers because if you recharge at night then it take 2 level 2 chargers that will recharge the bevs for 5 to 6 hours and to be able to got the juice to 2 level 2 chargers then it take a bigger electric panels for the home. Can you tell me if you got 2 level 2 chargers at home on top of the solar panels and how much it cost ?
        Spec
        • 3 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        BTW, level 2 chargers are pretty trivial (assuming you have space in your main panel). You can buy one for less than $500 and install it yourself. However most people will probably pay a pro to do it and it will cost $900 to $1500 or so. Not a big deal.
        Peder Norby
        • 3 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        Don't know about hydrogen but it sounds good to me. You could also use solar to power the PHIL units to compress Nat gas for the CNG cars. We only have one EVSE, like gas pumps you can use them for multiple cars. Typical day is a 17 mile RT commute for me in the Fit EV arriving home with 75% charge remaining. A 40 mile RTcommute for my wife in the ActiveE arriving home with 60% charge remaining. My wife plugs in when she arrives home around 6pm, I unplug her and plug in the Honda in the morning when I go out to get the paper. The FIT EV is charged in under an hour well before I need to go to work. Our EVSE was part of the MINI-E and Active program, most EVSE plus installion cost seem to be between $1200 and $2000 it varies case by case.
        Spec
        • 3 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        It works like this . . . you generate power during the day that you put on the grid thus 'loaning' some electricity to the local utility. Then at night the local utility pays you back you the electricity you loaned them so you can charge your while you sleep. The utilities are more than happy to do this since they have massive amounts of excess electrical power available at night but during the day, they can have trouble generating enough power and have to fire up their worst plants or buy power from other nearby utilities. The situation you describe only applies to some survivalist living in a cabin off the grid.
        brotherkenny4
        • 3 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        What is really needed is a second large home storage unit. We know battery prices will be down to $250/Kwh, so a 100Kwh home unit will be an additional $25K. I don't think an electrolyzer,compressor,storage tank, fuel cell system will beat that. Batteries are safer too, despite the hatchet jobs done by the infotainment industry.
          Chris M
          • 3 Years Ago
          @brotherkenny4
          There are only two instances where it makes sense to have home electrical energy storage: 1. If the home is in a remote area with no power grid access, or 2. if there are frequent power blackouts and you want backup power. That said, if you do want home electrical energy storage, batteries are far better than electrolysis & H2 storage & fuel cell - not only are batteries much less expensive, but the efficiency of batteries is about 3x better. For solar power, that means a much smaller and less expensive solar panel array.
          Spec
          • 3 Years Ago
          @brotherkenny4
          PeterScott is correct . . . such systems are expensive and pointless. Why pay extra for batteries that complicate your solar system and add maintenance when you can just sell the electricity to the local grid that is happy to buy it? If you really want a battery back-up system and are willing to pay the extra money, then go ahead and do it. But it is not an economically wise decision.
          PeterScott
          • 3 Years Ago
          @brotherkenny4
          Unless you are off grid, even that is pointless, as most places let you sell the power during the day and pull it back out at night at lower rates. So not only do you get to use the grid as your free "battery", they actually pay you to do it.
        PeterScott
        • 3 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        Practically speaking, a home Solar-Hydrogen system will suffer small scale efficiency issues, you will end up with lower electrolysis efficiency and if you want to compress it for your fantasy H2 FCV, you will have lower compression efficiency as well. So in the end the same solar panel would likely give you 4x the EV miles and it would on the same energy. But possibly 8X times more miles cost wise, if you sell your power back to the utility at twice what you buy it for while charging. Then there is the installed cost, there is at least one home in the USA that does have a Solar-Hydrogen system. It cost $500 000. Not the house, Just the Solar-H2 system. So I am really not getting how Solar is better suited to making H2.
        Peder Norby
        • 3 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        Hi goodoldgorr, Don't know about hydrogen so i can't comment on that but sounds good to me. You could also sue solar to run a PHIL compression unit for a CNG car. Similar to a gas pump, you can fill more than one car with an EVSE. We only have one EVSE. We received ours as part of the Mini-E ActiveE program. I have heard from Honda Fit EV drivers that the installed price of the Leviton unit is $1500. of course this can vary depending on your current conditions and length of run from your panel. Each case is different. It's important to note that the evse will be your fueling station for ever so its best to amortize over 10 to 20 years (similar to a garage door opener) as opposed to a four year car loan or lease. We typically arrive home around 6pm, the Honda Fit will have used 25% of its range as my commute is 17 miles RT, and my wife's ActiveE will have used 45% of the range as her commute is 40 miles RT. Our regime is the ActiveE plugs in when she arrives home. In the morning I plug in the Honda FIT EV on the way out to get the morning paper and it needs less than an hour to charge. Cheers
      Juventas
      • 3 Years Ago
      This is what im planning to do after i get my model S i also have a 2005 G35 but its all paid for and im holding off as long as possible on buying a slow EV since i got spoiled by the power of G35
      • 3 Years Ago
      Why are Americans so obsessed about only money? These solar powered cars are also avoiding pouring more CO2 and other pollutants into our shared atmosphere. Thank you Peder!
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 3 Years Ago
      Also why must this kinda FUD be posted?
        Rotation
        • 3 Years Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        No kidding. If they had switched to two Priuses and then switched to two EVs, most of the savings would be in listed under the ICE to hybrid switch, not the hybrid to EV switch. I do dig people who drive on solar power alone. But don't try to snow me.
          Peder Norby
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Rotation
          I agree that switching to two priuses from our ice would be halve or most of the savings. Or, I could of used two F150 trucks. Our example was just that, our example. Our two prior cars and our two electric cars. Cheers
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 3 Years Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        Ok, saying you're saving money by spending >$1000 a month on two expensive cars is not FUD. Got it, makes total sense to me ;D
          Spec
          • 3 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          FUD is not the word you are looking for. "Inaccurate comparison" or "apples & oranges" is probably what you meant. And you do have a point. A BMW ActiveE may be a fair substitute for the Volvo (I don't know, I'm not a car snob so they sound about the same to me.). But I don't think anyone would feel an Infiniti is the same as a Honda Fit.
          Peder Norby
          • 3 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          2 Wheeled Menace, Both my wife and I work so we need two cars. I think that puts us pretty much in the middle of the pack as some have more cars and some have less. Is $1000 for two cars, the fuel that they use, insurance and maintenance considered expensive? I would argue that it is squarely in the middle of the pack. The whole point of my piece is that electric cars when considering the total cost of driving are not expensive. Cheers
          PeterScott
          • 3 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          FUD, stands for fear, uncertainty and doubt. EVs are usually on the receiving end of FUD from Top Gear/Fox news and the like where they harp on the dangers of batteries/high voltages, or the dreaded range anxiety where they have to push the EV off the track after a few laps. I don't see any fear mongering in this story. So again, it could more aptly be named a puff piece.
        PeterScott
        • 3 Years Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        That's not FUD. FUD would be saying EV batteries are prone to catch fire, or some other alarmist nonsense. This looks more like a Puff piece, than FUD.
      Ford Future
      • 3 Years Ago
      America needs to learn, Turn a Depreciating Asset into an Investment!
        Ryan
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Ford Future
        I could invest $10,000 in a coal company or 'invest' $10,000 into a solar panel system for my house. I know that I will get a 'dividend' of ~$30/month for every month that the Sun comes up. Plus there are a bunch of other benefits. I won't be able to double my money if the company expands or demand for their product goes up, but I'm also not going to lose a lot when they go bankrupt. The value of money/inflation is the other variable, and will cause electric prices to rise, just like the stock prices. Solar systems that you own aren't impacted, making retirement planing easier. My EV will be solar powered, but I am only figuring on 6,000 miles a year.
        Peder Norby
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Ford Future
        I agree, good comment.
      EZEE
      • 3 Years Ago
      Free electricity costs less than stuff you pay for, well just shoot the chickens and light the horse on fire, I done learnt something!
      Rotation
      • 3 Years Ago
      They could have changed from two performance cars to two Priuses and saved almost as much. This is not a good comparison at all. It's mostly showing the power of economizing.
        Ford Future
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Rotation
        By going EV they maximize their solar investment and pay it off sooner. What happens when it's paid off? It's PURE PROFIT. Can't do that with a pair of Prii.
        Peder Norby
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Rotation
        As a driver of all three, the g35 was the worst of the bunch. Love the volvo's had them for 16 years but the ActiveE is amazing. Cheers
        Peder Norby
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Rotation
        Hi Rotation, The BMW ActiveE is a superior car to the G35 and S60R. The Honda represents its brand well but is in a lower market than our two prior cars. Cheers Peder
          Rotation
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Peder Norby
          The BMW Active E does not perform like either of those cars. 9s 0-60 isn't in the same league. It doesn't handle like the G35 or S60R either since it comes on runflat high-efficiency all-season tires. Nor for that matter is a 1 series the same size (or even close) to a G35 or S60R.
      DaveMart
      • 3 Years Ago
      Solar powered cars? Really? Not unless they do their driving at night. The repeated misrepresentation Norby indulges in is not the result of an accident, or a just a simplification of the actual situation, where they provide power to the grid during the day, in exchange for drawing power at night, but a deliberate and consistent attempt to hide the the fact that effectively solar is not able to do what he claims. Don't ever trust people like that. It would be interesting to know exactly what feed in tariffs he gets for the power he supplies to the grid, and how much he pays for the power he draws. To what extent is he simply offloading his costs onto people who on average are going to be poorer than his family? I have nothing against solar power, so long as it is in places where it is sunny and relatively economic and useful. Gross misrepresentation and those who practise it should be treated with the contempt they deserve.
        Smurf
        • 3 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        Yet another simpleton who doesn't understand the US electrical grid. Grid connected solar systems supply electricity to the grid during the day when it is most needed. EV owners draw electricity from the grid when there is excess capacity... EV owners with solar are providing twice the benefit, while driving to work on free fuel... Do you get it now or would you like me to repeat it?
          Marcopolo
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Smurf
          @ Smurf, Aw, go on, just one more time....:)
        Peder Norby
        • 3 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        Dave, we have been though this before. It's getting a bit tiring. I generate 11,500KWHs annually of electricity during the day. I could most certainly charge my cars during the day directly from the sun if I choose to do so. I have done so on many occasions. However, I choose to sell the electricity back to the grid during the day at $0.30 per kwh and charge the cars while i sleep at $0.14 per kwh. I choose to do this for two simple reasons. 1. it's simply easier for me to charge at home when I sleep. 2. The cost of electricity is half price so essentially it;s a 2 for 1 sale and is cheaper. This cost of electricity is the same for me as it is for everyone. the reason it is more expensive during the day is that when folks need it the most and during the night it's cheaper because that's when folks use it the least and generation surpasses demand. Our grid system is constructed around base loads and expensive peaker plants beyond base loads. Believe it or not if most had a silaler solar PV EV setup, energy cost for eveyone would be lower because you now have storage during the day and no need for expensive peaker plants.
          Spec
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Peder Norby
          " they are actually sending back twice as much as you sent in" What? No. And I assume you understand that the grid does not really 'store' the electricity. It is consumed. It is 'stored' in the sense that the natural-gas/coal/whatever is not burned at that time but is instead burned later when he charges. With an efficient house using natural gas appliances, it should be very easy to get all your electricity needs for a house and 2 EVs from a 7.5KW system in California. The 2.5KW system I installed provided all the electricity I needed for a small house.
          Marco Polo
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Peder Norby
          @ Rotation "Why would I have natural gas appliances?" A lot of Chef's and home cooks prefer "cooking with gas!" (Especially Bar-B-Que). I can't say why, except in many countries gas is cheaper and more reliable. (Not advocating, just commenting)
          Spec
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Peder Norby
          You were talking about electricity not money and they don't send twice as much electricity back. The money is a separate issue and varies depending on where you live. Most utilities won't give such a lucrative deal where they pay you more for daytime electricity than they charge you for night time electricity. And yes you definitely DO want natural gas. Heat based things like natural gas heat, stoves, hot water heaters, etc. are all MUCH more efficient and cheaper than their electric counter parts. However, you don't want to generate your own electricity with a natural gas generator. Such small-scale generators are MUCH LESS efficient than the big combined cycle generators that the utilities have. Your friend may want to switch some heat-based load to natural gas if he can. If he has a 7.5KW system and 2000 sq. foot home and 1 EV but can't cover his electrical load with that then he is doing it wrong. He has got to have some inefficiencies or he is using the AC a lot.
          Rotation
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Peder Norby
          Spec: Yes. He's saying "2 for 1" sale. If you are talking money (and we are here) and you sell a kWh at $0.28 at peak and buy back two at night at $0.14, you break even, but you got back two kWhs for the one you put in. Why would I have natural gas appliances? If I wanted to use fossil fuels I could just get a natural gas generator and then draw 0 from the grid any time of day or night. A 2.5 kW system would cover all I use and then some in my house, even with an electric range and dryer. But this isn't me. He has a family and they are driving two EVs. Also, he lives in the San Diego desert it appears, that means cooling costs that you probably don't have and I don't have much of. Let me put it this way, I have a friend with a 2,000 sq ft house, a wife, A/C and one EV. And with a system about the size of Norby's he couldn't even break even on $ last year, let alone on kWh. So I'm asking what Norby's situation is. Reading further, he says he earned a credit over the last year and that's not possible in California (I believe) unless you get past kWh break even. So perhaps Norby is doing so.
          Rotation
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Peder Norby
          Although DaveMart is being unnecessarily nasty, even you must note that you are using grid-tie to double your electricity. Even if the grid perfectly stored your electricity and sent it back at night, they are actually sending back twice as much as you sent in. That "matching" electricity has to come from somewhere, and it's probably not coming from the sun. There's driving for free, and then there's driving on the sun. Are you really kWh (or surplus) at the end of the year or just $ even? Your system seems a little bit bigger than mine, I find it hard to believe you are kWh even with a family and two EVs on an array that size. Are you?
          Spec
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Peder Norby
          DaveMart . . . maybe you are just grumpy because you live in the high-latitude rainy cloudy UK. Here is California where there is lots of sun and the tiered electricity rates nail heavily if you use a lot of electricity, solar make A LOT of sense. (And dollars too!)
        super390
        • 3 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        Wow, where do you get off hating this guy for actually doing something positive in the real world? You do everything you can to make him out to be a villain after he took a risk with money from his own pocket. Will you ask for his birth certificate next?
          Marcopolo
          • 3 Years Ago
          @super390
          super390 , Peter Scott is not criticizing Peter Norby, his reference is aimed at Dave Mart. (You owe Peter Scott an apology)
        PeterScott
        • 3 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        Nothing gets the goat of the resident Hydrogen FCV PR machine, like an EV puff piece. :)
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