EV and PV: The Renewable Power Couple

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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

A major critique of electric vehicles (EV) is that although they seem super earth friendly because they don’t directly consume fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gases, EV isn’t always 100% “green.” 

Electricity production can also create harmful emissions. Electric power plants generate most of the electricity used in the U.S., and these plants use turbines that are typically driven by combustion gases.

Electric Vehicles and Solar Panels Work Together

However, the pairing of a home solar system and an EV is an ideal, renewable solution.

Together, EV and PV form a mutually beneficial relationship.

Between living organisms, these kinds of connections are called mutual symbiotic relationships. Much of nature operates in a way where two dissimilar parties benefit from each others’ unique capabilities. These perfect pairs include clownfish and anemones, flowers and bees, saguaro cacti and Gila woodpeckers, crocodiles and plover birds, and more. 

Technology can benefit from mimicking well-established patterns of nature. EV and PV are a match made in heaven because of their complementary functions. 

Relationship between EV and PV

Here, we’ll look at both sides of the cycle: how solar panels can help your vehicle and how your vehicle can aid your solar system.

Researchers have been interested in the EV/PV connection for a while. In 2018, Solar United Neighbors surveyed solar owners in their community and found that 66% of respondents were more likely to own an electric vehicle than those without solar. While 18% of non-solar owners had an EV, 30% of solar owners had an EV, which is a significantly higher percentage. 

Since Solar United Neighbors is an organization that is much more engaged in clean energy topics than the general U.S. population (25% of the surveyed Solar United’s community owns an electric vehicle while only 1% of the U.S. population owns an EV), the survey results don't necessarily represent the country as a whole.

However, these numbers still demonstrate that EV and PV naturally go together and can bring about long-term benefits for their owners.  

PV Can Benefit EV 

Let’s start with how a solar system could charge your EV.

If you’re planning on installing a solar system and want it to power your vehicle, then you’ll need to size your system accordingly. Having your system match your electric usage allows you to optimize your system’s return on investment.

When working with Project Solar, you will first need to inform your site designer that you would like your panels to power your vehicle and then share your estimated yearly mileage so your system can be sized accordingly.

Along with residential solar, efforts are being made to provide EV drivers with renewably sourced charging stations. For example, in April 2021, Tesla announced that they intend to power all their Supercharger stations with renewable energy this year by adding solar panels and batteries to stations.

With this, if you don't personally own a system, you can still benefit from solar.

Solar Charging Stations for Electric Vehicles

EV Can Benefit PV

On the flip side, how can electric vehicles help solar systems?

There are a couple of ideas in the works. 

Energy storage issues can plague solar owners. Solar batteries are extremely expensive add-ons, and in some locations, unfavorable net metering policies also complicate matters.

Many people would love to be able to store their excess generation in a more cost-effective way. 

A team of researchers from Utah State University (and others across the country) have looked into the EV battery waste issue by trying to repurpose the battery as a solar energy storage unit. 

Additionally, in Japan, electric vehicles have been used in battery capacities as a form of disaster response following natural disasters. 

Electric Vehicle Battery

There’s another way that an EV could support a solar system what if the electric vehicle itself could serve as a battery for a solar system?

This possibility could allow a home to draw from the vehicle’s energy during peak hours instead of having to depend on the grid. 

EV batteries differ from solar batteries because they actually have much larger battery packs. For example, the Tesla Model S (an EV) has a 100 kilowatt-hours (kWh) capacity while the Powerwall (Tesla’s energy storage option) has a 13.5 kWh capacity.  

This option doesn’t seem to have reached a stage where it’s being implemented, but when it does, it will make a huge difference for EV/PV owners.

The Future of the EV and PV Relationship

Although it would be fun to take credit for making this connection between PV and EV, it obviously isn’t mind-blowing or new. Lots of people have been thinking about these possibilities for quite a while. 

While EVs and solar systems used to seem like tech that was only accessible to early adopters with deep pockets, you can now see panels and EVs in all kinds of neighborhoods. Currently, not only can you benefit financially from going green with your transportation and energy production, you can also become more self-reliant by having your EV and PV support each other.

If you want to power your EV in the most earth-friendly way, you won’t regret installing solar panels.