In a move to capture customers who really want to curb their carbon, residential solar company SolarCity has begun installing home electric car charging stations along with rooftop photovoltaic arrays.
The bright idea: Homeowners can make their electric ride even greener by charging their car batteries with greenhouse gas-free solar electricity. That ramps up the return on investment in a rooftop photovoltaic system given that it lowers the cost of powering an electric car.
“If you just take Northern California, to simply use electricity instead of gasoline, it’s about half the cost of gasoline,” Lyndon Rive, SolarCity’s chief executive, said in an interview. “To use solar instead of electricity, it’s about half the electricity cost.”
SolarCity estimates that San Francisco residents, for instance, spend on average $230 a month on gasoline if gas is $3.65 a gallon. Going electric cuts the cost to $107 if the car is charged from the grid. Powering the vehicle with solar energy from a rooftop lowers the monthly bill to $54, according to the company’s calculations.
Of course, this is all good for SolarCity’s business. If a homeowner has an electric car or plans to get one, they’ll need a bigger and more expensive rooftop solar array to match the increased electricity consumption.
And Rive is betting that people who buy or lease electric cars will take a second look at solar to lower their transportation costs, particularly given the popularity of leases that allow homeowners to avoid the steep upfront costs of installing a photovoltaic system by paying a monthly fee over 10 or 20 years.
“We think the adoption of electric vehicles will spawn the growth of solar,” said Rive.
SolarCity is offering 240-volt Level II chargers from ClipperCreek that will charge most electric cars currently on the market or set to go on sale in the coming years. Such devices can charge a car in about eight hours, depending on the battery.
The cost of the charger and installation for a homeowner who also leases or buys a solar system will be about $1,500. If a customer just wants the charging station the cost will be about $1,750, depending on complexity of the installation.
SolarCity will sell and install the chargers in Washington, D.C., and the 11 states in which the company operates.
This isn’t SolarCity’s first foray into electric car charging stations. In 2009 the company collaborated with Tesla Motors to install solar-powered fast-chargers near an interstate highway along California’s central coast. And last year, SolarCity and Tesla won a California government grant to test storing electricity generated by residential rooftop solar arrays in car batteries.
And in another sign that residential charging stations are starting to go mainstream, home improvement giant Lowe’s last week said it would begin selling General Electric‘s WattStation for $1,000 with installation a separate charge.
By Todd Woody, Forbes