In this issue:
- CA To Require New Buildings To Be Prepped For Electric-Car Charging Stations
- Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard plans 425 electric vehicles by 2016
- Electric-Car Drivers Trading Gas for Solar Power
CA To Require New Buildings To Be Prepped For Electric-Car Charging Stations
By Stephen Edelstein for Green Car Reports
With extensive electrical infrastructure already in place in built-up areas, plug-in electric cars are never too far from a potential recharging source. But retrofitting existing structures with the necessary wiring to install 240-Volt Level 2 charging stations can be complicated. Now, California has ensured that new buildings at least will have electric-car
charging in mind from the start. The California Building Code will require all new construction to be wired for Level 2 electric-car charging stations beginning in 2015, laying the groundwork for the gradual rollout of a more pervasive charging infrastructure. The state Department of Housing and Community Development released a report
) detailing the new standards. Among other things, they require that the electrical infrastructure at new buildings and parking lots include enough capacity to support charging stations. The rule specifies that one- and two-family dwellings have a service panel with capacity for a 40-amp circuit--enough for a 32-amp charging station--and conduit that can support wiring for an 80-amp circuit.
Parking lots with more than 100 spaces will also be required to have sufficient electrical capacity to accommodate charging stations for 3 percent of those spaces. By ensuring that new construction comes prewired for electric-car charging, the California rule streamlines the process of installing a charging station at a later date.
This will not only make retrofitting structures easier, but cheaper as well. The estimated cost of compliance is reportedly around $50, a fraction of the cost of adding the appropriate electrical service and wiring later on. In removing obstacles to the installation of charging stations, the California state government follows the lead of one of the state's own cities. Palo Alto--which just happens to be the home of Tesla Motors--adopted a requirement that new homes come prewired for electric-car charging late last year.
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard plans 425
electric vehicles by 2016
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard's quest for an all-electric fleet of city vehicles has gotten a $32 million jump-start. Ballard on Tuesday unveiled the beginnings of what he calls the "Freedom Fleet" — 425 plug-in sedans that are expected to save the city 2.2 million gallons of gas over the next decade. The move, on top of the mayor's prior support for an electric vehicle rental program, increases the city's green footprint.
"This is a landmark step in revitalizing our aging fleet and replacing expensive internal combustion engine vehicles with cutting-edge EV tech
nology, all while reducing our dependence on oil and saving Indianapolis taxpayers thousands in fuel costs each year," Ballard said. The deal's financing model is the first of its kind in the country, mayoral spokesman Marc Lotter said, though it's similar to an energy savings performance contract in concept. California-based Vision Fleet Capital buys the cars and covers all of the maintenance costs, including the gasoline and electricity needed to power the hybrid vehicles. The city will pay Vision Fleet $32 million over the seven-year contract to lease the cars, no longer having to maintain a gasoline-based fleet. With the price locked in, the city would save $8.7 million vs. what it spends now, according to city estimates. The city has 21 EVs in use so far. By the end of this year, the fleet will grow to 100, with another 325 vehicles to be added in 2015.
Electric-Car Drivers Trading Gas for Solar Power
Excerpted from an ABC News article by Dee-Ann Durbin
Owners of electric vehicles have already gone gas-free. Now, a growing number are powering their cars with sunlight. Solar panels installed on the roof of a home or garage can easily generate enough electricity to power an electric or plug-in gas-electric hybrid vehicle. The panels aren't cheap, and neither are the cars. But advocates say the investment pays off over time and is worth it for the thrill of fossil fuel-free driving. "We think it was one of the best things in the world to do," says Kevin Tofel, who bought a Chevrolet Volt in 2012 to soak up the excess power from his home solar-energy system. "We will never go back to an all-gas car."
No one knows exactly how many electric cars are being powered by solar energy, but the number of electric and plug-in hybrid cars in the U.S. is growing. Last year, 97,563 were sold in the U.S., according to Ward's AutoInfoBank, up 83 percent from the year before. Meanwhile, solar installations grew 21 percent in the second quarter of this year, and more than 500,000 homes and businesses now have them, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Tofel, 45, a senior writer for the technology website Gigaom, installed 41 solar panels on the roof of his Telford, Pennsylvania, home in 2011. The solar array — the term for a group of panels — cost $51,865, but after state and federal tax credits, the total cost was $29,205. In the first year, Tofel found that the panels provided 13.8 megawatt hours of electricity, but his family was using only 7.59 megawatt hours. So in 2012, Tofel traded in an Acura RDX for a Volt plug-in hybrid that could be charged using some of that excess solar energy. In a typical year, with 15,243 miles of driving, the Volt used 5.074 megawatt hours. Tofel used to spend $250 per month on gas for the Acura; now, he spends just $50, for the times when the Volt isn't near a charging station and he has to fill its backup gas engine. Charging the Volt overnight costs him $1.50, but the family makes that money back during the day when it sends solar power to the electric grid. He estimates that adding the car will cut his break-even point on the solar investment from 11.7 years to six years.
Powering a car with solar energy isn't for everyone. Among things to consider:
A south- or southeast-facing roof is a necessity, and there can't be shady trees around the house. Sam Avery, who installs solar panels in Kentucky through his company, Avery and Sun, says dormers, chimneys and other design features can hamper an installation. "If people do have a good site, it's usually by chance," he says. "I have to retrofit a lot."
The cost of installing solar panels has come down, from $8 to $10 per watt eight years ago to $3 a watt or less now. But it's still a huge investment. Bill Webster, 39, a graphic designer at a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., paid $36,740 for his solar array in Frederick, Maryland, three years ago, or around $3.60 per watt. Tax credits reduced his net cost to around $20,000. Before the installation, his family was paying $1,500 per year for electricity. Now, he pays $5.36 per month, the administrative fee for connecting to the grid. That fuels his home and his all-electric Nissan Leaf, which uses around a third of the energy that his solar panels generate. Webster thinks he'll break even on his investment in six years. Some solar companies offer leasing programs, which let customers pay a fixed monthly cost for panels. There are also some incentive programs; Honda Motor Co. offers $400 toward the installation of panels through SolarCity, a company that installs them in 15 states. Buyers also could consider a smaller system just to power a car. A Leaf needs around 4.5 megawatt hours of electricity per year to go 15,000 miles. Eighteen 250-watt panels — a $13,500 investment at $3 per watt — would produce that much electricity.
For Webster, who has a predictable roundtrip commute of less than 50 miles and lives near a lot of electric charging stations, an all-electric car like the Leaf makes sense. But for Avery, who lives in rural Kentucky, the Volt was the better choice because he needs the security of a backup gas engine.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's fuel-economy website — www.fueleconomy.gov — lists the number of kilowatt hours that a car uses to travel 100 miles, which can help potential buyers calculate their energy needs. In short, people considering powering a car with solar energy have some math to do.
Or maybe they don't. For Avery, the environmental benefit outweighs everything. "The reason to go solar is not to save money," he says. "The real reason to go solar is that we have to do it."
Solar-charged home and Wheego LiFe in Massachusetts