Solar EV Charging Addresses Twin Challenges of Climate Change and Commuting Cost 

You’ve heard this sort of appeal before: For less than a dollar a day, you can help a child in a faraway place get access to nutritious food, school books or proper medical treatment….  

What if your community – or workplace – spent well under a dollar a day to help someone right in your hometown better afford their commute to work?

That’s made possible by a combination of new solar EV charging technology from Solaflect Energy and generous grant support now being offered to fight the twin challenges of global climate change and the cost of commuting.

A solar panel on a parking lot

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The Solaflect Solar EV Charger provides clean and affordable EV charging without the disruption, delay, and cost of traditional EV charger installation and electricity grid connections.

Solar EV charging is clean energy produced right on-site

In a recent post, we offered 10 reasons why it makes sense to drive an electric vehicle and charge it on solar power.  Not only does it save well over a thousand dollars a year on your fuel bill for each vehicle you switch; it also eliminates the biggest part of your household carbon footprint – more than six tons of avoided carbon dioxide emissions for each vehicle you switch over to solar EV charging.

To encourage drivers to make the switch to EVs and renewables, the Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress last year offers a $7,500 tax credit on the purchase of new EVs, and a $4,000 tax credit on used EVs (up to 30% of the vehicle’s purchase price).  The IRA law also provides a 30% federal tax credit on residential solar power installations that can be used to charge EVs.  The resulting gas savings, depending on where you live, can pay back the cost of a Solaflect solar tracker installation in as little as eight years.

However, for drivers with modest incomes, these savings may still be out of reach.  They may either rent their homes and have no control over such power-purchasing decisions, live in apartments or multi-family dwellings with no access to EV charging sites, or fail to meet financing requirements to obtain bank loans on such bigger-ticket items.  These drivers need to find other places to get charging for their electric vehicles.

Fast-charging stations have long lead times, are costly to build, and often require repeated parking lot disruptions.  

Public fast-charging faces financial and logistical hurdles

While public fast-charging stations are one option for EV drivers, they’re still hard to find in our neck of the woods – and much more expensive than other EV charging options.  Along rural transportation corridors, in particular, fast-charging stations often lack access to three-phase power, rendering utility upgrades cost-prohibitive. 

In addition, intermittent use of fast-charging stations can result in high utility demand charges that cripple the economics of this public charging option.  In 30 minutes, a 350-kW fast-charging station plugged into four EVs can draw the same amount of utility power as 25 homes over a 24-hour period!  The resulting spike in power demand – paid out in the form of utility demand charges that may last for months or even a year – can be three times higher than the average revenue brought in by paying customers at these unmanaged sites.

Most fast-charging stations also face a lengthy permitting process, long waiting times for utility interconnections, and a shortage of contractors that slow the pace of these installations by months or even years.  These delays increase “range anxiety” among EV drivers – especially those who have to rely on public stations for EV charging.

Most discouraging, many fast-charging stations don’t even provide dependable service.  Some recent surveys find that one in four fast-charging ports is typically out of service.  This creates longer waiting times at ports that do work, offsetting one of the primary advantages of so-called “fast charging.”

A Solaflect Solar EV Charger sits on existing parking lot lines and delivers up to 240 e-miles per day through four Level 2 charging ports. 

Solaflect Solar EV Charger provides a million miles of service over 25 years

The Solaflect Solar EV Charger makes perfect “dollars and sense” in meeting this EV charging challenge, especially in rural, four-season locations.  Solar EV Chargers can be placed anywhere there is good access to sunshine, and starts operating the same day it’s installed.  

With 10,000 kilowatt-hours of annual power production, a Solar EV Charger can provide four EVs each with up to 10,000 miles of annual driving range. 

That’s about 50% more charging capacity than is needed to get the average EV commuter to and from work — making workplace parking lots a prime spot for these solar EV charging stations.

Even better, acquiring a Solaflect EV charging system involves just a simple annual lease, or purchase, rather than a complex project with months of lead time and lots of headaches to manage.  A Solar EV Charger is dropped in place on exiting parking lot lines, causing no disruption to parking lot flow.  And because there is no connection to the electricity grid, there’s no need for trench digging, electricians, permitting, or costly transformer upgrades.  

You won’t have to pay for “EVSE-ready” infrastructure, either, which often requires big capital outlays years before this extra EV charging equipment is called into use.  Solar EV Chargers scale up easily and quickly as EV charging demand grows – one station and four charging ports at a time!  And because they are transportable, Solaflect chargers can be relocated if parking needs change.

The Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act has approved $2.5 billion in infrastructure grant funding for EV charging in rural areas.  In addition, the Inflation Reduction Act has earmarked nearly $10 billion in USDA grant funding for purchases of renewable energy, batteries, and EV charging systems in rural and disadvantaged communities. 

Grant funding can shrink the acquisition cost of Solaflect EV Chargers by up to 95 percent!  

Here’s the best part.  Because EV charging infrastructure is taking so long to build in rural areas (where 20% of Americans live), dozens of generous, new federal grant programs are opening up through the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act of 2021 and the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.  While most of these programs offer direct funding assistance to municipalities, school districts, rural electric cooperatives and public transit agencies, privately owned workplaces also are eligible for funding if they allow public charging at times (such as weekends) that are not reserved for employee use.      

The most sweeping grants focus on deployment of on-site renewable energy systems, external batteries, and EV charging systems in “rural” towns of less than 50,000 people (which covers most of Vermont and New Hampshire) and low-income districts of larger cities.  

In some offerings – like the massive $10-billion rural electrification program now being administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture – only off-grid renewable EV charging systems qualify for this grant funding.

Under this landmark legislation, federal matching grants of up 80 percent are available for municipalities and qualifying workplaces.  Some state grants raise the match for public school districts to as high as 95 percent!

As a result of these matching grants, the local match to purchase a Solaflect Solar EV Charger can be as low as $7,000 for municipalities and qualifying workplaces – and less than $2,000 for qualifying public school districts.

In exchange, each purchased or leased Solaflect Solar EV Charger is capable of producing 1 million miles of EV charging over 25 years of warrantied operation.  With grant support, that works out to a local cash outlay of as little as 0.2 – 0.7¢ per mile over its service lifetime.  

Compare that to the price of gasoline, which is running closer to 15¢ – 20¢ per mile, and you can see how these savings add up fast!  

In Vermont, about 45% of household energy spending goes to transportation fuels (or $3,217 per year in 2022).  Other New England households spend similar amounts on transportation fuels, home heating and electricity.  

Source:  2023 Vermont Energy Burden Report. Efficiency Vermont, Sept. 2023 

Reducing the Household ‘Energy Burden’

In a prior post, we discussed how backyard solar charging is now the cheapest way to fuel the next vehicle in your garage.  Now, imagine the difference these savings can make to someone who might not otherwise be able to afford to drive an EV (or, for that matter, doesn’t even have access to a garage)!  

With gasoline prices soaring well above $3 per gallon, most households in New England spend at least $1,500 per vehicle to travel the average commuting distance of about 40 miles per dayWith two vehicles per household, on average, that’s nearly as much money spent at the gas pump as most households spend on heating and electricity combined!  

Accordingly, the fastest way to achieve the highest household energy savings is to accelerate the switch from gas-powered to electric vehicles.  But that, in turn, requires EV drivers to have access to charging at their workplaces or other easily accessible public charging sites if they can’t get access at home.  

In that sense, a community matching grant or workplace contribution of just $20 a year can alleviate this “range anxiety” among site-constrained EV drivers, while covering their annual commuting costs and keeping more than a thousand extra dollars in their wallets.  Such a wide margin also leaves plenty of room to charge a modest fee for EV charging that turns this into a profit-making operation, if you wish.

Top 5 Ways to Reduce Household ‘Energy Burden’(before grant funding)
CategoryActionAnnual SavingsLifetime SavingsReduction in Total Annual Energy Burden
VehiclesSwitch to EV from gas-powered vehicle$8351$6,68311.8%
Heat pumpsSwitch to multi-zone heat pump from fossil fuels$560$8,4027.9%
WeatherizationWhole house retrofit – insulation, windows, seals$467$11,6806.6%
AppliancesSwitch to heat pump water heater from oil heater$449$5,8324.3%
Low-cost measuresReplace regular thermostat with smart thermostat$158$1,5772.2%

1 Per vehicle switched.  Assumes transportation fuel price of $2.91 per gallon in 2022, 23.4 mpg average fuel economy per vehicle, and 26,150 annual vehicle miles traveled per household.  (Imputed EV charging costs are not disclosed.)

Source:  Vermont 2023 Energy Burden Report, Efficiency Vermont, Sept. 2023 

Here’s the bottom line

No matter how you slice it, thousands of dollars in transportation fuel savings and 50% cut in household carbon emissions are hard to beat from a policymaking standpoint!  In fact, for a municipality or school district, this may offer the biggest “bang for the buck” to address the twin challenges posed by local poverty and global climate change.  

And if you’re an employer, installing a Solaflect Solar EV Charger at your workplace can not only make a big difference in your employees’ personal savings, but also present the best way to shrink your company’s carbon footprint.  

By seizing such clean technology and grant funding opportunities, we can build a future transportation network that’s cheaper, cleaner and keeps more money and power in our communities.  That’s a winning formula for everyone.

Contact us for more information

For 15 years, Solaflect Energy has been your home energy management partner.  We offer sun-tracking solar arrays for residential use, and off-grid Solar EV Chargers for commuters and workplace use.  For more information, email us or call (802) 649-3700, for more information.  Working together, we can make a difference in the fight against global climate change – and reduce the high cost of energy right in our communities!

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