In 2019 I wrote a guide for people to help them decide which vehicle type saved them more money: an affordable used EV with a solar panel grid-tied system, or a used automatic Honda Civic hatchback with similar features. Here’s an update with some more recent figures given that the costs have changed over the years depending on factors like technological improvements, and supply chain shortages.
Now a used 2019 Civic hatchback is priced at $28,990. The base trim includes features like a rearview camera, Bluetooth, a 5-inch display screen, and a USB port.” $35,715 is for a 2022 Civic Sport CVT hatchback at Regina Honda as I write this.
My used Nissan LEAF 2014 (bought 5 years ago), with the same technology features listed above plus rear heated seats, and heated steering wheel (handy in Winter): $15,500. At my old place, I had 8 solar panels which cost $8,400 installed. Together that’s $23,900. Today if you bought a 2015 LEAF on Autotrader it would be $18,000. Assuming a $10,000 solar panel array installed, that’s $28,000.
Now, I’m no financial genius, but a solar powered hatchback that costs $990 less than a new gas burning hatchback that also needs 2 oil changes a year, seems like a better idea.
Doubting sorts might question, can a $10,000, 2.5kW solar array really power a Nissan LEAF. That’s a great question! The answer is complicated. The short answer is yes!
Using a Bluetooth OBDII car-computer reading gizmo to read the LEAF’s battery status with my phone and the app Leaf Spy Lite, it reveals the car’s battery has 20kWh of capacity, down from its brand new 24kWh selling point.
Using the Solar Edge website, I was able to determine that my solar array in March would typically produce more than 10kWh per day. That electricity is instantly used in the house, the EV if plugged in to charge, and the excess goes into the grid. The power company, SaskPower, no longer provides a 1-for-1 credit for the electricity provided vs. taken from their grid in a set year. In 2019 SaskPower ended Net Metering and started Net Billing. There’s now a 0.5-for-1 credit instead. It is still economical to get solar to offset an EV use. You’re not paying for gas, and can include the expense of the solar array in your vehicle’s operating budget.
My household tends to charge our LEAF to 100% overnight on the the Level 2 fast charger, and use it to about 50% capacity during the following day. That means it needs ~10kWh put back into it at night. Astute readers will note that’s about how much power the 2.5kW solar array produces during the day. The LEAF doesn’t need gasoline, or oil changes. You can “fill” it at home on a regular wall plug, or a more convenient Level 2 charger.
Why are people still buying new Civics as a town car? If they routinely travel more than 100km in the city in a day, or 70km at top highway speeds, the Civic might be more appealing, but it’s obviously more expensive and harder on your lungs and our planet’s living systems.
Now, if you want to save even more money, and save more creatures, I have another tip for you:
Buy an ebike or etrike instead of an EV, if you’re using it for in-town travel. Your cost to recharge an ebike is about 2 cents. That’s not a typo, it’s really only two cents to charge an ebike battery to travel up to 50km. And they’re more fun than any car.