Learn the Basics

The Technologies

Plug-in Electric Vehicle

A passenger car, light-duty truck or other vehicle powered entirely or partially by electricity

All plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) significantly reduce fueling and maintenance costs, produce few or no tailpipe emissions and pair well with solar power. Two PEV categories include: 

Solar Photovoltaic System

Renewable energy system that converts sunlight into electricity for everything from lights and appliances to electric vehicles

Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems produce reliable energy to power your home during the day that is shared with your community’s power grid and “banked” in exchange for credit from your utility. This allows you to offset your consumption at night, on cloudy days or any time.

PEVs & PV in Partnership

PEVs and PV systems are compatible and complementary. While PEV charging will add an additional electrical load into your home, by installing a PV system you can produce up to 100% of the power required for all your household appliances and your PEV.

As a long-term investment, a PV system, sized to meet your household needs as well as PEV needs, can be considerably more cost-effective than buying utility power. After paying off the system, the cost of fueling your plug-in car can drop to virtually zero, allowing you to drive on free, clean power.

Costs and Savings

PEV Costs

Fueling (with electricity), maintenance and operational costs are significantly lower for PEVs than gas-powered cars. All-electric PEVs also have fewer parts than conventional cars, eliminating most of the traditional maintenance, including oil changes. At current average rates, buying utility-generated electricity in California is equivalent to paying approximately $1.75 per gallon of gasoline.1 Solar electric systems provide an opportunity to save even more. 


PV Costs

In California, the average cost ($/watt) for installing a solar electric system is $4-$7/watt (48% less than in 19982). The final price is determined based on variables such as your choice of a solar contractor, system size, complexity of installation and system components. Your annual consumption determines the size (or wattage) of your solar electric system. Any excess production you generate will be purchased by your utility, which allows you to offset up to 100% of your annual consumption and nearly eliminate your electricity bills. 

Get more information about how much a typical residential solar electric system costs, with a breakdown of incentives, tax credits, payback periods and financing options.

2Source: Galen Barbose, et al., Tracking the Sun IV, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 13 (Sept. 2011)

PV Financing

You can purchase or lease your PV system. If you want to purchase your system up front, check with local lending institutions about available solar or clean energy loan programs. In many areas, rebates are available from the California Solar Initiative or other sources. Alternatively, most solar contractors offer leases or power purchase agreements (PPAs). These generally entail a long-term contract (about 20 years), in which the lender is the system owner and can take advantage of any rebates and tax incentives. However, your lease or PPA payments should reflect these financial benefits.

Learn more about financing options for residential solar electric systems.

Utility Rates

Solar-PEV households should consider taking advantage of special time-of-use (TOU) utility rates. Instead of your utility charging a single flat rate for energy use, TOU rates are higher when electric demand is higher in the utility. This means when you use energy is just as important as how much you use.

TOU rates could be a good choice for solar-PEV households because they offer lower electricity prices at night when PEVs are normally charged. On the other hand, TOU rates are significantly higher during the day as can be seen in the following figure.

time-of-use rates

A solar electric system will help offset the higher-priced electricity consumed by the household during peak hours. This way, homeowners can take advantage of inexpensive electricity at night and generate their own energy during the day when TOU rates are high. However, having a properly sized system is essential. TOU rates are also available for those without PV systems. Contact your local utility for TOU rate information.

Environmental Benefits

PEVs emit few or no greenhouse gases or smog-forming pollutants. As a result, PEVs help clean the air in our neighborhoods and cities, especially important in California where many communities suffer some of the nation’s worst air pollution levels.

While owning a PEV alone is a great step forward, using solar energy to power it can maximize the environmental benefits of these jointly beneficial technologies. By producing solar energy, homeowners can further improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gases by decreasing reliance on fossil-fuel produced electricity.

Learn more about these and other benefits of going solar.

Working together, PEVs and PV will move our state closer to a sustainable future powered by clean energy.