Is EV rental a gateway to renewable energy addiction?
What I learned about running an EV on purely solar power at home, work and eventually starting an EV car rental business.
When I grew up, It seemed like every Dad I knew wanted to have “the best looking grass on the street”. Now things seem to have shifted, many people I know pride themselves on “the biggest solar system on the street” and a nice electric car to match.
Since I have noticed this huge transition of people wanting to go from internal combustion engines (ICE) to electric vehicles (EV’s)
One thing I have noticed in the last 12 months is that our biggest customers are actually EV owners. People buy EV’s for many reasons but one of the main reasons is reduced running costs through not purchasing fuel. They still can have an electricity expense, but that can be reduced even further through the magic of solar power.
Since EV rental is clearly a gateway to EV ownership, and EV owners are very heavy energy users, they very quickly become addicted to solar power as well. This made me think about an EV owner’s journey.
How my EV journey began
Recently I took the plunge and ordered 4 electric cars. One for my wife and kids, one for myself and two for my business. It seemed absolutely crazy and expensive at the time, but to be honest, thanks to finance and smart charging, it kinda just works. Let me explain how I did it and how it actually saves me money, through smart energy usage.
After driving petrol or ICE (internal combustion engine) cars my whole life, it had become apparent to me, I was addicted to petrol, and it was bad, real bad. Later in life as a family man and an electrical business owner, I had more petrol cars on the road than I can count on both hands. Fuel prices are skyrocketing and it is costing anywhere from $120-$200 AUD to fill up each tank, every week.
Let me jump into the different scenarios here and explain how I have managed to save money through EV ownership, solar panels, batteries and smart EV charging.
Can you charge an EV from solar at home?
I always like to be as independent as possible in life, since I couldn’t figure out how to set up an oil rig in my backyard, I looked to another answer within my reach, solar power.
My wife currently has a Tesla EV. She works from home most of the time and commutes 30 mins to the city 1 day a week. Now this is the perfect scenario for solar charging. Her Tesla has a 78kWh battery with a range of about 550 km from full charge.
Our solar system, on a sunny day in summer has enough solar to charge our 13.5kW hour Tesla home battery and have roughly 50-60kWh left over. So if she ran her car down to 20% she could probably get a full charge purely off the solar during summer.
In winter, it’s a different story though. In the middle of Melbourne winter, there are days that we can’t even charge our 13.5kWh home battery fully, let alone have some left over for our cars. So although running costs are practically zero in summer, expect to pay some in winter if you only charge at home.
I’ll also say, once you own an EV you change your habits from “I’ll just fill up when it’s nearly empty” to “I’ll chuck my car on at 60% because it’s sunny today and it could take a while” It pays to not let your car drop below 40% incase an unexpected trip comes up. Because even if you charge off the grid, a single phase 7kWh EV charger will take around 10 hours to charge.
Charging an EV from solar at work
This is where things get really exciting. Depending on your work situation this is where you can really save some money.
Because my business happens to install solar panels, we installed a 60kW solar system on our roof.
While it was obviously easy for us to use our existing resources to do this, more and more business and finding actually a great investment for not just reducing their bills, but also showing one of the company’s core values is “clean, renewable energy” it’s the little things that influence buyers decisions now.
Here is where 2 more EV’s come into play. My solar experts needed a little push to go out and meet customers face to face rather than just over the phone.
Obviously if we are going to be out on the road meeting clients every day it is going to rack up a considerable fuel expense.
We decided to reduce this expense and get our team on the road, company EV’s was the answer. Even if you finance an EV and it cost’s say $300 per week for the finance, the savings of $150 per week kind of cancels it out. I mean, we needed cars anyway, why not walk it how we talk it and go electric?
What issues did we encounter charging at work?
Well, no system is perfect and here are a few things to consider. Our cars are often out on the road during the day, not benefiting from the solar at our workplace.
My team often takes the EV’s back to their personal homes at night, where they don’t necessarily have EV charging facilities. So you really need to be vigilant making sure the car is on charge every chance you get, especially when the sun is shining.
Sometimes you’ll need multiple EV chargers at your office carpark. Depending on your situation and how green your employer is, this is an easy fix.
Obviously some people may work at businesses that either can’t or don’t have solar, or car parking. This can be challenging but I suggest you talk it over with the business owner and explain to them the benefits for everyone or talk to one of my team about your options.
Do EV’s make sense for a car rental business?
The next part of my EV journey took a little twist. I saw sites like Evee and Turo where you can rent out electric cars.
Most people doing this wanted to experience an electric car to see if they wanted to buy one, sure enough they always do want to buy one after they try it and what do you think is the first thing they need once their brand new EV rocks up?
EV chargers + solar panels of course, exactly what we sell. So I thought, damn, why don’t we try renting our cars out as well? It seemed like a great way to meet like minded people and potential clients.
Sure enough I put 2 of our EV’s on the Evee and Turo platforms and they were being booked instantly, it got to the point they were booked 80% of the time on these rideshare sites.
So here is where it goes to the next level, as far as a rental car, a Tesla is literally the perfect car, let me explain why;
We charge the cars up for free off our 60kW solar system, no fuel costs, ever.
They don’t really have any serviceable parts, no oil changes, no filters, nothing.
They almost never need new brake pads, due to the regenerative braking stopping the car, not the brake pads. This is known as 1 pedal driving and if you haven’t tried it is incredible.
You control who drives the car via an app, if someone doesn’t bring the car back you can just remove their access and go pick the car up from its GPS location reported via the Tesla App
EV rental is actually an option for anyone who owns an EV. It’s as simple as listing it on these rideshare sites and people will rent it. Thousands of people around Australia are currently doing this as a way to supplement their income or make EV ownership more affordable as they can use the rental fee to pay off the car loan.
So how do I charge my personal electric car for free from solar power?
Lucky for me, I spend most of my day at the office which now has 60kW of solar and 2 x EV chargers. Basically I just rock up to work and put it on charge during the day. 60kW is more than enough to charge on solar only, no questions asked.
I can always charge at home if I need to, however I would have to do that at night and pull power from either my Tesla battery (which I would prefer use for my families night time use) or the grid (ugh!, i’d rather not)
Either Way, the savings compared to my old petrol car are huge, I even have nightmares about times I took my old car to the mechanic and got hit with a huge bill at the end. Not a nice feeling to have every 6-12 months, it gives me anxiety thinking about it.
How much solar do you really need to charge an EV?
To keep one car charged up in summer, roughly 13kW of solar is enough; it can produce 60-80kW of excess power on a sunny day. That will support 1 EV, maybe 2 if you both work from home and are very savvy with your charging times.
More and more we are seeing that the standard system size in Australia, the good old 6.6kW, is kind of a joke when you purchase an electric car. Most of the time it won’t even come close to supplying the energy you need.
You can use chargers that have features like “solar aware” “eco mode” “excess / surplus only” in summer. But in winter you’ll find this nearly impossible off anything under 20kW of solar panels. The 13kW system at my house doesn’t stand a chance at charging 2 cars during winter.
As most roofs in Australia can only fit 10-15kW of solar panels, you might want to think about other places you can charge for free like at your work, or take advantage of destination charges at shopping centres etc.
If you’re stuck finding a free charger. I recommend an app called “Plugshare” to see where the nearest free chargers are. If you have a business of your own you want to attract customers to, this can also be a great way to do it, as the amount of people searching for EV chargers grows every year.
How much does it cost to charge an EV from the grid?
This is a pretty simple one. Just take the battery size of the car and x it by your electricity rate.
In most cases it’s going to be around 70kWh x 30 cents per watt = $21
Much cheaper than filling the tank in that old gas guzzling SUV your family drives around.
Can you drive from Melbourne to Sydney in an EV on solar power?
Absolutely you can. If you put Sydney or Melbourne into the GPS on a Tesla it will tell you where the DC fast chargers are on the way. You’ll need to stop twice for about 40 mins each time. Not too inconvenient as most people stop a few times anyway.
Some of the charging stations on the way actually have ground mounted solar systems in the paddock next door. So even though you can expect to pay roughly 50-60 cents per kW of power, at least you know it is generated from renewable sources, not a dirty coal plant.
Is EV ownership worth it?
Overall I would say definitely.
Although interest rates have gone up a bit. Finance on electric cars is still pretty cheap when you factor in the very low maintenance costs and running costs, it becomes really affordable, if your happy to rent your car out on rideshare platforms, it can actually be profitable to own an EV. You’ll also find EV’s hold their value really well compared to ICE vehicles, so when you go to sell the car in a few years you may be pleasantly surprised.
Also, In many instances you can write off part of or even the whole amount for work or sign up to novated leasing with your employer. I would speak to your accountant about that directly though.
Ultimately we are currently experiencing the electric revolution from 2020-2030, a full transition from ICE to electric cars, by the end of the decade nearly every car on the road will be electric. I’m yet to meet someone who drove an electric car and didn’t instantly love it. It’s like going from a Nokia to an Iphone, you’ll never look back.
I even see some of the hardest V8 loving petrol heads tell me they would rather drive a Tesla daily than their ICE cars because it is a more comfortable, smoother, cheaper and cleaner ride, it just makes sense
I hope my personal story helps you understand what it is actually like to own an electric car and ways to reduce the actual cost of ownership.
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About your author...
On a mission to electrify Australia. Luke is known for being at the forefront of his industry offering design, supply, installation and advice on solar panels, solar batteries, lighting, electric vehicles and chargers.
Luke has been known to invest most of his time (and money) in helping people create and experience new lifestyles through clean energy at home, business and with their cars. As well as investing his time training the next generation of climate enthusiasts through his team at Lightning Energy.