Can People Really Use Their Electric Cars To Power Their Homes With Free Energy?

An “off-grid” home conjures images of a cottage in the middle of nowhere and a hair-shirted existence. But it’s possible to turn a normal property into a carbon-negative home – simply by using an electric car.

People who mortgage their souls to buy electric cars because they have believed the latest propaganda promoting pimped up golf buggies and expect to make money from their cars by signing up for Vehicle-to-grid schemes which promise users can make money by selling power to the grid when demand is high, by using their car as a battery to store electricity while demand is low them selling it back to the grid may be in for a big and very expensive disappointment. And that disappointment may be even more expensive if the deal they sign up for includes installing solar panels to charge their car’s battery with “free” electricity generated from sunlight.

Forward thinking, tech-savvy, environmentally aware homeowners are already making money andhave turned their houses into energy-efficient “eco-homes” by becoming early adopters of Vehicle to grid systems linked solar panels. These produce electricity, which is then stored in their electric car or a battery pack overnight, the latest green propaganda claims. There is nothing new about the Vehicle To Grid idea of course, I was writing about it over ten years ago, it was a crazy idea then and it still is. back in the day it was predicted that electric vehicle owners would be able to buy cheaper and greener energy overnight and sell it back to the grid at peak times, cutting their bills substantially. The only recent innovation is the linking of V2G technology to solar panel generators.

Vehicle-to-grid doesn’t necesarily require a home to have solar panels. When an electric car is cgarged from domestic mains or a commercial charging point, whatever energy is left in its battery will be exported out, first to the home and then to the grid. Later in the evening, once energy is cheaper, the system automatically charges the vehicle back up again. The tariffs provided by the electric company are extremely cheap at night which is when the car is charged, the tariff at peak times (especially when you have a smart meter) is horrendously expensive, check out the 4pm to 8pm rates.

One couple featured in eco-news items recently, Shilpen Patel and his wife Reshma, recently installed a “vehicle-to-grid” system in the driveway of their north London home and linked it to solar panels installed on their roof. In theory a trickle charger tops up the batteries with free electricity which can be sold back to the grid at times of high demand. The idea behind this system is the company uses the electricity in your car batteries to supplement any shortages in the network and they pay you for the privilege.

This method allows electric vehicle owners to make money by selling power back to the grid when demand is high, while charging their batteries when supply is plentiful. According to fans of the V2G systemThe Patels’ Nissan Leaf has a battery large enough to power their home for two days. This is very debatable, the claimed capacity of a Nissan Leaf battery is 24 Kwh. What car makers do not mention is that for very serious safety reasons power managements systems in any device powered by lithium ion batteries will never allow the battery to be 100% charged or 100% discharged wich leaves car users with around 60 or 70% of claimed capacity, or 16 to 17 KwH actually usable. The average home uses between 8 and 10 KwH (more if you have electical storage heaters rather than a gas boiler,) therefore powering a home for two days would be touch and go.

This is assuming the car is not driven at all but used solely as a storage device. Cars in the Nissan Leaf class cover about 4 miles / 5 Km per KwH so a car driven 32 miles, a reasonable round trip for commuters, will consume about 50% of the available power. So we start to see that the arithmetic does not work. And it goes even more awry when we look at charging from solar panels. Most UK homes with solar panels have two panels installed. In optimum conditions the output from a panel is 250 Watts so in terms of chaging that is 2 x 250=500 watts (half a Kilowatt hour.) Now if you are relying on free solar power to charge up your car for *KwH use, that is 16 hours on charge. But this is England and days when optimum panel performance can be maintained even for 8 hours are few and far between.

So let’s get this straight, the home owner first incurs the expense of installing solar panels, they they buy an electric car for at least 50% more money than an equivalent ICE vehicle would cost, but they cannot use their car during the day because it is recharging (assuming the sun is shining or, this being England, there is only a light overcast or running the homes apliances, and they can’t recharge overnight because (and this will come as a shock to scientists and eco-fanatics,) solar panels do not generate electricity in the dark. In fact, because his is England, apart from in high summer, there is a fairly small window during which the sun has sufficient elevation for solar panels to operate efficiently.

Now let’s look at reality. Practically all EV drivers  will trickle charge their cars when they get home from work in the evening, then use the energy to drive to and back from work the next day.  Only If they are lucky enough to work from home, may it be possible to make a few pennies selling back to the grid in daytime hours.  Most will not be in this fortunate position. This will not be possible for long as we will certainly see a massive shift in night time electric costs as soon as enough of us mugs have been forced to go EV.

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