What if I told you that for the price of a base model Tesla Model 3—good luck actually finding one—you could decarbonize your household?
What if I told you that this is not a thought exercise but an examination of steps already taken?
Are you ready?
The price for base Tesla Model 3 is ~$35,000. That is the price assuming that you can actually purchase the so-called “standard range” model and before any applicable tax credits. For the purposes of this discussion I am going to leave tax credits aside for the time being. So, we are working with a starting price of $35,000.
For that price you get an electric vehicle that has to draw power from the grid, which depending upon your locale and power company may support coal fired electricity. It may also support fracking for natural gas or the nuclear power energy, assuming any of that industry remains in your region.
What else could you do with that $35,000?
Over the course of the past two and half years I have installed solar photovoltaic panels on my roof in two phases. Why two phases? Initially, my power company would only allow my roof mounted solar photovoltaic array to exceed my annual consumption—based on average expected production—by ~10% or so. Considering how little electricity my household used in comparison to the average this worked out to a system of 4.64 kWh. This initial phase cost me ~$11,000 before tax credits at the state and federal level.
In the past month I added ~62% more capacity to my existing solar photovoltaic array at a cost of ~$7,500. In the past year I added an electric vehicle to the mix, which has upped my household consumption, in addition to a few winter months in 2019 where my prior panels were covered under deep snow curtailing production. We also forgot to turn off a garage heater, which ran up the electric bill in February. All told these changes goosed our consumption just enough to allow me to install an additional eight panels on my roof.
As it stands right now the photovoltaic array on my roof has a nameplate capacity of 7.52 kWh. This was complete at a total cost of ~$18,500 before any tax credits. Remember, we are leaving tax credits aside for the moment. Assuming my household usage patterns hold—including one electric vehicle—this system will produce more than 100% of my household’s electricity requirements for the year. The estimated excess production should allow me to replace my natural gas water heater with an electric air source heat pump model further reducing my household requirements for fossil fuels. With the water heater replaced in the next year my household will only use natural gas for the forced air furnace in the colder months. Trust me, I am looking at options to replace that as well.
What about the electric vehicle? This is where the power of the market and a realistic assessment of one’s needs come into play.
A Tesla Model 3 is a fine automobile. Dollar for dollar, it may be the best vehicle on the market right now when one considers its relative performance and environmental bona fides. However, it still costs $35,000.
In January of this year I purchased a used Nissan Leaf for ~$11,500. The Leaf had ~33K miles on the odometer, but the battery was in great condition being that the 2015 and later model years utilized an updated architecture that corrected some of the prior model years’ most glaring problems. A purchase price of more than eleven thousand dollars might sound like a lot, but this was a car that retailed for more than $30,000 when new. Losing two thirds of car’s value without high mileage is crazy town. Or, good for the person who can take advantage.
If one can live with a lesser range, one can take advantage of the market punishing these older EVs for not being up to Tesla’s newer standards. If one drives in town, for the most part, there is no disadvantage. In almost a year of daily driving I have had just one instance of the range “guess-o-meter” dropping below ten miles remaining and I have never experienced the indignity of “turtle mode.”
How does this all add up? Total cost for me to purchase an EV to replace all of my daily driver miles and enough solar photovoltaic capacity to power me entire household, including EV electricity requirements, was less than $30,000 before any tax incentives. Compared to a $35K Tesla Model 3 I would say that I ended up in a better place. Five thousand or so dollars better, mind you.
This is not to diminish the decision of someone purchasing a Tesla or any other EV. Rather, it is to illustrate that there is an alternative path to decarbonization that is neither as expensive as portrayed by many and without any appreciable downsides.
The future is now.