Solar and electric vehicles seem to go hand in hand. Visit any electric vehicle fanclub on Facebook and you will find many posts by happy members who have just installed tens of thousands of dollars worth of solar panels so they can enjoy “free” electricity to power their ride. Interestingly, owners of battery-electric, hybrid-electric, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles don’t seem united in their support of putting solar panels directly onto the vehicle.
We polled multiple large vehicle owner clubs to see how much support a roof like the one that Hyundai presently puts on its Sonata Hybrid has. The roof can add 2 miles of added electric vehicle range per sunny day. That is a realistic and affordable way to add more range to a vehicle that has an electric drive system. The results of our polls were a bit of a surprise.
We didn’t run the exact same poll in every club. This was because members could add in their own added options. However, the top-level view of the results is still pretty revealing. Across all three clubs, battery-electric, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid, the results were all about the same.
Half of owners don’t want a solar roof even if it is “free”. That was our biggest surprise. The comments that these voters posted seemed to indicate that since they are aware that the daily financial gain from this option is small, they feel that adding in a roof that adds up to 10,000 EV miles of range over the life of the vehicle is worthless. These owners must all drive base model trims, because options like a heated steering wheel, premium audio, special paint, and panoramic moonroofs also don’t add have any daily financial payback.
About 30 to 40% of green vehicle owners we polled selected the option we stated as “Trade for panoramic moonroof on a top trim.” In other words, instead of the giant, heavy pane of glass stretching from the windshield header to the C pillar, they would prefer to have a fixed roof that added range to the vehicle. This would be my personal choice were I shopping for a new green vehicle. I am not a fan of huge sunroofs having owned a couple and tested hundreds.
We also listed various price points to add the solar roof as an option on a lower than top trim. We used prices like $500, $1,000, and $2,000. There was a smattering of owners who selected this option. $500 seems like an attractive price point to add in 10,000 EV miles, particularly on a PHEV where every EV mile counts. Yet, few opted to select it.
If you missed our poll, feel free to weigh in below and tell us what you think about solar roofs that add in low singleidigit EV miles per day.
John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. John's focus areas are technology, safety, and green vehicles. In the 1990s, he was part of a team that built a solar-electric vehicle from scratch. For 20 years he applied his engineering and sales talents in the high tech world and published numerous articles in technical journals such as Chemical Processing Magazine. In 2008, he retired from that career to chase his dream of being an auto writer. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin
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