6:50am

Thu May 23, 2013
Business Report

A Cleaner Way To Power Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicle owners could soon have a greener way to power up their cars through a program being offered by a Boulder solar company.

Erin O'Toole talks with BCBR publisher Chris Wood about Namaste Solar's program for EV owners for Morning Edition

Some environmental advocacy groups say although electric cars do much to reduce carbon emissions, having to tap into the regional electric grid (which may be powered by coal) to charge them limits the benefit.

Now consumers have an all-green alternative via Namaste Solar, a dealer in Boulder who offers panels from SunPower Corporation of California. SunPower offers a $10,000 solar panel system through its “Drive Green for Life” program. Consumers who buy an EV – such as the Nissan Leaf or Ford Focus Electric – can also buy one of these systems to charge it with clean electricity.

Boulder County Business Report publisher Chris Wood says the concept of a solar company teaming with the electric-vehicle industry has a lot of potential.

“We spoke with the owner of a company called Boulder Hybrid Conversions, which converts Toyota Priuses to plug-in hybrids,” Wood says. “The owner told us that about 80 percent of [their] current customers already have solar at home, so he sees great synergy between the two industries, and potential for growth.”

Because the program is so new, SunPower officials don’t have statistics yet for the combined solar/electric vehicle offering. But a recent report from Boulder-based Navigant Consulting suggests growth in sales of solar panels and electric vehicles – spurred partly by state and federal tax credits – could help drive this new industry.

Interview Highlights

Given the relatively small number of EVs in Colorado currently, how successful can a program like this be?

"Navigant has reported that there will be 1,600 electric cars on the road in the Denver metro area by the end of the year. Sales of solar panels are expected to grow at a 10 percent growth rate annually through the next five years. And a number of tax credits exist for sale of electric vehicles, which should spur that sector’s growth. So two growing industries could create some nice synergies. At least, that’s the idea."

How significant will state and federal tax credits be for the program?

"It’s adding up to significant money. The federal tax credit stands at $7,500, and Governor Hickenlooper signed a state tax credit into law May 15. That credit is $6,000. So we have combined tax credits of $13,500. And various incentive programs exist for the solar sector as well."

The wind industry has experienced recent setbacks, partly because of uncertainty over a federal production tax credit. What's the mood in the solar industry?

"We recently conducted a CEO Roundtable on clean tech, and I have to say that representatives of solar companies are pretty optimistic. Tax programs in that sector have a longer shelf-life — another five years — and the price of solar has fallen dramatically, making it pretty competitive with other systems. So they’re expecting strong growth going forward."