Charging Your EV With Solar Panels and Using IRA Incentives To Bring Down the Cost

Ditching your gas-guzzler for an electric vehicle (EV) is a great way to lower the cost and emissions of getting from A to B. But charging an EV with solar panels is a next-level life hack for saving money, bypassing public charging, and all but eliminating your carbon footprint.

And with the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 creating substantial incentives for EVs, solar, and battery, there’s never been a better time to set up a solar power charging station right in your own home.

Whether you already have an EV, solar panels, or neither, we’ll discuss your options for charging an EV with solar panels.

What are the benefits of charging your EV with solar panels?

Around 80% of EV owners have a charging station in their own home. There are three main benefits to pairing that EV charger with solar panels:

  1. Lower charging costs
  2. Zero carbon emissions
  3. Convenience of charging at home

Let’s start with how much money you can save by charging your EV with solar panels.

Home solar is the cheapest way to power a car

Historically, drivers have been at the mercy of gas prices and could only control how much they drive and, to some extent, how fuel efficient their vehicle is. But that’s no longer the case. By going solar, they can control the cost of the fuel itself.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the average driver puts on 13,476 miles per year, or nearly 37 miles per day. By charging an EV with solar panels, a Tesla Model 3 driver getting 3.33 miles per kWh would spend $1,500 less per year compared to filling a gas car that gets 30 miles per gallon at around $4 per gallon.

Charging an EV with solar is also cheaper than charging with grid energy or public EV chargers.

Here’s how much it costs to charge the most popular EV (Tesla Model 3) on solar, grid, and public chargers versus fueling a comparable 30 miles per gallon combustion car.

Cost of charging an EV with solar vs other fueling methods

Charging method Model 3 on home solar Model 3 on grid energy Model 3 on public charger 30 mpg combustion car
Miles per unit of fuel 3.33 miles per kWh 3.33 miles per kWh 3.33 miles per kWh 30 miles per gallon
Distance per year 13,476 miles 13,476 miles 13,476 miles 13,476 miles
Fuel per year 4,047 kWh 4,047 kWh 4,047 kWh 450 gallons
Cost of fuel per unit $0.08 per kWh $0.166 per kWh $0.40 per kWh $3.96 per gallon
Total fuel cost per year $323.75 $671.77 $1,618.40 $1,777.04

Let’s break this down a little further. Charging an EV with solar is:

  • 51% cheaper than charging on grid power
  • 80% cheaper than charging on public chargers
  • 81% cheaper than filling up a 30 mpg car at $4 per gallon

Keep in mind, these figures will vary by the model of car, distance traveled, and the cost of fuel and any given time.

In fact, the price of home solar energy is the only constant. Once you purchase and install solar through solar.com, your EV charging costs are fixed at around 6 to 8 cents per kWH for the life of the system.

That’s not true for grid energy or gas. Since 1990, grid energy has increased by an average of 1.98% annually, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). And over the last 87 years, the price per gallon of gas has increased on average 3.89% annually.

Here’s how that looks over the 25 year life of a home solar system:

charging an EV with solar versus grid or gas

Over 25 years, the average driver charging an EV with solar panels will save:

  • Over $14,000 by charging an EV with home solar compared to grid energy
  • Nearly $70,000 compared to fueling a gas car that gets 30 miles per gallon

In an era dominated by inflation, home solar is the best hedge against rising energy and EV charging costs.

Related reading: Driving on Sunshine: Comparing the Economics of Gas and Electric Vehicles

Home solar is the cleanest way to charge an EV

Not only does home solar fix your EV charging costs at an ultra-low rate, it all but eliminates your driving emissions.

The classic argument against electric vehicle charging is that we can’t control where the energy comes from, and that’s true. If your local grid or public charging stations are powered by fossil fuels, then so is your EV.

For reference, the US Energy Information Administration estimates that renewables will generate 24% of electricity in the US in 2023. The good news is that your EV is capable of running on clean energy, and will do so increasingly as renewables continue to increase their share of production.

But the same can’t be said for cars with internal combustion engines, aka ICE vehicles. A tiger can’t change its stripes, and no matter how fuel efficient, ICE vehicles will always cough out greenhouse gas emissions that pollute local air and contribute to climate change.

For now, charging with home solar is the only surefire way to charge your EV on clean energy and eliminate your vehicle emissions.

Charging your EV at home is convenient

Next to cost (which the Inflation Reduction Act will help with), one of the biggest barriers to EV ownership is range anxiety. In other words, people are worried that charging stations are too few and far between.

Well, how does having a solar power charging station right in your own home sound?

Imagine waking up every morning to a fully-fueled vehicle and never having to wait in line at a public charging or smelly gas station. Pretty sweet set-up, right? Now imagine paying the lowest-possible price to charge your EV by pairing it with solar.

All things considered, charging an EV with solar is cheap, clean, and convenient. Now let’s look at how to create this match made in renewable-energy heaven.

How to pair an EV with solar charging

The benefits of having your own solar power EV charging station are undeniable. And with new incentives from the Inflation Reduction Act, the cost of pairing an EV with solar charging is on its way down.

To start saving, you’ll need three things:

  • An electric vehicle
  • An EV charging system
  • Solar panels

The order in which you acquire EV and solar is totally up to you (although we don’t recommend buying a charging system without getting an EV first), and we’ll run through some common scenarios below.

First, let’s dive into the cost and incentives for each component.

Tax credits for buying an EV

President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law on August 16 which includes the Clean Vehicle Credit for new and used EVs and qualifying plug-in hybrids.

Americans can get a $7,500 tax credit for buying a new EV or a $4,000 tax credit for buying a used EV (up to 30% of the price).

Clean Vehicle Credit incentives

New EV Used EV
Maximum incentive $7,500 $4,000 (up to 30% of purchase price)

Better yet, the tax credit can be transferred to the dealer at the point of sale. That means instead of waiting to use the credit when you file your taxes, you can use the tax credit to reduce the purchase price of the EV.

The Clean Vehicle credit will be in effect for 10 years beginning on January 1, 2023, but there is a kicker: Not all EVs and buyers qualify, consult a tax professional with questions about the Clean Vehicle tax credit.

Let’s look at some of the qualification requirements.

Used vehicle eligibility

Used EVs must be sold by a dealer (no back-alley Craigslist deals) and the credit only applies to the first time it is resold, based on its VIN number.

Income limits

The Clean Vehicle credit is designed to help make EVs accessible to a larger population of Americans – not necessarily to help buyers that can already afford them. So the IRA includes income limits to qualify for the tax credit.

The maximum income to qualify for the $7,500 new EV credit is $150,000 per year, or $300,000 for joint filers.

In order to qualify for the $4,000 used EV tax credit, the maximum income is $75,000 per year or $150,000 for joint filers.

Price limits

In addition to income limits, there are price limits on the vehicles that qualify for the Clean Vehicle credit based on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP).

The Clean Vehicle Credit price limits are:

  • $80,000 for new SUVs, pickups, and vans
  • $55,000 for new sedans
  • $25,000 for used EVs

Again, the point is to help everyday Americans trade in their gas-guzzlers for EVs, not reward hedge fund managers for pre-ordering Electric Hummers.

Manufacturing requirements

Finally, there are manufacturing requirements designed to encourage local sourcing, manufacturing, and recycling, mostly for battery components.

First, effective immediately, the IRA requires final assembly for eligible EVs to take place in North America.

Then, beginning January 1, 2023, eligible EVs must have 50% of battery components made or assembled in North America. This requirement steps up each year until reaching 100% in 2029.

The IRA also requires that a certain percentage of battery minerals come from free trade partners or are recycled in North America. The threshold starts at 40% in 2023 and gradually increases to 80% by 2027.

These requirements will do two things:

  1. Limit the number of EVs that qualify for the Clean Vehicle credit
  2. Super-charge local EV and battery manufacturing, recycling, and technology

Which EVs qualify for the Clean Vehicle credit?

OK, so it’s quite a bit of legwork for the average American to find out which EVs are eligible for the Clean Vehicle credit. Luckily, the US Department of Energy released a list of vehicles with final assembly in North America that should be eligible in 2022 until the battery requirements take effect in 2023.

The models marked “manufacturer sales cap met” are currently ineligible for the tax credit because they already hit the 200,000 unit limit for the previous tax credit. These models may become eligible in 2023 when this provision is lifted, provided they meet the battery and price provisions.

This list was last updated on August 17, 2022 and is not set in stone. We will update it as the new provisions change eligibility standards.

Model Year Vehicle Note
2022 Audi Q5
2022 BMW 3-series Plug-In
2022 BMW X5
2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV Manufacturer sales cap met
2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV Manufacturer sales cap met
2022 Chrysler Pacifica PHEV
2022 Ford Escape PHEV
2022 Ford F Series
2022 Ford Mustang MACH E
2022 Ford Transit Van
2022 GMC Hummer Pickup Manufacturer sales cap met
2022 GMC Hummer SUV Manufacturer sales cap met
2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee PHEV
2022 Jeep Wrangler PHEV
2022 Lincoln Aviator PHEV
2022 Lincoln Corsair Plug-in
2022 Lucid Air
2022 Nissan Leaf
2022 Rivian EDV
2022 Rivian R1S
2022 Rivian R1T
2022 Tesla Model 3 Manufacturer sales cap met
2022 Tesla Model S Manufacturer sales cap met
2022 Tesla Model X Manufacturer sales cap met
2022 Tesla Model Y Manufacturer sales cap met
2022 Volvo S60
2023 BMW 3-series Plug-In
2023 Bolt EV Manufacturer sales cap met
2023 Cadillac Lyriq Manufacturer sales cap met
2023 Mercedes EQS
2023 Nissan Leaf

List subject to change as the Clean Vehicle Credit provisions update.

Remember, even if the vehicle you want doesn’t qualify for a tax credit, the average driver will still save thousands of dollars per year on fuel alone by charging an EV at home compared to paying for gas.

Setting up an EV charging system

The combination of a solar panel system and EV charging station brings several benefits and provides a cost-effective way to produce and make use of your solar energy.

Solar inverters are an important piece of this puzzle. Before your solar energy can be used by most of your devices and appliances, it must be converted from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). This is also the case for fueling your electric car with solar energy.

The actual charging port will be installed and connected to the inverter so that it can draw the electricity and send it into the electric car’s battery.

Another option however, is to use a product like the new SolarEdge EV charging inverter, which pairs the charger and the inverter into one device.

How much does an EV charging station cost?

According to Carvana, Level 1 and Level 2 home charging stations cost between $1,000 and $2,000 for parts and labor. Level 3 chargers can cost up to $50,000, but they work exclusively with certain EVs. Most EV drivers will stick to Level 1 and 2 chargers.

Unfortunately, the IRA doesn’t have specific incentives for EV chargers. But it does offer incentives for upgrading your wiring and electric panel, which may be necessary when adding a charging station.

Even so, by charging an EV with solar panels instead of grid energy the average driver will recoup that cost of a typical Level 1 or 2 charger within two to six years.

Charging an EV with solar versus grid energy

Annual cost of charging with solar Annual cost of charging on grid* Cumulative savings
Year 1 $323.75 $671.78 $348.03
Year 2 $323.75 $685.08 $709.36
Year 3 $323.75 $698.64 $1,084.25
Year 4 $323.75 $712.48 $1,472.98

 

 

Year 5 $323.75 $726.58 $1,875.82
Year 6 $323.75 $740.97 $2,293.04

*Based on average annual price increase of 1.98% since 1990.

Not a bad deal for never having to visit a gas station or public charger again!

Adding solar to charge your EV

To complete the EV solar charging trifecta you’re going to need – you guessed it – solar panels.

Whether you already have a home solar system or not, you’ll almost certainly need to add some panels to power your EV – it’s just a matter of how many. The good news is that the IRA increased the solar tax credit to 30% for the next 10 years, which puts a substantial dent in the cost.

Let’s go through two common EV-solar scenarios.

Scenario 1: Getting an EV before you have solar

If you get an EV before you have solar, great! Your next step is to install an EV charging station so you can charge at home with grid energy (the second cheapest option to home solar).

In this scenario, it’s recommended to take a few months to establish your EV battery usage and its effect on your energy bill. Having a solid set of data will help solar installers make a precise calculation of how much solar you need to offset your electricity usage.

Once you’ve got a baseline and you’re ready to cut your EV charging bill in half, head to solar.com to get binding quotes on a solar system.

Scenario 2: Getting an EV when you already have solar

If you already have solar before you get an EV, great! Like the previous scenario, your next step is to get an EV charging station so you can charge at home with solar energy.

What you’ll likely find is that until you add panels to account for your EV usage, your solar system won’t completely offset your electricity usage, and you may end up with a electricity bill at the end of the year.

There’s two ways to fix this:

  • Get a couple month’s worth of data to know exactly how much extra solar capacity you need
  • Work with a solar.com Energy Advisor to estimate how many additional panels you’ll need to offset your EV usage

Let’s do some math to get a ballpark figure of how many solar panels it takes to charge an EV.

How many solar panels does it take to charge an EV?

The exact amount of panels required to charge an EV with solar depends on type of panel, EV battery size, distance traveled, and the amount of sun exposure. But in general, it takes between 5 and 12 panels to charge an EV entirely on solar power (perhaps less if you work from home).

Just to get a ballpark, let’s use as an example the Nissan LEAF SV Plus, which has a 62 kWh battery and 215 mile range, since it’s eligible for the $7,500 Clean Vehicle credit.

First, calculate output per panel

First, we need to consider the amount of energy that an individual solar panel is producing. The energy production of a solar panel is dependent on its material, size, efficiency, age, and a few other factors.

Assuming 5 hours of sunlight a day, a typical 250 watt solar panel will produce around 37.5 kWh of AC per month or 1.25 kWh a day. Again, this is an estimate and lots of factors will affect production.

5 hours of sun per day X 250 watt = 1,250 Watt-hours or 1.25 kWh per day

Next, calculate your EV battery usage

Now let’s calculate how much solar output you’ll need to charge your EV battery.

The average driver travels 37 miles per day and the LEAF gets 3.7 miles per kWh. That translates to 10 kWh of electricity per day.

You can easily adjust this calculation to meet your driving habits and EV efficiency.

37 miles per day / 3.7 miles per kWh = 10 kWh of electricity per day

Finally, divide EV usage by solar panel output

If one 250 watt solar panel can produce approximately 1.25 kWh a day of AC electricity, and you need 10 kWh of electricity per day, that means you would need eight 250 watt panels to charge your Nissan LEAF EV entirely on solar power.

10 kWh of EV usage / 1.25 kWh of production per panel = Eight 250-watt panels

If you upgraded to premium 400-watt solar panels that produce 2 kWh per day, you would only need 5 panels in this scenario. On the other hand, if you’re only getting 4 hours of sun per day, you’d need closer to 12 250-watt panels to charge your EV.

The scenarios are endless and we’ll admit that the math gets a little dense. If you need more clarity on your own situation, it’s best to speak with an energy advisor to discuss your specific needs.

Should I charge my EV with solar panels?

You should charge your EV with solar panels only if you want the cheapest, cleanest, and most convenient driving experience possible.

In other words… yes.

The obvious hurdle is upfront cost for both EVs and solar panels. However, the IRA created beefed-up incentives for both things, including a $7,500 tax credit for new EVs and 30% tax credit for solar and battery, which can help soften the blow.

Here’s the other way to look at it: Charging your EV with solar costs about 50% less than charging with grid power and at least 75% less than public charging or gas. All you’re doing is buying 25+ years’ worth of fuel at once for a significant discount – just like buying bulk at Costco.

Solar panels are a cost-effective way to fuel your electric car and may require anywhere from 5 to 12 solar panels. You can use the averages above as a benchmark when doing your own analysis, and if you ever need help do not hesitate to talk with one of our energy advisors today!