'combining EV with PV'
Bolting From Hurricane Irma: Maximizing the benefits of solar and an
November 30th, 2017 Dory Larsen
eVgo L3 EVSE
The official end to Hurricane Season 2017 is today, November 30. It was an
especially unforgiving season and as we reflect back we wanted to share a
story on how renewable energy and electric vehicles can offer benefits. The
following is an account from two local Florida residents that we interviewed
on how they fared through Hurricane Irma with their Chevy Bolt [EV].
The sounds of the guests across the hallway fleeing in the middle of the
night are what startled Simon and Jody awake. The couple had evacuated to a
hotel in Punta Gorda, Florida because their home was in the projected path
of the Category 4 storm. Dazed, they started following the local weather
reports and Jody began to read a flurry of text messages on her phone
saying, “Get out, it’s headed your way!” Ironically, the storm had turned
and was now projected to hit the west coast of Florida where they had sought
refuge. By 2am, they decided it wasn’t worth the risk to stay put. They
tossed the room key to some young storm chasers that came to Punta Gorda
with a “good luck guys, be safe” and were headed back to their coastal
outpost of Miami, Coconut Grove.
Knowing you have prepared a plan but being flexible and quick to adapt are
decisions that literally become life and death. Simon Rose of Coconut Grove
and his girlfriend Jody Finver’s experience with Hurricane Irma demonstrates
The couple have a 9.1 kWh solar system on their home and enjoy the benefit
of being “better than net zero” says Simon, meaning that their utility
company pays them for generating more electricity than their home consumes.
On the Thursday afternoon before the storm, they charged their Chevy Bolt on
electricity generated by their rooftop solar, piled into their car with
their dog, Walter, and headed for Punta Gorda. Driving out of town, headed
east on US 41, they witnessed gas station after gas station with people
waiting in line for “blocks and blocks in the heat” for gasoline. This same
scenario played out all over the state as desperation for fuel to evacuate
set in. Simon learned that one neighbor “waited in line for hours to be the
third in line when the gas ran out.”
In their Chevrolet Bolt, they crossed the state on the Tamiami Trail. After
traveling 175 miles to their destination, they still had 120 miles of range
left. After recharging for 30 minutes at the Level 3 Station they were at
full range and settled into their temporary home.
Knowing where available charging stations are located is key to a successful
evacuation route. Before they evacuated, Simon and Jody created a plan that
factored in trying to get “as far west from the center of Irma as possible”
explained Simon, which is how they selected Punta Gorda. They then narrowed
it down to a hotel based on its proximity to a Level 3 Fast Charging
Station. They used PlugShare [
], a web and phone app that allows you to locate charging stations on a map
with details on the level of the charger. Level 2 charging can take several
hours to recharge whereas a Level 3 DC fast charger allows you to recharge
in about 30 minutes.
After two days at the hotel, relieved at their successful evacuation,
however, Simon and Jody awoke in the middle of the night on Saturday, to
news that the storm had turned and was now heading their way. They decided
to just head back home to Coconut Grove. They ‘topped off’ the car at the
charging station once more to “get every watt in” and hit the road. Simon
described the dark drive home as “eerie”. “There was a feeling of doom
going east with only three cars the whole time on the Tamiami Trail and at
least 80 miles of nothing”. Simon used the vehicle’s one pedal driving (an
energy saving feature of the Bolt) and kept a controlled speed to ensure he
would get maximum range of the vehicle. “It gets better efficiency to drive
at certain speeds”.
By noon the next day the full force of Hurricane Irma was upon them back in
Coconut Grove. The mature tree canopy was in ruins and the boats at the
local marina “were completely destroyed” with some of their masts bent over.
In contrast, the couple’s solar rooftop panels (which are rated to withstand
a Category 3 storm) were left totally unscathed as was their solar water
heater. In fact, after 36 hours without power, they were back online and
were able to charge the Bolt again. They were even able to help ‘jump’
another neighbor’s internal combustible engine (ICE) vehicle battery.
The EV battery from the Bolt can also serve as back-up power. Many EV owners
have used an inverter to charge appliances and phone chargers when their
power goes out. It works by taking electricity stored in the car’s battery
pack and converts [the 12VDC aux battery power] to [120VAC to] power that
appliances can run on [it]. Simon and Jody are now considering purchasing
an inverter for the next storm. The cost of an inverter ($169.00 on Amazon)
] is much lower than a gas generator and doesn’t come with the noise and
In all, Simon describes driving an EV as “such a relief” knowing his solar
panels and EV kept him safe and able to get back to ‘normal’ much faster
than most in the Sunshine State.
And for Florida folks wanting to go solar and use the sun to power their
EVs, they should look for a Solar United Neighbors co-op in their county.
The future of combining EV with PV
The electrical vehicle (EV) market has been revving up around the world in
the past few years. An increasing number of countries, such as the UK, are …
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