Everyone is impacted by the current high price of gasoline. President Obama gets criticized because the public thinks he can actually control the price, Big oil gets called before Congress because it gets substantial subsidies from taxpayers. And we, the citizens, pay the highest gas prices we have ever paid in the face of one of the country’s most severe economic downturns.
But there is hope for the Sunshine State, as every cloud has a silver lining.
For the past half dozen years or so, the automotive industry has become pretty serious about producing electric cars that work. The new Chevy Volt (Motor Trend’s Car of the Year) and the all-electric Nissan Leaf are good examples – and they are real game changers.
But what does this have to do with the cost of photovoltaics and gasoline?
Well, it turns out that these electric cars run so efficiently on electricity that they are significantly less expensive to operate than an equivalent sized gasoline car. In fact, their electric efficiency is so good that even if the electricity is provided by solar photovoltaic cells, the cost will be much less than the cost of gasoline.
At $3.90 per gallon (the average price of gasoline in Florida for the week of May 9, 2011; the average U.S. price was $4.02) the annual cost to drive the typical new small car that gets 32.6 mpg for the 12,000 miles that the average car drives each year is $1,436. The new electric cars get 3 miles per kilowatt-hour (kWh). At today’s cost, electricity from a residential solar photovoltaic system costs 16.8 cents per kWh, so the 4,000 kWh it would take to drive the same 12,000 miles would cost you only $672 each year.
Table 1. Cash savings from driving a 2011 PV-powered car = $764/year
|Gasoline Car:||Electric Car:|
|Annual Fuel Use||gal/year||368||kWh/year||4,000|
|Fuel Price, May 2011||$/gal||$3.90||$/kWh||$0.168|
|Annual Fuel Cost||$/year||$1,436||$/year||$672|
Okay, so I got the title of this article a little wrong, photovoltaics today are less than half the cost of gasoline, actually only 47 percent of the cost.
Compared to the gasoline-powered car, the PV-powered car saves $764 each year! In the future, consumers will save even more since the cost of gasoline is rising. On the other hand, the cost of PV systems continues to decline.
The past four years Florida has not had a renewable energy policy, primarily because PV electricity was thought to be too expensive.
WE WERE WRONG! It’s gasoline, not PV power that’s too expensive.
Florida sunshine can power our cars, saving us literally millions of barrels of oil and keeping substantial amounts of our hard-earned capital in Florida rather than shipping it out of the state and the country to pay for gasoline.