Fill ‘Er Up On Sunshine: Chester, N.J., Man Powers All-Electric Car With Solar
Tom Moloughney of Chester, N.J., is one of the first in the nation to power an all-electric vehicle with electricity generated from a residential solar system, thus linking two green technologies to create a driving experience that is truly emissions free.
Moloughney, who drives 62 miles round-trip to Nauna’s Bella Casa, the restaurant he owns in Montclair, N.J., in an all-electric Mini Cooper prototype called the Mini E, was recently honored by the Garden State Green Awards for his contribution to the environment. He figures he saves $5,000 a year on fuel and maintenance expenses.
Even more importantly, as the nation anticipates the celebration of Earth Day on April 22, Moloughney is pioneering a new energy future. And probably at few times in the history of Earth Day’s 41-year existence has the need to chart a carbon-free course for the automobile been so imperative.
Mini E Inspires a Green Way of Living
Moloughney, who had always been concerned about dependence on foreign oil, came across the opportunity to participate in the BMW (which owns Mini Cooper) pilot program while surfing the Internet. To his surprise, he was selected to be one of only a handful of drivers in the New York metropolitan region to receive the prototype.
BMW produced 612 of the cars, which are being road-tested by drivers all over the world. The number of Moloughney’s car, which he received in June of 2009, is 250, which is also the name of his blog: minie250.blogspot.com.
Although he was delighted to be driving an all-electric car, Moloughney quickly realized that his goal of emissions-free driving was being compromised by the fact that the electricity he was using to charge his car was generated by coal- and gas-fired power plants, as well as from nuclear sources.
“I figured that if I could displace gasoline with sunlight, I would truly be driving a zero-emissions vehicle,” says Moloughney, whose license plate reads “EF-OPEC.”
Solar for a True Emissions-Free Experience
In February of 2010, Rumson, N.J.-based solar integrator GeoGenix installed an 8.8 kilowatt solar system on the roof of Moloughney’s home. The 39 SunPower solar panels generate about 10,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, about half of which goes to power the Mini E, which Moloughney plugs in every night.
“I wake up every morning with a full tank,” he says.
Although “range anxiety” — the fear of running out of juice — is a concern of electric car owners, Moloughney says he has never had any problem. Fully charging his car takes about 3.5 hours, which is good for 100 miles, although he has stretched it to 130. He never waits for the car to charge, rather takes advantage of charging “opportunities.”
Moloughney and his wife, Meredith, have a second vehicle, a Chevy Equinox, for long trips, although a national public electric vehicle charging infrastructure is now being installed at convenient locations such as shopping malls, parking lots and highway rest stops that will allow drivers to “refuel” while on the road.
In addition to reducing carbon emissions, Moloughney is also saving money — big time. About half of the energy generated by his rooftop solar system offsets his household electrical usage, which, at an average rate of about $0.18 per kilowatt-hour, saves him about $2,000 per year in household electricity bills.
But when he uses solar to offset gas, he saves even more. He figures it takes six kilowatt-hours of electricity to drive 24 miles, the average mileage for a gallon of gas. With gas prices approaching $4 per gallon, he is thus saving $4 for every 6 kilowatt-hours, compared to a savings of $1.08 (6 x $0.18) in avoided household electricity costs.
And, with energy prices rising, those savings will only increase: “The last time I checked with the sun, he said he didn’t plan on raising his price for sunshine … so I think I’m good there,” he says on his blog.
House That Generates Money
Nor do the savings stop there. Moloughney is also taking advantage of a state incentive to promote the generation of solar electricity. His system generates about 10 Solar Energy Renewable Certificates (SRECs) annually. Since these are currently selling for about $650, they bring him an additional $6,500 in income annually.
The savings from his solar system — not to mention the offset gasoline expenses — thus cover a significant share of the mortgage on his home. “What house do you know of that generates money?” he asks.
Moloughney is due to surrender his Mini E in October, but BMW will replace it with another test model called the BMW ActiveE. And, when BMW introduces its all-electric BMWi3 in 2013, which is the model that the pilot programs are gathering information for, Moloughney will be the first in line to buy one.
GeoGenix is an industry leader with a proven track record in residential and commercial solar installations. The firm is an East Coast pioneer of “community solar,” which allows residents of a community to band together to purchase solar for their individual homes at a discount. Selected from a pool of over 400 solar panel dealers in North America, GeoGenix was given the “Outstanding Customer Service” award in 2010 by SunPower. Additional achievements include installing the first “net zero” electric commercial building in the nation. While there are many new entrants in the solar business, GeoGenix has been installing solar since 2001 and has the experience and expertise that have made it one of the region’s most trusted solar installers. For more information, please visit the GeoGenix website and blog, as well as its Facebook and Twitter pages.