There is a prevalent myth that electric vehicles aren’t better for the climate than gasoline-powered cars. However, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, “Electric vehicles typically have a smaller carbon footprint than gasoline cars, even when accounting for the electricity used for charging.”
Electric cars generate no tailpipe emissions, which helps improve air quality in urban areas. But, the emissions associated with electric vehicles heavily depend on the energy source. Unfortunately, generating most types of energy does create carbon dioxide emissions, so charging your electric vehicle with clean, solar energy significantly reduces its environmental impact.
What is the energy mix in Washington?
The power mix in Washington also varies by the utility company, so Puget Sound Electric has a different mix than Clark Public Utilities and Yakama Power. A lot of electricity in Washington comes from the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River on the border between Oregon and Washington. The dam is located 40 miles east of Portland and was built and managed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. It was constructed in the 1930s, and the electricity is distributed by the Bonneville Power Administration.
- 55% from hydropower
- 13% from natural gas
- 11% unspecific
- 10% from coal
- 5% from wind power
- 4% from nuclear
- 0.3% from solar energy
Each utility supplier must disclose generation data to the state, which is used to compile these totals. The power sector in Washington is more reliant on hydropower than in Oregon, and it uses less coal, natural gas, wind power, and solar electricity.
What is the energy mix in Oregon?
The electricity in Oregon is generated from various sources, and it varies by utility company. For example, Portland General Electric will have a different mix than Salem Electric and Eugene Water & Electric Board.
- 39% from hydropower
- 26% from coal
- 22% from natural gas
- 7% from wind energy
- 3% from nuclear
- 2% from solar power
In 2020, nearly half of Oregon’s power came from renewable sources, and the majority was from hydroelectric dams, which do not produce carbon emissions. Although this is good news for the climate, dams do have a significant impact on wildlife.
According to International Rivers,”Large dams have led to the extinction of many fish and other aquatic species, the disappearance of birds in floodplains, huge losses of forest, wetland and farmland, erosion of coastal deltas, and many other unmitigable impacts.”
However, because of its reliance on hydropower, Oregon’s power sector produces fewer greenhouse emissions than many other states that rely more heavily on fossil fuels. Also, the energy mix has changed over time in the state. There is now a lower percentage of electricity produced from hydropower and coal and more from natural gas, wind, and solar energy than in 2012.
Charging an EV with home solar energy
About 80% of EV owners have a home charging station, so the power mix in their homes greatly impacts the carbon emissions associated with their driving. Solar power is one of the cleanest ways to charge your electric vehicle.
Benefits of charging an electric vehicle from home solar power:
- No greenhouse gas emissions
- Lower vehicle charging costs
- The convenience of charging from home
Remember that the charging time of your vehicle will vary depending on the level of discharge of the battery, the battery capacity, and the type of EV charger. For example, Level I chargers that use a standard wall outlet can take far longer than a Level II charger. Although they are impractical for home applications due to the cost, Level III chargers are even faster. Typically, plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV) have a shorter charging time than EVs because their battery capacity is smaller.
Smart Solar Energy installs residential solar energy systems and EV chargers throughout Oregon and Washington.
How can I charge my car with solar energy on the go?
Although you can install a rooftop solar system on your home, it is difficult to impact the power mix of EV chargers at work or around town. Therefore, if you have a solar system, we recommend charging at home to ensure you use as much solar electricity as possible.
If you often charge your vehicle on the go, it might be helpful to download a public charger location app, and it might be cost-effective to join a charging network.
How many solar panels do I need to charge an EV?
When Smart Solar Energy installs a solar system, we recommend considering your future electricity use when sizing a system. For example, if you plan to get an electric vehicle in the next year, it might be a good idea to add some extra solar panels on your roof if there is sufficient space. But how many solar panels will you need?
- How far do you drive each year?
- How efficient is your EV?
- Do you always charge at home, or do you sometimes charge at work and on the go?
If you drive a PHEV, your car can run off of just electricity or use gasoline. Therefore, the response to the first question will also entail considering how much you drive in all-electric mode.
If you charge a lot on the go, you will need fewer solar panels on your house for charging because more of your power will come from the electric grid. For example, you might use a public EV charger when shopping or on road trips.
Although the efficiency of electric vehicles varies, the average car uses about 30 kWh to drive 100 miles. And the average EV owner drives about 5,300 miles annually. So let’s assume that you only charge your vehicle at home. Then you would consume about 1,600 kWh annually to charge your EV. That means you need about five solar panels in Oregon or Washington.
Let’s say you drive 10,000 miles annually and only charge at home, then you would need about ten solar PV panels to charge your car. Also, five solar panels for charging your vehicle at home might be adequate if you do half your charging away from home.
If you want to go solar now and plan to get an EV soon, the Smart Solar Energy team can oversize the system so it will meet your needs once you get your electric car.
Are EVs still a green option after considering battery manufacturing?
Manufacturing electric vehicle batteries is an energy-intensive process that generates greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, there are usually more greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing an EV than a gas-powered car. However, if you consider the entire vehicle lifecycle, EVs are greener, even when considering battery manufacturing.
EVs generate no tailpipe emissions, so they are much cleaner to operate. In addition, they create much less noise pollution, and the batteries are built to last for 10 to 20 years. Also, EV manufacturers commonly offer battery warranties for 8 to 10 years or 100,000 miles, but the details vary by manufacturer.
Also, EVs require less maintenance over time, conserving resources. For example, they do not require motor oil, and they use fewer fluids. In addition, because hybrid cars and EVs have regenerative braking, it results in less wear and tear on the brake pads. Thus, they don’t need to be changed nearly frequently.
One way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to EVs is to repurpose or recycle the batteries at the end of life. Although EV batteries may no longer have an adequate capacity for use in a vehicle, it is possible to repurpose batteries for stationary energy storage. For example, some projects have repurposed numerous EV batteries for large solar energy projects.
If repurposing is not an option, then recycling is a good choice if the battery is intact and hasn’t been in an accident that damaged the integrity of the battery. As EVs grow in popularity, a more robust recycling infrastructure and reuse programs are needed to process these materials and find beneficial uses.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “Once materials have been recovered, they can then be processed and used in the manufacturing of new lithium-ion batteries. This is a preferable source to using virgin ore because it reduces the amount of mining necessary to produce EVs.”
When would I need to replace my EV battery?
Many EV owners never replace their batteries because they can last up to 20 years. The lifespan of your battery depends on some factors, such as how often you deplete the battery, how you charge it, and your local climate. EV batteries don’t suddenly give out and need to be replaced. Typically, they lose about 1 to 2% of their battery capacity each year and eventually reduce the range of the vehicle too much to be practical.
Usually, it is time for a new battery after the original capacity drops below about 70%. However, this does depend on the driving habits of the EV owner. For example, if you don’t need a car with an extended range, having a battery with less than 70% of the original capacity might be adequate.
Are there EV incentives in Washington State?
Yes, Washington residents may qualify for several EV incentive programs. One program is federal, while two are through the State of Washington.
Federal EV & PHEV tax credit
There is a $7,500 tax credit available for electric cars, pickups, and SUVs, which was recently extended under the Inflation Reduction Act through 2032. But there will soon be a requirement that the vehicles be assembled in North America, limiting which EV and PHEV models qualify.
The Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center released a list of vehicles that will likely satisfy the new criteria. However, beware that where an electric vehicle is assembled may vary within the same make and model. So, use a VIN decoder to verify the location. In addition, there are limits on personal income to qualify for the EV tax credit, with a maximum of $150,000 for individuals and $300,000 for joint filers. Also, the price of a new electric SUV and pickup cannot exceed $80,000 and $55,000.
A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in taxes owed to the federal government. You need to have a tax liability to take advantage of tax credits, and we recommend speaking with a tax expert to ensure you can take advantage of it.
Also, solar energy systems in Washington are also eligible for a 30% tax credit. This amount was increased due to the Inflation Reduction Act and will be in effect for a decade before it decreases and ends. If you install a solar panel system that can charge your EV, you may qualify for two federal tax credits.
Washington EV tax exemption
New EVs under $45,000 and used EVs under $30,000 are eligible for up to $1,300 in Washington State sales and use tax exemptions. Currently, $20,000 is the maximum amount of the price eligible for the tax deduction. However, the exemption level will decrease on August 1, 2023, with $15,000 of the cost as eligible for the tax exemption.
Washington infrastructure tax exemption
There are no Washington sales and use tax for labor and services expenses for installing home charging stations. Talk to a solar energy expert at Smart Solar Energy to learn more.
Are there EV incentives in Oregon?
Yes, there are EV incentive programs for Oregon residents through federal and state governments.
EV tax credit
The EV tax credits highlighted above are also available to Oregon residents. However, because there are so many criteria, be careful when determining if you qualify.
Oregon Clean Vehicle Rebate Program
Oregon residents can qualify for a $2,500 rebate for purchasing or leasing an eligible new electric vehicle. However, low to moderate-income residents can get an additional $5,000 rebate for a new or used electric vehicle.
Rebates work differently than a tax credit and are not dependent on having a tax liability. Instead, Oregonians that meet the Oregon EV rebate program requirements and complete the required process receive a check in the mail for the Oregon EV rebate.
Contact the Smart Solar Energy team if you want to switch to an electric vehicle but want to ensure you are charging with clean energy. We can install a solar energy system and EV charger for your home. Numerous incentive programs for Oregon and Washington residents can significantly reduce the cost of your transition to clean energy.