Automaker’s 2018 list of top-selling cars in the U.S. starts with the usual suspects as the Toyota Camry, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla rounded out the top three. Scroll down to number 11 on the list, however, and you’ll catch a newcomer: the Tesla Model 3. In fact, in the month of December, more Model 3s were sold than all but the aforementioned heavyweights.

It’s easy to see why electric vehicles (EVs) seem to be trending upward: they’re safe; they’re clean; and, frankly they’re the coolest cars on the market. So, what’s the holdup? For most, it’s the popular sentiment that EVs are simply too expensive to justify. Let’s explore that by diving into the economics of EVs—and how solar can help.

Since EVs don’t run on gasoline, they are rated by their miles-per-gallon equivalent (MPGe) which describes how many kilwatt hours (kWh) of energy is required to drive 100 miles. Most new models fall in the 25-30kWh range. For this example, we’ll use the Tesla Model 3, which is rated at 25kWh/100 miles. Driving an average of 25 miles per day will use 6.25kWh of electricity—or roughly 2,300kWh annually. Using this figure and your most recent utility bill, you can figure out how much that “fuel” would cost.

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So, purely from a fueling perspective, EVs seem to pencil out pretty well. Add in the fact that maintenance costs tend to be lower (given that there’s no combustion engine and thus no need for oil changes, timing belt replacement, etc.), combined with state and federal incentives of up to $12,500, and all signs point to EVs as a good investment.

Of course, there is one additional thing you can do to speed up the ROI on your electrical vehicle even more (hint: you are reading this blog post on a solar contractor’s website). If powering your car through the grid is cheap, then powering it with the sun is almost free.

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Remember that annual “fuel” usage number we calculated earlier? That’s how much additional load you would need to build into your solar array to cover your driving expenses for the year. Yes, you may pay a little more upfront for a larger system, but like any reliable investment it will pay itself off. Once your utility bill savings have offset the cost of an array, you can plug your EV into a home power plant that will keep producing free electricity for the remainder of its lifetime.

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