This past week, EarthTechling attended the 2012 SXSW Eco Conference in Austin, Texas. Many clean tech companies were on hand to demo their products or discuss their strategies for spurring renewable energy development. WattPeople, a venture of THE FUNK HAUS, was on hand to introduce new interactive web application that helps people assess the wisdom of bundling a solar power system and an electric vehicle (EV) together.

Although EVs produce far less tailpipe emissions than a combustion engine car, critics have long pointed out that it’s misleading to call them “green”. EVs need electricity, lots of it, to charge their batteries, and in most countries, that electricity still comes from decidedly un-green sources: coal, gas, and nuclear. In order to really claim zero emissions, EVs have to take their power from renewable sources. The WattPeople app aims to help people discover the surprising affordability of using solar power to charge their electric vehicle.

Image copyright Progress Energy

In most cases, when people are considering the purchase of a home solar system, they base the size of array needed on an estimate of home energy consumption. Unfortunately, this omits one of the biggest and most costly energy consumers in an individual’s life: their car.

“The average American household spends $111 per month on electricity, $220 per month on gas for the car, and costs are increasing every year,” said WattPeople co-founder Rainer Boelzle. “Electric vehicles are the future but pose a number of challenges including the impact such vehicles may have on the electrical grid, charging, range, and stimulating consumer interest to drive widespread adoption.:

The WattPeople web application attempts to make it easier for people to save money while also virtually eliminating their grid power consumption. The easy to use calculator sums up a consumer’s total energy usage taking into account a consumer’s electricity bill, average cost of gasoline, and number of miles driven per year. WattPeople then allows users to select the electric vehicle of their choice to see when the SolarEV Bundle concept makes sense.

All you need to get started is a current utility bill, and a good idea of how much you drive and what kind of mileage you get. The app will then calculate how much you’re spending on electricity and gas, and how much you could save over time by purchasing a SolarEV bundle. I was surprised at the relative affordability of an electric car + plus solar panel array. Too bad I don’t own a house to put it on!

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