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NREL Study Shows Correlation Between EV Ownership and Household Solar Panels

Owners of electric vehicles are more likely to add solar panels to their homes and, conversely, there is a correlation, though less strong, between owners of homes with solar panels buying an electric vehicle, according to a new report from the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The study, The Electric Vehicles-Solar Photovoltaics Nexus: Driving Cross-Sectoral Adoption of Sustainable Technologies, is based on a survey conducted in 2018 as part of the WholeTraveler Transportation Behavior Study that looked at 869 households in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Thinking that a lot may have changed since the original survey, the NREL researchers revisited the topic with the 2022 Residential Energy Consumption survey and found that an electric vehicle-photovoltaic relationship might still hold true.

In the 2018 survey, more of the participants owned or previously owned rooftop solar panels than an electric vehicle, 9.1 percent compared with 6.5 percent. The researchers noted that photovoltaic technology has been around longer than electric vehicles and that the cost of installing solar panels is less than the cost of most electric vehicles. The researchers also found a correlation between the two technologies.

Of electric vehicle owners, 25 percent also owned a photovoltaic solar system, while only 8 percent of the non-electric vehicle owners owned solar systems.

Analyzing the survey results, NREL researcher Shivam Sharda, lead author of the newly published research paper, said the owners of electric vehicles may be more inclined to invest in photovoltaics because the addition of solar panels might offset the residential portion of the energy bill needed to charge them at home.

“Both EVs and PVs have a complementary nature, which might play a pivotal role in energy systems resiliency, addressing concerns regarding grid stability and power management strategies,” Sharda said in a statement.

Sharda also noted there is a social aspect to the correlation. “If you have a friend or a family member who owns a rooftop solar panel or an EV, you become more educated about the technology, so you know the pros and cons by talking to them,” he said. “That has a significant influence on your owning EVs or PVs.”

Based on their analysis, the NREL researchers recommended that governments should consider policies that jointly accelerate the acceptance of both electric vehicles and solar panels. Because electric vehicle owners are inclined to use solar power anyway, such incentives might provide a push for electric vehicle owners to adopt solar technology much earlier than what is currently observed, the researchers said.

The NREL study was published in the journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews and was co-authored by researchers from NREL, as well as researchers from the University of California Santa Barbara and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office funded the research.

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