Why EVs will make solar viable without subsidies | RenewEconomy

Why EVs will make solar viable without subsidies

UBS report says addition of EVs and storage will mean households can budget on 12 years of free electricity for a 20-year solar system.


Investment bank UBS says the addition of electric vehicles, and the proliferation of battery storage, will solve the problem of intermittency for rooftop solar and make it viable without subsidies.

So much so, it says, that households will be able to budget for 12 years of “free electricity” for a 20-year solar system. Viewed another way, households with EVs and solar and storage will be €1,00o a year better off than those without EVs or solar on the roof.

In a major report on the “revolution” that could hit energy markets any time soon, UBS says – as we report here – that the combination of EVs plus solar plus storage will deliver a payback time of 6-8 years by 2020 – effectively making centralised fossil fuel generation redundant.

It says this is not understood by the utility industry or the market, because they are “not yet looking at the topics of solar, EVs and stationary batteries with a holistic view.”

UBS solar EV payback

“Our proprietary model (above) shows it is the combination of the three that makes solar fully competitive and that has the potential to bring disruptive changes to the electricity sector.

“Here are the maths: One can leverage the EV purchase with an investment in a solar system and a stationary battery. By doing so, one can optimise the self-consumption of solar power and minimise the “excess waste” of solar electricity.

“And what also may matter to many EV buyers: The electricity used to drive the car is carbon-free. The combination of and EV + solar + battery should have a payback of 7-11 years, depending on the country-specific economics. In other words, based on a 20-year technical life of a solar system, a German buyer should receive 12 years of electricity for free (purchase in 2020).”

UBS says pure battery EVs will be competitive with cars with internal combustion engines, and in some instance may already be so.

ubs EV parityAs this table to the right shows, the 3-year total cost of ownership (TCO) of a Tesla S model is similar to that of a comparable petrol combustion engine car such as an Audi A7, especially in markets with high fuel prices like Germany – a country where purchase incentives are almost non- existent.

“We think that by 2020, shrinking battery and solar cost will make EVs in the mass segments the cheaper alternative over a car life cycle in most European markets.

“While on a global basis, EV sales for the remainder of the decade should be mostly carbon/fuel standards and related incentives, we think penetration rates will accelerate significantly after 2020 driven by compelling economics. As a conservative 2025 scenario, we think  about 10% of new car registrations in Europe will be EVs.”

So, how does this work in practice?

UBS provides the table below to explain why solar plus stationary battery plus electric vehicle, in combination with smart demand, is an almost perfect fit.

EV charging during the night smoothes the daily demand curve. The stationary battery stores excess solar electricity during the day and releases it in the evening hours.

The remaining supply gap will be filled with electricity from the grid during the night/early morning hours, which is when spot prices are low and there is excess base-load and wind power supply. On top (not illustrated below), the stationary battery may be re-charged in the early morning hours with excess grid electricity (at low prices) and supply the morning demand peak during breakfast hours.


UBS balance supply

Looking at the economics from a P&L point of view, UBS says the combination of EV + solar + battery will save consumers in Germany €1,000 per year from 2017, compared with a conventional car and no solar system on the roof. This is based on an assumed 20-year life for the solar system, a 10-year life of the car, and 4% cost of capital.

ubs ev saving


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  1. caskings 6 years ago

    I’m one third of the way there. Got my Nissan Leaf. Now I just need to stop renting so I can get the panels and the batteries.

    • Petra Liverani 6 years ago

      This as yet unreleased portable solar panel is a little behind in production and who knows if it will ever make it to market but you could keep your eye on it.
      https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/solar-liberator. No doubt there are similar ones out there.

    • Miles Harding 6 years ago

      We desperately need a scheme that allows renters to participate in the solar revolution, such as community renewable power schemes that can be used to offset their domestic power consumption.

      I already have panels on the roof and an EV and would also like to be able to invest in projects that are appropriate to this century. I would only disagree with the notion that EVs are cost competitive with conventional cars. The market we need to address is the Hyundai buyer, not the self-esteem seekers buying over-priced Audis**.

      Some patience may be needed here, as most state and the federal governments are heading back to the middle ages at present.

      ** The car sellers have done a great job in transforming the third German car maker into ‘status brand’ that may here are willing to spend disproportionately on.

      • caskings 6 years ago

        I agree with you that EV’s aren’t 100% there yet on pricing. The Nissan Leaf only made financial sense for me because I do a lot of kilometers every work day (100-130 kms) so the reduced running costs bring forward my payback time quite substantially. Once EVs are no more than $5k in price over a ICE equivalent it will be a no brainer to switch.

    • anderlan 6 years ago

      If you have the space and good sun a ground mounted frame is very doable. Build frame, mount panels, wire up inverters, run it to your box, get it inspected. You might just get a start 1kW array. You can easily move the panels and inverters with you and install them however you want (add more!) on your next property. A panel-inverter unit is interchangeable with any other and can be added or taken away.

  2. Frank Morris 6 years ago

    where is this UBS report? Would love to review it personally.

  3. GaelanClark 6 years ago

    You link from one of your stories back to another one of your stories….WOW.

    So, so.eone built a model on energy production that guesses at number for….2017 and ASSUMES that all EV’s are charged with self produced solar. sssssssnnnnniiicker…..no and seriously though LOL!

    • purplelibraryguy 6 years ago

      It seems to be talking mainly about what would be cost-effective on an individual basis, so how all EVs get charged is somewhat beside the point. If the prices go how they predict, the setup works and saves money even if only one person ever twigs to the advantages and does it.
      The crucial assumption I see which needs some unpacking is rapid fall in battery cost. There may be good reasons to assume this, but I’d like to see them explained. Without the rapid fall in battery price, EVs don’t get cheap and PV-with-battery-backup doesn’t get cheaper as fast. They’re talking 50% cheaper by 2020. Why? Rapid expansion in manufacturing? New battery technologies in the pipeline? Doesn’t say.
      . . . Looking at the report that Marcin Mizgalski linked above
      they do make a case, on p.15. Some of it seems sound, some maybe a little handwavey.

  4. Squirrely wrath 6 years ago

    There’s no mention of a really critical variable in these calculations: battery life and replacement cost. When they talk about a 20 year life of a PV system, does that assume that the battery also lasts for 20 years or does it assume one or more replacements, as may well be the case?

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