A match made in heaven: A Chevy Volt and a solar panel

Gary Davis, who lives in Greenville, S.C., has dreamed of owning an electric car for more than 20 years, so he was willing to jump through a few hoops to get his hands on the new Chevy Volt when it was first released.

He had someone help him track a Volt down. The guy called 21 Chevy dealerships on the East Coast before he found a place near Washington, D.C. that still had one of the four it was allocated in stock.

Almost like preparing for a new baby, Davis wanted to get things ready for the new car.

“Here on the home front, we installed an electric car charger before I even got the car,” Davis said.

By “we”, he means his company. Davis is a partner at Nachman, Norwood & Parrott, a high-end investment firm.

The company was more than willing to invest in the electric car charger, but Davis really wanted the charger to be solar-powered.

“There are a lot of critics out there,” Davis said. “Critics of change in general. But critics of electric cars tend to say that plugging your car in doesn’t make a difference if the electricity is coming from a coal-fired plant.”

With the tax incentives and rebates from the Federal government and the state of South Carolina, the solar panel didn’t cost much, Davis said, and it will provide 150 percent of the power needed to charge the car completely every day.

“I’d say with the gas we’ll save and all the subsidies,” Davis said, “if the accountant is right, the solar panel will pay for itself within a few days.”

The extra energy from the solar panel also flows into the firm’s office building, offsetting electrical costs, though only by a fraction with its small production, to the firm.

Looking into all the tax incentives and rebates for this small-scale solar project made the company look more closely at the prospect of installing solar panels all over the building.

“And we’re looking at where the whole building could be carbon neutral,” Davis said.

The building paid for the solar panel and car charger, while he bought the Volt on his own.

He lives 17 miles out of town and always felt bad about the gas he used, he said. He’s been driving a Prius. But even that uses a fair amount of gas.

He doesn’t expect to use much at all with his new Volt. He’s had the car for a week now and has used 0.9 gallons of gas. He thinks he used that because the engine turns on to heat the battery when it’s below 25 degrees, and South Carolina had a cold snap last week.

His coworkers have talked about the car with interest. There’s only one other person in Greenville with an electric car. He drives a Tesla.

“After hearing about what I did with the solar here, that guy is installing solar at his house this week,” Davis said.

That means all of the electric cars in Greenville will be powered 100 percent by solar energy within the month, Davis said.

Image courtesy of Gary Davis.