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FPJ Analysis: The "Sustainable" Ecosystem: Solar And EVs

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    Necessity is the mother of innovation but looking at the scale of investments in making sustainable infrastructure, these “innovations” require justification to earn their place in progress. To sugarcoat the upsurge of battery-powered vehicles, one must imagine a future where batteries will miraculously transform into beacons of sustainability, encompassing both their production and disposal processes. Even if the battery technology achieves this level of advancement within 10 years, it wouldn’t be enough of an incentive for the daily consumer who does not care about the carbon credits. Combine EV charging with solar technology, and you could probably have a much more appealing product that could transform the way people look at energy.

    There are many international vendors of solar panels and solar roofs but let us consider the pioneer of the electric revolution as an example — the Tesla Solar Roof (yes, Tesla, Inc. does manufacture solar panels and roofs).

    It is actually possible to have a net-zero rupee electricity bill in a year, depending on the service provider. The way the grid technology works here is that the house has the capability of being powered by three separate sources — the grid of the service provider, a solar panel or roof, and batteries installed at home. The solar panel diverts the excess energy generated to charge the batteries, and when both energy resources are exhausted, the energy is fetched from the central power grid, which would add up to your bill according to the number of units consumed. Once the sun is back out, the power source is switched back to solar.

    Let us assume that the sun is still out, your batteries are fully charged, and your house is powered directly by solar. What happens to the excess amount of energy that the solar panel collects? This leads to the idea of a net-zero rupee bill where the energy is sent back to the grid of the energy service provider. The electricity bill will reflect a negative value for the “units consumed” if the total amount of energy you consume in a month is less than the amount of energy you send back to the grid that month. When the owners are out for work or on vacation, the energy gathered by the solar panels will be used to charge up the batteries installed in the building while still continuing to supply power to the electronics that are kept on. Which means that when the owners are back home at night and the sun isn’t out yet, they can still remain off the grid by using up the energy stored in their batteries.

    Tesla plans to introduce a two-way charging technology for all their future vehicles, which implies that you could use your EV to power up your house.

    On average, a house in Mumbai consumes around 2,400 units every year, which comes out to be 6.5 kilowatt hours (kWh) every day. Electric Vehicles have a 40-80 kWh battery in total. An MG ZS EV has a 50.3 kWh battery pack. Which implies that in case of a major power outage, a house in Mumbai could run on a fully charged MG ZS car battery alone for an entire week. The quoted range of an MG ZS EV is 461 km but let us consider just 300 km of range considering the real-world conditions.

    In 2019, the daily average distance of commuters in Mumbai commuting by car was 12 km. For a month, considering the Sunday drives, the total distance comes out to be nearly 350 km. This implies that most EV car users need to fully charge their electric vehicles only once per month. This leads to an addition of just 50 units to each household’s electricity bill every month, or 600 units every year. In 2021, the average annual electricity consumption for a US residential utility customer was 10,632 kWh, an average of about 886 kWh per month, which comes to about 30 kWh per day. Which implies that in case of a major power outage, a home in the US could run on their Tesla car’s battery alone for a couple of days.

    To put this into perspective, the current engines used in Formula One cars are super-efficient, even in their current iteration. Over 50% of the energy is recovered from the fuel that they use now. Imagine running on 100% sustainable fuels with engines that have these levels of efficiency. Not to mention a century’s lifespan of these vehicles if maintained correctly.

    Harsh Thakrar is Assistant Professor – Finance, ASMSOC NMIMS University. Om Thakrar is Advisor, Leonem Advisory Private Limited

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