2011 Chevrolet Volt: Makes You Think Green
February 10, 2011
Somewhere between one and two years ago (I've honestly lost track) I used some credit card reward points to order two 15-watt solar panels. I ordered them because:
A. They were essentially free, and
B. I was curious to see what, if any, benefit they would deliver
But as I said, I received these panels a while back and had done exactly nothing with them. Then I got the most expensive electric bill I'd ever received and suddenly it seemed foolish to not even give these panels a shot at reducing my electric costs (plus there's that whole carbon footprint thing).
Something about having the Volt in my garage (and sucking up expensive California electricity), along with seeing that monstrous bill convinced me to unpack those panels and let some UV rays hit them. But I needed to confirm what mounting screws to use, which meant taking one of the panels to my local hardware store.
No worries, as the panel fit easily in the Volt's cargo bay and I was able to have a store employee confirm the diameter and length of the screws I'd need to secure them to my roof. And yes, I had fleeting thoughts of strapping them to the top of the Volt in an attempt to improve the pure electric range.
A few hours (and solder burns) later I had both panels mounted and 35 feet of wire running down the side of my house to a couple leftover automotive batteries (yes, I also know deep marine cycle batteries are better for this application). I won't bore you with all the details involving charge controllers and inverters, but I will say I technically watched the second half of the Super Bowl via the power of the sun. Well, almost. The inverter's low-voltage alarm went off at about the two-minute warning, so my football entertainment had to go back "on the grid" for the game finale.
But there's no doubt my experiences with the Volt finally drove me to go solar (on a limited basis). If one of the many points of these cars is to make us more seriously consider our energy usage, mission accomplished.
Karl Brauer, Edmunds.com Editor at Large