If you are one of the typical Americans who drives about 40 miles a day, then you should consider an atypical scenario if you happen to be planning on building a new home.
If you are taking out a mortgage to build a new home and are willing to take advantage of the falling price of photovoltaic panels, then you have an opportunity to increase the value of your home and stop throwing money away on transportation fuel.
40 miles per day in a car that gets 30 miles per gallon will cost you about $140 a month (assuming a gas price of $3.50 a gallon).
This is $1680 a year that you will never see again.
Solar panels in your home mortgage and an electric car in your garage make financial sense.
It takes about 34 kilowatt hours (kWh) to charge an electric car like the Nissan Leaf for 100 miles of driving.
It takes about 13.6 kWh for a charge equal to 40 miles of daily driving.
Even in cold, gloomy northeastern cities like Boston, with an annual average of 7.5 hours of daylight and 3-4 hours of actual sunshine a day, a 4 kilowatt array of photovoltaics should be able to produce the 13.6 kWh needed for the daily commute.
Assuming a conservative price of $5 per watt to purchase and install the solar panels, you would be adding about $20,000 to the price of your home.
This would increase your monthly mortgage payment by about $80 a month.
By putting solar panels on your house and an electric car in your garage you would reduce your monthly expenditures on transportation fuel by about 60 bucks a month.
The biggest barriers to implementing sustainable technologies are often financial. True sustainable design considers the financial scenarios that make implementation achievable in addition to the physical and aesthetics considerations of integration. Paying $20k out of pocket for solar panels is a financially daunting prospect but if you can pack it into a mortgage it makes a lot of sense to substitute reoccurring monthly expenses into financed renewable technologies that add to the value of your home.
Electric cars are often presented as a compromised automobile that reduce transportation freedom with a limited mobility range and an unfamiliar refueling process. Personally, if I was going to choose a car that offered freedom, I would pass on 100-mile+ road trips in favor of freedom from carbon emissions, unpredictable gas prices, and reliance on oil companies.
Electric cars and solar panels present the opportunity to own your own fuel supply. This concept of independence should be as just as important to American culture as muscle cars and the open road.
Note: This scenario assumes a grid-tied net-metered house that would avoid the added cost of home energy storage technologies.