Ditching your car

blog-solarcar-squareI am planning to add solar to my home at some point in order to completely eliminate my already quite low electric bill.  It’s a big investment, so I am researching the cost and then saving enough money to be able to pull the trigger.  When planning, I have also considered that my next vehicle may run on electricity.  In this case, I would definitely want to incorporate enough solar power to offset the electricity used to charge it.

As you can imagine, I am a “think outside the box” kind of girl.  I have often pondered what life would be like without a car.  Is that really possible for me since I’m self employed and need to attend client meetings and other functions?  Could I get away with riding the bus?  (I’ve ridden it, and it’s really quite lovely.  It just involves advanced planning.)  Could I survive with a scooter?  Not very practical in the rain, of course.  But is the goal to be practical or to save the planet?

I recently stumbled upon a term I was unfamiliar with:  low speed vehicles.   This refers to a class of vehicle made to go between 20-25 mph and are generally run on electric.  I am guessing they aren’t too practical in colder climates (except in the summer) as they are generally open on the sides.  They can resemble a glorified golf cart or be something more sophisticated and “car like.”

These vehicles are legal to drive on roads posted at 35 mph or lower.  The idea is that you could maneuver around your neighborhood while producing no emissions and saving the gas of driving a traditional car.  It seems like a brilliant idea to me.  They are intended mainly for large housing communities, but I could see their usefulness in other situations.

Take me, for example.  I make a lot of 7 mile round trip trips to the post office and bank.  If I could find a route that did not take me on any roads posted at 35 mph or higher, I could make all those trips without using gas or producing emissions.  I could also probably make my way to the local grocery store and a few restaurants as you are allowed to cross roads that have posted speeds higher than 35 mph.   The vehicle will travel 40-50 miles on a single charge and can be recharged using a normal 110-volt outlet.

There are, of course, down sides.  I wouldn’t be able to travel on major roads or highways;  I would worry that someone would steal it if I left it parked somewhere too long;  inclement weather would be a pain;  I would likely get laughed at on a regular basis.  But the advantage would be that I could give my current vehicle to my mother who could really use it.  Plus, I would be living my values and setting an example to others that would motivate them to live theirs.  With the current tax credits on low speed vehicles, you can pick one of these bad boys up for 10% off the already low price.

I guess my biggest qualms about them are a) I would not want a car to hit it while I was in it and b) it would be tough when people were visiting to transport them from place to place.  What are your thoughts?


  • here in Switzerland they have electric cars (albeit small ones – or two person and not much luggage) that are closed and as far as I know can go up to around 60 km/h – maybe there’s something similar available farther north from you in the US?

  • I’m also planning to do the same, put PV on the roof in advance of an electric car. As for now, I did something a little more radical, which was to turn us into a one car family, mostly in the interest of cutting my carbon footprint. I fly mostly for work, so the case for cutting back on carbon is strong for me. I have a car service that takes me back and forth to the airport, and the one car we keep is an Acura RDX, which is a ULEV that gets 24/27 mph. So far it’s worked fine. As for the PV system, I’ve been studying it for a while, and would like to purchase a 5kw system that has a NG generator backup. I guess the two events that would pull the trigger for me are:

    1. The economy turns around and I can afford to do it.

    2. A reasonable all electric car is available at a reasonable cost. The Tesla sedan looks attractive, and at $49K, may actually be affordable once condition 1 is met.

    While tax credits would be nice, I’m not going to hold my breath…

  • For those of you unfamiliar with the term, ULEV means “ultra low emissions vehicle.” When electric cars come in around $20k, they will be accepted and embraced.

  • I live in our retirement paradise of Sarasota, and several of my neighbors have low speed vehicles. My neighbors use them to get out of the house, explore, visit other neighbors. I understand that the Villages in North Florida have low speed vehicles in heavy use and they have built paths through the community to accommodate them. It’s not so different from a golf cart. In fact, my neighbors and the retirees in the Villages all use golf carts for this purpose.

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