Plug­ging into the en­ergy revo­lu­tion

Driv­ing an EV is just part of a big­ger eco pic­turee for some peo­ple. We find out from the Philips fam­ily am­ily about life with a Re­nault ZOE, so­lar pan­els andnd the cut­ting-edge Tesla Pow­er­wall bat­tery be­hindd it all

Auto Express - - Contents - Martin Saari­nen Mart­in_saari­nen@den­ @Ae_­con­sumer

We meet the fam­ily with an EV, so­lar pan­els and a Tesla bat­tery

MOST peo­ple can pin­point ex­act mo­ments when their life has changed. For War­ren Philips of Shore­ham-on-sea, West Sus­sex, a key day was when his daugh­ter, Senna, was born in June 2011. From then War­ren de­cided his days of sports car own­er­ship were be­hind him, and he would switch to an elec­tric car; but the fam­ily’s green trans­for­ma­tion went fur­ther.

The Philips have be­come one of the coun­try’s early adopters, com­bin­ing so­lar, home bat­tery and elec­tric car tech to the ex­tent that their home gets vis­i­tors as part of an ‘eco open house’ ex­pe­ri­ence. We spent a day with War­ren and Senna to see how they’ve made the tran­si­tion to green liv­ing and green mo­tor­ing.

The big change came in Au­gust 2015 when they moved into their cur­rent house on the south coast. Four weeks later they in­stalled 22 so­lar pan­els on the roof, and then came the elec­tric car. “We re­placed our Ford Fi­esta with a Re­nault ZOE in Oc­to­ber 2016,” War­ren said. “This was al­ways part of the plan; once we got the house, we then got the ZOE.”

Although the so­lar pan­els could gen­er­ate up to 40kwh of so­lar en­ergy on a peak sum­mer’s day – way above the 14kwh of elec­tric­ity the fam­ily nor­mally uses – War­ren quickly no­ticed a dilemma.

Be­cause there was no way of stor­ing the elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated by the pan­els, it would be ex­ported back to the grid un­less used in­stan­ta­neously. And although the cur­rent Gov­ern­ment tar­iffs pay the Philips for the en­ergy they ex­port to the grid, this still meant that the fam­ily had to rely on grid power dur­ing peak hours.

War­ren and his wife es­ti­mated they ex­ported around 80 per cent of their elec­tric­ity back to the grid. They were driven nuts by the need to keep things on a timer and that frus­tra­tion meant own­ing a bat­tery to store elec­tric­ity was al­ways a goal for the fam­ily.

They re­searched var­i­ous op­tions, in­clud­ing the Tesla Pow­er­wall. When the first ver­sion came out, its ca­pac­ity wasn’t enough for the fam­ily. “But when Pow­er­wall 2 came along, its 13.5kwh ca­pac­ity was big enough for us and it had a built-in in­verter, and I be­came very in­ter­ested,” War­ren ex­plained.

“I was talk­ing to my Tesla ac­count man­ager, and she told me I was only the third per­son in the coun­try to buy the Pow­er­wall 2 as a mem­ber of the pub­lic.”

Since in­stalling the Pow­er­wall 2 in Au­gust 2017, the house­hold’s en­ergy use has been rev­o­lu­tionised. “Last month we gen­er­ated around 54 per cent of our own en­ergy, with the rest com­ing from the grid. For March, that’s ridicu­lous,” War­ren said. In Jan­uary, his Tesla app showed they gen­er­ated 25 per cent of their elec­tric­ity, and they ex­pect an 80:20 split in the sum­mer.

Thanks to the Pow­er­wall, War­ren told us there are now some days the fam­ily can run en­tirely on so­lar en­ergy. The day we vis­ited, they got 99 per cent of their

elec­tric­ity ele through the com­bi­na­tion of so­lar pan­els and the Pow­er­wall. On cloudy days when the Philips nee need to charge the ZOE, do laun­dry and cook­ing, they still need to use the grid to top up the power, but nowhere near to the ex­tent they used to. Like the Pow­er­wall and so­lar pan­els, the ZOE has been an easy tran­si­tion for War­ren. “Own­ing an elec­tric car is just so easy,” he ex­plained. “You don’t have to worry about queues at a petrol sta­tion, it’s quiet, re­fined and a lovely car to own.” The ZOE is used for a 14-mile com­mute to work, along with school runs and lo­cal jour­neys. For longer trips to Ire­land for fam­ily camp­ing, War­ren re­lies on a Honda Ac­cord; its larger boot can take the fam­ily’s dog. Cru­cially, Senna agrees with the move to go green. She told us she re­ally likes the ZOE, but added: “Tesla is my favourite car. When we had to fix the Pow­er­wall, Tesla came with the new Model X in party mode.”

Although dad War­ren is also dream­ing of a Model X, he feels the cur­rent set-up is near perfect for his fam­ily. The tran­si­tion to green power has taken a few years, and has had its dif­fi­cul­ties, but it’s clearly paid off. War­ren es­ti­mates that af­ter spend­ing £15,500 on so­lar pan­els and the Pow­er­wall, the fam­ily will break even in 10 years and, in 20 years’ time, be around £13,000 bet­ter off.

But it’s more than just cost sav­ings that make War­ren so pas­sion­ate about go­ing green. “I’m do­ing this to show how it’s pos­si­ble. If I can do it, so can ev­ery­one else,” he said. “So­lar en­ergy, EVS and en­ergy stor­age is the way of the fu­ture; I want to show how easy it is.”

CON­VERTED CO War­ren and daugh­ter Senna are pas­pas­sion­ate about be­ing as green as pos­si­ble, and an all-elec­tric Tesla is the ul­ti­mate goal

SWITCHED ON Charg­ing ZOE is easy, and War­ren tells our man Saari­nen how Tesla Pow­er­wall man­ages home en­ergy use

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