A whole new world: Why my electric Kona and 10kW rooftop solar make sense | The Driven

Maybe it’s because my forebears were Greek that I pride myself on rational thinking and behaviour, the ancient Greeks being renowned for philosophy (literally translated as “love of wisdom”).

For me, this means a search for truth and thinking logically about it.

So, let me be right up front – I accept the science and what the scientists say, and I believe we are heading into a climate catastrophe.

This, together with my inquiring nature and willingness to take risks, were factors in ordering a Hyundai Kona electric vehicle and a large (10.2 kilowatt) solar power system to power the car and our 2-person household the Monday after the last Federal election.

This wasn’t a folly, or an act of protest on my part.

Rather, with a background in cost accounting and a high annual mileage, I was satisfied that my decision was both economically rational and environmentally responsible.

The cost of the solar power system (pictured above) and upgrading to the electric Kona from a similarly equipped petrol version was about $45,000, but we should get this back in around 8 years through savings in vehicle running costs and reduced electricity charges.

After that we will be ahead.

I financed the upfront costs by drawing down on our home mortgage and we are paying it back monthly with the money we would have spent on petrol, maintenance and electricity, so there is no impact to our cash flow.

Our LG Neon 2 panels are warranted for 30 years (production & performance) and I understand the inverters should last around 10 years.

I typically keep my cars 10 years.

The real risk in all this is an expensive battery failure after Hyundai’s warranty of 8 years/160,000kms expires and before we get our money back.

It seems to me that people who accept the science and want to do something about it either cut back on doing the things that to contribute to the problem, such as driving, flying, eating red meat or using products not produced locally, or else they explore ways to live like before but in a more environmentally responsible way.

I’m firmly in the latter camp as I’m not a great one for missing out on the good things life offers.

The electrric Kona drinking sun in our driveway via the Zappi charger.

And I expect many of the people who share this little rock in the void feel the same and will not voluntarily give up the things they have or want.

We’ve had the Kona EV and the solar system for a few months now and I have formed some clear initial impressions:

  • Firstly, and most importantly having now driven and lived with an electric car, I can say that they are brilliant and if I have a choice, I will NEVER buy another ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle again. End of story. The Kona EV is one of the more modest offerings, although it’s not one of the cheapest because of its larger battery and 450km range. But what a great car it is.And we are in a good position to know because we also have a Kona 1.6 Turbo AWD to compare it with. The silent surge of power still brings a smile to my face (and if I’m honest it is also bringing out my inner 17 year old) and I have taken to one pedal driving like a duck to water.I drive from Byron Shire to Brisbane most weeks and there has been enough charge to drive up, do several errands around Brisbane and get home. The lowest charge on my return was 23%.Range anxiety? What range anxiety?
  • Charging the car from our roof-top solar means there is a trade-off in convenience. We could plug in overnight once or twice a week but then we would be buying power generated elsewhere (presumably with associated CO2 emissions). To get as much power from the roof as possible the car is left plugged in overnight so that it can start charging as soon as the sun comes up. We unplug every time we go out and plug back in on our return. It only takes a few seconds but if we go out several times a day (we often do) it is a bit of a hassle. Bring on wireless charging. I saw in an article that BMW have it working with a 15% loss in efficiency. It would be worth it.
It was a hot day – 32 degrees. I set the Zappi to only use power from the roof to charge the car (up to a max of 7.2 kw). After turning on 4 air conditioners and 3 fans there was still 4.3 kw available to charge the car. I was very happy with this.
  • I installed a Zappi charger so that I can better manage the charge fed to the car. The concept is great and it works well. There are several charging modes (including manual on/off) but we mainly use the one that only feeds available power from the roof. This means that if the sun goes behind a cloud the Zappi ramps down the power supplied to the car (the Kona will accept anything between 1.4 Kw and 7.2 Kw) rather than draw the shortfall from the grid. We optionally connected the Zappi to the inverter/meter wirelessly (Harvi) and after a few initial set up issues it now seems to be working fine.We are export limited to 5 Kw for our rooftop solar, so I like to manage how quickly the car charges in order to maximise our export to the grid.After my return from Brisbane each week I charge quickly initially and after there is enough power for local use, I slow it down to split power between export and the car.Later in my week I want to put more into the car so that the final overnight charge before leaving for Brisbane is minimised.

    Changing the maximum amount which can be fed to the car involves stepping through several menus and selecting and changing values.

    It is more cumbersome than needed and I would recommend being able to maintain this key functionality on the front screen. Being able to check and manage via an app on my phone would be even better

  • Similarly, being able to see how much charge is in the Kona and vary the maximum charge it can accept remotely would be great. I expect that these things will come with time (some or all might be available with a Tesla, I don’t know)
  • Another thing on my wish list would be to use the car’s battery as a source of overnight power for our home. We are charged high time-of-use rates for the 5kWh or so power that we draw each night. It’s not so much the money that I am concerned about as the fact that I export much more during the day than I draw down at night and would love to use our own energy for night-time use. The ultimate would be to be able to draw this power wirelessly, so 2-way wireless charging – solar to vehicle during the day and vehicle to home/grid at night.

EV ownership in Australia is much lower than it should be. Government policy is at best unhelpful and in all likelihood a real hindrance.

But my high kilometre use case allows me to sensibly choose to be a pioneer in this new world and to hopefully inspire others.

The fact that the Kona EV tends to fly under the radar in that it looks pretty much like so many other small SUVs doesn’t make it stand out, but I’m enjoying the role explaining how cost effective it is to those that are interested and watching smiles spread from ear to ear as I gently but firmly press the throttle.

So, it was with a mix of dismay and relief that I saw another Kona EV, the same colour as ours, take the spot I was planning to use in in our local Woollies car park the other day.

I guess that’s the thing about being a pioneer, others come and join in, but part of me would have liked to have been unique for just a little bit longer.

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