Nation's First EV/Solar Group Purchase Program Boosts Sales

DENVER, CO (March 17, 2016)—A coalition of Denver metro local governments led by Boulder County launched the nation’s first combined solar and electric vehicle group purchase program during the last four months of 2015 and tallied impressive sales results.  Now the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) and the Colorado Energy Office have released a handbook and case study to help other cities and counties replicate the program across the country.

Community group purchase programs for rooftop solar systems were first started in Portland, Ore., in 2010.  But the addition of electric vehicles (EVs) to the metro Denver program resulted in an impressive increase in participation. 

“A single participating Nissan dealership sold 248 Nissan LEAFs during the program, more than four times their normal monthly sales volume."—Will Toor, SWEEP

“A single participating Nissan dealership sold 248 Nissan LEAFs during the program, more than four times their normal monthly sales volume and 5 percent of all LEAFs sold in the nation between September and December,” said Will Toor, director of transportation programs for SWEEP, which provided support for the program. “The results exceeded our expectations.”

The bulk purchase program accounted for sales of 147 solar systems as well.  Nineteen people who bought EVs through the program also bought solar systems, and the majority of those systems were large enough to power both home and car. Solar installers Sunrun and Custom Solar participated in the program and provided a $750 rebate on the purchase of a system.

EV buyers realized savings of 50 percent off market price when program discounts are added to state and federal tax credits. 

“I wasn’t thinking of buying an electric vehicle because of where I live in the mountains,” said Evan Freirich of Boulder. “But basically, we needed another car and it was such a good deal—almost too good to be true.”

Freirich crunched the numbers and realized that he would get nearly $12,500 in federal and state tax credits on top of the bulk purchase program’s $8,350 discount on a 2015 base model Nissan LEAF, bringing the total cost of the new car down to about $13,000.  With the two years of free charging that the Nissan dealership offered as part of the deal, he estimated another $1,000 in fuel savings.  “I also factored in reduced maintenance, because I tend to drive older cars that have higher maintenance costs,” he said.  All told, Freirich estimated the car with an MSRP of $31,800 cost him about $11,000.

“With deals like that, the fence sitters hopped off the fence and bought a new EV,” said Toor.

Ratio of LEAF Sales to PV System Sales by Owner’s County of Residence

A survey of 330 participants that was conducted after the program closed found that only 28 percent of EV buyers had planned beforehand to purchase an electric vehicle.  Of those who signed up to participate but didn’t follow through with a purchase, 90 percent said they were interested in buying an EV in the future.

Boulder and Adams Counties and the City and County of Denver worked together to develop the program and conducted a competitive bid process with solar companies and car manufacturers and dealers.  Anyone in Colorado could take advantage of the program, and it was marketed through press releases, employee emails, blogs and other methods.

They contracted with Vote Solar to set up a web-based portal for people to sign up for the EV and/or the solar PV program.  The vendors then contacted participants via email and phone to make the sale.

“It is a very inexpensive but high impact program for a local agency to run,” said Cabell Hodge, policy advisor at the Colorado Energy Office (CEO). “You are leveraging the collective buying power of people within a community to negotiate a price discount from sellers of rooftop solar systems and electric vehicles.”

“These programs can play an important role in lowering air emissions and health risks associated with those emissions.”—Cabell Hodge, Colorado Energy Office

Two other similar programs that were limited to EV sales were offered in the same time frame with good results.  In Fort Collins, a college town in northern Colorado near the Wyoming border, an EV bulk purchase program offered by Drive Electric Northern Colorado nearly quadrupled sales of LEAFs at the local Nissan dealership.  A program hosted by the University of Utah in Salt Lake City sold 75 EVs, including models from Nissan, BMW and Ford, over a six-week period and nearly doubled sales compared to the prior year period. 

Survey results showed that customers who bought both a car and solar system in the metro and northern Colorado programs were motivated by cost and environmental concerns and wanted emissions-free transportation.

That was the case with Freirich. 

“I liked the contribution that I would be making towards reducing global warming,” he said. 

The Colorado Energy Office and SWEEP worked together to develop a handbook for other communities to use in planning their own bulk purchase program for solar and electric vehicles.  It covers:

·      Community cost and benefits of bulk purchase programs

·      The RFP process for solar installers and EV sellers

·      Logistics and marketing

·      Evaluation

 “These programs can play an important role in reducing air emissions,” said Hodge of the Colorado Energy Office.  “At the same time, they save consumers thousands of dollars in fuel costs, which can be re-invested in their local communities.”

Boulder County plans to offer an expanded program this spring, including more partners, additional EV models, and the addition of discounts on electric bicycles.

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The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project is a public interest organization dedicated to advancing energy efficiency in the Southwest.  To learn more, visit http://www.swenergy.org.

 

CONTACTS:

Will Toor, Director of Transportation Programs, Southwest Energy Efficiency Project:  (303) 591-6669 cell; (303) 447-0078 ext. 6 office; wtoor@swenergy.org

Cabell Hodge, Policy Advisor at Colorado Energy Office: (303) 866-2204; cabell.hodge@state.co.us

Evan Freirich, EV buyer: (303) 859-1452; freiriche@yahoo.com