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Local Government Can Boost Solar, Electric Car Sales at the Same Time, Denver Area Finds

By offering a program that provides volume pricing on both solar panels and electric cars, local government can help customers buy more of each, according to a new study out of Colorado.

by / March 24, 2016

Colorado has found a way to boost solar panel installations and electric car sales at the same time, and now it’s looking to spread the idea cross the country.

Working together, a coalition of city and county governments in and around Denver launched a program at the end of last year to provide volume-based discounts on both solar panels and electric cars — specifically, the Nissan Leaf.

Other local governments have individually tried out programs where customers get electric vehicles or solar panels at discount prices based on volume, but according to a press release from the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, the Denver-area approach of offering both at the same time had better results.

“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,” SWEEP Director of Transportation Programs Will Toor said in a statement. “The results exceeded our expectations.”

Meanwhile, the program led to the sale of 147 solar panel systems. There were 19 participants who bought both a Leaf and solar panels. Most of the systems sold were large enough to power the home and car of the participating family.

Toor credited the program’s success, in part, with the steep discounts the coordinators were able to negotiate. One participant estimated that after accounting for the program discount, state and federal tax incentives and fuel savings, he was spending $11,000 on a Nissan Leaf that would otherwise cost $31,800.

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

Working with the Colorado Energy Office, SWEEP has put together a case study and handbook for implementing similar programs in other parts of the country. According to the handbook, the government funding of the program is minimal — Boulder County, the lead on the project, spent about $7,000 in staff time and advertising, and will receive money back in the form of revenue from ownership taxes.

And as far as advertising goes, the message practically writes itself.

“Surveys from the two Colorado programs have shown that environmental concerns are strong motivators for customers participating in EV group purchase programs,” the handbook reads. “Because the combination of a solar power system and an EV means essentially emissions-free transportation, there is a very powerful marketing opportunity inherent with a joint solar and EV program.”