Electric-powered vehicles (EVs) are increasing in numbers on highways and city streets. Nearly 5.4 million hybrid EVs have been sold since 1999, and more than 1.4 million plug-in EVs have been sold since 2010, according to USAFacts.org.
Tesla, the most popular of the all-electric cars, requires its own unique charging station to power up, and a local company has been certified to handle not only the installations of residential and commercial stations but other Tesla solar energy products.
Steven Schwartz, owner of Hilton Head Solar Power, has been in the business for 14 years. To date, the company has installed more than 50 chargers and superchargers on Hilton Head Island, and more than a dozen in Bluffton.
An online search for superchargers on the island and in Bluffton lists the locations, and the Tesla website lists the locations of stations in South Carolina, and other states.
Schwartz began working with EVs two years ago, started installing Tesla’s Powerwall – a battery that serves as a backup power supply for the home – seven months ago. He expects to receive soon the documentation that supports their certification to install the high-tech company’s solar roof.
Although they are happy to install the home chargers for Tesla owners, those can be handled by a knowledgeable electrician.
“When you buy a Tesla vehicle at Tesla Motors, you have an option to purchase the residential charger when you receive the vehicle,” he said. “When you leave with it, it’s pretty self-explanatory for an electrician.”
Schwartz’s company is one of only two that installs the Tesla chargers and Powerwall, but the only one that will install Tesla’s solar roof between North Carolina and Georgia.
All of the Tesla products, much the same as the other solar energy equipment Schwartz installs, are designed to provide power while saving money and the planet.
“We’ve been installing solar energy systems and battery systems for some time. I own another solar power system in New Jersey. We brought the technology down to the Lowcountry, and opened up Hilton Head Solar Power six years ago,” said Schwartz.
The Powerwall is a battery for the home as a backup power supply that gets its energy from the sun. Many customers are thinking about resilience, he said, and having that autonomy if the local power provider experiences an outage.
“You have to be certified to install the Powerwall. Otherwise (the homeowner) won’t receive the warranty. We will became the area’s only certified roof installer. Our certification, due to COVID, is still in the mail,” he said.
There are several customers already on a waiting list for the solar roof panels.
“We’re certified for certain solar panel installations, and we basically checked all the boxes for their certifications,” he said. “We were installing the Tesla Powerwall and had no complaints with all the customers. That shined with Tesla, and after speaking with reps at the company, they asked us to be one of the partners with Tesla roof.”
Tesla’s idea about the roof and the Powerwall is for the home to get its own power supply from the sun.
“You receive free power from the sun. And as prices increase from local companies, you have that power from the sun and it’s a quiet power,” said Schwartz. “Let’s say the battery in your home is not enough to back up the power. You can actually take that power from your vehicle to power your home again. That is the future mindset of Tesla and the incorporation of all these battery systems and solar energy system.”
The roof comes with a 25-year warranty, the home Powerwall can last from 15 to 20 years, depending on how often you use it, and comes with a 10-year warranty.
“In an off-grid situation, there’s a monitor on the battery system and you can see how much power you have left and how much power you’re going to consume,” Schwartz said.
There is also the financial side of solar energy. First of all, the Department of Energy website states that there’s a federal and state tax credit for solar systems for both commercial as well as residential customers: “All-electric and plug-in hybrid cars purchased new in or after 2010 may be eligible for a federal income tax credit of up to $7,500. The credit amount will vary based on the capacity of the battery used to power the vehicle. State and/or local incentives may also apply.”
Power companies are installing solar panels on their properties for their uses, recognizing that they can produce power for less by using the sun.
“If they’re taking advantage of it, why not let the consumer take advantage of it?” said Schwartz. “That’s why there’s a big push for solar energy in the Lowcountry, because we have a big need. Our air conditioners are running almost all year long. The industry in itself is very important. Look at what the pandemic has done to us, raising our eyebrows about the security of everything. Having the security of power is important.”
Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.