Suburbanites: Please buy electric vehicles and put solar on your rooftops — the cities of the future need you!
According to new research out of the University of Lincoln in the U.K., a solar-powered suburb filled with EV drivers has the greatest potential for not only powering its own needs with clean energy, but also to bring its surplus solar power into smart cities.
Although the conventional wisdom has it that densely populated cities are the most sustainable form of development — and there is certainly research to back up the low carbon footprint of big cities — research from Professor Hugh Byrd at the University of Lincoln offers a contrary theory.
Byrd and his research team found that detached suburban houses are capable of generating 10 times the energy of skyscrapers and commercial buildings — far more electricity than the homes themselves need — and that this significant surplus of energy can be used to lighten the load during cities’ peak demand times.
When suburban EV drivers take their fully charged cars into the city during work hours, those vehicles can feed energy into the city’s grid, bringing another source of clean energy into the mix.
There are, of course, a few major assumptions in this theory:
- Drivers will buy EVs en masse
- EVs and solar systems will continue to drop in price
- EV battery life and range capabilities will continue to steadily improve
- Cities will embrace distributed energy and smart grid technologies
Thankfully, there are examples aplenty to back up pretty much all of these assumptions (especially the low cost of solar power) — it’s really only a matter of how quickly each of these will come to pass. And the research findings will really come into play in the coming years, as Professor Byrd explained.
“It is more a case of building for the future — when the climate will be warmer, harvesting solar energy will be cheaper than the grid and emerging technologies will replace the internal combustion engine,” Byrd said in a statement. “Particularly for city center travel where longevity isn’t an issue, electric vehicles will become increasingly more attractive as their price drops with mass production and the cost of fuel continues to rise.”
The other big assumption here is just how sustainable a suburban development can be. We’re working on an article about what is likely the most sustainable planned community in the U.S. (more on that soon), but most suburbs are car-centric, pedestrian-unfriendly zones that could easily more than offset the benefits of the adoption of rooftop solar and electric vehicles by a critical mass of the population.