Many plug-in hybrid and all-electric car owners are taking their commitment to alternative energy one step further by charging their cars with solar power.

Along with the increase of plug-in electrified cars in the U.S., the Associated Press reports that solar panel installations are on the rise, although it remains uncertain how many electric cars are being powered by solar energy.

Advocates say that drivers who free themselves from fossil-fuels will experience benefits down the road, but not without a significant upfront investment. Even after the federal tax credit, electric cars struggle to be cost competitive with their gas-powered counterparts, and residential solar panel installation can range between $15,000 and $40,000.

This notwithstanding, plug-in car owners are finding they may whittle down the payback costs for their home photovoltaic investments and energy costs for their cars all in one fell swoop. With excess or plentiful electric energy produced at home, a mutually beneficial scenario is being capitalized upon whereby a plug-in car makes more sense as it can use the sun power, and in turn save the drivers from having to buy fuel at the pump.

2011 Chevrolet Volt owner Mark Hildebrandt in his driveway with his Volt. (Photo by Steve Fecht for Chevrolet.)

2011 Chevrolet Volt owner Mark Hildebrandt in his driveway with his Volt. (Photo by Steve Fecht for Chevrolet.)

All told, there’s a growing number of people committed to fossil-fuel free driving who believe the benefits outweigh the costs.

One is Kevin Tofel, who had solar panels installed on his Telford, Pa. home in 2011, purchased a Chevy Volt in 2012 with the intention of utilizing the surplus solar energy his panels were producing.

“We think it was one of the best things in the world to do. We will never go back to an all-gas car,” Tofel told the Associated Press.

Although Tofel spent $29,205 on his solar panels (after state and federal tax credits), he is beginning to see a return on his investment. He has reduced his gasoline costs by $200 per month and, by purchasing his electric car, minimized the break-even time from his solar installation from 11.7 years to six years.

While cost may serve as the biggest impediment to people with solar installation aspirations, those who take the plunge will see a huge decrease in their electricity costs.

Bill Webster of Washington, D.C. paid a net cost of about $20,000 for his solar panels, but afterward saw his electricity costs plummet from $1,500 per year to $5.36 per month. Webster uses his panels to power his home and his Nissan Leaf, which uses about a third of his solar panel energy. According to Webster, he should break even on his investment in about six years.

Those concerned about cost could consider installing a smaller solar system that powers only their car, but for many, like Webster, the reason for going solar extends far beyond cost.

“The reason to go solar is not to save money,” Webster told the AP. “The real reason to go solar is that we have to do it.”