The solar panels are a big help.

Our friend Peder Norby says his family's monthly transportation expenses for his two electric cars – a BMW ActiveE and Honda Fit EV are about half those for the two gas cars he and his wife used to drive.

Norby calculates that the ActivE and Fit EV cost a combined $1,082 a month in lease payments and insurance, compared to $2,031 in monthly expenses for the now-sold 2005 Volvo S60R and 2005 Infiniti G35.

The Norby's previous $450-a-month in refueling costs have been completely eliminated by the fact that the couple's house is solar-powered. The EVs also create savings in the form of zero repair and maintenance expenses (the EVs are virtually new) and lower insurance costs.

The couple, which this year paid off their six-year-old solar-power system through their lower utility bills, brag that they've driven "52,000 miles powered by sunshine."