"Selling my car to buy an electric cargo bike and solar panels will cut my energy bills"

One reader tells us how she is using an electric cargo bike and solar panels to reduce her energy bills

Natalie Ward standing next to her cargo bike
(Image credit: Natalie Ward)

Natalie Ward came up with a plan to tackle her rising energy costs after seeing her electric bill in October. “Our direct debit went from £170 a month to £265. I feel we are making the right decisions after seeing news about firms going bust and the energy price cap going up again soon.”

The 35-year-old who lives in Surrey decided to overhaul certain household habits before her fixed-rate tariff ends in May. “I am selling my car to get a £5,000 electric cargo bike for the school run and the top-up shop at Tescos. I have a thule bike trailer that I have been using on my bike to carry my two-and-a-half and four-year-old daughters for the morning drop-off but my legs pulling both of them get tired. I know with an electric cargo bike I can do all our journeys without using the car.”

Selling her car, a seven-year-old Volvo XC60, for £16,000 will cover the cost of the electric bike and also save around £170 in monthly running costs including insurance, petrol, road tax and servicing. 

The remaining £11,000 from her car sale will cover the cost of the £8,000 solar panels that will be installed on her house roof later in the year. “Installing the solar panels will mean an 80% reduction in our electric bill and until the panels are installed I’ll only need to charge my battery bike at home once a fortnight,” explains Natalie.

She is buying solar panels through Solar Together (opens in new tab), a group buying scheme done in conjunction with local councils. “You register your interest, get a quote on the basis of the size of your home, pay £150 to accept the quote and then have a site survey done before receiving your installation date.”

Natalie was unsure when she first heard about the scheme from a letter in the post. “I was sceptical until I saw Surrey County Council’s logo. We have done it along with 600 other local households.”

The mother-of-two, who runs her own company that sells maternity and postnatal activewear (opens in new tab) from home, believes it ultimately makes sense to drop from two cars to one. “Working from home and my husband now having a hybrid working arrangement has had an effect on bills so we need to tackle this. Using the additional funds to pay for the bike, solar panels and reduce our other monthly costs makes sense.”

In his Spring Statement on March 23,  Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that from April, homeowners installing solar panels, heat pumps or other energy-efficiency materials such as roof insulation will not pay any VAT, reducing the 5% rate to zero for the next five years. 

It means that a typical family having roof solar panels installed would save more than £1,000 in total, and then £300 annually on their energy bills.

The Money Edit also has 17 tips to cut energy costs 

Katie is staff writer at The Money Edit. She was the former staff writer at The Times and The Sunday Times. Her experience includes writing about personal finance, culture, travel and interviews celebrities.  Her investigative work on financial abuse resulted in a number of mortgage prisoners being set free - and a nomination for the Best Personal Finance Story of the Year in the Headlinemoney awards 2021.