This highly efficient, solar-powered home includes water reclamation and edible landscaping.

Sustainability pioneer shares stories of solar-powered living

Revolutionary ideas powered a car and home

From Sun Car to solar home, David Gray has turned an innovative eye to sustainable living for close to 20 years.

The Winnipeg-born Gray moved first to Los Angeles and then Boise, Idaho where two decades ago, he and a friend embarked on a quest for efficient living.

“We thought, there has to be a way to live more affordably and more sustainably,” Gray recalls.

Saluting the solar-powered ‘Sun Car’

Looking at their transportation needs, “the first thing we did was convert a Ford Fiesta to electric, using a war surplus starter motor and powered by solar panels,” recalls Gray. “Twenty years ago, this was almost unheard of.”

Painted bright yellow and dubbed the “sun car,” he drove it for about five years before selling it.

“Then we thought, what if we built a house that did the same thing? Our goal was to build a home that was all about efficiency.”

Home sustainable home

It needed to be small – though at about 850-square-feet, it was bigger than many condominiums – and featured a vestibule separating the bedroom from the main living area, with kitchen, living room and washroom.

Constructed from structurally insulated panels – “it’s like building a house out of an ice chest,” Gray laughs – adding a heat recovery ventilator ensured a comfortable year-round temperature and continual supply of fresh air. Edible landscaping surrounded the house and a reclamation system collected water from the roof for use in and around the home.

Solar panels generated powered, with the summer surplus sent to the state’s electrical grid; if needed, credits from that surplus were used in the winter, with net zero or energy positive use the ultimate goal.

The added bonus? If needed, the car could also be powered from the solar panels!

Driving sustainability home today

Today Gray brings his passion for quality and sustainability to Steve Marshall Ford, home to several hybrid options, with additional vehicles in the works.

Channeling his “Sun Car” past, and a passion for Fords grown from his youth, Gray shares with clients options such as the hybrid C-Max or Fusion. Compared to some other hybrid options, “Ford’s vehicles are more ‘car-like.’ It looks and feels more like a traditional gas car and offers a lot of power.”

Once up to speed, drive it in electric mode at speeds of up to 100 km/h for up to 30 km. “I think it’s one of the better hybrid systems out there right now,” Gray says. “Electric cars are the way of the future.”


Serving Nanaimo and the central Island, Steve Marshall Ford Lincoln is the region’s premier retailer of new and pre-owned Fords and Lincolns. A multiple Best of the City, recipient, Steve Marshall’s dedicated sales staff and technicians are committed to making your vehicle experience fun and easy.


Solar panels charge David Gray’s “Sun Car.”

The solar-powered Sun Car.

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