#vanlife: Can You Charge An Electric Vehicle With Rooftop Solar Panels
Posted on July 14, 2021 by Tyler Benedict
Youre not alone in eyeballing that new Ford F150 Lightning or Rivian R1T as a potential overland truck. Or the Ford Transit Electric as a custom camper van. How nice would it be to ditch the constraints of gasoline, not to mention the pollution and expense, and just escape off grid?
The trick, of course, is battery life. So, we wondered, is it possible to charge an electric vehicle off of solar panels?
The simple answer is, yes, you could charge an EV from onboard solar panels.
The real answer is, no, its not practical yet, because math. It would simply take too long to charge up your camper van or overland truck to the point where it could drive any useful distance. But why? What would it take? And how far off are we? Lets find out
Disclaimer: I am an amateur mathematician and electrician at best, but I had smarter people fact check this story, and for all practical purposes, it accurately explains the concept.
Is It Possible To Put A Solar Panel On An Electric Car
Putting a solar panel on an electric vehicle is not a wise choice. Although sticking the solar panel on the roof of your electric vehicle can easily as well as directly charge your car, engineers have been working for many years to develop this technology. The main hurdle is that the size of the solar panels attached at the top of your electric vehicle will not be powerful or efficient.
The size will not be large enough to charge your car fully. Even the cost factor will be an issue since the whole system can be pretty expensive. Therefore, it is always better to get a solar panel installed in your home along with a charging unit and get your electric vehicles charged there themselves.
For installation-related queries, you can always contact Waaree and rely on them to get your work done!
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How are many solar energy storage batteries recommended?
Solar energy batteries are needed to store the power generated by solar panels to be used later. The number of solar batteries will depend upon the amount of power generated by the solar panels. This will again depend upon the size of the solar panels installed at your place.
Ideally, four to five solar energy storage batteries are needed to provide power to the whole house and use the power to charge your electric vehicles. However, if you feel that your solar panel generates more power than needs to be stored, you can always purchase more storage batteries.
But Lets Say You Can It Still Wouldnt Matter
Our example solar is only generating 400W of DC power. Assuming it only loses 20% being converted to AC as it goes through the inverter that the Mobile Charger is plugged into, thats 320W, or less than 10% of what the Mobile Charger wants.
Assuming it even works at that minimal output, your 40 hours of charge time just went to 400+ hours. Your extra 2 miles of range per charge-hour dropped to 0.2 miles.
Considering it would take those same 400W solar panels about 2-4 hours of decent sun to fully charge one 200Ah 12V auxiliary battery, and that any attempt to charge your EV off that battery would suck it dry so fast as to be pointless, I wont even do the math to sort that scenario out. But I used Renogys Solar Sizing Calculator to see what theyd recommend for a system:
So, just to power Fords Mobile Charger at the minimum level under ideal conditions, youd want around 24,000W of solar panels and about 125 deep cycle 12V batteries.
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What Are The Equipment Needs For The Solar Panel System
Solar inverters: You would require solar inverters that convert the direct current generated from the solar panel into an alternate current. AC is safer and offers an efficient way of powering your home.
Next, you would require the charging port installed and connected to the inverter to pass the electricity from the grid to the charging port.
It can power your electric car and provide you with clean energy during the night. When you wake up in the morning, your car batteries would be sufficiently charged.
How Big Is Your Electric Vehicle Battery
One of the key things to suss out before installing a solar panel system is how much electricity your car will consume. As a general rule, the bigger the battery, the more energy itll eat away.
To give you an idea of how many miles you can get out of different sized batteries, weve outlined a few examples below.
|Type of car|
|375-mile range for Tesla S Model|
Data from Tonik
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Charge An Electric Car At Home With Solar Power Possible
Many of our customers, who come to get a charging station for their electric car, ask us the question Can I recharge my car directly with solar panels? This is the question we will try to answer in this post
It is in order to help you plan your off-grid life that this article has been written. The goal is to introduce you to solutions for the eBefore answering this question, here are a few facts that allow us to grasp the magnitude of the challenge.
Can I Buy A Car With Solar Installed
Its something were asked regularly, why doesnt Tesla and other companies that make electric cars make their cars out of solar panels letting you drive along the road using nothing but the power of the Sun?
Recently IKEA has announced its putting solar panels on its cars, revealing a new solar roof technology that it hopes to introduce to cars from 2019 onward. Those panels it says will reduce pollution and increase fuel efficiency.
It usually follows the following thought patterns. Solar panels make electricity and electric cars run on electricity and batteries, and batteries are expensive, so why cant you just make a solar-powered car?
Some cars do already have solar panels on their roofs like the new sonar Scion, a small new electric car from a European startup that does indeed have photovoltaic solar panels all over its body.
If these cars already exist why isnt everyone doing it? Simply put the whole photovoltaic panel on a car idea hasnt made it into mainstream production yet, at least in terms of a photovoltaic panel that can be used to provide solar power to move the car down the road because of cost, power density and the practicality of solar panels.
Lets deal with them one by one. First lets look at cost and for this one, were going to ignore power density which Ill come to in a second. While the price of photovoltaic solar panels is coming down considerably.
How Big Is Your Evs Battery
Now that we understand exactly how you can use a solar panel system to fuel your electric car, we can get into the details that determine how much electricity is required.
First and foremost, the quantity of electricity needed to fuel your electric car is dependent on the capacity of its battery. An EVs battery capacity is measured in kilowatt hours and can range from the the low 20s or up to 100 kWh or more.
For example, the upgraded Tesla Model S has a 100 kWh battery, whereas the BMW i3 only has a 33 kWh battery.
Can You Use Solar Panels To Charge An Electric Car
Reducing our carbon footprint as individuals is becoming more important than ever to reduce the overall impact of global climate change.
One of the biggest and most impactful changes we can make is to switch our vehicle to a hybrid or electric model.
As electric cars, unlike a regular car, dont produce any emissions from a gas-guzzling engine or exhaust, theyre often referred to as zero-emissions vehicles.
While the idea of a vehicle being net-zero is undoubtedly one of the biggest selling points of an electric car, many charging stations still rely on energy from the National Grid, which uses fossil fuels to generate power.
There have been great strides taken to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels to power the nation, with 2020 seeing coal use account for just 1.6% of the power mix for the National Grid, a reduction of almost 25% from five years prior.
However, we still have a long way to go to achieve the governments goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and one of the ways to do this is to use renewable energy sources to charge your electric car.
Whether you already own a solar system and want to invest in an at-home charger for your electric vehicle, or youre curious about greener energy sources for your home, our guide aims to provide you with all the information you need to make an informed choice.
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How To Install Solar Panels That Will Last You For Years To Come
If youre thinking of solar panels for your home and car, you may want to take into account not only your current homes electric usage and electric car usage, but potential future needs as well. Try to install an amount of solar panels that will cover your usage today and perhaps an increase in usage in years to come. For example, perhaps youll trade another car for an EV, and need more power. Try to choose solar panels that you can add on to later.
The benefit of having more solar panels than you need rather than less is that the electric company will often pay you for extra energy that you generate but dont use essentially theyre buying the energy from you. Look into this before you buy so you know whether this will apply to you.
As car manufacturers are moving toward electric vehicles and away from traditional fuel-powered ones, it likely wont be too long before the number of electric vehicles on the roads has increased exponentially. Installing solar panels now can help fuel your current electric vehicle or make it easier for you to purchase an electric vehicle in the future.
How Many Panels Do You Need
As mentioned above, the specific number of panels needed will depend on the size of your electric cars battery. For this case however, lets take the standard Tesla Model S that has a 75 kWh battery.
First, we need to consider the amount of energy that an individual solar panel is producing. The energy production of a solar panel is dependent on its material, size, efficiency, and a few other factors.
A typical, 250 watt solar panel will produce around 30-42.5 kWh of AC per month. To be safe, lets take the minimum to give us a conservative estimate.
If one, low-end solar panel can produce approximately 1 kWh a day of AC electricity, that means you would need an astounding 75 solar panels to produce enough electricity to fuel your Tesla Model S to 100% capacity from 0% each day.
Luckily, the average driver travels 37 miles per day, which translates to about 12 kWh of electricity. So, a more realistic number would be 12 solar panels. Remember, this is also a conservative estimate, so if your solar panels are high efficiency, the number of panels may drop even lower. Also, if you drive less than 30 miles per day, the number of required panels will decrease drastically.
Since most solar panel systems include around 25 to 30 solar panels, this figure is very realistic for prospective solar panel owners and EV owners.
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Charging Electric Cars With Solar Panels
Cars are an important part of our society, enabling millions of people to get from A to B every day, but they’re not without their flaws. Namely, fuel costs and emissions which are polluting our planet. Luckily, there is a way for us to keep driving cars while reducing our fuel costs and emissions drivers: to drive electric cars with solar panels.
Solar panels use energy from the sun to produce free, clean electricity which can be used to charge an electric car either at home or at a public charging point. Both solar panels and electric cars are getting cheaper, so there hasn’t been a better time to invest in an electric car and solar panels to charge it.
Here we outline why homeowners should consider investing in an electric car and charging it for free with solar panels.
Capacity Of Portable Solar Chargers
A solar charger is usually a combined system consisting of portable solar panels, a converter, and batteries. Here, the batteries cannot be charged directly from the solar panels, although portable solar chargers come with an attached solar panel, which is primarily small and compact. Therefore, these kinds of portable solar chargers are usually a perfect fit for mobiles, laptops, tablets, and any other small electronic device. These portable solar chargers are designed to be used outdoors, when one is not close to the utility grid.
However, the battery power and the power absorption capacity of the same are not so high. Thus, portable solar chargers are not likely to be a good choice for charging an electric car like Tesla Model X, and their capability is standard for small and medium applications.
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Solar Panels For Ev Charging
Installing solar panels on the roof of your house is a great way to generate your own power for charging an EV. While the amount of solar panels needed to charge an EV depends on the size of the car’s battery, about 10 panels should generate enough electricity to charge a car with an average-sized battery.
Its important to remember that the solar panels cannot store electricity themselves, meaning whatever the panels generate must be used immediately by devices plugged in at home, or else it’ll be returned to the grid.
Can You Charge An Electric Car With A Portable Solar Panel
Yes. You can charge an electric car with a portable solar panel. The modern solar panel provides enough energy supply to power up the car batteries. As you charge your batteries to use home appliances, the portable solar panel can produce needed electricity. A solar panel array with only ten solar panels generates sufficient charge to the batteries.
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El Salvador Wind Farm
Despite the challenges of devastating hurricanes, floods, and landslides in 2020, El Salvadors very first wind farm, the Ventus Wind Project, has now come online. The 54 megawatt wind farm, which is in Metapán, in the northwest of the country, consists of 15 Vestas V136-3.6MW turbines.
Power generation developer Tracia Network Corporation, a subsidiary of Guatemalan conglomerate Grupo Centrans, commissioned the wind farm, and worked with US consultancy firm ArcVera Renewables.
The new wind farm will help reduce El Salvadors dependence on imported fossil fuels, which accounted for 69% of its total energy supply in 2019, according to IRENA. Another 19.6% comes from bioenergy. It will also provide greater energy price stability and diversify the national power grid.
The Ventus wind farm will prevent the emission of around 200,000 tons of CO2 annually.
Cheatsheet On The Best Time To Charge Your Ev
Once you understand what your net metering and TOU arrangement is, you can figure out when the best time to charge your electric vehicle is. This cheatsheet will help you make the right decision:
|Phoenix||5 – 8|
As you can see, power generation depends a lot on how much sun you have in your location.
Of course, the number of panels we calculated doesnât include the rest of your household usage. To get that, just add your monthly household electical usage to the number of kWh needed for your driving. That will give you the total number of panels youâll need to both charge your Tesla and completely power your household.
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How Much Do Electric Cars Cost
The number of electric cars available on the market is on the rise and they’re more affordable than ever. The price of many models can be made more affordable with a £3,500 discount through the Plug-in Car Grant .
Depending on the model, EV prices carn range from £21,220 right up to £90,800 . A higher price will often get you an EV with a larger battery capacity that’s able to drive further on a single charge.
How Many Solar Panels Do I Need To Charge A Tesla
Well, youll require at least 10 PV cells if you want to charge your Tesla efficiently at home. This might be different for other solar cars, but it shouldnt vary too much. Subsequently, before setting up a solar charging station, determine the number of kW your electric vehicle needs.
Installing the right number of photovoltaic cells will ensure that your station can generate enough power to charge your car. And for a Tesla, this number is around 10 panels although it might vary depending on the Tesla model and the distance you wish to travel.
Generally, the EPA uses a straightforward formula to calculate this. For starters, it equates the number of kWh a solar-powered car requires for a 100 miles trip to miles per gallon in a normal car. This helps in determining the number of panels you need since their power output is also measured in kW.
Lets take an example of a homeowner in the US. If a homeowner in the US has a 5000 Watt solar system, they will get around 6071 kWh annually.
If the system is made of 250-Watt panels, it means that the system has 20 panels to be able to generate the 5000 Watts. 250 Watts * 20 panels = 5000 Watts.
In this example, the charging time is less as the station generates more electricity. However, if you have 10 panels, you can still charge your Tesla for twice as long. For this reason, its ideal to know the energy requirements of your Tesla and its model for easier calculations.
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