Can you charge an EV with solar panels? Yes you can charge your car with solar panels but your car needs to be connected to the solar panels during the day which can be a problem, but there is a way around it.
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The electric vehicle is only as clean as the power that it uses to charge it, so while it’s great to ditch gasoline it is better to get some clean fuels such as solar power.
If you have solar panels at home whenever the sun is shining clean electricity is generated by the panel’s, it flows to an inverter inside the building then up through the charging station and into your car.
The problem is most homes don’t have any way to store the electricity that is being generated by the solar panels. This is called a grid-tied system, which means that whenever you need backup power, say at night, or you want to charge the car when it’s cloudy you can do so from the grid. This comes in handy because you can also sell power to the grid.
So for example if you work during the day your solar power system at your house can create electricity, this unused electricity is sent back to the grid and the grid will pay you for it.
In some states, they will give you credits so when you go home at night instead of running up your electric bill when you plug in your electric car they’ll use those solar credits first.
Some people say the electric cars are expensive but I’ll tell you what else is expensive, that is the cost of gasoline. So let’s take a closer look at comparing that cost to drive an electric car versus a gasoline car using solar panels.
Let’s assume you drive 10,000 miles a year, if you buy a 27 mile a gallon vehicle we’ll spend close to fifteen hundred dollars a year in gas. Assuming gas is $4 a gallon.
Now let’s assume instead you keep your commute within the forty-mile one-way range the Chevy Volt. Instead of spending fifteen hundred dollars a year on gas, you’ll spend roughly three hundred and twenty dollars a year on electricity.
Let’s go a bit further say by ten solar panels, enough to power your bolt and a little bit of your house. Now you have fifteen hundred dollars in annual savings if you put that towards solar the panels will pay for themselves in around four years.
Now every gallon of gas you don’t burn keeps almost twenty pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere, which means your solar-powered electric car will save over seventy-two hundred pounds of CO2 emissions each year compared to driving that conventional car. Saving money and the environment that helps us all breathe easier.
Can I Buy A Car With Solar Installed?
It’s something we’re asked regularly, why doesn’t 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 it’s 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 can’t 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 isn’t everyone doing it? Simply put the whole photovoltaic panel on a car idea hasn’t 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.
Let’s deal with them one by one. First let’s look at cost and for this one, we’re going to ignore power density which I’ll come to in a second. While the price of photovoltaic solar panels is coming down considerably.
If we assumed an automotive solar panel existed that could provide six kilowatts of peak power that would be enough to charge a car like a Chevy bolt from empty to 80% in 8 to 10 hours. Accounting for some system losses that would add an extra $6,000 or so to the price of your car.
Also, you’d need to add a lot of extra power conversion electronics, not to mention the standard onboard charger to let you charge from the mains at night. So you’d end up with a heavier, less efficient car then you’d have if you just had the photovoltaic panels on your roof at home.
Even if you just had one kilowatt of peak power, maybe even less and used it to top your car up during the day while you were parked at work, installing a photovoltaic solar system onto the roof of your car would add additional production costs to your vehicle.
While solar panels are a lot more lightweight than they once were, you’d have to integrate them into vehicle roofs during production and that’s something that would likely add complexity and cost to the manufacturing process which in turn would increase the sticker price.
In an age where people are already complaining about the price of electric cars, that’s not a smart move.
Okay, let’s look at power density. Solar panels traditionally have a pretty low power density relative to their surface area, which means to produce a decent amount of power you need a pretty large amount of surface area to do so and you have to angle them right for the Sun.
Simply put, there’s just not enough surface area on your average electric car to store enough solar panels to produce the energy it would need to charge up during the day.
Some clever DIY enthusiasts have succeeded by building a solar canopy on the back of a lightweight electric pickup to charge their truck from a few kilowatts of power every day, but a design like that would never make it into a production car because of aerodynamic and safety concerns.
As for the Sonos Scion, well, it uses super-efficient monocrystalline silicon cells protected by a layer of polycarbonate, even then though the 330 modules on the car have a maximum power output of 1.2 kilowatts and add an average of 6.2 miles per day range over a year.
Finally, let’s talk practicality. While you might think dirt would play a big impact on how much energy your car would make from its solar panels, you’d have to take it in heavy metal dust before noticing a really big drop in power.
However, things like collision damage would affect your solar panel output if it was anywhere but the roof of the car, and that would of course likely increase repair costs.
If we add up the negatives, cost, weight, power density, and the likelihood that your car won’t always be parked for optimum sunlight it makes sense to put solar panels on your home, not your car.
Okay, so what about the Prius hybrid? It had solar panels and the Nissan Leaf gen1 came with optional ones on the rear spoiler and can Ikea says new solar roofs will help improve energy efficiency too.
In the case of the first-gen Leaf, the tiny photovoltaic panels on the roof helped trickle charge the cars 12-volt battery system the one that powers things like the lights and the car’s telematics. That’s not the traction battery, the one that the car needs to use to drive along the road.
In the earlier third generation, Prius optional solar panels were used exclusively to run a small phone inside the car, to help it stay cool on hot days. But the newer generation Prius prime does come with an optional solar panel system that can charge the car traction battery, adding about two and a half miles of range per day in ideal conditions.
That again is the goal of Kia with their solar ruse for future hybrid and electric models, range supplementation, not fully electric Sun-powered driving,
Also KIA hopes to put its solar panel roof on its internal combustion engine cars will improve overall efficiency, since it will be drawing power from the solar system to operate ignition electronics.
That, in turn, will meet a traditional alternator powered off the internal combustion engine will not always be required, and that, in turn, will reduce engine load and thus improve engine efficiency.
So there you have it, for now, solar panels on electric cars and nonelectric cars are pretty much a gimmick in most cases, and in many cases, they’re expensive too.
Until solar panel energy density and efficiencies grow by an order of magnitude and a price drops by the same, you’re better off with photovoltaic panels on the roof of your home.
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