As electric cars become more popular, so does the idea of charging them with renewable energy sources.
Solar power is one of the most promising and widely available renewable energy sources, and many people wonder if it’s possible to charge an electric car with a solar generator.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the answer to this question and provide some additional information on how solar generators work.
First, let’s define what a solar generator is.
A solar generator is a device that captures energy from the sun using solar panels and stores it in a battery. The stored energy can be used to power various electronic devices, from smartphones to laptops, and even home appliances. These generators are ideal for camping, off-grid living, and emergency situations where there’s no access to traditional power sources.
Now, back to the question at hand.
Can you charge an electric car with a solar generator?
You can charge an electric car with a solar generator, but it’s not practical or efficient. Solar generators have a limited power output and a limited battery capacity. These limitations cause slow recharging speeds for EVs.
Limited power output
Most solar generators have a limited power output that’s not enough to charge an electric car in a reasonable amount of time. Charging an electric car requires a lot of power, and most solar generators can’t generate enough of it to make a significant impact.
Limited battery capacity
Solar generators have limited battery capacity, which means they can only store a limited amount of energy. A single charge may not be enough to charge an electric car fully.
Slow charging speed
Even if a solar generator could generate enough power and store enough energy to charge an electric car, the charging speed would be painfully slow. Charging an electric car with a solar generator could take days or even weeks, which is not practical for most people.
Ideal solution: EV + home solar panel system
While it’s possible to charge an electric car with a solar generator, it’s not a practical or efficient solution due to the limited power output, battery capacity, and slow charging speed of most solar generators.
However, it’s worth noting that solar power can still play a role in charging electric cars. A better option is to install a solar panel system at home to power your electric car and home with renewable energy.
Solar chargers for electric cars – components needed
To solar charge your EV at home, you’ll need more than just solar panels. I’ll be breaking down how many solar panels are ideal for EV charging later in this post. But first, I want to talk about the other components needed.
EV charger (3 variants)
There are several different amperages of electric vehicle (EV) chargers, each with a different charging rate, which impacts the charging time required to fully charge an EV.
Below are the most common types of EV chargers and how they relate to charging times:
1. Level 1 Charger
A Level 1 charger is the slowest type of EV charger, delivering 120 volts AC and up to 16 amps of power. These chargers typically come with the car and can be plugged into any standard household outlet. Level 1 charging is best for overnight charging, as it takes approximately 8-12 hours to fully charge a typical electric vehicle with a Level 1 charger.
2. Level 2 Charger
A Level 2 charger delivers 240 volts AC and up to 80 amps of power, providing a faster charging speed compared to a Level 1 charger. A Level 2 charger can fully charge an EV in around 4-8 hours, depending on the battery size and charging rate.
3. DC Fast Charger
DC Fast Chargers are the fastest type of EV charger, delivering up to 480 volts DC and up to 350 amps of power. DC Fast Chargers can charge an EV to 80% in as little as 30 minutes, making them ideal for long-distance travel or fast charging in emergencies.
However, DC Fast Chargers are much more expensive than Level 1 and Level 2 chargers, and they require special infrastructure to operate.
In summary, the charging time of an electric vehicle is primarily determined by the charging rate of the charger used, as well as the size of the vehicle’s battery.
The higher the amperage of the charger, the faster the charging time. However, it’s important to note that not all EVs can accept the maximum charging rate of every charger, so it’s important to consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual to determine the appropriate charging rate for your EV.
Inverters and charge controllers
An inverter can be used to solar charge an electric vehicle (EV) by converting the direct current (DC) output from a solar panel array into the alternating current (AC) that is used to charge an EV battery. Here are the steps involved:
- Solar panels produce DC electricity when exposed to sunlight. The DC electricity produced by the solar panels is sent to a charge controller, which regulates the flow of electricity.
- The charge controller then sends the DC electricity to an inverter, which converts it into AC electricity that can be used to charge the EV battery.
- The AC electricity is sent from the inverter to the EV charging station, which provides the correct voltage and current to charge the EV battery.
- The EV battery is charged using the electricity from the solar panels, and (depending on your inverter) any excess energy is stored in a separate battery for later use or sent back to the grid through a process called net metering.
It’s important to note that the size of the inverter and the solar panel array will depend on the size of the EV battery and the desired charging speed. The larger the battery and the faster the desired charging speed, the larger the inverter and solar panel array will need to be.
Additionally, it’s important to ensure that the EV and the charging station are compatible with the inverter being used.
Related: What is a Solar Inverter and How Does it Work?
How many solar panels does it take to charge an electric car?
The number of solar panels needed to charge an electric car depends on several factors, such as the type of solar panels being used, the battery capacity of the car, the time it takes to charge the car, and the amount of energy required to charge the car.
To estimate the number of solar panels needed, you will need to calculate the battery capacity of the electric car and the amount of energy produced by the solar panels.
Find out your EV’s battery capacity
First, you need to know the battery capacity of your electric car, which is usually measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). For example, if your electric car has a battery capacity of 60 kWh and you want to fully charge it, you will need 60 kWh of energy.
Calculate solar panel wattage
Solar panels can range from 100 to 400+ watts of output per panel. The higher the rated wattage of each solar panel, the fewer of them you’ll need for your EV. Let’s use a 300W solar panel as an example.
Assuming your EV has a battery capacity of 60 kWh, we can break this into watt-hours by multiplying by 1,000.
60 kWh = 60,000 Wh.
Note: One watt-hour (Wh) of capacity is equal to one watt (W) of power running for an hour.
In other words, 60,000 watts of solar energy will charge a 60 kWh (aka 60,000 Wh) electric vehicle battery in one hour.
Say we want to charge up our car battery in 10 hours. This means that we only need 6,000W of solar instead of 60,000W. This is equal to 20 solar panels – each rated at 300W.
In this example, you would need twenty 300W solar panels to recharge your 60 kWh EV battery in 10 hours. However, this assumes that you have optimal sunlight conditions, which may not always be the case. This example is also not calculating efficiency losses. Realistically, this solar panel setup would take about 14 hours of optimal sunlight to charge your EV.
Why use solar panels to charge your electric car?
Using solar panels to charge your electric car has many benefits, including cost savings, environmental benefits, energy independence, convenience, and future-proofing.
One of the biggest advantages of using solar panels to charge your electric car is cost savings. By using solar power to charge your car, you can significantly reduce or eliminate your electricity bills. With the cost of solar panels continuing to decrease, the investment in solar can pay off in the long run and potentially even increase the value of your home.
Another key advantage of using solar panels to charge your electric car is the environmental benefits. Solar power is a clean, renewable energy source that produces zero emissions. By using solar power to charge your car, you are reducing your carbon footprint and helping to combat climate change.
By using solar power to charge your car, you are also gaining energy independence. You are not reliant on the power grid and are able to generate your own energy from a renewable source. This can be especially beneficial during power outages or other emergencies.
Using solar panels to charge your electric car can also be very convenient. If you have a solar panel system installed at your home, you can simply plug your car into the charging station and let the sun do the rest. This can save time and reduce the hassle of having to go to a public charging station.
By investing in solar panels now, you are also future-proofing your home and your vehicle. As more and more people turn to electric vehicles and renewable energy, the value of solar panels and electric cars is likely to increase. By being an early adopter, you can stay ahead of the curve and potentially save money in the long run.
With the cost of solar panels continuing to decrease and the popularity of electric vehicles on the rise, it is a smart investment for those who want to live a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly lifestyle.
Author note: Please make sure to seek the advice of certified solar installers and electricians when considering your options for off-grid solar. Safety and proper installation are first and foremost.
- “At Home Charging: Solar Electric Car Charger” – Car and Driver
- “Home Solar EV Charging Explained” – Clean Energy Reviews
- “Developing Infrastructure to Charge Electric Vehicles” – U.S. Department of Energy