Can You Charge An Electric Car With A Portable Solar Panel?


‘Since the 1900s, electric cars (EV) were invented along with the internal-combustion engine cars (ICE). EVs are powered by electricity while ICE is powered by fossil fuel’ (Anderson, 2010).

Humanity chose to use the ICE because it was cheaper to maintain a car with gasoline and the convenience to fill the fuel from filling station, while the EVs, though it was cleaner to maintain but the electricity was so expensive notwithstanding the time it took to recharge the battery of the car.

The last decade, however, because of the threat of fossil fuel depletion and with the ever-increasing demand for fossil fuels ‘since the industrial revolution, about half of our fossil fuel reserved have already been consumed and burned in the last fifty (50) years’ (Pirani, 2018).

Also, because of the environmental and health problems fossil fuels caused to our planet and people, we saw the resurgence of EVs. Tata Motors of India was one of the pioneers to first mass produced it.

Such has been followed by other brands most notably Tesla Motors. These EVs are just like the appliances in our homes, they can be charge by a Portable Solar Panel with the proper charging device and procedure.

Following the basic principle of energy conservation, since energy can neither be created nor destroyed, what must be done is just to transfer solar energy trapped in a solar cells panel to electrical energy and then to convert that into a chemical energy once stored in a battery.

It shall be converted again back to electrical energy to power the car’s electrical motor and transformed that to mechanical energy to turn the wheels. We call that series of systems as the solar charging system or a portable solar-charger system in case of a portable solar panel.

This, usually, is what is installed in solar charging stations. A portable solar panel in a portable solar-charger system is a solar cell that is smaller but compressed or compacted type attached to a charging controller.

It is a lot smaller in size and lower capacity than those solar-charger systems found in homes to power the entire household. A portable solar can only produce limited amount of wattage for a certain period considering that it can only receive limited amount of sunlight.

Hence, to store the optimum amount of energy in a 100-watt 12 volts battery would solely depend on the capacity of a portable solar-charger system capability wattage output. The more solar panels, then, the greater the energy output.

To determine then if a portable solar panel can really charge an electric car, it depends on the conditions. If it is to charge Tesla’s newly launched, Electrical Truck, then portable solar panel would be out of the equation.

If it is to charge a small compact electrical car then it can but it will take a lot of time and patience.

How many solar panels does it take to charge an electric car?

An electric car can have a wattage requirement of 110 watts to power it to a kilometer distance drive (Martin Eberhard and Tarpenning, 2006).

From this wattage requirement, the same shall be basis of the capacity requirement of solar charger system in a solar charging station that an electrical car owner may choose in a one to two hours charging.

Depending on the size of solar panels, a regular solar panel used in household’s rooftop could produce 250-300 watts an hour, and for a portable solar panel where it is much smaller in size so to carry it outside of homes, it usually ranges from 10 to 100 watts per hour produce.

Thus, it would require at most eleven pieces of smaller 10-wattage portable solar panel down to at least one piece of 100-watt solar panel to charge an electric car with 110-watts battery.

As the capacity of the solar panel increases, the number of solar panels thereby decreases. Taking into account that a small electric car shall run at an average of fifty (50) kilometer/hour, a 110-watts stored in battery in an hour may last for two-hour drive.

The use of battery reserve would be a good alternative to ensure continuous driving knowing that the window for the best to catch sunlight rays is between ten in the morning to three in the afternoon.

A reserve battery with a higher storage capacity is a good alternative too. Even using a battery with a higher energy storage capacity for that matter, it may take longer to fill its maximum storage reservoir if the same number of solar panels shall be used.

However, if we increase the number of solar panels then it would also result to a proportionate number of hours charging.

How do you charge an electric car with solar?

In other countries where electric cars are already mass produced, they have those designated solar charging stations as provided by the electric car manufacturers or sellers.

Electric cars can also be charged at home, for an electric car owner he must have solar panels in his home at least to charge his car at night time. So, how does it work, how will an electric car be charge with solar energy?

In a solar cell panel, the latest technology now uses photovoltaic silicon-based type of technology wherein upon absorbing the sunrays it would transform that to electrical energy (Babalola and Atiba, 2021).

This is a tremendous improvement from the old technology of solar panel thermal/steam technology. This electrical energy from solar panels will be arrayed through a charger which in will store it to the electric car’s battery.

From there the electric car’s electrical-mechanical mechanism applies. Electricity from the battery is converted by a device converter from direct current to alternative current to distribute it throughout the car’s devices including the electrical motor.

In this process, it will transform the electricity to mechanical energy to power the transmission device to turn the wheels. The solar charger system just like in a portable solar panel is basically a very simple connection of devices.

Why solar panels are not used in electric cars?

There are several factors why solar panels are not used in electric cars despite the fact that it can charge an electric car as explained above. Factors like the convenience of the user, sustainability, reliability and most of all the cost of such investment.

On convenience, this specifically pertains to charging capability of solar panels, this is highly dependent on the availability of sunlight. Not all of the countries have good sunlight.

The window of sunlight’s availability is only from 10 AM to 3PM only to harvest good quality of sunlight. Sustainability wise, it has something to do with the life span of the solar panels.

Having in mind that everything expires, we are talking about the half-life of the silicon-based materials in it. Somehow it will end. The reliability, of course one would like to travel with ease.

However, solar panels being a not so totally applied and tested technology in man’s transportation or man’s travel, it is almost a strange land when it comes to man’s long road travel.

The initial cost it entails to set up a portable solar panel as a component of a portable solar charging system. Although, technologies have continuously found ways to improve the technology, still the cost is very high, notwithstanding the price of the electric car itself.

Why electric cars do not have solar panels on the roof?

The basic principles of solar energy are to convert that solar energy to other types of energy like electricity, mechanical energy or even chemical energy like in battery storage. What is needed is just to harvest sunlight.

To catch a good amount of sunlight trough solar panels needs a lot of area of solar panels. We could just imagine a solar panel at homes with its sizes yet to power only a simple appliance like an electric fan.

To power an electric car, to sustain its distant travel will require a lot of energy. We cannot put 10 solar panels on the roof of an electric car. It cannot fit or to put a solar panel larger than the roof, it would be unlawful.

Similarly, to use the solar panels to power directly the car right from its source from the sun will be so problematic because on rainy days the sun cannot supply good amount of sunlight; and also during travels, there are areas where the sun is covered.

Another good reason for not using solar panels on roof is the cost it entails. It is very expensive to do such. To miniaturize the panels to compacted designs will cost a lot of money. It would be very impractical to produce it for commercial purposes.

Can you power an electric car with solar panel?

An Electric Car can be charged by Solar Panel, just like ordinary appliances in homes powered by Solar Panels. However, to make the Electric Car function consistently to sustain a ride in a required distance.

The amount of energy from a Solar Panel should be more than enough of what is required, also, the energy must be consistent and continuously supplied.

This set-up can only be attained through the installation of an energy storage system, or what we call a battery storage system.

This is where the energy sourced from the Solar Panel can be stored for a certain period. Then, from the battery, the car’s electrical device shall be connected. The car’s electrical device shall now power the vehicle using the stored energy.

This is the basic diagram of a Solar Energy Appliance system. The battery is very important since not all the time in a day the energy from the sun is available.

Solar energy can only be harnessed when the sun is available. Hence, during night time solar, energy is unavailable. Even during rainy days or on days with weather disturbance solar energy is not available also.

The worry really is will it be enough for a Solar Panel to sustain the power requirement of an Electric Car? It is in the affirmative. A Solar Panel can charge an Electric Car.

Nonetheless, for practicality, in a solar charging station, the larger the size of the panel or the greater its area to trap and hold heat, the better its capacity to supply the power requirement of an electric car in a period of time.

In addition, with a good battery storage size and efficiency to store such energy plus a quality electrical inverter to direct the current to the car’s well-functioning electrical motor, there is no reason why a solar panel can’t charge an electric car.

Final Thoughts

Solar powered electric cars are already existing in the market today, In fact, it has been invented in the 1950s by the General Motors. The technology is very promising for it utilizes the wealth of nature.

Yet, at the same time, it protects mankind and nature itself by not producing pollutants to the environment. The use of solar panel technology also has evolved through time.

The writer personally would like to experience such time that a portable solar panel is incorporated in the electric car’s roof or in other parts as a requirement in the car’s manufacture.

We trust that the technology will find a way to come up with such idea, where science will find a way to miniaturize the solar panels to such level, yet, having the highest efficiency of converting sunlight to electricity.

Likewise, it will be better where one could mass produce it so to lessen the cost, so that people can afford it. The author thinks the direction now is towards that way.

Sometime in the future, we will not be using fossil fuels anymore. Despite that, the endless wealth of nature, which is sunlight through portable solar panels, will be in our cars already.

Man should strive hard to attain this, this is one of the goods of science and nature.

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