Electric cars can be charged by solar panels, in fact, it’s one of the cleanest ways to charge your car. Harnessing the suns rays and converting them into electricity does not create emissions, unlike coal or gas power plants. It can also be the cheapest way to charge your car too, by working out the price of your solar installation over its maximum lifetime. This depends on lots of factors such as the max energy generation for where you live, how much you spend on the solar installation and when you charge your car etc. For example, if you are away at work during the day and have no way to store the energy created from solar panels you could be missing out on cheaper energy bills. When the sun is out during the day the most energy is generated, if you are away from home and just selling your energy back to the local grid on the cheap, it means you could be losing out on lots of money. However, if you have a method of energy storage such as a Tesla Powerwall or a similar battery storage system, you can save the energy you generate for when you want to use it. This means that you can come home from work in the evening and use the electricity your solar panels made during the day and charge up your car.
Do electric cars have solar panels?
Certain models of the Nissan Leaf have a small photovoltaic (PV) solar panel. The solar panel is located on the rear spoiler of a Nissan Leaf. This solar panel does not charge up the main battery pack for the car, but instead charges up the small 12-volt battery. The small 12-volt battery is exactly the same as you would find in a typical gasoline car. In an electric car the 12-volt battery powers the radio, headlights and brake lights the same as a gas car. The solar panel on the Nissan Leaf is only capable of trickle charging the 12-volt battery as it only produces 5 watts max.
Electric car solar roof
Hyundai and Kia intend to introduce solar roofs to some car models in 2019. The solar roof which will be installed on cars in 2019 will be the first generation (gen) of their solar roof plans. The 1st gen solar roof will be installed on hybrid cars first. When the 2nd gen solar roof is developed it will be installed on gasoline cars too. The 2nd gen silicon solar cells would enable a glass roof to be used as they will be semi-transparent. . Presumably, installing a solar roof on gasoline car will enable the 12 volt battery to be topped up. For electric and hybrid cars it will most likely power the cars main battery pack.
Can solar cars work at night?
There is no reason that a solar car could not work at night. Battery storage would be important to implement this. Generating your own electricity during the day and storing it in the battery for when you need it would be essential. Can you imagine a car that you could only drive during the day? That would be very impractical and quite frustrating!
When will solar cars be available?
Sono Motors, which is a German automotive start-up is planning on releasing a solar car called Sion in the next few years, the car can add up to 21 miles (34km) of range a day from its solar panels. The battery pack provides a range of 155 miles (250km) approximately. This means in the best case scenario that the solar cells can charge up to 13.5% of the batteries total range.
I think to be able to make this realistically viable, a few things need to happen. First the price of solar cells needs to reduce by a large amount and secondly, solar cell efficiency needs to improve a lot too. It remains to be seen whether it would be worth owning a solar car for people living in countries that have low solar generation capabilities. Lots of winter weather and shorter days with sunlight would challenge the question of “is this value for money”?
Are solar powered cars a realistic alternative?
At the moment solar technology is not advanced enough to make a big impact on cars, the efficiencies of the average solar panel are still pretty low (approx 15% to 18% efficient) even though there have been improvements over the years. Currently, you would only be able to add a small amount of range to the car through solar cells and you would pay a premium to do so. Another thing worth noting is that solar panels are normally positioned at an angle so they receive the highest amount of solar generation possible from the sun. This would mean that you would need to have your solar cells at an angle on the electric car which is not very efficient for aerodynamics whilst driving! It would probably be pretty ugly from an aesthetic point of view too, we know how everyone likes to show off their latest curvy sports car. One solution could be some kind of tilted solar panel that is tilted at an angle when the car is parked. This does open a whole can of worms though, as cars are not normally the tallest thing around, what am I getting at with this? Shade and shadows affect solar efficiency, parking under a tree or in the shadow of a building will affect the efficiency of the solar dramatically.
It’s worth noting that when you install solar panels on your house you point them in a southerly direction if you live in the northern hemisphere. This is so you maximize the most solar generation possible. The problem with a car is that it can be facing lots of different directions depending on where you are driving or are parked. This means the best solar generation may not always be possible. Anybody who already owns solar panels on their house will tell you that they clean their panels once every few months. Having a clean panel with no dirt or dust helps generate more power and save money. If you are a person who cleans their car often and enjoys looking after it, a solar car would not be an issue for you. However, if you never clean your car and it looks like some kind of monster like Swamp Thing, maybe a solar car would not be that efficient for you and you would miss out on some solar power generation.
The bottom line is that solar panels on housing is here to stay for the foreseeable future and its currently a better option than solar cars. The generation of energy can be much greater on a house due to the amount of area on your roof to install panels, which is a lot larger than the size of a typical car (with the exception of a solar stretch limo! That would be something special to see!). With solar technology developing all the time there will be a breakthrough in solar cells in the future. Imagine being able to recharge the battery enough from solar in one day so your daily commute was covered. We need the price of solar to drop dramatically and efficiency to increase, with current technology it would be a really expensive way to charge your car. For now, solar panels on our houses is the way the best way to charge cars, especially from an efficiency and cost saving point of view.