Solar Electric Car Charger [Charge Your Car With Sunshine]

A solar electric car charger is as exciting technology as the electric car itself, and they both pair together perfectly. It is a relationship that features a significant shift away from conventions and introduces transformation in regards to self-reliance.

Using solar panels to charge EVs is a great way to save huge amounts of costs and get on the path to a future that is better for everyone.

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How Much Does A Solar Electric Car Charger Save?

EVs save up to 25% of your costs on maintenance as compared to internal combustion engine-equipped cars.

But that is just the icing on the cake as the amount an electric car can save you, even if you charge it in the most expensive market for electricity, on charging is its biggest cost-saving offering.

Let us do some calculations to reach some numbers.

Americans, on average, drive 40 miles in a day or 13,500 miles in a whole year. Suppose you have a Hyundai Kona on you.

The amount of gas you will need to fill in it throughout the period of one year is 450 gallons which amount up to $1,260. This calculation is based on 30 mpg fuel economy.

Now, if you had a Kona EV instead, you would have been required to charge it with 28 kWh of electricity for driving it every 100 miles.

This means that your yearly expense to charge your Kona EV would be $662 in California at an average electricity price of 0.1751 kWh and $450 in Florida at an average electricity price of 0.1192 kWh.

However, a solar electric car charger can bring these numbers even lower, down to $0.11/kWh. Solar energy is much cheaper than the power sourced from the grid.

With time, the grid power costs go up, but solar panels produce electricity at a constant cost.

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Furthermore, a solar electric car charger is far more environmentally friendly and less polluting than both gas combustion and grid power. The amount of CO2 emissions resulting from 450 gallons of gas is 8,820 lbs.

That from 3,780 kWh, grid electricity is 1,531 lbs, while solar energy can produce the same amount of electricity with a CO2 production of just 368 lbs.

The cost of charging your electric car varies depending on the solution for providing juice to the electric car you opt for. Let us look at the three different ways EVs can get fueled with electricity.

Read Are Electric Car Charging Stations Free?

Charging At Home From the Grid

The cost of charging with the power from the grid at home depends upon your location as well as the cost during the hours of the day. The rates are usually the lowest at night in most of the states.

However, the cost of grid electricity increases over time. The current grid power rates in the US range from $0.10/kWh to $0.40/kWh, with the average rate in the country being at $0.13/kWh.

A single kWh charge on your battery gives your electric car a range of about 3 to 4 miles which makes the average 40 miles per day running require 12 kWh.

With respect to the average electricity rate, an electric car owner’s per day charging cost is $1.56.

However, these are the current rates, and we all know that they keep increasing with the passage of time. You might be paying 3% or 4% more to attain the same amount of power the next year.

If the prices rise by just 2% each year, you will be paying 17 cents for every kWh of grid power in the course of 25 years. Another factor to consider with charging your electric car with grid power is the Time-of-Use billing or TOU.

Owners of EVs have to plan their charging according to when the electricity rates are the lowest in their states if they want to diminish their charging expenses.

A solar electric car charger can save you significant amounts of money
A person is standing on the roof of a house carrying a solar panel

Check How to Charge Your Electric Car On Road

Public Charging Stations

Public charging stations allow you to top up the ‘tank’ of your electric car when you are on the road. The charging rates vary with locations and the wishes of owners of different charging stations.

Some require you to sign in for a monthly subscription, while some charge you with idle fees or other different additional charges.

Just like the grid power rates, the costs of public charging stations increase over time as well. Currently, the cost of each kWh of electricity at different public charging stations across the US range from $0.28 to $0.69.

At some point in time, every electric car owner has to resort to a public charging station unless none of their trips are long.

Limiting the amount of usage of public charging stations can save you handsome amounts of money as these charging events cost more than both the other EV charging ways.

Services like Blink currently charge $0.39 for each kWh if you opt for a slow charger and $0.69/kWh for a fast charger.

The rate at charging stations belonging to Tesla currently stands at $0.28 per kWh, making it almost three times as expensive as charging an electric car with the grid at home.  

Check Are Electric Cars Reliable In Cold Weather?

Charging With Solar Panels at Home

The cost of charging an electric car with solar panels stays level over the whole lifetime of the system. If there is any additional solar energy, you can use it to diminish the numbers on your electricity bills.

Electricity extracted from solar energy costs less than $0.11 for a single kWh, which is a number far lower than both grid power as well as charging stations.

When you look at the expense you have to carry out to get an adequate amount of solar panels installed on your rooftop to charge your electric car, you will find that it is not a modest one.

However, compare it with what you will be paying to fuel your electric car over the course of 25 years, and it suddenly looks minute. It is technically an investment more than an expense.

The average cost for solar panels installation in the US is $2.85 for a single watt before crediting the federal solar tax. You multiply it with the amounts of watts you would need, and you will get the total installation cost.

Next, you spread it over the electricity the panels have the potential to generate over their expected lifetimes and adjust it for inflation. The resultant number is the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE).

The average LCOE in the United States is $0.11 per kWh but high-incentive states, such as Massachusetts, and states that receive huge amounts of sunlight, such as California, offer a much lower LCOE.

Read Electric vs Hydrogen Cars

Why Should I Charge My Electric Car With Solar Panels?

Buying electricity from the grid is much costlier in the long run than getting it through solar panels. The difference reaches up to 50% in some states in the US.

Solar panels have warranties for producing electricity for as much as 30 years, and you can save a lot of dough if you install them at your home for electric car charging.

Another reason why you should consider switching to a solar electric car charger is its minimal amount of environmental impact.

Ceasing the use of oil and gas using engines is already a major step towards going ‘green’ but to contribute even more to the efforts for mitigating climate change, you can opt for solar panels as grid electricity mostly comes from coal and natural gas.

You can enjoy these huge benefits for years to come by installing just a few solar panels on your roof. They can provide you with enough renewable energy to charge your EV or EVs, and if you go an extra mile and increase the number of panels, you can even power your home with them.

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Check out, Can You Jumpstart an Electric Car?

A Step-By-Step Guide to Installing a Solar Electric Car Charger

With the ‘why’ of solar electric car charging aside, let us focus on the ‘how’ of it. To obtain a good value out of the system and make sure you install an adequate amount of solar panels, here are the steps you need to take:

Step 1: Determine the Amount of Power You Need Each Day

The ideal way of determining the number of kWh you need to charge your electric car is to identify the number of miles you drive over a year. However, miles per day would do fine as well.

We will use the average American mileage, i.e., 40 miles/day or 13,500 miles/year, as our calculation baseline. The amount of electrical power different EVs requires to run a 40-mile distance varies.

From 9.6 kWh for a Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus to 16.8 kWh for a Porsche Taycan 4S, the model electric car’s requirement can be anywhere in between.

Step 2: Ascertaining the Number of Solar Panels You Require

Depending on the model of your electric car, you will require anywhere between 10 kWh and 17 kWh of power every day to charge an electric car that runs 40 miles a day. An average solar panel is capable of producing 350 watts if it receives full sun.

In a location that gets three peak sun hours, this amounts to 1.05 kWh (350 x 3) of power in a day. For regions that enjoy 7 hours of peak sun, the output burgeons up to 2.45 kWh (350 x 7).

Let us suppose each solar panel you get offers you 1.75 kWh of electricity. In that case, you would need five solar panels to charge a Tesla Model 3’s battery and ten solar panels to charge Porsche Taycan 4S’s battery to get 40-miles trips out of them.

Step 3: Buy Solar Panels and Other Equipment

The next step is to buy the required number of solar panels and the equipment that goes with the system. Here is everything included in a usual solar electric car charging setup:

  • Metal racks are attached to the deck of the roof to support the solar panels.
  • A central string inverter to convert the solar panel’s DC output to AC. You can also get micro-inverters for the same purpose that send the AC output to a combiner box that is connected with the main AC panel of your home’s electrical system.
  • An electric car charging solar inverter or simply a level 2 electric car charger.

Read Can I Charge My Electric Car in the Rain?

Step 4: Charging Your Electric Car

Incorporate a 20-amp to 80-amp breaker within your main electricity panel if you do not already have an idle one and you have yourself a solar electric car charging system.

Just a section of your home’s rooftop will now fuel your current and future EVs for years to come, saving you a huge amount of money and reducing your carbon footprint.

A solar electric car charger is much more cost-efficient than public charging stations
A person is charging their electric car at a charging station

Read Do Electric Cars Need Oil Changes?

What About Solar Batteries to Store Energy?

You do not need to spend tens of thousands of dollars on power walls for your solar electric car charger.

If you send the additional solar energy that your solar panels produce to the grid during the day, you get net metering benefits that you can leverage while charging your electric car at night.

This way, you can make your grid act as a battery for you, and combined with TOU billing, the deal becomes highly beneficial for you in terms of your charging costs.

Check, Can You Recycle Electric Car Batteries?

When is A Solar Electric Car Charger Not Ideal?

If the lowest electricity rates on the TOU plan in your state are actually high or your roof does not get enough sunlight, it might not be ideal for you to install a solar electric car charger at your place.

Similarly, grid electricity and public electric car charging rates, and the state of net metering in your locality also play a major role in this regard.

Isn’t Getting an Electric Car With Built-in Solar Panels A Better Choice?

We wish it were, but it isn’t. Electric or hybrid cars that have solar cells built into them do not offer much range. The most efficient of them in the sunniest of regions would not offer more than 20 miles of range in a day.

A solar electric car charger is a great long-term investment
Rooftops of houses with solar panels on them

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Our Final Thoughts

Switching to greener energy alternatives isn’t just beneficial for the world but also for your wallet. While the initial investment for greener initiatives is very high, the lucrative returns often mean that you will be able to recoup the investment within a matter of months.

Using a solar electric car charger is much more efficient than relying on fossil fuels, not to mention how these benefits get compounded over time, considering the state and federal tax benefits that you get (since these benefits can be well over $7,500 at year-end).