Solar energy and electric vehicles (EVs) have become increasingly popular in the push for more sustainable living and the battle against climate change.
Solar panels generate clean, renewable energy; EVs produce zero tailpipe emissions. Both can help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. However, connecting EVs to solar charging systems can be a challenge.
Many electric cars still run on fossil fuels, albeit indirectly. Unlike the neighbouring US however, only around 18% of electricity in Canada comes from burning gas and coal. 68% of electricity in 2021 came from renewable power sources like hydro and solar power.
Charging an EV at a conventional charging station doesn’t completely eliminate fossil-fuel consumption. But it comes much closer in Canada than in the US. In 2021, burning gas and coal produced 60% of US electricity.
Electric vehicle drivers can lower their carbon footprint by providing at least some of their EV’s electricity requirements with solar power systems.
Solar panels can generate enough power to meet a household’s energy needs, but charging an EV can require significantly more electricity. It’s possible, but you must consider numerous factors before successfully charging your EV with solar panels.
Can You Charge Your Electric Car With Solar Energy?
Yes, it’s possible to charge an electric car with solar energy. Indeed, using solar power to charge an electric car is the most environmentally friendly and sustainable way to power an electric vehicle.
To charge your EV using solar power at home, you’ll need to install a solar panel array and balance of system with sufficient electricity generation capacity.
Do You Need an EV Charging Station?
You don’t necessarily need an EV charging station to charge your electric car, but it can be more efficient if you have one installed. Several types of charging stations are available, including Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3:
- Level 1 charging stations use a standard 120-volt household electricity outlet. All EVs have a standard plug-in that fits a wall outlet, but it can take hours to charge a car fully.
- Level 2 charging stations use a 240-volt outlet and can charge a car more quickly. However, this will require installing additional wiring and components in most cases.
- Level 3 DC fast charging stations can charge a car in as little as 30 minutes. However, they require a 480-volt connection. They’re expensive to purchase and install — and rarely used in homes.
If you have a solar power system and a compatible charging station, you can use the electricity generated by your solar panels to recharge your EV.
Can You Charge Your Electric Car With Portable Solar Panels?
Yes, and no. The type of solar panel, whether portable or fixed, doesn’t affect charging capability. If the PV panels provide sufficient power, you can use portable solar panels to generate electricity to charge an EV.
It’s crucial to note that you can’t plug the EV or charging station into the panels directly. You’d need to connect the car to a portable power station like the DELTA Pro or another balance of system, which you can recharge using 400W portable solar panels.
A portable power station converts and stores energy from solar panels, letting you take advantage of free, renewable energy. Portable power stations also recharge via other methods, including AC charging, a standard car adaptor, or a smart generator. The DELTA Pro is also the first portable power station to support charging from EV charging stations.
You can recharge the DELTA Pro whenever you recharge your EV at a charging station and keep it in the trunk as a backup power source, similar to a gas can. If you recharge at an EV station, you can charge your vehicle and the DELTA Pro simultaneously.
If you invest in a solar panel and portable power station (PPS), consider crucial factors like how much electricity the PPS can output and store. For example, the DELTA Pro has a 3600W AC power output capacity and 3.6kWh of storage.
You can combine two DELTA Pros using a double voltage hub to expand the output capacity to 7200W and 7.2kWh of storage. You can buy additional Smart Batteries to increase your storage capacity up to 25 kWh.
Determine the amount of electricity your EV requires to charge — and how much electricity you plan to consume on the road. The maxed-out DELTA Pro setup described above offers 3200W of solar charging capacity, meaning you could connect up to eight 400W solar panels to keep your system charged.
Remember that environmental factors — particularly the amount of peak sunlight hours your panels receive — play a crucial role in how much electricity your panels can generate in real-world conditions. Rated power is not guaranteed — it’s the maximum amount of electricity a solar panel can generate in an hour under ideal conditions.
How Many Solar Panels Are Needed To Charge an Electric Car?
The number of solar panels needed to charge an electric car depends on the rated power of the solar panels, environmental factors such as peak sun hours received, the power consumption requirements of the EV, and the storage capacity of the portable power station and electric car battery. Here’s an example.
The Tesla Model 3, from its Standard Range, has a combined fuel economy rating of 26 kWh/160km. It uses 26 kWh of electricity to drive 160 km or .26 kWh / km. If you drive 40 km daily, you’d need 6.5kWh of electricity to recharge it daily (40 km x .25 kWh m= 6.5kWh).
If your array consists of 400W Rigid Solar Panels, you could generate 1kW from each panel per day, assuming you get at least 2.5 hours of direct sunshine. You’d require approximately seven 400W panels to generate 6.5kWh of energy (6.5kWh / 1 kWh solar panel output = 6.5 solar panels).
Costs and Savings Associated With EV Solar Charging
How Much Does It Cost To Charge an Electric Vehicle Using Solar?
Outside of the initial investment costs in a solar energy system, there is no cost to charge an electric vehicle at home using solar. Every time you plug your EV into a fully solar-powered outlet, it recharges using electricity at no cost.
Even if you supplement your solar power system’s output with on-grid electricity, the cost is minimal compared to gas prices. The average price of electricity in the U.S. is 11.1 cents per kWh. At that rate, recharging a 40 kWh battery at home would cost you around $4.44 (0.111 cents per kWh x 40 kWh = 4.44). Gas-powered cars often cost up to $100 to fill up in 2023.
Public charging station rates vary. Charging might be free, subscription-based, or pay-by-the-kWh, depending on location and car brand. In California, drivers pay between 30 and 40 cents per kWh to use a public charger. It would cost a driver $12-$16 to fully charge a 40 kWh battery (.3 cents per kWh x 40 kWh = $12).
How Much Can I Save With Solar Charging?
On average, solar panels save $6-$7 per charge. Once you have an off-grid solar panel system installed, charging an EV would cost $0. Any previous charging costs become pure savings.
Solar and EV Incentives
The federal, provincial, and local governments often offer tax breaks and incentives for homeowners who install eligible solar panel systems on their property.
In some parts of the country, net metering policies may be available. Net meters allow homeowners with grid-tied solar panel systems to receive credits for any excess energy they generate and feed back into the grid. It can help reduce or eliminate electricity bills and make it more appealing for homeowners to switch to solar.
Governments also often offer incentives for switching from combustion engine-powered vehicles to hybrids and EVs.
With the pressure to move towards a net-zero carbon future growing all the time, you should regularly research incentives for switching to solar for your home and to EVs.
You may be surprised how much help is available to help you and your family transition to cleaner, renewable energy.
Frequently Asked Questions
The charge time for an electric vehicle (EV) using solar panels depends on several factors, including the EV’s battery’s capacity, fuel economy, rated power and the number of solar panels, and hours of peak sunlight. As a general guideline, it may take several hours to several days to fully charge an EV using solar panels.
So, Is Investing in Solar Charging for Your EV Worth It?
Solar charging for your EV can be a worthwhile investment — particularly when you factor in government incentives. If you live in an area that receives higher than average hours of peak sunlight, your investment can pay off even faster.
Even if you only used your solar power system to charge your EV, you’d save money on charging costs over time. The savings multiply dramatically if you use solar panels to power your home.
EcoFlow is a leading manufacturer of solar solutions and a great place to start charging your EV with solar.
Shop today for solar panels, power stations, and Power Kits to start harnessing the sun’s energy for your EV and home!