The Complete Guide to Electric Vehicle (EV) Solar Panel Charging

Solar power and electric vehicles have a lot in common.

Both have skyrocketed in popularity — and plummeted in price — in the last decade.

And both are far more sustainable options than traditional electricity generation and petroleum-powered transportation — the two biggest consumers (by sector) of fossil fuels in the United States.

If you’re like many owners of an EV (or hybrid car or truck), you’ve probably wondered how you can make recharging your ride more convenient and affordable.

Thanks to generous tax breaks and rapidly improving technology, solar panels could be the answer you’re looking for.

Join us for a deep dive into EV solar panel charging.

But first, let’s start with the basics…

How Do EV Chargers Work?

The basic principles behind charging lithium-ion batteries are the same, whether they’re in your smartphone or EV.

Like all devices and appliances that rely on rechargeable batteries, electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids require frequent charging from a 120V or 240V source of electricity,

But, as you can imagine, the charging input requirements are significantly higher for EVs.

You can get a “trickle” charge from a regular household 120V AC outlet, but it won’t take you far on the open road.

There’s also some variation in how EV chargers work depending on the make, model, and manufacturer of the vehicle.

However, EV charging is becoming increasingly standardized with most manufacturers adopting NACS — Tesla’s North American Charging Standard.

Most compatibility issues that remain can be addressed with adapters and cables.

The essential components of EV charging include:

  • Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE): The technical term for charging docks or charging stations, an EVSE provides the AC or DC electricity supply required to recharge an EV battery. EVSEs vary in wattage and can be 120V, 240V, 480V or higher. Generally, the higher the wattage and voltage, the faster a battery will charge.
  • Charging Cable: A charging cable is required to connect the EVSE to your EV. Think it of as the hose at a traditional gas pump.
  • On-Board Charger (OBC): The onboard charger is built into EVs. It controls the current and voltage of electricity from the EVSE to optimize battery lifespan and performance. The optimization process is often called the “charging strategy.”
  • Battery Management System (BMS): In DC-to-DC (direct DC fast) charging, the OBC is bypassed, and electricity is sent directly to the BMS. Alongside the OBC, the BMS manages voltage and current to optimize charging speed, balanced with cycle life, efficiency, and performance.    

Now, let’s explore the different types of EV chargers.

Types of EV Chargers

Currently, three types or “levels” of EV charging docks are available.

The primary difference between the three levels of EVSEs is how much power they output and, consequently, how quickly they can charge your EV.

There are also two different EV charging standards in widespread use in North America: the Combined Charging System (CCS) and the North American Charging Standard (NACS) — with NACS quickly taking the lead.

Developed in 2012, Tesla started allowing other manufacturers to use NACS in 2022.

There are already over twice as many NACS charging stations across North America as there are CCS.

Tesla claims to have near 100% uptime with NACS, making its charging stations substantially more reliable than CCS as well as easier to find.

North American EVs with CCS use the Combo 1 standard with SAE J1772 connectors — also known as J or Type 1 plugs. 

NACS EVSEs are also frequently known as Tesla Superchargers and use an SAE J3400 connector instead of a Type 1 plug.

(Source: Lifewire)

Level 1 Chargers

Level 1 is the slowest type of EV charging — and it’s also the one people are most likely to do at home.

All it requires is a household 120V AC outlet and an L1 charging cable, which comes standard with every EV.

L1 is often called emergency or “trickle” charging because it takes many hours to fully charge the typical EV.

Charging Speed

No matter what level of EVSE you plug into, the charging speed will vary considerably, primarily based on the capacity or “size” of the battery.

EV battery storage capacity is measured in kilowatt-hours.

As a general rule the higher the battery capacity, the longer it takes to fully recharge.

The maximum AC output available with L1 charging is 2.4kW, which translates to about 5 miles per hour (8 km/h) of charge time.

If you leave your EV plugged in for 8 hours overnight, you should have enough power for about 40 miles of driving before you need to “refuel.”

According to MarketWatch, the average car commute in 2023 was about 12 miles or about 25 miles round trip.

The Federal Highway Administration estimates are considerably higher at about 37 miles per driver per day.

Still, if you regularly drive under 40 miles a day, L1 charging at home may be all you need.  

Depending on your EV’s battery chemistry, efficiency — and the price of electricity — the cost per mile with L1 charging works out to between 2¢ to 6¢.   

Level 2 Chargers

For EV owners with long commutes looking for the convenience of charging at home, Level 2 charging offers the best solution.

Level 2 EV chargers have become increasingly affordable as demand has risen.

You can find well-reviewed L2 EV chargers for around $500.  

Tesla’s Universal Wall Connector (UWC) currently retails for about $580 and supports NACS and J1772 charging connections.

L2 chargers are high voltage (single phase 208V or 240V) and must be installed by a licensed professional.

Typically, an electrician will install a dedicated 240V outlet that you can plug the dock into or it can be hardwired. 

It’s a quick and easy job with minimal cost.

L2 offers significantly higher charge loads than L1 — between 2.5kW and 19.2kW, with an average load of around 8kW.

Tesla’s UWC offers 11.5kW/48 amp of output, which provides “up to 44 miles of range added per hour.”

Your mileage will vary based on your EV, but Tesla’s estimate is a helpful yardstick.

Once you cover the cost of the EVSE and installation, your electricity costs will be about the same as L1 charging at 2¢ to 6¢.

However, because the charge load is much higher, your EV will recharge more quickly.

Unless you’re driving a Cybertruck, an L2 EVSE should fully charge your EV overnight.

It’s crucial to note the Federal tax breaks currently available for installing an L2 home charger — especially if you plan to recharge using solar panels.

More on that below. 

Charging Speed

Level 2 charging represents a significant upgrade from Level 1.

It charges your EV up to 4x faster than L1.

On average, an L2 charger provides between 10 – 20 miles of driving distance per hour of charge time. (16 – 32 km/h).

If you regularly park your car at home for 6-8 hours daily, you should have no problem fully charging your EV overnight or for any 6-8 hour period with an L2 charging dock.

(Source: US AFDC)

DC Fast Chargers (Level 3)

Level 3 DC Fast Charging is only available at commercial or public charging stations.

DC Fast Charging requires extremely high voltage 3-phase electricity of up to 480V.

It’s not practical or financially viable to install L3 at home.

The primary benefit of L3 charging is speed, but it comes at a price.

Charging Speed

Depending on your EV’s battery storage capacity and efficiency, you can fully recharge in around 30 minutes or less at Level 3.

There are tens of thousands of L3 charging stations in the US, but they tend to be clustered in a handful of states, including California and New York.

The US Alternate Fuels Data Center offers an interactive map showing EV charging locations across North America to help you plan your road trip route.

The convenience of DC fast charging is undeniable, especially for extended drives and commutes.

However, it significantly raises the cost of recharging your EV.

Stable Auto estimates the US average price per kWh of L3 charging in 2024 as 45¢, though it varies significantly from state to state.

The price per mile with L3 charging is frequently 10x – 15x higher than charging with L1 or L2 at home and sometimes approaches the price of refueling a traditional automobile with gasoline.

DC fast charging also shortens battery life.

How To Charge Your Electric Vehicle at Home Using Solar Panels

For millions of EV and hybrid drivers, charging their electric car or truck with clean renewable solar power just makes sense.

(Source: Environmental Protection Agency)

If you’re concerned about the impact of burning fossil fuels on climate change and the environment, transportation and electricity generation are responsible for over 50% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

Even if you’re more concerned about lowering your cost of living than reducing your footprint, recharging your EV with solar power is a wise investment.

Once your solar payback period is complete, any electricity you generate with solar panels for your home or EV is free.

Money saved is money earned!

But how does it work?

How Does Solar Panel EV Charging Work?

There’s currently no way to charge an EV using solar panels alone.

PV modules like solar panels and shingles convert sunlight to direct current electricity using photovoltaic cells.

But you must combine solar panels with a portable power station or other balance of system to supply usable electricity for your home or to charge your EV.

Let’s focus on three options for using solar panels to charge your EV or hybrid car/truck.

Portable Solar Generator

No matter what kind of car or truck you’re driving, there are few things more frustrating — and potentially dangerous — than running out of gas.

Fully discharging your battery is the EV equivalent and yields much the same result.

You can’t walk to the nearest gas station and come back with a gas can when you’re driving an EV…

But fortunately, there’s a safer and more convenient solution.

By investing in a solar generator and portable solar panels like EcoFlow DELTA Pro, you’ll have options to take you that last few miles to the nearest charging station instead of being stuck at the side of the road.

Most portable power stations don’t offer enough AC output to power an EV, but EcoFlow DELTA Pro has you covered.

With the EcoFlow EV X-Stream adapter and Grounding Adapter, you can get up to 3.2kW of AC output power to give you last-mile options anywhere you go.

EcoFlow DELTA Pro comes with 3.2kWh of expandable storage with Smart Extra Battery and Smart Generator (Dual Fuel) options to double or triple your capacity.

Once you make it to the nearest charging station, the X-Stream adapter also allows you to recharge at L1 and L2 EVSEs — top up your power for the next time you run out of juice on the go.

Solar Carport

Suppose you own your home or other property. In that case, a stationery solar carport can be an ideal way to harness available sunlight at your location and protect your EV from the elements all at once.

You can purchase a ready-made kit, but many EV owners choose to build their own residential solar carport.

Solar panels may look fragile, but they’re built strong enough to endure even extreme weather events.

For example, EcoFlow 400W rigid solar panels are IP68-rated dust and waterproof, offer industry-leading 23% efficiency, and can provide your solar carport with renewable off-grid power for decades to come.

Paired with the EcoFlow DELTA Pro Ultra, you get 7.2kW of AC output at 240V, enough power to support Level 2 charging.

Not enough output? 

EcoFlow DELTA Pro Ultra offers the ultimate in expandability…

It’s more than capable of powering your EV — and your entire home.

Whole Home Generator

If you’re strictly interested in charging your EV with solar panels, a solar carport is an excellent solution.

However, if you really want to invest in renewable power and energy security, consider integrating a whole home backup generator that can not only charge your EV but run your entire house — on-grid or off.

The EcoFlow DELTA Pro Ultra that we recommended above is highly expandable and offers an industry-leading number of charging options — including solar, utility AC, gasoline, propane, and inverter generators.

DELTA Pro Ultra Input Capacity

Charging MethodMaximum Input (1 x Inverter) Maximum Input (2 x Inverter) Maximum Input (3 x Inverter) 
Solar Charging5600W11200W16800W
AC Input (Wall Socket)3000W6000W9000W
AC Input Smart Home Panel 2 (Wired)7200W14400W21600W
AC Input EV Pile (Wired)7200W14400W21600W
Fossil Fuel  Generator (Cable)7200W14400W21600W
EcoFlow Smart Generator (Dual Fuel)1800W3600W5400W
Multicharge8800W17600W26400W

EcoFlow DELTA Pro Ultra can deliver the following AC output and LFP battery storage capacity — more than enough to keep almost any home up and running off-grid AND charge your EV with Level 2.

Maximum Continuous AC Output (1 x Inverter) Maximum Continuous AC Output (2 x Inverter) Maximum Continuous AC Output (3 x Inverter) 
7.2kW (120V/240V)14.4kW (120V/240V)21.6kW (120V/240V)
Maximum Storage (1 x Inverter)Maximum Storage (2 x Inverter) Maximum Storage (3 x Inverter) 
30kWh (6 x 5kWh LFP Batteries)60kWh (12 x 5kWh LFP Batteries)90kWh (18 x 5kWh LFP Batteries)

EcoFlow DELTA Pro Ultra is a truly modular system — it’s easy to expand as your off-grid power needs grow.

By integrating EcoFlow DELTA Pro Ultra with your home circuitry and wiring using the Smart Home Panel 2, you can monitor and control your EV charging and residential electricity from anywhere using your smartphone with the EcoFlow app.

If you’re ready to save money not only on EV charging but to potentially eliminate your electricity bills completely, EcoFlow’s Whole Home Backup Generator systems could be the solution for you. 

When To Charge Your Electric Vehicle

The obvious answer is when you’re not driving.

However, there are several other factors to consider, mostly related to cost and convenience.

  • Charge Off-Peak: Utility companies typically have tiered pricing based on time of day and demand. Avoid charging your EV during peak billing hours. One way to achieve this is to charge a portable power station during off-peak hours and use it to charge your EV when necessary when rates are high.
  • Avoid Paying for Level 3 Charging: The convenience of DC Fast charging is often worth paying for. But try to avoid paying a premium to recharge your EV wherever possible to decrease your costs.
  • Charge at Home: Unless you park somewhere with free electricity, you’re never going to pay a lower price for power than when you charge at home. If you recharge using solar panels, you don’t have to pay for electricity at all.
  • Minimize Gas Use for Hybrid Vehicles: The relationship between using gas and electricity to power your car varies by vehicle. But it usually makes sense to use as little gas as possible to cut your costs. 

The Cost of Solar Charging vs Other Fueling Methods

One of the primary benefits of investing in solar power for EV charging or residential electricity is that there are no ongoing costs once you recoup the cost of the system.

Nothing lasts forever, but the sun isn’t going anywhere. Solar panels capture sunlight for decades, even in extreme climates, and LFP battery storage can last you 10 years or more of daily use.

With nationwide and state tax breaks like the 30% Federal Solar Tax Credit, you can reduce the cost of investing in residential solar power like never before.

Pair the Clean Renewable Energy Credit with the EV Tax Credit, and you can reduce your income tax liability by up to 30% of the total purchase and installation costs of a residential solar panel and EV charger solution. 

If the cost of your solar and EVSE system exceeds your income tax liability for that calendar year, you can carry it over indefinitely.

You can also apply it to future tax bills even if you don’t currently owe federal income taxes.

By shortening the amount of time it takes to recoup your Level 2 EVSE costs and your solar payback period, you can maximize your return on investment.

If you’re still driving a car that runs on gas, there’s even a Clean Vehicle Tax Credit that can save you up to $7,500 on a new EV or $4,000 on a used one (based on individual eligibility).

Now that you know more about how to save on costs with the help of government incentives, let’s take a look at how EV charging with solar stacks up against other fueling methods.

Solar vs. Utility Power vs. Charging Stations vs. Gas Prices

Now that we’ve established that there are little to no recurring costs for electricity generated by solar panel systems, let’s estimate the cost of residential PV-based L2 EVSE charging vs. on-grid power and other fueling methods.

This does present a challenge, as the cost of purchasing a system needs to be averaged over a number of years in order to compare it with fuels — like gas and on-grid power — where you’re not paying upfront for the infrastructure.

It also involves predicting the cost of gasoline and utility power in the future — which is easier said than done.

Nevertheless, let’s take a look based on the following assumptions that are widely used by other experts in the industry.

Here’s how to do it, step-by-step:

1. Calculate the Average Cost of Your Solar and EVSE System Over Time

Once you’ve determined how much AC output you need to meet your needs, you can determine which solar panel system best suits your requirements. Add the net purchase cost (less any tax credits and discounts.

)of the solar panels and balance of system + your EVSE charging dock.

The sample formula looks like this:

Solar Panel System + EVSE Charger – Tax Credits and Discounts = Net Cost

With the combined purchase and installation expense, calculate the average cost per month over time. Solar panels and EVSE chargers are likely to last 25 years or more without needing to be replaced.

The net cost of a $30,000 solar panel system + an $800 L2 Charging Dock less the 30% federal tax credits would be calculated as: 

$30,000 + $800 – $9,240 = $21,560 (net)

Averaged over 25 years…

$21,560 / 300 months = $72 per month 

2. Estimate Solar Electricity Production by Month

To compare your electricity costs per kilowatt hour (kWh) from solar vs utility power based on the lifetime cost of your system, you must estimate the average AC output of your system per month. 

Learn how to calculate solar panel production here.  

3. Compare Average Utility-Grid Electricity Cost per Kilowatt-Hour vs. Hour

Finding out how much your power company charges per kWh for electricity is as easy as looking at your bill.

Obviously, grid power varies in cost from month to month, and it’s impossible to know how much electricity prices will fluctuate in the future.

(Source: EIA)

Looking at EIA historical data, however, it’s easy to see that residential electricity prices have increased at an average of about 2% per year.

4. Compare the Cost of EV Charging vs. Traditional Gasoline Vehicles

If you already own an EV, there’s a good chance you’ve already done this step.

If not, here’s some recent data comparing the costs of recharging EVs vs. burning gas for fuel in Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles.

(Source: Anderson Economic Group)

As you can see, EVs are significantly cheaper than gas in almost every case — particularly if you charge at home.

EV trucks vs. gas were neck and neck in terms of cost per mile in late 2023, but that’s unlikely to continue.

<iframe src=”https://afdc.energy.gov/widget/calc/” style=”height: 372px; width: 250px; padding: 0; margin: 0;” scrolling=”no” frameborder=”0″></iframe>

Fortunately, the Alternative Fuel Data Center offers a suite of free online calculators and tools where you can accurately compare current fuel vs electricity costs for specific models, like in the example above.

Once you do the math, we’re confident you’ll find that solar panel charging for your EV will beat out both utility grid and charging station prices, as well as traditional gasoline vehicles — especially over the long term.

Benefits of Solar Panel Charging for Your Electric Vehicle

Charging your EV or hybrid at home with solar power has numerous benefits.

Here are the highlights.

Convenience

Whether you use solar panels or on-grid electricity, Level 1 charging has severe limitations.

Unless you only drive your EV for very short distances, you’re going to find yourself constantly searching for — and waiting at — public or private charging stations.

Most drivers can eliminate the routine use of third-party charging stations by investing in Level 2 charging. 

If you leave your car plugged into an L2 charging dock overnight or for 6-8 hours daily, chances are you’ll wake up to a fully charged car.

DC-Fast charging at L3 stations is quick, but the costs can add up.

Lower Electricity Bills

Speaking of costs…

L2 chargers are MUCH faster the L1, but they also consume considerably more electricity to recharge your EV.

By supplementing or replacing utility grid power with solar, you can significantly decrease or eliminate the portion of your electricity bill that goes to recharging your vehicle.

If you opt for an integrated whole-home solar solution, you can reduce or get rid of grid-tied power bills altogether, all while charging your car or truck.

Decreased Reliance on Public or Private Charging Stations

By and large, the rapid growth in adoption of EV and hybrid vehicles has been good for owners and drivers.

However, despite multiple government incentives and funding for building more EV charging stations, many parts of the US remain underserved.

The good news is that you shouldn’t ever have to drive that far to find a charging dock.

But what if you get there and all the EVSEs are in use or out of service?

Unfortunately, this still happens more often than any EV driver could want.

Emergency recharges — just like running out of gas — are always likely to happen, but who wants to deal with the headache on a daily basis?

By charging at home with an L2 dock powered by solar panels, you can save yourself the aggravation — and the costs — of looking for or waiting at EVSE charging stations.

Reduced Carbon Footprint

There are plenty of reasons to drive an EV or hybrid other than concern for the environment.

But if you’re concerned about climate change and reducing your carbon footprint, pairing your EV with renewable solar power is a huge step in the right direction.

Even if you don’t fill up your tank with gas, the majority of electricity generation in the US still comes from burning fossil fuels like natural gas and coal.

Recharging your EV battery with solar instead of utility power is better for the future of our planet.

Are There Any Limitations Associated With Solar Panel EV Charging?

There are few limitations to EV charging with solar panels that don’t apply to solar in general — and other sources of renewable power.

Here is a summary of the main limitations of solar power for EV charging and other applications.

  •  Intermittency: The biggest challenge facing a full transition to renewable energy — either on a global level or at home — is the intermittent nature of solar, wind, and hydro. PV panels don’t work at night. Turbines don’t produce electricity on a still day or in standing water. Like EVs, renewable energy sources currently rely on storage to combat intermittency. Off-grid solar power, in particular, is dependent on solar battery storage. Luckily, newer subsets of Lithium-ion battery tech, like LiFePO4/LFP, offer longevity, efficiency, and performance at a reasonable price. 
  • Upfront Cost: Solar panels and a balance of system require significant investment, even though it should more than pay off in the long run. Fortunately, there are many government incentives and direct-from-manufacturer financing options to help defray your initial costs if required.
  • Insufficient Sunlight: Most of the continental US gets more than enough peak sunlight hours to make an investment in solar power worthwhile. However, there are locations around the world where the average solar irradiation is insufficient for photovoltaic systems to be a viable option. Extreme temperatures can also impact solar panel efficiency — both heat and cold — but rarely enough to make it unfeasible.  
  • AC Output: It’s essential to calculate how much wattage, amperage, and voltage you need to meet your EV charging and electricity generation goals. Learn how to estimate consumption in kWh here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Possible To Charge an Electric Car With Solar Panels?

Yes, but not without additional components It’s currently not possible to charge EVs directly using solar panels alone. Instead, you’ll need to harvest power from sunlight with PV panels and transmit the DC electricity to a portable power station or solar inverter. You can use that power to charge your EV either by integrating it with your home circuitry, building a solar carport, or using a solar battery.

Final Thoughts

There’s never been a better time to supercharge your EV experience with portable or stationary solar panel charging at home.

EcoFlow DELTA Pro Ultra is the ultimate expandable solar carport or whole home generator solution.

Looking for a last-mile portable option in case of emergencies?

EcoFlow has got you covered there too.

Check out EcoFlow’s off-grid and hybrid solar power solutions today.

ECOFLOW
ECOFLOWhttps://www.ecoflow.com/
EcoFlow is a portable power and renewable energy solutions company. Since its founding in 2017, EcoFlow has provided peace-of-mind power to customers in over 85 markets through its DELTA and RIVER product lines of portable power stations and eco-friendly accessories.

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