Why Electric Cars Don’t Have Solar Panels

The available surface on cars would be between eighty and two hundred and twenty-five square feet, capable of generating between three and nine kWh of solar power during a sunny day. Electric cars consume between 0.24 kWh per mile and 0.85 kWh per mile in a study conducted amongst 277 EVs giving the EV an average range of between 3 miles and 37 miles per day.

The additional weight of solar panels and battery charging equipment linked to the limited space available for solar panels does not make installing solar panels on cars viable. In the most favorable scenario, the EV would only travel 37 miles on a sunny day before needing to be recharged.

To fully recharge an EV daily would require many solar panels to charge a battery bank with sufficient energy storage capacity. It would be best if you considered the following aspects to calculate the size of your solar system:

  • Battery storage capacity of your EV
  • Energy consumption per mile of your EV
  • Average and maximum distances traveled with your EV
  • Cost of off-peak grid power at your home
  • EV Battery charge station network in your area
  • When will you be able to recharge your EV

Let’s consider why it makes more sense to have the solar panels for charging your EV installed at home on your roof or a ground mount.

Do Solar Panels On Electric Cars Make Sense?

Solar panels cannot generate sufficient energy per day to make it feasible to have them installed on cars. Even with the highest efficiency solar panels on EVs with the lowest energy consumption per mile, installing solar panels on vehicles is not feasible.

The idea is good and is being pursued by some EV manufacturers. The improvements in solar panel efficiency and EV energy efficiency are continually improving, making the idea a good one to pursue.

The state of the art of current monocrystalline silicon solar panels and Lithium-iron-phosphate EV batteries still requires the use of stationary charging stations. To optimize your EV, it will make sense to generate and use your solar energy to power your vehicle.

What Is The Battery Storage Capacity Of Modern EVs?

The battery storage capacity of current EVs ranges from 9.3 kWh in the Wuling Mini EV with a range of 75 miles to the Tesla Model S and Model X with 100 kWh capacity and a range of 300 miles.

The EV engineers are constantly challenged to balance the cost of EVs with their range. The batteries providing the energy storage capacity are the most expensive cost element of an EV and contribute the most to the mass of the EV.

Most commuters only need to travel an average of forty miles per day, and for them, the $5,000 Wuling would be the ideal daily commuter car. The issue of range anxiety is most often mentioned by people considering EVs as an option.

Tesla has been the most successful EV company to date in offering customers EVs benefits but without the anxiety of range limitations. Tesla models are available in several battery capacities and are supported by an extensive network of fast-charge stations in all major markets.

Tesla models are more expensive than the entry-level Wuling but offer the customer a comparable replacement of their previous internal combustion motor vehicle.

See also: Solar Powered Vehicles: A Comprehensive Guide to the Future of Transportation

Why Do Electric Cars Not Have An Alternator?

Internal combustion engine (ICE) cars have an alternator to charge the starter motor battery and help power the vehicle’s electrical systems. The alternator is belt-driven by a pulley on the engine. As electric cars do not have engines, they do not have an alternator.

Electric cars do make use of generators to help recharge the batteries. An electric vehicle’s braking system uses regenerative braking to put power back into the EV batteries every time the brake is used.

The regenerative braking system transfers the rotational momentum of the wheels to the electric drive motors, thus using them to generate electricity. As much energy is transferred to the regenerative braking system, EVs will not use their friction brake pads and discs as fast as conventional cars.

Do Solar Powered Vehicles Exist?

Arguably one of the most successful solar-powered vehicles of all time has been the remote-controlled Mars Rover vehicle. These vehicles have remained operational for many years on the dusty surface of Mars, where the sunlight is more than forty percent less than on Earth.

Solar-powered cars have been developed by most of the leading universities globally. For the past thirty years, they have competed for the accolades of being the best solar-powered vehicle.

The research and development done by the engineering community have led to the emergence of electric car companies like Tesla, BYD, and others. It soon became clear that the solar panels were not yet efficient enough for cars on Earth to be mounted with them.

In space, however, this is totally different. All the International Space Station systems are powered by solar panels, and the Mars Rover and Curiosity remote-controlled vehicles have solar panels to power their battery packs.

The technology on these space applications also makes its way onto mobility solutions here on Earth.

Why Don’t Electric Cars Charge Themselves?

Electric vehicles have rapidly been developing since Elon Musk launched Tesla in 2003. Along with EV technology, autonomous driving technology has been developed that will soon make the need for a human driver redundant.

EVs will do all the driving, self-diagnose and recharge by themselves.

Inductive battery charging is already a feature on many modern smartphones and devices. Similarly, future EVs will be fully autonomous and park themselves over an inductive charging station to recharge.

The charging stations will be linked to large solar panel arrays that charge large battery banks during the day. The solar charging stations will replace the gas station and can be deployed in shopping center parking lots or public parking spaces.

You can already call your car to pick you up using your smartphone interface. Autonomous driving will be a significant breakthrough and can drastically reduce the number of road accidents and fatalities each year.


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Elliot has 20+ years of experience in renewable technology, from conservation to efficient living. His passion is to help others achieve independent off-grid living.

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