In recent years, environmental concerns, coupled with supply and geopolitical concerns, have increased pressure to reduce our global reliance on fossil fuels. As a result, a growing number of nations are trying to cut back on their consumption of fossil fuels, and one significant new trend in the transportation industry is to switch to all-electric vehicles.
This has led to a dramatic increase in the popularity of EVs (electric vehicles) during the past decade. From a mere 120,000 EVs sold globally in 2012, 2021 saw more than that number being sold every week. While this increase in electric mobility is already helping to replace close to 2 million oil barrels a day, it also significantly increases the demand for electricity.
Concurrently, it is a difficulty to generate sufficient electricity in a sustainable manner. Actually, the environmental impact of electric vehicles is mostly defined by their production and the generation of the electricity utilized for powering them. Thus, there is an urgent need to increase renewable energy output, and solar electricity is amongst the most popular renewable residential sources of electricity. In this blog, we will cover the basics of solar energy and talk about using portable solar panels to charge EVs.
The Basics of Solar Energy
When most people think of solar energy, they envision solar panels erected on rooftops. But, this is not what "solar energy" is from a scientific viewpoint. Simply put, solar energy is the energy that comes from the sun and some of which gets to Earth. Through a process called photovoltaics, this energy can be used to make electricity.
A solar panel, also known as a photovoltaic (PV) panel, is composed of hundreds of solar cells, each manufactured of a (typically silicon) semiconductor. By generating a current, or movement of electrons, this semiconductor absorbs solar energy and transforms it into electricity. This electricity can be redirected back into the electrical system or used to power a building.
In the context of residential energy production, the term "solar power" refers to this photovoltaic process.
Charging Vehicles With Portable Solar Panels
Using portable solar panels to charge your EV can be fairly simple, but it depends on a number of factors. These factors include the solar system size, the time of the day during which you charge your vehicle, and the climate and weather. If you only want to use solar to charge your EV, you will need a larger system capable enough of fulfilling this need all by itself.
The ease of charging an EV with a portable solar panel is determined by the following factors:
- The type of vehicle charger – charger speed can range between 2kW and 22kW
- The size of the portable solar panel system
- The battery level of your EV – how often do you need to charge your battery?
- The length and frequency of your EV drives
Benefits of Charging Vehicles With Portable Solar Panels
1) Environmental Benefits
Charging vehicles with solar panels is beneficial to the planet. Electric cars are much better for the environment than gasoline or diesel cars, but their benefits are lessened if they are charged with electricity produced by burning fossil fuels.
Charging an electric car with solar panels helps to get the most out of the environmental advantages of driving one.
2) Little to no Maintenance Required
After it has been set up, your portable solar panel system will continue to provide electricity for many years to come, and require negligible maintenance during this time.
Since a portable solar panel does not have any moving parts, you do not have to worry about those parts requiring repairs, maintenance, or replacements.
The cost of charging solar panels is significantly lower than that of the grid. When compared to the cost of purchasing electricity from the grid, the expense of producing electricity through a portable solar panel is considerably lesser.
In the long run, this indicates that you may be able to reduce the cost of charging your electric vehicle.
4) Energy Bill Savings
Solar photovoltaic systems installed at home can result in cost reductions for energy use. You can save money on the costs of charging your electric vehicle (EV), and if you produce more electricity than you use, you can sell the excess back to the grid and lower your overall energy expenses.
Types of EV Chargers
EV chargers are divided into four broad categories:
- Plug-in portable socket chargers
- Single-phase EV chargers
- Three-phase EV chargers
- Combined EV chargers and solar inverters
1) Plug-in Portable Socket Chargers
The majority of EVs come with a straightforward level 1 charger, which works with any standard 10A wall outlet. Depending on the size of the battery and how depleted it was to begin with, a complete charge from one of these compact, portable chargers can take anywhere from 24 to 36 hours for the typical electric vehicle.
The maximum power of most 10A chargers is 2.2 kilowatts, but most only use 1.7 to 2.0 kilowatts, adding 10 to 14 kilometers per hour to a vehicle's range. In most households, a dedicated 15A outlet will be required, but you can also go for the more efficient 15A plug-in options.
2) Single-Phase EV Chargers
Level 2 single-phase EV chargers are available in a range of designs and options, and can either be post- or wall-mounted. Most are 32 Amp (equivalent to 7.4kW) and can give a car a range of 40-50km/h at full charge.
Most people travel less than 50 kilometers per day, therefore, a full charge should take no more than two hours each day. If you have a standard single-phase 7kW charger, it will take about 8-10 hours to fully recharge the average electric vehicle.
3) Three-Phase EV Chargers
Three-phase EV home chargers look the same as single-phase wall-mounted chargers, and are rated at 32 Amps. But because they have three supply phases, they can give out thrice the power compared to their single-phase counterpart, which is about 22kW.
At the fastest charge rate, this can give an electric vehicle a range of 110 to 155 kilometers per hour. So, an average EV can be fully charged with a three-phase EV charger in less than 3 hours.
4) Combined EV Charger and Solar Inverter
A new piece of technology is a solar inverter that can also charge electric vehicles (EVs) directly through a portable solar panel system. The integration of a solar inverter with an EV charger is an ingenious solution that prevents the installation of a dedicated electric vehicle charger, as well as any necessary wiring and electrical changes. The main drawback is that the inverter needs to be positioned somewhere close to the EV.
Those who favor smart home controls and solar energy systems may find this an attractive option.
If I Wish to Utilize Solar for EV Charging, Do I Need a Smart EV Charging Station?
So, you might be wondering if you can just charge your car with the power from your solar panels. The answer is a bit more involved than simply hooking an EV charger with a portable solar panel system.
As photovoltaic panels provide power that is both intermittent and highly variable, this energy cannot be safely transferred into an electric vehicle's battery or the electrical grid.
In any case, an inverter must accompany any solar panel installation in order to convert the electricity so that it may enter your home electricity network and be used to charge your EV or power other appliances.
Although a smart EV charging station is not a must in order to charge your electric vehicle (EV) with solar power, it can substantially improve the efficiency and convenience of using solar energy.
As an illustration, if you have solar panels and a smart charging station, you may schedule your EV's charging to occur just during peak solar power hours. When coupled with an EMS (Energy Management System), the charging station can predict optimum charging times. In this way, you can rest assured that the electricity you produce is being used, and that it was generated in a sustainable manner, saving you money over time.
Efficiency of EV Charging
The efficiency of charging a typical EV with a home EV charger depends on a number of things, such as the charge rate, the ambient temperature, the temperature of the battery, the length of the charging cable, and how well the vehicle's power conversion system works (AC to DC converter). Due to a number of things, temperature tends to play a critical role in how well a charger works. When it's very hot outside, you may need to run the car’s battery cooling system while charging it.
Similarly, when the temperature is too low, the battery heating system needs to be running while the car is charging. Other than that, greater electrical resistance means that the efficiency of an EV charger is generally lesser under higher temperatures.
Below are a couple of other factors that can affect EV charging efficiency:
As an electric current moves through a cable, resistance and the resulting drop in voltage cause losses. Losses in voltage are proportional to the charging current, the length of the cable, and the diameter of the cable. Power is a product of current and voltage; thus, as the temperature of the cable rises, the resistance it presents to the flow of electricity decreases, and the power output does, too. Hence, longer cords generally result in more loss of power. Having the charging cord and extension leads exposed to direct sunlight might also increase the losses (on concrete).
If you can, switch to a shorter extension lead or cable. Either that, or upgrade to a bigger (not longer) cable. Commonly used copper core sizes for 10A extension leads are 1.0mm2 and 1.5mm2, whereas 15A leads use a larger 2.0mm2. If you need a very lengthy extension cord, a 15-ampere-per-second (Amp) cable and outlet will maximize charging efficiency.
Lower Charging Rates
Electric vehicles are no exception to the rule that power-converting equipment (whether chargers or inverters) performs best when operating at or near its rated power output. The on-board charger of an EV must transform the incoming alternating current (AC) from the power grid into high-voltage direct current (DC) before it can charge the vehicle's battery.
To accomplish this, we must convert electricity (using transistors) and supply energy to supplementary controls like temperature management and cell balancing.
Losses will be higher if the charger's capacity is 7 kW but it's only being used at 2 kW while charging. If possible, try to charge at around 50% of the rated charge or higher to get the most out of your charger.
Multiplying the Benefits of EVs With Portable Solar Panels
No fuel expense, environmental-friendliness, and lower running costs are the main benefits of driving an EV – and each of these advantages can be multiplied manifold with the use of a portable solar panel for charging an electric vehicle.
If you are looking for a portable solar panel system for your EV, feel free to check out our wide range of options. We offer many different types of portable solar panels, generators, and solar kits, and can help you choose one based on your EV model, capacity, charger, budget, and location.