Can You Charge an Electric Car with a Portable Solar Panel?

Many of you reading this are likely aware that solar panels are capable of producing electricity via the photovoltaic effect. 

In fact, as of 2020, over 2.7 million solar systems are powering homes across the U.S.

Another market currently booming is the electric vehicle industry, with an estimated 607,600 light electric vehicle sold in the U.S. in 2021. 

Solar panels capable of generating free electricity and vehicles that run on electricity, the two seem to go hand in hand - it's a no brainer. 

And many people are starting to catch on. Such as yourself for example.

With that being said though, we all know that a full blown roof top solar system is capable of powering a home along with your electric car. 

But what about portable solar panels, are these capable of charging an electric car?  

What are portable solar panels?

bluetti pv350 portable solar panel

Portable solar panels are exactly what they sound like, moveable solar panels. Instead of being fixed to a roof or ground mount system, they are instead capable of being folded and transported on the go — perfect for charging a vacuum cleaner or other devices while on the move. Portable solar panels can be both polycrystalline and monocrystalline. However, Bluetti only makes monocrystalline solar panels.

Due to their nature, portable solar panels often produce much less energy when compared to rooftop/ ground mounted solar systems. This makes sense as could you imagine carrying around a 10,000 watt portable solar system? Very unlikely as they would probably weigh about 850lbs (assuming they were portable panels, roof mount solar panels would be even heavier).

Now that we know portable solar panels produce much less energy than rooftop systems, would they still theoretically be capable of charging an electric vehicle? While they may not provide as much energy as a rooftop system, portable solar panels are certainly capable of charging an electric vehicle, though it may take longer to do so.


Can you charge your electric car with portable solar panels?

try to charge electric car with portable solar panels and solar power station

Do you know the old adage "A picture is worth a thousand words"? Well, we feel the above picture lives up to that maxim. 

Now let's be clear. Charging an EV directly with portable solar panels is not possible. There is simply no (easy) way to get the DC current generated by the solar panels into the EV's battery system. 

However, when using a Bluetti solar generator as a go-between you would indeed be able to charge your EV. 

Now it must be mentioned that charging your electric vehicle with a solar generator and portable PV panels is extremely inefficient and I would not recommend anyone buy portable solar panels for this very purpose. 

However, if you happen to already have a solar generator, it could provide some peace of mind to know that you could actually charge your EV (albeit barely) with your portable solar panels/generator. 

How many portable solar panels would I need to charge an EV? 

Now that we know charging your EV with portable solar panels is possible (yet inefficient). How many solar panels would you need to charge your EV efficiently? 

According to Climatebiz: "On average, 8 solar panels rated at 400 watts each will be required to charge a Tesla that consumes 18.1kWh every 62.13 miles. Given that the average mileage for U.S. Citizens is 13,476 miles per year, a DC generation capacity of 3.2kW is sufficient."

So in other words, you could use 9 PV350 Bluetti portable solar panels to charge your electric car, should you drive the average American mileage. 

Why don't electric vehicles have solar panels attached?

This is an incredibly common question we see. Electric vehicles run on electricity, so why don't they just have solar panels attached to them?

It all comes down to the surface area available. 

In other words, there is simply not enough space on a vehicle to facilitate a big enough solar system. 

For example, the Tesla Model 3 has 90 square feet available when considering its width and length. Obviously its roof area is even less, perhaps 20 square feet of roof space is available. 

9 PV350 solar panels on the other hand, take up roughly 189 square feet.

Final thoughts

As I am sure you can see now, this is just not a viable solution as of 2022. There is simply not enough space available.

However, if the vehicle in question were to be bigger, then perhaps a solar system makes more sense. 

Enter the Tesla Semi. 

tesla semi car

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