Electric cars rely on charging at home or around town to ensure the batteries are fully charged. Without the charging systems, you don’t have the range you need to get around.
Why aren’t solar panels placed on top of electric cars?
While it would seem that it would solve everything, there are actually many reasons why it’s a bad idea.
#1 The Technology Isn’t There
The technology isn’t there to capture enough of the energy fast enough and affordably enough.
There are three big issues that haven’t been solved by technology yet:
- The size of the solar panel
- The efficiency of the solar panel
- The price of the solar panel
Maybe once those issues are all worked out, it will be possible to place panels on every EV and eliminate chargers – but we’re not even close to that happening just yet.
#2 The Necessary Battery Would Be Too Heavy
Solar panels only work if there’s a way to store all of the energy that is captured. The size of the battery that you would need to capture enough energy from sunrise to sunset would be too heavy.
The heavier the battery, the more effort it takes to move the EV. It can lead to performance problems, and you won’t get the speed and acceleration that you demand from a road-worthy EV.
Additionally, it starts to create a never-ending circle of problems. When you have a heavy car, you need a stronger battery. And if you have a stronger battery, it is going to add weight to the car.
Most manufacturers are trying to REDUCE the weight of an EV rather than adding to it.
#3 Solar Panels are Expensive
The solar panels that are used on vehicles are expensive – much more so than what you would set up in a field or place on the roof of your home. The reason is that they have to be manufactured to be much smaller.
A solar-powered race car can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars because of the technology that goes into the smaller solar panels.
These panels also have to be incredibly efficient so that they’re able to maximize what is obtained from the solar rays.
There are plenty of companies researching solar panels to drive the cost down. However, we are still a long way from reaching an affordable solution that is both small enough and efficient enough to work in a truly functional manner.
#4 There’s Not Enough Space on an Electric Car
Think about the size of an EV. Now, think about the size of a solar panel. You can see that the sizes don’t match up.
The average home has 20 to 25 panels so that it can produce enough power.
It may be possible for one or two panels to go on top of an EV – and that’s clearly not going to be enough to power you for a very long drive.
Plus, if you have too many panels on the EV, you also eliminate other features, including a sunroof.
#5 The Energy Captured Is Insufficient
Only about 55 percent of the energy received by the earth from the sun actually makes it to the ground. And that’s only on the clearest of days.
Peak energy typically happens at noon.
Even with the most efficient solar panel out there, only 33.7 percent of the solar energy captured can be turned into usable electricity.
You’d typically only get enough energy to run at around 12 mph. That’s fine if your EV is a golf cart but it’s not very efficient if you plan on going onto any highways.
Electric cars charge pretty slowly and this would slow the process down much more.
#6 Energy Isn’t Captured in Many Scenarios
You’re not going to capture energy everywhere you go. Think about the fact that your car needs to be in direct sunlight to get the energy from a solar panel.
You wouldn’t be able to park your car in the garage during the day. And if you have to park in a parking garage for work or shopping, it’s also not charging.
When it’s stormy or overcast, you won’t be collecting any energy, either.
This means that you are extremely limited by the scenarios where you COULD capture energy from the solar panels to help your EV.
#7 It Would Be a Time-Consuming Process
When you’re ready to drive, you don’t want to wait. The reason so many people are slow to adopt EVs in the first place is because of waiting to charge. Gas allows people to just fill up and go.
Chargers at least allow for a relatively quick charge.
Solar panels, if you experience cloudless skies, could take you 200 hours to get a full charge on a Tesla Model 3. Considering that the EV has a 75-kWh battery, you’d have to wait 8.3 days with solar panels and perfect weather.
No one is going to simply not drive their EV for 8 days until it can get a full charge.
#8 Cars Using Solar Panels Have Been Unsuccessful
Some cars that have been released on the market do have solar panels. However, they have not been very successful.
The Lightyear One, for example, is capable of getting 450 miles on one charge. While that sounds incredible, it uses solar panels that are only able to deliver a 7.5-mile range for every hour of solar charging.
The price sticker is also high at $135,000.
A few other cars are within the concept stages and are using solar panels for at least a trickle of electricity. Unfortunately, they are not capable of delivering all of the power a battery needs. As such, they include chargers, too. The combination of solar panels and a charger make them more expensive than what many people are comfortable paying, whether it’s an EV or not.
#9 Chargers are More Effective
There are a lot of different chargers available on the market. Depending on the EV’s battery, it’s possible to charge for only 20 minutes to gain a range of 100 miles or more.
Solar panels are only capable of generating so much electricity – and it all takes time.
Most people don’t have time to wait. They want to charge their battery as quickly as possible. It allows them to get back onto the road to continue their journey or run their errands.
Since the chargers have come a long way, including superchargers that offer a rapid charge, it is the more desirable option. Until solar panels can offer the same speed, they simply aren’t a dependable first choice.
Read more here about how fast electric car range is improving.
While using solar is a great way to go green, it isn’t quite the right move for electric cars. If you are buying an electric car with the hope of being more eco-friendly, it would be better to have solar on your home. This way, you can take advantage of all of the real estate your roof has to offer.
Solar panels on your roof can harness enough energy to run your home AND power the charger for your electric car. That way, your battery can be charged quickly and effectively.
While the world isn’t ready for solar-powered EVs yet, there’s no telling what the future holds.