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Solar EV Charging. Is it possible in 2023?


February 7, 2023

Solar EV charging has the potential to significantly reduce the environmental impact of vehicular use. This is seen as a sustainable and environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional fossil fuel vehicles as it reduces our dependence on non-renewable energy sources while reducing emissions. 

There are already systems available that enable solar EV charging. However, the widespread adoption of solar EV charging will depend on various factors, including the availability and cost of the technology, government policies, and consumer demand. In addition, the potential decrease in the cost of solar technology over the next few years will increase its economic viability.

Importance of Discarding Fossil Fuels

There are many reasons to move away from using fossil fuels in vehicles. From the negative impacts on the environment and public health and the finite nature of fossil fuels to the negative consequences of their extraction and transportation, the benefits of transitioning to alternative, renewable forms of energy are clear. 

When fossil fuels are burned, they generate large amounts of carbon dioxide. These emissions get trapped in the atmosphere and are a major contributor to climate change. They also pose serious health hazards to people. In the United States alone, burned fossil fuels are responsible for 75% of the nation’s carbon emissions.

By moving away from fossil fuels, we can reduce the number of accidents and environmental damage caused by the fossil fuel industry.

Investing in electric vehicles (EVs) powered by renewable energy and other sustainable transportation options is crucial in addressing some of the major challenges of the 21st century. 

Implementation of Solar Technology Over the Years

Solar technology is being advocated by environmentalists, public welfare groups, and some governments because it can be used to create electricity without any gas emissions. Since the sun is a rich source of energy, it’s also sustainable. 

Over the years, solar technology has been implemented in a number of ways:

  • Solar photovoltaics (solar PV) systems: These systems use solar panels to turn sunlight into electricity which is then used to power businesses, homes, and other structures.
  • Solar thermal systems: These systems use the sun's heat to produce steam which can then be used to generate electricity in a power plant.
  • Passive solar design: Passive solar design is the use of the sun's energy for the heating and cooling of buildings without relying on mechanical systems.
  • Solar water heating: This technology uses the sun's energy to heat water for domestic or industrial use.

These technologies have a variety of uses in all sectors from residential to commercial. Government buildings, schools, and other public facilities have also implemented solar energy systems. Many utility companies have already invested in large-scale solar power plants to generate electricity for public consumption.

Can You Charge Your Car With Solar Energy?

One of solar energy’s most promising and advantageous applications is powering EVs. Solar-powered EVs rely on a solar photovoltaic system and a solar charger for the car’s battery. 

With the solar panels conveniently positioned on top of the car, the solar PV system can produce electricity from the sun which can then be used to power the vehicle’s motor. 

To give you an idea of how much power solar PVs can provide, they generate about one to four kilowatts of power (kWp) which is sufficient to fully charge a 40 kWh car battery in a little over eight hours.

This will, of course, also depend on the availability of sunlight. Overcast weather and winter will affect the availability of solar energy. In cases when there isn’t enough sun, EVs may need to be supplemented by traditional electric grids. Even if this happens, solar energy remains a sustainable and more practical option for the long term.

Other Sustainable Ways to Power Vehicles

Apart from solar power and electricity, the Alternative Fuels Data Center lists the following as alternative ways to fuel vehicles:

  • Biodiesel
  • Hydrogen
  • Natural Gas
  • Ethanol
  • Propane

Though most of the interest in these sources comes from governments and those with privately owned fleets, there is growing public interest due to the need for more environmentally friendly solutions.

How EV Charging Works

When an EV is connected to a charging station, the charging station communicates with the vehicle's onboard charger to determine the maximum charge rate that the battery can accept. This process is called a "handshake" and it ensures the battery is not overcharged and damaged. 

Once the charge rate is determined, the charging station begins transferring power to the vehicle's battery. Most modern EVs have a built-in display that shows the charging status and estimated time remaining until the battery is fully charged.

EV chargers can be flexibly installed in various locations. Public or private charging stations can be placed in homes, businesses, or public locations. The charging station can be connected to the grid or to a renewable energy source such as solar or wind power.

In a nutshell, EV charging works by transferring electricity from an external power source to the EV's battery. 

Advantages in Load Management and Smart Charging Services

Load management and smart charging services can provide cost savings, increased grid stability, and a reduced carbon footprint. In addition, it can improve the EV charging experience while enabling better utilization of the EV charging infrastructure.

Cost Savings

Smart charging can give owners the opportunity to save money by charging their vehicles during off-peak hours when electricity rates are typically lower. This can also help utilities reduce the strain on the electrical grid when it experiences high demand.

Demand Management

Load management and smart charging can help utilities better manage the demand for electricity and maintain grid stability. This is particularly important as the number of EVs on the road continues to grow.

Smart charging can also help reduce the carbon footprint of EVs by allowing them to charge during times when renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, are producing the most power.

Scheduled Charging Times

Smart charging allows EV owners to schedule charging times and ensure that their vehicle is fully charged when they need it, reducing range anxiety and improving the overall experience of owning an EV.

Optimized Charging Infrastructure

Smart charging allows you to optimize the charging infrastructure and avoid overloading the grid which reduces costs and improves safety.

Smart Solar Charging: The Future of EVs

Is solar EV charging possible in 2023?  Absolutely. Though few, there are already models that are slated for production sometime this year. Of course, they’re quite out of reach for the common consumer since they cost $25,000 to $250,000 but this is normal with any nascent technology.

As solar EV charging develops, it’s likely that we’ll see more efficient solar-powered vehicles, additional infrastructure to support them, more industry players engaging in their manufacturing, and eventually lower prices.

So, if you’re as pumped up about solar EV charging as we are, stay tuned because we’re in for some exciting years ahead.

For more information about EV charging infrastructure and operations, visit the Ampcontrol website.

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