Supersonic Man

June 5, 2016

solar panels on electric cars?

Filed under: fun,Hobbyism and Nerdry — Supersonic Man @ 12:39 am

So if you had an electric car, would it be worthwhile to put a solar panel on the roof?

At first blush, it wouldn’t seem so.  A decent electric car ought to have something like 100 kilowatt-hours in its battery pack, and it sure would be nice if it could hold 200 or more.  (The total energy in a moderately sized tank of gasoline is about 500 kwh, but at least two thirds of that just goes into waste heat.)  The biggest solar panel area you could fit on top of a car, disregarding all competing design criteria, would be about two square meters, and a more typical car would probably make room for about one square meter.  Over a whole day in blazing sun, that’s only going to produce about one kwh, and in most circumstances you’ll get quite a bit less.  So it’ll probably only extend your daily driving range by three miles at most, and if you park it indoors you’ll never get even one mile out of it.

But range extension isn’t the only benefit of having a bit of free power available when not driving.  You’d never have to worry about running things down with the fan or the stereo or mobile-device chargers.  On a hot day you could even use the air conditioner.  The car could even cool itself automatically while left in a parking lot, with no fear that this would affect your ability to get home.  Cars left unattended for months might still be fully ready to drive away in.  And if you run out of juice in a lonely desert, the next day you might be able to drive a few crucial miles to get to a spot where help is reachable.

I think this is starting to sound like a good idea even on gasoline cars.  Or on hybrids, at the very least.

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1 Comment »

  1. One car which did put solar panels on the roof was the Fisker Karma. It produced twelve volts and was used only to power accessories. But when Fisker went bust, the Karma design was bought by another company which is now making the car again, and in their new version, the solar panel does trickle some power into the main battery pack.

    Comment by Supersonic Man — September 19, 2016 @ 7:33 am | Reply


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