Stalls of a solar power electric vehicle charging station are displayed

Many people are switching to electric vehicles (EVs) to protect the planet from dangerous CO2 emissions, enjoy high mileage, or save money over the long term—things that are difficult to achieve with traditional internal combustion engines.

Whatever the reason, there’s no denying that over the years there has been a major shift towards the adoption of electric cars. In 2019, over two million electric vehicles were purchased worldwide, and the total number is expected to rise to 245 million by 2030.

Additionally, the global passenger car stock is projected to consist of at least 30 percent electric vehicles by 2030. So if you don’t own an EV already, it may be advisable to consider buying one. 

But if you do, it’s important to note that there may be no better pairing than solar panels and electric vehicles. Both of these technologies signify a colossal shift from how things had been done for a very long time.

Collectively, they’re sparking a revolution of “self-reliance” while also ensuring a better, brighter future for generations to come. Home solar panel installations can allow you to charge your EV without the trouble of driving to and waiting at stations while the vehicle powers up.

If you’re thinking of investing in an EV or already own one, the best way to amplify your vehicle’s value is to power it every day with solar energy. Solar panels coupled with an electric vehicle can significantly reduce your energy costs and overall carbon footprint.  

However, the question at hand is: “how many solar panels are needed to charge an electric car?” 

Well, we’re here to share everything you need to know about charging electric cars with solar panels. 

How Many Solar Panels Are Needed to Charge an EV? 

You can anticipate generating around 1 kWh and 2.345 kWh of energy per solar panel/day. Put simply, it will take five or six solar panels to produce sufficient power to charge the most efficient electric cars on a clear, sunny day for the average daily commute. Charging electric cars generally requires seven to nine solar panels based on where you live.

It is worth noting that these estimations are based primarily upon the assumption that you drive your EV the same amount per year/day as the average US driver. But if you drive less than a thousand miles per month, you’d require fewer panels to charge your vehicle. 

Below you will find more detail on how we arrived at this calculation.

How to Calculate the Amount of Solar Panels You Need to Power Your EV Completely

When it comes to how many solar panels you’ll need to charge your vehicle, there are some important things to consider. For starters, just like conventional cars, some EVs are more energy-efficient than others.

Energy expenditure is calculated with a unit of measurement called “miles per gallon gasoline equivalent” or MPGe. MPGe measures the average distance traveled per unit of energy consumed.

Here’s a list of some of the most energy-efficient electric cars of 2021:

Make and ModelkWh for 40 mi. daily range
Tesla Model Y Standard Range10.4
Hyundai Ioniq 10
Tesla Model # Standard Range Plus 9.6
Kia Niro 12
BMW i312
Chevy Bolt11.6
Hyundai Kona11.2
Mini Cooper SE Hardtop 12.4
Nissan Leaf (40 kWh battery pack)12
Tesla Model S Performance (19-inch wheels)12.4

On average, Americans drive roughly 13,500 miles per year or about 40 miles per day. So in order to derive MPGe, we need to calculate the number of solar panels you’ll need to power your EV for an entire day. 

To calculate the number of solar panels you’ll need to charge your electric vehicle, you will have to consider the following three key points: 

  1. How much energy your electric car needs (annually) 
  2. The total wattage of the solar panels you plan on installing 
  3. How efficiently solar panels generate energy based on where you live

Suppose you have a solar panel that generates 335 watts of power every hour, and you receive between three to seven hours of peak daily energy production through this solar panel. According to recent studies, an average American driver typically requires around 4,000 kWh of energy every year to operate their electric vehicle.

The electricity generation from your solar panels will also significantly differ from region to region. For example, the energy generation power of solar panels will be more significant in sunnier climates, such as the Southwest, and lower in Northeast areas. 

net zero home aerial view showing the solar panels
This is an aerial of our first fully net-zero home we renovated in 2020 located in Cape Coral, FL. The efficiency upgrades and solar electric system were affordably designed to power both the house and the electric car 100%.

Why is Charging EVs with Solar Panels Better?

By now, you must already know that electric vehicles cost less to run and cause considerably lower pollution than traditional gas cars. By choosing solar charging panels, you can make your electric vehicle even more economical and efficient. 

Here are some reasons to consider charging electric cars with solar panels:

  • The expense of grid power increases over time, whereas solar panels keep generating electricity without any surplus cost.
  • In most cases, the levelized expense of solar energy is cheaper than grid power.
  • Solar panels create substantially less pollution than standard energy-producing grids. For instance: 
    • Around 8,820 pounds of CO2 emissions result from 450 gallons of gas
    • 1,531 pounds of CO2 is produced by 3,780 kWh from grid power in California 
    • 368 pounds of CO2 is produced by 3,780 kWh from solar panels in California

Equipment Required to Charge EVs With Solar Panels 

It’s important to note that solar panels required to charge your electric vehicle are correlated with your home’s energy requirements. Therefore, if you’re seeking to accomplish “zero-carbon” status, you’ll have to somewhat anticipate your solar photovoltaic (PV) array capacity and size to accommodate your vehicle’s charging needs.

Apart from the solar panels, here are two main things you’ll need when charging electric cars with solar panels: 

Battery Storage

Apart from solar panels, you’ll need something to store the electricity generated. Power storage is crucial since most EV owners rely on charging their cars overnight when the sun isn’t shining. There are several battery storage options available on the market.

an interior of a garage showing an electric car plugged into wall home batteries, with a wind turbine in the background outside.

The Tesla Powerwall 2, for instance, is one of the best solar storage batteries out there for electric vehicles, as it efficiently stores up to 13.5 kWh of electricity. In general, this storage capacity should be sufficient to help you fulfill your average daily mileage needs. 

Charging Station

In addition, you’ll also need a solar charging station where you can easily plug in your EV. Charging stations are typically located in driveways or garages. We strongly suggest level two chargers since they provide much faster charging times. Like storage batteries, many options are also available for charging stations.

Closeup of a Tesla hood plugged into an electric vehicle charging station

Some options provide up to 37 miles for every hour of charging, consequently reducing overall charge times. You’ll even find options with built-in WiFi compatible features that inform you how much time is left for your EV to reach full charge by connecting to your smartphone.

Cost of Charging Electric Cars with (& without) Solar Panels

When you own an EV, every outlet can potentially provide your vehicle’s battery a few more miles. Nevertheless, ideally, you would want to find a level two electric charger for home use and something identical to a Tesla supercharger when you are out on the road. 

There are primarily three ways to get the necessary energy to keep your EV on the road, including public charging stations, the grid, or personal solar panels.

Here is how much every option approximately costs: 

Charging Type CostRelated Factors 
Public Charging Stations $.28 to $.69 / kWhDiffers based on charging station owner and region. There may also be supplementary idle fees, e.g., some require mandatory monthly subscription; likelihood of increased cost over time
Home Solar PanelsLess than $.11/kWhLevelized over the lifetime of the solar panel; additional solar power can be utilized to counterbalance energy bills
Home Grid Power$.10 to $40 / kWhDiffered based on time and location, e.g., cheapest at night; likelihood of increased cost over time

How to Charge Your EV Using Solar Panels 

Now that you know why it’s a great idea to charge your electric vehicle with solar panels, here is a bit more regarding how to do it. 

Follow these few simple steps to charge your electric vehicle with solar panels:

Step #1: Determine the kWh Your Vehicle Requires Based on Your Driving Habits

The first step is to figure out how much kWh you need to drive your EV. This step should be pretty straightforward if you’re somebody who tracks their mileage. If not, you can simply estimate this by using an average number of miles/days. 

Step #2: Determine the Number of Solar Panels You’ll Need to Fulfill the Estimated kWh

An average contemporary solar panel generates roughly 350 watts under full sun and receives between three to seven peak hours of light every day based on where you live. Meaning, an average solar panel produces between 1.05 kWh to 2.45 kWh of energy every day. 

Suppose you receive 1.75 kWh every day per solar panel. You will need only five to six solar panels to garner sufficient energy to charge a Tesla Model 3 battery and enjoy forty miles of range.

Of course, the number of panels required will rise if you drive more miles. Using the same approach, you can determine how many solar panels you need to make enough energy for your electric vehicle. 

Step #3: Get the Right Equipment 

Clearly, you cannot just put some solar panels on your roof and plug them into your vehicle. You’ll also need an entire solar panel system and all the equipment that goes with it. A standard solar electric vehicle charging setup typically includes the following:

  • Solar panels mounted to the roof deck with the help of metal racks.
  • A Level 2 electric car charger or a combination of 2 into 1 with an electric car charging solar inverter.
  • Either a micro-inverter that converts every solar panel output to AC and transfers it to a combiner box or a central string inverter that joins the solar panel’s DC output to AC. 

Step #4: Get Started and Get Going! 

You now should have a fully-functional solar panel-powered EV. As a result, 

you will be producing sufficient solar electricity to offset your car’s needs over the year, limiting your carbon footprint and saving money – all at once. Moreover, those same five panels will yield enough electricity for even your next car and the one after that.

Conclusion 

An electric car coupled with solar panels for charging is not only lighter on the pocket but can also save you the trouble of powering up your vehicle at commercial stations. Plus, the amount of savings you can make on fuel through solar panel charging will easily offset your initial investment. Several EVs even qualify for federal and state tax credits and can reduce your upfront expenses by $7,500 or more!

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