Can You Use Solar Panels To Charge An Electric Car

man fitting solar panels on a roof

Solar panels and electric cars go hand in hand in terms of saving money, using renewable energy and reducing emissions.

In this guide, we’ll show you why you can use solar panels to charge an electric car, the pros and cons of them and what they cost to have installed.

Home charging points are a must if you own an EV, but let’s find out why solar panels might be the perfect option.

Can You Charge Your Electric Vehicle With Solar Panels

Yes, you can charge your EV using solar power and it’s actually the preferred method for a lot of people as you save money, as well as reduce the impact on the environment because your using renewable energy. However, even though people are using electric cars so are producing no emissions, they still see using the National Grid to charge your car as another way we could reduce fossil fuels, as some of the average electricity usage from the grid may have been generated through gas and coal.

So this is where solar comes in, if you want emission-free energy for your electric car, then one way to do this, is to have solar panels installed on your roof and build your own solar-powered electric car charging station.

Installing solar panels is a great alternative to using the Grid, however, it does mean your electric car will have to be plugged in most of the time if not all the time. This is because solar panels can’t store electricity, so when they start generating, it needs to then go straight into your car battery.

How Do Solar Panels Charge An Electric Car

Black car charging

People often think solar panels turn the heat from the Sun into energy but it’s actually the light that is converted. This is done through something called a photovoltaic cell (PV) and each solar panel has about 60 of these all connected together to convert the sunlight into electricity.

Inside each PV cell are two metal contacts, and in between these two contacts are two thin layers of silicon. The sun then hits the first layer of silicon which then causes the electrons to flow down towards the bottom layer as a direct current (DC). The two metal contacts on either side help the movement to become an electrical circuit.

This type of electricity cant be used for household appliances or charging an electric car battery, it needs to be converted into a different type through something called an inverter.

You might also have to purchase a solar battery which is where excess solar energy can be stored. The solar panels generate the energy during the day, and then the solar battery stores excess energy generated for you to use it at night, which is when most people charge an electric car. 

How Does An Inverter Work

One of the most important parts of the whole solar panel process is an inverter. Without it, your electricity will not charge an electric vehicle, therefore, rendering the electricity the solar panel system created, useless.

An inverter works by converting the direct current (DC) that it receives into alternating current (AC) in order for your appliances and for charging an EV. In order for this to work, a small unit is installed inside your home and the direct current from the inverter is put through a transformer which allows it to become almost like a household 230-volt AC.

After that, it goes through a fuse box and meter to your appliances. If there is too much electricity that is converted, then the remaining percentage gets fed back into the national grid.

Pros Of Charging An EV With Panels

If you have a normal vehicle that uses petrol or diesel and you are driving or parking on public roads without tax then yes you can be fined up to £1000.

The same goes with hybrid as they only use a section for electric so they still have to pay road tax payments. 

It’s only fully electric vehicles that do not have to pay any form of tax and therefore will not be fined.

Less Carbon Footprint

If you plan on using solar power and panels to charge your electric vehicle, you will have a far less carbon footprint than using electricity from the national grid which is how most people charge their electric car. You will be greener than ever and a solar panel’s charge not only helps your electric vehicle, but also the planet.

Increase Home's Value

With electric cars becoming more popular, EV owners who are moving house are always looking for a property with solar panels. So if you were to add one to your home and you ever decided to move, the addition of a solar panel installation would definitely make your home more favourable and increase its value slightly due to the available solar power.

Save Money 

One of the more obvious benefits of using home solar panels is that it saves you money on energy bills. Even though switching to an electric car from a conventional one and using electricity rather than fossil fuels saves you money, letting the sun charge an EV is like charging your car for free and will drastically reduce energy costs. You won’t have a spike in your electricity bill and you can still enjoy the benefits of an electric car.

Convenience

Using an EV charger whilst at home is extremely convenient. You can get on with tasks in your home whilst the solar energy charge your EV. Place the EV charger in the electric car in the morning for a couple of hours and then enjoy the day out in the car.

Cons Of EV Charging With A Solar Panel

There aren’t many when it comes to solar power, but below are a couple of cons that occur when charging an EV with solar:

Upfront Costs

This is probably the biggest problem with installing a solar compatible EV charger, the initial cost to do so. The average cost for an EV charger to be installed with all the correct equipment by a qualified electrician can be around £1000 if not more.

This is without taking into consideration how much you are paying for your EV. There are grants available to help with the cost of a charging station, but they still won’t be affordable to everyone.

Reliability

If you’re having to use solar panel charging, you need to make sure there is enough surplus energy. The solar panel efficiency needs to be taken into consideration when being designed, but this may also affect the solar panels overall price. Some people only want a solar panel system for home appliances, it;s slightly different if you’re having solar panels installed to charge an electric car.

How Much Do Solar Panels Cost?

sterling pounds on a tray

Solar panels are not cheap and it all depends on a number of factors as you can see below:

Size of the solar PV system – The larger the area where the panels are going, then the higher the price for solar materials and installation. A 4kW system of average size is likely to set you back about £6000.

Type of Panels – All solar panels generate electricity but with anything, the better the solar quality the more you pay. In this case it’s all about efficiency, there are three common types of solar panels and these are thin film, polycrystalline and monocrystalline. All the panels have different benefits and different price points.

Installation – You can decide to install panels yourself but you need to take into account the number of panels, strength of the roof and angle they are going to sit at. You will also need a professional to come out and certify that your solar pv is safe and secure.

These are some of the factors that you need to look out for before deciding whether charging using solar panels is right for you. Below is a breakdown of some rough costs you can expect to pay for a solar PV system:

3kW panel system with 12 panels on a 22m² roof – £5000-£6000

4kW panel system with 16 panels on a 27m² roof – £6000-£7000

5kW panel system with 20 panels on a 34m² roof – £9000-£10,000

6kW panel system with 24 panels on a 40m² roof – £10,000-£12,000

What Charger Is Solar Compatible?

Myenergi Zappi – One of the leading EV charging solutions the eco mode on the Zappi allows you to use solar PV or wind energy, as well as energy from the main supply if your desperate.

Solaredge 2 in 1 – Through this single phase inverter, you can charge your car directly from the sun’s energy. The inverter and solar EV charger are combined in this product making it very appealing to owners as the installation is often faster and more affordable.

Should You Get An Solar Charging Point For Your Car At Home?

If your looking to cut back even more on emissions than a regular charging point and save money in the long run, then electric car solar panel charging is definitely worth considering. You will no longer rely on the national grid for charging and a solar panel system will allow you to charge for free and add value to your home.

We also get asked, how many solar panels would I need, this is not something we can really answer as it depends on your budget, home, electricity needs and so on.

As a general consensus, getting an EV is the next step for most of the planet as we look to reduce our carbon footprint as a society but EV charging through solar energy is the next step after that, so you could be way ahead of the curve in terms of saving money and reducing your carbon footprint.

FAQ's

Do I Need Planning Permission?

No, you won’t need planning permission to place solar panels on your roof, not unless you live in a conservation area or a listed building. In which case, you would need to get listed building consent in order to place solar panels on your roof.

Can Solar Energy Charge All Electric Vehicles?

Yes no matter what size EV you have, solar panels will be able to charge it. You just need to make sure the size of your solar is large enough to charge your electric car.

Last Word

There you have it, everything you need to know about solar panel charging. Make sure you do your research before and that you can afford solar as an option as it’s not cheap, but well worth it in the long term if you can.

Using solar is just another great way to reduce our carbon footprint and save money in your back pocket, what’s there not to love?

Browse all of our other articles on life with an EV if you are new to the industry.

Nick
Nick

Nick is the proud owner of a MG ZS EV and is an EV fanatic. He has been featured in notable publications like USA Today and The Times for his expertise in the field.