Solar Panels

Portable Solar Panel for Electric Car: Will it Work?

By:Michael Johns

portable solar panel for electric car

In this article you will learn about portable solar panels for electric cars, if they’re worth it, and how to charge your EV with solar.

If going off camping for a few days in your electric car or trying to reduce your range anxiety, then the idea of a portable solar panel seems absolutely genius. 

To be honest, I had the exact same thought as you.

That’s why I decided to look a little deeper by doing research and tests to see whether it’s actually going to work.

It would certainly solve several worries about not being able to find recharge stations when traveling or even just visiting friends over the weekend. 

Is it Possible to Charge an Electric Car with a Portable Solar Panel?

Yes, it is possible to charge an electric car with a solar panel but you should understand the technical restrictions and practicalities before getting started.

Of course, a solar panel just needs sunlight to produce electricity which can then be stored in a deep cycle battery like in your electric vehicle.

Unfortunately, you can’t simply plug portable solar panels directly into your car charging port. The simple reason for this is that the MC4 connectors on the solar panel cables won’t fit!

In addition, there’s no simple adapter you can use either. You will need to use another component between the panel and the car such as a power inverter or solar generator.

Further down we will discuss how to go about this in the most efficient manner. 

How Long Will It Take a Portable Solar Panel to Charge an Electric Car?

It can take weeks to fully charge an electric car with a portable solar panel.

This is a key consideration when trying to charge your car from a portable solar panel. On average these solar products offer between 100 to 200 watts of power.

This is a relatively low amount of power compared to your car’s battery capacity.

For example, a 200 watt solar panel can deliver around 1kWh of energy in a day.

And an EV will have a battery capacity of at least 50kWH (maybe more). 

That means with a 200 watt solar panel you’ll only be able to charge your vehicle 2%, and that’s on a good sunny day! To fully charge from zero it would take 50 at least 50 days! That’s over nearly 2 months…

So even if you left your portable solar panel plugged into your electric car during a weekend camping trip you’d only get 4% – 5% charge if you’re lucky.

You could add more solar panels to boost capacity. In reality, you’d need more like 10 to 12 solar panels to get a decent charge into a car like a Tesla. And carrying around a dozen portable solar panels isn’t very practical.

But don’t give up just yet, because there is a solution.

How to Charge a Car with a Portable Solar Panel

To charge an electric car with a solar panel you’re going to need an extra component called a solar generator.

This is essentially a large portable battery bank that you can charge up with either solar power or an AC outlet. Then you can plug your EV into the solar generator to deliver energy at higher power. 

In simple terms, you’re transferring energy from one battery to another. It’s a bit like having a fuel can which holds electricity instead of gas.

With a large solar generator that has a 6kWh- to 8kWh storage capacity, you will be able to add 10 to 20 miles range to your car. That’s certainly enough to get you out of a sticky situation!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Charge the Solar Generator 

You’ll need to precharge your solar generator ahead of time. This can be done using solar panels. Many manufacturers produce complete kits with portable solar panels designed to charge their products.

Of course, for larger solar generators like a Goal Zero Yeti 6kWh so you can also charge via an AC outlet socket at home (normal wall socket).

  1. Use the Solar Generator to Charge Car

With a fully charged solar generator you can simply plug your car in using a portable electric car charger. This will have to be a type 1 charger like the Lectron 1 EV Charger cable.

  1. Add More Charge with Portable Solar Panels

If you decide to get a solar generator with portable solar panels then you can help supplement the charge. You might even be able to hook up 3 or 4 panels to your generator. You might as well lay them out in the sun to get a little extra juice. 

Is There a Portable Charger for Electric Cars?

Yes, as electric cars grow in popularity more solutions are being developed for off-grid charging. 

As we discussed above you can use a large solar generator and type 1 charger cable. This allows solar integration.

If you are looking for a more powerful portable charger for your electric car then you should look at the Zip Charge Go. 

It’s one of the first portable EV chargers. You can use it anywhere anytime from the middle of town to a remote campsite. 

It is very similar to a portable power bank but specifically designed for cars. You can plug straight into your vehicle and recharge with decent speed type 2 charging. 

The only drawback is the capacity of 8kWh which will only give you 10 – 20 miles range depending on your car.

Portable Solar Panel for Electric Car Summary

I hope this article has given you a clearer insight into portable solar panels for electric cars.

The future certainly could provide breakthroughs in making this a viable option as solar panel efficiency increases. This would add a completely clean and eco-friendly way to power your car rather than relying on the main grid.

Currently, you won’t get far trying to hook up a solar panel directly to your car, it’s certainly possible when combined with a large solar generator or portable power banks.